Today (January 2, 2017): My 2017 trips that I am most excited about.
Happy New Year! May this new year equip you with good luck, good health, good fortune and amazing travels!
At the end of the past year, I reflected on my most memorable travel experiences of 2016. But now that 2017 is finally here, it’s time to look forward and share with you 10 great trips that I have already planned for the coming year and that I am looking forward to share with you in my Wednesday blog posts (which always feature flight trip reports and luxury hotel reviews).
If you have some tips and suggestions for my upcoming trips, please share them in the comments section below!
10. FLYING FIRST CLASS IN A CATHAY PACIFIC BOEING 777-300ER
In April 2015, I experienced a 24 hour delay when flying Business Class in a Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 from Qatar to Hong Kong, due to a sandstorm and the subsequent incompetence of the local airport staff to deal with the whole situation. While it is not always possible for an airline to eliminate all of the factors that lead to a flight being delayed, it is crucial that there is no compromise in both communication and service for the passengers in such situation. And this is exactly where Cathay Pacific failed in this particular event, not once, not twice, but multiple times (as you can read in my trip report). After the ordeal, Cathay Pacific offered me two upgrade vouchers as a compensation. I had planned to use those vouchers last year to upgrade myself from Business to First Class on a flight from Düsseldorf (Germany) to Hong Kong, but personal circumstances prevented me from traveling, and Cathay Pacific was so kind to extend my vouchers for another year, so I am using them in 2017 for a trip to Hong Kong. In addition, I am also booked in Business Class on Cathay’s new Airbus A350 on a separate journey that will take me back home after a holiday in Vietnam (cf below).
9. VISITING THE AMALFI COAST AND CAPRI ISLAND IN ITALY
The Amalfi Coast on Italy’s Sorrentine peninsula, south of Naples, is widely considered to be Europe’s most scenic stretch of coastline, a landscape of towering, green-swathed mountains, pastel-hued villages with cobblestoned streets, palatial renaissance mansions, and expansive vistas over the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. In 1997, the coastal landscape was rightfully awarded a coveted spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The scenic Amalfi drive (formally Strada Statale 163) winds for about 80 km (50 miles) along the shoreline and cliffs of the Sorrento Peninsula, with plenty of viewpoints along the way to take in the spectacular coastal views. I am looking forward to travel to this area of stunning natural and cultural beauty next October. I will also bring a visit to Capri, the famous rocky island of myths located at the southern edge of the Bay of Naples, beyond the Sorrentine peninsula. The Amalfi Coast and Capri house some of Italy’s most stunning hotels, such as Belmond Hotel Caruso, Le Sirenuse, and J.K. Place Capri, and I will be happy to report on them after my stay.
8. FLYING BUSINESS CLASS IN QATAR AIRWAYS’ A350
The Business Class product onboard Qatar Airways‘ Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A350 and A380 planes is superb and ranks among my favorite Business Class cabins in the world. My first ever trip report was onboard a Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787 (you can read it here). The cabin’s design – with predominant white-pink tones – is one of the most elegant in the air, and its configuration forms a unique diamond shape, allowing you to adapt your personal space to suit your needs. You can catch up on sleep in a fully-reclined seat (with a duvet provided by the crew during night flights) or make productive use of your time at a large work surface. The food on Qatar Airways can easily be compared to that of high-end restaurants. Two celebrity chefs have been chosen to create a unique and diverse Business Class menu, so that you can delight in extraordinary cuisine and an on-demand service that allows you to enjoy sweet or savory delicacies whenever you like. I am looking forward to fly onboard a Qatar Airways A350 in Business Class from Frankfurt to Doha next April, which will connect to a journey onboard a SriLankan Airlines‘ A330 in Business Class from Doha to the Male via Colombo. In addition, I have also booked another trip to Asia which will see me traveling on a Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A330 in Business Class, so you will get a lot of Qatar Airways trip reports in your mailbox this year.
7. EXPLORING TANZANIA’S SPICE ISLAND, ZANZIBAR
Next autumn, I will bring a visit to Zanzibar, also known as the Spice Island. This beautiful island on Africa’s east coast – a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania – is bursting with history and culture, seemingly at odds with its spectacular powder white beaches where palm trees sway lazily in the mild sea breeze. Together, this makes Zanzibar a fabulous place to explore as well as a dream to relax and unwind. The capital Zanzibar City is famous for its historic centre Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is marked by small, winding streets and high, colonial townhouses. But most travelers come to Zanzibar for its gorgeous coastline which offers some of the best beaches in the world, with smooth, white sand making for dazzling days in the sun. The idyllic island also houses some brilliant hotels & resorts, and I am looking forward to stay at some of them (and write trip reports and make Youtube clips about my experiences). These include the new Park Hyatt Zanzibar, Diamonds Star of the East, and the uber exclusive &Beyond Mnemba Island Lodge, which is one of the Indian Ocean’s most exclusive hideaways.
6. ENJOYING THE GOOD LIFE IN THE MALDIVES
It’s no secret: the Maldives is my favorite beach destination in the world (albeit sharing this top spot with the Seychelles). And I consider it to be the globe’s ultimate luxury travel hotspot, synonymous with paradise whether it is for honeymooners, sun worshipers, or scuba divers. Located on the equator towards the south of India and stretching over 800 km (500 mi), the Maldives are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3 km (1,8 mi). The stunningly beautiful islands are blessed with some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, crystal clear blue lagoons, incredible underwater wildlife, and unrivalled luxury resorts that take up their own private island. This February, I am traveling to the archipelago for my yearly holiday, and on this particular occasion, I will stay – with a lucky friend – at 3 terrific resorts: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, and the new St Regis Maldives Vommuli. So you may expect my trip reports and Youtube clips of these exceptional resorts in March.
