Malta is a beautiful island country located in the central Mediterranean with sparkling blue water and sandy beaches which I quickly fell in love with. If you’re interested in sea, sun, and cultural attractions, then this is the place for you. This somewhat, low-key European destination is often overshadowed by Greece or Italy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit! In fact, I found the autumn season to be the perfect time to visit, especially around September. There are less crowds but the weather is still fantastic. I hope you enjoy reading my Malta highlights and consider traveling there in the near future!
Valletta is probably first on everyone’s list when planning a trip to Malta, and for good reason! This beautiful capital city is easily accessible from the rest of Europe and offers up a seriously charming and old-world atmosphere. After arriving at The Saint John Hotel, a newly opened boutique hotel which I wrote about here, I quickly dropped off my bags and decided to explore on foot. Valletta is extremely walkable and its one of the best ways to explore as it offers a feast for the eyes.
Busy Streets of Valletta – Malta Early Morning on the Streets of Valletta, Malta Hidden Walkways in Valletta – MaltaValletta Parliament Building – MaltaSt. Catherine’s Church Valletta – Malta Ruins in Valletta – Malta
Valletta was once considered a “modern city” after its construction in the 16th century by the Knights of St John. Thanks to its grand history, it is now known as a European Art City with incredible Baroque architecture, as well as an World Heritage City.
One of the most stunning buildings that still survives from the 16th century is Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. This gem is definitely worth visiting while in Valletta as its an important and sacred place of worship, as well as being one of the finest examples of Baroque art and architecture. The entrance fees are starting at 10 euros for adults, and not only grants you entry, but also an audio guide if you wish. If you are simply coming in to pray, you do not have to pay.
Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta – Malta
After my visit to the cathedral, I enjoyed escaping the bustling city center and strolling alongside the Valletta Waterfront. This picturesque promenade offers wonderful sea views, as well as a chance to do some fabulous shopping thanks to the Pinto Stores and Forni Shopping Complex. If you are looking for more history, you can also visit the Church of the Flight into Egypt which was built in 1752.
Valletta Waterfront in the evening
Lastly, you should not leave Valletta without visiting the famous star fort: Fort Saint Elmo. This impressive 16th century structure resides along the seaside and spreads across 12 acres. It is best known for its role in the victory at Great Siege of Malta in 1565. Tickets for adults start at 10 euros and it’s open 7 day a week.
View of Fort Saint Elmo in Valletta – MaltaUpper Barrakka Gardens – MaltaFort Saint Angelo – Malta
The most iconic place to visit here on the island of Malta is the Blue Grotto, which is the biggest cave in the area. Prestige Cabs arranged for a small boat to take me around the famous caves. This natural wonder is even more beautiful in person. You can have a memorable boat day out here thanks to its safe bathing waters, diving spots, and picturesque surroundings.
The Blue Grotto – MaltaLooking down into The Blue Grotto – MaltaIslands of Gozo and Comino
Thanks to the expertise of The Saint John Hotel, they arranged a wonderful day trip for me with Prestige Cabs Malta. We escaped the city of Valletta for the day and started off by taking a short ferry ride (about 30 minutes) to the small island of Gozo.
Mgarr Harbour in Gozo – Malta
If you enjoy mythical places, Gozo will certainly intrigue you. It is believed to be Calypso’s island in Homer’s Odyssey. Whether you believe that or not, there are still beautiful treasures waiting to be found here. Gozo offers a rugged landscape and stunning coastline where people enjoy diving. You can find quaint, stone farmhouses and Baroque churches scattered throughout the countryside.
Gozo rugged landscapeCitadel a small fortified city located in the center of Victoria, the capital of the island of Gozo
In terms of history, Gozo has so much to offer with its historic forts offering panoramas, as well as one of the best preserved prehistoric temples: Ġgantija.
Ġgantija Ruins in GazoThe Ġgantija Temples – Island of GozoAzure Window, famous stone arch on Gozo island, Malta
Gozo’s sister island of Comino is also a must-see. I was first blown away with how bright green the water was in some places! Mixed with those sparkling blues, I couldn’t stop taking photos. You can have a memorable boat day out here thanks to its safe bathing waters, diving spots, and picturesque surroundings.
Blue lagoon at Comino island – MaltaPopeye Village
Once you’re back on the main island after visiting Comino, the famous Popeye Village is located just a short drive away. Yes, you read that correctly! This village was originally built as a film set for the 1980 film Popeye, starring Robin Williams. Lucky for us, it was kept perfectly intact and is now open to the public as an open-air museum and theme park. Whether you’ve seen the film or not, it is a fun place to explore, especially with kids!
Popeye Village – MaltaMarsaxlokk
For those seafood lovers out there, the traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk is a great place to walk around for an afternoon. It has such a charming harbor with turquoise blue waters and so many colorful fishing boats. It is known for the large fish market that takes place every Sunday, as well as a tourist market all other days during the week.
