Tuesday, December 22, 2009
South Florida Style
It was a bit too rainy and cold for my liking this past weekend in South Florida, but that surely didn't stop me from enjoying a few of my favorite luxury hotels. In between time with family and friends, I stopped by the new Eau Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach; had dinner at the best kid-friendly restaurant in the country at The Breakers; and enjoyed Sunday Jazz Brunch and a peaceful evening at The Setai on South Beach.
To say the Eau Spa is about as different as it gets from traditional Ritz-Carlton style is an understatement at best. Here, it's all about indulging and enjoying...guests are encouraged to light candles, make wishes, eat cupcakes, even concoct their own personal "scrub & polish" to be used during a treatment (or taken home in a cute polka-dotted bag). The colors and furnishings are whimsical and fun...silver, purple, green, lots of funky mirrors, non-spa-like lighting fixtures, chic chandeliers, cush chaises & comfy chairs. Treatments themselves are given in one of 19 "Spa Villas", each individually decorated & named (my faves were Villa Naughty and Villa Sassy). Choose your own mood lighting, aromatherapy oils & music genre to totally customize the Eau Spa experience. It's a winning combination for the younger, hipper demographic Ritz-Carlton's been aiming to win over. I only hope that many sister Ritz-Carlton properties follow Palm Beach's lead!
Anyone with kids (or nephews, as in my case) must book at table at The Italian Restaurant at The Breakers Palm Beach. Not only is the food amazing (the chicken parm, veal Milanese, snapper Francese & chicken Marsala were hits at our table), but the service terrific (the entire staff truly seems to love kids). Most notably, you'll never have to worry about whiny hungry kids as they've got an entire arcade, video game room & plenty of toys and other tots to play with at the Family Entertainment Center adjacent to the restaurant (shown) while dinner's cooking and the adults are relaxing over a bottle of wine!. Why aren't there more restaurants using this formula? It clearly works, and the place is perfect for families of all sizes with kids of all ages!
My new favorite place to brunch on Sundays in Florida is at The Setai, a Leading Hotel of the World on the ocean in South Beach. Great music, a gorgeous decor & an incredible range of culinary treats--from traditional breakfast faves like omelettes & waffles to an Asian-inspired spread with signature dishes from Singapore to Indonesia--set the stage for a wonderful afternoon. Brunch is served from 11 am to 3 pm, and the local jazz trio adds to the overall experience. I've loved this hotel since the day I saw a model room (back in 2002 when construction was just underway) and it remains my favorite place to stay--and book--on South Beach. Much of the staff hails from sister GHM properties in Bali, and the level of service far exceeds that typically found at neighboring South Beach hotels. The spacious suites range from 600 square feet with city views to 1400 sq feet plus with full kitchens, two bedrooms and drop-dead gorgeous ocean/beach views. I love the three swimming pools (each a different temperature), the new evening Grill concept, the swanky outdoor Courtyard and chic Zen-inspired decor. Yes, it's true...I fell in love with The Setai at first sight, and I'm still in love.
Contact me about special Virtuoso amenities, best available rates & VIP perks available to our clients at each of these three luxury hotels via email at email@example.com.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Blackberry Addicts Unite...
I knew I'd met my match when I came across someone on a recent trip as addicted to his blackberry as I am to mine. Anyone who knows me on a business or personal level knows my blackberry is simply my lifeline. It's my digital rolodex, my mobile email access, and my main communication tool to clients, friends and family worldwide...something essential for someone who travels internationally as frequently as I do. It allows me to conduct business wherever I am in the world, be it an airport awaiting a flight or in the middle of the Med on a luxury cruise. To me, being able to communicate with my clients while I am on the road previewing hot new properties and familiarizing myself with destinations is just as important as being able to do so from my home office in LA.
Thus, it was beyond refreshing to meet a like-minded business owner who travels frequently in order to stay on top of the latest trends and the newest luxury products...all the while using his blackberry to stay in touch with his home office in Manhattan and clients worldwide.
The blackberry addiction was just the first of many things we discovered we had in common...with the consistent theme being our shared desire to offer a high level of personal service to high-end clients who demand accessibility, expertise and value from the people they choose to trust with their travel plans. Rather than continuing to go it alone on opposite coasts, we've formed an innovative new alliance that allows us to combine our strengths & work together to grow our respective businesses in both NYC and LA.
Stay tuned for lots more news on the affiliation of LA-based Elite Travel International with NYC-based SmartFlyer, as our partnership translates to THE one-stop go-to luxury travel firm for business and leisure travelers worldwide.
