Rosewood Mayakoba - Great "WOW" Factor

I have recently returned from a weekend getaway at the Rosewood Mayakoba.  I was traveling with my husband for a quick and easy getaway to celebrate his birthday and enjoy some time alone,  leaving our 3 year old back in NYC with family.Traveling to the Mexican Riviera Maya is a piece of cake from New York and most other major U.S. and Canadian cities making this a perfect, simple, luxury getaway.  I had pre-arranged a VIP meet and greet service so as soon as we stepped from the plane we were met by a representative who quickly escorted us through customs and immigration avoiding all of the lines.  We had only carryon luggage so it was just moments before the representative located our driver from The Rosewood Mayakoba and we were on our way.  The hotel is about a 45 minute drive fromCancunAirport.  The hotel will send a luxury suburban vehicle to transport you.The RW Mayakoba is a contemporary property with a Mexican flair.   The public areas are very impressive architecturally and make an impact from the moment you arrive.  The property has two very different sections, the lagoon section, and the beach section. You must be aware that very few rooms at this hotel are located near the beach.  If you can afford to “pay the premium” for a room located in the beach section – it’s a must!   Personally, I was confirmed in an entry level room which is called a Lagoon Suite however I did tour every other room category.   The one thing that I can attest to is that every room at this property has “WOW FACTOR”.The lagoon section is where most of the 128 suites are located as well as the Lobby, the main restaurant, the sushi bar, the Tequila library and billiard room. The beach section is where you will find the more casual restaurant, the infinity pool and the kids club. The two sections are separated by half a mile walk or can be easily accessed by golf carts which are continually shuttling guests around the property.  The hotel is surrounded by crystal clear canals in and all of the rooms are located on water.  All of the rooms are extremely spacious, private and luxurious.  All are equipped with a private a plunge pool, (the "overwater" suites are the most impressive rooms within the Lagoon Section).    As for the décor, the suites are quite contemporary, but yet very nicely integrated with the surrounding nature, mainly a combination of stones and woods.   The bathrooms are all very impressive.  Most bathrooms have very sexy outdoor shower gardens, huge bathtubs and beautiful tiles.  All rooms have very nice sitting/lounge area.The overall service is excellent and the staff is friendly and helpful; you are also assigned a private butler to help you with any special needs. The food was quite good as well, featuring mainly authentic Mexican and continental cuisine.The pool and beach area of this property are exceptional.  The infinity pool literally hangs over the very white sandy beach.  I have experienced almost every luxury hotel located on the Riviera Maya and I have to say that this hotel has one of my favorite beach/pool areas.     In general, the hotel is very “adult like” however they do cater to children.  I was pleasantly surprised to see an infant wading pool and a very nicely equipped kids club within the beach club area.   If you are a couple traveling without kids I would suggest staying away from this hotel during peak times such as Christmas/New Years, Presidents Week and Spring Break as I could imagine that it might become a bit overcrowded with kids by the pool area which is not very large or spread out.   However, if you are a family traveling together and require connecting rooms, book early because the hotel does have a limited supply of connecting rooms.All in all I recommend this property as a fantastic getaway for both high end families and couples.    

