Today (January 1, 2018): My 2018 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 2017. But now that 2018 is finally here, it’s time to look forward and share with you 10 great trips that I am planning 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!
My 2018 travel plans will bring me back to the Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. While I am looking forward to bring a return visit to Six Senses Zighy Bay – one of my all time favorite hotels – in the neighboring Musandam peninsula (which belongs to Oman), I will also spend two nights in one of the world’s most famous hotels, the self-acclaimed 7 star Burj Al Arab, flagship hotel of the Jumeirah Hotel Group. Although I am not sure whether a stay here is worth the money, I’ve always been intrigued by its reputation and its distinctive sail-shaped silhouette, which represents a glittering architectural marvel in the middle of the Arabian Gulf and a symbol of modern Dubai. According to the hotel’s website, the Burj Al Arab features oversized suite-only accommodations where you can glide between the suite’s two floors along a marble staircase and soothe your soul in a spa-like bathroom with Jacuzzi, mosaic floor, and full-size Hermes products. Last year, the hotel unveiled a new manmade outdoor deck area – the so-called North Deck – which comprises two pools, a restaurant and a bar. The North Deck was built in Finland by Finnish firm Admares – which specializes in the construction of cruise ships and yachts – before being shipped to Dubai.
Qatar Airways is one of my favorite carriers for flying Business Class. And the airline – which is currently facing difficulties following a severe diplomatic crisis in the Middle East – took its Business Class product to a new, unprecedented level last year. The so-called ‘QSuite‘ offers the industry’s first-ever Business Class double bed, with privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room. Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors on the centre four seats allow colleagues, friends or families traveling together to transform their space into a private suite, allowing them to work, dine and socialize together. Each seat is crafted with thoughtful and luxurious details such as hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing, bringing an unprecedented level of luxury, privacy and style to Qatar Airways’ Business Class offering. The Qsuites are currently being introduced on the carrier’s B777 fleet at an estimated rate of one aircraft a month and I have booked myself into a Qsuite for one of my 2018 long-haul flights. Let’s just hope that Qatar does no make a last-minute aircraft swap since that would ruin the opportunity to make a nice trip report :).
I cannot count the times I have flown overhead Sri Lanka on my way from Europe to Asia, and last year I even made a stop-over of a few hours on Colombo’s airport when I was returning from the Maldives aboard a SriLankan Airlines A330. But I have never traveled the country itself although that is finally going to change this year as I have put Sri Lanka on my travel itinerary for a holiday in March. Now may be a good time to explore the country since it’s still affordable and uncrowded, something that will change in the future since it is predicted that more and more travelers will flock to the Indian Ocean’s largest island. Sri Lanka is famous for its white sand beaches, shining blue waters, a staggering number of Unesco World Heritage Sites (8 in total), oodles of elephants, verdant tea plantages, and exotic (but spicy) food. Sri Lanka is also home to two Aman resorts – one of the world’s most luxurious hotel brands – where I will spend a few nights. Amangalla is located in the 200-year-old gardens of vibrant Galle Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site with a cosmopolitan history, while Amanwella is located a short drive away along Sri Lanka’s south on an iconic crescent-shaped golden beach coast amid coconut palms. Besides both Aman resorts, I will also spend a night at the capital’s new Shangri-La Colombo hotel as well as enjoy a stay at Resplendent Ceylon’s latest creation, the luxurious Wild Coast Tented Lodge which is set adjacent to the world-famous Yala National Park, renowned for its dense leopard population.
Air France offers one of the best First Class cabins in the sky, on condition that you fly one of their Boeing B777-300ER planes since their A380 aircraft feature a less stellar product. I have flown them before I launched my Youtube channel & blog, but I will fly them again this year. My destination will be Dubai and Air France is my first choice, not only because of their great product but also because they offer some great First Class deals to Dubai, which come in the range of Business Class fares. The B777 ‘La Première’ cabin has four exclusive individual suites, ensuring optimum privacy and enabling customers to be totally or partially alone, in absolute comfort. The airline’s ‘haute couture’ suite features a seat that reclines into a bed stretching 2 m long and 77 cm across (6 ft 7 ins and 30 ins), one of the most spacious in the world. Each suite is dressed with thick curtains, held back with leather tiebacks, enabling the passenger to decide whether to be totally isolated or just partially. Opposite the seat, an ottoman can be converted into an extra seat, offering the option to invite a guest for dinner or simply for a conversation. Each guest also has a personal 24-inch (61 cm) HD touch screen. I cannot wait to publish a trip report and Youtube clip about my experience aboard this magnificent cabin.
In summer 2018, I’ll bring a return visit to Bali, the idyllic Indonesian ‘Island of the Gods’, which takes a serious claim to be paradise on earth and is one of the world’s most scenic islands (although its popularity has taken its toll in certain areas). Varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all provide a picturesque backdrop to its colorful, deeply spiritual and unique culture. Bali’s five-star resorts rank amongst the most exclusive in the world and most of them are clustered in Nusa Dua, Seminyak and Ubud. Ubud’s hotels cater to those who prefer spas and cultural pursuits, while surfing and other beach activities can be found at the sophisticated beachfront communities of Nusa Dua and Seminyak. Besides Bali, I will also visit the island of Java, the heart of Indonesia and its most culturally compelling island, featuring a dazzling array of magnificent vulcanic landscapes and also home to the world-famous temples of Borodur. I will stay at several properties during my Java and Bali vacation, including the ultrauxe Aman properties (Amanjiwo, Amankila, Amandari, and Amanusa), the new Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Ubud, Banyan Tree Ungasan, Anantara Uluwatu, and the soon-to-open Six Senses Bali resort. Let’s just hope that the Mount Agung volcano – which is currently causing havoc in the island – will stop erupting soon.
