Archive for category Postcards
Virtuoso’s four newest additions to the esteemed Hotels & Resorts program are all unique luxury properties. Two of them are outstanding for their settings of peaceful natural beauty, and two of them offer thoroughly modern accommodations and service in distinctive historic buildings. Discover why these properties are worth booking and how, when you book with a Virtuoso travel advisor, you will benefit from the exclusive amenities they offer.
Mashpi Lodge, Mashpi Reserve, Ecuador
The contemporary, sophisticated and intimate Mashpi Lodge – located three hours northwest of Ecuador’s capital, Quito – provides the perfect base for nature adventures amid its 1,300-hectare private reserve, part of the highly biodiverse Andean rainforest known as the Chocó. The 22-suite lodge – built with the latest in low-impact techniques – will delight guests who seek to discover this world while enjoying creature comforts, fine dining, an extensive wine list and fantastic service. The Lodge is perfect for families, nature lovers, and well-travelled guests with distinguished tastes who think they have seen it all. Virtuoso guests receive a $100 credit for treatments in the Wellness Area.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado, Puerto Rico
With its serene coastline and palm-fringed beaches under the Caribbean sun, Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a tropical enclave. Situated on three miles of coastline with 1,400 acres of natural beauty, the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve in the Americas offers a remarkable luxury retreat, including 115 spacious accommodations directly on the beach, a restaurant by José Andrés, a five-acre Spa Botánico, an eco-adventure program by Jean Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment and three championship golf courses. Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve creates memories that will last a lifetime. The Virtuoso amenities are an American breakfast for two, $150 resort credit and upgrade at check-in upon availability.
Monastero Santa Rosa & Spa, Conca dei Marini, Italy
A 17th-century former monastery perched on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, Monastero Santa Rosa is the Amalfi Coast’s newest gem. More than a decade was spent transforming the property into a boutique luxury hotel with 20 unique rooms and suites, as well as a restaurant with coastal views and a full-service spa. Secret gardens, canopied lounge chairs, and rooms with soaking tubs make the resort an ideal romantic getaway, while an infinity pool, 24-hour room service, and attentive staff make it perfect for any occasion. Virtuoso amenities include a welcome drink and fruit basket in room on arrival, three-course lunch or dinner for two, and a 50 Euro spa credit per room with a minimum three-night stay.
The Ritz-Carlton Vienna, Austria
Enter a world of history, contemporary design and impeccable service. The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna (Austria) is an elegant building composed of four former palaces from the 19th century and is located in the heart of the city with breathtaking views of Vienna’s landmarks from its rooms and rooftop bar. This truly unique property combined with our personal service will make your stay a memorable experience. Virtuoso guests receive an upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), continental daily breakfast for two guests and a € 85.00 food and beverage credit (not applicable for alcohol, in-room dining or mini bar).
Virtuoso amenities are only available when you book through your Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Find one here.
Looking to wow a foodie who seemingly has experienced it all? Look no further than the incredible wealth of culinary delights housed in Virtuoso hotels worldwide. With the help of your Virtuoso Travel Advisor, you can book some of the best tables in the world helmed by celebrated chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Joel Robuchon and Daniel Boulud.
With 94 Michelin-starred restaurants in 13 countries and a total of 143 stars, Virtuoso properties are thriving in the culinary tourism boom. The foodie blog The Daily Meal has also included 53 restaurants at Virtuoso hotels on its list of the 101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World.
Part of the appeal of an outstanding meal while traveling, stated Catherine Scown, is the desire to experience things in person rather than on a computer screen. The senior director of marketing at Virtuoso hotel Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong said, “What we cannot experience through sight, we need to experience with the other senses of our body. And so we travel to see these things in the flesh.”
Scown’s property occupies a unique position in the culinary pantheon. Four Seasons Hong Kong is the only hotel in the world to house two restaurants with three Michelin stars. Lung King Heen is a mecca for dim sum lovers, with dishes like garoupa fillets with ginger and spring onion soy in a bamboo basket. On the other side of the culinary coin, French-themed Caprice serves mouthwatering langoustine lasagne and chanterelle mushrooms in a shellfish bisque.
Part of the thrill of culinary travel is savoring local specialties and ingredients. Aude Bourgouin Lebarbier, press relations manager at Virtuoso property Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, commented, “Eating is really part of local habits and sharing local culinary habits is a good way to discover a foreign way of life.” The hotel’s three-star restaurant, Alain Ducasse, celebrates local culture with meals like the one-dish cookpot homard pommes de mer featuring lobster from the Brittany region.
