Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Holidays for Couples reveals the world's top 25 new love nests in 2012!

Finding the next big thing in travel is tricky, but when the editors of Holidays for Couples were charged with the task of sifting through hundreds of new luxury hotel and resort openings to short list a couple-perfect top 25, they pulled out both their passports and their little black book of travel professionals for the inside scoop on who is living up to the hype.
"There were many hotels and resorts that were marvellous in their own right, but if they didn't have that special something that turns a luxury escape into a romantic luxury escape, then we had to let them go," says our editor Tanya Joslin.
The end result is The Romance List 2012, showcased in the February issue of Asia Pacific’s leading travel magazine for couples of all ages, Holidays for Couples.
For luxury-loving couples looking to indulge their romantic side, and honeymooners searching for an ultra-chic hideaway, this discerning collection of properties is sheer inspiration. The list also ticks the box for enticing diversity, including everything from glamorous urban retreats to secluded tropical escapes.
"These amazing destinations go that one step further in providing the perfect sanctuary for couples of all ages".
Featuring much-loved Australian, South Pacific and Asian locations, The Romance List 2012 also underlines the emergence of several new romantic destinations, including Cambodia. This tiny country has only recently started embracing tourism, yet two distinctly romantic resorts made the cut. Alila Sothea in Siem Reap is a hotel built in honour of a man’s love for his wife, while the brand new Song Saa (‘the sweethearts’ in Khmer!) is located on jungle-enveloped twin private islands in the Gulf of Thailand. We also made it our 'Dream Destination' on the blog last week - because it is THAT special! The Romance List positions this resort as 'taking Cambodia’s coastal accommodation scene from laid-back to seriously luxe.'
Featured Indian Ocean resorts include the Raffles Praslin Seychelles, Angsana Balaclava in Mauritius and the stunning ‘all-pool-villa’ Anantara Kihavah Villas Maldives, complete with underwater restaurant and wine cellar, which The Romance List calls "a stellar standout in an increasingly competitive field”.
City hotels include glitzy and glamorous, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and two from the City of Love – the decadent Shangri La Hotel Paris, housed in a nearly 120-year-old mansion originally built for Prince Roland Bonaparte, and the elegant yet contemporary Mandarin Oriental Paris. Closer to home the magazine earmarks the buzzy Darling Sydney as the ideal venue for couples in a party mood.
Amanresorts appear with two deliciously romantic properties. Amanruya on Turkey's Bodrum Peninsula, surrounded by ancient pine forests and overlooking the insanely deep-blue waters of the Aegean coast, is sheer honeymoon heaven according to The Romance List. While Aman Sveti Stefan – which highlights four years of work for Amanresorts, painstakingly restoring what was a 15th-century fishing village off the coast of Montenegro – offers couples a unique historic charm.

The full list can be found in the new edition of Holidays for Couples magazine, available nationally in Australia, New Zealand and most parts of Asia and also available worldwide from the iTunes App Store.

For more information or to organise a copy of the magazine or a full list of winners, email the editor at

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Affordable luxury at Blanket Bay - New Zealand

Fancy a stay at one of New Zealand's best luxury lodges? Well it just got a whole lot more affordable as one of the world’s greatest accommodation properties announces a massive 40% savings off the nightly tariff!

From March 15 to April 15, Glenorchy’s Blanket Bay invites guests to enjoy its ‘Autumn Sampler’ for just NZ$450 per person per night exclusive of GST –  that's approx. AUD$387 per person per night.

The all-inclusive package offers a gorgeous room in an unsurpassed location, gourmet cuisine, pre dinner drinks and carte blanche use of all lodge sports equipment and facilities including kayaks, mountain bikes, outdoor heated pool, gym, Jacuzzi and steam rooms.

Blanket Bay is situated just a short distance from Queenstown, at the head of Lake Wakatipu. And set on the edge of two of New Zealand’s majestic National Parks, Mount Aspiring and Fiordland, Blanket Bay offers all the ingredients to perfectly accommodate visitors in this wild and spectacular area. Guests enjoy nature at its finest, intimate fireside moments and spectacular alpine scenery amid the resort’s all-inclusive five+ star service. A fab offer for a stay in a truly sublime destination! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dream Destination: Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia

Australian couple, Rory and Melita Hunter had a vision to enhance the luxury travel offerings in Cambodia, and to do it in a carefully and sustainable way. Together they have created a truly beautiful retreat in Cambodia's untouched Koh Rong Archipelago, on two pristine islands that lie side by side. Known locally as Song Saa - Khmer for 'The Sweethearts'. This is a place that is truly seductive for the senses, so we can't help but choose it as this week's Dream Destination ... take a look and fall in love too!