For more details, contact Stacy@elitetravelinternational.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please follow both of us on twitter at @elitetravelgal & @mrsmartflyer as we'll be sharing exclusive news & details of our alliance on twitter in the days to come!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Last Call For XMAS Trips!
Monday, November 30, 2009
PURE News, Part 2...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
PURE News, Part One...
I just returned from a week in Marrakech where I, along with 700 leading travel industry buyers and sellers, attended the first annual, invitation-only PURE Life Experiences global travel trade show. This wasn't just any travel trade show. Over a course of five days, I had the chance to meet & mingle--in Morocco!--with the owners & operators of some of the coolest travel companies in the world.
Here's the first of several posts highlighting some of my favorite PURE discoveries:
One of my favorite new companies is AquaExpeditions , a two-year-old Peru-based soft-adventure specialist run by CEO/owner Francesco Galli Zugaro. Set to debut a sister ship to its 24-passenger, 130-foot custom-built MV Aqua next year, Aqua Expeditions allows guests to enjoy the most unspoiled reaches of the Peruvian Amazon--in comfort--for three, four or seven nights. According to National Geographic Traveler Editor Keith Bellows: "If you want to see the real Amazon, the Aqua is the way to do it." All-inclusive rates run from $2,250 (3 nights) to $5,250 (7 nights) per person.
If you do prefer a Peruvian land adventure, consider the 7-day/6-night Machu Picchu lodge-to-lodge run by Mountain Lodges of Peru. Priced from $2,010/person, this guided small group trip (no more than 12 people) includes 4 to 6 hours of guided walking per day, all meals and comfortable accommodations in four small lodges along the Inca Trail. I highly recommend extending your stay at the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, a 60-room luxury boutique hotel at the base of Machu Picchu town (20 minutes from the archaeological site). This chic two-year-old property features an outdoor restaurant w/stunning views, locally designed, Andean-style furnishings, a spa, yoga, cooking lessons & gourmet cuisine prepared by one of Peru's top chefs.
For a true respite, a week at one of the wellness retreats I discovered at PURE may be in order. Take your pick: Valencia, Spain or the Kenyan coast? In Spain (just outside Valencia), the Sha Wellness Clinic is a former country house-turned-wellness clinic. Built on the principals of prevention and well-being, Sha is "macrobiotics for modern times," according to its owners, who tell me: "You come here to change your life". The stylish accommodations and setting are just the backdrop for the true purpose of a week's stay at Sha, which include a personalized treatments/stress management program, macriobiotic meals, spa treatments, yoga & accommodations in a seaview suite.
I promised Sabina, the Italian-born, Kenya-based manager of Lion in the Sun Retreat, I will absolutely come visit her next year and I intend to live up to my word. Formerly a private house, this charming property owned by Italian doctor Henri Chenot is definitely where to head when detox + R&R are in order. Set across from a stunning private beach, the Kenyan retreat offers tailor-made wellness programs featuring a mix of Chinese & Western medicine, hydrotherapy, spa treatments, accommodations and delicious healthy meals. Who wants to join me on a Kenyan wellness retreat in 2010?
For more information on any of the companies mentioned, feel free to email email@example.com or visit www.elitetravelinternational.com. Look for additional EliteTravelGal posts this week highlighting other cool discoveries from PURE Life!
Monday, November 9, 2009
The Lowdown on Luxury Hotels & Why to Book Now Not Later...
After spending all of today trying to find space over Xmas at a luxury resort for a family of 11 and nearly coming up empty (with the exception of $3,800/night suites, $2000/night rooms or a private home rental for $75,000/week), I hold fast to my original theory. And I'm not the only one. A report published today by Bestfares.com states: "US airfares are increasing daily, and those who hold out in hopes of travel bargains this winter season are being punished. In fact, some routes are 50 percent more expensive now, compared with their price over the summer.
Does this mean don't travel? OF COURSE NOT. It simply means STOP waiting for the fares and rates to drop, as they already hit rock bottom earlier this year. And, if you're even thinking about taking a holiday vacation--or traveling to a warm weather destination anytime this winter, you'd best make plans sooner than later.
As I stated in this month's Cigar Aficionado article titled "Luxury For Less", we are in fact, still seeing offers for free nights & value adds at luxury hotels (including many that never offered such options in the past). But in order to enjoy them, book soon or risk finding no--or high-priced--airline seats to your resort of choice.
A few of the luxe properties offering post-holiday& high-season specials, including free nights with a minium four-night stay, are: Jade Mountain, St. Lucia; Caneel Bay, St. John; Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda; Pink Sands, Bahamas; Rosewood Mayakoba, Mexico; and Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos.
