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Glamping with Wilderness Safaris at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia

Desert glamping in Namibia at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

My recent trip to Namibia was the first time I traveled with Wilderness Safaris and I was truly impressed with everything about Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. It’s brand new, having opened in August 2014.

Twilight outside tent #2 at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Impressive, elevated tents at Hoanib

Namibia doesn’t allow permanent camps, instead they grant land concessions for a number of years. So everything about Hoanib will be able to disappear without a trace to help conserve Namibia’s natural environment.

Visiting the Roaring Dunes was one of the highlights of my stay at Hoanib

While the tents may be temporary, the camp is still amazingly stylish and comfortable. The guest tents have a genius design. They are built on platforms elevated over the sand, which helps keep their interiors at a comfortable temperature both day and night.

The Hoanib Staff waits to greet you with cool towels and fresh lemonade

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is run with Wilderness Safari’s ethos and commitment to the 4Cs – Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture. The staff is committed to contributing meaningfully to the wildlife and the people of Africa. The staff is great and this attitude makes you feel really good about spending money here.

Bella, the resident cat at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

General Manager Clement Lawrence and his team are all warm, personable, and take very good care of you. The service style is laid-back and unobtrusive. This is perfect for the modern luxury travelers who don’t want to feel like a Colonial with a staff fawning over you all the time.

The pool is perfect for cooling off on hot days in the Namib desert

Emms, our guide and tracker was incredible. He was friendly and warm and just plain fun to hang out with and have a chat. Fatima keeps things the ship running tight back at camp. There are only 10 tents, so the camp feels intimate.

Looking from the pool into the dining pavilion

Located in the private the Hoanib River Valley in the Private Palmwag Concession, the property is remote and way off the grid. It’s luxurious for sure, but you’re glamping.

The living room in the

There is no wifi, phone service, or television. With your days filled with game drives and wildlife walking through the camp serving as “Namibian television.” I did not miss being connected. That being said, we did pack our own satellite phone for emergencies. 

Left: The main tent looks gorgeous against the desert landscape Right: Zulu baskets

Clement let me know I could send an email from the office if it was necessary.

Table in the dining tent facing the gorgeous rocky landscape

Left: the communal living room Right: The fresh lemonade was my personal favorite beverage

You’re not exactly roughing it here. The bathrooms were spacious, chic and had plenty of hot water heated by the solar panels that surround the camp.

I loved the modern safari chic vibe of Hoanib’s communal living room

Your days are filled with Game Drives and wildlife viewing (the elephants were my personal favorite), and adventures like visiting the Roaring Dunes along the Skeleton Coast.

A club sandwich & chips for lunch

Hoanib is one of Wilderness Safaris Classic Camps, which is their second tier of luxury. It felt plenty luxurious to both me and my husband.

Left: A view of the lunch buffet Right: a pastry at lunch

This means there are fewer selections for entrees at lunch and dinner than you’d find at one of the Premier Camps,  but we felt well fed and still had plenty of options and never went hungry.

Pops of cornflower blue looked fantastic against the desert backdrop

Your days are filled with Game Drives and wildlife viewing (the elephants were my personal favorite), and adventures like visiting the Roaring Dunes and seal colony along the Skeleton Coast.

Left: Local handicrafts on display at camp Right: I loved these these cool bar stools

A rare rainy morning before a game drive

On a rare rainy morning in December, it was chilly when we left for our morning game drive. Emms, our guide, made sure we had blankets and ponchos to keep us warm and toasty.

Sundowners were my favorite daily ritual

Emms also delivered us to a great spot for sundowners every evening, and it became my favorite daily ritual.

Not a bad place for a sundowner

Namibia’s dramatic skies are as spectacular as it’s landscape

Nambia’s rugged and dramatic landscape is matched by it’s crazy beautiful skies. The clouds are ever-changing.

The moon was still visible in the morning

Clear skies mean star spotting and a visible moon

Moon framed in by the ties of a tent at Hoanib

My stay at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp was so memorable and impressive, I’m now very curious about visiting more of Wilderness Safaris properties. Perhaps I’ll go see the gorillas in the Congo next.

