LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Sometimes we just need to escape.  Get on a plane and disappear for awhile to somewhere truly isolated and beautiful to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit.  This issue honours that feeling with its “Island Special” – a select glance at a few of our favourite island escapes outside Australia.

This month we are encouraging you to refer a friend to Executive Edge to experience the Edge difference.  With each referral booking, you will be entered into a draw to receive two free nights at the Crown Towers. Please refer to Edge Giveaway for further details.

A special treat – one of our Directors, Yvonne Verstandig, writes an action-packed Edge Gold List about her top five travel adventures.

Edge Travel this month diarises Ginette’s magical trip to India and Rocky’s family Celebrity Cruise around the Baltic Sea.  Also in this issue, don’t forget to check out Family Fun and Cruise News for unique travel ideas.

Next issue, I write an ode to my favourite country in the world, bella Italia.  It’s time to plan your next Winter holiday and next issue on everything Italy has to offer will certainly tempt your itinerary.

As always, we thank you for your loyalty and look forward to planning your next escape.

Sincerely, Kimberly Rosbe
Marketing and Communications Manager

FEATURE

Island Escapes

Some Things Remain the Same

“You’ll never believe it Kimber – nothing has changed!”  My best friend Carrie’s words echo in my head as I lounge on the beach watching two little girls perched on blue and yellow rafts execute pelican-like dives into the ocean and emerge gleefully with live, brown sand dollars.  Many years ago, Carrie and I used to perform the same silly rituals during our long days at Kiawah’s beach on family trips to this island.  After vacationing at Kiawah with her husband, Carrie had insisted I witness for myself the unchanged state of our childhood beach.  So at first opportunity, I headed down to South Carolina.

As I drove the familiar 17-mile stretch past Charleston, my expectations soared.   Upon arrival I discovered Carrie was right.  Much to my amazement, Kiawah’s unique seaside remained exactly as it endured in my memory.  It was all there:  unpopulated wide flat beaches for endless bicycle exploration, rustling sea oats on high sand dunes, lazing alligators aside ubiquitous lagoons, dolphins playing in the shallow waves at dawn, the soft buzzing of crickets in the hazy humid evenings.  So little had changed.  I found this persistence significant.  Kiawah symbolised all that was simple and innocent and good from childhood.  Now, looking back, it is comforting to know that some things really do remain the same.

 

Edge favourite island escapes:

KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina, USA

Mariner’s Watch Villas; The Sanctuary

If I had to choose only one island to recommend in America, Kiawah still captures my heart and childhood memories.  Best known for its world-class tennis and golf facilities, Kiawah offers sporting or family beach-side relaxation.  Mariner’s Watch is only one of many 1 to 6 bedroom weekly self-contained rental properties.  If you prefer the conveniences of a resort, the oceanfront newly opened AAA five diamond Sanctuary, has been rated the #1 Family Resort in the U.S. providing impeccable Southern hospitality in elegant tradition. www.beachwalker.com; http://www.kiawahresort.com/accommodation/the-sanctuary

SANTORINI, Greece

Ikies Traditional Houses, Oia

Arguably the most spectacular sunset viewing in the world is from Oia Castle on this quiet, picture postcard perfect Southern-most town in Santorini.  THE skafta (cave-house resort) to stay at is Perivolas, but I recommend its direct neighbour Ikies.  While staying there, the owner gave me a grand tour of Perivolas so I could compare the two.  At Ikies the prices are significantly lower, the terraces much larger and the view of the caldera and Oia’s cliff-perched town identical.  The only major difference is the pool size – Perivolas still features the more impressive infinity pool.  The town itself is a 10 minute walk from both resorts and a welcome distance from the waves of tourists who are bussed in most evenings to experience the sublime golden sunset and wander the narrow alleys of expensive jewellery boutiques and art galleries.  For fine dining, Ambrosia offered the best lamb and culinary delights with stunning views of Oia’s blinding white cubist cottages, domed churches and deep azure caldera.  This island, this town, and its breathtaking visual drama of volcanically formed geography is certainly a lifetime-island must see. www.perivolas.com ; www.ikies.com