Luzzu famous fishing boats in Marsaxlokk – Malta
Malta feels almost like a hidden gem in Europe but it deserves to be visited all year round from people across the globe. Thanks to its small size, it is easy to see a lot of the country in one trip and I encourage you to do so. Malta is one of those special places where, moments after leaving, I was already planning my return back!
This past week, the W Fort Lauderdale unveiled its newly redesigned property at a cocktail reception with mermaids, musical performances, and a fashion show! All of the rooms and many of the public spaces within the hotel were renovated as a result of the hotel’s $55 million dollar update. With different DJ’s in every corner, baristas serving drinks in the hotel elevators, and painted models blending into the rooms, the entire evening served as a jubilant toast to the hotel’s success.
The unveiling started with margaritas and models in the lobby. The models were dressed to reflect the nautical theme of the evening: ocean-inspired makeup, body paint, and capes that rippled like waves.
On the fifth floor, the pool deck was decorated with multicolored lights to accentuate the patterned floors while a mermaid posed for pictures and waved at guests from the water. A DJ played music next to the open bar as guests trickled in and settled themselves on the all-new outdoor seating areas.
After drinks and a mix of delicious Japanese and Mexican hors d’oeuvres were served, we were treated to a live concert! Breakout merengue and salsa singer-songwriter Sabrina Claudio and her band performed on the stage in front of the pool.
Once their incredible performance was over, guests returned indoors for more drinks accompanied by a different DJ and a display of innovative and contemporary art pieces.
Everyone gathered by a set of stairs for a fashion show showcasing designer Susanne Bartsch’s work by models in drag. She unveiled her pop-up fashion display of curated looks sprawled throughout the hotel for guests to enjoy.
Each model posed on the stairs before stepping down to the main floor and joining the crowd. The last model was Susanne Bartsch herself, dressed in her own couture. After descending the stairs, she and her models mingled with guests and happily posed for pictures.
Several of the newly refurbished rooms were open for guests to see and explore. To get there, we went through a hallway with a waterfall running down its walls that led to yet another DJ. After being served drinks in the elevator, we visited the rooms where models posed who were painted to blend in with the décor and a mermaid lounged in a bathtub. These were such fun and creative surprises!
The new design of the guest rooms and suites is completely contemporary with different shades of blue and grey with metallic accents. We admired the nighttime view of Fort Lauderdale from the balcony before calling it a night – and what a memorable night it was!
Manhattan is, without a doubt, one of the best cities in the world for shopping. However, while the city’s department stores are world-renowned, its boutiques are the ideal places to find that perfect piece nobody else will have. Whether you’re looking for a single piece to accent your favorite outfit or want a full wardrobe overhaul, these boutiques are sure to deliver.
Intermix | 1003 Madison Avenue
If you need to look amazing for a night on the town, there’s no place like Intermix to help you find the style you’re looking for. This multi-vendor shopping experience has pieces from designers like Rag & Bone, Jonathan Simkhai, Derek Lam, Alexander Wang, and Jimmy Choo, with everything from outerwear to shoes to purses lining the shelves of this unique shopping mecca. Better yet, if you’re not sure what look to go with, the store has on-site stylists who can help you find the perfect pieces for any occasion.
IRO | 241 Columbus Avenue
This elegant minimalist French-born boutique on the Upper West Side is perfect for a workplace wardrobe refresh that will have your whole office talking. From sexy fitted button-downs to lacy pullovers to ruffled leather trousers , each piece combines femininity and function. And even if you’re just in the market for a rebooted exercise look, IRO’s soft tank tops, leggings, and sneakers will have you feeling like a rock star even during your least-glamorous gym moments.
What Goes Around Comes Around | 351 West Broadway
Vintage lovers will adore the finds they encounter at vintage mecca What Goes Around Comes Around on West Broadway. From vintage Rolexes to Chanel dresses to Hermes bags, every timeless piece at this unique boutique will become an instant favorite. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about finding yourself coming home with a fake when you shop at What Goes Around Comes Around: the company is meticulous about vetting every item that lines their shelves.
Sandro | 415 Bleecker Street
This French boutique is the perfect place to revamp your look for a more modern and mature vibe. From luxe jumpsuits to structured trench coat to lace dresses to shoes and purses, Sandro’s wide variety of elegant essentials are as perfect for a day at the office as they are for a weekend party. The business, operated by the same Parisian sisters behind the Maje label, is transforming the way shoppers think about luxury goods, making effortlessly elegant, yet wearable pieces their top priority.
Birchbox | 433 West Broadway
Beauty delivery service Birchbox has expanded their operations to a brick-and-mortar store in the West Village and makeup aficionados couldn’t be more delighted. In addition to a wide variety of makeup and hair products, the store offers nail, hair, and makeup services, making it the perfect final stop before a big night on the town. And in addition to the full-sized products available for purchase, the company remains true to its roots, with an entire “Build Your Own Birchbox” section where you can load up on the trial-sized goodies Birchbox is known for.
