Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Hong Kong to Düsseldorf

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Last spring, I enjoyed a great holiday in Vietnam, where some resorts far exceeded my sky-high expectations (and rank among the best hotels I have ever stayed at). You can read my trip reports here:


Today (September 13, 2017): Review of Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A350 Business Class from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf.

On May 15, 2017, I flew Business Class in a brand-new Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) in China to Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS) in Germany. Cathay Pacific is currently in the process of adding more than 40 A350-900 and A350-1000 planes to its fleet, which is exclusively composed of wide body aircraft. The A350 XWB employs innovative technology and design, which improves not only passenger comfort (a more spacious and quieter cabin, panoramic windows, and LED mood lighting), but also the efficiency, effectiveness and overall performance of the aircraft (25% less fuel burn as compared with older generation aircraft). The new Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class cabin and seat is basically a refreshed design of the carrier’s ‘old’ Business Class product onboard its B777 and A330 planes, with the main difference being the addition of extra storage space and onboard WiFi.

Unfortunately, although the flight was fully packed and while the Düsseldorf route was only launched in September 2015, Cathay Pacific announced yesterday that it will no longer operate into Düsseldorf from March of next year. In a statement, Cathay Pacific says that it will suspend the route as part of the airline’s commercial review of its overall aircraft deployment in Europe’. Apparently, the carrier sees this as a suspension rather than a permanent closure and will be keeping the opportunity of serving Düsseldorf in future under review. The cancellation of the Düsseldorf route comes two weeks after Cathay Pacific announced it was expanding in Europe next year by adding three new destinations: Brussels (my home airport), Dublin and Copenhagen.

Cathay Pacific features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the best airlines for longhaul First Class, and the best airlines for in-flight meals.

  • Trip: HKG-DUS
  • Airline: Cathay Pacific
  • Aircraft type: Airbus A350 WXD
  • Aircraft registration number: B-LRN
  • Flight Number: CX379
  • Date: May 15, 2017
  • On time departure: yes (0.50 am)
  • On time arrival: yes (6.50 am)
  • Miles: 5730
  • Flight time: 12 hours
  • Seat: 14A
  • Class: Business Class

In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  1. Cost of the ticket
  2. Cathay Pacific’s The Bridge Lounge at Hong Kong airport
  3. Fact & figures about Cathay Pacific’s A350
  4. Business Class cabin
  5. Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  6. Amenities
  7. Meals
  8. Entertainment
  9. Other inflight experiences (views, crew, lavatory, WiFi)
  10. My verdict (score)

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1. COST OF THE TICKET

I booked this one-way Business Class ticket from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf for 82,750 Avios + €112,74 taxes, fees and carrier charges. Avios is the mileage currency of Executive Club, the frequent flyer program of British Airways, which is a One World partner of Cathay Pacific.


2. CATHAY PACIFIC’S THE BRIDGE LOUNGE AT HONG KONG AIRPORT

With its soaring spaces, bathed in natural light, Hong Kong International Airport forms a spectacular gateway to Asia’s most exciting city and represents one of the best airports in the world. The airport is the travel hub of Cathay Pacific, which manages a total of seven lounges at terminal 1 & 2 that rank among the world’s most luxurious and exclusive airline lounges. When it’s your first time in the airport, it might be quite difficult to find out where all the lounges are located and which one is best:

  • The Wing lounge complex is located immediately behind the security check point (near gates 1-4) and houses a First Class and Business Class lounge. I have previously reviewed the Wing lounge here.
  • The Cabin is an exclusive Business Class lounge located near gate 25.
  • The Bridge is also an exclusive Business Class lounge and located one floor below the main concourse near gate 35.
  • The Pier, located near gate 65, represents Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge complex and features a separate lounge facility for First and Business Class passengers. If you have enough time, this is the lounge where you want to be while waiting for your flight as it offers the best facilities and food.
  • Cathay Pacific also has a small arrival lounge located between terminal 1 and 2.

This is a review of The Bridge lounge, which I visited since the facility was located very close to the departure gate for the Düsseldorf bound flight. Cathay Pacific commissioned world-renowned, UK-based architectural firm Foster + Partners to design The Bridge, which opened in 2013. It’s clear that a lot of effort has been put in creating a stylish environment with a relaxed and homey vibe where one can unwind before a flight. A set of escalators takes you down from the main concourse to the lounge’s magnificent reception area, which features a luminous reception wall, made of Venetian glass tiles by Fabbian of Italy. The Bridge is divided into a so-called North and South wing, each extending from a central reception area.

The North wing features the bulk of the facilities, among them a large restaurant, with both individual and communal tables, which is called ‘The Bakery’. It offers buffet-style dining, although it’s clearly a step up from the usual mediocre airport buffets. Freshly baked bread and pizzas, as well as delicious sandwiches, Danish pastries, Asian and Western soups, and several fresh salads are on display. In the back of the North wing, you find a stylish bar – offering a wide range of drinks, canapés, and hot and cold tapas – together with a television lounge. There’s plenty of seating inside the lounge with several seat types available, among them the famous Cathay Solus Chair solid – marked by leather upholstery and lacquered shell – which is a designer piece exclusively created for Cathay Pacific by Poltrona Frau in collaboration with Foster + Partners.

The South wing features a dedicated IT zone with computer workstations as well as the so-called ‘The Bistro’ restaurant, a second (albeit smaller) self-service area offering a variety of high-quality Asian and Western hot dishes and cold food selections, including some delicious desserts and light leafy salads. At the Coffee Loft, you can treat yourself to freshly brewed coffee and specialty tea, accompanied by freshly baked muffins, pastries and cookies.

Floor-to-ceiling windows stretch all along the lounge’s entire length, offering great views of the traffic on the tarmac, and bringing the outside in. However, IMHO, the lounge’s most striking feature is not the views nor its excellent facilities, but its residential ambience, aiming (and partly succeeding) at offering a ‘home away from home’. Wood floors and accents of oak and brass form a warm and natural colour palette throughout the interior space that creates a comfortable and cosy atmosphere to make you feel at home. The residential feel is echoed by the inclusion of various pieces of art and culture, just like you would find in the living room of any home. For example, the main seating area in the North wing features two display cabinets that are curated with artifacts and books, in addition to two magnificent (and very expensive) Louis Poulsen PH Artichok lamps as well as works by photographer William Furniss, a specialist in abstract waterscapes.

From the lounge, it was only a 5 minute leisurely stroll to gate 34 where the plane was being prepared for an on-time boarding process.

HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT

THE BRIDGE LOUNGE, HONG KONG AIRPORT


3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT CATHAY PACIFIC’S A350

Here are some facts about the A350 XWB as provided by Airbus and Cathay Pacific:

  • The A350 XWB is the world’s most technologically advanced commercial aircraft, competing with both the Boeing 787 and the Boeing 777. For a comparion between the A350 and the B787 (and a revelation of my favorite aircraft type), click here.
  • More than 70% of the airframe is made of advanced materials combining composites (53%), titanium and modern aluminum alloys. Composite materials are corrosion and fatigue free resulting in easier maintenance, while titanium is a lightweight and corrosion-resistant substitute for steel.
  • The A350 is designed for the wellbeing of passengers; the quiet cabin, panoramic windows, LED mood lighting and huge overhead lockers all contribute to a more comfortable and relaxing journey in all cabin classes.
  • The A350’s state-of-the-art design, together with the latest generation of engines and the use of advanced construction materials deliver a 25% improvement in operating costs overall when compared to previous-generation aircraft.
  • Powered by the latest technology Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, the A350 is the quietest among the aircraft types in its class and generates 25% lower CO2 emissions when compared to previous-generation aircraft.
  • The A350 XWB has been awarded Common Type Rating with the A330, and it takes only one week for a pilot to transit from the A330 to the A350.
  • The length of an Airbus A350-900 is close to the width of a rugby field (around 67 meters or 219 feet).
  • The wings of the A350 XWB cover more than 2 tennis courts (443 m2 or 4768 square feet) and – inspired by birds – change their shape while airborne to reduce fuel burn.
  • The diameter of the A350 XWB Roll-Royce Trent XWB engine is the same as the diameter of the Concorde fuselage!
  • As of now, Cathay Pacific has taken delivery of 17 A350-900 aircraft, with an additional six on firm order, and 26 firm orders of the A350-1000.
  • Cathay Pacific’s A350 destinations currently include Düsseldorf, Vancouver, San Francisco, London Gatwick, San Francisco, Auckland, Bangkok, Barcelona, Ho Chi Minh, Manchester, Manila, Brisbane, Melbourne, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Kansai and Paris. For an updated list, click here.

CATHAY PACIFIC A350, HONG KONG AIRPORT

CATHAY PACIFIC A350, HONG KONG AIRPORT

CATHAY PACIFIC A350, HONG KONG AIRPORT

CATHAY PACIFIC A350, HONG KONG AIRPORT

CATHAY PACIFIC A350 (AFTER ARRIVAL)


4. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

The Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 has 280 seats in a 3 class configuration: 38 lie-flat seats in Business, 28 recliner seats in Premium Economy (with 23 cm or 9 inches of recline), and 214 standard seats in Economy Class (with 15 cm or 6 inches of recline). Contrary to most of Cathay Pacific’s Boeing B777 planes, its A350 aircraft don’t feature a First Class cabin. 

The 38 Business Class seats are spread over two cabins: a large cabin behind the cockpit seats 30 passengers in 8 rows, while the remaining 8 seats are located in a smaller and intimate two-row cabin behind the galley (in front of the Premium Economy Class cabin). Both cabins feature a reverse herringbone layout in a 1-2-1 configuration, which – in my humble opinion – is the best Business Class cabin layout in the sky since it offers lots of space, direct aisle access for all passengers, and a great amount of privacy. Seats on the side are angled toward the window, while the seats in the middle are angled towards each other, so you never directly look into the seat across the aisle. Although Cathay Pacific was the launch customer of this type of cabin layout many years ago, several other carrier have since then copied the model, such as American Airlines, Finnair, Air France, Qatar Airways, and Eva Air.

The cabin itself makes a gorgeous impression with its sleek, refined and modern look. It’s all about understated luxury. The neutral white color palette of the cabin and suite shelves is given a subtile touch of vibrancy with green seat cushions and light grey carpets. Small but elegant white floral displays decorate the wall between the center seats, adding to the overall luxurious feel of the cabin.

