Tuesday, February 06, 2007

10 Most Expensive U.S. Restaurants

No 1. New York: Masa
British pound: 210
Eur: 305

This tiny restaurant, which seats 26, is the most expensive in the country, with the prix fixe menu ranging from $350 to $500 per person--not including alcohol. Thinking of saving by bringing your own bottle of wine or sake? You can try, but expect to pay a corkage fee of $75. The menu changes frequently, but always includes five appetizers, a sushi entrée with up to 20 types of seafood flown directly from Japan and a dessert course served with tea.

No 2. Chicago: Alinea
British pound: 110
Eur: 160

Alinea's opening last spring generated major buzz, thanks to Executive Chef Grant Achatz, former sous-chef to Thomas Keller at French Laundry in Napa, California. Achatz left French Laundry for Trio, the Illinois restaurant where he continued making his name with an entrée called Black Truffle Explosion, which actually featured bursts of truffle broth while diners chewed. At Alinea, guests choose from a menu of as many as 24 mini-courses, which can take as long as five hours to finish. Since opening, Alinea has not disappointed Achatz fans, and reservations must be made several months in advance.

No 3. Seattle: The Herbfarm
British pound: 87
Eur: 127

Live guitar music, herbs and vegetables grown on the grounds and a large selection of Pacific Northwest wines are just a few of the reasons why The Herbfarm is a unique dining experience. Paying over $150 per person outside of New York or Los Angeles is a bit uncommon, but at The Herbfarm--where a nine-course meal (at $159 to $189, including wine but excluding tip and tax) can take over four hours to consume--we promise you it's worth it.

No 4. San Francisco: French Laundry
British pound: 77
Eur: 113

The restaurant takes reservations two months to the calendar date in advance, so get booking now--it's universally acknowledged as one of the must-dine destinations in California, and even in the entire U.S. Thomas Keller, the renowned chef behind the restaurant, made waves lately with the opening of Per Se in the Time Warner Center in New York, but French Laundry remains his landmark property, and one well worth checking out. The prix fixe menu consists of between five and nine whimsically named dishes, such as Oysters and Pearls, which is pearl tapioca custard served with caviar and oyster. Tasting menus are priced at $175 per person.

No 5. Washington, D.C: Inn at Little Washington
British pound: 74
Eur: 108

This country inn and restaurant opened in 1978 in a converted garage in Rappahannock County. The self-taught chef and owner, Patrick O'Connell, has since catapulted his inn and restaurant--now a Relais & Chateaux property--to national attention with innovative, hearty appetizers and entrées like lobster napoleon or a "salmon five ways" starter. The homemade bread basket brought to the table, which includes chewy poppy seed rolls and rye bread with currants and nuts, is refilled every few minutes. Prix fixe menus start at $138 per person during the week.

No 6. Philadelphia: Le Bec-Fin
British pound: 69
Eur: 100

Le Bec-Fin celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. To commemorate the event, the restaurant launched a new, three-course prix fixe dinner as an alternate to the much heaver, seven-course prix fixe ($138 per person) that had traditionally been the only option. To toast your date, order La Bicyclette, a champagne cocktail with raspberry spirits and Chambord raspberry liquor introduced in honor of this year's anniversary. When it opened in 1970, Chef Georges Perrier couldn't have known the formal restaurant would become a hallmark of a town famous for its cheese steaks. Luckily for us, it did.

No 7. Los Angeles: Bastide
British pound: 58
Eur: 84

Classic French cuisine wouldn't set Bastide apart in and of itself. But the impeccable quality of the ingredients helps explain why this restaurant has made our list for the second year in a row--and helps justify the price tag. Indeed, the restaurant's owner, Joe Pytka, once paid $35,000 for a one-kilogram white truffle, which he incorporated into the menu. Entrées start at $50.

No 8. Las Vegas: Picasso
British pound: 52
Eur: 76

Although The Bellagio isn't short of dining options, the Picasso is a venerable favorite for hotel guests or anyone who comes through Las Vegas. Original works of art by Pablo Picasso, including oil paintings and ceramic sculptures, decorate the dramatic space. But don't come for the art: Come for the French-Mediterranean menu, the real reason for the restaurant's popularity. And plan to come early to fortify yourself before a night of gambling, as the kitchen closes at 9:30 P.M. The four-course menu is $90 and the five-course meal is $100.

