Archive for the ‘Spas’ Category


Come to Aruba, Dushi

If you’re looking for a sweet spot on a Caribbean island with plenty of fun, sun and bathtub-warm water in which to float, Aruba more than meets your requirements.

First off, the small island nation is easy to navigate and everyone is extremely helpful and friendly. Not friendly just because you’re a tourist, but genuinely friendly as in, “Your car broke down? Come wait in my house to get out of the sun. Would you like a cold beverage?” The local language, Papiamento, includes the word dushi (sweetheart). It’s featured in everything from hot-dog stands to menu items to boat tours, and the word’s prevalence and simplicity serve as a soothing influence.


Photo courtesy of Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

My home base was the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, right on Palm Beach. The hotel finished a $50-million renovation last year, and the room décor is modern and luxe, while retaining a feeling of island simplicity. The eight-story complex includes 411 rooms (including 23 oceanfront suites), a pool with cascading waterfalls, seven bars and restaurants (such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, La Vista, Simply Fish and Waves Beach Bar), the Stellaris Casino and Mandara Spa.

Room rates start at $279 per night, and depend on season and type of room. I had a pool ocean view room, with ample space to lounge and also get work done. If you must work on your Aruba vacation, it’s easy to do so with the hotel’s Jack Pack—a device allowing guests to plug in laptops or iPods to 37 inch-wide TVs in each room. My room’s refrigerator kept my drinks cold, and the in-room coffee maker gave me hot java each day, until the thing fell apart in my hands. (It didn’t take long to get another one, though.)

Harnessing the wind in Aruba. Photo: Jill Robinson

Harnessing the wind in Aruba. Photo: Jill Robinson

If you want an exclusive feel to your island getaway, stay in the Tradewinds Club, on the eighth floor of the Marriott. The upscale amenity includes a private lounge with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and cocktails. In addition, you’ll have a secluded beach area to camp out under an umbrella and forget all about the stresses back home. Room rates for Tradewinds Club guests start at $504 per night.

On Palm Beach, home to high-rise hotels, I never found it too crowded. It was easy to get around the sun-worshipers when I wanted to hoof it down the beach. In the water, even though the kiteboarders zip by with speeds that make your jaw drop, it was never close enough for me to worry. Easy to relax? Check.

Just lounging on the beach not for you? Take a class at the nearby Dare2Fly kiteboarding center. For three lessons (kite mastery, “body dragging” and board lesson), the cost is $375. The Aruba Marriott also offers a special “Surf in to Luxury” package that includes accommodations at the Tradewinds Club and a free windsurfing or intro kiteboarding class.

Even kids enjoy beach tennis. Photo: Jill Robinson

Even kids enjoy beach tennis. Photo: Jill Robinson

If you’re looking for something in between, play beach tennis at the Moomba Beach Bar, right next to the Marriott. As instructor Sjoerd de Vries told me, “it’s a relaxed sport; you can play with a beer in your hand.”

Adventure seekers can take a tour of the island with De Palm Tours. The Natural Pool Jeep Adventure ($92) is a half-day trip covering such sites as the California Lighthouse, a natural bridge, the ruins of an old gold mill and a natural pool that’s perfect to swim and snorkel in. In fact, I didn’t want to leave the pool at all. I guess I’ll have to put it on my list for my next Aruban adventure.

I was in Aruba as a guest of the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, but the opinions in this article are my own.

, ,


Mother’s Day Vacations

While a dozen roses, brunch and a nice scarf is a tried and true recipe for a successful Mother’s Day, why not spoil the woman who brought you into this world. A mother-daughter getaway is not only fun, but it can allow you and your mom to establish a deeper bond and create memories that will last for years to come.

