Travel tip: which airlines offer free in-flight WiFi?

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

Today (April 14, 2017): Travel tip: which airlines offer free in-flight WiFi?

With today’s society having a very difficult time to disconnect and unplug, onboard WiFi is a service that people on the go value highly. Recent research suggests that more than 70% of airline passengers want to have internet access during a flight to avoid boredom, stay in touch with friends and family on the ground, or complete business work. Unfortunately, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to the onboard WiFi, since its exorbitant pricing and ultra-low speed are problematic for most passengers. The good news though is that in-flight WiFi is getting better, faster, and cheaper, and it is an increasingly common feature offered by more and more flagship airlines and low-cost carriers alike. Currently, the US has the best infrastructure and technology for onboard internet than anywhere else in the world, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that North American carriers have better and cheaper WiFi offering as compared to their counterparts in Asia, Europe, Oceania, Latin America or Africa.

In this article:

  • How does inflight WiFi work?
  • Why is inflight WiFi so expensive?
  • Which airlines offer free WiFi

INFLIGHT WIFI


How does inflight WiFi work?

There are two ways for an internet signal to reach an aircraft at 12 km (40,000 ft).

Ground-to-air

As the name implies, the signal goes from the airplane’s antenna (usually on the belly of the fuselage) directly to mobile broadband towers on the ground. As the airplane travels across different sections of airspace, the connection switches from one tower to the next, similar to what happens with your cell phone when you’re driving. However, the ground-based towers used for onboard WiFi are much larger than those that are used for mobile phones as they point up instead of out to the side. As an airplane passenger, you won’t notice any interruption of the internet connection unless the plane flies over large bodies of water or remote terrain. Gogo is the top provider of this type of service, and currently offers a bandwidth for its newest generation system (ATG4) of up to 10 megabits per second (Mbps) per airplane, which is three times the data speeds of the first generation technology. This is enough for sending and receiving emails, and casual web surfing, but not for streaming videos. The data are equally distributed among the users in the plane, so as a result, the onboard internet slows down as more passengers on the same plane connect to the WiFi service.

Satellite

With this technology, the signal from an airplane travels in space to orbiting satellites, which connect with earth via receivers and transmitters. These are the same satellites that are used for weather forecasting, television signals, and covert military operations. The signal is transmitted to and from your devices (e.g. laptop, smart phone, tablet) via an antenna on the top of the airplane, which connects to the closest satellite. This is the primary technology used for overwater flights (e.g. USA to Europe, or USA to Oceania) or flights over remote areas (eg. Siberia) where ground-based mobile towers are not an option. WiFi via satellite technology is slightly slower as compared to ground-to-air transmission, since the signal travels from the jet to a satellite orbiting some 35,000 km (22,000 mi) above the earth and back again in a bit over half a second. In addition, the download speed of the internet depends on the number of airplanes that are connected with a satellite at any given time. Currently, there are three types of satellite transmission that offer different levels of performance (the “band” in use refers to the radio frequencies used to and from the satellite:):

  • L-band (e.g. Inmarsat Swift Broadband) uses frequencies in the 1 to 2GHz range and offers a maximum of 422 kilobites per second (kbps) per airplane
  • Ku-band (e.g. Panasonic, Global Eagle, and Gogo) uses approximately 12-18GHz and offers a maximum 20-40Mbps per airplane.
  • Ka-band (e.g. ViaSat) uses the 26.5-40GHz segment of the electromagnetic spectrum higher speed and currently offers the fastest Wi-Fi service available for airlines with speeds of up to 70 Mbps per airplane. This is similar to the speed you are used to in your home.

Airlines may use a mix of any of the above networks. United, for example, offers service from Gogo, Panasonic or ViaSat depending on the aircraft you fly.


Why is inflight WiFi so expensive?

It is clear that inflight WiFi involves a lot of state-of-the-art technology, engineering and maintenance, and all of that doesn’t come cheap. In addition, antennas on the fuselage’s belly (ground-to-air signalling) or top (satellite transmission) also increase drag, thus increasing fuel burn and fuel related costs to the airline’s bill. All those extra costs are usually passed on to passengers, except for a few airlines (cf below).


What airlines offer free WiFi?

Want to know which airlines offer inflight internet access? Here’s the complete list. Think I forgot one? Please share your experience in the comments section.

North American airlines

  • JetBlue Airways: Basic service is free, and premium service is $9 per hour.

European airlines

  • Norwegian: Free service on flights within Europe and between the US and Caribbean (no service on transatlantic flights).
  • Finnair: Business Class passengers and Finnair Plus Gold members can enjoy complimentary internet access for one hour. For Finnair Plus Platinum members the service is complimentary for the whole flight.
  • Aer Lingus: WiFi is complimentary for Business Class passengers.

Middle Eastern airlines

  • Emirates: The airlineoffers 10MB of data free to all passengers, with an extra 500MB for $1 on Airbus A380 aircraft.
  • Qatar Airways: Free for the first 15 minutes, then $5 for one hour or $10 for three hours. On longer flights, passengers can access wifi for the duration of the trip for a flat fee of $20.
  • Turkish Airlines: WiFi is complimentary for Business Class passengers, and for Economy Class passengers who are members of its Elite or Elite Plus rewards program.

Asian airlines

  • Philippine Airlines: The airline offers 30 minutes of free inflight WiFi across all cabin classes.
  • Air China: The airline offers free download speeds of up to 30Mbps, but the service is only available on domestic flights and can only be used on a tablet or laptop – not a smartphone.
  • China Eastern: The airline  offers free WiFi but passengers are limited to 258 yuan worth of use on both domestic and international flights.
  • Nok Air: The airline offers free WiFi for the duration of the flight, although it is only available on a small number of aircraft.

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


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South African Airways A340 Business Class Cape Town to Johannesburg

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

I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in South Africa. You can read my trip reports here:


Today (April 12, 2017): Trip report: South African Airways Airbus A340-600 Cape Town to Johannesburg.

On January 21st 2017, I flew Business Class in an Airbus A340-600 of South African Airways (SAA) from Cape Town International Airport (CPT) to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in South Africa. SAA is the flag carrier and largest airline of South Africa, and was founded in 1934. It operates a fleet of more than 50 aircraft, including 9 Airbus A340-600 planes, once known as the longest airplane in the world. The flight duration from CPT to JNB was less than 2 hours, but it gave me a good impression of the overall product. The Business Class cabin looks a bit dated, although the fully flatbed seat was still very comfortable (with plenty of space for your legs). Unfortunately, the food on this flight was horrible and a shame for an otherwise great airline. SAA has recently introduced a new product (which looks stunning), but so far it is only available on its newly delivered A330-300 aircraft.

  • Trip: CPT-JNB
  • Airline: South African Airways
  • Aircraft type: Airbus A340-600
  • Aircraft registration number: ZS-SNB (built in 2002)
  • Flight Number: SA336
  • Date: January 18th, 2017
  • On time departure: Yes (2 pm)
  • On time arrival: Yes (3.45 pm)
  • Miles: 789
  • Flight time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Seat: 6A
  • Class: Business Class

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

  1. SAA Lounge at Cape Town
  2. Fact & Figures about the Airbus A360-400
  3. Business Class Cabin
  4. Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
  5. Amenities
  6. Meal
  7. Entertainment
  8. Other inflight experiences
  9. My verdict
  10. Photos

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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1. SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE AT CAPE TOWN 

The SAA Business Lounge at Cape Town International Airport is located one floor above the main concourse, and can be accessed via a long entryway and a reception desk whose design reflects that of a boat. The lounge itself is a rectangular shaped space and features a modern, sleek decor. It feels very spacious and airy due to the high ceilings and the floor-to-ceiling windows that offer views of the check-in hall on one side and the runway (with the Hottentots Holland Mountains at the horizon) on the other side. In fact, the bright, natural light filled space offers some the greatest tarmac views of any airport lounge in the world. The lounge has several cozy seating areas, as well an open-sided business center in its center and an enclosed entertainment room and smoking lounge on the side. At the time of my visit (around noon), a small buffet was displayed near the reception, which featured mainly cold items such salads, vegetables, cookies, and sandwiches in addition to one hot dish (chicken). While I was not impressed by the poor food offerings, I did like it to hang around in the lounge and enjoy the thrilling views of aircraft taking off and landing.

From the lounge, it was a 10 minute walk to the gate, where we had to board a bus that took us to the Airbus A340-600’s remote parking spot.