No 9. Atlanta: Seeger's
British pound: 49
Eur: 72

Currently closed to undergo renovations on everything from the dining room to the menu, Seeger's will reopen on Oct. 14. The eclectic menu, which changes daily according to the whims of Head Chef Guenter Seeger, will feature four-course ($105 without wine) and eight-course ($125 without wine) tasting menus, instead of the five- and eight-course menus previously on offer. The dining room, which once accommodated 65, will be whittled down to only 32, and the wine list will be thoroughly expanded. If this sounds up your alley, Seeger's is currently accepting reservations for the week of their reopening.

No 10. Orlando, Fla.: Victoria & Albert's
British pound: 49
Eur: 71

Frette linens and Christofle silver may not sound very Disney, but it's all part of the dining experience at Victoria & Albert's, the restaurant located in the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a part of Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Fla. Not only that, but the seven-course seasonal menu ($95 without wine; $145 with wine), which is customized daily and may include such delicacies as Hudson Valley foie gras, Fuji apples or dayboat diver scallops, is very adult-friendly--as is the 4,200-bottle wine cellar.

Top 15 Luxurious Honeymoon Destinations

This idyllic retreat in upstate New York offers a rustic setting, luxurious accommodations and world-class dining, with chefs preparing your meals according to specifications you send well in advance. Four lodge-style buildings house a total of 11 guest quarters, each with a view of the lake and their own chiseled stone fireplaces. No children under the age of 18 are allowed unless all 11 guest properties are reserved; this costs $23,312.50 per night, which includes all taxes. Otherwise, nightly rates start at $1,250, which include three full meals per day, tea, snacks and an open bar, plus activities such as boating, cross-country skiing, nightly cruises on the lake and bonfires.

An 88-suite resort on the island of Mauritius, Le Prince Maurice has an open plan with no reception or cashier's desk. Guests are made to feel at home while wandering the wooden bridges that span the private lagoon or meandering through the landscaped gardens that frame the guest residences and the outdoor pool. The restaurant, which is suspended dramatically above the pool, serves fresh seafood every night, and there is a library if you need a moment to reflect. Rates start at $1,524 per night for a junior suite, with a minimum stay of ten days during high season (Dec. 23 through July 1).

The One & Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas was once a private estate, and it retains the air of a treasured hideaway. Bronze and marble statues are scattered throughout the terraced gardens, which are modeled on the gardens of Versailles. With the resort's 106 rooms spread among two wings and several two-bedroom cottages, you'll never feel crowded--and if you do, retreat to your room for dinner where 24-hour room service is available for you and your brand-new better half. Nightly rates start at $760 for a standard room.

This private game reserve in South Africa takes its name from the Sand River, which winds through it, and you'll see lions, elephants and hippopotamus all in a day's work. The best part? You don't have to give up your creature comforts to see the creatures. Guests choose from among five luxurious lodges, and there's a spa offering massages, Ayurveda and acupuncture. Furthermore, the cuisine is impeccable, and there's even a wine cellar offering over 12,000 bottles of rare African wine. Per couple rates are $1,888 per night.

Taveuni Island is one of only two land masses in the world that the international date line hits, so you can say you love her more today even when it's officially still yesterday back home. Each of the two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas in this Fijian resort is designed for utmost privacy, leaving you to spy on endemic bird species, such as the orange dove, or pass the time another way. Nightly rates are $825 per night, with a five-night stay minimum.

Feel like reenacting Shakespeare's balcony scene with your newly betrothed? Verona, the meeting place of Romeo and Juliet, is within striking distance of this intimate and ivy-covered manor. L'Albereta, located in Franciacorta between the southern shore of Lake Iseo and the Po River Valley, is deep in the heart of several vineyards and was once the estate of the Moretti family. An on-site riding school, four nearby golf courses, a spa and Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi are among the many reasons to visit. Day trips to the nearby towns of Brescia and Pergamo are recommended if you're looking to stretch your married wings. Nightly rates start at $340.