The islands are connected by foot bridge over a marine reserve - the conservational safeguarding of the island's reefs and marine life which includes dugongs, seahorses and exotic species of fish. Choose from twenty-seven luxury overwater, beach or jungle villas (all villas have private plunge pools). From the moment guests set foot on Song Saa’s exquisite islands, they won’t have a care in the world. With an ‘Always Inclusive’ pricing policy; one price, per person, per night, guests are free to indulge in everything the resort and its surrounds have to offer. Everything from arrival foot massage and welcome drink, to all that passes guest’s lips from sunrise to sunset, be it a lazy breakfast in the villa, a romantic picnic lunch on the beach, or fine dining in the world-class, overwater restaurant ... everything is included!

At the heart of the intimate Song Saa Private Island experience is a world-class restaurant serving a menu combining old flavours with new, interesting, and rarely discovered ‘Khmer’ ingredient treats with five important elements – salt, scent, raw, heat and sweet; with one of these five qualities defining the core element of each dish. Guests receive daily surprises from the kitchen such as freshly made afternoon tapas and a glass of crisp white wine as the sun sets.

The restaurant is headed up by English born, Executive Chef Neil Wager, who previously worked at the highly acclaimed six-star North Island in the Seychelles, and is used to cooking for international royalty and celebrities. He is committed to paying homage to traditional Khmer food practices in a contemporary and sustainable way - the kitchen operates with locally sourced and grown food, with seafood carefully selected from Cambodia’s evolving community of sustainable fishermen.

Chef Wager has taken a very hands-on approach to designing the menu as a gastronomic journey - with the aim of travelling himself through a variety of different parts of the country in pursuit of only the best suppliers and influences, tasting dishes as he goes, in order to incorporate only the best into each of his creations at Song Saa. 

Song Saa Private Island is now open for bookings via phone on +855 236 860 360 or email

Well, my travel to-do list just got seriously re-arranged! ... 

Romance amongst a dramatic lunar landscape - Cappadocia, Turkey

The tourist region that is today known as Cappadocia in Turkey consists of Aksaray's Ihlara Valley, the Göreme National Park and underground cities in Nevşehir and the Soğanlı Valley in Kayseri. This is a place of incredible and astonishing beauty - a dramatic landscape of lava hewn crags and cliffs in which caves can be found, earning it the local nickname of 'the Fairy Chimneys'. Humans have used the fairy chimneys as dwellings throughout history, carving them into homes and places of worship that still bear the traces of thousands of years of civilization. And now it is also the dwelling place of tourists and travellers who come here to revel in the natural mystique and history, and the spas and superb cave hotels. 

Like the Cappadocia Cave Resort & Spa, nestled among the rock carved dwellings of Uchisar on the top of the Cappadocia. The hotel offers breathtaking panoramic view over the magical lunar landscape and provides a restful base from which to explore the region. It also has some of the only therapuetic cave spa therapy rooms. Imagine sleeping in thousands of years old caves, in charming rock cut rooms that bring the old settlement and village alive in the modern age. Share quiet talks and slow strolls under the changing colors of the Cappadocian landscape, join in the sunrise hot-air ballooning that is so popular in this region, and take time to appreciate the splendor of Fairy Chimney formations and historical sights which made Cappadocia a true wonder of our world. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Free Upgrades on MSC Cruises' Grand Mediterranean program

MSC Cruises is offering passengers the chance to “move up the world” with a free upgrade on a selected number of its Grand Mediterranean cruises. Furthermore, the family-owned cruise line is offering complimentary transfers between Venice and Genoa to link the back-to-back seven-night Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises which make up the Grand Mediterranean package.

The offers apply to combo bookings on MSC Armonia and MSC Sinfonia from July 20 until October 19, 2012, as well as MSC Splendida and the yet-to-be-launched MSC Divina (pictured here) in October, 2012.

