News & Reviews News Our 2020 travels

I did a pretty lousy job of achieving last years list.  The Caribbean, Oman, Germany, Iceland and Portugal all fell victim to my indecisiveness.  Predicting the lottery numbers is a safer bet than predicting my future.  Luckily, I don’t offer financial advice for a living.

This year is going to be more of a challenge and I don’t mean in terms of writing down countries that I then fail to visit.  Firstly, there’s the issue of inspiration.  Secondly, I have hit that age where I need to worry about Zika, as ensuring there’s more of me in the world is a priority.  If you’re worried that all my reviews are for couples, rejoice in my family friendly reviews trips within a few years.

Yet with great Zika comes great responsibility.  I used to laugh in the faces of my friends that would base their entire lives around the fast moving fashion that is Zika. “What are the odds of getting it?!” I’d say.  “Look how much of a media overreaction there is to every new disease”; “witness how few cases there have been”; “remember how there’s always been another, significantly worse disease to actually worry about”.   Yet now it’s my turn and suddenly it doesn’t really feel like the risk outweighs the benefit of a holiday.  Especially when you’ve had as many as me – that’s holidays, not Zika.  So perhaps once again, I will still fail to visit the Caribbean.  I will once again ignore Necker Island, not get a chance to visit Amanyara or Amanera and pass on St. Barths.

2 weeks in a Zika free zone

The first priority is to get the helloutt’ere during the English winter.  When you don’t drink, there’s only so much that can be done to ward off the impending darkness that kicks in, minutes after it’s arisen.  How limited the options are depends on my level of paranoia.  Currently it’s heightened, so it’s only looking like the Seychelles is a viable option.  We could visit Iniala in Phuket again, but I would want to combine it with somewhere else and have run out of ideas. Besides, I tell myself, the Seychelles isn’t so bad – after all,  we originally booked it for our honeymoon.  Yet then I remember the endless mosquitos.  Sod it, I’ll just risk it in a Brazilian swamp instead.

Assuming I can bring myself around to the idea, we could check in on Fregate.  Perhaps see if I can stomach the new North Island.  Perhaps I’ll even try somewhere else, so you don’t have to read the same review of the same property every 2 years. Maia and Six Senses Zil Pasyon are the chosen ones.  I’ll take them over sitting in the dark and weeping into my Cornflakes.

Try as they might, North Island does not look anywhere near as appealing as before.  Moving to Marriot will do nothing for their brand image.  I await their Instagram account being sabotaged by anyone with a drone and 1m followers.  As good as they talked it up at the time, the GM and Managing Director have already jumped ship.  The latter in fact to Miavana, which made me check out how they’re doing.  Amazing, it seems, assuming I believe all the reviewers on their comp trips.  I really want to believe that 2 years later they will have improved enough to justify the price, but I’m not that keen on finding out for myself.

Let’s hope some of the staff on North Island remain.

Europe, Europe, Europe

Always avoid Europe in July and August.  It’s scorching, the hotels are packed and to compensate for the plummet in service levels, they charge you more.

Of course, there are some exceptions to this.  I have no desire to return to Iceland or Russia during any season other than blisteringly hot (that’s averages of 20C – close enough), so I’ll happily put up with someone’s sweaty armpit in my evening soup.  I previously cancelled last minute on Deplar Farm, so assuming they’ll have me back, I would like to see whether their large prices and small rooms are compatible.

Rumour has it that 3-years-delayed Iniala Malta will finally open its doors.  If that’s the case, it will be one of the biggest openings in Europe this year, along with Airelles’ Château de Versailles – both I hope to visit.

We will return for our first year anniversary to where we married: Park Hotel Vitznau.  For any regular readers, you will know how much I love Switzerland.  I feel another Swiss party coming on, with Hotel 7132 joining in the fun, having now been highly recommended by two well travelled readers.  And that’s the entire party.  That’s actually a rather pathetic attempt at a party.  It sounds more like two strangers sat on a bench drinking some White Lightening, than the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.  Looks like I need to spend less time writing these articles and more researching.

Italy is another country I need to spend more time in: Aman Venice, Il San Pietro, Palazzo Avino, and apparently I must go to Villa Trevill.  Elsewhere, I am slowly building a list of hotels I’ve booked, then had to cancel for any number of reasons:  Duoro Valley, Domaine des Etangs, Katikies Santorini and Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.

More sweets!

Africa

My dad has never been on safari before.  Well, he’s never been on a good one.  Last time I bottled it and took him to India.   He still occasionally likes to complain about the experience, after he became ill and never saw a single piece of wildlife, even though we stayed in Aman’s.  This is a man that literally grew up on a farm.  Some people!  So we’re going on a boys trip.  Not only do you have to worry about Zika, but malaria pills aren’t the best things in the world either, so I’m supporting my wife by leaving her with my two buddies: Mr. Peace and Mr. Quiet.