This 70-acre resort is hidden within a 1,500-acre private oasis full of exotic flowers and native birds. Even with all that space, Las Alamandas only accommodates a total of 30 guests at a time. Each of the 15 suites, located in six brightly painted villas, has an oversized Mexican tile bath--perfect for scrubbing à deux--as well as private terraces. If you decide on their honeymoon package, which starts at $1,920 for six nights in a garden-view suite, you'll receive a complimentary bottle of champagne, a couple's oceanfront massage and complimentary horseback riding. Otherwise, room rates start at $430 per night for a beachfront villa during the high season (October through May), or at $610 per night with meals included.

The natural materials, such as pink granite and thatched roofs, which went into the design of the Lémuria Resort of Praslin, were intended to help preserve the environment for the resident wildlife, while subdued lighting was installed to avoid scaring off turtles that come ashore at night to lay eggs. A three-tiered pool leads down to the ocean, and guests can play tennis, windsurf or kayak free of charge (there are additional charges for scuba diving, deep-sea fishing and mountain biking). Rates start at $1,514 per night for a junior suite, including breakfast, with a minimum stay of ten days during high season (Dec. 23 through July 1).

The Palazzo Vendramin, a 15th-century residence, is part of the Grand Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy. Both hotels are located on their own island, directly across from Piazza San Marco--a private vaporetto shuttles guests back and forth. Palazzo Vendramin's guests can avail themselves of the Cipriani's facilities, including the heated salt-water pool, spa and bars. But private butlers--on-call from 7 A.M. to 11 P.M.--the eight lavish apartments and the added privacy of the property make it perfect for honeymooners--or for anyone looking to unwind regally. Nightly rates start at $2,578 for a junior suite, including breakfast.

Whether in a Hollywood movie or real life, there can be no more romantic or luxurious urban hotel than the Ritz in Paris. From its understated entryway and gilded rooms to the aura of intrigue and history that permeate every corner of this legendary hotel, the Ritz offers honeymooners the perfect escape, as well as the perfect place to stay in what is arguably one of the world's most romantic cities. Partly this is because the hotel's name has become synonymous with luxury, style and comfort, but also because the staff is simply extraordinary. Want a reservation at the most exclusive restaurant? The concierge can get it. Want to order a Rolls-Royce filled with your beloved's favorite flowers and a picnic lunch of her favorite delicacies? Pas de problem, monsieur. Want to be left alone in your room and order everything from room service? The waiters are as prompt as they are discreet. Want Colin, the hotel's famed bartender, to create a signature cocktail to memorialize your stay? He will be glad to. For a truly memorable stay, book one of their Prestige Suites, such as the Duke of Windsor Suite, which goes for €5,200 (around $6,333) per night.

Amanjena, which means "peaceful paradise," was Amanresort's first property in Africa. Open-air fountains flank the entrance, which is sheltered by palm and olive trees. The architecture, particularly the rose-colored walls and open-air buildings, was modeled on the Moorish packed-earth buildings that once crowded Marrakech. Reflecting pools and the guests' pavilions radiate out from the bassin, the central-heated swimming pool. Nightly rates for a pavilion with a private gazebo start at $800, plus a 20% tax and service charge. Pavilions with a private pool are $1,350 per night, plus a 20% tax and service charge.

Clinging to a cliff over the Mediterranean Sea, equidistant from Nice and Monaco, the Château de la Chèvre d'Or is situated in Eze, a tiny village established about 500 B.C., which even today feels medieval. The landscape is equal parts rocky cliffs, blue sea and lush green fauna--and the hotel's infinity pool, winding gardens and nearby Astrorama (observatory) capitalize on their location. Extravagantly furnished rooms and three separate restaurants add to the possibilities for mutual spoiling. If only married life could stay this way. Nightly rates start at $450.

Your wedding featured fireworks, several species of exotic birds or a 36-piece orchestra, we think a honeymoon on Great Mercury Island off the coast of New Zealand might be just your thing. This 5,000-acre private island, owned by a New Zealand resident, was only made available for rental last year, and Tom Cruise is among the celebrities who have already taken advantage of it (no word on who he took with him). A 25-minute helicopter ride from Auckland, which is included in the room rate, takes you over a rugged coastline and volcanic hills to the doorstep of the island's two villas--perfect for those "family-mooning" with the in-laws or with children. The chef on the island will cook to order, serving dinner on the beach or anywhere else you care to dine. Rates start at $19,395 per night for up to six people. For parties of seven or more, there is an additional nightly charge of $895 per person.