Click here for a seat map of Cathay Pacific’s A350.

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BEFORE ARRIVAL)

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BEFORE ARRIVAL)

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BEFORE ARRIVAL)

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (BEFORE ARRIVAL)


5. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

I was seated in 14A for the 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf. The first row in the plane is designated the number 11 since the A350 doesn’t feature a First Class cabin.

The Business Class seat on Cathay Pacific’s A350 is a so-called Cirrus seat, supplied by Zodiac Aerospace and customized by Studio F.A. Porsche. It represents a refreshed version of the carrier’s award-winning ‘old’ Business Class seat which you find on its Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A330 fleet. The main differences is that the seat on the A350 comes with extra storage space and has a more sophisticated feel, in addition to an enhanced entertainment system with onboard WiFi and improved personal service by the addition of ‘do not disturb’ and ‘wake up call’ buttons.

As mentioned above, each seat comes with plenty of room to store all your personal luggage & items in the unlikely case that it would not fit in the large overhead bins. A side cabinet on the window side (for window seats) or towards the center line (for middle seats) holds the BOSE noise canceling headphones (more on that below) and has a mirror on its door panel (handy for fixing your hair or make-up in the morning) in addition to a netted pocket that can be used to store you smart phone, pen, passport and other bits and pieces. This cabinet also holds a universal power outlet on the inside, while it features the seat and entertainment controls and a dimmable reading light on its outside wall at eye level. In front of this side cabinet is a large, triangularly shaped panel alias work surface that can be extended by pulling out the fold-out tray table, allowing you to eat and work at the same time. Beneath this panel is a storage bin with a closing lid, that is sufficiently large to stowe away a laptop or handbag. On the other side of the seat is another storage box with a small hole that fits a bottle of water.

In front of the seat is a large foot rest, which forms part of the fully flat-bed when the seat is reclined. There is enough space underneath the ottoman to stow away your shoes or a backpack. Contrary to the Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific’s B777 and A330, the ottoman forms one entity with a cushioned, click and lift up side panel that not only give the Business Class suite a more spacious feel but also allows slightly more knee room when in the flat-bed position. Above the ottoman is a large, private screen (15.4-inch or 40 cm) that swings out from the side of the seat suite’s wall. You can tilt it up or down, so that you can enjoy a movie or TV show from the near or fully flat-bed position.

When tired, you can recline the seat into a very comfortable, fully flat-bed (which comes with a thick pillow, a nice blanket, and a duvet). The flat-bed is just over 190 cm (or 75 inches) long, which is slightly less as compared to the B777 although most passengers won’t notice that. A bed extension increases its width by 16.5 cm (6.5 inches), providing additional hip support, while the side panel compartment offers extra knee space for sleeping on your side. For sleeping, you may choose to leave your armrest up for more privacy, or down for more space.

What are the best Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific’s A350? Click here for a seat map.

  • The seats in row 20 and 21 are located in their own little private cabin and are therefore highly recommended.
  • Solo travelers should go fo the window seats, while travel compagnons are better off in the center seats.

What are the worst Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific’s A350? Click here for a seat map.

  •  Seats in rows 11, 19 and 20 are located close to the galley and lavatories, which may cause some noise annoyance.
  • I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class, row 21, which is located in front of the Premium Economy bassinet seats (which are often taken by or appointed to families with young children).

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (BOARDING)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (AFTER DEPARTURE)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (FLAT BED POSITION)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (FLAT BED POSITION)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (FLAT BED POSITION)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (FLAT BED POSITION)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (AFTER ARRIVAL)

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 14A (AFTER ARRIVAL)


6. AMENITIES

Business Class passengers are provided with a nice blanket and a high-quality pillow, in addition to a duvet to enhance the sleeping comfort. Cathay Pacific underlines its committment to sustainability by providing blankets made from recycled plastic, including salvaged fishing nets and plastic bottles.

The Business Class amenity kit has been created by Seventy Eight Percent, a Hong Kong-based design company that creates high-quality bags for globetrotting professionals. The wash bag contains Jurlique products (natural lip care balm, balancing day care dream, and citrus hand cream), anti-skid socks, eyeshade, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs and monitor-cleaning cloth.

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

AMENITY KIT

SLEEP AMENITIES: PILLOW

SLEEP AMENITIES: BLANKET


7. MEALS

Before takeoff, a welcome drink was offered with a choice of orange juice, water, or a glass of Champagne, in addition to a refreshing hot towel.

The elegantly looking menu read as follows:

  • Starter: A tasty blend of savoury dips with grissini
  • Main course: choice of
    • Pan friend sea bream, capsicum, green beans, carrot, celeriac puree, and lemon parsley butter
    • Chou hou beef brisket, turnip, mixed vegetables and steamed jasmine rice
  • Dessert: Fresh berries and ginger syrup

Dinner service started about 20 minutes after take-off, which was well after 1 am local time. All food (starter, main course, and dessert) was served at once on a single tray, which was kind of odd but probably had to do with the late departure time of the plane. Food tasted good although I was not impressed (and especially disappointed by the underwhelming starter).

As a mid-flight snack, I choose the only item available on the menu – Taiwenese pork in noodle soup – which was an excellent platter and the culinary highlight during the journey.

Ninety minutes prior to landing, a continental breakfast was served, with a cold pressed juice (orange, coconut water, pineapple and passionfruit), fresh seasonal fruit, Greek yoghurt, apricot compote and granola. The crew rolled a selection of hot items through the cabin and you could choose what you wanted from the available items. I had the dim sum selection: pork siu mai, yellow fungus pomegrante basket, har grow and glutinous rice dumpling.

It’s worth mentioning that Cathay Pacific offered Betsy Beer on this flight, the world’s first hand-crafted bottled beer specially brewed to be enjoyed at 35,000 feet. Known for its aromatic properties, “Dragon Eye” fruit is a unique characteristic of this beverage and adds to the round, rich, textural properties that make this beer distinctive.

PRE-DEPARTURE DRINK

HOTEL TOWEL

MENU

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MENU

MENU

MENU

MENU

SUPPER

SUPPER

SUPPER

SUPPER

SUPPER

MIDFLIGHT SNACK

MIDFLIGHT SNACK

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST

BREAKFAST


8. ENTERTAINMENT

The new A350-900 features a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system. The seat is equipped with the latest high-definition touch screen TV, whose interactive user interface is contemporary and fresh looking. There are tons of TV shows to choose from, including the latest blockbusters, award-winning documentaries and the most popular TV series. The inflight entertainment can be commanded by directly touching the TV screen or by using a handheld remote control which is located on the wall of the side cabinet at eye level and also features its own touchscreen, allowing you to watch a different program (e.g. flight map) from the main screen.

The inflight entertainment system also offers an interactive flight map as well as views from a camera attached on the plane’s belly and a camera located in the plane’s tail.

Cathay Pacific branded, noise reducing headphones are located at each seat, and block most noise from the cabin and aircraft as you watch your favorite programs.

NOISE CANCELING HEADPHONES

PUSH BACK FROM THE GATE (TAIL CAMERA)

PUSH BACK FROM THE GATE (BELLY CAMERA)

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM (TAIL CAMERA)

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM


9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# CREWthe cabin crew on this flight was professional albeit not very interactive with the passengers. Nevertheless, they delivered a wonderful service (as you would expect from an airliner known for its excellent Asian hospitality and high standard of crew training).  

# LAVATORY: There are 3 lavatories for Business Class passengers: two behind the cockpit and one in the galley between the two Business Class cabins.

LAVATORY

LAVATORY

LAVATORY

# INTERNET: Connectivity is also installed on the Cathay Pacific A350 (currently not available on the carrier’s B777 and A330 fleet), allowing passengers, for a fee, to browse the internet, send and receive emails and connect on social media. Access to the Cathay Pacific website, a number of partner websites and three live TV news channels  (BBC, CNN and Euronews) are available free of charge. For regional flights under six hours, unlimited internet costs $13 USD, and $20 USD for flights over six hours. To hop online for a single hour on any A350 flight will cost $10 USD.

ONBOARD WIFI

ONBOARD WIFI


10. MY VERDICT
  • Seat comfort (upright): 9/10
  • Seat comfort (bed position): 9/10
  • Food (quality):  7/10
  • Food (quantity): 9/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 9/10
  • WiFi: 5/10 (works great but too expensive)
  • Service: 9/10
  • Cabin design: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,5/10

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Top 10: best airports in the world for a layover

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (September 11, 2017): Top 10 best airports in the world.

Getting to or from a travel destination can be an exhausting event, often because of the stressful airport experience which can make flying a real chore. If you’ve ever been stranded at an airport for more than a few hours because of a long layover or a delayed flight, you know how frustrating and boring it can be. However, stopovers have become considerably less miserable in recent years, at least in certain airports that seem to get it right by taking their services and amenities up a serious notch. Improvements include high-quality dining venues, world-class shopping malls packed with haute boutiques, exhilarating leisure facilities from IMAX movie theaters to golf courses and rooftop pools, and designated quiet zones that come under the form of zen gardens, museums and luxurious spas. And while I never hope for a long stopover, I hereby share with you my 10 preferred airports in the world where I don’t mind being stuck for a few hours.

There is more information below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite airport in the comments section or take my poll below!

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10. HEATHROW AIRPORT, LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Heathrow Airport – more commonly known as London Heathrow – is the largest of London’s 6 international airports, the other ones being Gatwick, Stansted, London City, Luton and Southend.  With a record 75 million passengers in 2016, Heathrow ranks as the seventh busiest airport in the world by total passenger traffic. While the airport is not convenient when you have to switch terminals between flights, its newly opened terminal 2 – officially known as the Queen’s Terminal – and its almost 10 year old terminal 5 (with two satellite terminals) are great and airy spaces to spend a couple of hours before a flight. These terminals offer some of the best and most abundant airport shopping and dining in the world, with heaps of high-end boutique shops, a Harrods outlet, and a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. Unfortunately, this is a sharp contrast to the terminals 3 and 4, which feature an old and tired design. Heathrow serves as the main hub for British Airways (which mainly uses terminal 5, in addition to terminal 3) and Virgin Atlantic (which mainly operates from terminal 3).

