Mandarin Oriental Hotel
What's so special
The Mandarin Oriental brand has a reputation for offering guests the best in terms of location and comfort, and its Barcelona hotel scores well on both counts. It offers a luxurious retreat slap in the middle of this buzzy city.
How they rate it
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"With opulence and chic at its very core, and apparent from the moment you cross the raised walkway into the lobby, this is not a hotel for the faint-hearted, but neither is it stuffy," says Sally Davies in The Daily Telegraph. The standard bedrooms are "not enormous (unlike the suites, which are), but breezily decorated with shades of cream and delicate oriental touches, which stops them feeling claustrophobic. Little expense is spared on the extras too, from good quality aromatherapy toiletries to leather-bound notebooks and a box of chocolates on arrival." There's also a roof-top pool with views of the city.
The hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant, Moments, is a "real highlight". The menu is made up of Catalan cuisine, with dishes including Iberian pork or roasted veal cheeks.
Double rooms cost from £350 per night. For more information, visit the website at www.mandarinoriental.com/barcelona, or telephone 00 34 93 151 88 88.
What's so special
The Sunday Times has just ranked Ohla among its "50 Most Amazing Hotels in the World for under £200" saying that it is one of the most perfectly located design hotels' around.
How they rate it
"Tapping Barcelona's innate design-humour, the faade of this neoclassical hulk is peppered with bizarre glass eyeballs' on stalks," says The Sunday Times. The New York Times describes it as a "funky-chic alternative to the old Catalan accommodations typical of this ancient city". The bedrooms are "truly daring": the main attraction is the shower, "situated conspicuously in the centre and enclosed on three sides by glass it's a decidedly public experience that probably isn't ideal for platonic travel partners or for anyone with a trace of inhibitions (the hotel offers a cover for the glass)".
All in all, "once you get past the harsh lines and antiseptic chill, you'll find this American-inspired hotel... to be the quirky-sexy hot spot that it's trying to be."
The Michelin-starred restaurant offers a mix of fish and meat dishes, including smoked eel tartar or roast suckling pork.
Doubles cost from £172, including breakfast. Find out more at www.ohlahotel.com, or call 00 34 933 415050.
Three adventurous alternatives to the cruise
Alila Purnama in Indonesia is a 46-metre mahogany vessel, built to resemble a traditional Indonesian phinisi sailing ship, says Laura Holt in The Independent. It has three decks, five cabins, a certified dive centre and several desks for alfresco dining. Tailor-made charters around Indonesia are available year-round, but she also sails on set itineraries to wildlife-rich Komodo Island, the volcanic fleck of Ambon and Raja Ampat in West Paua province.
Weekly charters start from £36,000, all inclusive, for ten people. See Alilahotels.com.
The Silver Galapagos will start sailing around the Galapagos Islands from September, says Holt. Weekly charters will offer a choice of two itineraries. Both will take in endemic wildlife, such as iguanas and grand tortoises, with stops at intriguing outposts such as Wizard Hill (a beach on San Cristobal Island), Post Office (a bay on Floreana) and Frigatebird Hill (named after the red-pouched avians).
Weekly trips start at £3,550 per person, all inclusive. See Silversea.com.
The Zambezi Queen offers "floating safaris" along the Chobe River, says Holt. Facilities include three sundecks, a pool and "a computerised telescope to help you identify constellations in the African night sky". All 14 suites have balconies and "huge windows for watching hippos and crocodiles outside".
Two-night itineraries from £573 a person, all inclusive. See Zambeziqueen.com.
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