The upgrades deal means you could pay for an inside category one cabin only to find yourself boosted to a category six to 10 ocean view cabin on some of the cruises - so you can have an ocean view cabin from just $1318 per person, twin share for a combo cruise on MSC Armonia and MSC Sinfonia in October. That’s 14 nights for less than $100 a night with the free transfer between ships (Venice and Genoa) thrown in. Impressive value!

On the program, the MSC Armonia sets sail from Venice and calls on Ancona in Italy, Corfu, Greece’s Santorini, Athens and Atgostoli before cruising to Kotor in Montenegro and back to Venice.

Passengers are then transferred to Genoa where they board MSC Sinfonia for a round cruise which includes calls on Civitavecchia (Rome), Salemo (Amalfi Coast), Tunis, Ibiza, Palma and Marseille.

In October, with prices starting at $1598 with an upgrade to a category 4 or 5 ocean view cabin, MSC Divina will cruise from Venice to Bari, Katakolon (Olympia), Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik before the passenger transfer to Genoa for a cruise aboard MSC Splendida to Barcelona, Tunis, Valletta, Messina and Civitavecchia (Rome) and back to Genoa.

The MSC Divina will be christened by screen legend Sophia Loren at a gala ceremony in Marseille in late May, and the ship’s maiden voyage will be a six-nighter from Marseille to Venice before it begins a series of seven-night East Mediterranean cruises, prices from $939 per person twin share.

For more details phone MSC Cruises on 1300 028502, or head to their website and set sail in style!

Anantara Launches 365 Days of Good Deeds Campaign

For over ten years, Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas has been committed to creating luxury travel experiences that also benefit the environment and local communities. All of Anantara's 17 properties across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Maldives and Middle East immerse themselves in local initiatives that give back to the community and environment, thereby enhancing the social and environmental surroundings of each Anantara destination. Makes for a feel good holiday, to be sure!

This year Anantara has brought all these good deeds together and is launching the '365 Days of Good Deeds' sustainability programme. At least one good deed will take place for every day of 2012, and guests are invited to combine their five star journey of colourful heritage, local traditions and natural wonders, with the opportunity to participate in a range of good deeds that help the  communities both socially and environmentally in each locale.

In the heart of Thailand's northern jungle and hill tribe country at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, the onsite Anantara Elephant Camp is a traditional mahout (caregiver) and elephant village which is completely self supportive.  Help to feed, bath and do mahout (caregiver) training programmes with the 30 rescued elephants of the Anantara Elephant Camp at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, in the heart of Thailand's northern jungle and hill tribe country.
Or combine a stay at Anantara Phuket Villas together with the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation where you can reintroduce endangered baby turtles to their natural environment on the Mai Khao beach. 

To Seminyak in Bali, and Anantara Seminyak Resort & Spa encourages guests to participate in local, national and international sustainability and cultural events.  The resort takes part in Environment Day, Earth Hour and Earth Day in addition to numerous other programmes such as the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, which has developed over the past 25 years to become the world's largest volunteer efforts for ocean health.

In the world famous paradise of the Maldives, Anantara Kihavah Villas has set up an Eye Camp on Kudarikilu Island in conjunction with professional opticians, offering their local island neighbours complimentary eye checks.  In addition, Anantara Kihavah runs an ongoing coral adoption programme, in which guests are invited to plant coral to help regenerate the Maldives' fragile ecosystem. A resident Marine Biologist is on staff at both Anantara Kihavah and Anantara Dhigu to share information on the importance of preserving the fragile Atolls.

Further afield in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara in the famous Liwa Desert and Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara are the perfect retreats to discover reintegration programmes of the indigenous endangered species such as the Oryx and sand gazelles in their natural habitat. Guests can also participate in mangrove planting to help contribute to the overall health of the coastal area by providing food, shelter and environmental protection for marine organisms and nest dwellers.

It's these kinds of unique experiences that provide Anantara guests with a memorable holiday experience, and they also leave knowing that they have given back to the environment and local community - 365 days a year. 

For more information on Anantara's 365 Days of Good Deeds phone + 66 (0)2 365 7500.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Great food and good times with chef Rick Stein at The Datai Langkawi

Iconic Malaysian resort The Datai Langkawi is delighted to welcome UK celebrity chef Rick Stein as guest chef for three special nights from April 13 - 15, and he brings with him his signature charm and incredible dishes to share with guests too.  The Datai Langkawi guests will indulge in a five course dinner prepared by chef Rick Stein, and the affable chef will take some time out to share wonderful anecdotes from his amazing global food travels during dinner. A memorable night is assured!