Safari chic bathroom selfie, Namibia

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Rates start at $484 USD – low season (11 January 2015  to 14 June 2015, 01 November 2015 to 19 December 2015)

From $720 – high season (15 June 2015  to 31 October 2015, 20 December 2015 to 10 January 2016)

Booking Inquiries:

Wilderness Safaris

Johannesburg

+27 ­11 ­807 ­1800
Mon-Fri 08:00 – 17:00 GMT+2

Cape Town

+27 ­21 ­702 ­7500
Mon-Fri 08:00 – 17:00 GMT+2

enquiry@wilderness.co.za

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A Stay at Le Bristol in Paris (Thanks to LHW Leaders Club Unlimited)

Cleo, the most famous resident of Le Bristol, lounging in the lobby

On my recent trip to Paris, I had the opportunity to spend a few nights at Le Bristol on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. What I knew about Le Bristol is mostly for it’s role in Midnight in Paris (it’s where Rachel McAdams’ and Owen Wilson’s characters stayed). I remembered it looked really expensive.

Curving stairs and a glamorous vintage caged elevator add to Le Bristol’s glamorous atmosphere

Left: fresh fruit and wine welcome amenity Right: the flowers on the vanity

Fortunately my husband is a Leaders Club Unlimited member of LHW hotels, and Le Bristol had award availability for a few nights. Score! So I spent a very lovely few days in room 714 of this old school luxury hotel… and it was FABULOUS.

The classic desk

Room 714 was huge by Parisian standards. The vibe at Le Bristol is old world luxury, but the property has all the requisite tech perks, including easy to use, speedy wifi (free for Leaders Club Unlimited members).

Traditional elegance in the vibe at Le Bristol

The bed was uber comfy, and the bathroom, while simple in style had the most impressive water pressure I’ve experienced in Paris. The tub was huge, well designed for soaking and filled quickly.

Left: the shower had serious power (and La Prarie amenities) Right: the separate water closet

Suddenly I had a dilemma– I did not want to leave the room to explore Paris.

Le Bristol’s bathtub worked for serious soaking

As lovely as the room is, the true star at Le Bristol is the service. It was flawless. Every request was handled exceptionally well.

The view from room 714 into the courtyard

Le Bristol Breakfast Menu

Another perk of the LHW Leaders Club Unlimited: not paying € 85 per person for breakfast (it’s an included benefit).

Poached eggs just taste better in Paris, especially when they are free

Behold: perfectly styled fruit at breakfast

Obligatory breakfast bread basket shot

The dining room at Le Bristol

While in my heart I’m a Saint-Germain girl, I’m also never going to turn down a chance to stay at Le Bristol. It’s legendary reputation is well deserved and the service is perfection.

Hôtel Le Bristol Paris

112 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré
75008 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 43 43 00
Fax: +33 (0)1 53 43 43 01
reservation@lebristolparis.com

Rates start at $1128 USD

Check the LHW site for special offers

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Glamping in the South Pacific: A Stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

Sunset sail at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji

Editor’s Note:

Earlier this month I visited the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji on assignment for Glamping.com. You can read my full daily trip reports on the Glamping.com Blog here. I don’t want to repeat myself, so this post is a more traditional hotel review for readers of this blog.

- Jen

Poolside at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

The last time I visited Fiji I was on my honeymoon. Having just celebrated a milestone anniversary, my husband and I thought it was time to re-visit the South Pacific island country we had such fond memories from. I was thrilled to find a Glamping.com property in Fiji, so started pinned down dates at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in early October. The resort is one of the world’s first eco-resorts and has, as one would assume with the name “Cousteau” attached, an excellent reputation for it’s SCUBA diving program.

The Musical welcome at JMC Resort Fiji

There are not a lot of flights from the US to Fiji, so we booked business class on Fiji Airways direct flight from LAX to Nadi, Fiji. For the record, Fiji Airways rocks. The 11 1/2 hour flight was painless and the the airline has extremely friendly flight attendants and a gorgeous, minimalist livery with tribal accents. We spent a few nights in Nadi to recover from jet lag before hopping on the smaller plane to the island of Savusavu, where the resort is located.