HEATHROW AIRPORT, LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM


9. DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

With 83 million passengers in 2016, Dubai International Airport is the world’s 3rd busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic (behind Atlanta and Beijing). As a home base for Emirates – the largest A380 and B777 operator in the world – is shouldn’t come as a surprise that the airport also has the most Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 movements of all airports in the world. Dubai International is a massive space of almost extragalactic dimensions, as it employs approximately 90,000 people, indirectly supports over 400,000 jobs and contributes over $26.7 USD billion to the world’s economy. The airport dazzles its passengers, not only by its size (one of its three terminals is the second largest building in the world by floor space), but also by its outrageous, Arab inspired design with glimmering pillars and shiny floors separating water ponds, lush gardens, and relaxation areas. The airport offers a mind-boggling array of leisure facilities, such as sensational shopping and world-class spas, in which fliers can indulge while waiting for their flights.

DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES


8. AMSTERDAM AIRPORT SCHIPHOL, THE NETHERLANDS

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the main international airport of the entire country of the Netherlands, located  just south of its capital Amsterdam. The airport – which handled almost 60 millions passengers last year – is the hub for Holland’s flagship carrier KLM as well as a major European hub for Delta Air Lines and Jet Airways. What makes Schiphol so convenient from a passenger’s perspective is the single-terminal concept, where all facilities are located under a single roof, radiating from a central plaza. Schiphol also offers a wide variety of leisure facilities at Holland Boulevard: you can learn about Dutch art and culture at a free exhibition in a glass pavilion of the world-famous Rijksmuseum, enjoy interactive science-based activities with your kids at Nemo (Amsterdam’s most famous science museum), or curl up with a good book at the airport’s library. For aviation enthusiasts, Schiphol features a large rooftop viewing area, called the Panorama Terras, albeit not accessible to passengers in transit.

AMSTERDAM AIRPORT SCHIPHOL, THE NETHERLANDS

7. VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CANADA

Vancouver International Airport is the second busiest airport in Canada behind Toronto Pearson International Airport, and IMHO, the best airport in North America (San Francisco’s airport is not bad either). The airport’s interior features a unique and award-winning West Coast inspired decor, providing its passengers the first or last impression of British Columbia with architecture reflective of British Columbia’s diverse landscape and people. Among vibrant touches of blue and green that reflect the colors of the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean, the airport features the largest Northwest Coast Native art collection in the world, which includes totem poles and the Spirit of Haida Gwaii canoe. Other great things about the airport are the super-friendly staff (well, this is Canada after all), high level of organization, and easy access to downtown Vancouver. Vancouver International also boasts a floatplane terminal, two satellite Vancouver Aquarium exhibits, and one of the best airport hotels in the world, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel.

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CANADA


6. INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

Located on an island just outside of the South Korean capital, Incheon International Airport (sometimes referred to as Seoul–Incheon International Airport) serves as a hub for Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. The bright and ultra-clean airport, which opened in 2001, has a golf course, two movie theaters, private sleeping rooms, an ice skating rink, a casino (albeit not located inside the airport but 2 minutes away at the Hyatt Regency Hotel) and no less than seven indoor gardens in addition to a bevy of cultural performances. The airport even has a museum where you can check out Korean traditional culture that dates back thousands of years. Airport authorities claim that average departure and arrival at immigration takes 19 minutes and 12 minutes respectively, as compared to worldwide average of 60 minutes and 45 minutes respectively, ranking it among of the fastest airports in the world for customs processing. The airport also claims that it has only a 0.0001% baggage mishandling rate, one of the lowest in the world.

INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, SEOUL


5. TOKYO HANEDA AIRPORT, JAPAN

Tokyo International Airport, commonly known as Haneda Airport or Tokyo Haneda Airport, is one of two major international airports that serve the Tokyo area, the other one being Narita International Airport. Connected to the heart of the Japanese capital in roughly 45 minutes by public transport, Haneda is far preferred to Narita, which is located more than two hours away. Serving as the primary base of Japan’s two major domestic airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, Haneda has proven to be a popular port of entry for business travelers and tourists, with a record 80 million passengers passing via the airport last year, making it the third-busiest airport in Asia and the fifth-busiest in the world. Over the past decade, Haneda has been improving its facilities and significantly upping its game as it prepares for the massive crowds that will come when Tokyo hosts the Olympics in 2020. It now provides facilities and services that offer exceptional convenience, modern comfort, and Japanese functionality.

TOKYO HANEDA AIRPORT, JAPAN


4. HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, DOHA, QATAR

Hamad International opened in 2014 next to the city of Doha and the glittering Arabian Gulf, hereby replacing the former Doha International Airport as Qatar’s principal airport. Home to Qatar Airways, the airport is one of the most architecturally significant and luxurious public spaces in the world, serving over 360,000 flights and 30 million passengers every year. While contemporary in design to mirror Qatar’s progressive growth, the airport pays homage to the nation’s rich cultural heritage and natural environment. The dramatic, curving building silhouette recalls ocean waves and sand dunes to project a powerful image as Qatar’s gateway to the world. Hamad International Airport offers its passengers a seamless travel experience with an enormous variety of retail and restaurant outlets, a 100-room hotel with squash courts, health spa, swimming pool, the world’s Business and First Class lounges (that is if you fly Qatar Airways) and internationally famous works of art such as the famous, $8 million USD, 7 m (23 ft) tall, canary yellow teddy bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer which takes centre stage in the grand foyer in the middle of the departures hall.

HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, QATAR


3. HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CHINA

Home to carriers Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong airlines, Hong Kong International Airport – also known as Chek Lap Kok Airport – is built on an artificial island just off Lantau Island in the west of Hong Kong. Designed by the acclaimed British architect Sir Norman Foster, the airport has become one of the most popular facilities in the world since it opened in 1998, and it located within five hours flying time from half the world’s population. With its soaring spaces, bathed in daylight, the terminal building forms a spectacular gateway to the city. Whether arriving or departing, routes are legible and orientation is simple: you are aware of the land on one side and the water on the other and you can see the aircraft. Similarly, the vaulted roof provides a constant reference point as you move to or from your aircraft. Besides advanced infrastructure, the airport also offers world-class entertainment, such as an IMAX theatre, a state-of-the-art virtual golf simulator, and an impressive selection of restaurants offering cuisines from around the world,

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CHINA


2. SINGAPORE CHANGI AIRPORT, SINGAPORE

Serving as the primary airport for Singapore and being the 15th busiest transportation hub in the world, Singapore Changi Airport, or simply Changi Airport, has been rated the World’s Best Airport by Skytrax for the fifth consecutive year. Changi doesn’t dazzle with architectural spectacle and even looks a bit tired on the inside (the decor is very 90s with ugly carpets covering large parts of the terminals), but its the airport’s global connectivity, clockwork efficiency (with one of the world’s best on-time performances) and exceptional service offerings that explains its universal popularity among travelers. Terminal 2 is favored for its wide range of leisure facilities, including a 24-hour cinema and children’s playground, while terminal 1 is home to a rooftop pool and round-the-clock spa service. Terminal 3 will be to the liking of nature lovers, since it boasts a natural skylight and gardens featuring over 200 species of foliage and butterflies. And there’s more to come. Named Jewel, an amusement park-style building is currently being built outside terminal. Estimated to open next year, the complex will house 300 restaurants and shops, as well as major attractions including Singapore’s largest indoor garden, topped by an awe-inspiring light and sound show at a towering rain vortex.

SINGAPORE CHANGI AIRPOIRT, SINGAPORE


1. ZÜRICH AIRPORT, SWITZERLAND

Zürich Airport, also known as Kloten Airport, is the largest international airport of Switzerland and the principal hub of Swiss International Air Lines, which manages nine VIP lounges at the facility. While it only ranks 8th in the Skytrax survey, is by far the best one from my point of view, simply because it doesn’t really feel like an airport and also because, like everything else in Switzerland, the airport is amazingly clean, sophisticated and modern. The Skymetro rail between terminals A and E makes every traveller giggle as you hear the sound of the Alps (e.g. yodeling, mooing cows and cowbells) being piped in over the audio system while movies of Heidi blowing a kiss and the iconic Matterhorn are projected on the tunnel walls. With plenty of restaurants and duty free shops – where it will be hard to not to buy some stacks of the country’s world-famous chocolates – you’ll never run out of things to do while in transit at the airport. For passengers with an extended layover, Zürich Airport offers bicycle and inline-skate rentals and excursions to the Swiss Museum of Transport Lucerne. For aviation geeks, the airport offers two rooftop terraces from where to observe the traffic on the tarmac with the astonishing Alps as a background.

ZÜRICH AIRPORT, SWITZERLAND


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Travel tip: I am adding travel guides to my blog

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststips, series, or news.

Today (September 8, 2017): Travel tip: I am adding travel guides to my blog.

As some of you may have noticed, I have added a new section to my travel blog over the past few weeks, with a focus on destination & travel guides. You can find my travel guides in a new menu under my blog’s header menu (indicated by the arrow in the screenshot below).

I hope these online travel guides – based on my own travel experiences – may help you to get the most out of your (luxury) trips. Per destination, I have listed useful information regarding the following topics:

  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Travel requirements
  • Getting around
  • Inspiration, highlights & travel tips
  • Suggested itineraries
  • Recommended luxury hotels (+ reviews)

So far, I have published travel guides on the following countries:

PRIVATE VILLA AT SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES

I will gradually update and extend the above list of featured destinations at a ratio of one per week. The next destination guides will cover Thailand, New York, Hawaii and Italy.

If you have any suggestions about other topics you would like to be featured on the blog or in the travel guides, leave a comment.

Enjoy the weekend and stay tuned for Monday when I reveal a new top 10 travel list.


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Filed under: Travel tips Tagged: Australia, Canada, japan, Luxury, Luxury travel, Maldives, Oman, Seychelles, South Africa, Travel, travel guide, Travel tips, travel tips 2017, Vietnam

Review: Anantara Hoi An Resort (Vietnam)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Last spring, I enjoyed a great holiday in Vietnam, where some resorts far exceeded my sky-high expectations (and rank among the best hotels I have ever stayed at). You can read my trip reports here:


Today (September 6, 2017): Review of Anatara Hoi An (Vietnam).