CARIBBEAN

Although the chain of islands that make up the Caribbean are closely strung together, they are nevertheless vastly different in geography, culture and size. I could dedicate an entire issue to my travels in the Caribbean alone, but here I’ll just highlight three:

Ladera Resort, St. Lucia

Supposedly Oprah Winfrey’s favourite resort in the Caribbean and consistently rated as a top small hotel by Conde Nast Traveller, Ladera is admittedly a most unusual tropical gem.  Located on a hillside in lush, mountainous St. Lucia, Ladera’s 6 suites are open-air – and I mean literally open-air.  The entire west wall of your double story villa is missing and completely exposed to the elements – bugs, rain and all.  When you awake on your four-poster bed, absolutely nothing obstructs your spectacular view of the Piton mountains and blue sea. Think of it as ultra-lux camping with a plunge pool and room service.  www.ladera.com

Round Hill Villas, Jamacia

Popularized in the 50’s by its Hollywood celebrity guests including Jacky O and well-loved by the European aristocracy, Round Hill is an iconic address in Jamaica and still a legend-worthy destination today. 12-kilometers west of Montego Bay, the privately-owned 2 to 5 bedroom villas are the place to stay scattered around the hillside.  However, in 2004 the Pineapple House (the hotel section of the property) was redesigned and decorated by Ralph Lauren, famed fashion designer and shareholder at Round Hill, taking beach-side living to a new style standard. www.roundhilljamaica.com

Petit St. Vincent, The Grenadines

Getting here isn’t easy – 45 minutes small craft flight from Barbados to Union Island followed by an hour escorted motor boat ride to the resort.  But remoteness is a given with a genuine hideaway.  Petit St. Vincent is a charming, privately-owned island whose owners tired of their corporate lives and choose instead to buy a remote island in the Caribbean 25 years ago and start a low-key resort.  Their 5 golden retrievers can be seen on daily walks around the 113 acre island property and will inevitably greet you upon arrival at the launch.  Its 22 cottages are scattered all over the island on rolling hillsides, sides of cliffs and some right on the white sandy beach.  For total isolation, Villa 1 is set on the top of Little Bluff with panoramic views of Conch Bay and beyond.  The best beach choice is Villa 13.  Do not book Villa 16 as it is in a horrible location by the dock and facing Southwest.   The accommodation is simple and rustic with no television, air conditioning or even phones.  If you want service for any reason, simply raise a red flag on the bamboo pole outside your villa.  My favourite activity was going on the walk around the entire island – spectacular views from all angles.  Well worth the effort to get here for true serenity and chilled out island experience.

WAIHEKE ISLAND, New Zealand

Moorings Studio Apartments

A short ferry ride from Auckland is the ever so charming rustic winery island of Waiheke.  We stayed at the quaint Moorings residence – two studio apartments overlooking the harbour and Matiatia Bay.  Lynn and her professor husband, the Moorings’ owners, live just next door and will pick you up at the ferry and are more than happy to recommend activities.  My mother and I spent our three days on Waiheke driving around the island visiting vineyards, mostly on dirt roads, in an old beat-up Suzuki Jeep with the top down.  After our extensive winery/restaurant exploration, three in particular stood out:  1) Passage Rock had one of New  Zealand’s finest Syrahs and to accompany your drink, the New York Times raved “the best pizza on the planet.”  2) Te Whau Vineyard & Cafe has unquestionably the most spectacular vista perched on a cliff lookout over Rocky Bay.  3) Cable Bay Vineyards is the newest addition to the island (a mere 5 minutes drive from the ferry dock) and provides ultra-modern restaurant design and superb cuisine.  www.themorrings.gen.nz  

