The Virtuoso Life The Art of Travel Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:18:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Virtuoso Life 32 32 How many pairs of shoes would Sarah Jessica Parker pack for a weekend trip? Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:16:17 +0000 Virtuoso Life’s managing editor Marika Cain caught up with Sarah Jessica Parker while she was in Las Vegas to launch

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Virtuoso Life’s managing editor Marika Cain caught up with Sarah Jessica Parker while she was in Las Vegas to launch her new SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker shoe store at Bellagio.

What’s your go-to airport shoe? Meteor. Our sneaker. We cannot keep it on the shelves. It sold out in about 20 minutes when we first put it online. There’s a sandal of ours called Veronika that I wear tons. In the winter, I wear a boot of mine called Echo and it’s really, really comfortable. And there’s going to be a new boot [the Rayna] I’ll wear that we just got in from Italy. It’s so comfortable. It doesn’t matter if your foot swells on the plane – they’re shoes that will accommodate that.

How many pairs of shoes did you pack for this trip? Fourteen. Because I wanted to make sure I had shoes that exist here that don’t exist anywhere else. I wanted to make sure I had the ones that had arrived from Italy.

How many would you pack for a weekend away? Two pairs.

Is there such a thing as too many? I’m not really a shopper. I’ve never been someone who’s bought a lot of shoes. Carrie Bradshaw did, and I played her and we do look alike but there are radical differences between us. I think it depends who you are. Everybody has different rules by which they live. I think your finances dictate a lot. Shoes aren’t important for everybody. There are lots of people who function in the world who just live practically, just live by necessity and by geography, temperature, and weather. I think that’s a very personal thing.

sarah jessica parker and marika cain
Sarah Jessica Parker with Virtuoso Life’s Marika Cain.


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Welcome to the Fashion Week of Travel Tue, 15 Aug 2017 05:56:05 +0000 The latest in luxury travel trends, straight from Virtuoso Travel Week 2017.

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Virtuoso Travel Week 2017

Why You Should Care: Every year, thousands of Virtuoso travel advisors descend upon Las Vegas to shop for the upcoming year of travel.  What does that mean? We like to compare it to fashion week runway shows, where the likes of Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Dior present next season’s looks. Here, Virtuoso travel partners – including hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators – fly in from around the world to talk about what’s new in the world of travel. Over the next week, we’ll share our best finds and travel trends – plus, spotlight some attendees at the show.

Virtuoso Travel Week 2017 – the biggest ever with 5,670 attendees – kicked off in high fashion yesterday with supermodel Rachel Hunter appearing on stage at the opening session with CEO Matthew Upchurch; actress Sarah Jessica Parker surprised attendees as well, to say hello and celebrate the launch of her new shoe store at Bellagio, SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker (a select group of lucky Virtuoso advisors met her at a VIP shopping event).

Sarah Jessica Parker at the opening session.

The opening session focused on the necessity of human connection in a world of fluctuation and uncertainty. Hunter’s new TV show, Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty, took her to 23 countries around the world, where she immersed herself in local culture, relationships, and food – and revealed what beauty really means. On her travel radar? The expanding number of wellness options around the world.\

Keynote speaker Erik Qualman, an expert in digital leadership, stressed that technology changes every second, but humanity never does. “Face-to-face can’t be replaced,” he said.

Or, as Upchurch added: “The more tech we have, the more human connection we crave.”

One of Virtuoso Travel Week’s three host hotels, Aria (Photo by Korena Bolding Sinnett).

On Saturday, Upchurch also hosted Virtuoso’s first-ever Sustainability Summit with wife Jessica, which brought 25 top industry leaders together, including Brett Tollman, CEO and President of The Travel Corporation, and Singita CEO Luke Bailes (read our interview with him). The group discussed trends, strategies, and how to maintain strong leadership in sustainability efforts.

What’s Hot in Luxury Travel 

Yamuna Fonseca, a healer at Nicaragua’s Mukul resort, met with travel advisors during Virtuoso’s “globetrotting” event.

We gathered some of our favorite finds from the weekend at Virtuoso’s new “globetrotting” event, which allowed advisors to shop for travel based on a specific niche, from adventure to cruising, family, wellness, and even shopping.