Grand Velas Riveria Maya - An All Inclusive That Exceeded My Expectations

Okay, I have to admit, the thought of going to an “ALL INCLUSIVE” was not exactly my cup of tea.  Yeah, I did the Club Med thing with a bunch of girlfriends in the good ol days but I am very spoiled now and the thought of eating at a buffet everyday makes me cringe.   When I started hearing a buzz in my office about a great new all inclusive in the Riveria Maya that really was 5 star, I decided to check it out with my husband and three year old son.   Well…., believe it or not, I was not disappointed and to be honest, it exceeded my expectations.We arrived at the hotel very late at night (11PM).  A few moments after settling into our 2nd floor room in the Ambassador Section my husband and I thought that it might be more convenient to have a ground floor room as we were traveling with our toddler.  We called the front desk and they could not have been more accommodating to our request at such a late hour.   It took them a few moments to locate a ground floor room which was available and ready for occupancy and quickly moved our luggage and settled us into the perfect room.The rooms at the hotel are large and are well equipped and include everything one might require.  The marble bathrooms are also large and have separate shower stalls and large soaking/Jacuzzi tubs.  The hotel is only 2 years old so everything is fresh and new.   The beds have pillow top mattresses with high quality sheet and duvets.You must be very careful when booking this hotel as there are three sections to the hotel.  The Master Suites, the Ambassador Suites and the Grand Class Suites.The Master Suites are NOT located near the beach and require a 5-7 minute shuttle ride to go back and forth to the beach.  This is reflected in the reduced pricing for these room categories however the actual quality of the rooms and the surrounding areas remains on par with the Ambassador Section.The Ambassador Section runs along the beachfront and large pool area and are the preferred room category for families.  The Grand Class Suites are considered Adult only and are located beachfront.If you are a family and can afford to pay up for the Ambassador Suite, I highly recommend it.  If you are a couple, and can afford to pay up for the Master Class suite you will benefit by receiving an improved room which is direct oceanfront in addition to being more plush with its décor including a large swivel plasma TV, oversized sofa in sitting area, huge bathroom and of course private plunge pool on your patio.Now let’s get down to the things that really set this ALL INCLUSIVE apart from all other all inclusive resort. The FOOD and the SERVICE.First, The Food – The hotel offers a diverse eight separate restaurants from which to choose.  We tried each and every restaurant.  Being that we live in New York City and are accustomed to fine dining on a regular basis we are spoiled and too often disappointed when we travel to the Caribbean and Mexico when it comes to food (even in the luxury properties).   Well, all in all I have to say we were basically impressed by all of the restaurants except for the Signature Restaurant called Cocina de Autor.  This restaurant is trying too hard to be a culinary experience to the point that it just doesn’t work.  If you are staying at the hotel for only 3-5 nights I would avoid trying this restaurant.   Piaf- the French restaurant was excellent - great steak and the best apple tart I have ever had!  There are a diverse selection of restaurants for both lunch and dinner.  Even the buffets were impressive at this hotel!  They also did a nice job of offering a diverse selection of decent wines by the glass.  They mix up the wine options between restaurants so that you didn’t feel like you were always drinking the same wines by the glass.In addition to the restaurants, the hotel offers a full 24 hour Room Service menu which we did experience a few times during our stay.  This service was operated as if you were staying at a 5 star property.   The first night we arrived after 11PM and expected that we would have to scavenge around the minibar for some nuts and chips.  Not so- we ordered a full dinner with wine from room service which arrived quickly and was presented as if we were at a 4 or 5 star property.Now- The Service – Overall I really don’t have one negative comment about the service.  Anything and everything we ever asked for or requested was addressed and taken care of with a smile and wonderful attitude.  Every room is assigned a butler to assist you with any possible personal request you might have from needing a phone charger to making your restaurant reservations to arranging babysitting, etc.  Our butler was always incredibly helpful and gracious.   The pool and beach staff constantly inquire if they can bring you bottled water or a drink.  I never felt as if I were searching for hotel staff when I needed something, there was always someone nearby to assist with any need I might have had.The resort is an excellent family destination and we did take advantage of the kids club, kid’s pool, and baby sitting services, all of which were excellent.  If you have teenagers they even offer activities at night for teens.  If you are a couple,  you might want to consider booking the Grand Class suites which offer an adult only infinity pool overlooking the ocean however even if you are staying in another section of the hotel you can still utilize the Grand Class section, which we did while our son was at the kids club during the day.The hotel does not make you wear one of those miserable plastic bracelets to identify you as a paid guest.   However, they do present a bill for food and drink and ask you to sign and add any additional tips.  Which brings me to the point that gratuities are included in your room rate however should you feel the need, you can add additional tip.All in all I recommend this property as a fantastic getaway for both high end families and couples.    I hope to return to Grand Velas one of these days soon.