While South Africa offers travelers unique experiences in all shapes and sizes, there is nothing that compares to stepping out of civilization and experiencing the wonders of a safari. In the case of the Pondoro Game Lodge, the safari experience doesn’t stop when you return to the lodge: many of the animals in the area can be seen from your own back yard. A 2017 winner of Africa’s Best Honeymoon Hideaway, Best Luxury Safari Spa, and Best Safari Retreat in Africa, Pondoro Game Lodge offers guests a luxurious getaway without disturbing the wildlife or taking away from the remoteness of being in the African Bush.
Pondoro Game Lodge is located in the Balule Private Nature Reserve right on the banks of the Olifants River on the border of Kruger National Park. To get there, we flew into a very small airport and were driven through border control into the reserve. Like most tourists, we were forewarned about Malaria, however, once we arrived at the lodge we saw that was not a problem given the total lack of mosquitoes. One of my favorite things about the lodge was its location on the Olifants River which attracted all sorts of wildlife, some of which are not regularly seen on safari, such as hippopotamuses. Because of their aggressive nature, we admired them from a distance and enjoyed the chance to see these animals in their natural territory and, sometimes, could even hear them at night.
The lodge itself has three chalets, a rock pool for all guests, a restaurant, a small gym, and their award-winning spa; I was so excited to explore all of it!
The accommodations at Pondoro Game Lodge, awarded five stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, are some of the most unique and spectacular that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The remote lodge has five suites, each with a private patio which includes a lounge and an outside shower. All have en-suite bathrooms, views of the river, and a wooden deck.
Each luxurious suite comes with complete privacy and its own unique theme: Water Suite, Buffalo Suite, Earth Suite, Tree Suite, and Rock Suite. These themes refer to the impressive decor of each suite; for example, we stayed in the Tree Suite which had a huge Jackalberry tree lying in front of the suite and a huge leadwood stump that decorates the room. Some of the tree branches were used for the headboard decorations which I found to be quite unique and beautiful.
Each room is a masterpiece of colorful textiles and African pieces combined with open areas and, of course, the brilliant views of the river.
I appreciated the beauty of the bathroom’s contemporary design, however, I wish they offered more privacy. The shower and bathtub are completely exposed to the bedroom, which might be a problem for someone traveling with another person.
During periods of free time, I enjoyed lounging on my patio with a book and a camera ready for when antelopes or monkeys came near. Just in case you haven’t seen enough luxury yet, the suites also have a Jacuzzi built into the wooden deck!
Our daughters stayed in the Water Suite which was named for the indoor waterfall that peacefully trickles down the headboard of their bed.
For those with a sense of adventure, the Treehouse Hide is available for guests who wish to experience a more one-on-one stay with nature. Located on wooden stills in the middle of the Bush, drop-off is at nightfall and pick-up is in time for the morning safari!
The luxury of Pondoro Lodge is only just trumped by the incredible encounters with wildlife. Game drives begin in the early morning and return back just in time for breakfast. Evening game drives go on until dark and then return to the lodge for dinner. In between drives, guests can go on a nature walk with a staff member, book a picnic lunch at the hide, bird watch, or enjoy a treatment at the spa. All game drives are in open-top Safari Cruisers with no more than eight people per cruiser at any time for the safety of guests and for the environment.
During the evening drive, there is a small break where guests dismount from the cruisers and enjoy snacks and beverages as the sun sets.
Once the cruiser has left the lodge, you are in the wild! On any given drive, we saw a huge diversity of animals and up close like you wouldn’t believe. One minute we would be watching giraffes quietly grazing on the tops of trees, then we would be surrounded by a herd of elephants. On our safaris, we saw all big five game animals: lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, African bush elephants, and African buffalo. Despite being in very close proximity to many of these powerful animals, at no point did we feel threatened or unsafe thanks to the knowledgeable and professional staff that accompanied us at all times. The thrill of seeing these creatures in person and in their own habitat is indescribable; you simply must go see it for yourself!
We even had the thrill of seeing a leopard resting up high on a tree in our evening drive. It was quite a memorable site to see.
Our first dinner took place close to the river, with candles and tiki torches lighting the way. It was a good opportunity to get to know some of the other guests at the lodge, which was easy since there were so few of us. No doubt this is part of the lodge’s romantic appeal: no chance of feeling overcrowded, and the youngest guests are 12 or older. The rest of our meals were served on a wooden deck far up in the trees, providing a beautiful view of the Olifants River and all the animals that flock to it.