Arguably Greece’s most beautiful island, Santorini is a mix of towering black cliffs, inky waters and whitewashed villages. Santorini inspires every visitor because of its spectacular landscapes with blue domes and white washed houses and churches perched on volcanic cliffs, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful shimmering Aegean waters. Unfortunately, thanks to its natural beauty, Santorini endures another plague – plenty of visitors during summer – when roads are blocked, restaurants are full and prices soar. While spring is a lovely time to visit, particularly for the wild flowers, the sea has yet to warm up enough for all but the bravest. This is why October is best – there are no crowds, the water is warm and there’s wine to be tasted. And so I will bring a return visit to the island early autumn, and I will stay at what promises to be the island’s hottest new luxury hotel – Canavas Oia Epitome, which opens this spring. I am also considering extending my stay with a few days on the Greek mainland to visit the new Four Seasons Astor Palace Athens and bring a return visit to one of Aman’s most stunning resorts, Amanzoe.
Last November, Singapore Airlines unveiled its highly anticipated new First Class product which will be fitted on its five new A380 aircraft before retrofit work will be performed on 14 existing aircraft, ensuring product consistency across the airline’s entire A380 fleet. The product looks incredible and somewhat similar to Etihad Airways’ First Class Apartments (which I reviewed here). There are six fully-enclosed suites tucked away in the front cabin of the upper deck. Each suite is furnished with a separate full-flat bed with adjustable recline and plush leather chair, so you can lounge comfortably in the chair or rest in bed without the need to convert the bed from a sitting position. For couples traveling together, the beds in the first two suites of each aisle can be converted to form a double bed. When not in use, the bed can be stowed completely, creating even more personal space within each suite. Each seat is upholstered in fine leather, and is fully adjustable using an electronic control side panel which can accommodate a variety of sitting and lounging positions. There’s also a full-sized personal wardrobe, customized handbag stowage compartment, amenity box lined with soft leather, specially designed carpet and a feature wall with mood lighting. Since I live not far from London – one the first cities to get the A380s with the new First Class product – I intend to book myself a ticket using miles in the new First Class cabin for one of my several upcoming trips to Asia.
Spotting a wild gorilla in the African jungle is on many people’s bucket list and my favorite wildlife experience in the world, worth all the travel efforts. Mountain gorillas are the most majestic, and sadly, rarest apes of all non-human primates. Only 700 of these magnificent creatures remain in the world, all of them found in the border area between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A guided gorilla tracking takes anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, and allows you to spend one hour with the apes once you found them. I have previously spotted mountain gorillas in Uganda’s magnificent Bwindi National Park (more than a decado ago), an awesome adventure inspired by my emotions after seeing the movie Gorillas In The Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey. In 2018, I am traveling to Rwanda, which is emerging as one of the most exciting new luxury destinations in Africa. Its reputation as a luxury hot spot is also the reasons why Rwanda doubled the price for a permit to view its sought-after mountain gorillas to $1,500 USD per person (while it remains $600 USD in neighboring Uganda). I will be staying at two of the countries most exclusive lodges, One&Only Nyungwe House which is situated on a working tea plantation on the edge of Nyungwe National Park (and the first of two new One&Only resorts to open in Rwanda) and ultraluxe Bisate Lodge, which is managed by Wilderness safaris and comprises only six spacious forest villas, offering a luxurious base from which to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla experience.
Early 2018, 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, Essque Zalu Zanzobar, Hideway of Nungwi Resort, and the uber exclusive &Beyond Mnemba Island Lodge. The latter is one of the Indian Ocean’s most luxurious hideways, offering a romantic, ultra-private hideway for a maximum of 20 guests at a time in an award-winning barefoot beach paradise just off the northeast coast of Zanzibar.
It’s no secret. Besides being an Aman junkie, I am a HUGE Soneva fan. The Soneva story started in 1995, when Sonu Shivdasani, an Indian-British hotelier, launched the now world-famous Soneva Fushi resort on the deserted Maldivian island of Kunfunadhoo. He also built his house there, together with his wife Eva Malmstrom, a Swedish fashion model, who developed the design and furnishing of the unique resort. They had no idea that their intensely personal vision of a locally crafted villa and environmentally responsible lifestyle would form the basis of a successful collection of world-class hotels, resorts and spas. But that’s exactly what happened. Soneva Fushi was the first ‘castaway’ resort in the Maldives, pioneering a trend for back-to-nature luxury holidays. In 2009, the Soneva Hotel group built a second, even more spectacular hotel – Soneva Kiri – on the unspoilt Thai island of Koh. And last year, they opened one of the most amazing resorts ever built, phenomenal Soneva Jani in the Maldives. And there are more to come. The success of the Soneva brand also paved the way for Sonu and Eva’s other hotel group, the Six Senses Resorts & Spas, across South East Asia and Europe before being sold in 2012. In 2018, I will bring a return visit with some friends to all 3 Soneva resorts, not only to enjoy the terrific hotels and their dreamy surroundings, but also to make some new clips (with drone this time). And remember, you can always follow in my footsteps and get a free upgrade at any of the 3 Soneva resorts, simply by contacting me before any booking is made, after which I will introduce you to my Soneva contact.