Maria Cristina is the “Go To” hotel in San Sebastian

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The Maria Christina is a landmark property set one block from the old city and one block from the beach so the location could not be better.  A large luxury hotel traditionally styled with all the big hotel amenities that you would require such as concierge desk, valet parking, small gym, good internet service.  The rooms are typical European traditional décor and the bathrooms are large and well appointed with great products.  Our room had the largest king size bed I have ever seen and a nice view overlooking the town and a large courtyard.

Since San Sebastian Spain is a large “foody” destination having the concierge desk to help with reservations and dining ideas was a big plus.   (Read my separate entry on San Sebastian for more details on dinning and things to do).  We ate breakfasts only at the hotel and the service, food quality and venue were all excellent.   Maria Christina is the” go to” hotel for luxury travelers to San Sebastian and certainly deserving of their strong reputation.  SPAIN

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Four Seasons Nevis- Sneak Peek New Rooms

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My family spent 3 days on the island of Nevis at the Four Seasons Resort.   The resort is situated on a very long stretch of beach and most of the resort’s rooms face the water and also due west which allowed us to enjoy the most beautiful sunsets every evening.  All the rooms had a small balcony or outdoor space with lounge chairs and a table and chairs.  The setting certainly takes advantage of the great beach and sunset views.  The rooms themselves (more on this below) are nicely sized with large bathroom space and a small seating area which included a pull out sofa.  Linens and toiletries were in keeping with Four Season’s high standards.   Luckily, the resort and island were spared in the recent hurricanes of 2017.

The beach has shallow water with virtually no waves, perfect for young kids.  This hotel has a ton to offer when it comes to keeping kids entertained.   Just 50 yards from shore was a large bouncy tube/trampoline were my 10 year old spent about 3 hours per day.  The hotel supplies water toys, kayaks, paddle boards, snorkel gear and there was a boat for hire for excursions, tubing, fishing and additional snorkeling and jet skis for hire.  There is certainly no lack of entertainment by the water, that is for sure.   For those not traveling with kids, no worries as the property has a beautiful ADULT only infinity edge pool located right on the beach where serenity can be found!

There is a large well equipped gym and spa.  If you enjoy tennis, you will certainly not be disappointed as you will find many tennis courts (including clay, grass and asphalt) and to boot……the property also has an 18 hole golf course on site.

I had the privilege of being one of the first to get a “sneak peek” preview of the new room upgrades coming very soon (completed by end of 2018).  The new rooms are contemporary, bright, clean and extremely functional.   These upgrades that are about to take place will bring the resort into the standard that matches the majestic location the property enjoys.    I did also preview the Pinney Beach villas which are gorgeous 3 bedroom contemporary villas each with their own private pool and yard and located on the beach at the hotel.

And I should not forget to mention….I can’t say enough nice things about the people of Nevis, service here is always with a smile.   They could not have been more accommodating or nicer.

 

 

 

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Park Hyatt St Kitts- Get there before the Secret is Out

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My family had the pleasure of a 4 day stay at the brand new Park Hyatt in St Kitts.  On almost every level this was one of our better Caribbean beach vacations in recent memory.  As a starter the island of St. Kitts itself is beautiful, very well maintained,  and the people could not be friendlier.  The island was luckily spared in the recent devastating hurricanes of 2017.  The terrain is relatively hilly presenting lots of splendid landscapes.  The hotel was situated against a horseshoe shaped hill with roughly a half mile of uninterrupted beach sprawled before it facing the island of Nevis.