SAA CHECK-IN AREA

SAA CHECK-IN AREA

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE (ENTRANCE)

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE (VIEW OF CHECK-IN HALL)

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE

SAA BUSINESS LOUNGE


2. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT THE AIRBUS A340-600

Here are some facts about the A340-600, as provided by Wikipedia.

  • The Airbus A340 is a long-range, four-engine, wide-body commercial passenger jet airliner developed and produced by the European aerospace company Airbus.
  • The A340 seats up to 375 passengers in the standard variants and 440 in the stretched -600 series.
  • The A340 provides similar passenger capacity to the (earlier variants of the) Boeing B747 but with 25 percent more cargo volume, and at lower trip and seat costs.
  • The first flight of the A340-600 was made on 23 April 2001.
  • Virgin Atlantic was the launch customer of the A340-600, with commercial services beginning in August 2002.
  • The A340-600 held the record as the world’s longest commercial aircraft until February 2010 with the first flight of the Boeing 747-8.
  • The A340 was/is mainly used on long-haul, trans-oceanic routes due to its immunity from ETOPS restrictions; however, with reliability and fuel efficiency in engines improving, airlines have gradually phased out the type in favour of the more economical twinjets.
  • Airbus has positioned the larger variants of the Airbus A350 as a successor of the A340-600.
  • Currently, there are less than 80 A340-600 aircraft in service, with Lufthansa and Iberia being the type’s largest operators.
  • SAA operates 9 A340-600 planes in its fleet

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600

SAA AIRBUS A340-600


3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

SAA recently introduced a new Business Class, but that product is currently only available on the carrier’s newly delivered A330-300 planes, and the A340-600 on this particular flight still featured SSA’s old Business Class seats. SAA’s A340-600 Business Class is located in one large cabin in front of the plane. There are 42 seats in total, spread across seven rows in a classic 2-2-2 configuration. All seats face forward, and except for the window seats, all seats have direct aisle access. The cabin’s layout and design look dated when compared to the current Business Class standards, although the fully flatbed seats offer plenty of space for your legs.

Click here for a seat map of SAA’s A340-600.

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

BUSINESS CLASS CABIN (INFLIGHT)

INFLIGHT MAGAZINE: NEW SAA BUSINESS CLASS

INFLIGHT MAGAZINE: NEW SAA BUSINESS CLASS

INFLIGHT MAGAZINE: NEW SAA BUSINESS CLASS


4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (& WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE)

I had prebooked seat 6K, which is located in the back of the cabin, along the window. The seat next to me remained empty, so I was able to take plenty of photos and clips.

The seat itself, covered in blue leather, has a pitch of 73 inch (185 cm) and a width of 23,7 inch (60 cm). One armrest holds the rather small tray table, which needs to be pulled out manually. The other armrest features a table that is shared with the adjoining seat and which can be extended by another hidden table located below the armrest’s surface (perfect when you want to have a drink during the flight without having to pull out the tray table). Behind that small table surface, you find a panel with the seat controls that can be used to adjust the seat position or activate the built-in massage unit. The disappointingly small entertainment screen is located in a compartment below the center armrest and needs to be pulled out and tilted towards you. There’s also a (very) small divider between two adjoining seats that can be raised for added privacy in case you end up being seated next to a stranger.

The seat lacks proper storage space, although there are a few compartments around the seat that can be used to store your stuff during the flight. The back of the seat in front of you has two pockets, one of them containing the inflight magazine and safety card. In addition to these two seatback pockets, there are also two cubbies in the back of the two adjoining seats in front of you, which are great for storing your glasses, wallet or smart phone. At the bottom of the seat in front of you is also a small locker, which can be used to store your shoes.

At the touch of a button, the seat converts into a generous flat-bed.

What are the best Business Class seats on SAA A340-600? Click here for a seat map.

  • All seats in the cabin, except for the first and last row, are quiet good, especially for couples.

What are the worst Business Class seats on SAA A340-600? Click here for a seat map.

  • The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a small screen though between seats that can be raised for added privacy.
  • Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
  • Passengers seated in the first row may be bothered by the noise of the galley and passengers going to or returning from the lavatories.
  • I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class, which is close to the Economy bassinet seats.

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K

BUSINESS CLASS SEAT 6K (FLAT BED POSITION)


5. AMENITIES

This was a very short flight (1 hour 45 minutes) and amenities – such as blankets, pillows and amenity kit – were not provided.


6. MEALS

Although I did not expect much from the food, given the short duration of the flight, I was utterly disappointed by the meal I received, especially from the national carrier of a country that is renowned all over the globe for its delicious cuisine. The meal consisted of a sandwich with chicken and a bad tasting mayonnaise, a poor salad, and a brownie. The taste and the presentation of the meal were unappetizing and not acceptable for Business Class (nor Economy Class). Bad points for SAA!

LUNCH

LUNCH

LUNCH

LUNCH

LUNCH


7. INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

SAA states the following on its website: “Thanks to our on demand inflight entertainment system, boredom is not an option on SAA. With over 100 movies to enjoy, up to 100 TV features including series, comedy and kids programming. 170 audio albums, 14 radio channels and 15 games, there’s plenty to choose from”. Unfortunately, none of that was available during the short flight, so I assume they only offer inflight entertainment on their longhaul flights. The only two features I had access to on my small screen with bad resolution, were an old-fashioned flight map, and the view from a tail camera.

TAIL CAMERA


8. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# CREW:  The all South African crew on this flight was lovely, professional and made time to have a chat with most passengers in Business Class. I admit that I am in love with South Africa and its people, so I am very biassed, but I would fly SAA again in a heartbeat, simply because of its wonderful crew.

# BAR: The SAA A340-600 does not have an onboard walk-up bar..

# LAVATORY: There are two lavatories for Business Class passengers, both of them located in front of the cabin, behind the cockpit.

LAVATORY

LAVATORY

LAVATORY

# WIFI: SAA does currently not offer WiFi on its fleet.

# FLIGHT PATH: the flight took us all the way over South Africa. The views upon takeoff of the Cape Peninsula were breathtaking, and you wan watch most of these in my Youtube clip. Before landing, the captain had to navigate a few nasty thunderstorms.

VIEW DURING PUSHBACK


9. MY VERDICT
  • Lounge: 8/10
  • Seat : 5/10
  • Food:  2/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 3/10
  • Service: 8/10
  • Cabin: 6/10
  • Overall experience: mediocre: 5/10

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Top 10: world’s most magnificent castle hotels

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (April 9, 2017): Top 10 world’s best castle & palace hotels.

All around our beautiful planet, historic manors, lavish palaces and medieval castles have been renovated and transformed into some of the world’s most astonishing luxury hotels. Castle hotels are so popular – particularly among travelers from the Middle East and Asia – that some have even been built from scratch with the sole purpose to please travelers in search of a fairytale getaway. Even just a one night stay in any of these fabulous palaces and castles will make you feel like the kings, queens, emperors and sultans who once laid their heads there. I hereby present you my top 10 list of the world’s most magnificent castle and palace hotels.

There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite castle or palace hotel in the comments section, or take my poll below.

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10. INVERLOCHY CASTLE HOTEL, SCOTLAND

Inverlochy is Scotland’s finest luxury hotel and restaurant uniquely located amongst the glens, lochs and mountains of the West Highlands of Scotland. During a trip to Balmoral in 1873, Queen Victoria spent a week at Inverlochy sketching and painting where she wrote in her diaries ‘I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot’.  Each of the 17 bedrooms, all with private bathroom, have their own individual design and character, along with splendid views of the grounds and surrounding mountains. Dining is in any of the castle’s three dining rooms, each decorated with period and elaborate furniture presented as gifts to Inverlochy Castle from the King of Norway, creating a unique experience in unrivalled surroundings.

  • Hotel website: Inverlochy Castle Hotel
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and a choice of luxury picnic including a half bottle of wine or a full afternoon tea including a glass of champagne once during your stay).