New York can be one of the most romantic cities in the world, but there's nothing sexier than feeling like you own it. That's the illusion created by the two new Presidential Suites at the Four Seasons (although a regular room there is quite nice, too). Toast yourselves with a bottle of Cristal upon arrival, feast on a bowl of fresh fruit and enjoy the private bar--all complimentary. The Four Seasons knows how exhausting a honeymoon can be, which is why packing and unpacking services are offered free of charge. The Jacuzzi and working fireplace are perfect for reliving the big moment, and you can call ahead to request to have a romantic selection of CDs and DVDs waiting for you upon arrival. You may think the million-dollar view of Central Park is priceless, but the Four Seasons has it pegged at $15,000 per night. Standard rooms start at $495. The Four Seasons New York is a part of Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts

Halekulani's restaurant La Mer is home to Hawaii's only Michelin-starred chef, who used to cook for the royal family and Grace Kelly in Monaco. If that isn't reason enough to visit, this refined hotel on Waikiki Beach recently opened the honeymooners' dream suite. Every element of the 2,135-square-foot Vera Wang Suite was designed or chosen by the wedding-dress genius, right down to the embroidered pillows on the bed, the crystal and silver in the dining room, and the 19th-century Chinese writing desk. A 24-hour formal butler and arrival treats, including Champagne and foie gras, are included in the room rate, which starts at $4,000 per night and goes up to $5,500 for an adjoining bedroom. Standard rooms start at $385 per night

Top 10 Luxurious Spas In The World

NO 1 Beau Rivage Palace
Lausanne, Switzerland

The Beau Rivage Palace has views of the lake and the Alps, but the real draw is the Cinq Mondes spa. It's 15,000 square feet and has a private suite with its own hammam (Turkish bath) and Bain Japonais (double Japanese bath for two). Treatments include Balinese massage and Taoist face-care massage; the spa is also introducing a series of packages to entice summer travelers. Through Sept. 30, guests can pay $1,660 for two nights' accommodation, breakfast and five spa treatments each.

NO 2. Como Shambhala Retreat at Parrot Cay
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Como Shambhala is known for its guided retreat weeks, which feature the resort's trademark spa cuisine and expert teachers brought in from around the U.S. Five hours of daily instruction are included in the yoga retreats, and meditation, Pilates and pranayama instruction are available year-round as well. The spa is aimed at couples, who can take advantage of double treatment rooms, outdoor showers and Japanese baths. Nightly rates start at $410.

NO 3. Four Seasons Resort
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Styled like a Thai temple, the three-story spa villa at the Four Seasons, Chiang Mai, has private aromatherapy steam rooms, open-air treatment terraces and rain shower massage beds. Elemis products are incorporated into every treatment, each of which begins with a warm foot compress to focus the senses. Resort rates start at $425

NO 4. Hayman Island Resort
Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Hayman Island Resort is located on a private island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, accessible via boat, seaplane or helicopter from nearby Hamilton Island. Spa Chakra has 13 treatment rooms, a wet treatment room and two relaxation lounges, and offers exclusive Guerlain Methode treatments, which involve techniques for facial and massage patented by the Champs Elysée Guerlain Institute. Room rates start at $468.

NO 5. Chiva Som
Hua Hin, Thailand

Chiva Som, a luxury health resort facing the Gulf of Thailand, is tucked into seven acres of gardens and provides individual wellness programs for guests. Even basic guest rooms have private balconies and butler service, and the spa has male and female water-therapy suites. Hydrotherapy treatments include aqua skin polish, which uses spearmint and apricot to exfoliate the skin. Room rates start at $340 per person per night.

NO 6. The Island Experience
Ilha Grande, Brazil

Take a 100-square-mile private island; subtract roads, banks and people; and add a rain forest plus a week-long, intensive detox program. The result is the Island Experience at Ilha Grande, an adventure spa that will introduce an "Alpha Adventures" challenge next winter to get men to detox in the most exciting way possible. Activities include jungle hiking, snorkeling, samba dancing and massage. Rates start at $2,000 for six nights and include meals, yoga classes and various supervised and recreational activities.