PHUKET, Thailand

Alila

Alila is Sanskrit for ‘surprise’ – and what a delicious surprise this soon-to-open property on Phuket will be.  The Alila properties in Indonesia and Thailand are focused on delivering a holistic destination travel experience. Their founding concept is growing awareness and emersion in the culture of the destination, not just a typical hotel stay.  All properties are strikingly contemporary in design while remaining harmonious with their natural environments.  The Alila Phuket property is located on the West coast near Kamala Bay and will be opening in the upcoming months as well as new Alila villas in the Maldives, Oman, Vietnam and China.  Surprisingly different….   www.alilahotels.com

MAUI, Hawaii

Hotel Hana

Hana Highway, a 52-mile drive revealing the essence of Maui, is considered one of the 10 most beautiful drives in North America.  Crossing over 66 one-lane bridges, the road takes you past scenic waterfalls, eucalyptus groves, bamboo jungles and rainbow after rainbow rising above lush vegetation.  At the end is the truly magical Hotel Hana in all its secluded breathtaking splendour.  Sea Cottages are dotted along the perfectly manicured green grounds – your escape for the night.  Given its extreme isolation and no television, only come here to truly get away.  Spend your days doing complimentary yoga, horseback riding on the coast or lounging by the gorgeous pool enjoying the peace and quiet. www.hotelhanamaui.com

MAURITIUS

La Plantation d’Albion, La Pointe aux Canonniers

Club Med’s first 5 trident property, La Plantation d’Albion, has just opened in late July on the Western coast of Mauritius on 21 hectares between the mountains and coral reef coast.  Already awarded the prestigious “Table Coup de Coeur” for its exemplary cuisine and culinary activities, the property also features a special Spa, Turkish bath, fitness room, tisanerie, 2 swimming pools, golf, tennis and scuba diving.  Albion offers all the benefits of a Club Med experience with the exception of children’s facilities.  However, Club Med’s sister property in Mauritius, La Pointe, does have children’s clubs from Baby Club Med (4-23 months) to Juniors’ Club Med (from 11-17 years).  La Pointe is currently completing a renovation and will re-open on December 15th.   If an Indian Ocean escape is what you are craving with the ease of all-inclusive packages, Club Med has a property to suit your wishes. www.clubmed.com

BORA BORA, French Polynesia

St. Regis

Classic honeymoon haven Bora Bora, the South Pacific’s loveliest paradise island, seems to be the hot spot of the moment for the luxury traveller.  And of all the private Motu resorts, I believe the St. Regis exemplifies the most impeccable international service standard – slick, yet elegant and relaxed.  Bringing the sea to your doorstep, the 80 over-water villas at the 2006-opened St. Regis boast the largest bungalows in the Southern Seas fanning out in crab claw design across the crystal clear blue lagoon.  Be sure to be drawn back to dry land to check out the groovy all-white Bubbles Bar and Restaurant and 4,000 square meter Deep Ocean Algotherm/Hei Poa Spa. www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis

FIJI

Myola Plantation, Coral Coast

The latest name in luxury private holiday residences is Black Label Retreats.  Black Label offers an exclusive collection of private villas and retreats in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific for family groups with every conceivable amenity. Myola Plantation Villa is an exotic cliff top residence on Viti Levu Island, 45 minutes drive or 12 minutes helicopter flight from Nadi.  On 14 acres of citrus groves, rainforest and lush gardens, sits your own Villa overlooking the Pacific inclusive of an infinity pool, heli pad, secluded Fijian beach, two master suites, resident chef and up to 10 staff at your beckon call.  The tariff covers all meals as well as all beverages and can accommodate up to 4 guests.  www.blacklabelretreats.com

EDGE GIVEAWAY

Refer a friend to Executive Edge and with every booking that exceeds $4,000, you’ll be entered into a draw to receive 2 free nights at the decadent Crown Towers.  All entries close December 31st, 2007.  Prizes can be redeemed through June 30th, 2008.  Certain black out dates will apply.  Happy referring!  We look forward to welcoming your friends to the Executive Edge family.