Travelers’ desire to sample local cuisine to have a more profound experience has played a significant role in the foodie boom. “Travelers are genuinely interested in understanding where their food comes from,” observed Jennifer Chiesa, senior public relations manager at Virtuoso hotel Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena, California. “They want to learn about the region they are dining in and why it’s so special so that they feel even more connected.” The Restaurant at Meadowood brings that to life with its farm-to-table philosophy, such as its locally sourced guinea hen baked in a salt crust with Meadowood garden herbs. The Restaurant is one of only two restaurants in the Western U.S. to earn three Michelin stars.
By planning ahead, Virtuoso member advisors can provide their clients with a trip-making meal. Many restaurants are booked weeks or even months in advance. A good rule of thumb: book the meal, then the flight. When making a reservation, ask questions, and determine how the restaurant can cater to each client with perks like special tasting menus and wine pairings. It also pays to get a feel for the cuisine of different regions, both through travel and advance research.
“People will travel to the ends of the earth for a unique culinary experience,” commented Scown. “They will save to splurge. The pleasure of enjoying good food or discovering new cuisine is worth travelling for – and it is very much part and parcel of the entire experience.” With the right guidance, Virtuoso member advisors can make that experience something to savor for a lifetime.
Find out more about working with a Virtuoso Travel Advisor.
By Virtuoso Life senior editor Justin Paul
“Think of yourselves as future astronauts as you walk through,” Virgin Galactic’s Carolyn Wincer instructed the group of accredited space agents (ASAs) spanning North America, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Hong Kong, Israel, and beyond. And with that, the doors of Spaceport America opened, and we strode into the 2012 ASA Forum. More than 70 ASAs and Virtuoso’s Matthew Upchurch, David Hansen, Jim Osborne, Keith Waldon, Tony Poe, and I made the trek to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, for this year’s forum. Our mission: an exclusive in-depth update on the progress of Richard Branson’s space venture and a behind-the-scenes tour of Spaceport America.
After a quick introduction to the terminal that will serve as Virgin Galactic’s home base and photo ops on the runway, we broke into groups for sessions with key Virgin Galactic team members on nearly every aspect of the future spaceflight. Test pilots Keith Colmer and Dave Mackay presented updates on pilot training and flight day details. Dr. Jim Vanderploeg discussed preflight medical assessments in the space being built out as the terminal’s future clinic. Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic’s vice president of operations, welcomed us to the mission control room overlooking the runway and detailed his role and his staff’s at the command center, from taxi to touchdown. Throughout the day, presenters encouraged ASAs to ask questions, voice concerns, and provide input on ways to enhance future astronauts’ experience at the spaceport.
As the event wrapped up in true Virgin Galactic style – a party with local dignitaries and stargazing on the runway until well past midnight – one thing was clear: With SpaceShipTwo about to enter the final phase of test flights, Virgin Galactic’s program is primed for liftoff. Look for an in-depth update on Virgin Galactic in Virtuoso Life’s January/February issue.
VIRTUOSO LIFE’s COVER photo shoot in Naples, Italy
By Melanie Fowler
Art Director, Virtuoso Life
The July-August issue of Virtuoso Life has arrived, showcasing the results of our annual Travel Dreams Survey. Featured on the cover: a Mediterranean cruise, one of our readers’ top travel dreams. The cover photo (and related article within) was shot on location in Naples, when Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner was in port during Virtuoso’s Symposium in April.
While in Naples, some of the photography crew and I stayed at the 83-room Romeo. It’s a great location on the harbor, within walking distance to shops and restaurants as well as the ancient city center. Capri, Ischia, Sorrento and Positano are all nearby.
Pictured from top: Romeo lobby, Naples city center, view of the port of Naples from Romeo’s tenth floor, and the pool area.
Romeo hotel highlights:
• Location, location, location.
• The view of Naples harbor from the rooftop pool and breakfast room.
• Delicious breakfast every morning – strong coffee and various local cold cuts with buffalo mozzarella.
• Free wireless Internet.
• In-room Nespresso coffee machine.
• Customizable light system.
Good to know:
• The flat glass sink in the bathroom was not particularly functional; water splashed easily onto the mirror.
• Some bathroom lights seem to be controlled by a motion sensor, which could be frustrating.