There is nothing quite like eating breakfast while witnessing hippopotamuses gracefully sink into the river to escape the heat, or giraffes grazing across the water, or even having a monkey deftly steal your toast! That was the only time anyone’s food got nabbed, since after the incident, a staff member stood watch with a slingshot whenever the monkeys came near. All meals were scrumptious with assorted juices and coffee in the mornings, a hearty lunch in the middle of the day, and a delicious dinner accompanied by an award-winning wine selection or some of the fine whiskies available.
One evening we ate down by the river in a long table elegantly illuminated by candles and a camp fire. You could hear the hippos and other animals in the wild which was a magical experience.
The Serenity Spa is undoubtedly the pièce de résistance at Pondoro Game Lodge: total privacy, a tranquil environment, and expert staff. Suddenly, you’re in a calm oasis and it’s easy to forget that you’re in the African wilderness. Massages, facials, and other treatments are done using Africology products and traditional South African and African techniques, all meant to remove toxins and rejuvenate the body. Treatments can take place at the spa, outdoors, or in the peace of your own room.
On warm days its nice to soak in the outdoor pool which is tranquil and picturesque.
Not only is Pondoro Game Lodge a unique luxury destination with incredible amenities, but it plays a proactive, conscious role in protecting the environment and working with others in the community. A sponsor and partner of the all-women anti-poaching team, Black Mambas, have participated in their affiliate project: Bush Babies Environmental and Awareness Program. The Black Mambas are dedicated to protecting the diversity and livelihood of the wildlife along the Balule Nature Reserve and Kruger National Park border, a necessity given the endangered species that are under attack by poachers.
Whether you fly frequently for business, pleasure or a combination of the two, you love to learn little tricks and tips that will make the entire travel experience go as smoothly as possible. After all, once you have battled traffic to get to the airport, stood in endless lines, took off your shoes and paid $5 for a bag of potato chips at the newspaper stand, you are more than ready for the rest of your trip to be super easy.
With that in mind, check out the following travel hacks that will help you fly like a pro:
Check out Gogo
Historically, texting, emailing and Wi-Fi related tasks were simply not possible when sitting in a chair 30,000 feet above the Earth. Now, thanks to Gogo In-flight services, you can enjoy unlimited text, picture messaging, visual voicemail and an hour of free Wi-Fi with certain carriers. Simply check the carrier’s site to see which airlines offer Gogo. Thanks to Gogo, you can be more relaxed and entertained while flying by staying in touch with friends and family, checking out your social media pages and more.
Look into Free City Tours
Traveling internationally makes for some really long days. Throw in a long layover and you’ll be ready to drop by the time you get to your hotel. Lucky for you, a number of international airports offer free city tours to passengers with layovers of five hours or more. This way, you can leave the stuffy airport, get out and see the city and make that layover time fly by — pun fully intended. This service seems to be especially popular in Asian airports including Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan and Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan. Before you board, check the website of the airport you are flying through to see what they offer passengers.
Choose the Best Seat
As you probably know quite well, not all airline seats are created equally. Some are noisier, smaller and less comfy than you’d like, especially on those long flights. Before selecting your flights when booking your trip, head on over to SeatGuru; the site has seat plans for pretty much every major aircraft and airline as well as tips on the best seats. You may be surprised to find that your upcoming flight has drastically different differences in seat size and comfort levels, all for the same seat price. Nab those cushy seats and you’ll find that flying is whole lot more relaxing.
Spring for Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Planes are inherently loud. Add in the sounds of dozens of people chatting away, the clink-clink of ice going into cups of Coke and a crying tot or two, and it’s a recipe for a migraine disaster. To arrive at your location feeling more relaxed, consider investing in a pair of top quality noise-cancelling headphones. You can wear them while watching TV shows and movies on your tablet or listening to music on your phone, and you can also keep them on for the remainder of the flight to blissfully block out the cacophonous sound of the aircraft.
Traveling by air may never be completely stress free, but thanks to these four hacks, you will be well on your way to sitting back and enjoying the flight. Choose a prime seat, and enjoy a quiet flight with your headphones on. If you can score a free city tour, all the better — you can take selfies and post them on Facebook via GoGo on the next leg of your trip.
Looking for total cultural immersion on your next trip to New York City? A truly unique, art-filled stay awaits at The Quin Hotel in the heart of Manhattan. Guests can experience award-winning luxury in a city full of inspired art, but the creative atmosphere doesn’t end once you’ve entered their sliding doors! Discover your muse in a hotel that has housed great artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Marc Chagall and experience rooms and suites specifically designed for admirers of the arts.
Located at the edge of Central Park, the Quin gives guests the rare chance to experience tranquility while in the midst of a bustling city. You truly get the best of both worlds!