Castiglion Del Bosco -Everything You Could Imagine “Under The Tuscan Sun”

My husband and I have just returned from a one week journey in Tuscany.   While  planning our adventure, I wanted to include properties that would feel like a true “Tuscan experience”.    Boy oh boy, did Castiglion Del Bosco fit the bill.The hotel is an ancient Borgo (small town) with some of its buildings dating back to the 12th century.    Every square inch of this hotel, which also includes a number of private villas, has been meticulously restored.   The hotel was developed by Massimo Ferragamo, son of the famous designer Salvatore Ferragamo.  The design and décor was overseen by his wife, Chiara.    It is obvious that every detail within the confines of the 4500 acre estate has been taken into consideration.The estate is located about 2 hours from Florence and 45 minutes from Siena.   If you are arriving for the first time by car, I suggest arriving from the town of Buonconvento rather than Montalcino.  The road from Montalcino is about a 25 minute drive on a gravel road.The property consists of 23 suites which are within the main buildings in the borgo:  the original castle, the winery and the stables.  In addition, located throughout the 4500 acres are 9 original stone farmhouses ranging in size from 3 to 5 bedrooms.    The Borgo is situated on a very high ridge with panoramic views of the beautiful Tuscan Hills.There are a multitude of activities and interests from which to keep you  busy including:  hunting, horseback riding, bocce ball, swimming, spa, mountain biking, hiking, hot air ballooning and painting classes not to mention just relaxing by the spectacular infinity pool perched on a ledge overlooking the valley.   I would like to point out what I believe to be three of the properties most unique and admirable aspects, which are: The 18 hole Tom Weiskopf designed golf course; the on-site Tuscan Cooking Academy and The Castiglion del Bosco Winery which produces one of the regions finest Brunellos.    Castilion del Bosco is a great place to enjoy downtime yet keep yourself busy with activities and interests in tune with the region.   For example one morning my husband and I enjoyed a tour of the 11,000 square foot vegetable garden with the hotel’s chef.   We learned how this garden supplies all of the fresh food items for the hotel’s restaurants and only utilizes seasonal foods in its daily menu which is the true “Tuscan Way” of cooking.  We also received a few great tips for our own vegetable garden back home.  On another day, after a late afternoon round of golf, we grabbed a glass of wine and enjoyed the sunset while playing a spontaneous game of bocce ball on the hotel bocce court.   We are avid golfers and were pleasantly surprised by the superior quality of the new golf course.  The golf pro and his staff were incredibly professional accommodating.   And I shouldn’t forget to mention we thoroughly enjoyed spending a few hours each day lounging by the infinity pool which is surrounded by the gorgeous landscaping of lavender and dill.During my visit I took the opportunity to tour many of the rooms and a couple of villas.  If you would like my personal feedback or help on specific rooms or villas, please feel free to send me a message.   Each and every room is exquisitely decorated in simple and elegant earth tones reflecting the feeling of the surrounding countryside.  The lighting, carpets, bath fixtures, linens, bathrooms, are all top of the line.  Even the wall mounted plasma screen TV was covered in a hand stitched leather to complement the décor of the room!   I make a living traveling to and recommending hotels around the globe and just want to reiterate, no detail seems to have been overlooked to ensure each guests comfort and satisfaction.I strongly recommend the villa experience for families looking to spend quality time together or a group of couples.  The villas, like the hotel, are top of the line!  State of the art kitchens,  covered outdoor patios, pool, tennis court, pizza ovens, the list goes on.   If you are entertaining renting a villa in Italy and seeking guaranteed quality and service, you should strongly consider this property.There are two restaurants on site from which to choose.  The more casual Osteria serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  This upstairs of this restaurant is set up with an open grill in the upstairs area combined with the seating area.  The Ristorante Del Drago is more formal and serves dinner.   The views from both are beautiful overlooking the mountains and valley with the town of Montalcino in the distance.  Both offer outdoor seating and patios.   During our tour of the vegetable garden the chef described to us how in low season, when the resort is not busy, the guests congregate in the Osteria to enjoy sipping on wine while mingling over the open grill while the chef creates their meal.  As he described this, all I could think of was returning to this beautiful setting in the fall or winter to enjoy this experience.All in all, I have nothing but wonderful “Tuscan” memories of Castiglion Del Bosco.  We stayed at this property for three nights and I could have easily spent another two or three nights here.  Once we got into our Tuscan groove, we did not want to leave!