Rick will join The Datai Langkawi's Executive Chef Conny Andersson in creating this fabulous dinner, which promises to include some of Rick's favourite seafood dishes, inspired by his love of Malay cuisine. 

And of course, in Datai style, there's still going to plenty of leisure time to simply unwind and enjoy the pristine rainforest setting, laze by the pool, relax in the fabulous spa, walk on the beach, a guided nature walk, or perhaps partake in the special cooking demonstration lead by Rick Stein + Conny Andersson which promises to be great fun and informative (be quick to reserve a spot for this!).

Packages starting from MYR 2784* (deluxe room) or MYR 3184* (superior villa) per person includes a two night stay at The Datai Langkawi  (twin share) including daily buffet breakfast and one dinner with Rick Stein in the Dining Room restaurant, and return airport limousine transfer. For pre or post nights a special rate is available at MYR 920* per person twin share (deluxe room) or MY1120* per person twin share (superior villa). 

To book contact The Datai on phone: (+60 4) 959 2500 or book via the resort's website

It's a Big Apple CityPASS, access all areas!

If you're heading to the Big Apple soon (can we come too?!) be sure to pack a little something called the New York CityPASS, which saves 46 percent off combined admission to six top New York City attractions. Each New York CityPASS includes prepaid admission to the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), as well as a choice between a trip to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, and a choice between the Guggenheim Museum and Top of the Rock observation deck.

New York CityPASS costs $89 for adults (value $166); $64 for youths, ages 6-17. In addition to the savings, New York CityPASS allows holders to bypass most main-entrance ticket lines. And in a city known for crowds, this is a huge bonus! New York CityPASS can be purchased online or at any of the CityPASS attractions. It is valid for nine consecutive days, beginning with the first day of use.

 Don't leave home without it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dream Destination: Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island

The incredible Southern Ocean Lodge on the rugged, wind swept coastline of Kangaroo Island in South Australia floats atop a secluded cliff on a rugged stretch of coast, commanding peerless views of the wild Southern Ocean and pristine wilderness. And the level of luxury here is stunning, with a modern style and a high end design integrity that melds with the natural Kangaroo Island vernacular and an amazing coastal colour palette, creating a unique eco chic retreat. 

Twenty-one luxe suites taking in mesmerising views of the Southern Ocean cantilever along the coast, and feature lavish King beds, sunken lounge, dramatic glass walled bathroom featuring Southern Spa amenities and outdoor terrace with occasional seating and daybed.

And with a signature itinerary of selected guided island excursions that have been designed for daily adventure (all included in the tariff!), guests  can go from outright sophistication in the lodge to the more down to earth pursuits of wilderness watching outdoors. Encounter abundant wildlife in a 'zoo without fences' and discover the Island's unique natural attractions, often with exclusive access and always with a touch of luxe. Discover epicurean delights, visit local artists, or step off the beaten track to encounter wildlife in Australia's own Galapagos. Spectacular!

Dream Destination: COMO Shambala, Bali

OK, so this 'Dream Destination' has been chosen for the couples seeking out total renewal at a very physical level. A holistic spa escape in Bali ... the island has plenty of them. But if you're after a true wellness approach to your holiday - a little time together where you can renew your body and mind along with your relationship -without forsaking any level of comfort or pampering, you might just find COMO Shambala to be an ultimate choice! 

This place is pretty special. Not only will you be immersed in a completely relaxed and slowed down version of life while staying here, you're offered a daily schedule of pilates, yoga, meditation and other spiritual pursuits, as well as adventure activities that will have the most active enthusiast satisfied. State-of-the-art facilities include a Vitality pool, treatment areas beside the River Ayung, and in-house experts including a Yoga Master, Ayurvedic Doctor and guides for outdoor activities while the healthy 360-degree approach offers nutritional menus by COMO Shambhala Cuisine.

And just check out those incredible villas! Sublime ... this stunning property certainly takes a lifestyle retreat to a whole other level of luxe! And all in beautiful Bali, where romance and escapism is always the order of the day.