There are 208 Guest Rooms and suites which include the 17th Floor Terrace Rooms & Suites as well as the magnificent Penthouse, designed with modern feature comforts and spectacular views. Materials used in these rooms were meticulously chosen for style and sustainability, and the contemporary aesthetic effortlessly blends in with the familiar indulgences of a luxury hotel. Guest Room options include Superior, Deluxe, and Premier, or guests can enjoy the expansive Premier, Private, and Terrace Suites, the last of which comprises astounding panoramic views of Central Park and Sixth Avenue with an outside seating area that you will be unable to tear yourself away from. The cherry on top is the Penthouse option found on the top three floors of the hotel: 3,400 square feet with a private foyer, two furnished balconies, and 1,300 square feet of patio that can hold over 30 people are just some of the jaw-dropping comforts included, not to mention select artwork curated by DK Johnston.
My room was a Corner Premier Room and offered views of both 6th Avenue and 57th Street. Although right in the middle of everything, the thick windows blocked out all of the city noise. I really enjoyed the plush bed, ample work space, and modern features. Although the interiors are extremely contemporary, there is still a cozy and comfortable feeling to the room.
The bathroom was elegantly designed and very spacious! I especially loved the marble sink and fabulous lighting around the mirror. All the amenities you could possibly want are there for you, including robes, slippers, hair products, and more.
They even had a nice surprise waiting for me, a tray of chocolate-covered strawberries. Little touches like these helped to make my stay an inviting and memorable experience.
While the Quin staff are well-acquainted with recommendations for the best local eateries, The Wayfarer at the Quin is top-notch for savoring “the quintessence” of New York City. An American Grille that is open to locals and hotel guests alike, it is an ideal spot to rendezvous in a congenial atmosphere over classic food or at the club-room bar on the second floor. The Wayfarer serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily which is very convenient.
Lucky for me, The Wayfarer is easily accessible from The Quin Hotel lobby and so I went there more morning for breakfast. The omelet sandwich and the french toast with extra bananas were my favorite dishes!
We actually celebrated a friend’s birthday at the Wayfarer for dinner and they did not disappoint! The staff there make you feel so welcome and offered to take our photos!
A strong relationship with the arts contributes to the je ne sais quoi of the Quin Hotel. Quin Arts, the hotel’s interactive arts program, is a dedication to expanding the arts and showcasing contemporary artists. By providing a space for assorted exhibitions, diverse lectures, and a myriad of events such as film premiers and even musical performances, the Quin’s relationship with innovative artists allows guests to interact with New York from within the hotel’s doors. With a legacy of housing Andy Warhol’s lithographs in the 60s and 70s, the Quin will undoubtedly continue to persevere in upholding such a tremendous and prestigious heritage.
The Quin continues to outdo itself with a myriad of services and treatments dedicated to the wellness of all guests. Not only is there a fully-equipped gym with modern conveniences for your work-out, but there are personal trainers and private yoga instructors available upon request. The Quin has partnered with NOMI Beauty and Bergdorf Goodman should guests desire an in-room hair and makeup service or a chance to confer with an expert stylist for pleasure or an event.
A paragon of sophistication and a unique opportunity for total artistic immersion, The Quin offers guests a “quintessential” New York experience!
If you are currently trying to plan your next vacation, it is essential that you think outside the box. Instead of returning to the same hotel resort and taking part in the same activities, now is the time to mix things up. You can do this by writing a list of all your interests. Then, you should number them in order of preference and see which one comes out on top. This could be an excellent way for you to find a unique angle on your next trip. You can experience a vacation that is perfectly tailored to suit your needs and allows you to create memories that will last a lifetime. Below are seven suggestions that will set you off on this creative journey.
Your love of literature
If you are someone who enjoys reading, you should consider planning your next vacation around your passion for literature. By focusing on your passion, it ensures your trip stands out from the crowd. Perhaps you are a lover of horror fiction. Why not look out for an accommodation option that claims to be haunted? This is the perfect place for you to read your favorite books and even consider penning your own. Or, if you are a serious fan of crime literature, you should pay a visit to the Midwest and sign up for an Indianapolis Escape Game. Such an activity is a wonderful opportunity for you to take charge of a mystery, instead of letting someone else have all the fun. No matter your taste in books, there is sure to be a vacation plan that supports your interests. With a little research anything is possible.
Your love of exercise
Alternatively, if you are someone who likes to be up on their feet, you should organize a vacation that celebrates your love of exercise. This could involve anything from a yoga retreat to an intensive boot camp. Whatever you decide, just make sure that you select an activity that you are sure to enjoy. Before you make any bookings, you need to think carefully about whether you are capable of completing the activities with ease. It is also important that you find out if you need to take along specialist equipment and fitness gear.
Your love of wildlife
Next, if you have a love of wildlife, you should seek out your favorite animals while on vacation. Why not go on safari or visit a nature reserve? If you are trying to curb your costs, you could arrange a local camping trip or club together with your loved ones to hire out a cabin in the woods. Alternatively, if you are hoping to enjoy a city break, you should look out for a city location with an impressive zoo. This is a brilliant opportunity for you to experience the best of both worlds.
