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The Best of Celebrity Travel 2009

Cooking with Top Chef finalist Fabio Viviani was a challenge, especially for this kitchen nitwit.

by Beata L. Santora

Ho, ho, ho! Merrrry Christmas!

The fat man has almost landed, which means it's time for us to look back at the naughty and nice of 2009, Boldface-style. So hitch up your mouse pads and think back to a simpler time when....

* We got the lowdown on smart travel with style-guru Clinton Kelly.

* We partied with celebs at the annual Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards (check out the winners).

* We said good-bye to more than a few bright stars (hope you're at peace, Michael).

* We praised do-gooding celebs, like Alicia Keys for her efforts in Africa, Kate Walsh and Paul Walker for saving our seas, Ed Norton for supporting the Maasai, and Ken Burns for showing us the magic of the National Parks.

* We cooked (somewhat successfully) with Top Chef pro Fabio Viviani (see above for proof).

* We got hitched during a Roman Holiday.

* We were baffled by the celebrity pairing of Bette Midler and 50 Cent.

* We realized that a plane with a naked supermodel painted on it is far better than a plane without one. Call us crazy.

* We traveled in TV Land to The Tudors.

* We discovered the solution to the economic crisis: celebrity weddings.

* We got fashionable on NBC Mobile.

* We found that there's more to Vegas than strippers and casinos. Check out its awesome deals on hotels off The Strip, on savory cuisine, on fab entertainment, and even on the hot newcomers!

What was your favorite celeb travel moment of the year? Let us know in comments.

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European Travel Movies, 2010 Edition

by Beata L. Santora

Have you noticed that each year, a fresh crop of European romantic comedies attempts to lure us to the theaters? Whether it's Mandy Moore Chasing Liberty in Prague, or Ethan Hawke metaphysically disrobing Julie Delpy Before Sunrise in Vienna, or even Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck taking a Roman Holiday, all these flicks have one thing in common -- silly Americans crashing headfirst into "foreign" European customs, and ultimately finding true love amidst the confusion.

This January two more films join the hallowed ranks of the European RomCom. In Leap Year, cutie pie Amy Adams hightails it to Dublin to propose to her stuffy boyfriend (per Irish lore, a thing proper ladies can only do on February 29). Of course, she gets waylaid by a handsome Welshman who turns out to be "the one."

When in Rome stars Kristen Bell as another perky American who goes splashing around the purported "Fountain of Love" in Rome in order to change her bad romance mojo. Things go haywire when a bevy of misfits falls for her while handsome Josh Duhamel smolders on the bleachers. He turns out to be "the one" as well. Natch.

The story lines of these movies are about as surprising as finding pulp in your OJ. But that's not the point. What keeps us glued to the screen in these formulaic tales is the luxurious European scenery. Whether the rolling Welsh countryside, the Roman forum, or the Maria am Gestade church in Vienna, the settings are the real stars (except in Roman Holiday -- Audrey owns that one).

What are some of your favorite European films? Tell us in comments.

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Alicia Keys in Africa

Alicia Keys

by Beata L. Santora

'Tis the season for giving. 'Tis also the time when celebs ramp up their charitable works to impress Santa. From mugs for meals, to speaking against domestic violence, to bringing music to children, everyone has a cause. But it's no secret that not all celebs are created equal; some simply arrive for the photo op or sign a mug for auction, while others get really and truly involved. Singer Alicia Keys falls into the latter category. During her Tuesday night concert in New York, Keys announced a massive campaign to raise money for Keep a Child Alive, an organization that works to support children in Africa affected by the AIDS crisis. But that's not all. Anyone who texts a $5 donation to the cause is eligible to join Keys on a five-day trip to Africa.

Keys traveled to the continent in 2002 and was so inspired that she now wants to bring five guests to share her experience. So for $5, you'll gain points with Santa and have a chance to go on an incredible trip with a superstar. It's win win. Of course you could also donate to Ben Stiller's Stillerstrong campaign which does double duty in raising money for children in Haiti and mocking Lance Armstrong. Again, win win.  

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Jennifer Aniston Luxuriates in Los Cabos

by Beata L. Santora

Life is tough for Jennifer Aniston: Film shoots with handsome costars, Letterman appearances, a revolving door of foxy young 'uns, and of course, that (in)famous GQ tie. But Boldface knows that Jen's real passion is travel. Whether it's surfing in Hawaii with the Cox-Arquettes, or following her boyfriend-of-the-moment on tour in Amsterdam, Jen's one savvy frequent flier.