In order to make the trip as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, here are some of our essential tips to planning the perfect Mother’s Day vacation:


All mothers deserve to be pampered on Mother's Day, regardless of species. Photo: Matt McGee

  • Decide as a unit what kind of trip you want. Are you looking simply to unwind or are you in the mood for more adventure? Based on this, you can both suggest ideas accordingly—i.e., a trip to a spa for those seeking relaxation or surf lessons for those craving activity.
  • Don’t let one person coordinate every detail of the trip. Rather, take turns and make compromises with the planning so that each person feels that her needs and interests are being represented.
  • Since money can be a major source of tension, determine who will be paying for what beforehand. Are you splitting everything 50-50, or will you be paying for the airfare and rooms, while she covers the meals and day-to-day activities?
  • Remember, it’s all about the quality, not the quantity. Before you book a two-week cruise, think about your past travel history. If you’re used to only spending the holidays together, opt for a beachside destination or a long three-day weekend.
  • Just because you’re committed to spending quality time with your mother or daughter, doesn’t mean you can’t embark on a group activity, such as whitewater rafting or a nature hike. In fact, the presence of strangers may prompt you to act on your best behavior and meet new families with similar interests.
  • Likewise, a mother-daughter getaway does not mean that you have to spend every single breathing second with one another. Both of you should bring along a good book or even set alone time so you can take an occasional break from one another. You’ll come back feeling reconnected and eager to continue where you left off.
  • Turn off your cell phones, iPods and what-have-you when spending time together. This only disrupts the mood and makes the other person feel as if they’re not being valued.

Here are some ideas for unique and memorable Mother’s Day vacations:


Treat your mom to a posh shopping vacation in Paris. Read our article on Paris shopping.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Paris on TravelMuse.


Your mother has been working hard her entire life. Take her to Cabo for a spa vacation where she can really unwind. Read our article on Cabo spa vacations.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Cabo on TravelMuse.

Grand Cayman

Ready for a little adventure? Take your mom to Grand Cayman to go scuba diving. Read our article on diving in Grand Cayman.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Grand Cayman on TravelMuse.


If you and your mother are looking to build some teamwork skills this Mother’s Day, consider rafting down the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. Read our article on rafting in Yosemite.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Yosemite National Park on TravelMuse.

Need additional ideas for your Mother’s Day vacation? Use our inspiration finder to give you more ideas.

, , , , , , , ,


When I first entered the lobby of the new Waldorf Astoria Orlando earlier this month, I immediately noticed the replica of the famous 14-foot clock that sits in the lobby of its New York counterpart and other similar amenities like the Peacock Alley restaurant and bar, Bull & Bear Steakhouse and Sir Harry’s Lounge.


Photo: Ed Schmidt

What sets the Orlando Waldorf Astoria apart, however, is the property’s decided Florida resort personality. Large open windows in the common areas allow for natural lighting and panoramas of an expansive pool area and lush golf course. The paneled walls and floor in soft creams and the crystal sconces in the lobby add to a fresh, Florida resort feel. The 497 guest rooms and suites are brimming with tropical colors like yellow, tangerine and teal blue accented by Art Deco pieces and rich, dark woods accented by satin nickel.

“To maintain its traditional sense of grandeur and ornament while still filling the space with a fresh, inviting appeal, we incorporated bright colors and rich patterns that give the resort a more vibrant Florida ambiance and a youthful energy,” says Rosie Feinberg, senior designer at Santa Barbara, California-based sfa design.


Photo: Ed Schmidt

Feinberg says the goal was to infuse the Jazz Age elegance of New York’s Art Deco Waldorf Astoria with the vibrant ambiance of Florida. I think Feinberg’s team achieved their goal. The interior design is fresh and creative and is the antithesis of the thematic resort destination so prevalent in the area.

Surrounded on three sides by Walt Disney World Resort, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is convenient to everything Disney. The property is part of a 482-acre development that includes the adjacent 1,000-room Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.


Photo: Ed Schmidt

Enhancing the property’s spacious ambiance is a 7,113-yard Rees Jones-designed championship golf course just a few step from the front door and a 125-acre state protected preserve of waterways and wetlands that are home to turkeys, foxes and migratory birds. Other amenities include a formal swimming pool with private cabanas, a 24,000 square-foot Waldorf Astoria spa by Guerlain and 28,000 square feet of meeting space.

To read a review of the new Waldorf Astoria Golf Club course, check out

, , ,