The hotel rooms were a series of mid sized buildings that housed about 6 rooms rooms, all with ocean views and a short walk to all the amenities.  The rooms have a beachy chic vibe with mahogany floors, white washed shiplap walls and relaxed furniture with a splash of trendy shapes and colors mixed in.   Each room had 10 feet floor to ceiling windows covering almost the entire ocean side giving you un-interrupted views of the beach, ocean, and the island of Nevis  just a couple miles away.  Our room (Nevis Peak Suite) had an outdoor area of roughly 1,000 square feet with a small plunge the pool, day bed, couch and seating area along with dining table and wet bar.  We spent a bit of time reading and relaxing here at the end of the day as it caught late afternoon sun.  The bathroom was very large with double vanities and a huge shower room that could fit the whole family.   Towels, bedding, toiletries and amenities were all top shelf.   I can’t imagine the most discerning traveler being disappointed with the décor and/or amenities.  Indoors we had a nice closet area (however they could have used a couple more drawers) and a lounge area with a couch, chairs, coffee table and a small dinning table for 3 or 4 which works equally well as a work station.   Rooms were great.

There were 3 restaurants each with varying menus and themes.  The décor at each restaurant, including the adjacent bar spaces, found the perfect balance of trendy and warmth that made me want to hire the decorator for a visit to my home.  Nothing chintzy here, all the furniture, linens, table and glassware were ultra high end.  It also helps that everything is spanking brand new.  As for the food, I would say that The Stone Barn which is an adult’s only restaurant would stack up with many of the fine eateries in NYC…and that says a lot.   The other two restaurants, Fisherman’s Village and Great House were nearly equal to Stone Barn for food quality and would certainly have rated 9/10 for the menu and food.  On a couple of occasions we asked to Raoul (the chef) to go off script he was open to accommodating any requests and we did a number of substitutions to the menu to tailor our dining experience.  Service at the resort was solid on most fronts and would certainly get an 8/10 but we did note a couple small lapses but nothing that really affected our stay and more likely just the mind set of “Caribbean service” vs. “New York service”.

The common areas include a well equipped gym, a nice spa a huge family pool which is almost like a big lagoon (probably an acre of just pool) with a multitude of loungers and chairs nearby.  Umbrellas were plentiful and there were a few large day beds for ultra-zen around the perimeter of the pool.   There was a recreation shack area near the beach that offered free kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling gear, games and kites for kids and adults of all ages.   There was also a very quiet adult only pool (which we never used) that looked very chill.

If you want to get off the resort taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced.  There are a few “toes in the sand” local restaurants and bars that were pretty good dinning as well as a couple restaurants that would have been more “fine dinning” in nature although at any venue shorts, t-shirts and flip flops seemed acceptable.  I definitely recommend Salt Plage for a sunset drinks and appetizers and The Pavilion for dinner which were just 5 minutes taxi ride from hotel.  Spice Mill (which is a 10 minute walk) is very casual, cheap and cheerful dinning with good food and service.  Again, I can’t overemphasis how nice all the people are on the island..very outgoing, jovial and always smiling.

Park Hyatt, St Kitts was an amazing place and I would highly recommend for families and/or couples.   Both the property and the food were absolutely fantastic.    If you have questions about specific room categories please feel free to reach out to me as I toured all the various rooms.

Oh ya, and take the kids zip lining it’s a great way to spend a half a morning.

 

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Tuscany, Amalfi, Sicily, Sardinia, been there done that? Looking for your next Italian destination? Head to the “heel of the boot”.

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The opening of Borgo Egnazia in 2012 has put the region of Puglia on the map.  Puglia makes up the area that is considered the heel of the boot.

Borgo Egnazia is a large five star luxury resort located in a small town called Silvestrano about one hour south of Bari.  The property was built from the ground up.  The buildings are made of local stone and the resort was designed and built to mimic a typical village in Puglia.  Borgo means “village” in Italian and the resort appears to be a village.  The décor is very Moorish with tones of whites and creams throughout the common areas and guest rooms.   The property has both rooms, suites and large villas with their own private pools if you are traveling with your family or a group.     As a result of being recently built, everything is new and modern.  The rooms all have outdoor seating, comfortable beds, large modern bathrooms and impressive amount of closet and storage space.  Beddings, toiletries and shower pressure (you know, the basics) were to a very high standard.

What to do?

