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March 9, 2017

The Hot List: March/April 2017

By Lauren Jade Hill

By Kristen Shirley

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

In this issue, Elite Traveler introduced The Hot List, our roundup of top hotel openings, the best trips to book and the places you must go. For our Adventure Issue, we picked two over-the-top journeys, a private estate in Santorini and St. Regis’s first private island resort. Whether you want to relax on a hammock swinging over the Indian Ocean or dine with a princess at her home in Bali, Elite Traveler has you covered.

Crystal launches AirCruises

Once, on a trip, when I was relaxing in the warm ocean near a private island accessible only by a tiny boat, a friend half-joked that if we were on a Crystal Cruise, there would be a butler wading through the water with chilled glasses of champagne. I say “half-joke” because there is probably a Crystal Cruise passenger who has had that exact experience. This year, Crystal brings its unparalleled luxury on the water to the air, aboard a custom-designed Boeing 777.

The inaugural air cruise takes place in September and travels to all 10 Peninsula hotels. The second trip will be more adventurous, hitting 10 of the world’s most iconic sites, including Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Victoria Falls, the Taj Mahal and a safari in Chobe and Zambezi. At each destination, you’ll stay at world-class hotels and find four all-inclusive options, so you can do what you want to do, even if someone in your party has different priorities. And if there is something off menu you want to do, the butlers can organize a custom program for you.

In the air, you’ll find Michelin-inspired cuisine prepared by an in-flight chef, a dedicated team of butlers and many exclusive offerings, including an area for socializing with dining tables, a stand-up bar and a wine cellar. Each chair is a fully reclining flat-bed seat with 24in monitors, Bose headphones, unlimited Wi-Fi and personal iPads.

If your experience on board is over but you don’t want your time with Crystal to end, charter Crystal Luxury Air’s Bombardier Global Express XRS from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale and embark on a classic Caribbean cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, making stops in Grand Turk, Grand Cayman and Key West.

AirCruise from $139,000 per person, Luxury Air from $7,000 per hour, Tropical Treasure cruise in Crystal Penthouse from $13,500 per person. To book, contact +1 888 722 0021, crystalcruises.com

ATJ 30 Experiences in 30 Days

ATJ (Asia Transpacific Journeys) celebrates its 30th anniversary with an incredible package that builds on its years of creating bespoke itineraries and curates the best selection of its adventures in Asia, bringing you 30 unique experiences across the continent. Mixing cuisine, the environment and culture, it’s truly the trip of a lifetime. Every step of the trip is perfectly planned, with private guides to steer you clear of tourist traps and make sure you have an authentic experience while enjoying the culture and hidden secrets of the region.

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The eclectic culinary offerings range from sampling the best street food in Hanoi, Vietnam, to learning how to cook northern Thai food in a small village, to a private dinner with Balinese princess Malaika in her home. Animal lovers will enjoy a private leopard safari and camp in Sri Lanka, watching wild orangutans in Indonesia from a klotok (river boat) or spending a day learning how to care for elephants in Thailand. Bucket-list experiences include seeing the famous terra-cotta warriors in Xian, China; sleeping in a luxury safari-style tent next to an unexplored Angkorian temple in Cambodia; and snorkeling at Komodo National Park in Indonesia. For unique cultural experiences, you can’t miss witnessing the Naadam Festival in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia; an aarti ceremony in Varanasi, India; and a traditional sing-sing in Papua New Guinea.

From $110,650 per person, including meals, private guides, activities and five-star accommodation when available. To book, contact Eric Kareus, director of travel, eric@atj.com, +1 800 642 2742, atj.com

Erosantorini

People flock to Santorini for many reasons, including the stunning views of charming towns carved into the cliffs, the blue Aegean Sea, delicious seafood and finding a sense of living history. But there’s one thing that was previously unavoidable: the crowds. Whether it’s the near-daily arrival of cruise-ship passengers, tourists or honeymooners, it can feel impossible to find privacy on the island, especially in Oia, where nearly every hotel is visible from the walkways. Cue the arrival of Erosantorini, an exclusive-use estate that offers something money was previously unable to buy on the island: privacy, with all the amenities and services of a five-star hotel.

