Archive for category Virtuoso Life
Spanning land, sea, sky, and even space, Virtuoso offers memorable experiences no matter what the destination. The April/May issue of its VIRTUOSO TRAVELER magazine highlights “29 Experiences of a Lifetime,” which can be brought to life by Virtuoso travel advisors together with the network’s preferred travel providers. Virtuoso also includes insider tips from some of its most knowledgeable advisors, ensuring travelers get the most from their global escapades.
These enticing experiences offer something for everyone, from adventure (African safari), to magic (David Copperfield’s private island), to the ultra-romantic (tango for two in Buenos Aires after touring the breathtaking Iguazú Falls). No matter the destination, travelers can be assured that Virtuoso’s advisors have extensive product and destination knowledge, and often firsthand experience, as is the case with Buenos Aires, where Virtuoso recently hosted 135 advisors during its Symposium. These travel professionals left Buenos Aires with a greater understanding of what the city and region offer, a tangible benefit to their clients wishing to go.
These 29 memorable experiences align with Virtuoso’s 2013 Luxe Report, a survey in which the network’s 7,200 travel advisors provided insight into where, when and how travelers will go next. When discovering what motivates luxury travelers, Virtuoso advisors report that clients want to explore new destinations; seek authentic experiences; rest and relax; spend time and reconnect with loved ones; gain personal enrichment; and seek adventures.
Tapping into its impressive portfolio of more than 1,700 world’s-best travel providers, Virtuoso has selected 29 defining opportunities to motivate would-be travelers. The Top-Ten Virtuoso “Experiences of a Lifetime” include:
- Hiking in Bhutan: Nomadic Expeditions takes travelers to Taktsang (“Tiger’s Nest”) Monastery, perched 2,000 feet above the Paro Valley in the Himalayan Mountains of Bhutan in a ten-day private journey. Available throughout 2013. From $6,395.
- Seeing the Northern Lights: Iceland Encounter’s five-day adventure includes seeing the aurora borealis while offering the chance to dogsled and walk onto Sólheimajökull Glacier. Available between September 15, 2013, and March 31, 2014. From $2,950.
- Wine Tasting with a Master: The five-day tailor-made tour from Découvertes includes a sampling of wines from a 35,000-bottle cellar with one of Paris’ master sommeliers. Available through December 31, 2013. From $8,460.
- Escaping to a Private Island: Make magic with a stay at David Copperfield’s private Caribbean island, Musha Cay. The illusionist even autographs a special memento for Virtuoso clients. Valid through December 31, 2013. From $37,500 per day for up to 12 guests staying a minimum of four nights.
- Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef: Orion Expedition Cruises takes water enthusiasts on a six-day voyage to the world’s largest reef. Departs December 8, 2013. From $3,640.
- Dancing with the Masai: Nature enthusiasts traveling with Micato Safaris track wild animals in the bush and explore the cultures of Africa, visiting and dancing with members of the Masai Tribe. Weekly departures available throughout 2013. From $11,740.
- Tangoing the Night Away: Excursionists with Abercrombie & Kent can learn the national dance in Buenos Aires after touring Iguazú Falls. Available throughout 2013. From $5,995.
- Floating in the Dead Sea: Guests of the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea can trek in Petra, dune-buggy in the Wadi Rum, and, of course, swim in the waters of the Dead Sea. A $100 spa credit is just for Virtuoso clients. Valid through December 31, 2013. Contact a Virtuoso travel advisor for pricing.
- Getting Up Close on Easter Island: The mysterious South Pacific island is home to hundreds of moai, monolithic stone giants. The explora Rapa Nui-Posada de Mike Rapu is the perfect base from which to adventure and provides Virtuoso clients with handcrafted keepsakes. Valid through December 31, 2013. Three- and four-night stays from $2,415 and $3,220 per person, respectively.
- Living Like a Catalan: Hosted Villas offers families the opportunity to bond in the Spanish countryside, whether perched over the ocean or situated on a farm complete with horses and chickens. A Virtuoso travel advisor can arrange the ideal stay.