NO 7. Maroma Resort and Spa
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Located on a 25-acre jungle reserve, Maroma Resort and Spa faces the Caribbean Sea and a powder-white beach. The on-site Kinan Spa is decorated in white and cream stucco and has three treatment suites, each one with its own shower, bathroom and treatment tub. A special spa cuisine menu, with specialties like spiced beetroot soup over jicama and yogurt slaw, makes healthy eating more fun. Room rates start at $480 per night.

NO 8. Soneva Gili & Six Senses Spa
The Maldives

Soneva Gili resort consists of 44 stilted water-villa suites. The spa is set over water as well, and accessible via a long, low wooden walkway. Treatment rooms are simple, open-air affairs which look onto the lagoon. The Soul of Six Senses, a simultaneous massage and facial performed by two therapists, begins with a foot bath and ends with a scalp massage, and costs $360 for 90 minutes. Soneva Gili rack rates start at $1,415 per night.

NO 9. Taj Mahal Palace & Tower
Mumbai, India

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower is arguably India's finest luxury hotel, with its manicured interior courtyard, pool, and a wide array of guest suites that accommodate royalty and celebrities alike (Yoko Ono and John Lennon once occupied one, without leaving, for a week). The Taj's branded Jiva Spa chain has classes in everything from Ashanti yoga to the Art of Breathing, and the Exotic Lime & Ginger Scrub involves body buffing with Indian lime, ginger and salt. Room rates start at $205 per night.

No 10. Terme di Saturnia Spa Resort
Saturnia, Italy

This 140-room resort in the hilly Tuscan countryside is about 100 miles from the nearest airport (in Rome), and pays homage to the country's spa-going tradition with a Roman bath lined in Travertine stone and lit from above with a dramatic circular skylight. The spa is devoted to restoring each guest's "psycho-physical balance," and renowned medical packages, which include an age evaluation, anti-aging and rebalancing massage, stone therapy, aqua relaxation and the Saturnia fitness program start at $2,347; regular room rates, including breakfast, start at $235 per night.

World's Most Expensive Cruises

Most Expensive Private Yacht Charter $120,400/day

Coming in at the top of the list this year (as it has for the past several), the Annaliese a 280-foot superyacht, will run you $120,400 a day. That includes access to onboard amenities such as a business center, movie theater, 24-hour hot and cold buffet and bar service. Should you wish to accommodate more than 36 guests (the vessel's maximum capacity), her sister ship, the Alysia, has the same specifications and goes for the same daily rate.

Most Expensive Heli-cruise $36,000/day

You can choose summer in Alaska or winter in Costa Rica--or both, aboard the Absinthe, a private 201-foot heli-yacht with a set seasonal schedule. For $36,000 a day, guests can settle into the 12 staterooms, outfitted with Frette linens and L'Occitane toiletries, and take advantage of the onboard crew of 20, including a helicopter pilot and a professional masseur. Shore excursions, like heli-hiking a Costa Rican rain forest or exploring remote Alaskan glaciers, are included.

Most Expensive Asia Cruise $6,496/day

This segment of the Regent Seven Seas' world cruise embarks from Hong Kong and ends in Singapore, with stops in Vietnam and Bangkok in between. The all-suite Seven Seas Voyager features balconies in every suite, and the Master Suite, which costs $90,949 for the two-week voyage, has 1,403 square feet of space, a nearly 200-square-foot balcony, two bedrooms and marble bathrooms. Butler service is included.

Most Expensive Health & Wellness Cruise $5,912/day

This seven-night cruise aboard Silversea's Silver Shadow, an all-suite luxury ship with lush rooms and an onboard casino, starts in Stockholm and finishes in Copenhagen. The Owners' Suite, which goes for $41,390 for the week, has a 200-square-foot teak veranda, Lavazza espresso maker and a Bang and Olufsen sound system. Silversea Cruises has introduced a new emphasis on wellness, and guests receive a new schedule of optional healthy activities and seminars every day of the voyage. Available classes include Pilates, circuit training and yoga, and low-carb menu selections round out the trip.

Most Expensive Indian Ocean Cruise $5,672/day

This 19-night tour of Australia, Mauritius, France and South Africa was the most expensive leg of Crystal Cruises' around-the-world cruise itinerary this year; top-notch accommodations cost $107,779 for the two-and-a-half-week voyage. The Crystal Serenity accommodates 1,080, has a sushi restaurant designed by Nobu Matsuhisa and offers guests onboard art lessons and butler service.