Therefore, was it a coincidence that we found her soaking up the sun in Los Cabos, Mexico just as the town's luxury resorts rolled out deep discounts on room rates? We think not. After all, even celebs like to save a buck. Check out our Deal of the Day blog on truth.travel for the scoop on how to take advantage of these fab savings. And in case you need a little incentive, Jen and her teeny bikini on PopSugar and JustJared should do the trick.

So whether you travel with 10 assistants, an umbrella holder, and a crate of luggage, or simply carry your flip flops and SPF30, Los Cabos doesn't discriminate.

 

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Walker and Walsh Save Sea Turtles and Great White Sharks

by Beata L. Santora

It's no secret that quite a few celebs use their fame for more than just freebies and self-important tantrums (take note, Naomi Campbell). Today we highlight two actors who are working on behalf of the endangered species of our oceans.

Actress Kate Walsh recently traveled to St. Croix's Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge to film a PSA for Oceana about the threat of extinction for sea turtles. It turns out that all six species of turtles who call the US home are in danger of extinction. And since they're a crucial aspect of the ecosystem (not to mention incredible creatures who've lived in our seas for 100+ million years), letting them disappear is not an option. Check out Oceana's Web site to virtually adopt a turtle for as little as $35 and help Kate Get Sea Turtles Off the Hook

Sea turtles are too herbivorous and cuddly for actor Paul Walker, who was a marine biologist before he got Fast and Furious. His animal of choice is a little grizzlier. Ok, a lot grizzlier. He joined National Geographic on an expedition to personally greet great white sharks. And not just greet. The goal is to actually catch one, lift it onto the boat, tag it, collect DNA samples, and release it unharmed. Oh yeah, and not get eaten. All for the sake of uncovering the secrets of these incredibly misunderstood carnivores. Do they manage it? Check out National Geographic's Expedition Great White on November 16.

Further reading:
* Christina Aguliera, Bob Dylan, Kenna: Celebrity World Savers
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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Anderson Cooper Gets Regal in Taj's Rambagh Palace

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The Taj's Rambagh Palace: Fit for a Vanderbilt

by Beata L. Santora

If there's one person who knows a little something about travel, it's CNN anchor (and resident Silver Fox) Anderson Cooper. Growing up a Vanderbilt, Cooper could have simply relaxed on the French Riviera or hung with the 1980s equivalent of Paris Hilton. Instead, he studied in Vietnam, contracted malaria while trekking in Kenya, faked a pass into Myanmar to meet with dissidents, and generally took the less-than-glamorous road.

Which is why now, he can splurge for a posh suite at the regal Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, India (thanks for the shout out, Just Jared). Built in 1835 for the Queen's favorite handmaiden, the property also served as the home of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Nowadays, it's certainly fit for royalty (of TV or otherwise). But you already knew that. Conde Nast Traveler readers have rated it among the top hotels in Asia in the recent Readers' Choice Awards. So Anderson's predilection for Jaipur's jewel is no surprise.

Now if only I could find a job handmaidening to a queen.....

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Rihanna Aboard the Oasis of the Seas

Rihanna
Photo: @N08/ / CC BY 2.0

by Beata L. Santora

Cruising enthusiasts have had their feathers in a twist for months, nay years, since Royal Caribbean's announcement that it would build the largest, tallest, priciest cruise ship ever. Well, the wait is almost over. On November 30 the mammoth Oasis of the Seas will welcome its first guests and depart Fort Lauderdale for a pre-inaugural cruise.

And if that wasn't enough to send cruisers into apoplexy, RC has secured the hottest young pop star on the planet to entertain the guests with her unmistakable pipes. Rihanna will christen the AquaTheater (a unique water-based amphitheater) with a performance of her brand new single "Russian Roulette." (Thanks for the heads up, Jaunted).

If your golden ticket for this event got lost in the mail, don't fret. For under $800, you too can be among the 5,400 passengers aboard the Oasis (6,296 if they stuff it to the brim). You might not get serenaded by Rihanna, but you can still get lost in one of the ship's seven neighborhoods, climb a rock wall, gamble away as much as you like, drop the kids off in the 28,000-square-foot youth zone, and eat your weight in lobster tail.

Just remember: When you're in the AquaTheater, make sure to you bring your umbrella -ella, -ella.