The remaining 19 experiences can be found at http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/virtuoso/traveler_20130405/index.php?startid=48.
To learn more about or book one of these experiences, contact Virtuoso at 855.570.3830 or by visiting www.virtuoso.com.
The benefits of working with Virtuoso travel advisors are immeasurable and often intangible, from the huge time savings (just researching air schedules makes my head swim, much less attempting to coordinate a family vacation) to their impressive global connections and know-how. And by know-how, I don’t just mean expertise in where and when to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to do, and how to do it – though that is a pretty impressive wealth of knowledge. I mean know-how in you: your preferences and peeves, your hobbies and interests, your calendar and budget, among others. One of the more tangible benefits of working with a travel advisor is Virtuoso’s hotel program. With nearly 1,000 properties in more than 100 countries around the globe, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes, whether you prefer sprawling resorts or intimate family-run inns, established classic hotels or trendy new properties. (For a peek at the latter, turn to page 80 of Virtuoso Life for a roundup of the year’s hottest hotel openings.)
Virtuoso hotels vary in size, style, and location, but they all offer five-star service, personalized attention – and perks you wouldn’t receive if you’d booked the hotel on your own. Every single property in our portfolio includes in its Virtuoso rates breakfast for two, as well as upgrades, early check-in, and late checkout, when available. But Virtuoso travelers also receive extra benefits, from bottles of wine to spa treatments, dining credits, and creative offerings such as horseback rides, rounds of golf, cooking classes, snorkeling excursions, and more. These amenities add value to your vacation – plus, they’re a fun reminder of the VIP treatment you receive when you work with a Virtuoso advisor.
My daughter and I enjoyed many such perks when I took her to Paris for the first time (read about our trip on page 144). Our favorite: At the Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Virtuoso amenity (in addition to a $30 dining credit) is entrance for two to Versailles Palace, which is walking distance from the hotel.
Here’s to the perks of traveling like a VIP.
Look who stopped by the St. Regis Princeville Resort on Kauai’s north shore (hey, it’s close to his house!) to chat about stand-up paddleboarding (SUP): Local boy-turned-phenomenal-big-wave surfer, Laird Hamilton. As a pioneer of SUP, Hamilton knows a few things about the sport. He gave just the pep talk our group needed before heading out for a stand-up paddle around Hanalei Bay.
Oh, and the other view wasn’t too shabby either:
Virtuoso Life writer Kim Brown Seely and photographer Kevin J. Miyazaki found some very customized treats in
their rooms earlier this week at The Oberoi, Gurgaon in New Delhi! (Yes, those are edible magazines.)
Looking for a fun way to create a travel wish list? The Virtuoso Life Travel Dreams Survey, now available at www.virtuoso.com, is a fast, entertaining and simple tool that compiles your globetrotting aspirations, and leaves you not only longing for your next vacation, but with a “where to next” list that you can save, share, print and use to plan your next getaway.
Here’s how it works. The survey first asks you to select a travel personality.
The Trendsetter: It’s all about what’s new and what’s next. An early adopter of emerging destinations, maiden voyages, and new itineraries, you’d rather not return to the same place. Instead, you’re a collector of experiences – the more passport stamps, the better.
The Go-Getter: You want to see it all, and your active and adventurous itineraries are packed from morning until night to make sure you check off the requisite sights, sites, and experiences.
If neither of these personalities is a good fit for you, there are others to choose from. The travel personality you select sets the stage for the destination and experience questions that come next.
Once the survey is completed, you receive your own personal travel wish list – a summary of all your responses plus Virtuoso recommendations for additional destinations and experiences you might want to consider. This wish list is the perfect place to start travel planning with your Virtuoso travel advisor.
Those needing added motivation need look no further than the sweepstakes’ Grand Prize giveaway: a 10-day cruise for two in a stateroom verandah cabin aboard Crystal Serenity sailing from Copenhagen, Denmark to Stockholm, Sweden on July 30, 2013. Five first prize winners will each receive $1,000.