INVERLOCHY CASTLE HOTEL, SCOTLAND


9. UMAID BHAWAN PALACE JODHPUR, INDIA

Perched high above the desert capital of Jodhpur, Umaid Bhawan Palace is the last of the great palaces of India turned into a luxury heritage hotel that will leave you spellbound. The Palace was built, between 1928 and 1943, for H.H. Maharaja Umaid Singh Ji, who had benevolently commissioned a new palace in 1923 to replace Mehrangarh Fort as the symbol of a new Jodhpur and to give employment to the people of Marwar during the period’s great droughts and famines. Set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens, with dancing peacocks and a subterranean Zodiac Pool, the luxury five-star Taj heritage hotel offers 64 utterly breathtaking Art Deco- style rooms and suites. The lavish interiors with gilt furniture and elegant artwork follow the Art Deco style, complemented by the exotic murals of the self-exiled Polish artist Stefan Norblin.

  • Hotel website: Umaid Bhawan Palace
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and one lunch or dinner for two).

UMAID BHAWAN PALACE JODHPUR, INDIA


8. THE EMIRATES PALACE, ABU DHABI, UAE

The Emirates Palace was created with the aim of showcasing Arabian culture. It is located on 1.3 km of 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 has 394 accommodations, 302 of which are rooms and the remainder are suites, all of them furnished in gold and marble. The hotel is managed by Kempinski.

  • Hotel website: The Emirates Palace
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD resort credit).

THE EMIRATES PALACE, ABU DHABI, UAE


7. THE CASTLE HOTEL, DALIAN, CHINA

Managed by Marriott’s The Luxury Collection, The Castle Hotel commands an imposing presence as a palatial Bavarian-style castle set amid lush foliage on Lotus Mountain in Dalian, Northeast China. Overlooking Xinghai Square and the Yellow Sea, the hotel offers 292 luxurious guest rooms and suites as well as 67 residences, offering stunning ocean views with meticulous interior designs. Reimagined by HBA Interior Design, the hotel boasts an opulent, contemporary design where each detail – from the wall decorations and furniture to the ornaments and art collections – tells a story. Following the hotel’s extensive renovation, the exterior of the hotel remains true to the original European-inspired architecture with hand-selected stones gracing the façade of the castle.

THE CASTLE HOTEL, DALIAN, CHINA


6. DROMOLAND CASTLE, IRELAND

Dromoland Castle – one of Ireland’s finest castle hotels – was once thehome of the O’Briens of Dromoland who were the Kings of Thomond and whose lineage goes back 1,000 years to Brian Boru, the only High King of Ireland. Here, guests descend grand staircases under glittering antique chandeliers, meander through elegant hallways and beautifully furnished state rooms, and luxuriate in plush, sink-in sofas in front of large, ornate fireplaces with blazing log fires. Dromoland Castle offers its guests deluxe accommodations and the experience of living like landed gentry, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, absolute luxury and exceptional service.

  • Hotel website: Dromoland Castle
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and a one way or roundtrip airport transfer to Shannon International Airport).

DROMOLAND CASTLE, IRELAND


5. HOTEL DE LA CITE CARCASSONNE – MGALLERY BY SOFITEL, FRANCE

The walled city of Carcassonne stands high on a hill above the River Aude, overlooking the valley of Laurageais and the lush Minervois vineyards. It is Europe’s largest fortified citadel, each stone a mute witness to its romantic past. Standing between two historic landmarks, the Roman Chateau Comtal and the Gothic Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, the Hotel de la Cite is set in its own glorious gardens. Each of its 60 rooms and suites is individually furnished and decorated in traditional style – matched by modern comfort, and all rooms feature the most up to date facilities including air conditioning, sound-proofing, direct dial telephone and television. The redecoration of the hotel has been coordinated by the celebrated designers Gerard Gallet and Jean-Michel Ley.

HOTEL DE LA CITE CARCASSONNE – MGALLERY BY SOFITEL, FRANCE


4. CASTELLO BANFI – IL BORGO, TUSCANY, ITALY

This ancient stone hamlet rose in the 1700s under the nurturing shade and protective walls and towers of Castello di Poggio alle Mura and served as the dwelling of farmers who toiled for the noble landowners. Today is has been re-styled into the luxurious rooms and suites of this crown jewel of Tuscan hospitality. At Castello Banfi – Il Borgo you will find a refined and exclusive atmosphere where you can relax immersed in the Tuscan countryside, in one of its most historic, evocative and best preserved sites. The hotel offers 9 rooms and 5 suites, each different in dimension, position and decorations, but all endowed with carefully selected furniture, fabrics, and luxury accoutrements. Since Castello Banfi – il Borgo is set on top of a hill, all rooms enjoy a spectacular view onto the surrounding valleys with their constellation of noble vineyards.

  • Hotel website: Castello Banfi – Il Borgo
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, bottle of Cuvée Aurora Rosé in room upon arrival, and a two course lunch paired to Castello Banfi wines).

CASTELLO BANFI – IL BORGO, TUSCANY, ITALY


3. CHATEAU SAINT-MARTIN & SPA, COTE D’AZUR, FRANCE

Chateau Saint Martin & Spa – member of the prestigious Oetker Collection – sits on 13 hectares (approximately 32 acres) of a rugged hillside and overlooks the medieval village of St.-Paul-de-Vence.  The blue Mediterranean can be seen in the distance, so if you’re looking for a romantic and private place to stay along the Riviera look no further. The property dates back to 1115, when the Knights Templar were granted the land by the Count of Provence.  Chateau Saint Martin  was built in 1936, but part of the Templar castle—a battered wall and the remnants of a drawbridge—stands as a potent reminder of this parcel’s rich history. All the guestrooms have exquisitely refined interiors, with the owner’s personal attention to detail and there are fabulous views over the sweep of the Côte d’Azur from Nice to Cannes.

  • Hotel website: Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD spa credit).

CHATEAU SAINT-MARTIN & SPA, COTE D’AZUR, FRANCE


2. ASHFORD CASTLE, IRELAND

Unrivalled service and five star luxury await at the magnificent five star Ashford Castle, part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection and a member of Leading Hotels of the World. Situated in a spectacular 350 acre estate on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib, the castle dates back to 1228 and features splendid interiors brimming with antique furniture, fine fabrics and unique features at every turn. With 82 spectacular rooms, suites and the Hideaway Cottage, a wealth of activities and plenty of thoughtful touches, guests will enjoy acclaimed Irish hospitality on a grand scale. From fine dining to a wealth of activities on the doorstep, a stay at Ashford Castle is perfect for romantic breaks, family escapes and elegant private events.

  • Hotel website: Ashford Castle
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).

ASHFORD CASTLE, IRELAND


1. TAJ LAKE PALACE, UDAIPUR, INDIA

The Taj Lake Palace is a marble fantasy that floats magically on the still blue waters of Lake Pichola. The hotel has 83 centrally air-conditioned rooms including 17 suites, some of which are breathtakingly beautiful. It was built in 1746 as the pleasure palace of Maharana Jagat Singh II. Restored to its pristine glory, this spectacular palace became world-renowned  when the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’ was filmed at it. This heritage hotel has  66 luxurious rooms and 17 grand suites. Its location on an island in the midst of a lake affords every room breathtaking views of the neighbouring City Palace, Aravalli Hills, Machla Magra Hills and Jag Mandir. Probably the most romantic hotel in the world, this 262-year old palace offers guests a unique blend of serenity and opulence.

  • Hotel website: Taj Lake Palace
  • Other accolades: Taj Lake Palace features in my top 10 list of luxury hotels made famous by movies.
  • Tip: get complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and one complimentary lunch or dinner ).

TAJ LAKE PALACE, UDAIPUR, INDIA


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Review: Ellerman House, Cape Town (South Africa)

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

I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in South Africa. You can read my trip reports here:


Today (April 5, 2017): Review of Ellerman House, Cape Town’s most exclusive hotel (South Africa).
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: 180 Kloof Rd, Bantry Bay, Cape Town, 8005, South Africa
  • Hotel website: Ellerman House
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso

Ellerman House is a superb 5 star hotel in the premier Cape Town suburb of Bantry Bay. The true splendour of the hotel rests in faithful preservation of its historical architecture, combined with discreet hospitality and efficient service reflecting the ambience experienced only in the comfort and familiarity of home. Ellerman House consists of 13 bedrooms and 2 three-bedroom villas, all individually crafted to provide a fabric of fantasy, luxury and pure indulgence. Sweeping views across the Atlantic Ocean are enjoyed from the private balconies and the lawned terraces surrounding the large, heated swimming pool. Exquisite meals created by acclaimed international chefs are displayed to perfection on china, silver and crystal. The hotel also has two of the finest collections of South African original art and vintage wines.