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Celebrity Travel Roundup

Dt_celebmeledy
Cover stars make travel news

by Beata L. Santora

With so much celeb news out there this week, choosing just one tidbit to share with you would be like Sophie's Choice. So we decided to avoid the moral dilemma and bring you the top celebrity travel news in our first Celebrity Travel Roundup:

* Nothing quells rumors of a break up and philandering like a coupley trip up north. That's just what Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel did this week in Vancouver, Canada. These savvy celebs must have read the results of our 2009 Readers' Choice Awards and saw that Vancouver is the top-rated city in the Americas. Not to mention, the city is abuzz in expectation of the 2010 Winter Olympics. We certainly hope that Vancouver can help turn their sourpusses into smiles. 

* Continuing in their quest to become the world's most nauseatingly do-gooding couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited the SOS Children's Village in Jordan to support the organization's care of orphans. Hopefully while there, the Jolie-Pitts had a chance to learn about Jordan's other progressive policies on water and the environment.

* Amateur architect Brad Pitt has recently revealed a prototype for a floating house. Built with eco-friendly ingredients, the house is able to withstand up to 12 feet of rising water. The project was a part of Pitt's efforts for the Make it Right foundation in New Orleans to ensure that the devastation of Hurricane Katrina never happens again. What did we tell you about Pitt? Nauseatingly curing the world of its ills, in spite of the funny facial hair.

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Celebrities Toast Travel's Best at the 2009 Readers' Choice Awards

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Adrian Grenier and Rachel Hunter present Sir Richard Branson's Virgin America with the award for best Domestic Airline at Conde Nast Traveler's 2009 Readers' Choice Awards, October 15, 2009.
Photo: Marion Curtis

by Beata L. Santora

What do Sir Richard Branson, Adrian Grenier, Lorraine Bracco, and Stanley Tucci have in common (besides well-stocked bank accounts)? They all attended our 22nd annual Readers' Choice Awards ceremony at Frank Gehry's fantastical IAC building in New York last night. As usual, yours truly was on site to get the scoop from these and other travel-loving celebs who came to support the winning hotels, cruises, and airlines, as chosen by thousands of Conde Nast Traveler readers. 

Regis Philbin
Regis Philbin and Danilo Gallinari


As I sipped a glass of bubbly and surveyed the room, I spotted an unassuming gentleman who looked awfully familiar. I walked closer, only to discover that I was in the presence of a bona fide TV legend -- Regis Philbin! Regis was eager to tell me about his favorite spots, such as Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach: "Trump is a master at keeping a place beautiful," he said. Other favorites are the Wynn in Las Vegas and the new Montage Beverly Hills. "I just love resorts and hotels that really know how to make somebody feel welcome and enjoy their time. I don't know what's so difficult about that, but some hotels just don't seem to manage it." Thankfully the RCAs celebrate ones that do.

Unlike Regis, the next celeb I spoke to was tough to miss in a room full of regularly-sized people. As the 6'10 Forward for the New York Knicks, Danilo Gallinari knows a thing or two about comfortable travel. "I like to visit a new destination every summer, when I am on break," he said. "Next year I'm planning a trip to Thailand with my friends." May we suggest a stop at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai? Our readers have ranked it the world's top resort for the second year in a row.

Tucci
Stanley Tucci hosting Conde Nast Traveler's 2009 Readers' Choice Awards.
Photo: Marion Curtis

Before taking up his hosting duties for the evening, actor Stanley Tucci stopped to chat. Like Danilo, Stanley's top destination is Italy. While there, he stays at the fabulous Villa d'Este in Lake Como. In Paris, he prefers the Prince de Galles and in Berlin, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski. "But there are so many places I've not visited yet, it would take me hours to describe them all," he said. "I can't wait to ski in the Alps, then to see the fjords of Sweden and Norway, and end up in the Faroe Islands, where Bergman lived." I recommended that he take the trip in June, during the Faroe's Bergman Week festival. 

As the dessert course was served, the energy in the room suddenly spiked. Excited whispers told the story -- Sir Richard Branson and Adrien Grenier are here! They arrived surrounded by an impenetrable band of what could only be called...an entourage (sorry, had to go there).

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George Clooney is "Up In the Air"

by Beata L. Santora

If there ever was a perfect time to release Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, that time is now. Not because it stars box office golden boy George Clooney and his purr-cat voice, but because it hinges on two things weighing heavily on all our minds: air travel and jobs.

