FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
STORIES abound of hotel mini-bar moments, almost all to do with guests feeling ripped off for paying about the same for a row of Toblerone chocolate alps as they would for a holiday at a Swiss ski resort. Seasoned travellers no doubt sneer at those who get caught this way: the trick is to nip down to the nearest 7-Eleven and bottle shop and stock up on your own supplies. Some guests even take out the hotel’s cold can of, say, tonic water from the mini-bar fridge and replace it with the warm supermarket-bought one.
Sounds simple, if sneaky. But some hotels have woken up to such trickery and installed motion sensors that register ‘‘ purchases’’ on front desk computers, even if you have just taken out a packaged item to look at its contents or ingredients.
But according to website gizmodo.com— which comes with the cute tag of ‘‘ so much in love with shiny new toys, it’s unnatural’’ — the Wynn Las Vegas hotel has taken things a dastardly step further. Gizmodo’s geeks report that the trays on top of its minibars are fitted with scales and sensors, so if you so much as absently move that packet of mixed nuts or bottle of water, your bill will be automatically debited.
So look, don’t touch, is the message, although there is probably a hotel somewhere doing trials on eyeball sensors.
HAVING a dig at hotels reminds DepartureLounge of a list compiled a few years back by Andrew Harper of US-based Harper’sHideawayReport in which he looked at ‘‘ what hotels said’’ versus ‘‘ what I found’’. A few of his observations were: Warm ambience: No airconditioning. A world apart: Convenient to nothing. Unhurried lifestyle: Slow room service. Express checkout: We’ll over-bill you later.
Lounge has been inspired to compile her own list, which includes: Traditional plumbing: The bathroom is down the hall. Convenient location: Under the flight path. Home cooking: We can’t afford a chef. Tropical atmosphere: Mould. Victorian style: It’s near Melbourne. Authentic: We ran out of money for the refurb.
EVERYONE’S favourite traveller Michael Palin has recorded another series of quirky adventures. NewEurope, his 20-country passage across the eastern, southeastern and central regions of Europe, from Albania to Estonia, has just been released here on a three-disc DVD set (Roadshow, $79.95). Oddly, the Seven Network, which has the screening rights, is yet to show the sevenepisode series. Palin spoke to The Australian’s television critic Graeme Blundell late last year and revealed something of the isolation he feels returning to England from his complex journeys.
‘‘ You become a kind of social outcast,’’ he revealed. ‘‘ Just because you have been around the world, not everyone wants to talk to you about it. It’s more of a social embarrassment; no one really knows what to ask. They are more interested in telling me about how hard it’s become journeying into London from Northampton now there’s a single-line track.’’
Happily, though, many want to read about Palin’s travels. According to the January 2008 edition of the British magazine TheBookseller , the book of the NewEurope series sold 239,431 copies in 2007, second on the list of top-selling travel titles. The most successful book last year was LongWayDown by those cheery motorbike chaps Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman (also a TV series tie-in). Fellow telly types Jeremy Clarkson, Griff Rhys Jones and Sanjeev Bhaskar also did very well in Britain with travel books last year.
NEWS to hand that a German travel agency has unveiled the world’s first scheduled nude flights. From Lounge ’ s experience at sundry resorts, the Germans rather like ‘‘ nuding up’’ (as Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson are wont to put it). David Letterman said it all on telly on Monday night when he remarked: How often do you look around the economy-class section of a full aircraft and think how attractive it would be if everyone were naked?
Lounge has only a few bare facts to hand, including the fact that passengers can strip off on board but will have to dress before disembarking.
Apparently a clothing-optional charter flight was operated recently by Texas-based Castaways Travel. All naked passengers were supplied with commemorative towels to sit on.
IN Lounge’s in-tray this week, advice from Kiri Braid of Queensland Gold Coastbased Getaways for Girls that the booking deadline has been extended for its Cherry Blossom tour to Japan in late March. The 11-day itinerary includes a night’s accommodation in a traditional ryokan and a visit to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market (see Lounge’s account of a recent dawn visit at www.theaustralian.com.au/travel). The tours are, as the company name heralds, designed for like-minded female travellers. www.getawaysforgirls.com.
Raymond Hall, chief marketing officer for Six Senses Resorts & Spas, has news of the fast-expanding group’s latest openings, including Evason Hideaway & Six Senses Spa at Zighy Bay, northern Oman (easily accessed from Dubai) and, due to open in May, Six Senses Erawan on the island of Naka Yai, 10 minutes by boat from Phuket. The latter is a destination spa with 61 villas and suites (all with private pools) and an emphasis on wellness and lifestyle management. No Botox injections, scalpel wielding or route marches: just therapies, many based on Eastern healing practices, nutritious spa cuisine and absolute relaxation. www.sixsenses.com.
FIND of the week: On a visit to Bali last week, Lounge had a look at Sukhavati, a remarkable estate of six villas owned by musician and songwriter Bruce Woodley of The Seekers fame. Located between Ubud and Seminyak, Sukhavati has to be booked out as one rental, which is perfect for a house-party stay, but it’s sometimes possible to book just one villa on a lastminute basis. Lounge stayed at the superb Conrad Bali at Tanjung Benoa next to Nusa Dua; more in our Travel&Indulgence Bali special on March 29-30. www.sukhavatibali.com; www.conradhotels.com.
LOUNGE loves: Conrad Bali has a Fizzy Kids menu for juniors at its Jiwa Spa. Little ones can even help paint on the foot masque; it’s never too early, it seems, to become a spa sprite.
LOUNGE loathes: Not still being in Bali, where hotel occupancies are averaging 80 per cent and there’s a tangible feel of bustle and renewal in the tropical air.