There are many reasons to go to Puglia……the beaches and beach clubs, the tomatoes, the friendly people, the grilled fish, the history, the weather, the wine, the architecture I could go on and on.

The property itself is large, complete with two beach clubs, a golf course, gym, spa, three pools, fantastic kids club, four restaurants and a few bars.  If you don’t want to leave the property you would want for little however the area has so much to offer.

Each guest is assigned an “experience manager” which is basically your own concierge.   The hotel has a myriad of “extra-curricular” activities, both complimentary and paid and both on and off the property.   From cooking classes to Pomodoro Festivals to biking in the olive groves to exploring local villages and UNESCO sites by Segway.  You can chose to keep yourself very busy or chose to just relax at the beach or pool.  The property is a great fit for both families and couples.

If you are a family, there are a number of reasons your kids will love this place….the kids club has a massive staff/kid ratio so if a kid was not playing with another kid someone was playing with your kid.  They had a diversity of activities every day and my 9 year old son could not have been happier.  The counselors and organization in the kids club could not have been better.  The resort is large (requiring golf cart shuttle) and the staff went out of their way to coordinate bringing our son to us at the beach club toward the end of the day, saving us the 10 or 15 minute shuttle back and forth to retrieve him.  The property has a unique bicycle rental shop with 4 wheel go carts that the kids explore the resort.  Great idea.

There are three common pools, two adult pools and one family pool.  In addition, the villas also have their own private pools.   All of them offer food and beverage service and are surrounded by ultra-plush padded sun loungers, something one might appreciate when spending most of the day lounging by pool or beach reading a book.   The hotel offers two beach clubs, one is a rocky, very hip club like scene with a substantial restaurant attached. The other beach club is a sandy beach with a more Zen like setting and a modest but very good food and drink service.  They are each a short shuttle from the main entrance to the property.

This is a great destination for couples, a large group and certainly for families with kids.  Service is exceptional and room quality and dinning would impress the most demanding traveler.

I would rarely write about an individual staff member but we were impressed with Sabina who is the head experience manager at the Borgo.  I joked with her that there must have been a few clones of her running around with a smile as she keeps all the balls in the air.  The staff was super attentive with a concierge assigned to help us with anything on the property or off the property.  So which beach club, restaurant or nearby town to visit was driven by great local advice and local contacts.

 

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Finally! A True Five-Star Resort at Disney Orlando

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Finally!  A true five-star resort at Disney Orlando.  If it’s that time in your life when you are taking your kids on their pilgrimage to Disney, I would highly recommend the Four Seasons Hotel which is located within the Disney Resort.

In true Four Seasons fashion, you will find comfy beds, a large bathroom, lot’s of closet space, nice décor and FIVE STAR SERVICE.   The rooms that face the Magic Kingdom come at a premium since you can view the nightly fireworks show right from your room.   All of the hotel rooms are comfortably sized and have sofa beds — so if you are traveling with one or two children, everyone can stay in one room (yahoo)!

When you are at Disney and Orlando for the first time you have a ton of questions and the hotel is well equipped with concierge staff who are friendly and full of answers.  Disney also has its own concierge/sales desk in the Four Seasons lobby allowing for easy and accessible information and tickets.

For those of you not able to spend every waking hour of the day taking in Disney or other local attractions, it is nice to return to the Four Seasons where you will find two pools: one catering to adults and the other for families. The family pool boasts a couple of serious water slides plus a lazy river.   Additionally, there are ping pong tables, bean bag toss games and a few other activities to keep the kids entertained.   There is a top of the line spa and fully equipped gym for parents.

The dining experience at the hotel is excellent.  Our breakfast server was the same person on our two mornings and on the second day she knew all our coffee details, our son’s name and remembered what we had on our agenda the day prior; even conversing with our son and asking questions about his day.   One night we enjoyed sunset drinks at the rooftop bar where there is also a Spanish style steak house with two distinct rooms.  One room seemed to have families and the other, adults, which I thought was a nice touch.