And, for those of you who've not yet made your XMAS/New Year's plans, contact us ASAP. Unlike this time last year, space IS limited but we DO have inside scoop on limited last-minute options on St. Barts, Anguilla, Turks & Caicos, Cabo & Punta Mita.
The BEST deal I've seen still on offer for XMAS/New Year's week is the 20 percent discount available at Capella Resorts--in both Cabo and Ixtapa, Mexico. The latter has amazing suites with private oceanview plunge pools priced from just $475 (pre-discount), including daily breakfast. This deal disappears on Nov 15, however, so heed the advice I gave months ago--and BestFares.com gave today. THIS is the year of the travel deal.
For more information on any of the resorts mentioned, or to book an upcoming holiday or winter trip, contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310.979.9036.
Friday, October 30, 2009
SMALL LUXURY HOTELS SUPPORTS MY BDAY CANCER CAMPAIGN!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Me & Montana: Love at First Sight
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Why I Don't Agree with MSNBC: 2009--not 2010--is the Year of the Travel Deal
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
DOWN UNDER DIGS--Where to Sleep in Sydney
Monday, September 7, 2009
The Sydney Scene...Part 1
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Escape the Madness!
The first sailing departs from St. Thomas on Dec. 13, sails to and overnights in St. Barts (enjoy a full day and a half in our fave port!) before continuing on to St. Martin, Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs and onto San Juan for disembarkation on Dec 18th. Choose this mid-December sail and you'll get home in plenty of time for the holidays!
Or, kick off the New Year in style and sail with us Jan 3-8, 2010 round-trip from San Juan with stops in St. John, St. Barts, St. Martin & Jost Van Dyke.
These fares are offered for a limited time, on a first-come, first-served basis. Fares do not include port taxes/fees or airfare. Pre-and post-cruise hotels & flights can be easily arranged through Elite Travel International. For more information, call 310.979.9036 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
All the VIRTUOSO TravelMart News That's Fit 2 Print
Want to know what's happening in the luxury travel world? Just read on, as the following is a round-up of what's hot & what's new, as revealed at the recent Virtuoso TravelMart in Las Vegas. Out of the five I have attended, this year's TravelMart (showcased on Fox Business News!) was hands down the best. A sense of optimism prevailed as nearly 3000 people involved in luxury travel gathered together to share ideas on how to best achieve our common goal.
Here are just some of the cool things I learned last week from hundreds of Virtuoso travel suppliers:
All Rocco Forte hotels offer family packages that include a free room for kids when one purchased for parents...Hotel de Rome in Berlin offers teenage programs including DJ lessons & underground bunker tours...The Charles Munich has availability during Octoberfest...the Mandarin Prague offers a free 3rd night from Nov-March...A&K is waiving many single supplements...In 2010 Backroads lowers prices and offers new biking trips to Spain, Bordeaux, Portugal, Arizona & Oregon...Exeter offers sailings from Moscow 2 St Pete on the new Volga Dream, 80 pax, 1st luxury ship, great rates...Gran Hotel Bahia in Tenerife has new 1-2 BR villas, a new Moet & Tapas lounge...Kempinski Hotel in Brugges only 1 hr by train from London or Paris, great spot to visit traditional Xmas markets...Park Hyatt Paris has 3 new prez suites, each 2,500 sq ft with in-room spa/gym. Eva & Tony Parker were 1st guests...Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat is fresh from 70 million Euro refurb (nearly 1 million Euros/per room!)...Villa La Massa outside Florence has new 2 BR/2BA prez suite, nearly 2000 sq feet with huge outdoor terrace...Oceania's newest ship, the Marina, debuts Jan 2010...Horizon & Co offers luxe Master's golf package, $5,750/person includes 3 nts at the Ritz-Carlton, final day at Master's, police escorts & 2 rounds of golf...Hotel Adlon in Berlin is where Brad Pitt stayed for Inglorious Bastards, it's also Obama's Berlin hotel of choice...