We were greeted at the Nadi airport by Mini, a representative from the resort who helped manage to pull some strings to get us on an earlier flight to the island. It was our first interaction with the personalized service for which the resort is known. All the staff was helpful and very friendly. I also liked that they all wear very legible name tags, so you don’t feel pressured to memorize everyone’s name. There is high staff-to-guest ratio, so it’s a thoughtful touch.

Garden Bure #18 was our home away from home

We arrived to a musical greeting and a lovely message of “welcome home,” which sets the tone for the resorts laid-back-yet-attentive management philosophy.

Our room, a thatched room traditional Fijian”bure,”was not ready when we arrived so we just chilled out near the pool in the adults-only “serenity area.” Wifi worked on the day beds and staff checked on us frequently to make sure we had everything we needed… including several fresh, young coconuts to drink.


Note: EVERYTHING tastes better when served in a coconut

Left: the seated hammock for our Garden Bure Right: a seaside seating area

The rooms upscale yet simple thatched huts (called bures), cooled by fans. The bathroom was suitably luxurious with dual sinks and a good shower. The staff put out mosquito coils every night and will hang mosquito netting above your bed upon request (we requested it). There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms, but you don’t miss them. Our garden bure was not the quietest room, as it was situated close to the Bula club (the on-site club for young children) and family pool. Couples might prefer booking an ocean front bure should you want more solitude.

Simple island elegance is the vibe in Garden Bure #18

Overall the resort did a great job keeping both families and children happy. Each child is assigned a Nanny during their stay, and their are activities for both younger children as well as teens. Basically EVERY family member has a good time at the resort. I shocked to find myself enjoying the crab races that were intended for the kids. The kids programs have a eco-education theme to them that I thought was a nice touch, and the resort employs a lot of locals so it gives you a great sense for the warmth of the Fijian people.

Plenty of seating areas and a well staffed activities center are big draws at the resort

September and October are high tourist season in Fiji (due to Australian school holidays) and are known for having the best weather. My stay experienced unseasonable rains, but that didn’t hamper the fun as much as my tanning and photo opportunities. The thatched roofs above the poolside day beds kept me dry and there were plenty of umbrellas available if you wanted to dash to your bure.

Visiting the private island belonging to the resort was one of the highlights of the trip

One of the resort’s not-to-be missed features is a visit to it’s private island, which is about 10 minutes away by boat. The island can be booked for a picnic lunch or a romantic dinner for an extra charge at this all-inclusive resort.

Left: A kayak on the private island Right: Palm tree shadows on the private island’s private beach

The activities staff packed us a cooler full of beers and water (bottled Fiji, of course) and gave us a radio in case we wanted to be picked up earlier than our pre-arranged time. It was fun to explore the small island with it’s perfect sandy cove beach and covered dining area. A few beers in we were giggling and screaming “Wilson” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. Our return ride arrived right on time and we were shuttled by boat back to the resort in time for happy hour.

Just in case you were wondering… no tresspassing allowed!

The resort has a different theme each day… be it Fijian Culture, Ecological Awareness, or Rainforest Exploration. This is a nice touch and keeps the routine from getting monotonous. There are various excursions both on the resort grounds as well as off the property so you can get a hit of culture even if you never leave the resort’s grounds. It’s a great program.

One of the views from JMC Fiji’s Private Island

There were daily snorkeling trips for both adults and teens, and the activity center had plenty of catamarans and upright paddle boards available for those who prefer to stay above the water.

The resort’s pool is the social hub

The center of the resort’s social activity is the resort’s pool and dining Vale ni Vakayakavi. The evening activities (such as dance performances and the aforementioned crab races) also take place in this space.

Left: perfectly ripe papaya for breakfast Right: a corn cake with bacon, tomato, and greens

The food at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji resort was local, fresh, and excellent. It was far better than any of the food I had in Nadi and the portion sizes are perfectly sized so that your well fed but still fit into your bikini.