Scenically positioned on the banks of the Thu Bon River, Anantara Hoi An Resort is a charming boutique retreat in the historic Vietnamese port town of Hoi An, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1999. Designed with French, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese influences that reveal Hoi An’s fascinating cultural diversity, split level rooms and suites open onto porches with comfortable daybeds, overlooking the river or a garden courtyard. When not exploring the old city, Anantara’s guests can delve into Vietnamese culture with language, lantern making and cookery classes, or simply laze by the pool.

In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Photos

Click to view slideshow.

*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Vietnam with my online Vietnam travel guide ***


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Situated on the banks of the Thu Bon River, Anantara Hoi An Resort is just a 10 minutes stroll or a 5 minute bicycle ride from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An, wich represents an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its decline in the later 19th century ensured that Hoi An has retained its traditional urban character to a remarkable degree. The town reflects a fusion of indigenous and foreign cultures (principally Chinese and Japanese with later European influences) and comprises a well-preserved complex of more than thousand timber frame buildings, with brick or wooden walls. At night, the central streets are beautifully lit by quaint, hand-made and old-fashioned lanterns, making it an atmospheric and beautiful spot.
  • If you want to broaden your cultural horizon, the hotel is also ideally located to explore two other UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area. The My Son UNESCO World Heritage Site – often dubbed Vietnam’s Angkor Wat – is one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia, and only a one hour (47 km or 30 mi) drive from the resort. The other UNESCO site, the Imperial City of Hue with its famous citadel, served as the capital of Vietnam until 1945 under the Nguyen Dynasty, the last royal dynasty of Vietnamese history, and is located a 2 hour (130 km or 80 mi) drive from the resort. The hotel organizes excursions to both sites.
  • With ornate balustrades, terra-cotta tile roofs, and high curved ceilings, Anantara Hoi An resembles a grand French colonial-style mansion, making this boutique hotel the most stylish place to stay in the vicinity of Hoi An’s old town. Although the charming architecture may look old and authentic, the hotel was built less than 20 years ago. The contemporary, airy and elegant interiors are fused with local Vietnamese design elements and feature graceful French, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese influences, reflecting Hoi An’s fascinating cultural diversity.
  • The resort features a compact layout, with the rooms and suites spread across two L-shaped buildings that are set among lush tropical gardens besides the river. From the arrival pavilion – where the luggage is collected and tagged before being delivered to the room at check-in – it’s a short walk through a pleasantly green courtyard to the open-sided, colonial-style lobby, which has a small boutique shop on the side. Across the courtyard from the lobby, you find two restaurants and the spa (more on that below). The swimming pool is located in its own river-side courtyard (although the pool area was under renovation during my stay and closed off from the rest of the resort). A public promenade runs between the resort grounds and the river.
  • All 93 rooms and suites enjoy either garden or river views. During my vacation, I stayed in a ground-floor Junior Garden Suite. On the outside, the room featured an attractive al fresco porch area, which was a great place to relax and enjoy the tranquil garden scenery after a day of sightseeing in Hoi An. The split level suite had a lower level with a sofa and a work desk, and an upper level with two twin beds (although you can also book this room type with a queen bed configuration). The mid-room balustrade, shuttered windows, and ceiling fan lend the suite a colonial flair. The neutral colour palette of white walls and sandstone floor was given a touch of vibrancy with orange cushions and lampshades. The small but functional bathroom was laid out in mosaic tiling and featured a shower, one sink and a toilet.
  • The resort has two restaurants, which are located opposite the lobby in one of the colonial-style wings. Hoi An Riverside Restaurant is open for lunch (light snacks) and dinner (delicious Western and Asian cuisine), and features a gorgeous art deco inspired interior reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie; the dining venue also has a lovely terrace overlooking the river, where outdoor tables are shaded by leafy trees and cooled by a gentle breeze. Lanterns Restaurant is located on the first floor above Hoi An Riverside Restaurant and is only open for breakfast, which is served as a grandiose buffet with live cooking stations.
  • Located in the vibrant street side courtyard of Anantara Hoi An Resort, O’malleys is the only Irish style pub in Hoi An town, serving a range of cold beer selections including Guinness, with pool tables, foosball, dart boards and big screens televising international sports. O’melleys also serves light fare such as hamburgers, poached prawns, braised pork belly, pork ribs, chicken wings, triple cooked chips, and onion rings.
  • When you’ve had enough exploration, you can always retire to the resort’s private spa, which is one of the best spas in town. It offers a range of nourishing scrubs and wraps, heavenly massages and rejuvenating facials. The intimate and cozy facility, which is tucked away in a tranquil corner of the resort near the restaurants, features four treatment rooms, each with a private bath, and also one couple’s treatment room. Manicure and pedicure treatments are provided in a garden cabana overlooking the Thu Bon River.
  • Complimentary bikes are provided to guests for the duration of their stay. These can be used to go on excursions or to travel to the nearby beaches of Cua Dai and An Bang (5 km or 3 mi away).
  • The hotel management and resort staff are absolutely charming and very friendly. Every one I met was smiling and seemed to go the extra mile. IMHO, it is the staff that turns a stay at Anantara Hoi An into a memorable event.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Anantara Hoi An is by far the best and most stylish place to stay in the old town of Hoi An, a place that almost certainly will end up on your Vietnam itinerary since its one of the country’s top tourist attractions. Nevertheless, it’s important to set your expectations right and you need to know the following when considering a stay here:

  • Although Hoi An’s beaches can be easily reached by bicycle or boat from Anantara’s private jetty, the hotel does not offer the same vibe as a beach resort. It is a boutique resort in the center of a city, although its riverside setting offers peaceful surroundings. If you are in need of sun kissed sands, I recommend to stay in one of the area’s ultraluxe beach resorts and visit the town of Hoi An on a tour. However, when you’re a history buff, art lover or shopaholic, you will find nirvana on every lantern-lit street corner in Hoi An and you’re better off staying at Anantara resort which has the old town at its doorstep. Or you can do like me, and stay one night at the Anantara resort to explore the old town, and then move to the coast for a few days of pure relaxation.
  • The pool area – located in its own courtyard – was under renovation during my stay, and guests that were in need of a dip were provided access to a pool of a resort nearby. However, by the time you read this review, the pool area has reopened and it looks a genuinely sophisticated place on photo. There’s also some construction going on behind the pool area on a neighbouring property, which can cause some noise disturbance during the day, although this is beyond the control of the hotel.
  • Ananantara Hoi An is a 5-star hotel, but unfortunately, the hotel does not really compare to the ultraluxe resorts in the wider Hoi An area, such as the astonishing Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai (Hoi An), the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort (Da Nang), and Banyan Tree Lang Co Resort. Although the Anantara Hoi An Resort lacks the extravagant facilities of these sublime beach-front hotels, it tries to make up for that with its convenient old town location, boutique atmosphere, colonial style, and superb staff.
  • The culture and heritage that the UNESCO World Heritage Site status for Hoi An Ancient Town was trying to preserve has long since gone. Its UNESCO status put Hoi An on the travel map, causing a massive influx in tourists, with the result that most houses in the old town have been sold by the community to speculators and shop owners to be used for commercial purposes. The former community, and with it their culture and heritage, has gone and in their place are endless tailors shops, restaurants, and art galleries. That said, although Hoi An lost a lot of its authenticity over the past decade, the town still retains some of its former, grandiose and mystical allure.
  • River proximity means that the clatter of passing boats may cause some noise annoyance at night and in the early morning, disturbing light sleepers.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 7/10
  • Pool: not applicable (under renovation during my stay)
  • Rooms: 7/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Breakfast: 8/10
  • Spa: 7/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 8/10
  • Overall experience: good: 7,8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Anantara Hoi An, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
  • Save money: Anantara Hoi An guarantees that every reservation booked through its websites will have the lowest room price (including all taxes and fees) publicly available on the internet. If you find a lower rate within 24 hours of making a booking, the resort will be happy to match the rate and give you an additional 10% discount on your stay. All you need to do is submit a claim form.
  • Room tip: Light sleepers should request a room away from the river and street side to avoid occasional noise disturbance.
  • Vietnam travel guide: get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Vietnam with my online travel guide.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Typical for the tropical climate of Vietnam, Hoi An enjoys warm weather year round with a distinct rainy and dry season. The rainy season in Hoi An lasts quite long from September to January, and the constantly heavy showers may put a damper on your wonderful trip. In addition, there’s always a risk for typhoons and floods. On the other hand, the dry season lasts from February to August. The best time to visit the town is the first months of the dry season when the weather is mild and beautiful with moderate temperature, low humidity, and blue skies. If you enjoy sunbathing on famous beaches near Hoi An like Cua Dai Beach or An Bang Beach, I recommend to delay your trip to April or May. From June, temperatures start to soar, making it too hot for most tourists.


HOW TO GET THERE

Hoi An is located a 30 minute drive south from Da Nang, the largest city in central Vietnam and the most important gateway to access Central Vietnam. There are frequent direct flights to Da Nang Airport from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as well as international arrivals from Beijing (Northern China), Kunming (Yunnan, South-west China, Shanghai (central China) Singapore, Pakse (Laos), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia),  and Seoul (Korea). Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Da Nang. It’s also possible to get to Danag by train from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.


HOTEL ENTRANCE

HOTEL ENTRANCE

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ARRIVAL PAVILION

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GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

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GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

GARDENS & HOTEL WINGS

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY

LOBBY (SHOP)

WELCOME AMENITIES

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

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JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

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JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

JUNIOR GARDEN VIEW SUITE

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

RIVERSIDE PROMENADE

ANANTARA SPA

ANANTARA SPA

ANANTARA SPA

ANANTARA SPA

ANANTARA SPA

ANANTARA SPA

ANANTARA SPA

ANANTARA SPA

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: EXTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: EXTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: EXTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: INTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: INTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: INTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: INTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: INTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: INTERIOR

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: TERRACE

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: LUNCH

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

HOI AN RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT: DINNER

O’MALLEYS BAR & GRILL

O’MALLEYS BAR & GRILL

LANTERNS RESTAURANT

LANTERNS RESTAURANT

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

LANTERNS RESTAURANT: BREAKFAST

HOI AN: MARKET

HOI AN: MARKET

HOI AN: MARKET

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: OLD TOWN

HOI AN: AT NIGHT

HOI AN: AT NIGHT

HOI AN: AT NIGHT

HOI AN: AT NIGHT

HOI AN: AT NIGHT

HOI AN: AT NIGHT

HOI AN: AT NIGHT

HOI AN: AT NIGHT


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Filed under: Trip reports: luxury hotels Tagged: Anantara, Anantara Hoi An, Hoi An, Hotel review, Hotel Review Asia, Hotel Review Vietnam, lhw, review, Travel, Trip report

Top 10: most exclusive urban resorts in the world

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (August 28, 2017): Top 10 best urban resorts in the world.