Look for the comprehensive survey responses to be revealed in the VIRTUOSO LIFE Travel Dreams issue this July. To better understand what you’ll get out of the survey, watch this inspirational video.
The VIRTUOSO LIFE Travel Dreams Survey and sweepstakes entry form and complete rules, terms, and conditions are available at www.virtuoso.com.
Must be a valid U.S. resident to be eligible to win. Non-U.S. residents are invited to take the survey here.
Costa Rica was one of those places for my family, and tales of zip-lining, white-water rafting, and colorful wildlife made us want to see if for ourselves. We did just that a few months ago (read about the trip on page 96), and the destination did not disappoint, from the scenery – it was so green! – to the outdoor adventures and the people we met. Though I tend not to repeat too many destinations - so many places to see, so little time, and I want to check off as many as possible – Costa Rica’s one of those rare places I want to return to again and again.
So what kind of traveler are you, and what’s on your wish list? Find out when you take our Travel Dreams Survey at www.virtuoso.com. The survey is fun, fast, and enlightening: choose your travel personality, then tell us what tops your travel dreams, whether it’s for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a trip of lifetime. When you finish, the survey will create your personal travel wish. You can download and print it for future reference to what destinations and experiences most entice you. Better yet: Share that list with your travel advisor, who can help you map out a plan to make those wishes a reality.
My own survey results? I’m a “Trendsetter” travel personality: “It’s all about what’s new and what’s next. You’re a collector of experiences – the more passport stamps, the better.” (Sound familiar?) The dream destinations that top my list:
Those last two? My goal is to call on all seven continents; only five down.
Try it yourself – you’ll also be entered for a chance to win a ten-day cruise for two from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Stockholm, Sweden, with Crystal Cruises; five other luck winners will receive $1,000 cash prizes. Here’s wishing you good luck. (Only U.S. residents are eligible to win prizes, however, consumers living outside the U.S. are invited to take the survey at www.virtuoso.com/traveldreams)
P.S. Do it soon – the survey ends March 31.
As Virgin Galactic’s first passenger flights near, we take a look at the key people and technologies behind the world’s first commercial spaceline. This post: test pilot Dave Mackay.
Interviewed by Michael Behar
When he wants to relax, David Mackay, 55, flies an Extra 300L, a performance aerobatic aircraft, doing vertical rolls and knife-edge spins. This helps him stay sharp at his day job: chief pilot for Virgin Galactic. At the moment, Mackay is flight-testing WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo – the mother ship that will shuttle tourists to 47,000 feet, where the rocket plane will decouple and blast into space – and is scheduled to begin flying tourists to space next year. The Scotland native made his first flight in 1977. “I did it with the University Air Squadron, which gave students experience with the armed forces,” he recalls. After graduating, Mackay joined the Royal Air Force (RAF), flying a Hawker Harrier GR3, a fighter known for its unique ability to take off and land vertically. “I always wanted to be a test pilot,” he says. “So as soon as I had sufficient experience, I applied to test pilot school.” He remained in the RAF as a test pilot until 1995, when he left to fly for Virgin Atlantic, and then, in 2009, joined Virgin Galactic to become the world’s first commercial spacecraft pilot.
What inspired you to become a test pilot?
From an early age, I was interested in the possibility. I lived in a part of Scotland where I saw military jets’ low flying. It looked really exciting. I was also inspired by manned spaceflight – the first astronauts were ex-military test pilots. That seemed to me like a fantastic career path.
How did you land your job at Virgin Galactic?
I was a pilot for Virgin, flying A340s, when I got the invitation to look at technical documentation for Virgin Atlantic’s GlobalFlyer, built by Scaled Composites for Steve Fossett to fly solo, nonstop around the world. On the basis of what I reported, I was asked to come to Mojave [California, where Scaled is based] to talk to the engineers. At the time, they were building SpaceShipOne, and I flew its simulator. When Virgin Galactic embarked on its SpaceShipTwo project, I was asked to be the test pilot.
Isn’t testing aircraft a risky way to earn a living?
That’s the popular impression. Test flying was dangerous in days gone by, back in aviation’s early years. But today you can’t afford to damage or crash an aircraft. Now it’s all about taking small steps. It’s a careful, controlled approach.
