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 stacy@elitetravelinternational.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 michael@smartflyer.com. 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!

Still thinking about spending the holidays in a warm climate or exotic locale? What are you waiting for? Many resorts are fully booked and those that have limited space aren't giving it away (as many did last year!). But, that's not to say we can't help you plan a fabulous last-minute xmas or New Year's getaway...here are a few ideas to keep in mind as the holidays approach:

Families will find a few great options in San Diego, CA--from Four Seasons Aviara to La Costa Resort. At the latter, we've got the inside track on a few family suites priced just under $500/night (a steal for a two-bedroom suite!). Rate includes breakfast, and the location's close to kid-family attractions like SeaWorld, Legoland and the San Diego Zoo. Another great deal can be found at the Four Seasons Aviara: stay 3 nights and the 4th is free.

Also enjoy a complimentary 4th night through year's at one of my fave new Mexico resorts, Capella Ixtapa. In addition to the free 4th night, rates from $475/night include daily breakfast, upgrade if avail at check in, a $100/day resort credit and spa treatment discounts. If you've got Mexico on your mind, also consider St. Regis Punta Mita; xmas week rates start at $1,035/night & our clients enjoy butler service, breakfast, upgrade if avail & a 50-min spa treatment.
Limited space exists Xmas week at another fave warm-weather resort, La Samanna in St. Martin. One-bedroom, 830 square-foot suite rates, priced from $1925, include daily breakfast; upgrade if possible; champagne & additional VIP perks when booked through us. Two bedroom suites also still available & perfect for families.

Want something further afield? Hot hotels in Dubai have New Year's space; we recommend a Club Level room at The Address Downtown, priced from $587/nt including free wifi, Club Lounge access & airport transfers. A few of the fabulous Aman Resorts (like Amanusa, picture) in Bali also have limited holiday space; our clients enjoy daily breakfast, one lunch during stay and priority upgrade/VIP status.

Prefer a city celebration? In London, The Lanesborough ranks high on our list of preferred hotels. Our rates from 475GBP/night through the New Year's period include butler service, priority upgrades, daily English breakfast, free unlimited worldwide calls (ideal for calling friends/family around the globe to wish them Happy New Year!) and priority upgrade upon availability. We also love the chic Baglioni London, where our Virtuoso rates start at 395GBP/nt for jr suite accommodations & include daily English breakfast, upgrade, free pressing of one suit/shirt, 4 pm check out and free high speed internet access.

Last minute holiday space updates are changing daily so please call or email us for the latest news & updates. At presstime, limited space was still available at the following fabulous spots: St Lucia's lovely Cap Maison Resort; Punta Cana's Sivory Resort; the Fairmont Orchid and the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in Hawaii; in the Turks & Caicos at The Turks & Caicos Club; in NYC at The Essex House; in Vegas at the brand new Mandarin Oriental; in Arizona at the Four Seasons Scottdale; and in beautiful Beverly Hills at the Montage Beverly Hills.

For more details and help planning your last minute holiday trip, call us at 310 979 9036 or email us at elitetravelgal@gmail.com.