Ask T+L: River Cruises in Europe, Small Hotels on Maui, and Hidden Airline Fees
Q: My husband and I want to spend a weekend in Manhattan. Where are the best new places to stay and eat? —Alison Carter, San Jose, Calif.
A: “I’d base myself at the retro-cool Ace Hotel (doubles from $299) or at the modern Andaz Wall Street (doubles from $275). Another new option: the 390-room Trump Soho (doubles from $389), set to make its debut this spring. Don’t miss the Museum of Arts and Design, where the recently opened restaurant Robert (lunch for two $45) offers a hearty Tuscan vegetable soup. Later, head to the Meatpacking District and take one of the horticultural tours of the High Line (tours $10), built on a former raised railroad track—the park expands to 30th Street this year. Nearby is the Standard Grill (dinner for two $70), which serves dishes such as merguez-stuffed squid.” —T+L associate editor Clark Mitchell
Q: Do you know of any great new river cruises in Europe? —Joseph Allen, Salem, Oreg.
A: A 12-day itinerary from Tauck (800/788-7885; tauck.com; from $3,990 per person) sails from Strasbourg to Prague, stopping in Germany to explore Baden-Baden’s thermal springs and Würzburg’s Baroque palace, known for its Tiepolo frescoes. Farther west, Avalon Waterways (from $2,149 per person) operates an eight-day round-trip route from Paris; in Normandy you’ll meander past the timber-framed houses of Rouen’s medieval quarter. And an eight-day departure from Viking River Cruises (877/688-4546; vikingrivercruises.com; from $1,456 per person) winds along the Danube River through Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia and includes a guided tour of the 900-year-old Benedictine abbey in the Austrian city of Melk.
Q: Can you recommend any small—yet stylish—hotels on Maui? —Michelle Lopez, Laredo, Tex.
A: On the island’s north shore, set far from the resorts in Wailea, the five rooms at the eco-conscious Paia Inn (doubles from $189) are simple but elegant, with white-and-yellow walls, bamboo floors, and travertine tile bathrooms; a 150-foot path leads to a secluded stretch of beach. Meanwhile, the Hotel Wailea (doubles from $189), centrally located near shops and restaurants on the south shore, has 72 streamlined suites—all of which are 900 square feet, with soaking tubs and private lanais. Finally, the 69-room Hotel Hana-Maui & Honua Spa (doubles from $495) remains a T+L favorite for its “Old Hawaii” feel: from its plantation-style bungalows and remote location to its decades-loyal staff.
Q: I’m finding surcharges for fares on domestic flights. Is this practice now considered standard? —Mike Collins, Fairfield, Conn.
A: According to Rick Seaney, CEO of farecompare.com, “many U.S. carriers have discounted tickets to attract leisure travelers as a result of the economy, and surcharges are a way to make up for lost revenue.” Airlines such as US Airways and American started imposing a $10 surcharge on heavy travel days late last year. Charges have since doubled and been extended into the spring. Passengers can expect to pay $10 to $50 more each way for flights around spring breaks, Easter, and Memorial Day—not to mention all of the hidden baggage fees. While no one can predict how long these charges will stick, many industry experts suspect they’ll be around until the rebound of business travel, when operating and fuel costs will be sufficiently covered by higher fares.
Museum of Arts and Design
Occupying a trapezoidal island diagonally across from Central Park, the 12-story, white-marble building by Edward Durrell Stone stood for close to half a century at 2 Columbus Circle, near the geographic center of Manhattan. In a controversial redesign, Brad Cloepfil, founder of Allied Works Architecture, based in Portland, Oregon, has remade the building from top to bottom. He preserved its quirky, curving shape, restored its auditorium, and kept its signature ground-floor arcade of lollipop-shaped arches, enclosing them in glass. (They now offer street views into the lobby and the museum’s gift shop, which sells mostly one-of-a-kind, artisan-produced objects.) But he also removed 300 tons of concrete from the structure, sheathing its exterior in iridescent ceramic tile and perforating it with strategic cuts that flood the once-windowless galleries with natural light. Art, craft, and design also rub shoulders in the third-floor display dedicated to the permanent collection, which benefits from its own gallery for the first time in the museum’s history. Take just the ceramics, for example. The works on view range from a large blue-green bowl made in 1946 by Viennese exiles and West Coast husband-and-wife potters Gertrud and Otto Natzler, whose signature crater glaze gives it the appearance of some volcanic artifact; to contemporary avant-gardist Eva Hild’s undulating abstractions in stoneware. There are pieces by fine artists—dabblers in the medium such as Cindy Sherman, whose image, disguised as Madame de Pompadour, appears on a Nymphenburg porcelain soup tureen—and lifelong potters like Betty Woodman, whose classically puffy Pillow Pitcher seems endowed with a quirky, Etruscan grace. Just below, in the jewelry gallery (among the first of its kind in this country), the works of 1940’s Greenwich Village bohemians like Sam Kramer—a silver bird pendant, for example, set with a taxidermied eye and betraying the twin influences of biomorphism and surrealism—share space with a distinguished collection of ethnographic jewels and pieces by contemporary conceptualists such as Otto Künzli, whose ironic commentary on our fixation with precious metals takes the form of a gold bracelet entirely encased in black rubber.
