$200 discount on tickets to St. Lucia’s Health and Wellness Retreat

Discount on Health and Wellness Retreat in Soufriere, St. LuciaFor those craving some nutritious and active fun, St. Lucia will be hosting a Health and Wellness Retreat from November 17-November 20, 2011. While tickets are priced at $1,000, attendees can receive a $200 discount if they buy their ticket before October 15th.

Taking place in the “Eden of the Caribbean”, Soufriere, the retreat will bring together experts in yoga, nutrition, and lifestyle coaching.

So what can you expect at the Health and Wellness Retreat? Yoga and feng-shui workshops, classes on art, pottery and photography, lectures by experts in the field, and active adventures such as hiking, climbing the nearby Piton Mountains, cycling, snorkeling, bird-watching, and more. Spa treatments, including a local therapy favorite using Soufriere’s mineral and mud baths, is also an option. Even lunch becomes a learning experience as chefs give participants demonstrations on nutritious cooking.

Make sure to buy your ticket while you can still get the early bird special. To book a room at a participating hotel, click here.

Cruise lines seek new ports, secure islands to visit

Cruise lines seek new ports

“You can only go to Cozumel just so many times” is a common complaint from frequent cruise travelers, bored with the same ports being offered by cruise lines year after year. As the cruise industry matures and more repeat passengers come back for more, they look to sail in some different directions.

Celebrity Cruises Eclipse will sail from Southampton boasting new destinations such as Reykjavik in Iceland, Genoa in Italy, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores. The 2012 return of the popular ship will bring revised cruise itineraries in response to guest demand including a series of eight and fourteen night cruises.

“Celebrity Eclipse is the most popular ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet for UK and Irish holidaymakers, and we’ve further enhanced itineraries and destinations to keep guests coming back” explains Dominic Paul, Vice President & Managing Director, UK & Ireland.

New calls will be made to St Lucia in the 2012-2013 season too when Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun makes regular visits to the island.

Cruise line itineraries are chosen based on a number of factors including safety, size of the ships, where other ships are going and more. The decision greatly impacts ports visited, bringing in considerable tourist spending when ships call.

“This is incredibly exciting news for our tourism sector. St Lucians are thrilled to welcome Norwegian,” said St Lucia tourism Minister Allen Chastanet of Norwegian Cruise Lines move to visit the island adding that “the decision to include regular stops to St Lucia was made after the company sampled the island’s offerings with limited calls in 2009.”

Cruise lines seek new ports for other reasons as well. Some not so great for local economies.

New ports, as well as existing ports, must meet and maintain standards demanded by the cruise lines. Don’t meet the standards down the road? Cruise lines will pull out and go someplace else.

When violence in Mexico reached a level of concern, cruise lines, one by one, were quick to divert to different ports. To get them back, Mexican government officials had to prove their ports safe, secure and a good place for cruise ship passengers to visit.

The threat of cruise lines moving their mobile assets to safer waters happens commonly for weather-related issues too. As master of the vessel, the ship’s captain will occasionally skip ports or revise itineraries when weather conditions that day warrant staying out of harms way. That’s part of every cruise passenger contract, the agreement all guests buy into before boarding a cruise ship.

It may be rough seas that at a port requiring a tender operation using smaller boats to ferry guests to and from the ship. An approaching storm, not on the radar when the ship first started its voyage may cause a modified itinerary down the line.

Often discounted by travel purists as a lesser travel experience, there is a lot that goes into a cruise vacation and each sailing is unique. While it may appear that ships run the same routes over and over, these are ocean-going vessels manned by experienced seamen, not a ride at an amusement park. New ports are often planned years in advance and all factors that go into making for a safe, secure and enjoyable experience have to be in place before the first ships visits.

Flickr photo by Loimere

Top ten hotel rooms with a view

Hotels aren’t the sum of travel, but the right hotel can bring magic to a journey. Friendly employees, amazing furnishings, and great locations can all make a good holiday great. And an exceptional view, above and beyond the rest, can stick in one’s memory forever. Here are ten hotels strewn around the world, each with ridiculously stunning views.

1. Shearwater Resort, Saba. Shearwater’s Cottage Rooms, which overlook the resort’s cliffside pool from an altitude of 2000 feet and sport views of the ocean and several neighboring islands (St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, and Nevis) are in a league of their own. See above for evidence. Shearwater’s owners also recommend the views from their Ocean View Suite. Cottage Rooms from $175; Ocean View Suite from $250.

