Luxury travel is about much more than a nice bed and a great location; anyone can do that. Luxury travel in the 21st century is about service and the experiences; providing moments of travel bliss that are unique and special. A couple of weeks ago my partner and I went on a brief, but much needed, getaway to the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island in Florida. Our goals there were simple – to rest and recharge. That’s not all we experienced though, we also had several moments of travel perfection including these three.
1. S’Mores on the Beach – I looked out across the lawn of the hotel from the 8th floor and noticed several small chiminea fire pits assembled into conversation areas. Each one was positioned so that loungers also had beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding grassy dunes. I asked about them and was told that many people order S’Mores to enjoy at night. I was instantly sold. How can anyone say no to fancy beachside S’Mores at the Ritz Carlton? I arranged for the service and the next evening my partner and I spent an hour around our own private chiminea, making S’Mores, laughing and enjoying the sunset. It was a beautiful moment; an honest one that wasn’t about spending a lot of money, just enjoying how beautiful life can be at times. What made this experience truly great was the service. The fire was already roaring when we arrived and neat little packets of S’More ingredients awaited our toasting. There was no thought or effort on our end, which enabled us to just enjoy a unique and pristine moment together.
2. Heaven in a Hammock – I have an odd relationship with spas. I love the concept of them, and usually spend a bit of time in Jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas if I have the chance. But traditional massages usually leave me wanting. So when I heard about the very unique Heaven in a Hammock service at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, I knew I had to give it a shot. The concept for this originated from the hotel itself and they even had special hammocks created for the massage. I walked into the treatment room and instead of the normal table, there sat a large, South American style hammock. The masseur was great in assuaging my uncertainly as I got into the hammock not in the way I normally would, but across the middle of the floating bed. Using a variety of techniques from around the world, the masseur used the hammock to every advantage as it elongated my spine and created a sensation of weightlessness – almost floating. The hammock also allows a wide range of motion, which the masseur utilized to bend me in ways I didn’t think possible. The hammock is always in motion and the smooth rocking tempo soon put me to sleep. I left the massage energized and free of the aches and pains that had been bothering me. I finally found a massage that actually makes me feel better and that alone was enough to make this a moment of perfection for me.
3. Salt – Oddly enough, salt is the culinary theme of the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. The hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Salt, started the trend by introducing diners to hundreds of different types of salts from around the world. The hotel has a salt shop where you can taste them for yourself and the on-site delicacy are homemade salted caramels. But to truly understand how salt can transform food, dinner at their acclaimed Salt restaurant is a must. I don’t usually have high expectations of hotel restaurants; they’re not usually impressive. Salt though was truly a memorable dining experience. From the very start of the meal, diners are presented with a variety of salts and encouraged to experiment with them throughout the meal. The tasting menu was simply stunning. Shrimp and grits with feta cheese, steak tartare done classically but beautifully and the entree was a play on steak and eggs: finely sliced wagyu beef and quail eggs served on a heated salt rock allowing guests the opportunity to cook their own meals. I’m not normally a fine dining kind of guy, but this experience made me reconsider that belief and it truly was the culinary highlight of our stay.
For me, a luxury experience is one that doesn’t provide the expected. A luxury experience is one that surprises and delights me, makes me smile in spite of myself and creates memories that truly will last. If a hotel can capture that elusive travel genie in a bottle, then and only then can they truly call themselves a luxury experience – just like the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island.