Ellerman House features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in South Africa and the best luxury hotels in Cape Town.

In this review (more info & photos below our 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

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Ellerman House sits perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in the Bantry Bay residential area, one of Cape Town’s most exclusive and prestigious suburbs along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel is just ten minutes away from the popular Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and within walking distance of the world-famous and spectacular Clifton and Camps Bay beaches.
  • The hotel is housed in an elegant Cape Edwardian mansion, which was once the home of shipping magnates Sir John and Lady Ellerman. Built in 1906, Ellerman House was the very first house in Bantry Bay and thus holds prime position on the mountainside. The property was acquired by current owner Paul Harris, the founding member of First Rand Group Ltd, in 1988. After extensive renovations, the mansion opened its doors in 1992 as a small hotel with just seven elegantly decorated rooms. Over the past 25 years, the hotel has continued to grow by adding new rooms, wings and villas and it now has 11 rooms and 2 multi-bedroom villas.
  • The entrance to Ellerman House is rather unassuming and deceptively small. However, once inside, the sheer size and exquisite decor of the property will blow you off your feet. A grand staircase lined by a host of portrait paintings leads to the main floor below, where you find several salons and rooms, such as a grand living room with piano and fireplace, a library, an intimate dining room, a pantry, and a small room in the back that serves as the reception area. Because of its homely layout, the magnificent mansion feels much more like an ultra-luxurious house rather than a five-star hotel. It’s like a home away from home – just a much nicer home.
  • The public areas inside the main building feature a timeless and classic decor with rich wooden panelling, soft lush carpets, Dutch Cape antiques, and spectacular chandeliers. But it’s the impressive art collection that lines the walls that is the soul of Ellerman House and what sets the mansion apart from other boutique hotels in South Africa. The works span over two centuries, from paintings of the famous Thomas Bowler showcasing Cape Town in the 1800s to contemporary works from artists such as Lionel Smith and William Kentridge. The art inside the house rivals that of the best art museums and you will need time to stop and really take in each exquisite piece. There’s even a Contemporary Art Gallery below the garden, built in 2009, since owner Paul Harris realized he needed more space to house his ever-growing art collection.
  • Just like art, wine is taken very seriously at Ellerman House. Integrating outstanding contemporary architecture with breathtaking sculptural elements and cutting-edge design, Ellerman House’s sentational wine gallery is not only a showcase for the hotel’s extensive, award-winning wine collection but offers guests a unique, interactive journey into the world of wine. ‘The Corkscrew’ is the gallery’s central piece of art, made of carbon fibre and holding 1500 bottles of Africa’s best wines in a temperature controlled room. A separate space within the wine gallery is dedicated to the South African brandy industry, where an installation of handblown glass decanters is the eye-catcher. There is also a Champagne cellar, stocked exclusively with rare and special vintages of Dom Pérignon.
  • Ellerman House consists of 13 bedrooms and 2 three bedroom villas. Each room is individually decorated offering all the luxuries of five-star accommodations. During my visit, I stayed in a spacious Deluxe Spa Room, which is uniquely located inside the spa area. The twin-bedded room was characterized by an airy, light-filled, contemporary interior. The en-suite bathroom featured a stand-alone bathtub, a sink, a separate toilet, a separate shower, and Charlotte Rhys products (South Africa’s premier spa product brand). The room’s double sliding wooden doors opened to a lovely deck with jetted pool. The latter was shared by another Deluxe Spa Room on the other side of the Spa, making these two rooms ideal to book together for a family or a group of friends (so you can enjoy the pool deck in all privacy).
  • Entirely separate from Ellerman House yet on the same property, two exclusive-use, privately staffed villas offer all the benefits of being attached to a small hotel with the advantage of complete privacy and flexibility and are perfectly suited to families or friends. Built on multiple levels with en suite bedrooms, spacious entertainment and relaxation areas, and private infinity pools, each villa epitomizes the glamorous beach lifestyle for which Cape Town has become so famous.
  • Ellerman House is surrounded by magnificent, terraced, indigenous gardens, which are the perfect vantage point from which to take in the spectacular ocean views. The gardens were modeled after and inspired by Cape Town’s world-famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, resulting in an amazing showcase of iconic South African species from all over the country, such as statuesque aloes from the Eastern Cape and succulents from the Karoo. The gardens are at their prettiest in spring when many of the species are in flower, while in summer late-flowering proteas create a dramatic display against the backdrop of the ocean.
  • Located on the lower terrace of Ellerman House, the hotel’s outdoor lap pool enjoys great views across the Atlantic Ocean and is heated by heat pump and solar to a comfortable temperature. The pool is quite large (20 x 6 m, or 66 x 20 ft), so it’s perfect for guests who want to swim as part of their workout. One side of the pool is adorned with a fabulous Dylan Louis sculpture of a cheetah.
  • The Ellerman House Spa is a natural extension of the property’s commitment to quality and personalized service. Situated on the ground floor of Villa One, it is approached through a garden with tranquil water features, lush indigenous plants and ocean views. With two single treatment rooms and one double room designed for couples, the spa specialises in cutting-edge massage techniques and anti-ageing beauty rituals drawing on the wisdom and restorative, healing techniques of different cultures from around the world. In addition, there is a sensation shower, sauna and steam room for hydrotherapy.
  • The superb food is another highlight at Ellerman House and some of the best I ever enjoyed in South Africa. As guests enjoy panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the hotel’s team of dedicated chefs delight with vibrant South African inspired recipes, such as Kingklip and Malay braised lamb shoulder. Executive Chef  Grant Daniels brings his classically inspired style with a nod to his Cape Malay roots to guests at Ellerman House. Growing up on the Cape Flats, just outside Cape Town, Grant’s passion for cooking was sparked by spending time in the kitchen with his mother while she prepared traditional Cape Malay dishes for Sunday lunch.
  • Opposite the glass-walled kitchen is a 24-hour pantry snack station (known as the Sugar Shack), which is well stocked with complimentary pastries, colourful candies and cold drinks. Fresh, homemade treats are prepared daily, perfect for a light snack between meals or ideal for supplies whilst out for the day.
  • The true splendour of Ellerman House rests in faithful preservation of its historical architecture, combined with discreet hospitality and efficient service reflecting the ambience experienced only in the comfort and familiarity of home.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Ellerman House is the best hotel in Cape Town. Period. Its superb hillside setting, fine art collection, phenomenal wine gallery, exquisite food and superb service are unmatched in South Africa’s Mother City. Yet, you need to know the following when you consider a stay here:

  • Significant building work is taking place at two properties below Ellerman House.  Although it does not take anything away from the incredible location and exceptional experiences, it does cause some noise disturbance during the day, especially in the garden and for guests of Villa One (which also houses the Spa Deluxe Rooms) and Villa Two. The construction works will be finished by the end of this year. Unfortunately, I was not made aware of this situation before my arrival (which would have been the right thing to do for the hotel).
  • Ellerman House is located in Cape Town’s most affluent residential areas, and as such, there are no restaurants or cafés in the neighbourhood. If there is a hotel car available, the hotel will arrange complimentary transfers, or call on their preferred taxi services to take you to the city centre, Victoria & Albert Waterfront or Camps Bay beach (all within a 10-minute radius).
  • Although the property is famous for its magnificent sea view, there are a couple of rooms that don’t come with a sea view, being the spa rooms (although these rooms enjoy sea views from their shared pool deck) and the accommodations labeled as ‘classic rooms’.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 10/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9,2/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Ellerman House (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free daily breakfast, a paired chocolate and South African brandy tasting with the hotel’s sommelier, complimentary WiFi, early check-in and late check-out).
  • All but two (No 6 and 5) rooms share the same magnificent sea view, so be sure to avoid these two rooms if a spectacular vista is what you envy during your stay.
  • The two Deluxe Spa Rooms share a private pool deck, and are ideal for larger travel parties (couple of friends, families).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Cape Town’s hot, dry summer months run from late October to early April. Temperatures reach their peak between December and February, and this is generally seen as when to go to Cape Town for the best beach weather. Winter months (May to September) can be a wet, cold and rather disappointing affair.


HOW TO GET THERE

Ellerman House is located a 30 minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. The latter is served by the major African full-service and low-cost airlines, as well as by most major European and Middle East Carriers (click here for a direct link to their websites). Currently, Singapore Airlines is the only Asian carrier to serve this marvelous destination. Check the Wikipedia page of Cape Town International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cape Town.


