WOW. Where to start?!? What a day. First day legally allowed to remove our masks outside here on Maui. Very liberating. And then, a reminder that we are coming out of the Pandemic thanks to the dozen of virtual meetings I had with luxury hoteliers spanning the globe from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives, Cairo to Bali, Iceland to Greece.
Just when I thought I was completely OVER the whole "zoom" meeting thing after a year of nothing but zooms, my friends from Marriott International's Luxury Hotel collection proved me wrong. Sure, I do miss meeting with and seeing luxury hotel friends in person. BUT, meeting up in hotel ballrooms in big cities like Vegas or New York or LA has nothing on the experience I had today which was conversing one-to-one with new friends working from THEIR hotel (literally got to chat with my guy at The Ritz-Carlton Cairo last night while he was in one of their rooms with a Nile River view!!!). I've not yet been to Egypt but it's now for sure on my to-do-soon list. That was really freaking cool to see the Nile River as the backdrop for our meeting about his beautiful hotel.
Also amazing was the video chat I just had with my new friend/sales rep for The St. Regis and The Laguna hotels in Bali (my favorite place in the world). We got to talking about "REAL LIFE" stuff, not just hotel rooms, including our mutual love for dogs, and how the pandemic has taken a humbling toll on so many---from Bali to Hawaii---where home-schooling became a thing, and where we are still struggling to get out of pandemic mode and back into a thriving and enjoyable easier life. We talked about karma, and how it's so important to believe in it. And to practice kindness. And I hung up wanting to book a flight to Bali the minute the borders reopen (my new friend says maybe this summer). Fingers crossed. Stay tuned.
I started my morning chatting about the St. Regis Maldives, and trust me, you want to go there! And, so do I. The location on a private island amidst nothing but water views, the contemporary style, the overwater Ayurvedic spa, and their three-bedroom family overwater villa that's the largest in the Maldives has me sold. And, since you'll probably fly through Dubai to get to Male, may as well plan to spend a few nights at the ultra-special Ritz-Carlton, Ras Al Khaima in the Al Wadi desert, just outside of Dubai. I'd recommend a Tented Villa, with a private plunge because why not? We all had a hell of a past year, so let's put these unique and special spots on our To-VISIT-Soon lists and get back to embracing the joy found at incredible hotels around the globe. I love the sound of sleeping amidst camels, horses, gazelle on a eco-nature Arabian preserve en route to my Maldivian holiday. And on the return, why not pass through Abu Dhabi and chill for a few nights on yet another private island---this time at the peaceful St. Regis Saayidat Island (not far from happening Yas Island, the Louvre et al museums + a dose of the culture & fun and amazing food this region is known for).
Another hotel I was excited to learn about is the "NEW" W Costa Rica at Reserva Conchal. While the 150-room hotel officially opened end of November 2018, it closed much of last year and reopened again as a "new" property end of 2020. An hour south of Liberia Airport, it has a two-mile-long sandy swimmable beach, sits on a biological reserve with lots of monkeys (!), has a huge fitness/wellness component AND really funky cool suites and "treehouse"-rooms PLUS a DJ on staff playing music of all types for guests to enjoy. Sign me up (for a treehouse suite por favor!).
I cannot tell a lie. After my 15 minutes on the phone with Katerina chatting all things Santorini + Paros, I am not only craving delicious GREEK food (not sure it exists on Maui) BUT I am craving a return trip to climb ALL the stairs in Oia to see the beautiful hotel known as Mystique. It is one of the most special hotels in Greece, with it the best and most private location and insanely memorable views. I am also really needing to see the newish five-bedroom private villa with private helipad and private chef they now offer as part of the collection, and to check out the newly renovated Vedema Resort. AND, it sounds like Paros is the next Greek island to add to our list, since it's one I've not yet visited. With a beautiful new luxury property (the first to be added to the Virtuoso portfolio) called Parilio that's known for its understated luxury, authentic and delicious Greek food, beach, nightlife AND stunning rooms, I really dont need to hear much more (especially since Greece is now OPEN). The season goes through October, so we still have time to plan your 2021 summer Greece islands adventure!
Last but not least, I LOVED getting a quick but full update on all of the exciting new openings for the Edition brand of hip hotels. I was super-excited to learn that the brand is opening the first true luxury hotel in Reykjavik later this year. My longtime friend Phil D'Antoni shared with me that the only Michelin-starred chef in Iceland will be overseeing the F&B (5 outlets and a rooftop bar/lounge). The hotel will have 253 rooms and be an ideal spot to base yourself when you make it to Iceland (as I've long been planning to do!). He also shared with me that the brand is opening hotels SOON (2021/2022) in cities including Rome, Dubai, Doha, Riviera Maya Mexico (!), Tampa, FL + opening second hotels in Tokyo and Madrid. Also, the London, Barcelona, NY (both locations), W. Hollywood , Bodrum and Miami Beach Editions are fully back up and running.
It is so much fun for me to spend time with my travel journalist hat on again, by taking copious notes during my meetings and not allowing myself to go to sleep until I bang out this blog post while everything I learned today is still fresh on my mind. And, now as #NotYourAverageTravelAgent, I look forward to helping you navigate the world POST-Pandemic and to schedule visits to some of these amazing hotels across the globe! (Sidenote: As a top-producing "STARS" and "Luminous" agency partner, there are so many reasons to get to know these amazing people and their hotels better. Primarily: They will completely VIP any #EliteTravel clients I send their way).