Based on Walter Kirn's 2001 novel of the same name, Up in the Air follows the life of Ryan Bingham whose goal (besides slaying every stewardess withing a 50 yard radius) is to rack up one million frequent-flyer miles. Luckily, his job is conducive to both quests. He's a "career transition counselor," which is corporate speak for "the guy who travels around the country firing people." Now, if that doesn't sound familiar, you've been blissfully oblivious to the cuts and layoffs that are tormenting nearly every industry in America (except alcohol vendors and strip clubs--we don't have data on the latter, it's just an educated guess).

Though we're not fans of Bingham's career choice, we can relate to his obsession with frequent-flyer miles. In fact, we're obsessed with all things air travel. Just check out On the Fly, a rundown of breaking news from the air, and Clive Alive's insights. Both can be found on our new portal truth.travel.

And don't even think about leaving for your next trip without reading our guide to the world's airport lounges. It'll tell you which to skip and which are worth a splurge. Oh, and while there, if you see George in one of those massage chairs, tell him we'd like a private concert.

Further reading:
* More frequent flyers -- Will & Jada Smith Host Nobel Peace Concert in Oslo
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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Will & Jada Smith Host Nobel Peace Concert in Oslo

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Mr. and Mrs. Smith will be braving the Nordic winter in Oslo this December.
Photo: p_c_w on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Beata L. Santora

With summer officially over, it's time to start thinking about your Christmas travel plans (you can never start too early, as far as we're concerned). In case you're stumped about where to greet Santa, might we suggest a jaunt to Oslo, Norway? Besides all the good-looking blonds and crisp temperatures, Oslo has tons to offer the wintertime traveler. Not the least among these options is the Nobel Peace Prize Concert on December 11. Celebrating this year's laureates, the concert will take place in Oslo Spektrum stadium and include performances by country singer Toby Keith, disco diva Donna Summer, World Saver Wyclef Jean, and Malian jazz duo Amadou & Mariam. The event will be hosted by uber-couple Will & Jada Smith who will leave their warm Hollywood nest to brave the Norwegian winter.

But how can a traveler without access to millions enjoy the the world's most expensive city? Easily, it turns out--with our insider tips. Winter sports enthusiasts will love Oslo's miles of ski runs, fjords, cross-country trails, and crisp temperatures. Click on Visit Oslo for more info and special offers. Direct flights from the east coast price under $600 on SideStep. Or fly Iceland Air and take advantage of its Stopover option to explore two destinations for the cost of one flight. Just as exciting as seeing Will & Jada? Totally. Better than the  "Carlton Dance"? Not quite.

Further reading:
* Video: Wyclef Jean at our World Savers Congress
* If you run into these American biologists while in Oslo, please send our best wishes -- they've won the Medicine Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking chromosome research. 
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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Christina Aguliera, Bob Dylan, Kenna: Celebrity World Savers

by Beata L. Santora

Whether it's this week's Clinton Global Initiative or the Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress, celebs have been unusually eager to use their star power to help those less fortunate. Case in point: after a trip to Guatemala with the World Food Programme, singer Christina Aguilera was inspired to join WFO in raising awareness and funds for young children and mothers in areas hardest hit by the hunger epidemic. Her simple black-and-white PSA (above) reveals a startling statistic--a child dies of hunger every 6 seconds. But even a single dollar donated to the WFP can help change that.

Music legend Bob Dylan has also partnered with WFP. In fact, "partnered" is an insufficient word for his contribution. Besides promoting the organization, he is donating all of the royalties from his upcoming Christmas in the Heart album to feed half a million children in developing countries.

Even more drastic (and dangerous) steps are being taken by the organizers of Summit on the Summit. Ethiopian-American rapper Kenna is leading a group of his high wattage friends to a trek in Tanzania this coming January. Their goal? To summit the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the world's tallest mountain (over 19,000 feet!). Musicians Justin Timberlake and Lupe Fiasco, with actress Jessica Biel and others, are joining Kenna on this journey to help end the world's drinking water shortage.

It seems some celebrities have discovered that doing good can be more important (not to mention more rewarding) than looking good. Hats off.

Further reading:
* Video: Highlights from Monday's World Savers Congress
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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New York City: Set Sail in Memoriam

Schooner_adirondack_new_york_city_sailboat
The schooner Adirondack provides an intimate experience of New York City's landmarks.
Photo: sail-nyc.com

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

For us New Yorkers, this is a difficult day. Flags will be lowered, 2,752 names will be read, moments of silence will be observed. Today, just about everything and everyone in New York will reflect on that surreal day eight years ago. Frivolity feels inappropriate and celebrities take a backseat. Not surprisingly, visitors are often left befuddled by what to do in a city of mourning. But there is one New York experience that perfectly encapsulates the traveling spirit, while paying homage to the city.