Your love of art
Enjoying a city break is also an excellent option for anyone with a passion for art. This is especially true if you select an up-and-coming area that is home to many artists and creative types. To get the most out of this experience, you will need to put together an itinerary before you set off. Planning will save you from looking back in regret at the cultural experiences that you haven’t explored. Why not set yourself the challenge of visiting at least three galleries a day? In the evening you could then spend your time attending an exciting play, physical theatre, and poetry slams. If you push forward with this vacation idea, don’t forget to bring along your creative tools. If inspirational resources surround you, this could be the perfect time for you to sketch a masterpiece, pen a poem, or capture a breath-taking photo.
Your love of history
There are many options available to you when it comes to planning your next trip if history is your passion. Perhaps you have been reading up on a specific event. Why not visit the historic site where it took place? Maybe you are interested in a particular figure in history. Why not pay a visit to their childhood home or their final resting place? If you are at the start of your journey towards appreciating history, you could look out for an area with plenty of museums, giving you the freedom to explore a wide range of different time periods and to hone in on which one you like the best.
Your love of fashion
You could also seek out a museum if you are someone with a passion for fashion. There are some fabulous institutions out there that document the way in which clothing has evolved over the years. Alternatively, if you are interested in the here and now, you should think about attending a fashion week. This could involve traveling to exciting locations such as New York, Paris, or London. Of course, it will be difficult for you to gain access to the main shows, but there are sure to be plenty of fringe events for you to enjoy. If you want to be one step ahead of the rest, try to look online to find out where the top critics are heading. They will have an eye for the up and coming designers, so it is a good idea to use their presence as an indication of quality.
Your love of water sports
Finally, if you have an intense love of water sports, you should use your next vacation as an excuse to reconnect with the ocean. If funds allow, you could go all out and charter your boat. A more modest plan could involve finding some suitable accommodation that is close by to the sea. A suitable location will enable you to spend your day’s surfing, swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Hopefully, this will be the ideal chance for you to establish connections with like-minded individuals. It could also be a brilliant opportunity for you to increase your abilities and even complete a training course.
Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of experiencing the amazing amenities and scenery at the five-star Kichaka Private Game Lodge on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Kichaka Lodge is ideally situated just a little over an hour from Port Elizabeth airport.
My friend and I traveled to the lodge on an overnight excursion offered through our wonderful Crystal Cruise where we sailed from Mauritius to beautiful Cape Town. Another great aspect of this location is that it is malaria-free, so that is one thing you do not need to worry about during your stay.
Kichaka Private Game Lodge is the perfect destination for getting the most out of the African Bush in the Eastern Cape. Beautiful views of the nearby waterhole and encounters with majestic animals await at this vast landscape located in one of the largest game reserves in Africa.
Once you arrive at the main house, they transport you to the lounge in one of their game reserve vehicles.
As soon as we checked in to the incredible Kichaka Luxury Lodge, I knew it was something special. We were greeted with a nice refreshing cocktail.
Above the main lounge is a library which overlooks the waterhole. The room is the perfect place to curl up with your favorite book and relax. They offer a wide selection of books if you forgot to bring one.
They have 10 exclusive luxury chalets that are all connected to the main lodge through walkways that wind around the natural bush. The suites come with a private deck, plunge pool, complimentary mini bar, air-conditioning and free wi-fi. Kichaka offers the perks of a luxury stay amongst untouched, pristine wilderness. Each luxury chalet is named after an element of the African Bush and is built out of stone and thatch.
Our private lodge room came with our very own plunge pool that overlooked the hippopotamus’ watering hole!
The rooms offer all of the complimentary amenities you have come to know and love from a five-star property with the added bonus of being able to slide open your glass doors to hear the sounds of nature and the wildlife around you.
The bathroom came with a double vanity, rain shower, spacious bathtub, and plenty of closet space on either side of the room. It even has under floor heating throughout the room.
I was very excited for the highlight of our stay here: the big game drive. It was so worth getting up at the crack of dawn to go on a 5:30am excursion. We got to see zebras, giraffes, and even a baby rhino with his mother!
The scariest part was when a 5-ton male elephant started charging towards us from 30 feet away. Luckily, we had experienced rangers to keep us calm and to maximize our chances for exceptional viewing opportunities. Kichaka offers a unique experience as they have the advantage of being one of the highest carrying capacities of game in the country, meaning that the chances of seeing certain animals are higher than anywhere else! Guests will have plenty of opportunities to see Big Five animals (lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and buffalo).
You also have the opportunity to go on a night drive during your stay, where you can see the elusive aardvark, aardwolf and other nocturnal game. With little or no light pollution, a night game drive at Kichaka is an opportunity to ‘hear the silence of Africa’, star gaze at the Milky Way and identify Orion’s Belt, The Southern Cross, and Scorpio with the guidance of rangers.
