Thursday, May 29, 2008

St. Regis Bora Bora review


We were met at the Bora Bora airport by a gorgeous yacht (a smaller boat is sent for smaller group arrivals), which whisked us to the resort’s reception dock: marble walkway under thatched roof. Spread out on 44 acres and five motus in Bora Bora’s lagoon, within sight of the Four Seasons (opening soon) and Le Meridien, this luxury resort opened in 2007.

My Deluxe Overwater Villa was 1,550 square feet big. The entry hall led to the living room with sofa, glass coffee table for viewing fish below, dining table for two and floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls. Sliding wood doors enclosed the spacious bedroom with King bed and luscious linens. All villas here include butler service, twice-daily maid service and ultra-modern amenities including not one but two 42-inch plasma TVs, Bose CD/DVD player, wifi, an espresso maker, etc. They also have snorkel gear, a beach bag with beach towels, and outdoor showers.

The bathrooms are enormous, with sliding mirrors that separate to allow for lagoon views from the shower and vanity. There is a separate WC, a walk-in closet, his-and-hers sinks, and an open shower with rain showerhead. Tempting bath products, including two varieties of bath salts, make the huge soaking tub irresistible. A glass panel in the floor of the bathroom reminds you this superb granite bathroom exists in paradise.

Sliding French doors from both the bedroom and the living room lead onto the deck, where there are loungers, a shaded dining area and steps leading into the lagoon. The water was sublime. My villa had a fantastic view of Mt. Otemanu from the living room.

The Overwater Villas are fairly close together, although it’s possible to strategically open blinds to create a sense of complete privacy from inside. Royal Overwater Pool Villas have unobstructed views so they will feel more private, but the Pool Beach Villas and Private Oceanfront Pool Villas are the most secluded. For families, there are the Royal Oceanfront Pool Villas with two bedrooms and two bathrooms (the resort has a Kid’s Program too). The Royal Villa was amazing, with three bedrooms, five bathrooms, a private pool, sauna, hammam, Jacuzzi and beach.

All the amenities you expect from a five-star resort are available, including a 13,000-square-foot Spa and Fitness Center, and a swim-up pool bar. There are three restaurants. Lagoon by Jean-Georges (Vongerichten) is the signature restaurant here, and the over-water setting with indoor and outdoor seating enhances the dining experience. Complimentary bicycles are available during the day, and a golf cart pickup is just a phone call away.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa


Located on a private motu across from Vaitape, the main town of Bora Bora (7 minutes by complimentary resort ferry), this property feels isolated but is very convenient to shops/restaurants. The traditional Tahitian décor is enhanced with lots of art and sculpture. The 160-foot infinity pool is stunning. Maru Spa is beach front with two tree house treatment rooms.

Premium Motu Bungalows and Motu Suites are steps to beach with private plunge pool. Two-bedroom Villa has two bathrooms (both with outdoor shower) and private infinity pool, making it perfect for families or two couples.

This Orient Express property has great specials for travel through December 21, 2008: Stay 4 nights (or more) in Overwater Bungalow, and the meal plan is free! Stay 6 nights (or more) in Overwater Bungalow and you get the Meal Plan plus a free night at the Radisson Plaza in Tahiti. The American Plan includes continental breakfast, a la carte lunch (main course plus dessert), three-course dinner. Contact me for more details.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa, Bora Bora


This was a very sexy resort with contemporary Polynesian décor located on a small islet in Bora Bora's lagoon . They have a huge infinity pool with great Mt Otemanu view.

Their over-water Chapel (also with great Mt Otemanu view) can be used for private functions, as well as weddings where couples seem to walk on water to the alter (not legal service for Americans). Lagoon location allows groom to arrive by canoe in Traditional dress for a romantic Tahitian ceremony.

This property is the first hotel in the world to use deep sea water for all of it's air conditioning, which is a great idea in eco-hotel engineering. They credit Marlon Brando with the concept in the resort brochure (he owned an island in French Polynesia). The thermal heat transfer is extremely efficient, and the pure sea water is also used in the spa.

The Deep Ocean Spa, operated by Algotherm, was amazing (gorgeous setting with a variety of appealing treatments performed by French beauticians). Marine treatments, contouring treatments and Tahitian treatments are all offered on the spa menu. The spa facilities were the most extensive of the Tahitian resorts toured, including deep sea plunge, lap pool, deep chiller walk, etc. Please note the thalasso treatments utilize water from 90 meters deep, but it is not considered “Thalasso Therapy” (because the water has a bit too much copper to be regarded as therapeutic). I suggest clients start with a Thalasso Bath (hydro-massage in sea water) before the signature 90-minute Deep Blue Massage. Over-water couples' treatment room is available with glass floor so you can watch fish swimming below you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa review


This is a very special place. For those dreaming of a tropical escape in Tahiti, their fantasies will be fulfilled here. On a private motu off the island of Taha’a (the “vanilla island” which is a beautiful, unspoiled island without an airport). You fly to Raitea and are transferred to the resort by boat (or take the helicopter transfer from the Bora Bora Pearl for a spectacular arrival). This Relais & Chateaux property offers luxurious accommodations and facilities without sacrificing the authentic Polynesian spirit. Quiet and peaceful, with gorgeous grounds, we may have discovered paradise.

