Sunday, October 19, 2014

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO TURKEY

Erland Stubmo visits two magical hotels in Turkey, one brand new. Interesting for those planning ahead to spring and summer by the Mediterranean, and demanding tip top quality...

AMANRUYA

Enchanting Amanruya is built in the hills among thousands of pine trees and olive trees, with views of the Aegean Sea. The surroundings are really beautiful and the property looks much better in real life than it does in photographs.

The drive from the main road is quite long. We arrived late at night and it felt like we were taken deep into the forest.  Well, Amanruya IS a hideaway, a very aesthetic one. With all the stone and brick buildings and all the pathways and stairs lit by lanterns everywhere, it gave us a perfect first impression.

Entering our cottage also gave us the "wow"-feeling I had hoped for...

Our cottage


Cottages


All 36 Pool Terrace Cottages are almost identical. The only feature that separates them is the view. The layout of the pools can also be different from one cottage to the other.

In addition to the pool all cottages have large terraces with a "sala" with day-beds, wooden lounge chairs, sun umbrellas and outside private dining furniture.

All cottages give guests a great deal of privacy, even when outside in the garden and pool area.
The cottage itself is 75 sqm. and features couches, dining table, four poster king-size bed and writing desk. There is even a fireplace for colder days. There is also a separate vanity area, a walk-in closet and a huge bathroom with both rain shower and a free-standing bath tub.

Amenities include complimentary Nespresso coffee and non-alcoholic drinks from the mini-bar.

As all the cottages are free-standing there are no interconnecting options for families. However, there are a few cottages that connect through the garden and can work well for families with older children.

Our garden and pool

Interior of our cottage
There is free Wifi in the cottages and throughout the resort.

Dining



Breakfast: Served in one of the dining pavilions just above the main pool, with a choice of tables inside or outside at the terrace. We had all the breakfasts outside as the temperature was very pleasant and the view wonderful. No buffet at all. Everything was served a la carte and the quality was excellent.

Dinner: There are three different dining pavilions, but with the same food (only one kitchen).
The menu is a mix of Turkish specialities and international dishes. We chose to have dinner outside on the terrace. The quality of food was very good, although we were not completely "blown away". If I had stayed a few days more I might have wished that the menu was more extensive.

With such charming accommodations, many guests choose to have their meals served in their cottage.

Tea Time: Complimentary afternoon tea served every day between 16:00 and 17:00.


Spa

They have created two treatment rooms in one of the cottages or guests can have most of the treatments in their own cottage. A nice gym lies close to the main pool area. Free Yoga classes are given at the Yoga pavilion twice a week.


Beach club

Amanruya is built up in the hills, and even down by the water there is no real sandy beach. However , a very nice beach club has been created, with elegant lounge chairs/sofas and sunbeds on a wooden pier from where it's pleasant to swim. The water is crystal clear.



Beach club

Cool lounge beds at the beach club

The beach club has a bar and some light dishes are also served. Complimentary water activities are on offer here. It's a bit far to walk for most people (around 15-20 minutes) but there is a shuttle.

Up at the resort there is also a tennis court.

How to get to Amanruya

It is 30 mins by car from Bodrum Milas Airport (BJV).

In a nutshell

This is a place for total relaxation, a sanctuary of peace, quiet and privacy. Suitable for couples (or singles or friends) who want to get away from it all and just charge their batteries in excellent surroundings. A very friendly and personalized service makes the stay really enjoyable.

Main pool 


After 3 nights at AMANRUYA we moved to a totally different property ....


MANDARIN ORIENTAL BODRUM

This is a brand new property and a real resort with extensive facilities. Mandarin Oriental is a lively destination, where you see the other guests round and about. And it is very contemporary and stylish. Only 109 rooms and suites, but with a lot of outdoor space it seems like a large property. 

Relaxation area outside the lobby
The beautiful man-made Blue Beach

Accommodation

A lot of categories to choose from, but all rooms, suites and villas have the same modern style and features. Only the size and layout are different. The leading category is Garden View Room and Sea View Room, both with an impressive size of 72 sqm. (One extra bed possible.)

Many of these rooms have interconnecting doors which makes it perfect for families.

Junior Suite


Seaview Suite

How to get to Mandarin Oriental Bodrum

About 40 minutes from Bodrum Airport and about 25 minutes to Bodrum town. Built in a private cove (Paradise Bay) that tends to be a popular stop for private yachts during high season.


In a nutshell

A stylish property and a real resort where you can see and be seen, Top quality rooms and service. Perfect for families.

TURKISH AIRLINES 

We were upgraded to Business both ways. Comfortable seats (although no flat beds) and tasty food, with a choice of three main dishes. Even between Istanbul and Bodrum we were served a decent hot meal ( a flight of only 55 minutes).

Service ok, but could have been better. For example, the aperitif came together with the main dish.
Acceptable entertainment system, but my seat was "without sound", so I just had to forget about the film.
One of our suitcases was left behind at Oslo airport, but was delivered at our hotel two days later.
The flight to Bodrum leaves from the Domestic terminal, but that's just a short walk from the International terminal.

Make sure to avoid a very short connection. The lines at Istanbul airport can be quite long  both for passport control and security.