 

EDGE GOLD LIST

Yvonne’s Top 5 Travel Adventures

  1. Rafting in the Canadian Rockies
    Gasping for air as the glacial water drenched us repeatedly, the challenge of cascading through canyons down the level 4 rapids on the aptly named Kicking Horse River in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada was truly a thrilling experience for my husband and me.  Our ride continued for hours through 15 miles of white water rapids amidst picture perfect scenery.   To end we were given the option of diving into this freezing water that only days earlier was still snow and ice.  Loving a dare, I didn’t hesitate.  What a refreshing wake-up that was!
  2. “Fresh Tracks” in Whistler
    Our 6am alarm sounded and my 14 year old and I sprang out of bed to make it to the chairlift queue in time to catch the first lift of the day and an experience we’ll never forget.  For the most enthusiastic skiers, the Whistler chairlift opens at 7am sharp to allow an early bird opportunity to be the first to ski down the 1530 meter vertical before it opens to the public.  Once the avalanche patrol gave us the all-clear, we raced from our perch at the top of the mountain to imprint our “fresh tracks” on the 50 cm of untouched powder.  Absolutely awesome.
  3. Climbing Ayers Rock
    Although some consider scaling our national icon a religious faux pas, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.  Not for the faint-hearted, my brave daughter and I began the fairly treacherous climb up this massive rock’s sheer face assisted only by a single chain.  When we reached the end of the chain-assisted segment, little did we know we had only conquered 1/3 of our ascent!  The rest of the climb to the top of Ayers Rock was still no easy task as we had to navigate undulating hills to reach the summit.  This physical feat had a spiritual ending though.  The elation that we felt when reaching the top was overwhelming.  Standing a ½ mile high on the top of this extraordinary landmark, red earth extended as far as the eye could see.
  4. Scuba Diving in the Maldives
    Learning to scuba dive in the Maldives some would consider a mistake because how could anything else compare?  Crystal clear warm water filled with every imaginable sea life, we were greeted by dozens of manta rays washing themselves in their “clearing station,” reef sharks swimming with turtles and every fish you can name in a kaleidoscope of colours.  Even better?  A whale shark was in the water with us that day – the rarest of all sightings.
  5. Cycling the Haleakala Volcano
    Rising at 3am for the early morning pickup so as not to miss the sunrise over the extinct Haleakala Volcano in Maui, our cycling adventure began. Onto our bikes as the sun rose, we tackled the 36-mile cycle down the volcano fearlessly despite the sleeting rain.  The scenery was ever-changing.  The top end of the volcano the road wound through rubble and sparse vegetation but with each turn, the foliage grew greener and ultimately we arrived in the most lush surroundings.  Legs weary, but still exhilarated from the stunning descent, we jumped off our bikes and took a short walk down to the beach.  What a beautiful way to finish off a magical morning.

 

EDGE TRAVEL

Ginette’s Travel Diary to India

On a recent visit to India, my family and I spent time in Varanasi – a place that is considered to be one of the world’s holiest cities.  The holy water of the sacred Ganges River which runs through the city is the centre of life in Varanasi.  In fact, it is the focus for every daily activity.

The visual and emotional experiences on those ghats that I shared with my family are very strong.  The daily routine of women washing clothes, men brushing their teeth and bathing in the Ganges was fascinating.  But their cycle of life was most evident to me in the way Indians bury or cremate their dead in and on the banks of the Ganges.  My family and I were drawn to the ceremonies and were completely taken by their spirituality.

India is a wonderful trip to make as a family.  The food, the environment, the colour, the aromas, but particularly the people provide the setting for a sensational encounter with an ancient and mystical culture.  These sights provided the most beautiful photographic opportunities and encompassed the vast differences between India and the West.  We all enjoyed every aspect of our Indian travels but, most of all, the spirituality.  Our journeys took us to the real soul of India – memories that we’ll never forget.