Each day, two 80-foot schooners from Classic Harbor Line set sail down New York's waterway, offering their guests incredible views of the skyline with free drinks. Photos and picnic baskets are encouraged, and even the most cynical traveler is awed by the Statue of Liberty (which the schooner approaches as closely as the Coast Guard will allow). It's an incredible experience on any day, but the Sunset Sail is a particularly humbling, haunting experience this week. Just as the last moments of twilight fade away, the schooner passes by the twin towers of light, disappearing into the sky like ghosts. Suddenly the whole ship is silent as you and a boatful of strangers share a single profound moment. Needless to say, it's $50 you'll never regret.

Further reading:
* Video: 24 Hours in New York
* Insider's Guide to New York City (CNT, September 2006)
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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Bathing Balkan Beauties

Hvar-croatia
Ivanka Trump has hung out at Hvar's Bonj les Bains, built in the 1930s
and the country's most exclusive beach club.

Photo: Julien Capmeil, Condé Nast Traveler

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Summer is officially kaput, and as we look back on all the celebrity sightings of the past few months, we can't help but wonder: What was the hot spot of 2009? I hate to get all Carrie Bradshaw here, but the answer is not that simple. There was Tony Blair in Bali, President Obama in the Grand Canyon, Usher and Kate Moss in St-Tropez, and, of course, George Clooney and his Ocean's mates in Lake Como. Plus, who could forget Jack Nicholson's TMI vacay in Cap d'Ail?

But for us, the winner was a last-minute dark horse--Croatia! With A-listers Mickey Rourke and Jay-Z and Beyoncé frolicking on its shores, Croatia's Adriatic coast is the celeb destination du jour. This comes as no surprise to us: Condé Nast Traveler has long been a fan of Croatia. In fact, as far back as March we featured it as Europe's New Riviera. With beautiful beaches, scenic sights, and plenty of affordable offerings, it's a real find.

Even more good news: September and October are shoulder season in Croatia, with mild temperatures but fewer tourists and cheaper rates. Here are our fave picks:

* The Riva hotel on the harbor of cosmopolitan Hvar island, has beautiful modern rooms with sea views for just $250 per night including breakfast.

* On tiny Lopud island, La Villa is an elegant eight-room guesthouse with French windows and a courtyard covered in grapevines. Rooms start at just $100, and there's a seven-person boat that you can hire for $40 per hour--including captain!

* On the mainland, the palatial Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik was built in 1895 and refurbished in 2005 (just in time to make it onto our 2006 Hot List of the world's best new digs). They're running an online-only special for the fall: a two-night stay, plus dinner and breakfast, for $580.

No wonder our Style Director, Mark Connolly, came back from his vacation in Hvar threatening to jettison his fabulous NYC life for the Adriatic shores.   

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Cooking With Top Chef Fabio Viviani

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

What do you get when you combine a suave Italian chef and a bumbling editor who doesn't know the difference between risotto and Rice-A-Roni? Click above and see for yourself.

I recently had the good fortune of getting a private cooking lesson from Top Chef Season 5 finalist Fabio Viviani. After his successful stint on Bravo, the Florentine charmer published a cookbook called Café Firenze, named for his popular restaurant in Moorpark, California. Fabio was kind enough to create a few simple dishes just for us and, amazingly, he didn't even flinch when we asked him to teach yours truly, a kitchen nitwit, how to make them. On camera. We're lucky the whole place didn't catch fire.

After cooking, Fabio's best pal and business partner, Jacopo Falleni, made a fabulous summertime drink he calls "Tranquility" (see page 107 in the book for details). Now, this was one lesson I could really get behind.

Although it wasn't easy to keep my composure with these Italian stallions around, I managed to remain vertical for much of the time. Check out the fabulous recipes after the jump.

Continue reading "Cooking With Top Chef Fabio Viviani" »

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National Parks Welcome the Obamas

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

President Obama brought his girls and the Mrs. to visit Grand Canyon National Park this past week. The September issue of Condé Nast Traveler has a feature on the National Parks. Coincidence? We think not. (Someone on the prez's efficient staff probably sneaked an advance copy out of our offices in the middle of the night.)

