Tuesday, December 20, 2016

JUST OPEN IN PARADISE – ST REGIS VOMMULI RESORT

We have found a new spot in paradise – the St Regis Vommuli Resort. Right up there with the best in the Maldives, this brand new hotel is a truly refined luxury experience.

Just back from this tiny spot of superb indulgence in the great big blue, our hotel inspector writes... 

Top top quality resort with stunning architecture based on tropical wood used in several ways to create authentic yet very contemporary aesthetics. St Regis Vommuli Resort is very elegant and sophisticated, perfect for guests wanting a refined top luxury experience.

The island

The small island is located 45 mins by seaplane south of Male. The longest walk would be from the furthest water villa to the spa which takes around 15 mins.



Where to stay

Garden villas are cnclosed in greenery and will suit those who prioritize privacy over view. The beach villas (140 sqm) comprise a Dhoni shape building with enormous ceiling height and windows from floor to ceiling facing the ocean with a view out from their pool decks.

View from Beach Villa

Beach villa with its tall windows and pool

Beach villa - dhoni shaped design

Very nice – but nevertheless personally I prefer the overwater villas, which are wonderfully light and spacious at 180 sqm.  My top favourite is the Overwater St Regis Suite – a whole 282 sqm in size

Here you find beautiful relaxation and abundant indulgence outdoors with a 9x3 swimming pool, 5 over ocean nets to loll in, a huge partly shaded daybed, 2 extra wide sunbeds with luxurious mattresses, outdoor dining and outdoor hand held shower. Step down stairs into the ocean – with the sea at around 1 metre deep and currents manageable for the average swimmer you can reach the reef which is 100m out.

pool and daybed in the overwater suite

Inside the Overwater St Regis Suite enjoy a spacious living room with table, sofa, huge flatscreen and great sound system with Bluetooth connection. In the pantry enjoy an Illy coffee machine. The bedroom is large with luxurious linens and smart lighting – and the bathroom too is spacious with yet another TV and massive vanity. On top of that you can keep your private domain looking cool and collected as there is a large dressing room to get rid of all your luggage.


Overwater Suite dressing room

Overwater Suite living room


Extra bathroom in overwater suite

There are also some two bedroom accommodations and spacious three bedroom estates for families.

Impressive service 

The service was impressive considering St Regis Vommuli has only been open a few weeks. But then they have been able to get staff from other top Maldivian resorts.  Each room gets a dedicated butler that really makes a difference. They buggy you everywhere, pick you up for dinner etc. They are intuitive and very likeable.

The butler will press up to 2 pieces per person per day, serve afternoon tea in your villa, buggy you everywhere and organizes all activities, take care of room service etc.

Spa

Stunning complex with impressive changing rooms and beautiful relaxation areas.

The spa offers a large selection of treatments including more advanced ayurvedic treatments such as medical grade ghee poured into open eyes, or herbal oils poured in to the ear canal, or sinus treatment with massage and oil poured into nose and sinuses.

Overwater spa treatment room

Other activities

Everything you expect from watersports centre to table tennis, gym, yoga studio, tennis court and kids club. I recommend the aerial yoga (anti gravity) offered everyday at 11 -  deep stretch of the whole body.


Diving: some good sites within 10 min and others 30 min away. The house reef is near and has lots of fish but the coral needs time to recover from construction work.

Restaurants and level of cuisine

Breakfast is really impressive and generous – a buffet with a large selection of a la carte items like  lobster and Alaska crab omelette with oscietra caviar or waffles with duck leg confit with raspberries and maple syrup. Three kinds of Benedicts include one local with yellow fin tuna, coriander and deep fried soft shell crab. Altogether there are 40 dishes on the menu plus Bloody Mary, mimosa and prosecco all included in the price when booking with Select Collection.

Sublime crab omelette

There are two main restaurant complexes: Alba is the all-day dining where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. For lunch nearby Crust offers gourmet pizzas.

Alba - outdoors


The other main restaurant is Orientale which has three menus/show kitchens: Japanese, Indian and Chinese. A great concept where you can mix and match between the cuisines or divide and have complete Indian one night, Japanese the next etc.