• The Jacob Jensen telephones were tricky to use.
I hope you enjoy the latest issue of Virtuoso Life – it’s one of my favorite covers, ever.
From the Blue Ridge Mountains to historic Quebec, from a Western ranch to sleek city sophistication, meet four of Virtuoso’s newest properties. These distinctive experiences all offer excellence in customer service, sumptuous surroundings and special amenities to clients of Virtuoso travel advisors.
The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA
The Inn at Little Washington is an 18-room country house hotel nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The hotel has been awarded two Forbes Five Star Awards and two AAA Five Diamond Awards and is well known for its incredible service, exquisite décor and extraordinary cuisine. Founder and chef/proprietor Patrick O’Connell has created this oasis in the center of a historic village only 67 miles southwest of Washington, DC and just 12 miles from Shenandoah National Park. The Virtuoso amenity is a signed copy of Patrick’s cookbook, “Refined American Cuisine,” and two of the signature Dalmatian aprons worn by our chefs.
Auberge Saint-Antoine, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Auberge Saint-Antoine by Relais&Chateaux is a journey into Québec City‘s past. The hotel displays hundreds of artifacts discovered during an extensive archaeological dig on the property. Today, these finds have been restored and displayed throughout the Auberge Saint-Antoine. In its unique contemporary space, the past has been audaciously re-interpreted. Virtuoso-exclusive guest amenities are upgrade on arrival, subject to availability; complimentary a la carte breakfast daily for up to two in-room guests, served in restaurant or via in-room dining; CA$100 food & beverage credit; and a special attention delivered to the room.
Carmel Valley Ranch, Carmel, CA
The newly re-imagined and fully renovated Carmel Valley Ranch is 500 acres of play. Activities offered range from traditional golf, tennis, miles of hiking, cutting-edge fitness classes for any level and spa treatments to signature experiences like beekeeping, organic gardening and cooking classes. The property is perfect for a variety of guests including families, couples, spa enthusiasts and golfers. Amenities for clients of Virtuoso members include a welcome note from their advisor, an upgrade at booking subject to availability, continental breakfast for two daily and a $100 activity credit valid for spa or golf.
W Austin, Austin, TX
Named to Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List in 2011, W Austin headlines downtown’s vibrant Second Street District with next-door access to the famed Austin City Limits music venue. Recently Silver LEED certified, the hotel supports a sustainable future while enveloping guests in contemporary luxury. W Austin’s 251 rooms offer views of the downtown skyline while the hotel’s exterior plaza faces Lady Bird Lake and its refreshing winds. Eat at TRACE, where cuisine bursts with regional flavors; socialize in the Living Room; detox and refuel at the AWAY Spa; keep fit at SWEAT; or take the plunge at WET® pool. Virtuoso amenities are daily breakfast at TRACE and a $100 AWAY Spa credit.
For the best travel experience, be sure to book your hotel stay with a Virtuoso travel advisor.
Confetti cannons blew a riot of red and yellow slips skyward, and you could sense the envy of passengers looking on from a neighboring cruise ship. Chef Cat Cora had just christened Oceania Cruises’ newest vessel in sunny Barcelona, and the Riviera’s horn echoed with baritone bravado as its stewards, cooks, housekeepers, and other staff cheered from balconies.
I’d joined the 1,250-passenger ship five days earlier in Monte Carlo with international media, travel industry veterans, and around 50 top Virtuoso travel advisors for a preview (look for it in Virtuoso Life’s July/August issue – along with cruise writer Fran Golden’s previews of Viking River Cruises’ Odin and the Disney Fantasy). While on board, I’d put to the test Oceania’s claim of serving some of the best cuisine at sea, had one late night too many, and crossed my sun-soaking threshold by at least a couple of hours – all for the sake of journalism. Here’s a taste of the trip.
Of all my meals – including Chesapeake Bay crabcakes and aged rib eye at Polo Grill and an extravagant three-hour “lunch” at Jacques – dinner at pan-Asian Red Ginger topped the list. In the restaurant’s tastefully bold dining room, where a playful horse-faced painting dominates one wall, you begin meals by selecting from an assortment of chopsticks. What my wife and I would order all over again: caramelized tiger prawns, spicy duck-and-watermelon salad, the clay-pot chicken, and yuzu citrus sorbet.