5. SIGHTSEEING IN VIETNAM
In May, I am traveling for the very first time to Vietnam, a country described by the Lonely Planet as “astonishingly exotic and utterly compelling, and a country of breathtaking natural beauty with a unique heritage, where travel quickly becomes addictive”. My itinerary will include most of Vietnam’s highlights, including its ancient capital Hanoi, the vast emerald rice fields that seemingly cover most of the land, the scenic rock formations that dot world-famous Halong Bay, the chaotic whirl of Ho Chi Minh City, hundreds of miles of tropical coastline, the breathtaking Con Dao island archipelago, and Hoi An, Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. I am also looking forward to meet Vietnam’s people, who are famously friendly. During my trip, I will stay at Vietnam’s most luxurious resorts, including Amanoi, Six Senses Con Dao, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Sofitel Hanoi, and Anantara Mui Ne.
4. HIKING IN THE NATIONAL PARKS OF THE WESTERN USA
My fascination for luxury travel pales in comparison to my travel passion for trekking in the great outdoors and being at one with nature. Yes, I still prefer a simple cabin in a grandiose wilderness spot over a luxury hotel. This summer, I will travel to America’s West, home to a string of magnificent National Parks. Although I have been there before on several occasions, I will be accompanied this time by some of my best friends and I hope they will be as much inspired by the grandiose landscapes as I was during my first visit to the USA’s most famous national parks. We will start our journey in Yosemite, with its dizzying granite domes, towering waterfalls and the highest trees on earth. After passing through desolate Death Valley, we will hike down the spectacular Grand Canyon, although nearby Zion and Bryce Canyon are at least as impressive IMHO. Our next stop will be the heart of the USA’s most untamed wilderness, Grand Teton and Yellowstone, where we will see spouting geysers, hike in the shade of rough mountain peaks and observe bizon and wolves roaming free in the valleys. While a little out-of-the-way, we will finish our trip at Glacier, my favorite National Park, offering incredible hiking opportunities as well as the best chances for spotting grizzlies in the wild.
3. FLYING BUSINESS CLASS ON A SINGAPORE AIRLINES A350
Singapore Airlines has always been synonymous with lavishing luxury in the skies. I have previously flown the airline on several occasions before starting my blog, and indeed, it does not fail to impress. The Singapore Airlines Business Class seat is the widest in the world (too wide for comfort though, according to some). The unrivaled space between each seat, providing you direct access to the aisle, is a hallmark of the unique 1-2-1 forward facing cabin layout. Featuring a dedicated sleeping surface for added comfort, the seat is designed to accommodate virtually any sleeping position. Introduced in 2013 on their Boeing 777-300ER and now also available on their Airbus A350s, the new Business Class seat is even better than the previous incarnation of the seat. With Singapore Airlines, you also enjoy a fine restaurant-style setting and culinary service at 40,000 feet. Each menu, specially created by an international culinary panel of celebrated chefs from around the globe, is sure to appeal to the discerning epicure within you. I am looking forward to fly them again next April in Business Class from Düsseldorf via Singapore to Ho Chi Minh; the equipment will be a combination of an A350 and a B777.
2. RETURNING TO MY BELOVED SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa has always had a special place in my heart since I performed part of my medical studies in the country in the 1990s. There’s something about the rainbow nation that just grabs hold and won’t let go, and I am so thrilled to go back. I will spend about a week in Mpupalanga near the Kruger National Park, home to the Big Five: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. Here, I will stay in some of Africa’s most exclusive lodges, such as Royal Malewane, Lion Sands and Kapama Karula. Next, I will take the Rovos train from Pretoria to Cape Town, a two-day journey that is marketed as the word’s most luxurious train trip. And finally, I will spend one week in Cape Town, my favorite city in the world. Blessed with amazing beaches, towering mountains, beautiful vineyards, and spectacular drives, it is hard to imagine a more picture perfect city destination than South Africa’s Mother city (and frankly, you won’t find a better one). I will give you feedback on my stays in Cape Town’s 3 most luxurious hotels: Ellerman House, 12 Apostles Hotel, and Cape Grace. For the aviation geeks among you, my South Africa trip reports will also include reviews of Iberia’s A330 Business Class (Madrid to Johannesburg), South African Airways’ A340 Business Class (Cape Town to Johannesburg), and British Airways’ A380 First Class (Johannesburg to London).
1. STAYING AT THE MALDIVES MOST EXCLUSIVE HOTEL, SONEVA JANI
This year, I am not traveling once, but twice to the Maldives. In April, I am flying back to the Indian Ocean to stay at its hottest new hotel, Soneva Jani, with another very lucky friend. The ultraluxe resort’s opening last autumn follows Soneva Fushi, which set the standard for Maldivian hideaway luxury 20 years ago, and joins the stable with Thailand’s phenomenal Soneva Kiri as well as a luxury yacht also in the Maldives. Soneva was founded by Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, he a British-Indian businessman, she a former Swedish model. Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on Medhufaru island, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The hotel is fringed by pristine beaches, blanketed with lush tropical greenery, and surrounded by a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. Each one of the 24 water villas has a private pool and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The highlight of the villas is the retractable roof in the master bedroom, which slides back at the touch of a button so that guests can lie in bed and stargaze. Soneva Jani features in my recently published list of the most exciting hotel openings of 2016 and I will publish my review and Youtube clip of the uber luxurious resort in April.
Contact me to receive a complimentary room upgrade at Soneva Jani at the time of booking.