All in all, if you want an adult/luxury experience when traveling to Disney, I would recommend the Four Seasons.

 

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“When In Rome” …….stay at the Eden

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You know the saying “When in Rome”

Well…… “When in Rome stay at the Eden”.

My family had the pleasure of a two night stay at the Hotel Eden, which has recently re-opened after a multi-year facelift.  Rome is a city that you are likely to spend a good part of your day walking and for that reason choose your location carefully so that every step has you taking in the sights you want to see. The Hotel Eden is perched just behind the Trinità dei Monti , the church locate at the top of the Spanish Steps.   From our perspective the location could not have been better as the hotel is on a quiet residential street, yet in the heart of everything.  Additionally, the majestic view from their sixth floor restaurants and bars is probably one of the best in Rome…..the entire city is laid out before you.

Service was second to none at the Eden.  From check in to check out they anticipated our needs and answered all our silly tourist questions with great detail.  The hotel has undergone a complete overhaul.  It has been brought up to modern standards and décor yet keeping its historical elegance.  The room was fantastic with great space and all the amenities.  Being up to date on the technology front is definitely a benefit of being newly opened.

Both the bar and restaurants are perched on the 6th floor with spellbinding views.  Even if you don’t the opportunity to stay here take the initiative to go for a drink or a meal at their top rated restaurant, La Terrazza.  In addition to the great view – the food is excellent.

I really can’t think of anything that the staff could have done to improve our stay.  The room, the food, the service and the location all contributed to a five star experience.

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A Beautifully Curated Boutique Hotel on the Cliffs of Sorrento

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In short, Maison la Minervetta has been one of the most pleasant hotel surprise’s I have had in a few years.   I arrived late in the afternoon to this twelve room gem that is literally hanging off the side of a cliff at the far end of Sorrento.  Given the price point on the room, particularly in light of the room prices in the region, I didn’t have any expectations of grandeur, but boy did I get it.  The reception, lounge and outdoor patio area all flows together with fantastic colors and a stunning view overlooking the harbor, Mt Vesuvius, and the Bay of Naples.  The property is beautifully curated and feels as if you have stepped into the pages of a high end home décor magazine.  With hundreds of books and pieces of art bringing the space to life, you could spend a week just paging through photography books alone.

Our room was similarly located on the side of the cliff with unbelievable views through massive windows on two sides.  The room had beautiful floors with nautical red and white walls and bathroom. If it sounds like it might be too much for you go on their website for a peak.  Bedding and toiletries are very luxurious. Every room is different in shape, size, color and décor although a nautical theme runs throughout.   The place is so hip I felt like Austin Powers the whole stay!

The hotel does not have a restaurant although a very nice breakfast is include and around 5:30PM each day a nice array of hor’ douvres are offered up to go with the bar service.   The service is excellent although they make you feel so at home that at times I was in the kitchen chatting with the staff as they made me some poached eggs.

There is a small pool that gets morning sun and is surrounded by a few quiet sitting areas.   The hotel would not be known for it’s sunbathing so don’t go here expecting to sun worship on the property.  They do have an affiliation with a beach club that is located on the water at Marina Grande a small harbor/beach area located about a 4 minute hike straight down the stairs of the hotel.    In Marina Grande you will find a number of very local (not touristy) restaurants, café’s and gelato stands.   While the main town of Sorrento maybe overloaded with tourists Marina Grande had wonderful local vibe with great food and a nice seaside feel.

If you are remotely near Sorrento I recommend spending a day or two here.   Maison La Minervetta is a very special place.  Should probably note….it’s more of a couples place than a family destination.  We were the only guests (during our visit) that had a child however we were made to feel perfectly welcome…but a lot of 9 year olds don’t really get the “groovy décor and fabulous sunset thing”.

Off the chart setting, fabulous rooms, great hospitality and located near lots of dinning, history and activities.  For the price you will not get better value in all of Italy…..one of the best finds on the Amalfi Coast.

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