Whilst staying at The Farmstead, I had the chance to visit Kubili House, an exclusive use lodge which felt like a hint of Amanzoe out in the middle of Thornybush.  I initially thought that we woulds stay there, but I cannot think of anywhere better for a first safari than Kenya. Mara Plains was not my style, but the location was mind-blowing, so we’ll try something a bit more modern in Angama Mara.  Afterwards, Arijuju and Mnemba Island.

Who doesn’t want to see this?

US of A (and Canada)

This is more playing it safe, than playing it luxurious.  After the success of Aman Tokyo (albeit it took a while for them to get there), I am interested how they manage to take on New York, a notoriously difficult market.  I don’t fancy flying to New York just to swim in a better-than-usual pool, so I’m thinking that now is an opportunity to see if Amangiri have finally got their shit in order.  Especially with the arrival of Camp Sarika.  I spent an unhealthy amount of time planning our honeymoon.  In the end I took one readers advice and booked the Girijaala suite at Amangiri, paid the deposit and changed my mind, because I’m sick, people.  It’s an illness!  I thought deposits would stop me, but apparently nothing can.  Even though I had an incredibly disappointing stay there 5 years ago, I’m humble enough to admit that the location is astonishing.  Do I want to try Auberge’s The Lodge at Blue Sky?  Probably not.

And seeing that we’ve made it all the way there, yet another hotel I had to cancel (although this time it was due to a hurricane, so I’m not feeling so bad) and wish to try is Four Seasons Lanai.

Then there’s the final one, which will likely be my annual joke:  Churchill Wild.  I am desperate to go, yet at the same time would rather take up bull fighting.  I spent last year complaining that spending 7 nights here was enough to make Carlos Ghosn flee, so obviously a year on I have the same grievance.  Why can’t the world change faster to fit my will?

UK

I’ve had my strop and now it’s time to get back onf the English countryside shaped horse.  Not because they’re great, they’re just easier to get to.  I still need to visit Beaverbrook, Heckfield Place, The Langley (eurgh, a Marriot – it’s starting to feel that they’re stalking me), The Newt in Somerset, Foxhill Manor and many more.

More sunny days ahead

That looks realistic and should keep us busy for a while.  But it does beg me to ask……

Where have all the great, new hotels gone?

The comedian Charlie Brooker, ye of Black Mirror fame, once went on Room 101 to argue that 90% of life is all a bit shit, AKA Sturgeon’s Law.  He was wrong – 95% seems closer to the truth.  It’s hard to be continually impressed.  New hotel openings may be to me what garlic is to Dracula, but I still want to see something.  I fear we’re going to lose two of the best in Laucala and North Island, through a lack of investment and Marriot respectively, so what is stepping up to take their place?  So many hotels are just a copy and paste of what was before, with added filters to make them appear special.  Chisel away and it’s still just a swing and some ocean.

You may have noticed a rather dramatic drop off in content last year.  Part was down to the pitiful 4 months of travel, some has been due to endless hours planning the building of our home, but a lot has been a lack of focus on the sector.  The new openings that intrigued were not destination hotels: Aman Kyoto and Singita’s Kwitonda aren’t places you’re just going to drop by if you’ve been in the area before.  I don’t want to travel for 10 hours to see yet another Four Seasons, W, Ritz, Anantara, Six Senses or Ibis.  Let’s see some imagination.  Even in Paris, where Cheval Blanc or Bulgari open this year, I’m not rushing to see yet another city hotel (though don’t bet against me visiting).

But, 2020 is showing some signs of life.  In fact, there was already a resort we visited last year, that showed the trend of luxury travel marching towards exclusivity: Vatuvara.  We were lucky to get a chance to visit whilst in Laucala, but unlucky in that I left it too late to be able to stay.  With only 3 villas on the island, it’s how it seems the ultra luxury market is going.  Just in recent years we’ve seen the introduction of Four Seasons Voavah, Thanda Private Island and Banwa Private Island – fully exclusive use islands. Arijiju, Kubili House and Leobo are exclusive use safari lodges; Trophy Lodge an exclusive Icelandic hotel, so private it doesn’t have a website.  I’m just hoping they don’t go so exclusive that I have to take up piracy to afford them; I wouldn’t look good with an eyepatch and wooden leg.

Mozambique looks to be 2020’s darling.  If anyone ever responds to me, I may even get a chance to visit Kisawa Sanctuary, although I’m having a twinge of fear that it sounds a bit too similar to Miavana. I also have high hopes for Royal Portfolio’s Royal Gorongosa.  If these properties can excel, then Mozambique might be turned into a luxury hotspot in little time.  They certainly are due some good news.

And lastly, whilst not new, I have no choice but to include it on this list: White Desert.  I don’t know if I can justify spending $100,000 on being in the Antartica; an ice cold environment is usually what I’m paying to escape, but then I did also sell my Apple shares at $100, so what’d I know?  I need that mathematical formula on happiness to see if it balances out the payment with the experience.

Where are you heading this year?  Where would you like me to review?  

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 9th Jan '20

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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