William

All-you-can-drink and a spectacular beach, for only $124 a night!

The Barcelo Bavaro Palace: all-you-can-drink and a spectacular beach for only $151 a night!

Now is the perfect time to plan a Caribbean vacation. The weather’s not yet sweltering, the spring break price hikes have come to an end, and hurricanes won’t hit the shores until July (or, more likely, August). As resorts ready themselves for the summer lull, rates drop across the board. But competition is fierce, and that’s why we’ve been able to secure some extraordinary deals on a few of our favorite all-inclusive resorts.

Check out the bargains (up to 40% off the standard rate) after the jump… Read More »

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South Beach, the flashy focal point of Miami, has no shortage of luxury boutique hotels. Of course, some swanky digs charge a lot more per night than others — an unsafe move at this time of year, when the big tourist crowds are in scarce supply. That’s why we’ve scoured the hotel scene to find deals at a few posh properties willing to dramatically under-value their appeal. That’s good news for savvy fringe season travelers looking to score a superb stay on the cheap, before Miami’s summertime swamp weather sets in.

One of South Beach's sexiest hotels, The Mondrian, just got even more attractive: It's about half the price of comperable hotels.

One of South Beach's sexiest hotels, The Mondrian, is now more attractive: It's about half the price of comparable hotels.

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There are advantages to traveling to the Big Apple for the Memorial Day weekend. Notably, it’s “Fleet Week,” meaning you’ll find ample stark while sailors strolling the streets (and crowding the bars). The Memorial Day parade struts down Broadway on Monday afternoon (May 31). The best perk: many locals tend to clear out for a weekend in the Hamptons (or, perhaps, the Jersey Shore). This means getting restaurant reservations is a little easier, Central Park is a little less crowded, and there’s a chance you’ll find more room to breathe inside the best museums.

To celebrate the reintroduction of white slacks, Oyster’s snagged some superb deals on top-notch hotels– up to 39% off the standard room rate. See our favorites, after the jump…

If you book on Oyster, you can snag a four-pearl room at the Hotel Chandler for 15% less than the standard rate.

If you book on Oyster, you can snag a room at the Hotel Chandler for 15% less than the standard room rate.

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“Hotel 91 is a new 70 room smoke free hotel located in Manhattan’s vibrant Lower East Side. Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo, Wall Street, and other major NYC attractions are only steps away.”

So says its website. Here’s the real breakdown:

  • Chinatown: 0 steps
  • Little Italy: 1,000 steps
  • SoHo: 1,600 steps
  • Wall Street: 2,200 steps

As you can see in the photos below, it seems that the Hotel 91 is trying hard to distance itself from its actual location — under the Manhattan Bridge, in the bustling heart of Chinatown.

Hotel 91's marketing photo

Hotel 91's marketing photo

Oyster's photo

Oyster's photo

See what’s really just steps from the Hotel 91, after the jump.

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The Blue Bottle Coffee Company

While cities like Seattle have long dominated the gourmet coffee scene, specialty cafes throughout the U.S. and abroad have being steadily raising the bar. In-house roasting; sustainable, organic,  fairly-traded beans; elaborate brewing processes –  another Starbucks they are not. With the help of Oyster Locals Brendan Spiegal of Endless Simmer and Joanne Greenberg (who wrote our East and West Coast listings, respectively), our highly-caffeinated reporters picked their favorite places to get a coffee.

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In New York City, a typical guest room can be about half the size of a standard room elsewhere in the United States. Too often, hotels go to great lengths to hide this fact by deceptively cropping room photos on their website or, in many cases, simply not showing you a single photo of their smallest room type. In such cramped quarters you can’t always rely on even the most basic in-room amenities, such as a desk. As you can see in the case of the Ameritania Hotel in midtown New York (shown below), a hotel can take advantage of your natural assumptions by cleverly arranging the furniture.

It might seem, based on the this photo of a Queen Room on the Ameritania hotel's website, that there's a desk behind this chair.

Based on this photo on the Ameritania Hotel's website, you might assume there's a desk behind the chair.

As you can see in Oyster's photo, however, that chair would merely face the wall.

But you'd be wrong. As you can see in Oyster's photo, if you were to sit in that chair you'd be looking at a wall.

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Believe it or not, we took this shot from inside a guest room at the Jade Mountain Resort in Saint Lucia (most rooms have a private infinity pool).

Believe it or not, we took this shot from inside a guest room at the Jade Mountain Resort in Saint Lucia. (Most rooms have a private infinity pool.)

On March 1, the series finale of ABC’s The Bachelor will take place on the Celestial Terrace of the iconic Jade Mountain Resort on the idyllic Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Over the past few weeks, fans of the show — as well as anyone who’s watched anything on ABC without the help of Tivo — will have heard “St. Lucia really is the most romantic place on earth” or “There is no better place to fall in love than St. Lucia” about as many times as they’ve heard the expression “Take home the gold.”

Which begs the question: What’s so great about St. Lucia? A remote, lush, mountainous beachfront terrain is stunning, no doubt, but this can be found elsewhere in the Caribbean — Frenchman’s Cove in Port Antonio, Jamaica is just one example — as well as around the globe in places like the north shore of Kauai in Hawaii or Ko Chang in Thailand. So what about this particular locale makes all the staged romance feel so spectacular? The answer is simple: Jade Mountain.

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When most people visit New York City for the first time, they blow through more cash than they thought possible. For starters, just about everything — food, nightlife, museums, shopping — costs more in Manhattan than it does in any other American city. In some instances, the splurges are worth it — a Broadway show, for example. But time and again, visitors end up flushing their time and money right down the most hyped or most familiar crapper. As a follow-up to our previous post, “Don’t get scammed: 5 ways New York City’s tourists get swindled,” here’s a look at the most common ways in which travelers needlessly waste their time and money when visiting New York City, and what you can do to travel smarter.

In New York, if you can find the same restaurant in Leawood, Kansass, just keep walking...

If you can find the same restaurant in Leawood, Kansas, just keep walking...

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Imagine puffing on a stogie in a tub like this one, at The Plaza

Imagine puffing on a stogie in a tub like this...

Smokers, New York City is against you. A recent tax hike now puts a pack at about $11. It’s illegal to smoke in most bars and restaurants (and, if Mayor Bloomberg gets his way, beaches and public parks too.) About every 15 minutes or so, a profoundly disgusting TV ad airs, telling you why to quit in gory detail. If you’re looking to quit, a Big Apple visit might be the kick in the pants you need. But far be it from me to judge. If you’re just looking for a clean smoking room without the stale nicotine funk or the chemical sting of lemon freshener, we’ve got you covered.

Where to stay if you smoke…

  • Clove cigarettes: Hotel Chelsea, Chelsea: art house cool for lawless smokers (congress recently outlawed the sale of these crackling babies)
  • Lucky Strikes: The Franklin, Upper East Side: value-minded, with hints of Art Deco to help complete the WWII-era time-warp

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Watch out for the "free tickets" in Times Square

Watch out for the "free tickets" in Times Square

1. “Free” Comedy

It’s virtually impossible to walk through Times Square without being offered free tickets to a comedy show. First: It’s not really free. A mandatory two-drink minimum is the norm, and each of those sugary cocktails might run you $15 a pop. Second: It’s rarely funny. Most clubs advertise a celebrated legacy, but where so-and-so “got his start” doesn’t mean much in a city where every well-known comedian plays just about every low-level stage at some point in his career. For a real dose of the city’s humor, seek out some off-off Broadway that tickles your fancy (there’s always ample downtown), catch some improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, or browse the funny happenings during your stay in any of New York’s free weekly papers, such as the Village Voice.

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