2. Longitude 131, Ayers Rock Resort, Australia. The tents at Longitude 131 at Ayers Rock feature heart-stopping panoramic views of this most iconic of Australian sights. This is real fantasy territory, with rates well beyond feasibility for most. From A$4080 for two for two nights ($4095).

3. Hotel on Rivington, New York, New York. The corner king rooms at this Lower East Side outpost of extravagance have floor-to-ceiling glass walls affording astounding views of the city. Aim for a room on a higher floor. From $379.

4. Hotel de Crillon, Paris, France. Terribly exorbitant, yes–not sure that a room at this price point should ever be recommended–but the views are exquisite here. Do you best to nab a room with a view over the Place de la Concorde to the Eiffel Tower. From €630 ($875).

5. Sheraton Iguazú Resort and Spa, Iguazú Falls, Argentina. The only hotel inside the Iguazú National Park offers awe-inspiring views of the falls themselves. The Falls View rooms, all with balconies, are perfect for the view-minded. From $255.

6. Campi ya Kanzi, Mtito Andei, Kenya. Campi ya Kanzi lies in a 400 square-mile are of Maasai-run land in southern Kenya. Mount Kilimanjaro is 35 miles away from the camp site, which consists of six tented cottages and two suites. Suites run $1600 for two; single occupancy $900.

7. The Intercontinental, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Stunning Hong Kong Harbor provides the world one of its most exciting skylines, and a harbourview room at the Intercontinental is one of the best places to glimpse it. From around HK$2600 ($335).

8. The Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta, Canada. The most iconic of Canada’s mountain lodges, the Fairmont Banff Springs is in a league of its own as far as picturesque placement is concerned. Many rooms offer extraordinary views as well. Book a valley view room (not a mountain view room) to take full advantage of the Rockies’ scenic majesty. From around C$439 ($437).

9. Explora, Torres del Paine, Chile. Gorgeous if minimalist modernism features here in the wilds of Chilean Patagonia, courtesy of famed Chilean architect Germán del Sol. Views of Macizo del Paine are drop-dead extraordinary. They’re also most definitely not cheap. Four nights will run $5840 for two.

10. La Haut Plantation, St. Lucia. The least expensive of the options here is this reasonable stunner, which has great views of St. Lucia’s famous Pitons. Even the least expensive Standard Garden rooms here boast incredible views of the Pitons. From $120 in low season.

A list like this one is of course necessarily quite subjective, and my evaluation here is designed to suggest and expose more than it is intended to lay down the law. Have a hotel view in mind that you think belongs on this list? Add it in the comments below!

(Images provided by hotels, except for the view from the Sheraton Iguazú Resort and Spa [Flickr / Tran’s World Productions] and view from the Fairmont Banff Springs [Flickr / dbaron]

%Gallery-107170%

Vail and RockResorts summer travel discounts expiring by Monday!

Looking for a quick summer fix at a deep discount? The latest deals from Vail Resorts Hospitality and RockResorts will definitely turn you on. Book by Monday, May 24, 2010 at noon, and you can pick up a room at Keystone Resort for a mere $71 a night or spend only $79 a night for the newest RockResort, One Ski Hill Place in Breckenridge. If Colorado doesn’t tickle you, The Landings St. Lucia is offering a deal for $277 a night, and it’s good through November.

There’s one more catch: you need to book online.

Daily Pampering: New restaurant opens at The Landings in St. Lucia

If you haven’t been to The Landings St. Lucia lately, the restaurant that just opened is probably worth a trip. This RockResort just threw open the doors of The Palms, which is located in the grand entrance pavilion as an extension of the open-air Viscount Lounge. The menu boasts a Caribbean flavor, not to mention sustainably produced seafood from local St. Lucian farms.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday and serves the creations of Executive Chef Richard Tonks. His menu includes potted pork and duck appetizers with pickled vegetables and potato pancakes, but what really excites me are the shredded braised lamb shanks wrapped in lettuce girolles, shallots and merlot sauce – I might book a flight just to toss that into my mouth.

And then there’s the art …

I could spend hours staring at contemporary art, and The Landings is making that pretty easy. In The Palms, the walls are adorned with the creations of local artist Llewellyn Xavier. Every piece on display in the restaurant is made from recycled materials.

With only 28 seats, this is an intimate environment and an ideal space for a meal on a romantic getaway. Be sure to take in at least one meal at The Palms when your down at The Landings.

Get your daily dose of Pampering right here.