Visiting an iconic city, whether for business or leisure, is a rewarding and invigorating experience. However, after a day of exhausting sightseeing or hectic business meetings, there’s nothing more exciting than the prospect of relaxing at a hotel that let you fool yourself into thinking you are kicking back at a five star resort. With magnificent pools, tranquil gardens, and serene spa retreats, some of the world’s most exclusive city hotels offer the kind of leisure facilities that will make you forget you’re in the center of a major city. I hereby present you my top 10 of the world’s best urban resorts, each one of them a destination unto itself.

There is more information (with reviews and Youtube clips) below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite urban resort in the comments section or take my poll below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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10. FOUR SEASONS FLORENCE, ITALY

Four Seasons turned one of the city’s most amazing palaces and a former papal residence with the largest private park in Florence into an urban resort without parallel. Much of the palace’s original renaissance artistry was restored in the years immediately prior to the Four Seasons’s opening. The hotel’s interiors are adorned with arches, inlaid pillars, friezes, painted frescoes and marble floors. The  hotel’s 116 guest rooms and suites at are located within three buildings, and no two rooms are alike, resulting in artistry and historic details that will keep guests fascinated. With its staff to guest ratio of two-to-one, and a location close to The Accademia, where Michelangelo’s “David” resides, this property offers the best in services, atmosphere, and location. Add the exclusive spa facilities and incomparably lovely grounds with their extensive offerings, and guests can lose themselves in Renaissance history without sacrificing contemporary Italian flair and cutting-edge technology.

  • Hotel website: Four Seasons Florence
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, welcome gift, daily breakfast, $100 USD resort credit, early check in and late check out).

FOUR SEASONS FLORENCE, ITALY


9. PALACIO DUHAU – PARK HYATT BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires is legendary five-star hotel that is breathtaking inside and out. The hotel perfectly blends the 1930’s charm of the French Palacio Duhau with contemporary design, décor, and modern day comfort and amenities. Much of the hotel overlooks beautiful gardens that are like a secret green oasis in the centre of bustling Buenos Aires. The hotel combines two buildings: a Palace from 1934, restored in 2006, and a contemporary building, designed in total harmony with the original architecture. The artistic nature of the city is reflected throughout the hotel and its 165 guestrooms with works of art adorning many of the walls and the hotel even boasts its own art gallery for you to while away the hours. Offering standard and deluxe rooms or suites, outstanding restaurants, the atmospheric Oak Bar, the luxury Ahín Wellness & Spa as well as an art gallery, pool, Tango classes and fitness studio – there is very little you are left wanting for.

  • Hotel website: Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
  • Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP benefits when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast for 2, wine and cheese tasting for two once during your stay, early check-in, and late check-out.)
  • Review: read here my review of Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires.

PALACIO DUHAU – PARK HYATT BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA


 8. W BARCELONA, SPAIN

Rising like a sail from the Mediterranean’s brown sands, the W Barcelona is as much a work of modern art as it is a luxury hotel. Famed Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, whose world-class buildings include architectural icons in Chicago, the Shiseido headquarters in Tokyo and the headquarters for Cartier and Christian Dior in Paris, designed the hotel. Located in the stunning waterfront area of Spain’s most dynamic and stylish city, W Barcelona boasts unparalleled views of both the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Barcelona from most of its 473 fabulous guest rooms and suites. The hotel features exciting dining, nightlife and entertainment options for which the W brand is known, including a roof top bar, large spa, several food and beverage concepts, a large indoor and outdoor pool, and a private beach club, lending this property the ambience of a hip resort rather than a city hotel.


7. MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL, SINGAPORE

The most spectacular hotel in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands hotel comprises three 55-storey towers, 2,560 luxury rooms and suites, and 18 different room types. Shopaholics will rejoice in the rows of luxury retailers at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, which houses the largest collection of coveted designer boutiques in Asia. Complementing the retail space are delectable dining options, which includes restaurants by celebrity chefs, fine dining and casual eateries. Designed by visionary architect Moshe Safdie, the SkyPark floats atop the three soaring hotel towers at a height of 200 metres (650 feet). This gravity-defying platform is one of the largest in the world: the 1.2-hectare SkyPark stretches longer than the Eiffel Tower laid down and is large enough to park four and a half A380 Jumbo Jets. It houses a ticketed observation deck, lush gardens, top-notch restaurants and an exclusive, infinity-edge swimming pool with a legendary view.

MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL, SINGAPORE


6. THE EMIRATES PALACE, ABU DHABI, UAE

Conveniently located near major business quarters, shopping malls and local attractions, Emirates Palace is the ideal address for your business/leisure requirements during your stay in Abu Dhabi. The hotel was created with the aim of showcasing Arabian culture. It is located on a 1.3 km (0.8 mi) private beach, amidst 85 hectares of lawns and gardens, and features no less than 114 domes, some of them 80 meters high. Abu Dhabi’s famous Corniche runs from here all the way north. The Emirates Palace is the second most expensive hotel ever built, only surpassed by Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The hotel also had higher construction costs compared to the Burj Al Arab in neighbouring Dubai. The hotel’s 394 accommodations, 302 of which are rooms and the remainder are suites, are all furnished in gold and marble. The hotel is managed by the Kempinski Hotel Group.

THE EMIRATES PALACE, ABU DHABI, UAE


5. THE CHEDI MUSCAT –  A GHM HOTEL, OMAN

Situated on the stunning Boushar Beachfront in Oman, where crystal Gulf waters mirror images of glorious mountain ranges, The Chedi Muscat is an oasis of mysticism and luxury. Although the hotel opened its doors more than a decade ago (in 2003), it remains a standard-bearer for quiet luxury and still ranks as Muscat’s most elegant and exclusive resort. Omani architecture meets sleek minimalism here, thanks to the inspired design of Jean-Michel Gathy. It’s located on a long stretch of private beach and 21 acres of beautifully landscaed gardens. Sparkling waters, vibrant gardens and dramatic mountains as seen through the grand windows in all 158 tasteful, well-appointed guest rooms and suites heighten the calming effect of the natural and timeless environment. Facilities at The Chedi Muscat are utterly comprehensive, with six distinct restaurants, a thirteen-suite Balinese spa, three swimming pools, including a stylish 103-mere (338 ft) long pool, a gorgeous health club plus two executive meeting rooms.

  • Hotel website: The Chedi Muscat
  • Other accolades: The Chedi Muscat also features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Oman.
  • Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free breakfast, a 50-minute massage for up to two guests per stay, early check-in, late check-out, and roundtrip airport transfers).
  • Review: read here my review of The Chedi Muscat.

4. THE LODHI, NEW DELHI, INDIA

Amidst the lush order of Lutyens’ Delhi, just minutes from the grandeur of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the peaceful Lodhi gardens and many other iconic sites, The Lodhi hotel provides one of the world’s most colourful and cosmopolitan capital cities with a tranquil retreat. Offering essential respite in spacious surrounds, this city-based resort is an elegant haven exuding an air of sophisticated calm, and provides guests with the ultimate in comfort, as well as the ideal base from which to experience the city. The Lodhi ethos is simple and easy luxury. But it’s also an ethos of ‘contrasts’, from the dynamic and vibrant atmosphere in the restaurants, courtyards and public areas to the seclusion, peace and club- like atmosphere of the seven floors of guest accommodation. Unique in a urban resort, all of the 31 rooms and suites feature private plunge pools, come with exceptional views, and have terraces dappled. After ‘growing up’ as an Aman city resort since its opening in 2009, the hotel is now an independent, standalone property .

  • Hotel website: The Lodhi
  • Tip: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free breakfast, a 50-minute massage for up to two guests per stay, early check-in, and late check-out).

THE LODHI, NEW DELHI, INDIA


3. FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ISTANBUL AT THE BOSPHORUS, TURKEY

Located along the Bosphorus, in one of Istanbul’s most naturally beautiful neighbourhoods, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosporus is a former 19th-century palace transformed into a hotel sanctuary of luxury and comfort. It consists of three blocks, with the original palace building flanked by two modern wings. A circular drive sweeps down to the entrance, in the main palace building, with a lovely tiered gardens interspersed with fountains and waterfalls in the middle. The hotel’s main asset is an expansive waterfront terrace with a large swimming pool, plenty of sun loungers, and a private boat dock, linking the hotel to its sister property, the Four Seasons Istanbul in Sultanahmet, which is close to Istanbul’s historic sites. The 145 guest rooms and 25 suites are an airy fusion of traditional Ottoman architecture and contemporary furnishings. The pillared underground swimming hall (with classical music playing underwater) and hammam are not to be missed!

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ISTANBUL AT THE BOSPHORUS


2. THE SIAM HOTEL, BANGKOK, THAILAND

The Siam hotel – opened in 2013 – is in a category of its own and unique to the Thai capital. With only 39 suites and 3 acres of property along the river, guests are able to experience a resort atmosphere and a level of exclusivity that is not available at Bangkok’s larger luxury properties. The suites at the Siam are amongst the largest in city, all outfitted with plush furnishings, super-sized king beds and lofty ceilings. Each room has been individually designed with original turn of the century oriental artwork and antiques. The Siam is located in an area that is near Bangkok’s historical palaces, temples and museums and, in the Dusit neighborhood, one of Bangkok’s most coveted areas. Guests can also choose for an intimately private Pool Villa and bask in either Thai, Chinese or Colonial surrounds. Every villa is awash with lush internal gardens and features a private swimming pool and open-air roof terrace, perfect for private sunbathing, evening cocktails or tête-à-tête dining.

  • Hotel website: The Siam Hotel, Bangkok
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, welcome gift, daily breakfast breakfast, $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check in and late check out).

