Tags: Nantucket | Palm | Beach | Fl

Luxe Travel: Old Money Hideaways; World's Most Expensive Shore Excursion

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2008 11:56 AM

By Karen T. Bartlett

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Where does Old Money slip away for a weekend or romantic celebration? Sometimes only the marble halls of opulence and luxury will do, but not always. Sometimes slipping away is all about putting on those comfy chinos and tees without the pressure of public appearance. Here are a few best-kept secrets to whet your appetite, with the cruising world’s most decadent shore excursion for dessert.

Cloistered on Sea Island

The gates to The Cloister at Sea Island, in Georgia’s Golden Isles, swing open only to reserved guests. No day-trippers, no paparazzi. Generations of families have found solace here in “uncomplicated luxury,” by which they mean to say you have a butler and you dress for dinner, but service is anything but snooty.

Best Golf Resort in North America (Golf Digest 2006), Mobil 5-Star, AAA Five Diamond, Top Small Hotel and No. 1 for Top Dining (Zagat 2004, 2005, and 2006) are just a few items on Sea Island’s long pedigree. There’s the stunning beach, of course, salt marshes, an equestrian center, a shooting school, and the Yacht Club.

There are wine tastings and guest speakers on antiques, fine art and garden design, dinner dances, and a very respectable library. Kids are welcomed and treated with respect, with imaginative indoor, land and sea programs run by hand-picked collegians. And oh, my, the holiday ambience. View The Cloister, The Lodge, and cottage options at www.seaisland.com.

Civilized Chesterfield

The guest register of this Palm Beach, Fla., landmark hotel is so elite it seems to be written not in blue ink, but blue blood. Even without a pedigree, though, expect to be treated as royalty. The staff seems to have some kind of secret competition to grant the most outrageous whims of its pampered guests.

Built in 1926 in the style of a European bed and breakfast, it retains that Old World aura. But stuffy it’s not. Couples arriving for the two-day Sweethearts Package get — besides the champagne, fruit, and chocolate-covered strawberries — a list of the 12 most romantic places to kiss in Palm Beach.

There’s also a “romantic interlude” dinner, in-suite continental breakfast and a gift from the hotel. Within strolling distance are world-famous Worth Avenue and the Atlantic Ocean. Bride’s Magazine says, “It shines like the crown jewels. The Sweetheart Package is $680. Book early at www.chesterfieldpb.com.

Secluded Nantucket

Summer on Nantucket, once an escape for travelers of means, can get quite crowded these days. For those craving more seclusion, there’s the Wauwinet, a deliciously private, 32-room inn with guest cottages.

Besides the stunning bay and beach views, culinary perfection, Pratesi linens and fresh Nantucket wildflowers daily, there’s the matter of exquisite privacy. Miles of beach, a fragrant herb garden (for your aromatherapy naps), Har-Tru tennis courts, yoga mats, movie DVDs (with hot buttered popcorn), and (if you really want to stay in touch) daily newspapers and wireless Internet are among the amenities.

You can’t possibly starve between meals, with early-risers’ pastries and coffee, the daily port and cheese hour, fresh fruit 24/7, and various refreshments in the library. Did I mention the sublime spa? Do try the signature Cranberry Crush Body Treatment and the Atlantic Seaweed Wrap. Guests over 12 only. I recommend the deluxe bayview bedroom ($950-$1,220) or the one-bedroom cottage suite ($1,020-$1,220). There’s lots more to discover at www.wauwinet.com.

Vacation With The Duchess

Once a royal estate and now open to discriminating vacationers, Esencia is a 29-room seaside refuge on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Tucked between virgin jungle and the pristine sands of the Caribbean Sea, the white palm-fringed stuccoed mansion was transformed into an elegant guest estate by Pro Hotel International, which also operates La Pieta Hotel and Spa in the Spanish Pyrenees and the Casanova Hotel in Barcelona, Spain.

Each guest room and suite is different, with a variety of features from private gardens to solariums and deep-soaking plunge pools. There’s a seaside-glam, palapa-roofed spa on site, with signature rituals utilizing indigenous fruits, herbs, organic honey, lemon and chocolate, plus Mayan-style steam baths.

Feeling royal? You’ll definitely want Rosa’s Suite. $990-$1,034. Check out the excellent four-night package deals through June celebrating the estate’s 10th anniversary. Visit www.hotelesencia.com.

Crystal Shore Excursion

Crystal Cruises never was designed for the ordinary cruise traveler. Aboard their ultra-luxurious Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, they promise, “refined elegance meets casual simplicity.” The Crystal experience has always meant classic service and generous-sized staterooms, but the classy cruise line takes privilege to the extreme with its newest shore excursions.

Crystal guests now can motor through the winding roads of Umbria in a Ferrari, relaxing in luxe Italian spas along the way. They can fly to Florence, soar over the Cote d’Azur, or sail the Greek islands in a private 50-foot yacht. They can motor through the French Riviera in their choice of a Maserati, Lamborghini, or a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, one of the world’s fastest GTs.

Thinking of buying a Porsche? Crystal will arrange to fly you via private chartered plane to the Porsche factory in Leipzig to road-test the 350-horsepower Porsche Cayenne on the factory’s racetrack. The new shore tours are priced from about $1,000. That Ultimate Ferrari plus five-star spa fling in Italy will set you back $19,500 for two. See all the decadent details at www.crystalcruises.com.

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