October 21, 2014

Awesome Amenities

These standout extras are popping up
at out favorite hotels and resorts

By Jennifer Davoren

Vacations Magazine: Awesome Amenities
Rocco Forte Hotels
While personal butlers and "pillow menus" were once the ultimate indulgences among top resorts, these perks seem almost commonplace by current standards. The growth of the getaway industry means more competition for guests' attention and the addition of some truly outstanding amenities, from assistance in planning the perfect marriage proposal to on-site genealogy experts. Though some incur an extra fee, there are plenty of complimentary services for those seeking a value-added lodging package.

We found the following enticements at properties stretching from Arizona to Edinburgh. Book the best rates for these accommodations online or call the travel specialists at Vacations To Go, (800) 998-6925.

Tech Tools

Vacations are built for escape, but some resorts go the extra mile to keep their guests in touch with loved ones back home. The adults-only, all-inclusive Secrets Vallarta Bay made its debut in Puerto Vallarta last April to much fanfare, even luring Mexican President Felipe Calderon for the grand opening. Drawing further praise is the property's adoption of Unlimited Connectivity, an app available on Apple, Android and Blackberry devices that places international phone calls via Wi-Fi to avoid roaming charges. Guests also use the app to receive calls forwarded from their rooms or contact Secrets staff to book spa appointments and special excursions. All accommodations under the AMResorts umbrella, including the Secrets, Dreams, Now and Zoetry brands, hope to offer Unlimited Connectivity access by the end of the year.

Just northwest, on Mexico's Baja Peninsula, the 66-room Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas is an exclusive, gated enclave with a special check-in service for gadget buffs. Loaner iPads, preloaded with an assortment of magazines, newspapers and entertainment apps, can be enjoyed by the pool, on the beach or aboard two yachts owned by the resort and available for half- and full-day charters. In-room docks are available to power your Apple devices, while a technology butler is on call for troubleshooting during your stay.

Revved for Romance

Guests of the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North can pop the question in style with the help of an on-site engagement agent. This Arizona property uses personal info about the couple as well as prepared themes (choices include "adventure" and "culinary") to craft the ideal proposal. Further set the mood with the special "hideaway package," which includes upgraded lodging in the resort's adults-only section, a collection of love sonnets and a heady welcoming cocktail called the Love Potion.

Once you've secured the man or woman of your dreams, head to one of 13 all-inclusive Sandals resorts scattered throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean. Their complimentary honeymoon packages include sparkling wine at check-in and breakfast in bed on the morning of your choice. Premium vacation packages are available for an extra charge, with services ranging from private island picnics to rose petal baths for two.

Personalize every part of your lovers' getaway at Rendezvous, a St. Lucian resort that's catered to couples since 1966. For a fee, staff will dress up your room with Champagne, scented candles, mood music and more, depending on your preferences. And, when a special occasion calls for something more indulgent than room service, contact your concierge to arrange a private, waterfront meal by candlelight.

Creative Additions for Kids

Let's face it: If you seek innovative, family-friendly amenities, you need look no further than the Walt Disney Co. Accommodations at the newly opened Art of Animation Resort outside Orlando, FL, are dedicated to four cartoon tales -- "The Lion King," "The Little Mermaid," "Cars" and "Finding Nemo" -- and filled to the brim with your kids' favorite characters, from Simba to Crush. To make room for fun, the property employs some specialty furniture in its family suites, including a foldable, four-seat play table that collapses under a full-size, drop-down Murphy bed. Added perks around the resort include several age-appropriate swimming pools, playgrounds, an arcade and, of course, proximity to Walt Disney World Resort, accessible via complimentary shuttle.

The twin TradeWinds properties of St. Pete Beach, FL, make bedtime special for little ones. The beachfront, amenity-stuffed Island Grand and its smaller, more low-key neighbor, Guy Harvey Outpost, offer a tuck-in program hosted by the TradeWinds mascot, Beaker the Pelican, who will pop in to say goodnight and drop off a cuddly souvenir. Beaker also wanders between the resorts during the day, stopping by the Konk (Kids Only, No Kidding!) Club or RedBeard the Pirate show for a quick hug or photo op.

Pet Perks

Your furry, four-legged kids also are in for a few treats at our top lodgings. The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch offers six-star accommodations in Beaver Creek, CO, as well as check-in amenities for pampered pooches, from loaner beds and bowls to savory biscuits and keepsake toys. Guests can even book en suite doggie massages or order kibble through room service.

Feeling a little homesick for the pets you left behind? Hang out with this property's resident pups -- Bachelor, a jowly Saint Bernard, and Miner, a golden retriever -- as they host cocktail parties and the occasional wilderness walk. Kimpton Hotels, with outlets stretching from California to Washington, DC, also employs "directors of pet relations" to promote its tail-wagging extras, from dog-walking services to in-room scratching posts for bored kitties. Ginger, a fashionable Pomeranian at The Muse Hotel New York, and Maverick, the Hotel Palomar San Francisco's chocolate Lab, usually are on hand to welcome arriving guests.

Canine ambassadors like Santol, a Bernese mountain dog at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, or Mavis and Beau, retriever mixes at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, often start out as kennel rescues or guide dog trainees. Many continue to promote their nonprofit connections while working in the hospitality industry, bringing guests' attention to charities like the Mira Foundation, which preps pets to care for children with developmental disorders.

Cultural Connections

Between Playa del Carmen and Cancun on Mexico's Riviera Maya, the five-star Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita taps into its tribal history with temazcal ceremonies. A complimentary component of the resort's all-inclusive package, this ritual begins with rousing chants and spiritual invocations led by a local shaman. Afterward, guests gather for an herbal steam bath that clears pores and cluttered minds. Additional spa therapies (available for an extra fee) incorporate Mayan healing techniques, including a form of massage once reserved for royalty. Modern pampering also is available, with a full menu of state-of-the-art thalassotherapy treatments attacking everything from tense shoulders to stubborn cellulite.

Meanwhile, in the Out Islands of the Bahamas, the family-friendly Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour pairs visiting children with local youngsters for a unique cultural exchange. Bahama Buddies participants might bike to a nearby cove for guided snorkeling or learn to catch, clean and cook fish like their island peers, depending on the schedule for the day. And guests can nurture new friendships through the Bahama Buddies Email Exchange, keeping in touch with their excursion partners long after the vacation ends. (This seasonal program may not be available when local schools are in session.)

Blasts From the Past

Nearly 35 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, according to recent figures from the U.S. census. Many families trace their roots to the Great Irish Famine that devastated potato crops and impoverished farms between 1845 and 1850, beginning a wave of trans-Atlantic immigration that continued well into the 20th century, but it can be difficult to look any further up the family tree without a little outside help. Modern visitors to the Emerald Isle can turn to experts like the genealogy butler at The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel, for personalized research assistance. Consultation packages start at 100 euros and include an hourlong chat with your heritage expert over tea or coffee.

Travelers of Scottish descent, meanwhile, will find tartan butler Andy Fraser at The Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh. Fraser traced his own lineage back to the 13th century and found 30 variations of the official Fraser clan tartan along the way. Once he's helped Balmoral guests track down their own distinct plaid, he can arrange a kilt fitting at Kinloch Anderson, a fixture in the capital since 1868. More detailed heritage consultations include tours of historic sites connected to your family.

You'll need to organize ancestral background materials and other necessary
paperwork before your stay at either The Shelbourne or The Balmoral, as these experts require a head start on their research.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in November/December 2012. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.


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