Do test flights give you an adrenaline rush? Or is it business as usual?
It’s somewhere in between. Flying can be very unforgiving. You should really know your aircraft, its limitations, and its systems. Do this and you shouldn’t get a big adrenaline rush. That said, there are some flights where the adrenaline flows.
I once flew an aircraft where the main gear did not lower properly. I was stuck with just the nose gear and one of the main gears down. It was a training flight. We ended up landing on two wheels, which made for quite an exciting ride as the aircraft slid off the side of the runway. That’s the only accident I’ve ever had – I felt the adrenaline after we came to a stop.
Tell us about your test flights for Virgin Galactic.
I’ve done a glide fight in SpaceShipTwo and about 15 flights in WhiteKnightTwo.
Are there similarities between the two vehicles?
The cockpits are very similar – same windows, same flight controls, same avionics. WhiteKnightTwo can be used as an in-flight simulator for SpaceShipTwo; with its gear down and speed brakes deployed, it can duplicate SpaceShipTwo’s [steep] approach angle.
Is WhiteKnightTwo hard to fly?
It’s a large airplane with a 140-foot wingspan [comparable to a narrow-body commercial jet’s], and it’s equipped with a manual flight-control system – literally just cables and rods maneuvering it. That’s quite unusual for an aircraft of this size. But because it’s manually controlled, you can feel its natural characteristics. There’s no fly-by-wire system to hide those, which makes it a satisfying aircraft to fly – full of character and not bland or boring.
What has impressed you most about flying WhiteKnightTwo?
Its incredible performance at low altitude. Also, its rate of climb – up to 50,000 feet in 45 minutes – is amazing for such a large airplane. When I came in for my first approach for landing, there was a crosswind. It was quite gusty, so I was tentative. But it felt much nicer than I expected.
What’s the most challenging aspect of flying WhiteKnightTwo?
Its landing gear is very wide, 52 feet between the main gears under the wing. So on the ground you’ve got to be very careful not to put a wheel off the side – particularly on some of the narrow taxiways we have at Mojave.
WhiteKnightTwo has two fuselages. What’s in them?
The pilot sits in the right fuselage. At the moment, the left one is empty. But you could bring in seats and an air-conditioning system for passengers.
Why steer from the right side? Is this a British thing?
Yes. It’s why they need a British pilot – I’m joking. There were many considerations, but conventionally the captain in a two-crew aircraft sits in the left-hand seat and the copilot sits on the right. Flying from the right fuselage gives WhiteKnightTwo’s captain a good view of the spaceship.
How has WhiteKnightTwo broken ground that might be useful to commercial aviation?
Its configuration – the twin fuselage – allows you to carry a very large and heavy payload mounted externally. This could be a spaceship or a rocket or anything else you might want to have sitting outside an aircraft.
When you piloted SpaceShipTwo, what was it like decoupling from the mother ship?
A little like you’ve gone over the top of a roller coaster. It lasts for a couple of seconds and then almost immediately you’re flying a glider. It’s pleasantly surprising how well it flies. I had this mental model of how it was going to feel, so I approached it carefully when I first took the controls. But I quickly realized it’s really quite a sweet-handling airplane.
Will you be hiring other pilots?
We’ll have a fairly small number to begin with, around seven or eight, until we’re really comfortable and feel ready to increase the frequency of flights. Then we’ll recruit and train more pilots.
Where are you in terms of flight-testing WhiteKnightTwo?
We’ve been doing quite a bit of work on the landing gear, looking at how it gets affected by prolonged flight at high altitude. When you fly very high for a long time, the aircraft starts to cool down, and seals and oils start to behave slightly differently. We want to make sure that the gear and other systems can tolerate a long time at altitude.
What about SpaceShipTwo?
SpaceShipTwo is being modified in preparation for the rocket motor installation.
During reentry, SpaceShipTwo may reach about six Gs. Have you ever endured that much in flight before?
I’ve pulled nine Gs in an F-16.