Kichaka serves quality South African wine and cuisine with impeccable service in their main dining room, outdoor areas or thorough room service. The house wines and spirits are all included in the overnight rate and are carefully selected. For the passionate connoisseur, a further selection of rare and fine Premier Wines and imported French champagne is also available. A selection of Cuban cigars is on offer from the humidor as well.
Since the game drives leave very early, they offer coffee, juices and croissants. The full breakfast is served after you get back from your early morning game drive. They offer a nice selections of fresh fruit, yogurts, meats, and cheeses. You can also order made to order items from the menu. I ordered myself a nice omelette to start the day.
The afternoons are meant for resting at Kichaka. They offer an afternoon tea around 4:00 p.m. right before you leave on the afternoon game drive. During the game drives, we stop for a short break and they ask you what you want to drink before you leave for the game reserve. After the game drive, we return to the dining hall, where they had a nice dinner waiting for us.
If desired, you can indulge in a massage or beauty treatment while overlooking the waterhole in the Wellness Suite or from the comfort of your own suite! They offer special skincare treatments, manicures, pedicures, aromatherapy and even an infrared sauna to ease sore muscles, joints or internal organs. The spa at Kichaka is the ideal way to unwind, rejuvenate, and detox through skin care packages, massage, and physiotherm, a treatment that heals the body by targeting muscles, joints, and other parts of the body. Since we were only there for an overnight stay we didn’t have time to enjoy the spa.
A Crystal Cruise staff member escorted us back to Port Elizabeth airport, where we caught a flight back to Cape Town to meet our Crystal Symphony ship. This excursion was perfect for my friend who was traveling with me and had never experienced a safari.
This lodge truly has so much to offer between the fabulous rooms, the game drives, the food and the relaxation treatments. Everything from the decor to the location was perfect and I’d highly recommend this spot if you’re traveling in South Africa. I really was impressed with all of the extra features that this luxury game lodge had, and I hope you take my word for it and book a trip there to experience it all for yourself! Enjoy!
As travel has become more accessible for all, seeking the perfect destination for a vacation for the traveler who likes the finer things in life has become a little harder. The definition of a luxury destination varies from traveler to traveler; is seclusion in a natural environment a luxury, or is it the standard of the food and service that a hotel provides? To cover all bases, here are 4 of the most luxurious destinations for you to consider in 2018.
Best for Conservation
While Rwanda made the headlines for terrible reasons in 1994, this African country has been transformed in recent years and is now unrecognizable from its previous horrors, and it has reinvented itself as a progressive go-to destination for those who like the wilder side of luxury. Visitors can see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and enjoy a safari in the re-established Akagera National Park which is a must for safari veterans.
Best for Romance
You cannot fail to feel the romance on the ancient streets of Paris, from the discreet doorways that welcome visitors to hidden gardens that dot between the mansions of the fashion houses. There is something for everyone in Paris, and it caters for all tastes within this bustling metropolis. Wonder at the mist on the River Seine with the Notre Dame in sight, the magic of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and food to die for.
Best for Elegance
While you are in Europe, you should take advantage of just how close you are to other fabulous luxury destinations. Besides, any European flight delay of over 3 hours means that you are eligible for compensation that Fairplane.co.uk can pursue on your behalf. You truly have no excuse! For an experience of luxurious elegance, head to Venice, and specifically to the Hotel Cipriani. You will be able to rejuvenate from exploring the streets and beauties of Venice in this hotel which you’ll find on an island in the Venetian lagoon. You will be amazed how such a grand and elegant hotel can also provide such an intimate and relaxed atmosphere.
Best for Glamor
Most adults in Nicaragua will be able to remember the Sandinista Revolution which ended only in 1990 clearly, but they have also witnessed its reinvention as a luxury beach holiday destination with strong safety and security, and newfound glamor. While many people head to the Caribbean for beach holidays, Nicaragua provides a quieter alternative that is drawing a wealthier crowd to the new super resorts that have been developed.
In deciding which destination to head for, you must think about your personal definition of luxury. What is it that would set a destination apart from others for you? The options open to you are varied, and your interests and likes must be considered. If you are making a trip to Europe, try and incorporate as many of the countries that you can – they benefit from being on average only a two-hour flight apart.
You may remember my post last year about the incredibly luxurious Crystal Cruises and their upcoming transformations. They were renovating both the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity (coming October 2018). Thanks to the help of Ken Heit from Luxury Cruise and Travel, I was able to book my own trip aboard the Crystal Symphony in December. This new mid-size ship holds only 848 passengers which I think is the perfect size. Spending the holiday season on-board this new ship was everything I imagined and more.
I embarked in the evening and sailed from the heavenly waters of Mauritius to the action-packed Big Five safaris in South Africa. This two-week journey was the perfect chance to experience all that Crystal Cruises is already known for, in addition to those delightful upgrades they promised.