ELLERMAN HOUSE: EXTERIOR

ELLERMAN HOUSE: EXTERIOR

ELLERMAN HOUSE: EXTERIOR

ELLERMAN HOUSE: EXTERIOR

ELLERMAN HOUSE: EXTERIOR

ELLERMAN HOUSE: ENTRANCE

ELLERMAN HOUSE: ENTRANCE

ELLERMAN HOUSE: ENTRANCE

ELLERMAN HOUSE: ENTRANCE

ELLERMAN HOUSE: ENTRANCE

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

COMMUNAL AREAS: STAIRCASE & HALL

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COMMUNAL AREAS: RECEPTION AREA

TERRACE & GARDENS

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TERRACE & GARDENS (VIEW)

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TERRACE & GARDENS (VIEW)

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SPA ENTRANCE

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

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DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

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DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOMS (SHARED POOL DECK)

DELUXE SPA ROOM 2

DELUXE SPA ROOM 2

DELUXE SPA ROOM 2

DELUXE SPA ROOM 2

DELUXE SPA ROOM 2

DELUXE SPA ROOM 2

DELUXE SPA ROOM 2

SPA FACILITIES

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DELUXE SPA ROOM 1

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GYM

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ART GALLERY

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ELLERMAN HOUSE AT NIGHT

ELLERMAN HOUSE AT NIGHT

ELLERMAN HOUSE AT NIGHT

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LUNCH

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DINNER

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VIEW OF CAPE TOWN FROM SIGNAL HILL

VIEW OF CAPE TOWN FROM SIGNAL HILL

VIEW OF CAPE TOWN FROM SIGNAL HILL

VIEW OF CAPE TOWN FROM SIGNAL HILL

VIEW OF CAPE TOWN FROM SIGNAL HILL

VIEW OF CAPE TOWN FROM SIGNAL HILL

VIEW OF CAPE TOWN FROM SIGNAL HILL

CLIFTON

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CAMPS BAY

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CAMPS BAY


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Top 10: the most astonishing beach retreats in Europe

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (March 27, 2017): Top 10 most astonishing beach retreats in Europe.

I previously published top 10 lists of the most stunning (and my preferred) beach resorts in Asia and  Africa, two continents blessed with spectacular, sugar white beaches. Today, I take you to my home continent, Europe, where summer is around the corner and millions are preparing for a sundrenched holiday in the South. However, the Mediterranean Sea – where Europe’s most fabulous coastal resorts are located – is not particularly known for its beaches, which often tend to be narrow and composed of pebbles, mostly explained by the fact that the Mediterranean Sea has tides of a very low amplitude due to its very narrow outlet/inlet into the Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, it’s the Europe’s prime summer playground, offering spectacular natural scenery including ancient pine forests and scalloped bays. Here, you can treat yourself to an unforgettable holiday in one of my 10 favorite coastal retreats.

There is more info below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite European beach retreat in the comments section, or take my poll below!

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10. HOTEL CALA DI VOLPE, SARDINIA, ITALY

Lying on the most strikingly romantic stretch of the Costa Smeralda, the Hotel Cala Di Volpe, A Luxury Collection Hotel, resembles a charming fishing village, with its picturesque Sardinian houses and landing stage jutting out into a sea of translucent turquoise, emerald-green and deepest azure. Each of the 100 sea-view rooms and 21 suites pays tribute to Sardinia’s unique artistry and natural beauty. The minimal chic decor is inspired by traditional Sardinian workmanship. And for an even more exclusive ambience, the Presidential Suite, with three bedrooms, two lounges, a steam bath, one private heated swimming pool and a stunning view of the emerald bay.

  • Hotel website: Hotel Cala Di Volpe
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, $200 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in, late check-out, and daily breakfast for 2).

HOTEL CALA DI VOLPE, SARDINIA, ITALY


9. W BARCELONA, SPAIN

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. Rising like a sail from the Mediterranean’s brown sands, it is as much a work of modern art as it is a luxury brand hotel. Designed by world-renowned architect Ricardo Bofill, W Barcelona sets the scene for a spectacular stay just steps from the famous Barceloneta boardwalk. The hotel offers direct access to the 2-mile long man-made Barceloneta beach, where you also find the property’s private beach club.


8. BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA, SICILY, ITALY

With an exclusive location on the Bay of Mazzarò, considered one of the most beautiful in all of Italy, the elegant Villa Sant’Andrea nestles on its own private beach, facing the glittering aquamarine sea. Built by an aristocratic family in 1830, the Villa, surrounded by lush, subtropical gardens, retains all the charm of a private residence. Mazzarò is conveniently connected to the Toarmina’s town centre by cable car and is therefore just three minutes from the heart of Taormina’s many attractions. Villa Sant’Andrea has 60 elegant rooms and suites, the majority of which look out over the beach and pristine waters of the private Bay of Mazzarò. Most rooms feature expansive balconies and terraces, equipped with tables and chairs so that guests can enjoy an al fresco breakfast overlooking the sparkling sea.

  • Hotel website: Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in, late check-out, and daily breakfast for 2).

BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA, SICILY, ITALY


7. THE ROMANOS, COSTA NAVARINO, GREECE

Largely untouched by mass tourism, Costa Navarino harbors cultural values, traditions and a history of more than 4,500 years, which live in harmony with one of the most stunning scenic landscapes of the Mediterranean. It’s also the home of the stunning Romanos resort, which rests on a breathtaking stretch of sandy beach along the coast of the Ionian Sea, offering easy access to the best this intoxicating region has to offer. UNESCO World Heritage List sites, including famous Olympia, Mystras and the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, as well as Ancient Messini, the Palace of Nestor, are all within driving distance. This is the perfect location for unrivaled relaxation within one of the 321 incomparable rooms, suites and villas.

  • Hotel website: The Romanos
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in, late check-out, and daily breakfast for 2).

THE ROMANOS, COSTA NAVARINO, GREECE


6. HOTEL DU CAP EDEN ROC, FRENCH RIVIERA, FRANCE

The world-famous Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc – member of the prestigious Oetker collection – has historically been an inspirational retreat for writers and the creative spirited. The property presides over Antibes with an aura of magnificent glamour, with a distinguished guest list of royalty, dignitaries and Hollywood stars. There is a plaque in the garden quoting French writer Anatole France: ‘What will be, is what was”, and so the legend continues. By the azure Mediterranean Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc offers all the pleasures of the Riviera in the highest style. A private pontoon gives direct access to the sea with an abundance of water sports. There’s the historic pool refreshed with natural sea water and for those in search of seclusion, there are many peaceful corners beneath the shade of a Riviera palm, by an abundant wisteria or in cabanas by the sea.

HOTEL DU CAP EDEN ROC, FRENCH RIVIERA, FRANCE


5. HOTEL SANTA CATERINA, AMALFI COAST, ITALY

A late 19th century liberty style villa immersed in the beautiful scenery of the Amalfi Coast, an elegant seaside residence surrounded by the perennial blue of the Mediterranean sea and sky, by luscious bougainvillea and by lovingly cultivated olive groves and fruit orchards. This is Hotel Santa Caterina of Amalfi, a special place to experience the finest of Italian hospitality and lasting sensations of wellbeing. There are vast, terraced gardens and orchards overlooking the sea, and down by the water is a luscious seawater-pool area, complete with an idyllic thatched-roof, open-air caffè. The hotel has 62 rooms and suites, but the luckiest guests are allowed to book the hotel’s extraordinary, 19th-century hunting-box châlet, set at water’s edge at the far end of the hotel’s romantic orchards.

  • Hotel website: Hotel Santa Caterina
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, $100 USD food & beverage credit, early check-in, late check-out, and daily breakfast for 2).

HOTEL SANTA CATERINA, AMALFI COAST, ITALY


4. AREIAS DO SEIXO, COSTA DE PRATA, PORTUGAL

Located less than an hour away from Lisbon, Areias Do Seixo Charm Hotel & Residences is the realization of the dream of owners Marta and Gonçalo. They had a compelling desire to create a unique place where they could welcome people from the four corners of the globe in a magical yet familiar setting. And the result? A place of enchantment crafted from a range of resources that have been thoughtfully and painstakingly assembled to equal so much more than a simple sum of their parts. The 14 uniquely designed guest rooms & suites come with amazing bathrooms and fuse Moroccan and Asian design elements  with modern minimalism to create fabulous colour schemes. A magnificent beach along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean is located a 10 minute walk from the property, and hats, parasols and beach bags are provided by the hotel.

