Worried that you’ve put off making New Year’s plans and now it’s too late? Not to fret, these six getaways are memorable and—perhaps more importantly—available options to book now.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Dr. Zhivago, Anna Karenina, snow-kissed eighteenth-century buildings, fabulous museums, extraordinary ballet and opera—St. Petersburg in winter is as romantic as it gets. And for New Year’s, two magical hotels in this Venice of the North have some great packages that are still available. At the magnificently restored, 130-year-oldGrand Hotel Europe (pictured above), say goodbye to 2012 with a three-day package that pulls out all the stops, offering a sumptuous room, bountiful breakfasts, and a gala New Year’s Eve dinner dance in the storied Kryscha Ballroom with its stunning stained-glass ceiling. All this from $2,590 per couple;grandhoteleurope.com. Meanwhile, Rocco Forte’s hundred-year-old and equally opulent Hotel Astoria has a three-night deal that provides similar goodies, as well as a private guide for many of the city’s sights and a backstage tour of the famed Mariinsky Theatre with seats for the ballet in the theater’s private box; from $3,790 per couple, double occupancy; roccofortehotels.com.
Photo: Courtesy of Grand Hotel Europe
Besides spectacular mosques, palaces, and bazaars, today’s Istanbul boasts hot neighborhoods like Tophane, with art galleries, and Cihangir, with antiques shops, chic boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Stay in splendor in the former Ottoman Palace that is now the centerpiece of the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul hotel. Set on the shores of the Bosphorus—with great views of New Year’s Eve fireworks—the Ciragan Palace is known for its spa, its vast heated outdoor infinity pool, and its magnificent hammam, the iconic steam bath that Turkey perfected centuries ago. The hotel’s two-night New Year’s package includes breakfasts and a gala New Year’s Eve dinner; from $2,395 for the package; a four-day version of the same program starts at $3,236; kempinski.com/istanbul.
Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico
The season’s biggest news in the Caribbean is the debut last week of the Ritz-CarltonReserve property on the former Rockefeller estate at Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico. Besides beachfront rooms and suites with outdoor shower gardens, and private infinity pools, the new resort has three restaurants, including acclaimed chef José Andrés’s Mi Casa; a glamorous spa with glass-walled treatment rooms or “tree house” treatment platforms; and for extra privacy, a four-bedroom VIP villa. New Year’s Eve, expect a celebration dinner at Mi Casa and lots of fireworks. Rates start at $1,499 per night; doradobeach.com.
Maldives, Indian Ocean
For a New Year’s you’ll never forget, consider jetting over to the Maldives for a festive stay at the super-luxe Niyama resort on two little islands a 40-minute seaplane hop from the main island of Malé. Here, you can take the launch over to Niyama’s floating restaurant/lounge Edge for an organic meal. And no need to worry about jet lag cramping your style, since the resort’s spa is open 24/7. On New Year’s Eve, party options abound—from the six-course dégustation at Edge to the countdown blowout in the world’s first underwater nightclub, Subsix. Beach Studios from $1,650 per night; no minimum stay; peraquum.com.
Eastern & Oriental Express
For another memorable New Year adventure, spend four days traveling from Singapore to Bangkok aboard the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express train. Based in a vintage wood-paneled Pullman sleeping compartment, you’ll enjoy champagne brunches and lavish dinners on board, as well as fascinating sightseeing stops along the way—from the Malaysian island of Penang to the Thai village Hua Yai to the real Bridge on the River Kwai. New Year’s Eve begins with a champagne dinner in the train’s elegant dining carriage, after which travelers party on a nearby Thai beach with live music, fireworks, and more champagne. Fares for this four-day journey, from December 29 to January 2, start at $3,750 per person, sharing a double compartment;orient-express.com.
Moroccans love a good party and New Year’s is no exception, when all the locals stroll the great Jemaa el-Fna Square wishing everyone Sana saida (“Happy New Year” in Arabic). Out in the Palmeraie, the exotic palm forest on the edge of Marrakech, the stunning new Palais Namaskar hotel—with its gardens, pools, and ponds—celebrates the holidays by reducing the rates for some of its most glamorous villas; so instead of $3,306 a night for a lavish Pool Villa, the price between December 28 and January 5 is $2,248 (subject to a minimum stay of five nights); palaisnamaskar.com
. . . And back in town, one of Marrakech’s top decorators and hoteliers, Meryanne Loum-Martin, is offering her latest creation, a four-bedroom villa—done in her signature North African–inspired style—for New Year’s rental. Besides its own private pool and expansive gardens, Villa 12 (pictured above) allows its guests use of all the amenities of the adjacent Four Seasons Hotel. Rates: $1,587 a night for up to four persons; $ 2,116 for five to eight guests; a private chef can also be arranged for an additional fee; villa12.com. Sana saida!