Ace Hotel Seattle
Chic and cheap, this 28-room hotel draws visiting designers and musicians, along with bargain-hunting hipsters. Rooms are spare, but have appealing, artist’s-loft details—hardwood floors, exposed white-painted brick walls, antique steam radiators, and tongue-in-cheek street art selections. The hostel-for-cool-hunters vibe extends into the Ace Space, a small common area set up with laundry facilities, vending machines selling quirky snacks, and, of course, free Wi-Fi.
Travaasa is Maui's original resort, having opened its doors in 1946 in the most peaceful corner of the island. This is where luxury, simplicity, and beauty are fused with Hawaiian culture; resort activities include fishing with throw-nets and cooking regional cuisine. Unwind at the unparalleled Spa at Travaasa, or enjoy an evening of authentic Hawaiian music in the Paniolo Lounge. The ocean bungalows are like private cabins with Pacific views, and a private jacuzzi embedded in each deck invites a sunset soak. Since the resort is located all the way in Hana, it's far away from everything—which is exactly where you want to be to unwind, untether, and escape.
An 11-day wine-cruise itinerary winds along the Rhône River, stopping at the medieval Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one of the oldest domaines in Provence.
Housed on the main floor of a trendy Meatpacking District boutique hotel (also called the Standard) and under the High Line elevated public park, the Standard Grill offers New American cuisine by chef Dan Silverman, with signature dishes like charred octopus and marinated cobia. The space features arched ceilings and windows, with chandeliers and sconces that cast soft light on the walls and beams overhead, and outdoor bistro seating between the exterior brick wall and a row of greenery along the sidewalk is available when the weather cooperates.
Andaz Wall Street
In lieu of a conventional check-in desk at the tech-savvy, Rockwell Group–designed Andaz, a host greets you in the lobby, offers you a seat and a glass of wine, and checks you in with a tablet. Every room has at least 345 square feet of crisply designed space, 10-foot ceilings, dark stained-oak floors, and seven-foot-high windows, which means that the bleached-wood interiors (some complete with soaking tubs) are flooded with natural light. At the hotel's bar and restaurant, Dina Rata, chef Chris Cummer serves American bistro food.
This striking, 46-story property is within walking distance of Lower Manhattan neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village and SoHo. Public spaces are dramatically designed: the two-story lobby has Venetian-plaster columns and discreet leather seating. The 391 rooms and suites include automated temperature and light controls along with rich touches like dark, buttoned backboards and heavy curtains framing floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel has a library stocked with Taschen art books, an 11,000-square-foot spa, and a seasonal pool deck. Plus, the 24-hour Trump Attaché room service keeps detailed accounts of guest preferences to provide ideal help for all requests—from dry cleaning to printing personalized stationary.
Located in the Upper West Side and, more importantly, on the top floor of the Museum of Arts and Design, Robert (named for famed party planner Robert Isabell) is predictably posh and trendy. The interior sports a variety of lighting and video art installations, along with sleek surfaces that reflect the yellow walls and bright cushioned furniture, but the true show-stopper at Robert is the view. Sweeping views of Columbus Circle, Broadway, and Central Park delight patrons as they dine on the house specialty (a hearty, Tuscan vegetable soup) and sip Prosecco and elderflower cocktails.
Smack in the middle of funky Pai'a, this boutique inn provides a comfortable base in Maui's happiest town. Trails from the inn lead out to the beach, and plenty of restaurants are located nearby. Rooms range from a petite studio to a three-bedroom house on the beach.
Large resorts often come with a ton of...other people. But this boutique hotel in luxurious Wailea only has 72 suites, which are spread out over 15 acres to feel like private homes. The hotel is set up as an adults-only ecape and is custom-catered towards couples; it also recently became Hawaii's only Relais and Châteaux property. Enjoy three-island views of the blue Pacific from out on your private balcony, set in the elevated perch of Wailea's hillside. When the sun starts fading into the sea, sip champagne in matching robes to bring the day to a close.