AREIAS DO SEIXO, COSTA DE PRATA, PORTUGAL


3. AMAN SVETI STEFAN, MONTENEGRO

The most iconic images associated with Montenegro are of the tiny islet named Sveti Stefan, dating back to the 15th century. Today, the island’s cluster of sturdy stone buildings together with Villa Miločer, comprises the idyllic beachside resort of Aman Sveti Stefan, managed by the world’s most exclusive hotel brand. The resort incorporates two kilometres of coastline and provides unparalleled access to the Bay of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the island’s historic exterior remains largely unchanged, the resort’s interiors have been restored and updated to meet contemporary expectations. Expect to find 58 unique luxury lodgings, all coming with gorgeous bathrooms and with a myriad of views ranging from sea and rooftops to quaint courtyards and piazzas.

  • Hotel website: Aman Sveti Stefan
  • Other accolades: Aman Sveti Stefan also features in my top 10 list of the most spectacular hotel bathrooms.
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and one lunch for 2).

AMAN SVETI STEFAN, MONTENEGRO


2. MANDARIN ORIENTAL BODRUM, TURKEY

With an idyllic location in Bodrum’s secluded Paradise Bay, two private beaches, a range of fabulous gourmet restaurants, a world-class spa and a choice of stylish rooms, suites and villas, this unique 6-star resort will seduce even the most discerning traveler and invite you to lie back, relax and savour the moment. The first beach resort of the Mandarin Oriental hotel group is so phenomenal that it makes the nicest 5 star resorts look like a cheap motel. If you are in need of a luxurious beach break around the Mediterranean basin, then stop looking as this is as exclusive a getaway as you can imagine!


1. AMANZOE, GREECE

Amanzoe is a hilltop property, laying amongst centuries old olive groves, boasting panoramic views of the Peloponnese countryside, the glittering tranquil sea, the neighbouring vineyards, and the awe-inspiring mountains. The property is located within easy reach of a wealth of archaeological sites and the cosmopolitan island of Spetses. Designed by quintessential Aman architect, the legendary Ed Tuttle, this exclusive haven of unsurpassed beauty has quickly become the Mediterranean playground of those in the know. Classically inspired yet sleekly contemporary, Amanzoe’s Pavilions and Villas open to expansive private terraces, creating a seamless extension of the airy interiors and an unrivalled sense of space and seclusion. A stone’s throw away, the Aman Beach Club comes with two lap pools and two children’s pools and will provide fun and games in total privacy by the water.

  • Hotel website: Amanzoe
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and one lunch for 2).

AMANZOE, GREECE


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

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

Today (March 30, 2017): March 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. Mandarin Oriental hotel brand returning to Hawaii
  2. Emirates unveils a new Real Madrid A380 decal
  3. Four Seasons opens a new hotel in Florida, USA
  4. Qatar Airways unveils new Business Class product
  5. W Marbella to debut on Spain’s sizzling south coast
  6. Etihad Airways deploys its A380 on Paris route
  7. Fiji gets a new ultraluxe resort, Kokomo Island
  8. Brussels Airlines unveils ‘Amare’ aircraft
  9. Rosewood Hoi An, Vietnam, to open in 2019
  10. Rosewood Baha Mar is back on track

1. Mandarin Oriental hotel brand returning to Hawaii

Mandarin Oriental has announced its intention to open a new luxury hotel and branded residences in Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The project, which has a target opening date in early 2020, would be the first Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hawaii since 2006, when The Kahala Hotel & Resort was rebranded as an independent property. Mandarin Oriental, Honolulu will be the anchor of Mana`olana Place, a 36-story mixed-use tower with gardens and public plazas, currently being developed by Los Angeles-based Salem Partners. Located in the heart of the Ala Moana district, the hotel will be a short walk to Waikiki Beach and Ala Moana Beach. It will also be adjacent to the Hawaii Convention Center and the Ala Moana Center. The hotel’s 125 contemporary guestrooms and suites will be designed to reflect the Hawaiian culture, together with features inspired by Mandarin Oriental’s oriental heritage. The Group will also manage 107 Residences at Mandarin Oriental, located on the Mana’olana tower’s upper floors, which will provide some of the most luxurious private homes on the island. Mandarin Oriental, Honolulu will feature a rooftop restaurant and bar with landscaped outdoor terraces, providing views of Diamond Head, Ala Moana Beach and Downtown Honolulu. There will also be a lobby lounge, an all-day dining restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a holistic spa, and extensive banqueting and meeting spaces with views over the surrounding terraces and gardens.

MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONOLULU


2. Emirates unveils a new Real Madrid A380 decal

Emirates debuted a new Real Madrid decal on its iconic A380. Making its first touchdown at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, the Emirates A380 has been emblazoned with the image of Real Madrid footballing giants. The plane’s eye-catching customized decal features some of the club’s world-class players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Marcelo. Visible from both sides of the plane, the bespoke decal covers an area of more than 500m2 and shows the five players of the first team in action. Besides Madrid, the Real Madrid A380 is expected to fly to a majority of Emirates A380 destinations worldwide, giving Real Madrid fans around the world a chance to snap a picture of the aircraft as it makes its way around the globe. This includes the US where the team will be travelling this summer. Emirates is the Official Main Sponsor of Real Madrid since 2013 with Fly Emirates branding prominently displayed on the players’ kits. Real Madrid has one of the largest fan base globally and Emirates is able to connect with fans worldwide through their shared passion for football and travel.


3. Four Seasons opens a new hotel in Florida, USA

From the moment it first opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 1930, The Surf Club in Miami has hosted history. It is an institution whose reputation looms large in the imagination of so many more people than can ever have visited it, let alone been members. When tire tycoon Harvey Firestone first had the idea of a new type of social club, on board his yacht the Marybelle, he could never have imagined how enduring the appeal would be of what he would soon create. On this same 9-acre (3.6 hectare) stretch of oceanfront in Surfside, Florida, located in the northern beaches of Miami, Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club today comprises 77 guest rooms, a selection of hotel residences, Le Sirenuse Restaurant and Champagne Bar, three pools, a pristine beach, and Spa and Wellness Center. Pritzker-prize winning architect Richard Meier has designed three buildings that frame and flank the original clubhouse. “The Surf Club’s success has always been determined by quality, passion and relaxed precision and that remains our priority today; being intuitive, exceeding our guests’ every expectation and creating memories that will last a lifetime,” says General Manager Reed Kandalaft.

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL AT THE SURF CLUB, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA, USA


4. Qatar Airways unveils new Business Class product

Qatar Airways unveiled its new Business Class experience at a packed world exclusive ceremony at ITB Berlin that drew more than 200 international media, travel industry representatives and VIP guests. The so-called ‘QSuite’ features the industry’s first-ever double bed available in Business Class, with privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room. Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors on the centre four seats allow colleagues, friends or families travelling together to transform their space into a private suite, allowing them to work, dine and socialise together. These new features provide the ultimate customisable travel experience that enables passengers to create an environment that suits their own unique needs. Each seat is crafted with thoughtful and luxurious details such as hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing, bringing an unprecedented level of luxury, privacy and style to Qatar Airways’ Business Class offering. To further complement the customisable on-board seating experience that passengers will now enjoy, Qatar Airways is also launching a new food and beverage concept, introducing a menu that offers a host of new dining choices. The new QSuite concept will be retrofitted on to the existing Qatar Airways fleet starting from June 2017, at an estimated rate of one aircraft a month. The first destination will be London Heathtrow.


5. W Marbella to debut on Spain’s sizzling south coast

W Hotels, now part of Marriott International, today announced the signing of W Marbella and The Residences at W Marbella.  Scheduled to open in 2021, W Marbella will be located on the pristine golden sands of Playa Real de Zaragoza, just a short drive from the energetic nightlife scene of downtown Marbella. “Located on one of the most glamourous beaches in Southern Spain, W Marbella will infuse the brand’s signature style and innovative programming into this coveted destination,” said Anthony Ingham, Global Brand Leader, W Hotels Worldwide.  “Joining our portfolio of other coveted W Escapes around the world, W Marbella will provide insider access to this fun-seeker’s paradise, inviting guests to soak it in, live it up and hit repeat.” W Marbella will offer 200 spacious guestrooms, including 26 suites and an Extreme Wow Suite – the brand’s extravagant take on the traditional Presidential Suite. The hotel will feature a vibrant bar and a signature restaurant; an AWAY spa complete with a beauty salon and juice bar; FIT state-of-the-art workout facility; and two WET pool decks. For those looking for an extraordinary venue for their next meeting, W Marbella will provide five ultra-modern meeting rooms along with a covered terrace, measuring more than 10,000 square feet, ideal for outdoor parties and events. A perfect complement to Marbella’s social scene, W Marbella will boast its very own Beach Club with spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea. The Beach Club at W Marbella will open in advance of the hotel in time for the Summer 2018 season.