Canyon Ranch SpaClub was fresh out of appointments on our only sea day, but the Bon Appétit Culinary Center squeezed me in for a brunch session, in which 23 classmates and I whipped up scones and frittatas and learned to perfect poached eggs. Unlike on other cruise lines (and at many hotels and resorts), Oceania’s culinary courses are hands-on, with participants pairing up and making each dish from scratch. On the class roster for the rest of its European season: crepes, pasta making (with sauce and wine pairings), and modern Greek cuisine, as well as a host of regionally focused classes and favorite dishes from Riviera’s specialty restaurants.
One of the advantages of traveling with Virtuoso advisors is insider access. Bill Smith, Virtuoso’s VP of cruise sales, worked with Découvertes to organize an outing in Aix-en-Provence for advisors and guests, followed by a garden lunch at Chez Thomé (www.chezthome.fr), which sits in a quiet valley Cézanne frequented when painting Mont Sainte-Victoire. The finale: a tour of Château de la Mignarde, a private estate and onetime home of Napoleon’s sister, Pauline, that’s closed to the general public.
To find out more about having your own one-of-a-kind cruise experience, contact your Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to find one.
A few weeks ago, AmaWaterways sparkling new river cruiser, the 164-passenger AmaCerto departed Amsterdam for its maiden voyage and I tagged along for the ride. The seven-day sailing through the Netherlands and Belgium – my first river cruise – opened my eyes to the perks and realities of river cruising. Here’s a wildly incomplete list.
The ground covered: We visited ten ports in seven days, spending as long as a full day or as little as a couple of hours in each, and had the freedom to explore at leisure, join large group tours, opt for smaller tours on foot or by bike, or just lounge on board. It’s doubtful that I could have seen so much, so effortlessly, and in so little time traveling by land.
The all-inclusive pricing: The price of the cruise included all meals, almost all excursions, and unlimited wine at dinner. My cabin, like 49 others, also included butler service (perfect for the first espresso of the day).
The ease: The trip was such a breeze that it almost felt like cheating. Just show up at the ship at the appointed day and time, unpack, and let the capable staff handle the logistics.
Company of strangers: On such a small ship, one dinner seating is necessary, and dining in the company of strangers is the norm. The smallest table in the dining room seats four, so each night I met a new set of dinner companions.
Group tours (or not): Most offered were either large walking or bus tours, of the audio-headset, follow-the-tour-guide’s-sign variety. However, if that wasn’t to your taste, you could easily do your own thing. AmaWaterways has introduced a series of more “boutique” touring options, which ranged from a genever (Dutch gin) tasting in Amsterdam to a viewing of the Rubens House in Antwerp.
And one travel tip:
My flight into Amsterdam arrived at 8:30 a.m. Rather than trying to kill the hours until 3 p.m. boarding while battling jet lag, I booked a day room Hotel de l’Europe in the center of the old city. One nap, one shower, and one jaunt around the city later, it was time to go aboard.
Look for more on this trip in the July/August issue of Virtuoso Life!
What’s the perfect age for a Disney cruise you may ask? My son and daughter would say six and eight years old, but my husband and I would counter that 48 and 49 are pretty good ages too!
We sailed on the new Disney Fantasy for its three-night Preview sailing, March 26 – 29, for Travel Industry professionals and media. We enjoyed a day at Disney’s Private Island, Castaway Cay, a day at sea and back to Pt. Canaveral.
The ship has 14 decks; capacity for 4,000 guests, over 1450 cast/crew Members, and awesome kids program and facility and is absolutely beautiful from top to bottom.
The Fantasy, sister ship to the Dream was built with families in mind and it shows at every turn. When we arrived on board, they announced our family’s arrival to everyone in the atrium lobby “Please Welcome the Zanatta Family” – there were many of the Disney Characters in the atrium area for photos and autographs. This is a true highlight to have such great access to the characters and was my daughter’s favorite part of the cruise. The “big five” as the very personable cruise staff called them, are Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto and we saw them all!
There are three main dining rooms all with very different themes and menus and guests rotate to have the opportunity to experience each one; the Animator’s Palate, the Enchanted Garden and Royal Court. Our favorite was the Animators Palate. When you arrive to your table there is a placemat and a colored marker with instructions on how you need to draw within the lines to create your character (kind of a stick figure type layout). My son made sure his had the word “Seattle” across his character’s chest so he could easily spot it later in the evening. Our server collected our drawings early in the meal and at the end of the evening, our simple drawings were given life on the giant screens around the dining room dancing with your favorite Disney Characters to well known music and scenes from your favorite Disney movies.
