Review: Amanyara, Turks & Caicos

     Amanyara sends a sporty and luxurious SUV to pick me up from my Hotel in the Grace Bay Area.  The 45 minute drive to the Resort allows me to see a part of the island I have not yet visited and I realize that Providenciales is quite spacious for its 22,000 residents.  Suddenly the highway ends and the vehicle makes an abrupt left on to an unpaved and winding road.  I notice there are no signs or lights along the way and idly I wonder if the Driver knows where he’s going. Turns out to be a subliminal metaphor for the Resort as it’s perfect for people who want to get “lost” and feel completely removed from the bustle of everyday life, transported to a cocoon of privacy.  We pass through a security checkpoint and soon we’re pulling up to the entrance of the Hotel where a team of people, including the Resort’s Manager, Sven Van Den Broeck, is waiting to welcome me.  It feels a little formal but friendly and I’m immediately acquainted with the level of personal service that is the hallmark of the Aman brand.  Amanyara wants you to know, as soon as you step through its doors, that you are a special guest.  
     There are no conventional “rooms” at Amanyara.  Accommodations are offered in one of the 40 freestanding pavilions situated down private pathways in dense vegetation around the resort.  There are two 2-bedroom pool suites that include a lounge, nanny's room, exercise room and 60 ft pool. Take your flashlight when you leave for dinner as it’s just you and the moonlight on the trek back to your door.  All of the pavilions are identical in layout and the categories are differentiated by location and views – pond, alcove and ocean.  The pavilions have glass walls (automatic shutters can be used in the evenings) and are very large and attractive spaces.  There is a complimentary mini bar in each, stocked with juices, soft drinks, assorted bottled water, nuts and cookies.  Guests can make free telephone calls to anywhere in the world.  Bikes are available to travel around the Resort but I utilized the services of the golf carts that arrived almost immediately after a call to the Reception Area.
     Large travel parties have the option to rent a 3-5 bedroom villa. The bedrooms are detached from the main living pavilion that includes a full kitchen and a private Chef.  A complimentary golf cart is assigned to the villa.
     The spa is a beautiful, Zen space with a massive square pool in the center for Aqua Therapy treatments.  I was particularly intrigued with the description of a massage involving “Tibetan singing bowls”.  
     The Nature Discovery Centre houses the Kids Program and is an interesting and comfortable place for the children to spend a few hours. In addition to outdoor activities, children have the opportunity to learn about conservation and enjoy the resident pets in assorted aquariums. 
     There are extensive facilities for tennis lovers  - 4 clay courts and 1 youth mini-court and guests can arrange private lessons with a Pro.  Older children can enjoy a Games Room outfitted with a Pool Table, Foosball, Table Tennis and Shuffleboard.
     I ate dinner in the Main Dining Room and lunch at the Beach Club.  The menus offer Asian and Mediterranean dishes and plenty of seafood options in addition to casual fare like pizzas and salads.  There are no convenient, alternative dining outlets close to Amanyara and food, while good, is not inexpensive.  Seasonal promotions that include some meals or a full meal plan offer considerable value for this Resort. 
     Amanyara is visually stunning, presenting a photo opportunity at every turn. It is also very, very quiet despite the presence of young families.  
      Service is warm, attentive and discreet and possibly best summed up in my luggage experience.  Before I left my pavilion for the airport, I ripped off the inbound airline’s sticky luggage label from my suitcase.  As I was checking in for my flight, I glanced down and noticed a fancy, blue, leather-like tag marked “Amanyara” attached to the handle of my case.  Neatly typed inside the flap was my name and home address.   The subtle attention to the details of the client’s experience is the very thing that resonates during a stay at this Resort.

Rates at Amanyara include private airport transfers, non-motorised water sports, daily snorkel trips, use of tennis courts, equipment, and lessons, regular yoga classes, private bar (except spirits), afternoon tea, in-room wireless internet access and all telephone calls.  When booked through me, complimentary Virtuoso amenities are included:    
•    Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
•    Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
•    A la carte lunch for 2 persons, once during stay (excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities)
•    Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability

Naples is like Palm Beach’s poorer cousin

Waldorf-Astoria, Naples FL

Waldorf-Astoria, Naples FL

Naples is like Palm Beach’s poorer cousin - a quiet, casual town with wealthy enclaves and a large population of retirees.  Restaurant reservations are not necessary after 7:30 PM.  The Waldorf Astoria Naples is really a Hilton when compared with its sleek, modern sister property in Orlando.  Rooms are spacious with comfortable beds (new pillows and mattresses throughout the property in 2012) but décor is dated.  My bath towels were also worn thin and I was very surprised these passed a housekeeping inspection.  Each room had a coffee maker and tea service.  I am a stickler about security and my room door needed to be physically pulled to close or it remained ajar.   The children enjoyed the pool area with the slide but there are no lifeguards present so you need to keep a vigilant eye on little ones in the water.  You can walk to the beachfront or take a 5-minute tram ride.  The Gulf’s water is brown but clear, warm and calm.  The Waldorf Astoria assesses a $30 per night resort fee that includes Wi-Fi but there is a charge if you want to use one of the white beach umbrellas all set out on the sand near to the loungers.  I thought this was a bit stingy.  I thoroughly enjoyed my organic facial at the Spa, the most modern space on property.  Included in our room rate were complimentary Virtuoso amenities – buffet breakfast for two and a $100 Spa Credit.

Palm Beach at its finest!

Palm Beach at its finest!

When we turned into the driveway of The Breakers, my children let out an audible “wow”.  There’s no doubt…it’s a grand Hotel!  

Marco Island for Families

Marco Beach Ocean Resort, Marco Island is a great option if you’re looking for a beachfront, all-suite property with a full kitchen. The Resort is filled with families and this makes perfect sense.  Sometimes, after a day of surf and sun with little ones, the last thing you want to undertake is a restaurant outing with the cranky!  Bring your groceries (and PUBLIX) is just a couple of blocks away, and dine in your pajamas, when convenient.  There is even an oven in the suite and pots, pans and dishes are provided as well.  The Resort classifies itself as “boutique” property with 98 one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites.  The pool is small but the beach area reserved for guests and lined with loungers and umbrellas is relatively expansive.  Service is casual and friendly.  There is no self-parking on property.  Valet is $18.00 per night.

My nephew was celebrating his fourth Birthday and the Hotel very kindly acknowledged this auspicious event with balloons, chocolate and stuffed toys all of which made him very happy.

Kitchen 

Kitchen 

Bedroom

Bedroom

Beach Area

Beach Area

Birthday present from Marco Beach Ocean Resort

Birthday present from Marco Beach Ocean Resort

Pool

Pool

Review of Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach

Review of Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach

Four Seasons Palm Beach is a relatively small Resort only four floors high, offering 210 rooms and suites distributed throughout 3 buildings that form a U around the pool area and beach access.