Daily Specials listed on the board at breakfast

Trying the daily breakfast specials

All but alcoholic beverages are included in the room rate and the crazy delicious Mai Tais were well worth the splurge.

A cooking demonstration during “Fijian Culture” day

Soup and salad at lunch

A table set for a family at the dining vale

The coconut braised plantain we learned to make during the cooking lesson

Two of the resort’s standout dishes: the thinly sliced pork with island slaw and the tuna udon

Enjoying a Kava Ceremony with the Kava boys, who performed nightly

The most memorable night was on Fijian Culture day when the proteins for dinner were cooked in a traditional Fijian lovo pit, and served buffet style in palm frond serving baskets.

Left: the traditional Fijian Lovo cooking pit “before” Right: the “after” shot of the lovo cooking pit

The nightly torch lighting ceremony

Most of the guests at the resort are from Australia and New Zealand, with the US being the third strongest market. The guests were all friendly and I felt a tad guilty that I could not engage in their convivial cricket and rugby rivalry banter, as I do not speak either cricket or rugby. 

A table set for 2 for dinner at the resort’s vale

Left: chicken drumsticks  at dinner Right: braided palm serving bowls on the buffet at the lovo dinner

Poolside lantern glowing at night

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji

All inclusive rates start at $980.

Address: Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji
Reservations (toll free in USA & Canada): (800) 246-3454
Direct: +1(415) 788-5794
Email: info@fijiresort.com

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort features 25 bures (Fijian bungalows).

Disclosure: Much thanks to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort and Glamping.com for partially sponsoring my stay.  All opinions expressed are my own, based on my experiences during my stay at the resort.

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A Stay at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

The adults-only pool at the Andaz Maui lit up at night

I recently visited the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort in Hawaii for the first time. The Andaz definitely caters to a younger/hipper crowd than some of the other high end hotels in the area. If you’re looking for in-your-face Hawaiiana, look elsewhere. The Andaz Maui has warm, zen minimalist vibe.

The Modern Facade of the Andaz Maui

My husband and I arrived before check in time, and our room (we booked a suite) was not yet ready. The Andaz host suggested we head the Bumbye Beach Bar to wait until she came to escort us to the room. The bar had wifi access (no password required), great views of the lagoon pool and Mokapu Beach, and particularly delicious Mai Tais. After two rounds, our host showed us to our suite, room 640.

The resort’s open and airy entry

The staff at the Andaz was friendly and top notch. I was particularly impressed with the concierge. She remembered my food allergies and made sure they were passed on to restaurants, even when we changed restaurant picks or re-scheduled reservations.

The seating area in living room of suite 640

Suite 640 was spacious, well laid out, and technology friendly– great for a modern day couple who both work remotely. 

Left: the work desk in room 640 Right: The dining room table in 640

There were several pools, including an adult/no kids one and several cabanas for hire, which was nice. Loved the wifi access (even at the beach) and I always appreciate the no password required. Every hotel should be this tech friendly.

The welcome amenity and lei

If I had to nitpick, I thought the ukelele player in the Lehua Lounge could have bothered to wear an aloha shirt. I also noticed a few room service trays lingered in the hallways a bit longer than the should have. Minor complaints for an otherwise fabulous stay.

The patio was filled with modern furniture and comfortable

One of the Andaz’s most amazing features is Morimoto Maui restaurant, which is FANTASTIC. My husband and I almost always get tired of every hotel’s restaurants after three days. Not so with Morimoto. We dined there four times during our stay and I’ve been missing it since I got back. Even if you choose to stay somewhere else in Wailea, don’t miss heading to the Andaz Maui for dinner at Morimoto Maui.

Left: the window seat in room 640 Right: a reading nook in the bedroom

The room’s king sized bed has sliding doors that can open to the shower windows

The walk-thru shower and soaker tub in Suite 640

My husband thought the furniture in our suite could have been more comfortable, however I had no issues with it. I LOVED the bathroom’s huge shower and soaker tub. The room was quiet and I slept well in the king bed.

