£499 -- Luxury Marrakesh 'Sex & the City' Escape, £500+ Off
There’s luxury and there’s "luxury", isn’t there. "Luxury" abounds in the travel world. It’s only a word, after all, not under copyright, and pretty much anyone can adopt it, should they so choose, to describe paid-for accommodation of even the most flagrantly improbable standard. Of course, should they choose, ambitiously, to describe their dosshouse, fleapit or -- why not? -- collection of secondhand tents as "Hotel Luxury", say, they will, in some countries, such as Britain, face stern penalties pretty sharpish and probably have to give up the hotelier game altogether and go back to hod-carrying or whatever was their previous employ.
But not in all countries, which is why, at Travelzoo, we have strict criteria for what we will call a luxury or -- a slightly lesser label, in our system -- 5-star hotel. The property should have, for a start, some kind of external certification and, even better, the endorsement of an internationally recognised publication, such as Condé Nast Traveller or Travel + Leisure magazine. One of those less than constantly scrupulous places, sadly, is Marrakesh -- beautiful and fascinating but it's a shame about the hotel ratings -- which makes it all the more ironic that it should contain one of the most unambiguously luxurious hotels on the planet.
Look, "Sex and the City" (2) was filmed here, and you get a personal butler, but if that wasn’t enough there’s Condé Nast Traveller’s swooning description of the Taj Palace Marrakesh as "awash with gold leaf, jewels and hand-painted floral frescoes". There’s a pillow menu, too, of course (something you really don’t get at home) but for me the final touch is, rather, the espresso machine: the best thing that happened to hotel “tea and coffee making facilities” since the electric kettle.
£299 -- Sicily: All-Inc Beachfront Week, Save 50%
This may not be a new joke but here’s an offer you really shouldn’t refuse. A mere £299 hardly pays many people’s weekly rent in Britain but here you get flown to the balmy isle of Sicily in late summer, as well, incredibly enough, as being fed, watered and housed for the duration. It’s a shame that Sicily should be mainly known as the birthplace of the most notorious organised criminal network on the planet. Of course, there’s a reason why this shady group (which began, interestingly enough, as a benevolent organisation) has fought so unrelentingly over the centuries for bits of Sicilian territory: it can be a terribly beguiling place. Touring the vast aristocratic palaces that are finally, needs must, opening up to the public, or staying in an agriturismo are just some of the latest ways you can experience an island Lonely Planet calls "more of a sugar-spiked espresso than a milky cappuccino". (Speaking of which, never order one of the latter after breakfast on Sicily or anywhere else in Italy or the locals will think you’re either weird or a child.
£399 -- Mykonos: Small Luxury Hotel of World Break, £350 Off
If the Taj Palace Marrakesh is like some kind of resplendent crown, then here’s a hotel that more calls to mind a gorgeous emerald pendant. Small Luxury Hotels of the World are a pretty elite bunch and this particular property exemplifies the breed well: no more than 30 rooms, each overlooking the Aegean, easy access to one of the most secluded beaches on Mykonos and no kids. Now, that does sound luxurious!