MARBELLA, SPAIN


6. Etihad Airways deploys its A380 on Paris route

Etihad Airways is introducing its award-winning A380 on the Abu Dhabi – Paris route this summer as part of seasonal adjustments to the airline’s fleet deployment plan. Featuring the carrier’s revolutionary The Residence – the world’s first three-room suite on a commercial airliner – the aircraft will operate on one of its twice-daily services to the French capital between July 1 and October 28. Paris becomes the airline’s latest A380 long haul destination following London, Sydney, New York and Melbourne. With the aircraft upgrade from a 328-seat Boeing 777, Etihad Airways is able to offer an all-A380 daily service from Paris to both Melbourne and Sydney via the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub. The additional capacity will provide business and leisure travellers from the UAE the benefit of experiencing the double decker aircraft – with a living room, bedroom and shower in The Residence, and more premium seats in the First Apartments and Business Studios – to meet demand to another popular long haul destination during the peak summer months. Flight EY31 has a scheduled departure time from Abu Dhabi International Airport of 0215 hrs, arriving at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport at 0750 hrs, with the return flight EY32 leaving the French capital at 1040 hrs, arriving in Abu Dhabi at 1930 hrs. (all times listed are local). Etihad Airways’ A380 features a total capacity of 496 seats – up to two guests in The Residence, nine First Apartments, 70 Business Studios and 415 Economy Smart Seats. I have previously published my review of Etihad’s First Apartment here, as well as a Youtube clip:


7. Fiji gets a new ultraluxe resort, Kokomo Island

Kokomo Island officially opened as become newest private island resort, where pristine reefs set the scene for an unrivalled, all-inclusive experience. Located on the edge of the celestial Kadavu Island Group and approximately 45 minutes flight from Nadi International Airport, Kokomo is a true undiscovered paradise encircled by the famous Great Astrolabe Reef. A world away from the world, this is a place where spectacular white sand beaches will be yours for the taking, where privacy is paramount, and where service is superior. A personal passion project for Australian billionaire developer Lang Walker, who has lived and breathed property development for over 50 years, Kokomo Island embodies his life enthusiasms; living near the water’s edge, waterfront development and enjoying activities on the water. There are 21 one- to three-bedroom beachside villas to choose from, each with its own deck from which you can see the blue of your private infinity pool merge with the aquamarine of the Pacific Ocean. For elevated views, opt for one of the five hilltop residences with an in-house chef, personal butler and nanny, as well as sweeping views of the island’s white-sand beaches, verdant rainforest and picturesque gardens.

KOKOMA ISLAND, FIJI


8. Brussels Airlines unveils ‘Amare’ aircraft

Every summer since 2012, Brussels Airlines flies the world to De Schorre in Boom. With visitors from more than 200 countries gathering for Tomorrowland, this magical music festival is able to call itself the most international gathering in the world. Young people from Swaziland and Sweden to Fiji come together for an unforgettable weekend and friendship without borders. To symbolize this, Brussels Airlines and Tomorrowland created Amare, the fourth aircraft in the airline’s Belgian Icons series. Amare will be spreading its wings and preparing for an amazing five-year journey spanning the skies over Europe and beyond. It took nine months to finish the creation of AMARE.  After an intensive period of sketches, 3D drawings and model building, the design was ready for painting. Eight artists, including a father and son with many years of experience and the Brussels Airlines and Tomorrowland team, worked non-stop for two weeks to airbrush this impressive print onto the Airbus A320. Last summer Brussels Airlines flew more than 10,000 People of Tomorrow to Brussels on their 108 Tomorrowland flights.


9. Rosewood Hoi An, Vietnam, to open in 2019

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has been appointed by Hoi An South Development Limited, to manage Rosewood Hoi An in Vietnam, scheduled to open 2019. Hoi An ancient town is one of Asia’s most atmospheric cultural melting pots with more than 800 historic Chinese mansions, graceful Colonial buildings, quaint shop houses, classic temples, and an iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, all picturesquely clustered by the Thu Bon River. Over the centuries, from its beginnings as a spice trade port, sailors, missionaries, explorers and immigrants have all left their mark on what is today designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each of the new beachfront Rosewood resort’s accommodations will be thoughtfully positioned on a terraced landscape to ensure absolute privacy and provide either an ocean sunrise or sunset lake view. There will be 70 guestrooms as well as 30 residences, five of which will incorporate the luxury of their own dedicated spa treatment rooms. Dining options will comprise a specialty restaurant, a poolside restaurant and bar overlooking the ocean and a bistro including Hoi An’s famous cuisine on the menu.

HOI AN, VIETNAM


10. Rosewood Baha Mar is back on track

Although Rosewood cancelled its new Bahamas property last year due to problems with the former developers of the Baha Mar Resort, the Rosewood Baha Mar Resort is back on track and will open next year. “Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has had a relationship with Baha Mar since 2011, and we are truly excited to re-engage as the operator of Baha Mar’s luxury resort through our partnership with CTFE, Baha Mar Resort’s new owner,” says Sonia Cheng, chief executive officer of Rosewood Hotel Group.  “We are fully committed to this project and look forward to raising our flag in The Bahamas as originally planned.” Featuring elegant British colonial architecture and interior styling, Rosewood Baha Mar will epitomize Bahamian refinement and sophistication. The resort will offer 185 ocean view rooms and suites, as well as five luxurious beachfront villas, which will be contemporary and residential in style.  Each accommodation will be elegantly appointed with refined Bahamian art and décor. Of note, all guestrooms will boast private balconies with outdoor living areas, while the luxurious four-bedroom villas will offer exceptional tranquility, exclusive services and a private pool.

ROSEWOOD BAHA MAR, BAHAMAS


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Review: 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa (Cape Town, South Africa)

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

I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in South Africa. You can read my trip reports here:


Today (March 29, 2017): Review of the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, Cape Town (South Africa).

Enjoying the most magnificent location on the Cape Peninsula, the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa is a grand contemporary hotel in Camps Bay, just a short drive from the center of Cape Town. Nestled between the unspoiled natural beauty of the majestic Twelve Apostles mountain range in the Table Mountain National Park, and the Atlantic Ocean, the award-winning boutique hotel is part of the family-run Red Carnation Hotel Collection and member of the prestigious portfolio of Leading Hotels of the World. It offers 70 guest rooms, styled with light colors and dark-wood accents that give an eclectic touch through African and nautical twists. Other unique features include a holistic spa, private cinema, and breathtaking ocean views to be enjoyed from the restaurant and bar.

The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa features in my top 10 list of luxury hotels with private helipads, the best luxury hotels in South Africa and the best luxury hotels in Cape Town.