American's new 757-800s will have 110 AC power ports. Plus, AA launches service from LA to Vail this winter...The Portugese investment group that last year purchased Lisbon's Lapa Palace is building 2 new luxury hotels downtown...The newish Grande Real Villa, 45 min from Lisbon, sits seaside and is the former home of an Italian king...Amsterdam's Hotel Pulitzer completed major renovation last fall, still authentically Dutch but more contemporary in style...Virtuoso cruise pax docking in Mykonos should ask me about spending the day at Starwood's Santa Marina Resort. 150E/person gets you transfers to/from the port, a Greek seaside lunch and all day use of the beach...Entry-level rooms on Seabourn's new 450-pax Odyssey are 300+ sq feet with 65 sq ft balcony, spa measures 11,000 sq feet with private spa villas...in 2008, the refurbished (reopened in 2004) King George Palace in Athens upgraded 95 percent of all Virtuoso guests...Tahiti Legends can facilitate legal weddings in Tahiti as of 2010...Baroness Rothschild & Michael Phelps traveled through China with Imperial Tours...Inter-Continental Hong Kong guarantees Virtuoso clients enjoy double upgrades through end of Dec...One & Only Capetown is home to Gordon Ramsay's Maze & the city's only Nobu...Stay 3 nights each at Singita & Ellerman House and the 4th is free in each spot through July 2010...Twelve Apostles just redid its lobby & all rooms, offers free helicopter flight 2 waterfront for those staying 4 or more nights...Taj Mahal Palace & Tower will reopen 70% of its rooms this Dec, the remainder by March. Butler service to be offered in entire Palace...Jumeirah Beach Hotel has 19 new Arabian-style villas, 1-3 bedrooms right on the beach...Diane Von Fustenberg designing her first hotel rooms at Claridges in London...Wilderness Safaris donates a % of every room night booked back into local communities...the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong will debut its 56th floor Club level in Nov...AmanResorts opens its 34-suite Amagiri in Paige, AZ Oct 15...Four Seasons Chiang Mai debuts 12 new, 1,000 sq ft pool villas this fall, offers 3rd night free.
St. Regis Shanghai has female-only floors with dedicated female butlers...St. Regis Mexico City just opened, St Regis Princeville debuts Oct 1...All 18 villas at Fregate Island now have private pools...Royal Palms in Scottsdale offers 60 new rooms & a new Spa Villa that sleeps 8...Triple Creek Ranch in Montana to include lift tix/ski rental in rates this winter...All rooms being redone by year's end at Rosewood's Mansion on Turtle Creek...Utah's Sundance Resort undergoing total room renovation and introducing night skiing this winter...Four Seasons Seattle offers comp transfers to cruise port & 3rd night free...Plaza Athenee in NYC debuts newly redone suites this Nov and new spa/fitness center in Jan....New Danny Meyer restaurant to open at Gramercy Park Hotel this fall, a $295 Thanksgiving rate is on offer Nov 19-30...Trump Chicago offers 53 "Spa" rooms w/yoga mat, weights, healthy menu & $50 spa credit...Hotel Hershey just completed $76 million expansion...the redone Pierre, a Taj Hotel in NYC offers totally new rooms with spa-like marble baths...the Four Seasons DC underwent a $40 million renovation last year, including the addition of Bourbon Steak restaurant...Virtuoso clients enjoy 10% off best available rates at Wynn & Encore Hotels, plus breakfast, a $100 dining credit, early check in/late check out...a renovation will start this fall at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota...
Roger Nadal & Venus Williams are fans of the Fairmont Acapulco Princess, home to one of 15 Willow Stream spas worldwide...44 unique hotels & 28 authentic restaurants throughout Mexico comprise Tesoros (treasures) de Mexico...Through Dec 24 the Presidente InterContinental Cancun will offer Virtuoso clients a double upgrade...Maroma Resort & Spa will allow kids to stay with families in its 4BR Villa Karolina; the Orient-Express Mayan Riviera resort recently added Freddy's Tequila & Ceviche Bar to its F&B outlets...Casa Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende offers its gorgeous Presidential Suite for about $450/night and recently added multiple new suites to its inventory...Mauna Lani closes Sept 1-Oct 31 for room/public space renovations, has holiday space available (including one of its famed bungalows) and no min stay is required this year...When Royal Caribbean debuts 2700-cabin Oasis of the Seas this fall, it will have 37 different stateroom categories, including 2-story loft suites, 7-day Caribbean sailings start in Dec...Halekulani Resort will confirm upgrades for Virtuoso clients at time of booking, all rooms now feature HDTV & Mp3 players...David Copperfield's Musha Cay has been undergone a major facelift and now features a Balinese instead of Bahamian decor...Ritz-Carlton Jamaica offers an all-inclusive package priced from $409/night...Ritz-Carlton San Juan offers Virtuoso cruise clients day passes to its beach/pool...Bill & Hilary just vacationed at Cambridge Beaches in Bermuda...the Pan Pacific Vancouver will unveil a new room product in time for the Winter Olympics and will play host to the Today Show throughout the Games...Park Hyatt Beaver Creek has redone all suites, has a new restaurant & bar and offers 70% connecting rooms...Aspen's Little Nell will close in Sept for an $18 million renovation, reopening Dec 1 after donating all old furnishings to Habitat for Humanity. Free ski passes to anyone staying 3 nights this winter...Free skiing also offered this winter to guests of Amangani in Jackson Hole, WY...Fairmont Ghiradelli offers a $100 resort gift card per day for Virtuoso clients plus comp passes to the kids' club...Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles will open downtown on Feb 15, 2010...Miraval Spa offers Virtuoso clients a $150 spa credit per night booked.