THE SIAM HOTEL, BANGKOK, THAILAND


1. ONE&ONLY CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

This urban chic resort, located in an enviable spot in the city’s fashionable Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, set a whole new standard for South African hotels when it opened in 2009. The hotel overwhelms its guests upon arrival with breathtaking Table Mountain views through the massive windows of the spectacular lobby. There are two sections in the hotel: one is the ‘Spa Tower’ with 40 suites and the other is the ‘Marina Rise’ with 91 rooms. All rooms and suites feature oversized bathrooms and are adorned with fabrics and furnishings recalling the warm, muted tones of Africa’s savannahs. The One&Only Cape Town resort’s exclusive Spa Island, is built on its own, man-made island and centered around a large, lagoon-shaped pool. Dining at One&Only Cape Town is a pure delight with two of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants, Rueben’s restaurant, and Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s Nobu restaurant.

ONE&ONLY CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA


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Travel news: this month (August 2017) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series, or news.

Today (August 25, 2017): August 2017 luxury travel news.

Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:

  1. Six Senses to open a second ski resort in the Alps
  2. Ethiopian retrofits its B767-300 fleet with flat-bed seats
  3. Jumby Bay Island, Antigua and Barbuda, joins Oetker Collection
  4. A Boeing 777-200LR is transformed into a flying cruise ship
  5. Rosewood opens its second property in China
  6. Air Berlin files for bankruptcy
  7. Philippine Airlines to deploy B777 on the Manila–London route
  8. Four Seasons announces first European ski resort in French Alps
  9. Singapore Airlines cuts size of A380 First Class cabin in half
  10. Mandarin Oriental to manage its first property in the Caribbean

1. Six Senses to open a second ski resort in the Alps

After announcing last month the development of Six Senses Crans-Montana in Switzerland, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas is set to add yet another extraordinary Alpine destination to its portfolio of properties in some of the world’s most beautiful and inspiring locations. Located in the breathtakingly picturesque Austrian Alps, Six Senses Kitzbühel Alps will feature 80 guest accommodations, including 50 residences, plus a small village of chalets available for private sale. The overall design concept of Six Senses Kitzbühel Alps could best be described as a modern interpretation of traditional Austrian design. Warm natural finishes will incorporate wood and stone with the introduction of rough-hewn exposed timber beams in public areas. Glorious swaths of natural light will wed the seasons to the interiors and the restrained use of art and craft will feature subtly define the setting. Kitzbühel features some of the finest cross-country skiing and downhill slopes in the world. With over 104 miles (168 kilometers) of ski runs, the property will offer ski-in, ski-out access and in summer there are 75 miles (120 kilometers) of mountain bike paths and 311 miles (500 kilometers) of hiking trails to explore. Six Senses Kitzbühel Alps, which will also feature a fine-dining venue and a spa, will open in 2020.

VIEW FROM THE SITE OF SIX SENSES KITZBÜHEL ALPS


2. Ethiopian Airlines retrofits its B767-300 fleet with flat-bed seats 

Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa, announced that it plans to fully refurbished its Boeing 767-300 ER fleet, which flies to destinations in India, the Middle East and Africa. The newly refurbished airplane is fitted with brand new full flat-bed seats in Cloud Nine, modern inflight entertainment with high-resolution 17 inches screen and in-seat power outlets, lighting and other modern cabin products. Customers in the main cabin will also enjoy new seats, multiple channels of inflight audio and video entertainments accessible with their own mobile devices /tablets. Ethiopian CEO, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, remarked: “As a customer focussed and market driven airline, we are always committed to avail unmatched travel experience for our customers. We have invested more than $6 million USD to retrofit our B-767-300 ER fleet, which will surely provide more choice and greater comfort to our customers. By December 2017, all our B767 fleet will be fitted with flat-bed seats in Cloud Nine with access to a range of video programming available for wireless streaming in all cabins”. Availing the right fleet mix for the mission, Ethiopian Airlines has currently 92 aircraft in its young and modern fleet (five years average fleet age), with future plans to receive nineteen A350-900s, four B787-900s and five Q400s.

ETHIOPIAN B767 NEW CABIN INTERIOR


3. Jumby Bay Island, Antigua and Barbuda, joins Oetker Collection

The famous Jumby Bay Island resort in Antigua and Barbuda leaves the Rosewood Hotel Group to join the Oetker Collection. “Since the foundation of Oetker Collection, we have grown our hotel portfolio with carefully chosen resorts and city hotels that deserve the attribute ‘Masterpiece’. I am delighted to announce our expansion with a second Masterpiece in the Caribbean: Jumby Bay Island” says Frank Marrenbach, CEO Oetker Collection. “This private island paradise is a truly special and precious place, with 120 hectares of manicured landscape surrounded by white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. As of October, guests will experience Oetker Collection’s highest standards of quality service to which they are accustomed, and can rest assured that our team of hoteliers will offer them quite a unique sense of place”. Located right in front of the main island of Antigua, Jumby Bay Island is a secluded haven filled with lush landscapes, stately palm trees and three stunning white sand beaches. Reachable only by boat, with no hint of urban intrusions and no indigenous population in sight, this privately owned hideaway has remained largely unchanged for centuries. The resort features 40 tastefully decorated rooms and 50 luxury vacation villas, that embody both the beauty of nature and the tradition of elegance with inspiring surroundings and simple sophistication. Jumby Bay features in my top 10 lists of the best resorts in the Caribbean and the world’s most exclusive private island resorts.

JUMBY BAY JOINS OETKER COLLECTION


4. A Boeing 777 is transformed into an ultraluxe flying cruise ship

A new standard of private luxury travel is set to soar high above all others across the globe, with the launch by Crystal Cruises – an American luxury cruise line – of the world’s largest and most luxuriously spacious private charter jet: a ultraluxe Boeing 777-200LR baptized Crystal Skye that is being prepared for its maiden voyage in a few weeks time. Available for private charter for both leisure travel and group events, the lavishly outfitted Boeing 777 has been completely transformed to the highest standards of aviation design. Here are some of Crystal Skye’s remarkable features that elevate her, literally, above all other air travel experiences:

  • Crystal Skye is designed accommodate up to 88 guests. The passenger capacity of a traditionally configured Boeing 777-200LR is 314 to 396.
  • Each guest enjoys the personal service of a butler assigned to cater to their individual wishes throughout the in-flight experience. Butlers carts are equipped for six-star service, with steam irons, shoe horns and polish, wrapping paper, extract fragrances and lens cleaner.
  • Crystal Exclusive Class seats are laid out in a 2x2x2 configuration, staggered to allow guests to enjoy window views in every direction regardless of their location on the aircraft. Each seat boasts a 74-inch (188 cm) pitch with 24 inches (61 cm) between armrests, and will lay flat to a full 73.5 inches (188 cm) for restful room to sleep during nighttime flights. Six spa-like lavatories offer relaxing music, spacious counter tops and ETRO bath amenities.
  • Crystal Skye’s executive chef oversees all onboard menu designs, featuring Michelin-inspired cuisine reflecting the global destinations visited. The chef collaborates with the sommelier/mixologist to offer pairings with fine wines from Crystal’s SkyeCellar.
  • Crystal Skye’s in-flight entertainment system has been designed exclusively for the aircraft with 24-inch HD Panasonic monitors – the largest in the industry – and mini monitors in each handset. The custom system enables guests to view a comprehensive selection of movies, TV shows and music on-demand while on board, in addition Live TV and other features including a live cockpit-to-airport ground control listening channel; a detailed live moving map offering guests the ability to check progress of the AirCruise; and TV cameras outside for views of take-off, in flight and landing.

THE CRYSTAL SKYE B777-200LR OFFERS An ULTRALUXE CRUISE EXPERIENCE IN THE SKY


5. Rosewood opens its second property in China

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts announced the ultra-luxury brand’s first mainland Chinese resort, Rosewood Sanya, on the paradise island of Sanya (often dubbed the Hawaii of China). The resort joins the Hong Kong-headquartered group’s only other Rosewood-branded property in Greater China, the Rosewood Beijing, which I reviewed here. Rosewood Sanya is part of an integrated resort set within 40 acres (16 hectares) of landscaped gardens surrounding the Sanya Forum, the largest convention center in Haitang Bay. In keeping with the brand’s A Sense of Place philosophy, the resort’s design incorporates wood, tribal totems and aquatic elements to create a serene and contemporary space, celebrating the beauty of nature and the serenity of the ocean, for all Rosewood guests to discover. All 246 guestrooms at Rosewood Sanya are ocean facing and 45 guestrooms include balcony plunge pools. Other facilities include an infinity pool located on 13th floor, a health club and Sense, A Rosewood Spa. Nearly 3,425 square meters of meeting and function space including a pillar-less ballroom, six salons and The Pavilion, a Rosewood signature residential-style meeting and function space with a sea view terrace and open show kitchen. The hotel’s five restaurants and lounges feature a variety of local and international cuisines.

ROSEWOOD SANYA, CHINA


6. Air Berlin files for bankruptcy

On August 15th, Air Berlin filed to commence insolvency proceedings under self-administration at the local District Court (Amtsgericht) of Berlin-Charlottenburg, in order to continue with the restructuring process that is already underway. The background of the bankruptcy is the notification by Etihad Airways that it no longer intends to provide Air Berlin with financial support.  For the next tree months, the Federal Government is supporting airberlin with a bridging loan to maintain flight operations for the long-term. This means:

  • All flights operated by Air Berlin and NIKI will continue as planned
  • The flight schedule remains valid
  • Bookings remain valid
  • All flights – with the exception of some USA flights – can still be booked

According to Air Berlin, negotiations with Lufthansa and other partners regarding the acquisition of business units of Air Berlin are far advanced, highly promising, and may be finalised shortly. Thomas Winkelmann, CEO of Air Berlin, said: “We are working tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for the company, our customers and employees, given the situation”.  There are several media reports though that Air Berlin is disintegrating rapidly: certain flights to the USA are blacked out for reservations, passengers don’t collect miles anymore with Air Berlin’s frequent flyer program when flying on Air Berlin, and refundable tickets were made non-refundable overnight. Whatever the outcome will be, Air Berlin is in big trouble at the moment, and I suggest you avoid booking a ticket with them until more clarity is provided about the carrier’s long-term future.

