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LUXURY RESORTS: W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island, CARIBBEAN
Style: The love-child of Muccia Prada and Philippe Starck heads to the Caribbean
Scene: La Isla Bonita
Seen in Lobby: Bright things on the fly from North America. Euros in search of a tan.
The W Lounge in a corner of Isla Grande Airport is a weeny preview of what's to come in the hotel resort's style. Here, the Spanish-born, Milan-based architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, fresh from creating the interiors of Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, has injected a small riot of colour amid the sober glass and steel surrounds. Printed cushions pile on top of designer woven chairs and low-slung sofas. W's 'Welcome Ambassadors' are ready to plop a drink in your hand should you desire. Whisk, into a taxi for the five minutes drive to W. Oh, you wanted something more than a cab? W group's Whatever/Whenever® hotels policy is already in force. A limo? You shall have it.

guest room
guest room
living room deck
living room
wow suite

The Luxury Travel Bible has a tiny confession: it suffers a small Miles Davis-like brain jam when it sees a trademark accompanying a stated policy of anything 'as long as its legal' services. So many options! The W Hotels web site helpfully lists a few suggestions: 'birthday at 35,000 feet', 'bathtub of hot chocolate'. Hmmm, yes, but what would TLTB really like?

We allow time to ponder this, because The Luxury Travel Bible is still a little wide-eyed at how much luxe Vieques has managed to develop in just a few years. If you had come here as recently as 2003 you would have found the island tied up by US Navy military operations. This may go some way to explaining why this island, a full stop off the south-east coast of mainland Puerto Rico, has only started to register as a Caribbean 'it' island over the last few years.

Restaurants, galleries and hotels are all in place, and W Retreat and Spa has managed to snaffle up some of the spectacular coastline, spreading itself out across two private seashores on the north west of the island. Your eye is immediately taken out into the blue. What nature hasn't put, beautifully, before you in the form of ocean, W has placed there in the form of pools and water features. Not least in Spa Chakra. Here, 6,000 square feet (557 square metres) of spa space has been channelled with canals and footbridges by Rockwell Group Europe - along with a sunken social area and treatment rooms overlooking private stone gardens.
The Luxury Travel Bible is still a little wide-eyed at how much luxe Vieques has managed to develop in just a few years

But, wait, rewind. We admit it, spas act on The Luxury Travel Bible like a magnet in a way that welcome desks usually don't. However, here at W Vieques we do like what Urquiola has done: a reception and walls made of planks of wood interlinked rustic-style, two smoky teardrop pendant lights, then a burst of colour in a freeform graphic panel splashing across a right-angle intersection of walls. Of course, the Welcome Desk here is open 24 hours (Whatever/Whenever®), but, really, does there need to be 24 hours access to SWEAT® fitness centre, even if it is 'state-of-the-art' sleek? Who goes there to pump at 2.20am?

This is right about the time when TLTB is needing to peek at the 24 hours in-room dining menu. Alain Ducasse has gotten much of the kudos for creating the food here - both for in-room as well as in his signature miX On The Beach restaurant on-site. We allow ourselves a little guess that Urquiola didn't have huge input into the design. The restaurant setting is overwhelmingly beige. A view to the sea adds in blue, but it's the dishes, such as spicy crabmeat salad and Caribbean cookpot, that are the real heroes.

Other eating areas include WET®  pool bar serving light med snacks and cocktails so that you never have to lift a pinky toe from your white sunlounger beside the long split-level pool area. W Café serves up on-the-go snacks like panini and croque monsieur. Inside Living Room you'll be able to sip away on a Margherita while dipping into Tapas and finger food.

Here, in this open lobby bar style area, Urquiola's hand takes full flight. Floorspace is studded with fat sofas, day beds and designer chairs all happily jumbled together with bright-coloured kink. The Luxury Travel Bible hasn't quite decided what to make of the scatter cushions that drip spaghetti-long tendrils of multi-colours. But Patricia Urquiola we do love your candy-coloured woven hanging chairs and cocoon lounges. This main 'meet zone' aims to be as cosy as somebody's well-designed home lounge. Out on-terrace, a 'fire-pit' lounge area with wrap-around sofas easily lures at dusk when the sky erupts with a sigh of colour to rival Urquiola's.

During the day you can go deeper into the blue with a private charter dive and kayaking. But, oh for the sloth of the beachside slumber. Not to mention back indoors inside the WOW suite. What wows The Luxury Travel Bible most? We rejoice in the mismatched coloured bedside lamps (rare in hotels), dark cement floor, moody lighting and deep Urquiola-designed bathtub. Oh, and the DEDON loveseat...mmmm, sink, relax. Now, just getting back to Whatever/Whenever®....

Check in: W Retreat & Spa - Vieques Island, State Road 200, KM 3.2 - HC1 Box 9368, Vieques, Puerto Rico. Tel: + 787 711 4100.
Ultimate Luxury: In-room and In-spa dining by Alain Ducasse.
Most Indulgent Moment: Mojito in the fire pit at sunset. Whatever/Whenever® thinking time in the hanging chair you'll find outside each suite.
The Little Things: Farm fresh eggs, homemade pastries and in-room Munchie Box.
Junior Luxies: Not unless they're big enough to sleep on their own. Suites and lounging zones are geared to couples.
Dress code: Barely-there chic in whites or colours. Slouchy cottons and linens for guys.
Perfect luggage: Ditch the black, go with bright-coloured leather.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www. wvieques.com www.starwoodhotels.com
Prue Rushton 10/06/10
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