FYI - round-up
Crystal Cruises makes HK a regular port of call
Good news for luxury cruise fans, as Crystal Cruises will increase its voyages to Hong Kong next year. In addition to world and grand cruises, the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony - the highest-rated mid-sized cruise ships in the world - will offer more options either starting or ending in Hong Kong for 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-day voyages. A 'Book Now Savings' offer is available for next year and early 2014 cruises until June 30. www.crystalcruises.com
Rich head to NZ lodges
Luxury lodges in New Zealand are attracting the world's wealthy. Made famous by such celebrities as Brad Pitt and Barbra Streisand, who stayed in Blanket Bay and Huka Lodge in Taupo, respectively, the lodges are consistently voted among the world's best and offer strict privacy for guests. Auckland International Airport is actively targeting the Chinese market through sites such as www.xindaohualv.com, while Lodges of New Zealand is attending trade shows on the mainland. Prices range from NZ$795 (HK$4,700) to nearly NZ$3,000 per person per night with such amenities as unlimited golf at Kauri Cliffs in Northland and wine pairing at Otahuna Lodge near Christchurch.
Ice age in Macau
If you need to escape the summer heat, put on your winter woollies and head for Ice World at The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, Cotai, Macau. Open daily, the 18,000 sq ft indoor ice hall is kept at minus 8 degrees Celsius and features ice sculptures that depict famous Asian landmarks, a fairytale forest, a magic maze and more. Hooded coats are provided, but visitors must dress for the cold, which includes wearing shoes, not sandals, and long trousers. Ice World is open until September 16. www.venetianmacao.com/iceworld
The Residence Maldives
Bespoke resort operator Cenizaro has opened The Residence Maldives and promotional rates are in effect until July 31.
Rates start at US$940 a night, with discounts on bookings of three nights or more and a US$300 daily spending credit. An hour's pampering at the spa is additionally included for bookings of six nights or more.
The Residence Maldives is on the southern Maldivian island of Falhumaafushi on Gaafu Alifu atoll - the largest and deepest atoll in the world.
Along with its sister properties, The Residence Tunis, The Residence Mauritius and The Residence Zanzibar, the new property enjoys the brand's signature level of luxury, which includes a private butler for each of its 94 villas. Private dining with a personal chef is also available. www.theresidence.com/maldives
Palace Hotel Tokyo opens near Imperial Palace
The new five-star Palace Hotel Tokyo has opened after an investment of more than US$1.2 billion. The development stands on the site of the old Palace Hotel next to the picturesque Imperial Palace and will have an underground passage to the Otemachi subway station by next year. The 290-room hotel boasts the second Evian Spa outside France, several two-star Michelin restaurants, including French restaurant Crown - a collaboration with Patrick Henrioux, Japanese restaurant Sushi Kanesaka - and Amber Palace serving Cantonese and Shanghainese food. The hotel offers 12 categories of accommodation with more than half having open terraces and balconies. www.palacehoteltokyo.com/en
Road from Mandalay
With Myanmar opening up, it is a great opportunity to explore this fascinating country. The Orient-Express' Road To Mandalay cruise up the Ayeyarwady River takes passengers from Burma's second-largest city, Mandalay, to Bhamo, near the foothills of Yunnan, just 80km from the Chinese border. This summer, there are four 12-day trips starting on August 1, where passengers can relax in comfort while the ship meanders through the heart of Myanmar. There's lots to see, such as the three dramatic gorges and the old British outpost of Katha, once home to George Orwell. Guests alight on the return downstream to board a train to a jungle outpost and finally, to tour Mandalay. A two-night stay at the Governor's Residence is also included. www.orient-express.com.
Grand Hotel de Bordeaux launches new 'wine concierge service'
Set in the heart of Bordeaux, the five-star Grand Hotel de Bordeaux & Spa is offering guests a new personal wine concierge service. The restored 17th-century hotel provides guests with tours of legendary vineyards, such as Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Petrus, where they will enjoy wine tasting, wine dinners and personal meetings with winemakers. Private helicopters transfer guests from majestic wine regions to a luxury picnic prepared by executive chef Pascal Nibaudeau with a personal waiter on hand serving from the best china. General manager Yan Vacher says that his hotel, through 'Wine Conciergerie', is dedicated to providing the highest level of expertise regarding wine of any hotel in the world. www.ghbordeaux.com
Heathrow's royal treatment
Be treated like royalty when visiting London this summer for the Olympic Games. Heathrow, Britain's busiest airport, has introduced a VIP service that has, until recently, been reserved only for royalty, heads of state and diplomats. Heathrow By Invitation helps passengers - who pay GBP1,500 (HK$18,400) plus tax, for up to six people for the privilege - bypass the main terminal as they are chauffeur-driven to or from their aircraft to a private airport entrance. A private luxury lounge awaits where light refreshments are served while airport staff handle passport and customs checks, and luggage retrievals. The lounge is available for up to three hours and is available also for transiting passengers. www.heathrowbyinvitation.com
Synchronised swimming at the Berkeley
In the run-up to the summer Olympics, The Berkeley hotel in London's Knightsbridge is collaborating with the award-winning synchronised-swimming team Aquabatix to offer master classes in the sport for hotel guests and visitors. Fast becoming the new fitness craze, synchronised swimming is a great way to stay in shape, and what better place to learn some of those must-know moves than in this stylish hotel's open-air pool overlooking Hyde Park? A first-time collaboration for the hotel and Aquabatix, who will give a short presentation at the beginning of each session. Classes will take place each Wednesday in July. www.the-berkeley.co.uk
Touring Scotland in style
A perfect way of seeing Scotland is on Britain's only luxury sleeper train, The Royal Scotsman, which transports guests through the kingdom's ruggedly beautiful terrain. Only running through the summer months until October, the train regularly departs from Edinburgh's Waverley Station to visit sites such as Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis and Morar Sands. There are several tours on offer, including a two-night Highland tour, three nights along the west coast of Scotland or a four-night Classic Journey visiting iconic sites such as Glamis Castle. Guests can see more by opting for a combination of two of the three. The season's highlight is when the Royal Scotsman crosses the border into England to visit historic cities such as York, Bath and Oxford. The train has an open veranda and diners can enjoy traditional Scottish fare. www.royalscotsman.com
Kennedy Space Centre celebrates 50th
Visitors to Nasa this summer will enjoy rare access to several key areas of Kennedy Space Centre as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. A special 'Kennedy Space Centre Up-Close Tour' allows visitors to look inside the 160-metre Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Apollo rockets and space shuttles were assembled. It is one of the largest buildings in the world. Visitors will also be able to look around the operational areas. Other events to mark this anniversary include the 'Cape Canaveral: Then & Now Guided Tour', a saving of 30 per cent on admission, food and merchandise, and secure access to view rocket launches and more. www.KennedySpaceCenter.com
Golden Gate Bridge turns 75
San Francisco's iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge, celebrated its 75th anniversary last month. There will be continuing special events taking place in the city throughout the summer, including a new two-hour 'Golden Gate Bridge California Sunset Cruise' (www.redandwhite.com) and an indoor, downtown pop-up park at the Westfield San Francisco Centre, Level 4, featuring a replica of the bridge, a life-size chess set, lawn chairs and picnic table. The events run until July 31. There are also exhibitions, such as 'Before the Bridge: Sight and Sound at the Golden Gate', and hotels dedicating everything from suites to cocktails to the occasion.