My home on the seas was the Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah. As I mentioned before, they upgraded more of their rooms to suites and penthouses, limiting staterooms and increasing their service to space ratio. This ship now has far more suites and penthouses, which are amazing, but another great option if you’re looking for more affordable luxury is this deluxe stateroom. A nice touch was having the private verandah with a small table and two chairs to lounge on and enjoy the view. The plush queen size bed was also extremely comfortable and perfect for a full night’s sleep.
My bathroom had a full bathtub/shower combination with a double vanity. There were also plenty of shelves to store your toiletries, which I appreciate because oftentimes space is very limited on a cruise. We were treated to luxurious ESPA products that I love so much. This included shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion, which was so nice because you didn’t need to bring your own!
The bedroom had a spacious wall closet, for even more storage, and a desk to complete any work you may have. The refrigerator was fully loaded with drinks, and they even gave me a menu to choose complimentary beer, wine, and spirits upon request- all free of charge! Another bonus was that each deck had a laundry facility, which was definitely useful when we needed it during the two weeks on board. The room is 246 sq. ft. (23.7 sq. m.), not including the verandah, and felt extremely spacious and elegant when compared to many other staterooms I have experienced.
If you desire more space, you can certainly upgrade to the Penthouse Suite which comes with its own butler service!
Dining and Drinks
The restaurant improvements that were promised during the renovation process certainly had me excited to do some taste testing.
The ship has 4 specialty restaurants: Prego (an Italian eatery that added family style eating options), Silk (a new specialty Asian restaurant), Umi Uma (sushi) and Churrascaría (the new Brazilian steakhouse). We had dinner at Prego, Umi Uma and Silk during our cruise. Guests of Crystal are allowed 2 visits to Prego, Umi Uma or the Sushi Bar without being charged, which was very nice bonus.
The main formal dining restaurant was Waterside, and we enjoyed eating here most nights. After soaking up the sun all day, we often went to the delightful Trident Grill for lunch. They served pizzas, hamburgers, grilled cheese, salads, and our favorite- the Scoops Ice Cream Bar! This was located adjacent to Waterside and served up delicious Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Marketplace is another stop where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a buffet style setting. We had breakfast here a few days and it was a great atmosphere. Other days when we had early morning tours, we would order room service, which is another great option if your activities take you away from your luxurious accommodations.
In the afternoons, you can venture into the Palm Court for a delicious cocktail or afternoon tea experience.
The Connoisseur Club is the ideal place for after-dinner drinks and a good cigar. They have an impressive selection of cigars ranging from Monte Cristo to Davidoff.
Speaking of activities, there are surely many things to keep you busy both on and off the ship. If you’re looking to stay active on board, the doubles or singles tennis game will help you work up a sweat while enjoying some amazing views.
One of my favorite things to do on the ship on sea days was to lounge by the pool. The servers were always very accommodating and made sure we were kept hydrated with cold drinks and piña coladas. They even came around in the afternoon with cold washcloths which I found to be very thoughtful and refreshing after being out in the sun a few hours.
Many of the guest also seemed to enjoy the golf lessons that are offered on-board.
If you want to work on your fitness, but in a less aggressive way, they have options for that too! In the fitness center, you will find classes for yoga, Pilates or other chi-balancing choices. You can even do a Chi Walk on the deck as the first light of day breaks on the horizon – how peaceful does that sound?
Or if you want to lounge around with a good book to read, they have plenty of choices in the ships Library.
However, if you’re like me and relaxation is more the name of the game, the award-winning Crystal Spa should have everything you need. I enjoyed treatments here most days and would highly recommend. Their facials were great for rejuvenating my skin and any massage here is worth your time. I always left feeling so relaxed and refreshed.
For some evening entertainment, an added feature that came from the renovations was the addition of an industry-first showing of premiere and Oscar-nominated movies at the Hollywood Theatre. To be in the action yourself, you can join in on the piano sing-a-longs at the Avenue Saloon or indulge in some cabaret dancing at the Starlite Starbrite lounge. One of most memorable shows and a personal favorite of mine was the Illuminations Show. It was a light display where the performers perform in the dark, and the lights on their costumes tell a story. It was fabulous and so unique!
The casino on board is also a great place to test your luck. We enjoyed playing blackjack and roulette a few times during the cruise.
However, the most exciting evening involved a fashion show! My friend and I were selected as models for a Hubert Jewelry Fashion Show on one of the sea days. I had the immense pleasure and honor of wearing beautiful and rare, one-of-a-kind pieces by leading designer Hubert Gesser. My necklace and rings were stunning. It was a fabulous experience that I will remember for a long time!
Whatever your preference for accommodation, dining and entertainment may be, you will find it all on the new and improved Crystal Symphony! I hope you take my word for it and experience all that Crystal Cruises has to offer for yourself.