A place to have a whale of a time. Whale bar and beach

Summary

We are impressed and feel it offers top quality and refinement in every way for those willing to pay for it.

For more about The St Regis Maldvies Vommuli Resort CLICK HERE.

Friday, December 16, 2016

CONTEMPORARY STYLE SEYCHELLES - RAFFLES PRASLIN

 If you are staying on the enchanting Seychelles island of Praslin and demand quality look no further than Raffles, suggests Neil Bedford.

Praslin is a truly beautiful island and a must for Seychelles travellers, either for daytrips or to stay. Raffles is a great choice with its classy ambience and feel of quality throughout. It appeals especially to those who like contemporary style, which you find in its 86 smart and comfortable pool villas.

Starting at 125 sqm the villas are large, stylish and practical for modern travelers, neatly layered down the slope. The outdoor terraces are well furnished for dining or relaxing by a private plunge pool of 10sqm. Most have sea views.

Food is another highlight - really high quality.

Lobby at Raffles

For families

For families with older children this is an excellent choice of holiday destination. All villas can take two adults and two kids under 18, with one bedroom villas taking advantage of sofa beds in the living room. There is a pair of spectacular two bedroom villas – some of the biggest in this category I have ever seen. The resort is built on a hill and all pools are infinity so it’s less practical for younger children. The main pool is big and suits families while the beaches are lovely but tend to be exposed to wind and waves in our summer season.




For couples

Couples will enjoy the choice of dining options, with some high end restaurants and bars to dress up for. They will also fall in love with the excellent quality villas and the spa. While all villas are stylish and welcoming, for those wanting a spectacular view we suggest an upgrade to higher category.

Ocean view pool villa



Where

Raffles is 25 mins by car from Praslin airport (which is 15-20 mins domestic flight from Mahe). A 45 mins public catamaran ferry goes from Mahe to Praslin’s main jetty, a car ride away. Raffles has a helipad – from which it takes only 5 mins to Six Senses Zil Pasyon, and 20 mins to Mahe/Fregate/North.

Beach and island excursions

Anse Lazio is one of the Seychelles very best beaches, a lovely 30 mins walk (10 mins taxi away). Here you can swim/snorkel and stay behind for magical sunset.

Just 5 mins taxi takes you to a couple of nearby villages with a few restaurants and guesthouses, to ring the changes for dinners or lunches. A day tour around Praslin including the national park Valee de Mai is worth doing.  The hotel runs daily boat excursions (in season) to Curieuse and St. Pierre islands for snorkeling and exploring. Curieuse is famous for its free roaming giant tortoises.


Style & Character

Vegetation around the hotel gives some privacy for the villas. The hotel is the most contemporary of all our Seychelles properties and villas are dotted around the hill slope, most with sea views facing east (sunrise side).  Service is polished and friendly.

Arranged down a gentle slope

Food & Drink

A good choice is offered - 7 restaurants (if you count everything) with 3 atmospheric choices for dinner. All are high quality, and dining is definitely a strength of the hotel. 

Curieuse Restaurant

Features, Wellness & Amenities

There are two picturesque beaches, though not especially wide, with good beach service. One is exposed to weather in our summer.  There is a high quality spa in the hills.



Verdict

This is a high quality hotel and Praslin island is one of the really beautiful spots on Mother Earth. 


Neil Bedford, the author of this review, is Product Director at Select Collection.


For more about Raffles CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CRUISING TO ATACAMA & GALAPAGOS - BLUE FOOTED BOOBIES & BANANAS

From Guayaquil, Ecuador to Valparaiso, Chile – 14 days of cruising onboard Silver Explorer. A perfectly comfortable adventure, learning about the Galapagos and its animals, with good food and high quality expeditions.

Laila Ånestad writes:

Silver Explorer is a different kind of cruise. It is all about adventure, nature and animal life with many excursions and a chance to learn a great deal about our world.  In addition our cruise had a theme of food and photography.



Common sight: Blue-footed Booby


About to spot whales on Silver Explorer

As you can see from the picture above, Silver Explorer is about to change direction. Big whales were spotted and the captain, Mrs Maggi Ettlin, definitely knew how to satisfy the guests! She turned the ship completely, to get closer to the big animals.