For more information or to book your next luxury travel experience, contact the EliteTravelGal at email@example.com or 310.979.9036.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
New Year, New Rules
Monday, August 3, 2009
A Return to Virtuoso
Virtuoso is rolling out an amazing new website for its members, putting contact details for luxury suppliers worldwide at my fingertips (we all know, it's who you know right?). The same site, Composer, will also enable us to search super-fast for the best itinerary/product offerings for our clients.
Most importantly, as a luxury boutique travel firm that prides itself on personal service and attention to detail, we love the idea of being affiliated with not only a host agency but a network of luxury agencies that does the same.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
A Twitter/Travel Success Story
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Once a Traveler, Always a Traveler...
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
SALE, SALE AWAY...ON CRYSTAL CRUISES
Nov 10-22: New York to Miami, from $3,139 per person w/a $500 pp credit. Ports of call include: Bermuda, St. Maarten, Antigua, Curacao, Grand Cayman.
Nov 12-22: Lisbon to Miami, from $2,655 per person, plus $500 per person. Ports of call for this trans-Atlantic sailing include: Ponta Delgada & Grand Turk.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Why Using a (GREAT) Travel Agent Makes Sense
More than ever, luxury travel consultants like myself need to find ways to sell our clients on the value of our services. We know the public is being inundated with emails, mailers, “twitter-only” deals daily, and unless we have something to offer that sounds better than just a low price, clients may be tempted to simply book direct.
The bottom line: We have so much more to offer clients than just the lowest rate. Our ability to help people wade through all the deals is just one reason they need our help. Case in point: A client came to me asking whether she should book a Bermuda getaway using a time-sensitive hotel promo (in this case, second night free) or if she should go for the $400 credit being offered at participating hotels. After reviewing both deals, she went with the latter since I was also able to get her a confirmed upgrade, daily breakfast, an extra $100 credit and a lunch for two at her property of choice. The first deal was room rate only, with no value added!
Another client called wanting me to find her a “great luxury cruise deal.” We spoke about some of the offers she’d received from the various lines. Turn out one deal is already fully sold out, one of the lines is not really suitable for a family with small kids and one is just too large a ship to suit her husband’s style. For this particular family, an FIT to
It's true, all of the aggressive pricing/promotional deals have definitely stimulated business for many properties and cruise lines. And for me, as I see this as an opportunity to truly prove my worth to my clients. It’s rare than I am unable to match any “deal” they’ve received in their mailbox; I stress to clients they’re best off letting me make the booking for them so that I can ensure the hotel is aware of their arrival, that all special requests are taken care of and that they are VIP’ed throughout their stay.
Often times, once they show me the “cheap” deal they are considering, I counter with something even better—and if not lower-priced, than with more value added. I just call these my “insider secrets.” For clients seeking more than just the cheapest room, these unpublished insider secrets are our best weapon. Once word gets out that not only did I get my clients a great rate at a hotel, but that I also got them breakfast, an upgrade & a free round of golf (valued at $350), it’s amazing how quickly my value is realized.
I always stress my personal relationships with people at the hotels and cruise lines, and my in-depth knowledge of the product. A website may be able to offer a great rate, but it can’t explain why a hotel is not the best choice for any number of reasons (location, noise, small rooms, poor service, dated, etc). These are things only I would know based on a recent visit. Now what website can possibly say that?
For more information or to book your next trip (with our help!), contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 310.979.9036.
For more information or to book your next trip (with our help!), contact email@example.com or 310.979.9036.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
These Are a Few of My Favorite....Deals
Monday, May 18, 2009
Mexico Madness--Great Deals at Fab Hotels
Friday, May 8, 2009
Not All Travel Agencies R Created Equal
“We do things for our clients as a courtesy that many other travel firms charge a lot of money for,” says Small. “This includes, but is not limited to, booking restaurant reservations and spa appointments, securing theater tickets, arranging limo transfers, pretty much whatever our clients need while traveling we do for them. We like our clients to think of us as their one-stop travel concierge.”