From my over-water bungalow, I could feed the fish from bed or the canoe-shaped tub by opening the glass tables! The separate shower was slate with coral accents. Room amenities included a cd-player, expresso machine, and bamboo vase with incense sticks stuck into sand.

The Beach Villas have private plunge pool and indoor/outdoor shower. For two couples traveling together, the Two-bedroom Royal Beach Villa is the same price as 2 bungalows with lots of extra space and amenities including a big pool and outdoor dining area. Three restaurants (with great food!), two bars, Manea Spa (see photo) and lots of activities are available if you can get yourself out of the water. I recommend snorkeling in their coral garden with a guide to see a multitude of brightly-colored fish.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

welcome home

I made it back safe and sound.

I made myself get up this morning so I can get back on East Coast time asap, and I feel OK. Not great, but OK. If only I could book a spa day at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa; I could really use a 90-minute “Deep Blue Massage” and Thalasso Bath.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Last day in Tahiti

Last night, we attended the Polynesian Show at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort in Papeete and it was amazing! The dances are a bit similar to Hawaii (fabulous grass skirts, those graceful hand gestures and there's some ukelele. The drumming is fast, the hips are hopping in every direction. Fire dancers blow huge plumes of flame and twirl flaming batons. The dancers were so dreamy that one woman almost got the vapors!

This morning we went to Le Marche, the local market. It's Sunday and the locals were out doing their shopping (no souveniers for sale today and the stalls closed before Church at 10am). Every kind of fish we saw snorkeling were on ice and machete-weilding guys decapitated and filleted them with lightning speed. Lots of French pastries, and produce too.

Then we had breakfast with the Tahiti Tourism Board, before heading to our last site inspection at Le Meridien and then lunch. Now I have a couple hours to relax, pack and get ready for the flight home. This has been an great trip and I love Tahiti. Stay tuned for resort reviews when I get home...

Bora Bora, Day 9 and 10

We managed to see 7 resorts in Bora Bora, which was all the Virtuoso properties: St. Regis, Bora Bora Nui (Starwood Luxury Collection), Bora Bora Pearl (Leading Hotels of the World), InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa, InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana, Hotel Bora Bora (AmanResort), and Bora Bora Lagoon (Orient Express). As rushed as it was, they tried to give us the grand tour, including a meal. I took good notes and lots of photos! It may really be the most beautiful island in the world- crystal clear water with so many shades of blue in the lagoon, and the main island's mountains are so dramatic and green.

The big news is that the Hotel Bora Bora is closing October 1 for two years. They will level the entire property and start from scratch, opening in time for their 50th anniversary with fewer rooms. They wouldn't show us the plans, but all the new units will have private pools and (gasp!) televisions. The resort will also have a pool, spa and gym. The style will be Aman meets Polynesia. It's a fabulous location, and the resort has a very loyal clientele who will resist change, but it's overdue. Most of their staff will be picked up by the Four Seasons, but they'll be offered their old positions when she re-opens...

My last night in Tahiti is at the InterContinental Resort Tahiti in Papeete. They had a great Polynesian show, by far the best we've seen. Lovely ladies in grass skirts, bare-chested men in pareos playing with fire, and great drums. I had a great view of the spectacular sunset and the island of Moorea from my room.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tahiti Day 8

Another busy day in paradise- we are the only people rushing in Tahiti! It was so sad to check out of my villa at the St. Regis. First stop was the InterContinental Thalasso for tour and breakfast. It was gorgeous- sexy contemporary Polynesian décor with a huge Thalasso Spa. Then we went to the Bora Bora Pearl Resort, which was re-scheduled from yesterday. This is a lovely property, one of the Leading Hotels of the World, with a very authentic feeling. The landscaping is especially appealing, and the spa was special. Then off to the InterContinental Le Moana for tour and lunch. Quick stop at Bloody Mary’s and then check into Hotel Bora Bora. We had just a couple hours to play before dinner.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tahiti Day 7

Another early morning for a breakfast meeting and a tour of the Spa and the Royal Villa at the St. Regis Resort in Bora Bora. This 3-bedroom villa has 5 bathrooms, a private pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steamroom and outdoor shower, and a professional kitchen. (Call me for rates!).

The Bora Bora Pearl had to cancel our site inspection and lunch this afternoon so I will FINALLY get a little to time to play. Shall I snorkel in the Lagoonarium, enjoy the infinity pool, relax at the beach or just swim from my villa? It is so beautiful here I can hardly belileve it.