Note: Blogger Erland Stubmo is a senior travel consultant at Select Collection Oslo

Monday, October 13, 2014

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO DUBAI & ABU DHABI

Our Norwegian team returns to one of our most popular destinations, Dubai. Ada looks at what to do in the sci-fi city and where to stay for a luxurious beach holiday. She also looks at a luxury beach property in Abu Dhabi...

We love Dubai. Returning after many years, I was impressed by quite a few new attractions, while construction goes on. The Palm is almost finalized, so is the  Dubai Marina Area and JBR Walk outside The Ritz-Carlton. Another interesting feature is the automated driverless Metro Skytrain and the new tram. It's amazing to see how they cope with the heat by building air-conditioned Skytrain stations all over and air-conditioned bus stops.

Burj Khalifa
The Dubai Mall has turned out very nicely and Burj Khalifa, the world's highest building, is worth ascending. I recommend all travellers to Dubai to take a tour to the observation deck on the 124th floor to see the view and get a feel for Dubai. The elevator takes 60 seconds up and you almost don't feel that its moving. Quite incredible.

View from the top
Another view from the top

For shopping, there is also the Al Karama Market Area (close to Dubai Creek) for cheap shopping of designer copies. I did not visit but was told it can be compared to similar markets in China, Thailand and Egypt.

There are quite a few excursions that can be taken in Dubai, but a Desert Safari (preferably the Royal option) is recommended and a boat trip/fishing trip. For those who never grow up there is of course the amazing Aquaventure with its adrenalin water fun, underwater vistas, sharks and dolphins.

HOTELS

The Ritz-Carlton

An oasis among high rise

The attractive lobby
Like a small oasis in the middle of high rise buildings, this established property (13 years) looks like David among several Goliaths. It is very welcoming with its low rise buildings, beautiful garden and nice large pool area. The pools are connected by small bridges, just off a a long white beach.

Pools and beach seen from Ritz-Carlton
View from the balcony of my Deluxe Room
The service level is high and food and beverage options are very good. The new breakfast restaurant Caravan served a good buffet of all kinds of hot and cold, Asian, Arabic, European food.

The hotel feels friendly and cozy, a bit old fashioned in style and rather boutique in essence. It has 294 rooms and suites, including 184 newly renovated rooms just opened.

There is construction beside the Club Wing (next door property) building, a beach lounge that should be finished by March 2015.

One of the plusses about Ritz-Carlton is that JBR Walk is right outside with a choice of small shops and restaurants, and Dubai Marina is very close by. At the moment they are doing construction work here too, changing the pavements and making the new tram line.

Breakfast buffet
In a nutshell: an oasis, a more boutique style hotel, with some classic features and renovated rooms, close to small restaurants and shops. For more about the Ritz-Carlton Dubai on our website click HERE.

One & Only Royal Mirage

Royal Mirage is also a low rise hotel, a bit closer to town on Jumeirah Beach, next to The Palm Jumeirah. This is a favourite for Scandinavian families, and we know the hotel very well.  It consists of three separate hotels, The Residence, The Palace and The Arabian Court. 

The Residence

Welcome

The Residence, a bathroom

The Residence, a bedroom

At the jetty

The shuttle boat
News is that the rooms have received a facelift, the monorail station at The Palm stands beside the Arabian Court, and Jet Skis are popular on the beach.

In a nutshell: a popular family-friendly luxury hotel, with lush gardens, 8 restaurants, beach and tennis. For more about One&Only Royal Mirage click HERE.

One & Only The Palm

We love this property. We took the shuttle boat (14 seats) from Royal Mirage and it took approximately 7 minutes. At the property you can really feel the peace and quiet, watching the Jumeirah Skyline in the distance.

On the shuttle
The Beach

The main pool

It's a boutique resort with only 90 rooms and 4 villas in the Manor House and Palm Beach locations. The smallest room is 65 sqm.


Bathroom

Room


Villa pool Terrace at One&Only The Palm
Minibar

Bathroom detail

For dining at the hotel pier there is the hip bar101 overlooking the sea and Jumeirah, also a magnet for outside guests for light Tapas and Mediterranean dishes.

101
Zest is their main restaurant where breakfast is also served and Stay is the cool dinner restaurant with Pastry Library….for dessert choose the Chef Kevin Lacote’s creative selection of sweet delights

Restaurant Stay

Sweets by the metre

In a nutshell: One&Only the Palm is my hottest tip for Dubai - and Select has some great special offers. For more about One&Only The Palm click HERE.

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

Zabeel Saray pool and beach
Located at The Palm Jumeirah, adjacent to One & Only The Palm, this is a totally different property, but still one I truly like. The style is Turkish Ottoman Empire style set in a building that strangely enough reminded me of a large cruise ship. The reason is the arcade on the ground floor, where all the restaurants and shops are located. Very stylish with amazing interiors, and restaurants for all tastes.

The breakfast restaurant Imperium looks like the Palace of Versailles, the Voda Bar is ultra modern but with the roof painted like the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican of Rome, and the Libanese restaurant looks amazing. I tried the Turkish Lalezar and was impressed.

