Through travel, I was transported to many alluring locations across the globe this year. From the rich flora covering the jagged seascape of Cabo da Roca in Portugal to the winding wintry trails of New York’s Central Park; from sampling fine red wines in the vineyards of Bordeaux, France—the year was an eclectic mix of adventures.
In every new city I explore by ship, it is imperative that I extend my stay a few days to enjoy the local experiences that are not on the cruise schedule. This year, I found new hotel destinations while traveling through Germany, mainly the cities of Hamburg, Cologne, and Dusseldorf. My romantic adventures with Azamara Club Cruises took me through Barcelona and London.
Here are some of the hotels I am recommending from my travels, and the interesting cities they live in:
- The Excelsior Hotel Ernst, Cologne
How magnificent is the location and the view? The grand Excelsior Hotel Ernst sits in the heart of Cologne next to the Cologne Cathedral. I was impressed with the tradition and hospitality along with the hotel’s timeless luxury. The individualized service made my stay an exceptional and unforgettable experience. The authentic East Asian cuisine at Restaurant Taku was awarded a Michelin star in November 2011, and is not to be missed!
- Penha Longa Resort, Sintra, Portugal
West of the bustling city of Lisbon lies the breathtaking Penha Longa Resort, located within a 545-acre national park in the southern Sintra Mountains. Originally a monastery in the 1300s and once a palace during the 19th century, Penha Longa is comprised of a luxurious hotel, a nineteenth century palace (now a gorgeous events and wedding center), two spectacular golf courses, and a stunning spa. It was once the retreat for the Portuguese royal family, and I can see why.
I had a wonderful stay at this gorgeous resort. From the beautifully decorated suite overlooking the golf course and infinity pool sunsets to the delicious cuisine of several impeccable restaurants, I absolutely loved everything about relaxing Penha Longa.
High atop the Hotel Arts Barcelona in its beautiful Club Lounge, you can see the entire city. The hotel is located next to the Mediterranean Sea, and within walking distance to La Rambla, which is undeniably the heart of the city.
One can spend hours getting lost within the alleys and quaint buildings of the historic district. We had one of our best meals at the outdoor Marina restaurant, located at the hotel’s poolside, with tasty local seafood accompanied by delicious homemade sangria. The grounds offer a hidden secret garden where you can lounge on hammocks reading your favorite book.
- Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal, Luxembourg City
Centrally located next to the old town center, this five-star, ultra-modern hotel pampers in every way. The smiling, very courteous concierge was helpful in finding local sights to explore. The restaurant, as well as the bar on the top floor concocts truly creative cocktails while offers a breathtaking vista over the entire city.
- Ritz-Carlton Central Park, New York City
The epitome of elegance and, as it overlooks the expansive Central Park in Manhattan, the @RitzCarlton is the place to be. It’s so convenient to be in the center of the big city with Central Park at your doorstep!
The service is top-notch, as you would expect, from the concierge team to receptionists, wait staff, housekeepers, and doormen. The fine experience of their afternoon tea (especially on a cold winter’s day) offers warm, crumbly scones with clotted cream and jams. The best shopping in the world is nearby on Fifth Avenue where all the luxury brands operate their flagship stores. And don’t forget the fantastic entertainment of Broadway shows just a few minutes ride away.
- Ritz-Carlton Battery Park, New York City
Located away from the bustle of midtown Manhattan, this Ritz Carlton is — dressed in business attire, catering to guests who may have meetings near the financial district of Wall Street and One World Trade Center, only a few blocks away. My room had water views of New York Harbor, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governors Island. Battery Park is a tiny retreat of green compared to Central Park, but is just as beautiful with its harbor views and ferries. The Ritz’s knowledgeable sommelier and personal chefs also bowled me over with creative cuisine paired with some excellent, off-the-beaten-path wine choices.
I hope to add more hotels to my list of recommendations with next year’s adventures. In 2016, I’m looking forward to expanding my travels into Asia to try the myriad flavors of our diverse world. Where will you go?
If you think of the span of your entire lifetime, or so years of stuff you’ve bought, it will probably end up in piles labeled buyer’s remorse, keep, or scrap. But the things that stay with you over the years are the memories of travel, new experiences, and time with family and loved ones. If you’re looking to be truly happy, perhaps you should take a look at how you’re investing your time and money.