In this review (more info & photos 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

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The hotel’s breathtaking location is its strongest selling point. It stands along the scenic coastal Victoria Road that connects the fashionable Cape Town suburbs of Camps Bay and Landudno, and which continues towards the world-famous Chapman’s Peak drive, one of the world’s most spectacular roads. Behind the hotel, a line of imposing mountains – the so-called Twelve Apostles – reaches towards the heavens, while in front of the hotel, the sun sets on breeching whales (in season), playful dolphins, and crashing rollers of the Atlantic Ocean Marine Park. It’s the only hotel located within the Table Mountain National Park, famed for its rare fynbos vegetation and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Its isolated setting away from the city bowl and the immensity of intense tourism activity that the Mother City contains, is a major advantage for those that want to get away from it all and are looking for a property nestled in the embrace of mother nature herself. Yet, the hotel is not too far away from the action, as it is only a short 5-minute drive to the lively sea promenade of Camps Bay and a 20 minute drive to Cape Town’s city center.
  • Absolutely nothing prepares you for the sheer magnificence of various sights, smells and sounds as you drive on the coastal route towards the hotel. With so much extraordinary land- and seascape to feast your eyes on, you have to take care not to drive right past the entrance to the hotel, which is via a rather unassuming indoor driveway. Upon arrival at the lobby, every guest is greeted by the superfriendly doormen. The lobby itself – just like the hotel’s other communal areas- features an opulent decor and classic decor. Dutch antiques, mirrors, wooden columns, works of art, and Chinese vases create a homely, boutique-like feel.
  • The hotel is considered an iconic landmark in Cape Town. The property used to be a hunting lodge and private farm, before it was turned – amidst great controversy – into a R40 million luxury hotel and conference centre in 1992. Part of the original landhouse – with its two prominent Cape Dutch frontal gables – has been preserved and incorporated in the main wing. The distinctive sea-front building with its blinding white facade is even used by sailors around the Cape Peninsula as a nautical navigation point.
  • The hotel offers 55 spaciously appointed guest rooms and 15 luxurious suites, each individually decorated with an eclectic mix of contemporary African style with classic European comfort. All rooms and suites reflect a fresh, calming environment combining sophistication with simplicity, comfort and elegance. During my holiday, I stayed in (and was upgraded to) a lovely Seafront Facing Suite, which offered superb views over the Atlantic Ocean. It featured a large bedroom area with king sized bed, en-suite bathroom with designer bath and shower, a separate and cozy lounge are, and – most importantly – a private balcony with the most magnificent view of the sea and sunsets.
  • The hotel’s indigenous garden blends into the mountainside, and guests are able to stroll straight from their rooms onto the mountainside to take in some fresh air and spectacular sea and mountain views or explore the various mountain trails – from 10 minutes to 45 minutes in duration – within the Table Mountain National Park, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Some of the planet’s most mesmerizing views are to be enjoyed from a spot right above the hotel, with uninterrupted panoramas towards Camps Bay, Lion Head, Table Mountain and the deep-blue Atlantic Ocean. Here, the hotel has constructed some specially laid out picnic sites ,where you can toast to romance while the sun sets into the Atlantic Ocean or simply let the kids run wild in the open space.
  • The hotel features two small pools in the gardens surrounding the buildings: a rock pool with mountain views is located on a terrace behind the hotel, while a heated infinity pool is set on a seafront courtyard, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A fully serviced tanning deck and 10 hammocks in the fynbos gardens are also ideal for lazy days soaking up the sun.
  • Offering seasonal, fresh cuisine, the Twelve Apostles Hotel is recognised as one of South Africa’s top places for wining and dining. The Azure Restaurant, with a terrace that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and enjoys incredible sunset views, is the ideal location to indulge in a succulent meat or fresh seafood dish. The modern French menu with South African influences is updated regularly by executive chef Christo Pretorius. The Café Grill offers a more casual and relaxed dining experience with a 24 hour accessible menu.
  • The generous breakfast buffet, coupled with fresh Oysters and a selection of hot and cold dishes, not forgetting plenty of bubbly, can be enjoyed inside the Azure restaurant or, weather permitting, on the spectacular terrace.
  • The Leopard Bar is the most scenic spot in Cape Town for sundowners and cocktails. Breathtaking views of the Atlantic, coupled with live music and the longest hours of sunshine of any hotel in the city make the bar a popular hot spot with hotel guests and local residents alike. In winter, fire places and blankets keep guests cosy while sipping on a glass of wine. Binoculars are available to spot dolphin and whales, which are regular sightings in winter and announced by the hotel’s brass bell.
  • The Twelve Apostles Hotel features an impressive art collection, including some of South Africa’s most well-known painters (Tinus De Jongh, Gabriel De Jongh, Walter Battiss, JH Pierneef, Tretchikoff, Robert Gwelo Goodman, Sydney Carter, WH Coetzee, Francois Krige, Hugo Naude, Maggie Loubser, Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba and many more). In addition, vibrant wall murals grace the pool decks, fountains and spa to add a three-dimensional element to the treasured art collection inside the hotel.
  • High-speed WiFi is complimentary throughout the hotel. In addition, a business center offers two computers and a printer.
  • On the occasional rainy days, you can watch a movie in the hotel’s private 16-seater cinema. The hotel will even rustle up a bowl of popcorn or other treats for you to add to your viewing pleasure. Each month a new schedule of movies is set, running five times a day and may be accompanied with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • The hotel has a private helipad that can make the flight to Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront in just 8 minutes. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the hourly, complimentary shuttle service to Camps Bay (and its gorgeous beach) and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (with plenty of shops) between 8 am and 9.30 pm.
  • The hotel offers several extra thoughtful touches, such as complimentary mineral water, tea and coffee-making facilities, in-room DVD players with an extensive DVD library, a duvet and pillow menu, indigenous turn-down gifting and informal wine tastings in Azure Restaurant.
  • The staff is super-friendly and efficient, reflecting the legendary South African hospitality.
  • The award-winning spa, with seven treatment rooms, features an ethereal, all-white crystal grotto interior. A team of qualified therapists oversees wellbeing and rejuvenation during your stay, with spa treatments inspired by holistic principles, combining ancient wisdom and modern expertise. There is also a gym on site, but for a more serious workout the hotel provides passes to a nearby health club.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The Twelve Apostles Hotel is one of Cape Town’s best hotels, with its main assets being the spectacular location, warm hospitality, and world-class restaurant. It is not perfect though and you need to know the following when considering a stay here:

  • A road is running between the hotel and Atlantic Ocean. The hotel makes no secret of this, and it is clearly mentioned on its website. Nevertheless, it’s quite a busy road with constant traffic during the day that can be heard inside the hotel (including the ocean-facing rooms). It did not bother me, but the traffic noise may prohibit a true back-to-nature experience for some guests. If you are a light sleeper, be sure to book a room on the mountain facing side of the hotel.
  • Although the hotel is located ocean-front, there is no way to come any closer to the Atlantic Ocean’s shore (a guard rail at the other side of the road is as close as you can get) and there is no beach to speak of within walking distance. Of course, if you want to chill on a superb beach, you can always take the complimentary shuttle to Camps Bay’s spectacular crescent of white sand.
  • The hotel’s opulent boutique style may not suit everyone’s taste, especially if you prefer an airy, minimalist decor. The reception is rather dark featuring lots of antiques and the overall style may feel bombastic and kitsch to some. However, whether you like them or not, the flamboyant decors are genuinely South African, and also feel that way.
  • The lowest room categories (‘classic rooms’) do not come with any view. Some look onto the walls of the inner courtyards. So make sure to do your home work and book the right room type if an amazing view is what you want.
  • Although the location of the hotel is spectacular beyond words, one should not forget that the construction of this blinding white building in the midst of a nature reserve was highly controversial at the time (1990s).
  • The two swimming pools are quite small, and I can imagine that they cannot accommodate a majority of the guests when the hotel is fully occupied. However, there’s no need to spend much time around the pool with so much astonishingly beautiful nature around you that is waiting to be explored.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 10/10
  • Design: 7/10
  • Pool: 7/10
  • Resort grounds: 9/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Breakfast: 10/10
  • Spa: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like the Twelve Apostles (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: enjoy complimentary VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso. This includes an upgrade, free breakfast (including freshly-harvested oysters and sparkling wine), tea by the sea for two people, early check-in and late check-out. For stays of 4 or more nights guests also receive a scheduled helicopter transfer for two to the V&A Waterfront.
  • If a spectacular Atlantic Ocean vistas are what you are craving for, then book (or request) an ocean view room. Keep in mind though that a road is running in front of these rooms, which can cause some occasional noise disturbance.
  • If you are a light sleeper, then book a mountain view room or suite (so that you are not bothered by traffic noise).
  • There are a some stairs inside the hotel, so elderly or disabled guests should request a room that is accessible without stairs.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Cape Town’s hot, dry summer months run from late October to March/April. Temperatures reach their peak between December and February, and this is generally seen as when to go to Cape Town for the best beach weather. Winter months (May to September) can be a wet, cold and rather disappointing affair.


HOW TO GET THERE

The Twelve Apostles hotel is located a 40 minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. The latter is served by major African full-service and low-cost airlines, as well as by most major European and Middle East Carriers (click here for a direct link to their websites). Currently, Singapore Airlines is the only Asian carrier to this marvelous destination. Check the Wikipedia page of Cape Town International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cape Town.


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THE LEOPARD BAR

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