The hanging chair on the patio was a great place to watch the Wailea sunset

The Lagoon Pool at the Andaz Maui

How fun is this indoor sandbox in the reception area of the Andaz Maui?

Yogurt with granola on the breakfast buffet at Ka’ana Kitchen

The breakfast spread served at Ka’ana Kitchen was amazing. Since my husband is a Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond Member member, our breakfast was included. The staff went out of there way to clarify which menu items were not included so there were no surprises on the bill. (Note: The Breakfast Amenity for Diamond Gold Passport members was recently downgraded.) The mimosa made with passionfruit and guava is not to be missed.

Delicious Mai Tai served at Lehua Lounge

The view from Bumbye Beach Bar

Obligatory selfie in sunglasses of the Andaz Beach Crew

The Andaz Beach Crew was very helpful and also has a great instagram account @andazbeachcrew.

Gorgeous sunset as seen from room 640 at Andaz Maui

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

3550 Wailea Alanui Drive

Wailea, Hawaii, USA, 96753

Tel: +1 808 573 1234

Rates start at $423.00

Andaz Maui on Twitter

Andaz Maui on Instagram

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A Stay at the Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence, Italy

Gorgeous views of Florence from the Villa San Michele

There are a lot of luxury hotels to pick from in Florence, but there is only one in Fiesole hills in a converted 15th century former monastery that has a facade attributed to Michaelangelo– The Belmond Villa San Michele.

An alter from Villa San Michele’s former life as a monastery in reception

My husband and I chose the property from among LHW’s excellent edit of Italian properties. I love repurposed buildings and the Villa San Michele has managed to keep much of the Renaissance charm of the monastery intact while providing all the expected perks, luxuries, and excellent service that are expected from a Belmond property (note: The Belmond Brand was formerly known as Orient-Express).

Interior hallway at Villa San Michele

With gorgeous terraced gardens, a pool, a fabulous restaurant, a fitness center and a kids club on site, you don’t have to leave Villa San Michele to have a great time. But the staff wants you to get the best out of your time in Florence so the hotel offers a complementary shuttle for the 15 minute ride to the city center.

A simple and elegant room at Villa San Michele

The 21 guest rooms and 25 suites are classically elegant and surprisingly spacious considering some of them used to be monks cells. The bathrooms are modern and stocked with Bulgari amenities.

Marble drenched master bath at Villa San Michele

A bowl of fruit and bottle of Champagne were our welcome amenities. There was also a card from General Manager, Aaron Kaupp, inviting us to a wine reception on the lawn. When the General Manager goes out their way to meet with guests, you know that the service is top notch.

I’m guessing the monks didn’t eat this well

The breakfast spread is impressive, with an amazing selection of baked goods, meats, cheeses, and fruits in addition to cooked items. Eating delicious pizza for breakfast on the covered terrace overlooking Florence was especially delightful.

The baked goods on the breakfast buffett

The hotel’s concierge, Maurizio, the concierge was so great, we had him make our dinner reservations for our entire stay in Florence. He also set us up on a crazy good wine tasting tour of the nearby Chianti region.

Buffalo mozzarella, tomatos and pizza in the atmospheric La Loggia restaurant

Eggs Benedict and breakfast delights

Lobster pasta for lunch at Villa San Michele

Such a pretty dining experience

The covered terrace of the hotel’s La Loggia restaurant

Villa San Michele’s Gorgeous green lawn and terraced gardens

Stunning views overlooking Florence at Villa San Michele

A dreamlike archway at Villa San Michele

You can check out special offers (including stay two nights, get your third night free LHW offers for Villa San Michele here.

Belmond Villa San Michele

Via Doccia 4, 50014 Fiesole, Florence, Italy

Tel: +39 055 5678 200

Email: reservations.vsm@belmond.com

Reservations: + 39 0185 2678 803

Rates start at $711.39 (534.00 EUR) for Classic Double Room (with complimentary American Breakfast)

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