Perched 1,000ft above the caldera, Erosantorini is an idyllic Aegean escape that seamlessly blends the Greek spirit of philotimo (from the Greek words meaning “friend” and “honor”) with simple, unpretentious luxury. The four Cubist-inspired suites each have their own outdoor living space, including a whirlpool or plunge pool, daybeds and outdoor shower. Inside, the Paola Navone designs are modern, playful interpretations of classic Greek style. While the suites are not enormous, that is the point. The entire 2-acre property is yours.

Here, you’ll find a three-level infinity pool, the largest on island, with an underwater sound system, a hidden “cave” with a swing and sun beds on the lowest level. Meals are leisurely affairs to be enjoyed at a large outdoor table near a barbecue and fournos (outdoor oven). There’s a charming spa with a heavenly marble hammam and one treatment room, outdoor movie theater and tiny chapel.

Philotimo can be found everywhere on the estate. The three chefs create custom multicourse menus using the best Greek ingredients for every meal, taking into account your preferences, and they will happily invite you into the open-air kitchen to watch or cook alongside them. Offering warm and friendly hospitality, the live-in host can handle all requests, whether it’s the perfect caldera catamaran cruise (with Erosantorini’s chef on board, naturally) or bringing you the perfect mint iced tea as you bask in the Mediterranean sunshine overlooking the caldera.

From $5,500 per night in low season, $22,000 in high season, including meals, drinks, transfers and treatments. To book, contact Eleni Rantou, sales manager, escape@erosantorini.com, +30 6982 971 579, erosantorini.com

The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

Located on a 22-acre island in the Dhaalu Atoll in the Maldives, St. Regis’s first private island resort does not disappoint. After a Bentley transfer at Malé Airport, guests take a seaplane to the island, which offers a quiet lagoon, a beach and a bit of tropical jungle. The modern aesthetic, designed by WOW Architects and Warner Wong Design, includes standouts like the Library and the Whale Bar. With its whale shark shape, the latter is the most Instagrammable spot on the island.

If you’re traveling with wellness in mind, there’s plenty on offer. The Iridium Spa, which viewed from above is shaped like a lobster, has Ayurvedic treatments and doctors on-site, six private overwater treatment rooms and the Blue Hole Pool, the Maldives’ largest heated seawater hydrotherapy pool, perfect for melting away stress and travel-related aches and pains. The yoga and meditation studio offers a wide array of classes, including anti-gravity yoga, where you are suspended from the ceiling in silk slings that offer additional support. Many people find it incredibly calming, so don’t be surprised if you nod off during savasana. There’s also an outdoor tennis court, fitness center and water-sports center with scuba diving, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, windsurfing and boating.

The all-villa resort features 77 overwater and on-island accommodations, each with a private pool. Whether you are overwater or on-island comes down to personal preference. The overwater bungalows have endless water views and little hammocks to relax in, but they are a bit of a walk from the action in the resort. On-island villas are nestled within palm trees for privacy, each seeming to pop out of the jungle directly onto the beach. The top suite on the property is the John Jacob Astor Estate, a three-bedroom overwater villa that, at 16,500 sq ft, is the largest in the Maldives. Essentially your private compound, it boasts 24-hour dedicated butler service, its own fitness center, mini-theater, three private spa suites, a 1,000 sq ft infinity pool, two butler rooms for guests with their own staff and dedicated buggy service around the island. If you prefer to be on-island, choose the Caroline Astor Estate, an oceanfront two-bedroom villa.

Nightly rate from $26,220. To book, contact Aini Zariyah, director of marketing and communications, aini.zariyah@stregis.com, +960 676 6333, stregismaldives.com

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