Rocky’s Travel Diary on a Celebrity Cruise around the Baltics

I have just returned from an amazing 14 night Baltic Cruise on the Celebrity Cruise Line with my family.  We set sail from Dover, England on the Constellation, the largest and newest of the Celebrity fleet.  We had a party of 9 ranging in age from 10 to 82 and everybody had an incredible time.
Celebrity Cruises caters not only to 5 star luxury clients but also to children and teenagers with Cirque Du Soleil spectacular shows, Kids Clubs, Teen Clubs, cabaret lounges, discos, casinos, fitness and spa facilities, cinemas, computer studios, art galleries, boutiques, etc.
The food is divine and available 24 hours a day with a number of dining choices ranging from casual to very formal fine dining.  We discovered the fabulous Sushi Bar at the back of the ship where we all enjoyed snacks.

Our itinerary included stops in Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm, Gdansk, Berlin as well as St. Petersburg – our favourite part of the trip.

Other highlights included visiting Tallin, Estonia – a stunning medieval, cobblestoned walled city and Visby in Sweden – an island where we did a cycle tour around another medieval walled fortress city. Both cities were so beautiful, we felt that we were on a movie set and they are destinations that we would have never visited had we not been on this incredible Scandinavian cruise. We disembarked in Copenhagen and could not believe that we had been at sea for 14 nights.

We all loved the concept of not having to constantly pack and unpack and be in an out of hotels and airports.  We developed a routine of coming back to the ship at the end of a day after touring and all heading to the gym – which is situated at the front of the ship with floor to ceiling glass.  As the ship left port and travelled through Fjords and stunning scenery, we would all be on treadmills or exercise bikes taking in the spectacular setting.

I can confidently say that my family are now converted cruise travellers and we highly recommend this experience.

 

FAMILY FUN

Canadian Glam Camping

Do the kids keep hounding you to experience the great outdoors their way – camping under the stars in sleeping bags and cooking on portable stoves?  Somehow though the idea of bugs and tents doesn’t sound quite as appealing as Egyptian cotton towels and room service….Canada’s latest trend in camping may offer the perfect compromise for the entire family.  “Glamping” is the newest way to experience the wilderness designed for the higher end of the market.  Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, near the village of Tofino in British Columbia, is one such glamping locale.  Its eco-safari style outpost has 27 white canvas guest tents, massage and treatment tents as well as dining tents and cooks.  Luxury camping may not equate to your favourite 5* hotel, but at least both kids and parents can be content. 

 

CRUISE NEWS

Superlatives

The Queen Mary 2, the longest, tallest and widest ocean liner in the world will be making 22 6 night Atlantic crossings between Southampton and New York this year with fares starting at $1,300 per person until October.  www.cunardline.com.au

Christmas at Sea

Holland America Line’s premium Statendam fly/cruise packages include a 16 night voyage from Sydney to Auckland, one night post cruise accommodation at the Hilton Auckland, flights from Auckland to Sydney and all meals, entertainment and activities from $4,329. www.traveltheworld.com.au

Tahiti bound

Early booking passengers on the first series of Tahiti cruises aboard Star Flyer, a luxury tall ship, will receive a $775 discount for 7-11 night cruises starting in Papeete to Huahine, Bora Bora and Moorea. Star Flyer will be the only luxury clipper ship operating in French Polynesia.  www.creativecruising.com.au, www.starclippers.com

Spanish Cape History

Silverseas Silver Wind is offering a spectacular journey from Buenos Aires to Santiago through the Strait of Magellan following in the wake of the first Spanish ships around the Cape of South America.  Silver Wind does it all in elegant style with spacious state rooms and gourmet deck dining departing October/November.  www.silversea.com