AIR BERLIN AIRBUS A330


7. Philippine Airlines to deploy B777 on the Manila–London route

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines is all set to boost its operations between Manila and London Heathrow with the deployment of its state-of-the-art 370 seater Boeing 777-300s on the route beginning September 19. The triple7, considered the airline’s flagship aircraft on US transpacific routes, will soon serve MNL-UK operations to provide passengers a premium travel experience. By December, PAL will increase frequencies between the two cities from four times weekly to daily giving passengers the flexibility to choose from a wide selection of flight schedules. “As we carry out the brand promise to be a full service five-star carrier of the country and be a source of pride of Filipinos everywhere, we shall continue to enhance the total travel experience along the route. We want our passengers to have the ultimate travel experience marked by comfort, inflight connectivity and the caring service of our cabin crew, embodying the Heart of the Filipino,” PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista said. “With its range and operational capability, the flag carrier will be at par with other full service carriers along the route. We will also increase capacity as the aircraft will have a 370-seating capacity on a two – class configuration (42 on business and 328 on economy) as compared to the 254-seating capacity of the A340,” he added. The B777 replaces the A340s which have served as workhorses between Manila and London Heathrow since 2013.

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES B777-300ER


8. Four Seasons announces first European ski resort in French Alps

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s leading luxury hospitality companies, announced plans for the first Four Seasons mountain destination in Europe, opening in time for the 2017-2018 winter ski season. Facing Mont Blanc and conveniently located just 70 kilometres (44 miles) from Geneva International Airport, Megève is a preeminent skier’s paradise, offering more than 130 groomed Alpine runs, endless fresh snowfall, and powdery off-piste terrain. As Megève’s first hotel to offer direct access to the Mont d’Arbois slopes, the 55-room Four Seasons Hotel Megève will be nestled into the base of Mont d’Arbois’ soaring mountainside, creating a luxurious haven for skiers directly on the Alpine range. In addition, Four Seasons will also manage the 18-hole Le Golf du Mont d’Arbois club designed by three-time British Open champion Sir Henry Cotton. Four Seasons Hotel Megève will mark the third Four Seasons destination in France, joining the legendary Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris and Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel in the French Riviera.

FOUR SEASONS MEGEVE, FRANCE


9. Singapore Airlines cuts size of A380 First Class cabin in half

According to FlightGlobal, Singapore Airlines plans to retrofit 14 of its Airbus A380 aircraft. In an email response to FlightGlobal, the Star Alliance carrier says it expects to announce the timeline for the retrofit work by the end of the year. While it did not give further details of the retrofit work, a local media report says that 

SINGAPORE AIRLINES A380 FIRST CLASS SUITE


10. Mandarin Oriental to manage its first property in the Caribbean

Mandarin Oriental announced that it will rebrand and manage the luxury Pink Sands hotel, currently operating on Canouan island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, from 1 November 2017. Mandarin Oriental, Canouan will be the Group’s first property in the Caribbean. The exclusive resort is expansive while being intimate and secluded, nestled on the powder white sands of Canouan Island which is only five square miles in total. The whole island is dedicated to leisure pursuits including sailing, kayaking, diving, fishing, tennis and hiking, as well as golf at an 18-hole Jim Fazio-designed golf course. The hotel comprises 26 suites and 12 three to four bedroom villas. All suites and villas have full ocean views, and each villa comes with a large private pool, just a few steps away from the ocean. A variety of restaurants and bars provide a range of cuisines and al fresco dining and the property also features an outdoor infinity pool, a spa and health club, with two overwater treatment cabanas accessible by boat. Mandarin Oriental will also brand and manage a portfolio of new Residences at Mandarin Oriental, to be located near the hotel and scheduled to be available in 2020.

MANDARIN ORIENTAL, CANOUAN


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Review: Amanoi, the most exclusive hotel in Vietnam

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.

Last April & May, I enjoyed a great holiday in Vietnam, where some resorts far exceeded my sky-high expectations (and rank among the best hotels I have ever stayed at). You can read my trip reports here:


Today (August 23, 2017): Review of Vietnam’s most exclusive hotel, Amanoi. 
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: Road to Ba Dien beach, Vĩnh Hải, Ninh Hải, Ninh Thuận, Vietnam
  • Hotel website: Amanoi
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso

In 2013, Aman brought the brand’s signature sleekness to its debut resort in Vietnam, a contemporary beachside resort alongside a full-service Aman Spa overlooking spectacular Vinh Hy Bay in Nui Chua National Park, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. The luxury hotel’s polished, slate pagodas peek out from a lush green landscape; its infinity pool segues into the sea; and its spa rests by a lotus-blossom-dotted lake. Amanoi offers total privacy in beautifully designed accommodations that are located in 31 pavilions, a number with private swimming pools, and five Aman residences, all positioned on the hillside with impressive views. The off-the-grid property designed by world-famous architect Jean-Michel Gathy positively encourages calm contemplation, whether lounging by the cliffside pool or at the elegant beach club, or surrendering to the tranquillity of the Aman Spa – set by a lotus-filled lake with a floating yoga pavilion.

Amanoi features in my lists of the hottest luxury hotel openings of 2013, the 10 most fabulous luxury hotels in Vietnam, the 10 most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, the 10 best things to see and do in Vietnam, and my favorite 10 Aman resorts in the world.

In this review (more info below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Photos

Click to view slideshow.

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Derived from the Sanskrit for ‘peace and ‘noi’ meaning place, Amanoi enjoys a dramatic location along the spectacular and rugged coastline of Vietnam’s southern Ninh Thuan Province. Separated from the world by miles of pristine wilderness, the ultraluxe resort is located inside the Nui Chua National Park on a wide, mountainous promontory which projects into the South China Sea. The beachside sanctuary boasts spectacular views of the protected waters of Vinh Hy Bay, which is part of a marine reserve surrounded by unique rock formations. The wild beauty of Amanoi’s surroundings spans ecosystems from tropical dry forest to lush ravines, and will knock you off your feet.
  • The feeling of being far away from the civilized world and the stress of daily life is palpable throughout the resort, since Amanoi is removed from Vietnam’s often over-touristy urban resort centers. But despite its remote setting, the resort can be easily reached via a 75-minute drive from Cam Ranh Airport, which serves the popular Nah Trang area and receives regular flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Bangkok, and Seoul. While almost all visitors who arrive at Cam Ranh head north towards Nha Trang’s megalomane beach resorts, the lucky few who stay at Amanoi are driven in a luxury car 75 minutes in the opposite direction towards the lush forests and towering cliffs of Nui Chua National Park.
  • Although Amanoi’s massive resort grounds rank among the most expansive in the world, the resort layout itself is quite convenient once you know your way. The rooms – located in stand-alone pavilions – are positioned on the hillside or around an inland lotus-filled lake where you also find the wellness center. Down the hill is a stylish beach club with restaurant and pool, overlooking a private stretch of gold sand beach. But the resort’s eye catcher is the Central Pavilion, which occupies the highest point in the resort and is home to the lobby, main restaurant, bar, library, boutique shop (which sells traditional Vietnamese lacquerware and other handmade items) and a second, even more stunning swimming pool.
  • Upon arrival, guests are met by the resort staff with a welcome drink and cold towel at the lower level of Amanoi’s architecturally stunning Central Pavilion. From here, two broad and majestic staircases lead up to the Central Pavilion’s top floor which affords breathtaking views of the turquoise sea and green mountains. The first impressions of Amanoi’s lobby space are more reminiscent of a holistic sanctuary or sleek museum than a hotel. It makes each arrival at the resort an unforgettable, gracious and astonishing experience.
  • Amanoi’s designers managed to meld the hotel infrastructure imperceptibly with the majestic topography of the landscape, with the resort’s curves discretely emerging from the green canopy. Featuring Aman’s signature style, the resort’s decor is the epitome of architectural minimalism, both on the inside and outside, and combines traditional Vietnamese influences and centuries-old antiques with natural materials and contemporary elegance. Amanoi is designed by the team of fellow Belgian Jean-Michel Gathy, the master architect behind some of the world’s most iconic hotels, such as The Setai in Miami, One & Only Retih Rah in the Maldives, the Marina Sands hotel in Singapore, and several other Aman resorts.
  • Guest accommodations consist of 31 stand-alone pavilions, almost half of them equipped with private pools, and five private residences, all strategically spaced out, ensuring plenty of privacy. There are several accommodation categories to choose from. Mountain and Lake Pavilions offer picturesque views of either the surrounding mountains or the lake, while Mountain Pool Villas offer similar views alongside private swimming pools. Ocean Pavilion are located on the hillside and offer expansive ocean views of Vinh Hy Bay and the East Sea, with Ocean Pool Villas having the added luxury of a private pool. Two pavilions come with their own private spa, so-called Spa Houses (more on that below). Each one of the five Aman residences consists of four or five free-standing bedroom pavilions, as well as living and dining pavilions and a large 120m2 private swimming pool. Residences enjoy butler service in addition to an in-house cook, who meets all guests’ needs, including the preparation of Vietnamese or Western cuisine in the villa’s private kitchen.
  • During my holiday, I was upgraded to a spectacular, so-called Mountain Pool Villa (Villa #6). The villa, which could be opened on two sides by pushing enormous pocket doors into the walls, drew on the grace of Vietnamese design by offering a combined bedroom and living room area. The airy space was equipped with an oversized king-size bed, writing desk, LCD TV with international channels, sound docking system, mini-bar, espresso machine, and a cozy seating area with one sofa and two loungers. The open-plan bathroom, which could be closed off from the bedroom with two pocket doors, featured a large bathtub between two sinks, with on one side an enclosed toilet and on the other a rain shower which had a sliding door towards the garden and large timber deck. The latter featured a magnificent private pool, which was heated and came with underwater lighting for night swimming.
  • Amanoi’s two Spa Houses are the first of their kind in Asia. The Thuy Lien Spa House (meaning Lotus Spa House in Vietnamese) borders Amanoi’s tranquil lotus lake while the An Son Spa House (meaning Peaceful Mountain Spa House in Vietnamese) affords serene vistas of the national park. Both provide guests with completely private facilities together with one or two beautifully appointed guest pavilions. Facilities include a double treatment room, a contemporary Hammam or a wooden-clad Banya, a 15 m (50 ft) swimming pool, relaxation deck, outdoor dining area, steam room, cold plunge pool and Jacuzzi. Guests staying in a Spa House enjoy a daily Hammam or Banya treatment, a daily 90-minute Aman or Vietnamese massage, breakfast, and return airport transfers.
  • Surrounded by million-year-old granite cliffs, the magnificent beach club is located a 10 minute buggy ride from the Central Pavilion along a private patch of gold sand beach. Designed to maximize the stunning views of Vinh Hy Bay, the Beach Club offers a restaurant (open for lunch only), that is outfitted in the resort’s superb minimalist design and wrapped by a large, black tiled infinity pool. Several pairs of very comfortable loungers are placed on the beach and perfectly spaced so that your privacy is never compromised. A range of water sports is available, such as Hobie Cats and kayaks which are perfect for exploring the caves and inlets around the bay. If you are a beach person, you will never want to leave here.
  • Amanoi’s guests are spoilt for choice with two fabulous infinity pools, in addition to the private pools in the villas. The largest pool, 400m2 in size (or 130 ft in length), is located at the Beach Club and overlooks the gold sand beach and the turquoise waters of the marine conservation area around Vinh Hy Bay. The most spectacular pool though is the dramatic cliffside, 140m2 infinity pool, located around the corner of the Central Pavilion; this pool is lined with black volcanic rock and offer stupendous and mesmerizing views of the rocky shoreline. It’s without any doubt one of the most beautiful infinity pools I have ever seen during all my years of traveling, and it demonstrates how well thought the superlative design of the resort is.
  • Amanoi’s superb wellness center is a destination unto itself, a retreat within a retreat, offering a journey of reawakening and relaxation via ancient healing modalities (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda) and modern spa treatments. Surrounded by the rolling hills of the national park, the wellness complex lies beside a lotus-filled lake. Facilities include five double treatment rooms, all with unique double bathtubs, private dressing areas and showers. Two hydrotherapy suites, each equipped with a heated stone treatment table, steam room, Jacuzzi and cold plunge pool, are complemented by hand and foot therapy rooms and a finishing salon. Unique chemical-free spa products are used in a treatment menu drawing on Vietnamese traditions. The spa complex also comprises a spacious, state-of-the-art fitness center, a Pilates Studio, and a gorgeous lakeside Yoga Pavilion at the bottom of the spa’s majestic staircase.
  • Service is impeccable and attentive without being intrusive, as you would expect from an Aman resort. There’s a staff count of four staff to one guest. Rooms are cared for continuously through out the day and the staff magically knows when you’re not there. I did not have any issues with the English standards of the staff. Most speak excellent English, and miraculously, there is always someone popping up to address you in English when confronted with one of the few staff members that is not so fluent in English.
  • Amanoi has two restaurants, both of them serving exquisite food. Set in the heart of the property on the Central Pavilion’s top floor, the main restaurant features soaring columns and has no walls, bringing the outside in. It has an elegant air-conditioned room, which might be a welcome respite from the humid climate, although you may prefer shady alfresco dining on the terrace which comes with terrific views. At night, the dining venue serves Vietnamese specialties (such as handrolls with shrimp and pork and beef pho noodle soup) in addition to continental cuisine, while an à la carte breakfast is offered each morning.  The chef is passionate about his work and takes time to speak to guests about their individual tastes and preferences before preparing a meal. The restaurant at the Beach Club is only open for lunch, and it offers light meals – such as salads, burgers and catch of the day – accompanied by the pristine sand and the gentle sounds of the surf.
  • Amanoi is a self-contained luxury oasis, representing everything that its mother brand Aman tries to achieve: tranquility, exclusivity, and a sense of place. Aman is the world’s most exclusive hotel brand and the company manages a fabulous collection of intimate properties across the globe. The brand is known for the understated elegance of its resorts, exquisite attention to detail, minimalist design, heartfelt service, and otherworldly locations.
  • Among Aman’s habitués is a group of passionate repeat customers who call themselves ‘Aman junkies’ (count me in) and whose travel plans are determined by Aman locations. It’s a misconception that Aman junkies are always incredibly wealthy people: I prefer to spend my money on two nights at an Aman resort than two weeks at any other resort, as you pay for a unique and life-long memory. In all honesty and without exaggeration, an Aman resort makes some Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resorts look like a mediocre Holiday Inn hotel.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Amoi is the most exclusive resort in Vietnam and also my favorite Aman resort in the world. The phenomenal resort blew me off my feet, and the scale, design and setting are stunning beyond words. It’s a hotel I found very hard to fault. In fact it’s nearly perfect, but you may want to know the following nonetheless when considering a stay at Amanoi:

  • Amanoi sprawls across 100 acres of dense forest and rocky outcrops. Because the resort grounds are so spread out – they rank among the most expansive in the world – it does take some time to get around, although a very efficient buggy service is provided with waiting times reduced to the absolute minimum. The rooms, spa, Central Pavilion, and Beach Club are all located a 5 to 10 min gulf card ride from each other, so it does require a bit of organization to plan your schedule during the day. I believe that the resort experience and guest mobility would be enhanced by providing bikes or gulf carts to the guests for the duration of their stay (although the hilly terrain may make that option difficult and right-down dangerous)
  • Although it was probably an anomaly not in line with Aman’s overall superb service, the hotel driver who dropped me off in Nha Trang after my stay displayed a reckless behaviour on the road, despite me asking him to slow down. This is Vietnam, where the lines between traffic safety and danger are not drawn very clearly, but nonetheless, it was the only car transfer in Vietnam where I felt uneasy because of the high speed and repeated overtaking on the narrow winding coastal road. To give you an idea: the route from Amanoi to Nha Trang takes about 2 hours by car, but I was dropped off in less than an hour.
  • The resort has one main restaurant, located in the Central Pavilion, and a less formal dining venue at the beach if the weather allows. The menus did not change during my 3 day stay. So, the food options are a be limited when you consider a longer stay at Amanoi. Perhaps that the addition of daily specials, destinations cuisines, and/or private dining experiences would solve this problem.
  • This off-the-grid place is as remote as it gets. Amanoi is located about a 2 hour drive from the nearest urban center, Nha Thrang, but IMHO, that’s a good thing. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to decompress for a few days. However, if you like night life and action-filled holidays, you may find yourself disappointed, since the Aman brand appeals to a different type of traveler.
  • Yes, the hotel is extremely expensive according to Vietnamese standards, but it’s an Aman hotel, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand, where holiday budgets come to die. You should know that going in. The most important thing is that when you can afford it, you will not be disappointed with the unique experience that awaits you. It’s a place you will never forget.
  • Be prepared to become an Aman junkie as this will raise the bar for all your future trips.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 10/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Pool: 10/10
  • Rooms: 10/10
  • Food: 10/10
  • Breakfast: 10/10
  • Spa: 10/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Value for money: 10/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 10/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Amanoi. Book a room at the cheapest price and/or receive many free perks!
  • Save money: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. villa upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary lunch for two).
  • Any accommodation type at Amanoi is bound to be a showstopper, but Ocean Pavilions with private pools are worth the extra price.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time. Please check with your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate prior to travel. Generally, visas are required to enter, exit or transit through Vietnam. A visa on arrival can be obtained with a pre-approval letter procured through travel agents. Exceptions include passport holders from a select number of countries counting Russia, Japan, South Korea, Scandinavia and ASEAN member countries.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Amanoi’s own micro-climate makes it ideal for travel year round weather-wise. The five star resort is located in the southern part of Vietnam, near Nha Trang, the driest part of the country with very little rainfall. Amanoi experiences a long hot summer from March to October. From mid-November till the second half of February the wind can be very strong and sometimes there is a lot of rain. The Ninh Thuan Province is known to have one of the best climate in the country, with average temperatures ranging from 22ºC to 35ºC (70°F to 95°F). The area is protected by mountain ranges, which means that storms are rare. Approximately 250 days of the year are sunny.


HOW TO GET THERE

Amanoi is located a 75 min drive from Cam Ranh Airport (CXR), which services Nha Trang. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cam Ranh Airport.


ARRIVAL AT AMANOI

ARRIVAL AT AMANOI

ARRIVAL AT AMANOI

ARRIVAL AT AMANOI

AMANOI: OVERVIEW

AMANOI: OVERVIEW

AMANOI: OVERVIEW

AMANOI: OVERVIEW

AMANOI: OVERVIEW

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AMANOI: OVERVIEW

CENTRAL PAVILION: EXTERIOR

CENTRAL PAVILION: EXTERIOR

CENTRAL PAVILION: EXTERIOR

CENTRAL PAVILION: EXTERIOR

CENTRAL PAVILION: EXTERIOR

CENTRAL PAVILION: EXTERIOR

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CENTRAL PAVILION: ARRIVAL AREA

CENTRAL PAVILION: ARRIVAL AREA

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CENTRAL PAVILION: LOWER STAIRCASE

CENTRAL PAVILION: LOWER STAIRCASE

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CENTRAL PAVILION: RECEPTION AREA

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CENTRAL PAVILION: RECEPTION AREA (VIEW)

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CENTRAL PAVILION: UPPER STAIRCASE

CENTRAL PAVILION: UPPER STAIRCASE

CENTRAL PAVILION: UPPER STAIRCASE

CENTRAL PAVILION: UPPER STAIRCASE

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CENTRAL PAVILION: TOP FLOOR

CENTRAL PAVILION: TOP FLOOR

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CENTRAL PAVILION: RESTAURANT

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CENTRAL PAVILION: TERRACE

CENTRAL PAVILION: TERRACE

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CENTRAL PAVILION: BAR

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CENTRAL PAVILION: LIBRARY

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CENTRAL PAVILION: BOUTIQUE SHOP

CENTRAL PAVILION: BOUTIQUE SHOP

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CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

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CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

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CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

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CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

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CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL (VIEW)

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL (VIEW)

CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL (VIEW)

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CENTRAL PAVILION: CLIFFSIDE POOL

BUGGY SERVICE AROUND RESORT

BUGGY SERVICE AROUND RESORT

MOUNTAIN POOL VILLA: ENTRANCE

MOUNTAIN POOL VILLA: ENTRANCE

MOUNTAIN POOL VILLA: LIVING AREA

MOUNTAIN POOL VILLA: LIVING AREA

MOUNTAIN POOL VILLA: LIVING AREA

MOUNTAIN POOL VILLA: LIVING AREA

MOUNTAIN POOL VILLA: LIVING AREA