To meet our food and banana theme, Executive Chef Marcelino and corporate chef of the Oro Verde Hotels in Ecuador Antonio Perez gave several cooking demonstrations on how to use bananas and chocolate in different dishes.  Bananas and cacao from Ecuador are exported to all over the world. Some bananas are red.  

                   

SUITES


Our Suite – Expedition Suite – was located mid ship on Deck 3. 


It was very spacious – and double the size of the Vista/Veranda Suites. The bathroom with bath and separate shower had good water  pressure, Etro bath-robes and Bvlgari amenities. Plenty of towels which they changed 2-3 times per day. Big walk-in closet, 4-5 sqm. The ship is quite old, so the furniture were in typical brown, purple and orange – but fashion was not the focus on this Expedition trip.

LIFE ONBOARD      

        
What kind of people can you expect on Silver Explorer?

We were in total 107 guests and 110 crew members from more than 25 different nations worldwide.
Most people we spoke to were retired, some of them quite early. At all meals we were asked if we would prefer a table for only two – or if we would like to join some of the other guests. In most cases, we joined others – as mingling is a part of the life on board.

I quickly understood that the guests were frequent luxury travelers – and many of them had already been in Antarctica 2 and 3 times. These were very nice people with a lot of experience and knowledge and nobody was there to “show off” where they had been before and which expensive hotels they had stayed in. Most of the guests were also members of the Venetian Society, a special family of travelers who enjoy seeing the world in luxurious fashion.


There was no swimming pool onboard, but 2 heated jacuzzis - one in each corner at the rear of the ship. They were only used by us and another couple! 


CROSSING BORDERS


Crossing the borders between countries was very efficient – organized by the reception at the ship. As they collected all passports the first day, Silversea was in contact with the Port Authorities. We just had to fill in customs form, which was placed on our bed a couple of days before entering a new country.  We were always reminded to bring our passport on shore excursions, if necessary.

EXCURSIONS


Silversea always provided us with the very best local guides and buses, in addition to the ship`s own professional biologist, geologist, archeologist, expert on birds etc.  VERY interesting.

Going ashore

We had so many excursions to so many different places, both transfers on land and to islands by zodiac boats.  Some days when the trips were a little bit challenging, there were two different options to sign up for. It could be the altitude or the length of the bus trip that could be difficult (the longest one lasted for 18 hours) so for those who did not want to join, there was an alternative.

A few snapshots taken during excursions:
                   



Lauca National Park. Altitude 4500 meters


In the driest place on earth


The Atacama desert in Chile; no rain here since the year 1570!


Visit to Santa Catalina Monastry. A nice place to be!

Valle de Luna, with unique rock formations jutting out of the sand, eroded by wind into incredible shapes. Below – an indigenous ritual.

Ritual to Mother Earth

Below: Peruvian Paso Horse. The characteristic gait was utilized for the purpose of covering long distances over a short period of time without tiring the horse or the rider. Horses arrived in South America during the Spanish Conquest, beginning the arrival of Pizarro in 1531.



Our Silver Explorer journey even included excursions over the Nazca Lines with small aircraft.


Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert, in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Determining how they were made has been easier than figuring why they were made. 40 minutes to fly there – then 30 minutes circling over the different figures. No air conditioning on board. Be prepared to get sick as the aircraft turns in a 45 degree angle on both sides, for the best view of the geoglyphs. Not very easy to see all of them.
              
There was very little time for shopping on the different tours – places visited were mostly museums, ruins or National parks. Many of us missed having local products in the ship shop.

Below: Some real ones - Vicunas. Some of the world’s most expensive wool. Could be USD 500-1000 for a scarf!



   

CONCLUSION


The standard and knowledge of the Expedition team is VERY high – and everything is VERY well organized. The food is good and the staff try their very best. They greet everybody with names after one day.

 It was rather sad to leave the ship – because after 2 weeks you start to know different people and their personalities. 

There were many repeaters who like to learn about places that are  challenging to visit by yourself. And  – they get new friends who they can travel with on their next Silver Explorer Cruise!