Most Expensive Transatlantic Cruise $3,900/day

For cruising the Atlantic in style, it doesn't get better than Cunard's Queen Mary 2 ocean liner. The ship has an onboard Canyon Ranch spa and even a kennel program, supervised by a kennel master who will feed, walk and cuddle your pooch while you relax at sea. The six-day crossing in one of the ship's Grand Duplex suites costs $23,399.

Most Expensive North Pole Cruise $3,375/day

A 16-day cruise on the Yamal, a monster of a ship with 75,000 horsepower and a steel hull for plowing through ice, costs $54,000 per suite (or $27,000 per person, if you're sharing). Temperatures outside hover at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but the ship's inside is considerably more hospitable; suites have large windows, and there's a volleyball court and indoor heated swimming pool on board. Helicopter excursions are included in the price.

Most Expensive New Year's Cruise $2,699/day

Ring in the new year on the the Seabourn Pride, which cruises St. Maarten, St. Barts and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. The Owners' Suite costs $18,895 for seven nights, and shore excursions can include horseback riding on St. Croix, snorkeling in the pristine Buck Island and swimming with the dolphins at Virgin Gorda.

Most Expensive Antarctica Cruise $932/day

The owners' suite on the Abercrombie & Kent vessel Explorer II goes for $13,055 for a 14-night Antarctic cruise. The ship carries 12 auxiliary craft for navigating icebergs up close, and passengers can expect scenery to include seals and plenty of penguins. A lecture lounge, library, health club and spa are all available, and prices include an open bar.

Most Expensive River Cruise $853/day

The Road to Mandalay is a converted river cruiser that Orient-Express Hotels, Trains and Cruises, a luxury travel operator, purchased and upgraded specifically for multiday excursions on the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar. The ship is decorated throughout in Myanmar style, with classic fabrics and wicker furnishings. A Superior stateroom costs $2,560 per person for three nights.

Air-Travel Best First Class

No. 1 Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific is the undisputed emperor of first-class carriers. This Hong-Kong based airline has only eight or 12 seats per first-class cabin (depending on the plane), and seats can be lowered the full 180 degrees, have adjustable arm rests and television screens, and have audio and video in-flight entertainment available on an on-demand basis. Seat amenities from U.K. super spa Elemis are tucked into every seat as well. Dining is on-demand too, and no pre-packaged dinners here: the airline was the first to have an actual rice cooker on board, and rice, congee, toast, eggs, cappuccino and espresso are all cooked to order. Cathay Pacific's lounges in Hong Kong are among the finest in the world; first-class passengers can choose between The Wing and The Pier, order noodles cooked in front of them, enjoy wireless high-speed Internet and even take a shower or a nap next to a burbling indoor water display.

No. 2 Singapore Airlines

With 23-inch wide, fully reclining seats, air-cushioned seat backs and nighttime turndown service, Singapore Airlines makes you almost as comfortable as if you were spending the night in your favorite hotel. Fresh linen, a mini-mattress and Givenchy amenities are all a part of the turndown, as well as Givenchy-designed eyeshades, socks and pajamas in a stylish Givenchy bag. Each passenger receives a personal mobile phone for use during the flight, as well as a Bulgari toiletry bag (different for men and women) with fragrance, lip balm, body lotion and after-shave gel.

No. 3 Thai Airways

Bangkok-based Thai Airways is a member of the Star Alliance and the national carrier of Thailand. The Royal First-Class service makes complimentary beverages available throughout the duration of the flight, such as Cuvée Dom Perignon, 1996; and Veuve Clicquot's La Grande Dame, 1995. Seats have massage capability and recline to be completely flat, and are sheltered with a pod-like wall that makes napping easy. On-demand entertainment includes videos in each of the following categories: new movies, classic films, sports and the arts. On-board food selections include Western or Thai dishes, and guests can choose from specialties like tom yam kung (or hot and sour soup with prawns) or kaeng massaman kai (massaman curry with chicken).