One thing's for sure: Seeing at least one of the 58 National Parks is a must for every citizen. The mountains of Yellowstone and Glacier, the wildlife in Denali--all of these are fascinating trips that won't burn a hole in your bank account. In fact, a good many parks, and other National Parks Service sites, are free to enter.

So pack the car with some snacks, and make like the Obamas. Then you can ace our nifty National Parks Quiz and feel superior to (and more patriotic than) your friends.

Further reading:
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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Bali Bounty

Bali_dt
Welcome to Bali-wood!

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

In the past few weeks, Boldface has been inundated with images of pretty people frolicking in predictably pretty places: Cindy and Kate in St. Tropez, Katy and Rihanna in Barbados, Jack Nicholson and his smokes in Cap d'Ail.

But a few discerning notables have journeyed much further afield--to the Indonesian island of Bali. Actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt just got hitched there; and vacationing Tony Blair found himself in a compromising situation with a feisty baby elephant. Of course, we don't have to tell you about the beauties of Bali. In fact, Condé Nast Traveler readers have rated it as one of the world's top islands in the annual Readers' Choice Survey for the past 15 years. And with good reason. Bali has it all--fantastic beaches, historic temples, and magical dancing. Far easier on the eyes than this view of Jack in the French Riviera (not sure whether we're grateful or resentful of this photo, Jaunted).

Bali's dry season ends in September, after which the humidity kicks in. So book your tickets asap, or you'll have to wait until the breezes return next May.

Further reading:
* More pretty people, this time on boats
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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I'm Sailing! And You Can, Too

Titanic-boat-Kate-Leo
Before the berg.

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Those of you who scour the Webisphere for celebrity-focused news (like yours truly) may have noticed that a lot of notables have recently been seen floating. In the sea, that is. Generally, they're scantily clad, oiled, and pretending not to notice the paparazzi hanging from the rafters, shooting as much T&A as possible with their zoom lenses.

There's Cindy Crawford, every inch the supermodel. There's Kate Moss, looking (remarkably) no worse for the wear--and really, why should Cindy be the only semi-naked runway star in St-Tropez, anyway? There are Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen alums Matt Damon and Don Cheadle doing their best to blend with the normals while sailing Lake Como (a.k.a. George's personal wading pool). There's Leonardo DiCaprio and his inflatable boat. True, he's doing more beaching than boating, but he's greased and shirtless, so it counts.

But why should celebs have all the fun on the high seas? Luckily for you, we've rounded up the top deals on cruises around the world in our special Cruise Smart section. Plus, we've got the scoop on the best beds for your buck on 17 cruise lines. Take that, Jude Law.

So check out the results of our 2009 Cruise Ship Survey and make like Kate and Leo. Just watch out for those icebergs.

Further reading:
* Speaking of cruises, Oprah recently treated all of her 1,700 employees and their families to a ten-day Mediterranean cruise aboard the Norwegian Gem. Seriously.
* You might want to keep your earplugs in for the bleeps on this one. Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg and his crew (which includes T Pain) are really, really excited about being on a boat.
* Boldface: Celebrity travels.

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Hawaii: A Perfect Getaway

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Say you're honeymooning on a remote island somewhere in the Pacific (let's call the region "Hawaii") and all you want to do is hike its volcanic cliffs, swim in its pristine waters, sniff plant life, and generally lounge around being gorgeous with your new spouse. Is that too much to ask? Well according to Universal's newest flick A Perfect Getaway, it is. The film follows an adventurous couple who get caught in a tangle of murder and wet t-shirts as they battle to survive a mysterious killer. Coincidentally, the film is set on a Hawaiian island--what are the odds?

Clearly, our young protagonists didn't do their homework. Had they read the July issue of Condé Nast Traveler, they would have known the best spots to visit where you'd have to work pretty hard to find a mysterious killer. Thankfully, we're here to make sure you never make that mistake.

And since this year is the archipelago's 50th birthday, we've brought you our picks for the best surf, drive, beach, and view of Hawaii at 50 along with a handy slideshow. Plus, find out what Hawaii's famous locals have to say about these magical islands. Aloha!

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Harry Potter and the Traveling Muggles

HarryPotter
Have broom, will travel.
Photo: weekbeforenext on Flickr
using Creative Commons

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

This past week was a biggie for J. K. Rowling. The sixth installment of her Harry Potter series hit theaters on Wednesday, shattering box office records to the tune of $58 million and change. Shh, if you listen carefully, you can hear the clanking of loot falling into Rowling's already sizable bank account.