Voda Bar
Reataurant 
Sultan's Lounge
In the lobby area there is nice coffee and tea lounge and bar and an Icecream kiosk, very cute.
The spa is possibly the largest in Dubai, with 42 treatment rooms and several awards.
There is also a large Kids Club (Sinbad’s) for kids from 4-16 (children under 4 must be supervised by parent or babysitter).

In a nutshell: impressive but not a cozy property.

Madinat Jumeirah

Dar al Masyaf  summer house
This is another property we know well. It is still very posh, and impressive in design, with Disney imagination in the Venetian Canals, the Souk and the dining concept. My favourite was the Masyaf Gulf Summerhouses.

Al Qasr bed


Gondola

View from a gondola
In a nutshell: we recommend the Dar Al Masyaf summer houses with their lush watery environment, space and privacy, with access to private beach and 22 bars and restaurants on the property. For more about Madinat Jumeirah click HERE.


JW Marquis Dubai

This is Dubai’s new 5* city property, located close to Burj Kalifa and Dubai Mall. This is the world's highest hotel at the moment, with 72 floors, 1368 rooms and 240 suites. It's tastefully designed and could very well be used for stopovers in Dubai according to some of the Norwegian team members.

St Regis Saadiyat – Abu Dhabi

I had a driver take me to Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat Island where they are planning the new Louvre and Guggenheim Museums and where St Regis Sadiyat is located.

The drive took 1 hour and 10 minutes and on the way we passed the site for EXPO 2020 – approximately midway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the middle of the desert. The road is good, and it was a pleasant drive arranged by Gulf Ventures.

View from my balocny at St Regis Saadiyat

The hotel is huge and located on a very long, wide and very nice beach (9 km). This is a beach facing open sea, and it's not seldom they see dolphins from the beach. In April-June the sea turtles nest on the beach, so sunbeds are then placed higher up.

They have an 18-hole Golf Course on the property, and a small shopping mall with night club adjacent.

Upon entering the resort I was met by a coffeeboy serving arabic coffee and dates, a  nice touch, and there was low jazz music  playing. It feels very spacious, and there is marble everywhere.


Tropical palm lined pool area

The rooms are tasteful and stylish, quite modern. The hotel is suitable for our discerning Select clients when it comes to the quality of the rooms and their fine dining restaurant. The main buffet restaurant and the beach restaurant did not in my opinion match the standard of the rest of the property.

In a nutshell: great rooms and fine dining restaurant, nice beach. For more about St Regis Saadiyat click HERE.

Modern bathroom

FLIGHTS WITH EMIRATES

On the way to Dubai I was given a seat in Economy Class. I had an aisle seat on the mid section (configuration is 3-4-3) and I sat perfectly well. It was not a full flight, so the seat beside me was
 not occupied. There was good space for my legs and quite ok space for storage. The TV screen is
very good, but I am glad I brought my own headset (Bose) as the one offered is not good.
The only problem I had is that it was very cold in the cabin, and the blanket they give is like a tablecloth, thin and gives no comfort. I stole 2 more from empty seats, but was still freezing cold.
The food was good and it was served pleasantly. The service overall was excellent.

On the way home 4 days later I sat in business class and it was very comfortable. The seat is not completely flat, but when I was given the mattress on top I did not slide at all and was very comfortable. The screen is large and has touch control on the screen or on a small pad in the seat, but can also be operated from the «old fashioned» phone. The inflight entertainment is some of the best I have experienced. There is a massage function in the seat and you can also listen to special sleep programs with sounds that make you drift away in no time – excellent.

The temperature felt much better this time, and the blanket in Business Class is thicker. But the headphones, even though its supposed to be sound cancelling, were no good compared to my Bose, so the advice is – bring your own.

The service is excellent, no trollies, the flight attended presents herself with name and is really helpful and attentive in a casual and nice way. I felt welcome and comfortable.


Ada dry in the shower on EK A380

Shower

Emirates Airlines Academy

We visited the academy where all the airline crew of Emirates Airlines are educated and it was very interesting. This is a very professional company and the education they get is thorough.  The building itself is designed to look like an aircraft.  Emirates is not an airline that cares only about the number of employees, but also the quality. They hire people from around the world to train to be some of the best flight crew in the world and Emirates Aviation College in Dubai is where every new hire will start.

Emirates Airlines Academy
Each week, about 80-120 near new trainees will start their seven week long educational journey. Each class is comprised of people from around the world, making Emirate’s employees some of the most diverse. At any given time, there are about 130 nationalities represented among the trainees and about 70 among the trainers.

One of the first steps of every trainee is learning about Arabic hospitality and about the other cultures represented among the company and passengers and then they will move on to learn how best serve the clients, all about the aircrafts, safety and how to take care of themselves with everything from makeup to hairstyle and weight control. Its quite a strict regime, but it seems to work. Its down to details and they are probably the most efficient & supportive airline to work for.

The Academy has models of every feature of Emirates Airlines, from tax free goods to showers.

Note: Blogger Ada Størmer Papatheocharis is a senior travel consultant in the Select Collection Oslo office



Typically Dubai - pools, palms and futuristic architecutre