No. 4 Malaysia Airlines

First-class passengers on Malaysia Airlines can take advantage of telephone check-in service and find their boarding passes waiting for them upon arrival at the airport. And even if you have bags to check, you only need to arrive at the airport 45 minutes prior to departure--even for international flights. Personal seat phones allow you to call anywhere in the world while in flight, or even call other passengers on the same flight, provided you have their seat numbers. The on-board catering features chicken, beef or lamb satay, the airline's signature dish, or order up a tray of cheese and crackers, chocolate and fruit, or cookies. You can even order a sandwich from the cabin crew, who will make it according to your specifications.

No. 5 Qatar Airways

The flagship airline of the state of Qatar, Qatar Airlines operates from its hub in Doha. First-class passengers enjoy an extra baggage allowance, priority check-in and chauffeur service to and from the airport in a BMW 7 series. On board, 180-degree flat beds feature independent lumbar support and a foot massage bar, and a personal telephone, television screen and laptop power point are found by each seat. Meals, which are available on-demand, are ten courses and include a selection of seafood such as caviar, lobster and prawns, freshly brewed coffee and cappuccinos, and cheese and chocolate platters.

No. 6 Gulf Air

Gulf Air, with key airports in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Muscat and London, bills its first class as "the most exclusive cabin in the world," and with just eight passengers per cabin, they might be correct--at least in terms of staff to guest ratio. On-board cabin-service managers, chefs, nannies and flight attendants stand at the ready the minute your BMW 7 series drops you at the VIP check-in. On board, Sky beds, with noise-canceling headphones, are upholstered in leather and New Zealand wool, with beech paneling--and the silk cushions and fitted cotton sheets come in handy when reclining. Cotton pajamas wait on your seat, alongside a "suit pack," which contains your day-time clothes and is stowed by the flight attendant until arrival. On-demand dining, including Middle Eastern or European food, is available, and bedtime drinks such as Horlicks or hot chocolate--or vintage wines like Grand Cru St. Emilion, if that's more your style--are available as well.

No. 7 Swiss

Switzerland-based Swiss International Air Lines will become the newest member of the Star Alliance in 2006. First-class service features large, comfortable seats, each of which comes with its own ottoman for resting your feet or hosting a visitor from business or--gasp--coach. Sixteen audio channels and a wide array of television and video programming, including a financial news channel sponsored by UBS, are available. In-flight catering is the conceptual brainchild of Swiss chef Roland Schmid, and relies upon fresh regional ingredients.

No. 8 Lufthansa

At 51 inches wide and 6 feet 6 inches long, Lufthansa's fully reclining flat bed is one of the roomiest first-class seats out there. Head and shoulder rests are adjustable, and so are the surrounding privacy screens. Passengers flying from Frankfurt can experience the airline's own private first-class terminal, not even a year old, which is 19,000 square feet and has a cigar lounge and its own bakery. Your personal concierge checks the luggage for you as a Mercedes Benz S-Class or Porsche Cayenne drops you directly in front of your plane on the tarmac. On board, food service consists of a four-course meal featuring caviar, freshly baked breads and Scottish smoked salmon.

No. 9 Emirates

Based in Dubai, Emirates flies to more than 70 global destinations and introduced a second daily New York-Dubai flight this November. Emirates first-class service includes a chauffeured limousine transfer to and from the airport, on-demand seven-course meals and beverages served on Royal Doulton bone china and linen napkins. There's also a personal video system with over 50 film titles and 500 channels to choose from. Emirates' new Airbus A340-A500 aircraft, specifically designed for flights longer than 17 hours in duration, have 12 fully enclosed first-class suites, equipped with flat beds and closing doors, which cost $125,000 each.

No. 10 All Nippon Airways

ANA's first-class seat is nearly a full 3 feet wide, giving passengers room to stretch out or cuddle up with their down-filled and silk-lined duvets and pillows. A 15-inch television, personal phone and universal power port for your laptop ensure you're busy, not bored, on your nonstop flight to or from Tokyo. A flexible reading light means you don't have to crane your neck to check your stock prices, and when the cabin lights go down, a footlight under your seat provides just enough of a glow to keep you oriented as you return from the bathroom. Meal service includes seasonal desserts, Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne, a European à la carte menu, light snacks like cheese or shrimp, eel and shiitake tempura and regional Japanese cuisine including kaiseki ryori (small specialty dishes served in sequence).