The film takes place in a multitude of destinations, following Harry through London, Bulgaria, Norway, Ireland, and even Wollongong, Australia. If your portkey is rusty or your broomstick outdated, you may have to catch a plane with the rest of the Muggles to visit these sites. Thankfully, the good folks at the Telegraph have put together a dandy list of destinations from the film (both real and fictional).

Meanwhile, here's what happens when a bunch of college students attempt Quidditch in a Brooklyn park.

Further reading:
* Celeb Brits get down and dirty
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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Celeb Brits Get Down and Dirty

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Blonds are in season on Brit farms
Photos: RunCiTer and EmesiS on Flickr.com

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Ah those Brits, always finding new ways to amuse themselves (and us). They've crowned kooky royals, sailed the seas, and produced designer sausage. And all of them seem to own castles with rolling hills (what luck!). But can they ever leave well enough alone? Nope. Now they're all refashioning these castles to suit new hobbies.

Who would have thought that adopted Brit Claudia Schiffer liked shoveling grain? With her bikini days behind her, the German supermodel has taken up animal farming at her Suffolk estate. According to Starpulse, she has three dogs, two sheep, four chickens, a pregnant pig, two black swans, four ducks, three tortoises, and a parrot. Not sure how the parrot fits into the retinue but we won't judge.

Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing is putting aside his Gibson Flying V in favor of a nine-iron. Did you know that he wanted to be a dairy farmer when he purchased Astbury Hall in 1985? Well, those dairy dreams are over and instead he's turning his estate into a golf course. Apparently 30 years of head banging hasn't affected his balance. Maybe he can give JT some pointers.

Now that his missus has flown the roost, film director Guy Ritchie is investing $13 million in his Wiltshire estate to make it more green and self-sufficient. You know what they say, out with the Madge, in with the veg!

What's next, barn raising in Wembley?

Further reading:
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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Oprah + Norwegian Gem = Employee Loyalty

Oprah
Photo: Mars Hill Church Seattle on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

In these times of economic woe, it's heartening to know that there's one employer still taking care of her minions. Not surprisingly, this generous soul is none other than Oprah Winfrey, the world's second most powerful celebrity (according to Forbes). Last week, all of Oprah's 1,700 employees and their families were treated to a free 10-day Mediterranean cruise aboard the Norwegian Gem. Yes, seriously.

The ship's itinerary includes Malta, Barcelona, and other fabulous ports of call. Supposedly, O has dropped more than $9 million on this mass gift--and earned countless karmic points (thanks for the drool-worthy details, Jaunted). What a clever way to ensure staffer loyalty! That Oprah--she's gossip-proof, weight-proof, recession-proof, and even disgruntle-proof. Take note, airlines.

Yours truly was lucky enough to sail on the very same ship just last year (though no Oprah freebies for me; I paid full price). One of NCL's newest, the Gem is exactly that: a huge, well-oiled machine whose sole purpose is guest amusement and feeding. Thanks to its 12 restaurants, from a casual pizza buffet to a swank French bistro where you dine off Versace china, you can literally have your cake at any time of day or night. You can also golf, spa, gamble, jog, shop, wed, night-bowl, dance, drink, and deposit your kids in the jungle gym. 

All of which begs the question: Oprah, what will it take for me to go on the next cruise?

BOLDFACE

Michael Jackson, Traveler

Michael Jackson meets Nelson Mandela
Michael Jackson hugs former
South African President Nelson
Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa
Saturday, July 20, 1996.

Photo: AP Photo / Adil Bradlow-File

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

Over the upcoming weeks, you'll undoubtedly be deluged with information about the death of Michael Jackson. Some of it will celebrate his life, much of it will pour over the last sad years (TMZ is already compiling the sordid details).

We at Boldface prefer to remember Michael's gifts above the gossip. His odd behavior may have overshadowed his talent and made him into an object of ridicule in the United States, but we mustn't forget that in his heyday, when Michael spoke (or danced), everyone listened. And we do mean everyone. During the 1980s, he made history not only for producing some of the biggest albums in music but also for plying the globe with his concerts. In fact, his Bad World Tour earned a spot among the Guinness Book of World Records for reaching the most audiences ever (4.4 million, give or take). During this tour, he visited countries that were considered far off the grid, such as Gabon and Egypt.

