An ode to the experiences that drain bank accounts.
If you assume that, as travel editors, we’re constantly on a beach somewhere, drinking a mai tai, and getting a massage—you would be sorely mistaken. Although our Instagram accounts might focus on the wonderful places we get to travel to, we’re regular people with cubicles in an unglamorous office with bad lighting, trying not to get depressed while we’re stuck in traffic on the freeway or smashed between other commuters on the subway. However, once in a while we get the opportunity to experience something way beyond our means: an invitation to check out a new luxury hotel, to review a long-distance business-class flight, or dine at one of the world’s best restaurants.
Hong Kong’s Best Hotel
The Upper House in Hong Kong is hands-down the most luxurious, and best, hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Everything about this place, from the peaceful lobby to the insane bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling views over the city, are gorgeous yet understated, and don’t make you feel like you’re pretending to be some ridiculous oligarch that you’re definitely not (which is usually how I feel at luxury hotels tbh).
An Amazon River Cruise
I didn’t think I was the cruise type until I spent four days on a sleek and stylish riverboat in the Peruvian Amazon River and realized that I was right, I’m not the cruise type—I’m the luxury cruise type. Aqua Expeditions’ Aria riverboat boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, contemporary decor, award-winning Peruvian cuisine (from Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Lima’s Malabar and Ámaz), and intimate, daily excursions to spot wildlife in the tributaries of the Amazon River. Add a knowledgeable and talented crew (spoiler alert: the captain plays the bongos), community outreach like supporting local fisherman to ensure the native Paiche fish are farmed responsibly, and my once-in-a-lifetime experience of a sloth unfurling from his nap to make eye contact with me, and the experience grows more luxurious with every telling.
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The World’s Best Spa Treatment
Seeking opulence beyond even celebrity standards, I tried to recreate the Obama’s Bali stay at the inimitable Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, who hosted the presidential family in 2017. At this award-winning hotel, I experimented with a few amenities I hadn’t witnessed before, my favorite being the Sacred Nap, the most ludicrously bougie and incredibly lavish way to literally snooze through an afternoon. Make your way to the outdoor Dharma Shanti Bale, an open-air bamboo structure overlooking a rice plantation and gently burbling river, where a wellness mentor tucks you into a cocoon-like silk hammock and rocks you to sleep.
A Literal Palace in Italy
This summer I went to a place I didn’t know I wanted to go—Lake Como—and stayed at a place I never thought I would see—the incredible Villa d’Este. It’s an experience that’s nearly impossible to describe: It’s somehow both a well-kept secret and world-renowned. It’s a place of over-the-top décor of the rococo wedding cake variety, but it’s also somehow fun and down to earth. It’s old-timey, it’s hip, it’s authentic, and it’s unbelievable. It’s so much more than a hotel and something you truly have to experience for yourself to understand what I’m talking about. If I were a billionaire, I wouldn’t buy a house on Lake Como, I’d just stay at the Villa d’Este for a month each year—it’s straight-up magical there.
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A 5-Star Hotel on the Venice Canal
I found myself at the Palazzina G in Venice, Italy, and was dumbfounded by its luxuriousness. It’s a 5-star hotel directly next to the Grand Canal, so honestly that alone makes for a luxury experience. This was the prettiest place I’ve ever stayed in my life, or been at, or been generally near. My hotel room looked like a contemporary chamber in a Gothic palace. Okay, actually, the whole hotel looked like this. I drank a glass of champagne outside the hotel with a view of the Grand Canal. Plus, there’s a terrace on the roof that feels like a secret little Venetian oasis–it’s quiet and calm, and the views are glorious. I even took one of those photos where you hold the champagne glass in front of the lens right in front of the Grand Canal, and I did a really bad job because I clutched the glass with my whole hand and it looked very stupid.
A Premium-Class Flight to Paris
2018 was quite the extravagant year for me. It all started when I flew Premium Class on Norwegian’s first ever Newark to Orly flight in March. Paris in the (almost) springtime was an absolute dream. In May I drove a 2016 Corvette on a professional course—talk about the ultimate high—in Bowling Green, Kentucky which is the only place Corvettes are made in the world. April saw me in Antigua at Blue Waters Resort and Spa. I stayed at the Cove Suites which have personal infinity pools. That place was hard to leave. Very hard to leave. Then there was the Synchronicity treatment at the Rock Spa & Salon at the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City in August. Part of their Rhythm & Motion “set list,” the treatment involved a glass dome hovering over the treatment table playing music that synced with the pulsating, heated massage table. It sounds crazy and over stimulating, but it was quite the opposite and I felt completely and utterly relaxed and pampered and wanting more.
A Surprising Slice of Luxury in South America
I would not have expected the best meal during my trip to South America to be at a restaurant inside a Hyatt, but the Hyatt Centric San Isidro Lima is unparalleled as far as in-hotel dining goes. Warm and buttery ravioli, plus pistachio-filled churros for dessert combined with photo-worthy presentation all in the sunny, opulent Isidro Bistro Limeña dining room made for a luxurious meal without having to leave the hotel.
A Nordic Cruise
For me, time is the greatest luxury, and this past summer I took a two-week cruise to Norway and Scotland on Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Sky. Sailing up the beautiful Norwegian coast in mid-summer from Bergen up to Honningsvåg and back down the coast to Scotland and on to London is an experience I’d always yearned for, and seeing the sun still well over the horizon at 2 am was a first for me. Coupled with a perfect onboard experience, I had a great time, with strangely warm and beautiful weather (80 degrees above the Arctic Circle), gorgeous scenery (fjords, mountains, and waterfalls), the Ring of Brodgar, and great food (fresh salmon and berries, mounds of king crab for my travel companions). I could not have wished for a better trip, though I have a note for London: You don’t do well in 90+ degree heat.
A Tropical Paradise
Hidden in a low tropical jungle and just steps away from white sand beaches lies the Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya. I was lucky enough to be staying in an oceanfront suite and each morning I was awakened by the sunrise over the turquoise Caribbean. Breakfast in bed by a world-renowned chef was just the icing on the cake.