Tonight we have dinner at the St. Regis' signature restaurant "Lagoon by Jean Georges" hosted by the General Manager and the Starwood Regional Manager. I think it'll probably be pretty good.

Tahiti Day 6

Woke up early to snorkel in the coral garden- beautiful with many fish. Took a dip from my bungalow before going to breakfast. Was very sad to leave Le Taha'a but was curious to see how the St. Regis compares. The resort's boat dropped us off directly at the airport in Raitea where we boarded the scenic 20 minute flight to Bora Bora. The airport is on a private motu (small island) where the St. Regis had a boat waiting to transfer us to the resort.

We had lunch and toured a few rooms before dashing off to the Bora Bora Nui Resort for a site inspection and dinner.

My over-the-water villa at the St. Regis is enormous with fabulous views of Mount Otemanu.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tahiti Day 5

Woke up at Le Taha'a Private Island Resort feeling wonderful. The bed in my over-the-water bungalow was great, the views were even better and this is paradise! Did a little work before breakfast and then took the ferry to th emain island of Taha'a for an island tour by 4x4 jeep. What a thrilling ride through tropical rainforest with lagoon views. We visited a vanilla plantation and a black pearl farm also.

Then we boarded the Ti'a Moana, a Bora Bora Cruises yacht. This intimate ship accommodates 40 guests and 40 crew members and it's gorgeous. Guests aboard said the food was fantastic. We enjoyed champagne and the sunset before returning to Le Taha'a for a wonderful dinner.

We have an early start tomorrow and will check into the St. Regis Bora Bora.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tahiti update

Day 3.
Got up early and went to a Catholic mass. The people are so charming and welcoming! Lots of wonderful singing. Then we toured the InterContinental, the Sheraton and the Sofitel. Moorea is very lush and mountainous with beautiful bays.

Day 4.
Got up early for a flight from Moorea to Raitea (via Papeete). Then we boarded a Tahiti Yacht Charter catamaran for a private cruise to Taha'a. Lunch was on-board and the swimming was sublime. The water is turquiose and crystal clear, soft and warm. The ship dropped us off at Le Taha'a Private Island Resort where we were met with music and Tahitian dancers and then we toured the property. Checked into my over-the-water bungalow-fabulous! Dinner was excellent, computer troubles, and finally bed.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tahiti Day 1.

Friday May 2.

My flight itinerary had a major schedule change yesterday, and my new plane leaves 2 hours earlier than anticipated. Luckily, I followed my own advice (see April posting “avoid travel nightmares”). So I left the house in Ithaca a bit after 7am to catch the 720am bus to JFK. Got there about 2pm. Check-in and security were a breeze. They changed our departing gate 3 times but we left almost on time. The America Airlines flight to LA is completely full. The Air Tahiti Nui flight was also full, and on-time.

Day 2. Saturday May 3.

Golly, what a day. After 30 hours of traveling, we arrived in Tahiti. They gave us day rooms at the Sheraton Tahiti Resort, so we were able to shower (priceless!). Then we toured the resort and had breakfast, ferried to Moorea, toured of the Moorea Pearl, ate lunch. We had 45 min to get ready for dinner before the bus departed for the InterContinental for the resort tour and dinner show.

It's 11pm Tahiti time and we've been going non-stop since 530am! My computer tells me it's 5am back home, which means I've been running nearly 48 hours without sleeping in a bed!

My Garden bungalow has a private pool, so I took a quick dip during the 45-min break. The night sky is amazing and I've seen the Southern Cross! Saw dolphins and sea turtles at the InterContinental. Tomorrow is almost as busy...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Off to Tahiti!

Tomorrow’s the big day, I’m off to Tahiti! This is going to be an amazing trip: 8 nights on 4 islands with lots of resort tours.

2 nights on Moorea at the Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa
(tours of the InterContinental, Sofitel and Sheraton)

2 nights at Le Taha’a Private Island Resort & Spa
(tour a Tahiti Yacht Charter ship and HQ, and a Bora Bora Cruises yacht)

3 nights on Bora Bora at two resorts
-2 nights at St Regis Resort
-1 night at Hotel Bora Bora (Amanresort)
(tours of both InterContinentals, the Bora Bora Pearl, Bora Bora Nui, and Bora Bora Lagoon Resort.)

1 night on Tahiti at the InterContinental
(tours of Sheraton, Sofitel and Le Meridien)

Stay tuned!

I'll be back at my desk on Tuesday May 13. I won't have access to phone or voicemail while I'm gone, but I will have access to email (sserino@lindentravel.com). With the time difference, my response time will be a bit slower than usual, but I can still process air tickets and other urgent travel requests.

If you have a travel emergency (for a trip I've arranged) and you require immediate assistance, please call Linden Travel's 24/7 ResCenter for help at 800-639-8170. The "VIT" code is SE9L0.