In this way, Michael was the consummate traveler, engaging with every corner of this planet through music, connecting us all.

As a kid growing up in the gray cocoon of Communist Russia in the 1980s, there was very little that I knew about the world outside. Yes, there was TV, but it showed happy farmers hoeing and Lenin's disciples calling for the proletariat to unite. Remember: We didn't have Twitter, the Internet, or even cable with which to disseminate information. What we did have was a VCR. My family was the first in our community (if not our city) to get this amazing machine. It was probably smuggled under someone's shirt, but regardless, it arrived at my house accompanied by only one tape: the 14-minute-long "Thriller" music video. I cannot overstate its impact on the six-year-old me. I was mesmerized, terrified, and wore the tape thin watching it. All I wanted to do was see more, learn more, be more. Luckily, I got the chance when we immigrated to America.

I will never forget the origins of that spark to see the world. And for that Michael, I thank you.

BOLDFACE

Mozart and Brodsky Walk into a Bar

DSC00671[1]
Artist John Baldessari promises, "I will not make any more boring art."
Photo: Beata Loyfman-Santora

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

As you may recall, yours truly recently got hitched in Rome (hence the expanded last name). And after recuperating from the excitement at the gorgeous Casa Angelina on the Amalfi Coast, hubby and I took an overnight train to Venice, where we joined the hordes of art aficionados at the Venice Biennale. With 77 exhibitions going on at once, there's plenty to see. I especially liked Tobia Rava's optical illusions at Galleria d'Arte l'Occhio. As fellow blogger Ondine Cohane wrote, the city is in a frenzy of activity, so finding a quiet spot was tough. Luckily, I found two.

While I was wandering the labyrinthine streets behind the Teatro La Fenice, a gray plaque caught my eye. Turns out this was Casa Ceseletti, the residence of the 14-year-old Wolfgang Mozart in 1770. I stood inhaling deeply, hoping to ingest some of his musical genius. (I was unsuccessful.)

The Isola di San Michele is just a few minutes away from the northern part of the city, but thankfully has far fewer tourists--probably because most people are frightened by this island of the dead. Oddly, its cemetery houses quite a few notable Russians, including Joseph Brodsky, Stravinsky, art and ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, and Ezra Pound (who wasn't technically Russian but was certainly of Slavic origins).

After just three days in what Brodsky called an "anarchy of water," the allure of this strange city took hold and I understood why so many artists flock here for inspiration. Venice positively overflows with it.

Further reading:
* Word of Mouth-er Ondine Cohane reports from the 53rd Venice Biennale
* New York artists ambush Venetian waters with barges of reconstituted detritus
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

BOLDFACE

Tom Cruise or Not to Cruise?

Hassler_hotel_dt
Bella Vista. The view from Rome's Hassler Hotel.

by Beata Loyfman

Tom Cruise is following me. No, really. He and his young bride have some sort of sonar that tracks my activities for the purposes of replicating them and gaining international acclaim. Want proof? Remember that engagement story about Cruise ambushing unsuspecting Katie with a diamond atop the Eiffel Tower? Totally my idea. And where did the couple stay prior to the famed wedding? In a posh suite of Rome's Hassler Hotel, on top of the Spanish Steps. Coincidentally (or not) I found myself at just the same spot last weekend. Though my pockets aren't filled with Mission: Impossible loot, Room 408 of the Hassler was nothing to sneeze at (see photo above). What's more, I was here primping for my own nuptials. Eerie, no? Yes, there is the matter of a few years' timing lag, but these are just details.

I can't fault Cruise for his good taste though. Getting hitched in Italy is most advisable for anyone considering it (see Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Salma Hayek and Henri Pinault, etc.). And this is doubly true for the Hassler Hotel. From the incredible food (courtesy of the Michelin-starred Imago restaurant), to the jaw-dropping views of the Eternal City, to the white glove service, you really can't miss.

The only hitch (ha!) in your plans might be wrangling Italy's draconian marriage laws. They consist of obtaining stamps at various official offices in the city, none of which work in congress. So if you are late in having your grandmother's pre-WWII fishing license stamped, the particular department doing the honors may not be open again until the moon is waxing crescent and Saturn is in Mars. To avoid this head-spinning ordeal, just follow my lead and bring your own Internet-ordained minister to make the thing legit. Not sure if Scientology ministers count. 

Further reading:
* The Amalfi Coast is quite the romantic Italian spot, too
* Boldface: Celebrity travels

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