How do you think passengers will handle the high Gs?
Different people tolerate high Gs differently – it’s the reason we want to train passengers beforehand, so it’s not a complete shock to their system. We don’t want any unpleasant surprises.
For more about Virgin Galactic and other great articles, view the most recent edition of Virtuoso Life.
VIRTUOSO TRAVEL ADVISORS never cease to impress me; they’re truly some of the most well-traveled, well-connected people on the planet. Case in point: Myanmar (captured on the cover). Every year Virtuoso hosts a photography contest soliciting our advisors’ top pictures from their travels. (To see the recent winners, check out the September/October 2012 issue online at www.virtuoso.com.) The submissions span the globe, but when not one or two but three of the top ten photographs were snapped in Myanmar, the editors decided to investigate. Clearly, our advisors had found a place where a picture is worth a thousand words. We sent a writer and photographer (who happened to be husband and wife) to report on the country’s still-developing tourism infrastructure. Check out their resulting article and photographs on page 112. Suffice it to say, they both want to return.
Myanmar also appears on this issue’s list of the top 25 places to go now. We asked Virtuoso advisors to identify the most intriguing emerging destinations for 2013. From countries just embracing tourism to new reasons to visit old favorites, you’ll find their list of where to go now – along with their tips and insights – on page 84.
Such insight is the mission of Virtuoso Life: to help you travel better by traveling Virtuoso style – the ideal result of your collaboration with your advisor, and the network of connections, resources, benefits, and value they offer. The only question is, Where to next?
- by Elaine Srnka
Editorial Director, Virtuoso, Ltd.
My new favorite luggage.
I always resolve to pack smarter – and until I commit to hauling less stuff, this suitcase fits the bill. I recently took a Road Warrior M Series collapsible suitcase to Europe for a Danube River cruise (read about the trip on page 24). The construction is impressive – lightweight but sturdy, stable, and easy to maneuver. The best part: It collapses to mere inches and easily stashed under the bed in my small cabin. With evidence of over packing out of sight, I feel smarter already. M series bags starting from $263: www.roadwarriorluggage.com.
Today’s wake-up call in Antarctica was a low rumble that ended with a long, gentle crunch. Pulling back the blackout shades in my cabin on Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer, I gasped a little. For days, we’d been cruising the Southern Ocean’s blue-black waters on our way from Argentina to the southernmost continent, but now those “waters” had turned gleaming white with ice – a solid sheet that extended in every direction to the mountains and glacial highlands around us. The sun shone through a deep-blue sky as a welcoming party in tuxedos headed our way. Could it be? Yes! Penguins!
Our smiling expedition leader, Lisa Trotter, a young woman who’s logged more than 900 hours exploring Antarctic and Arctic waters, chimed in on the PA system to announce a change of plans for the morning. (It’s an expedition; changes are part of the excitement.) The schedule read kayaking, but instead we went ice-roving. It’s rare to get a day on the Antarctic Peninsula this sunny, windless, and warm (mid-30s), so the ice was our playground. After a quick breakfast and safety briefing, we headed out the gangway to a scene few humans ever get to see. Less than one percent of the world’s population has visited Antarctica, and as we 148 passengers walked out onto the ice, we eyed each other with appreciation.
Next came the glee. Strolling across the sea’s frozen surface in our red Lindblad-issued parkas and life jackets (just in case), we were met by a group of penguins who waddled straight toward us: first in twos and threes, then eights and nines, then by the dozens. Our briefing made it clear penguins have the right-of-way, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t let them come to us. The only warning I’ll offer: Take an extra data card and batteries for your camera. Penguins really are that cute.
Just before lunch, Lisa invited us all – the young, the seasoned, and the terrified – to experience the famous polar plunge. It’s as brutal as it sounds, but it’s maybe the most invigorating cannonball I’ve ever landed. The water was 29 degrees. I “swam” in the Southern Ocean for all of 4.6 seconds. As I scampered back toward the Explorer, wrapped in towels and a robe – and feeling quite smug about my intrepid accomplishment – I swear I saw one of those penguins laughing at me.
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.