The entertainment on board was true Disney filled with the songs and characters we all love. A particular favorite was the Pirate party evening on the upper deck with Captain Jack Sparrow and fellow pirates. Captain Jack was perched at the top of the highest deck and was “shot” down and landed inches before the deck stating in his Captain Jack drawl “did everyone see that that because I won’t be doing it again.”
The highlight for my son was the AquaDuck a 765-foot water slide ride through a clear acrylic tube that goes out over the ocean, around the ship and spans down 4 decks.
We enjoyed every minute of our sailing and are looking forward to sailing again.
This and other family travel excursions are best planned with the help of a Virtuoso member travel advisor. Click here to learn more about working with an advisor of your own.
It’s that time of year! Snow is falling and families are headed to the slopes for skiing, snowboarding, and all sorts of winter activities. If you are looking for a great place to do all of that, plus enjoy good restaurants, a few spa treatments, and some adult time at the casino tables, then the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe delivers.
We just returned from a 4-day weekend, multi-family (that would be three) excursion and had a ball. Nestled in the Sierra Mountain Range, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe has stunning views of the lake and boasts 422 newly renovated guest rooms, including private lakeside cottages.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort is a 5-minute ride, and by now the majority of the lifts and runs are open. Our group had both boarders and skiers, and the mountain provided the right mix of difficulty for everyone, even a few jumps for our 9- and 11-year-old daredevils.
Additionally, Diamond Peak has state-of-the-art snow making equipment, so we enjoyed freshly groomed conditions every day.
Back at the resort, the kiddos hit the outdoor heated pool, while the adults sipped cocktails in the near-by hot tub. Afterwards, loaded with a pocketful of tokens, the kids ran the arcade room, while we tested our skills at black jack and roulette. Add to that a beautiful spa and a lively pub for après ski cocktails, and you have the perfect family resort!
This and other family-friendly travels are better when designed by a Virtuoso travel advisor. Click here to learn more about what a travel advisor can do for you.
by Betsy Goldberg
Senior Manager – Corporate Communications at Virtuoso, Ltd.
Fascinating Spain blends a rich heritage with contemporary twists on history. This mix is particularly evident when visiting the country’s Virtuoso properties. I toured five network hotels during a recent educational sponsored by Virtuoso On-Site Valesa Cultural Services and two Virtuoso tourism board partners, the Tourist Office of Spain and Heritage Cities of Spain.
We began at the grande dame of Madrid hotels: the Ritz. This 101-year-old señora is famed for her elegant interior resplendent with historic treasures, the impeccable service and the Sunday brunch buffet. Here we found a mix of tradition and modernity, as Spanish standbys such as paella and the ubiquitous ham shared tables with international favorites such as carpaccio (no less than three different types), quesadillas and sushi.
The InterContinental Madrid offers an equally impressive Sunday brunch buffet in equally impressive surroundings. Included are everything from non-traditional whole lobsters to dim sum to chocolate mousse – and, yes, traditional paella and ham. We stopped eating long enough to tour the hotel, and were blown away by the 4,000-square-foot modern Royal Suite, which has housed such luminaries as Paris Hilton, Joe Biden and Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch.
More oohs and ahs followed as we visited the newly redecorated AC Santo Mauro Hotel in Madrid. The hotel’s elegant late nineteenth-century building was the residence of the influential Duke of Santo Mauro. Its decor playfully blends history with hipness. We admired the public rooms, including the gorgeous Chinese and Red Lounges, and craved a sip of something delicious in the clubby Chivas Lounge.
How many hotels have such a storied history that they have their own on-location museum? The Westin Palace Madrid, which turns 100 next year, does. Giants of the arts world, including Hemingway and Dali, frequented the bar. More recent celebrity guests include Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson and Henry Kissinger. We dined under the hotel’s spectacular stained-glass dome after touring the spacious rooms decorated in a contemporary style.
You’ll feel like a celebrity when concierge Joey Sendra escorts you around the cutting-edge Hospes Palacio del Bailio in Córdoba. You’ll see patios, gardens, murals from the 1700s and the stunning lounge-library, where guests have been known to doze off in the comfortable surroundings. The hotel, declared a historic monument in 1982, was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. But the site has been inhabited for much longer. We were given a midnight tour of the Roman ruins under the hotel – accessible only to Virtuoso guests.
All of these trips and more can be hand-tailored to suit your needs with the help of a Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to find one.