  • Mexico: Chablé, a 300-year-old hacienda turned luxury wellness resort, recently opened to rave reviews in Merida, Mexico. JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, a travel and wellness expert who handles marketing for the property, recommends it for its sense of balance – exercise, and healthy eating, but also one of the largest collections of tequila in the world.
  • South Africa: The Silo Hotel, built in a historic grain silo compound on the V&A Waterfront, is the latest high-end hotel to open in Cape Town. Its focus is on art and architecture, and many rooms have incredible views of Table Bay.
Liz Biden, Founder & CEO of The Royal Portfolio, designed the new Silo Hotel in Cape Town.
  • Golden Door: Virtuoso travel advisors got to sample the Southern California spa retreat’s delicious wildflower honey (also available online) – the bees that create have to fly about 55,000 miles per each pound they produce. The resort’s ethos is admirable: 100% of net profits go to their selected charities, including ones that fight child abuse and support children’s cancer therapies.
  • UnCruise Adventures: The company sees a growing awareness and interest in Panama right now, and not just as a canal crossing. Adventure-themed expedition cruises in Panama include explorations of the Darién Jungle.
  • Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises:The focus of Crystal’s 62-passenger Crystal Esprit is on a fusion of luxuries such as butler service and “Michelin-level” dining with water adventures (paddle board, kayak, snorkel, etc.) from the ship’s marina platform. Also noteworthy is the ship’s deep-sea submersible, where guests can arrange for special experiences in it, including getting married or renewing vows.
  • Crystal River Cruises: With river cruising’s meteoric rise, travelers may want to check out Crystal’s all-suite river boats in Europe. All food on board is local, fresh, and brought on at each port.
  • Amankora in Bhutan: “Kora” is a circular journey of discovery. Guests can visit all five Aman properties in Bhutan on tailor-made itineraries. Journeys may include treks to Buddhist temples, monastic villages, or lunch with monks.
  • Blackberry Farm in Tennessee: Travelers seeking an in-depth culinary and wellness experience should consider Blackberry Farm. New programs go beyond yoga, including “forest bathing” (think yoga and meditation in the woods) and obstacle courses.

Travel Advisor Spotlight: Elaine Smith, Cary, North Carolina

What travel trends are you seeing right now? 

“Culinary travel is huge – I have a family leaving for Barcelona soon and they’re doing a cooking class. Every family I’ve ever booked with a culinary experience has loved it. They’re fun and interactive. Wellness is bigger than ever – I loved learning about Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, Chablé in Mexico, and the Loma de Vida spa at San Antonio’s La Cantera Resort & Spa.”

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The Ultimate French Riviera Souvenir: Rondini Sandals Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:14:08 +0000 The enduring appeal of Rondini sandals from Saint Tropez.

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Alain Rondini
Alain Rondini, the grandson of the founder. (Photo by Chloe Lovato)

Tropézienne sandals:
90 years as the ultimate French Riviera souvenir

The original Tropézienne sandal. (Photo by Chloe Lovato)


The French Riviera playground of Saint-Tropez is synonymous with megayachts the size of boutique hotels and rosé-all-day parties along Pampelonne Beach. But remnants remain from its storied past, such as the Citadelle, a 400-year-old relic presiding over the sherbet-colored village.

Saint Tropez
Artists on the port in Saint Tropez. (Photo by Kimberley Lovato)

And tucked into a narrow lane connecting the port to the town’s main square is Atelier Rondini, a beloved shoe shop that reminds you of Saint-Tropez’s longstanding allure for artists and artisans. Dominique Rondini opened his workshop in 1927 and began to make leather sandals, called tropéziennes. One of his first clients was famed French writer, Collette.

Ninety years later, Dominique’s grandson, 53-year-old Alain Rondini, runs the show, having learnt the trade from his father. He makes about 10,000 pairs per year in the shop, which comprises space behind the boutique and the top two floors of the narrow building, once the apartment of Alain’s grandparents. Fourteen employees, including his daughters and nephew, assist in the operations. While you can order online, it’s not nearly as fun as filing into the tiny storefront, choosing from various styles and colors lining the walls, and having them shaped, fitted, and hole-punched on your feet. Among the popular models, says Alain, are the original tropéziennes, as well as the thong-style salomé, the lace-up bikini, and the new Seychelles flip-flops, created to fête Rondini’s 90th anniversary. Asked if his grandfather would be surprised at how famous his sandals have become, Alain laughs, “Yes, and I am surprised, too.”

rondini sandals
The Salomé sandal is among the most popular (Photo by Chloe Lovato).

So what does he attribute to the word-of-mouth reputation and staying power of Rondini and their now iconic sandals? “I think it’s that we are still an artisanal business,” Alain says “That’s something that is becoming rare in the world, and here in Saint-Tropez, too. They give the idea that something special can still been found.”

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A Travel Advisor On When (and Why) You Should Buy Travel Insurance Mon, 07 Aug 2017 14:43:28 +0000 Travel insurance can be overwhelming, but we turned to Virtuoso advisor Tiffany Figueiredo for advice on when and why to buy insurance.

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Like any form of insurance, travel insurance can be overwhelming. When do you need it? Do you need it all? What does all the fine print mean? We turned to Virtuoso travel advisor Tiffany Figueiredo, who is based in Fort Worth, for details on when and why she advises her clients to purchase insurance.

Should clients purchase travel insurance for every trip, even a weekend getaway? 

“I recommend insurance on domestic trips that have non-refundable components like hotels, transfers or tours, and on all international trips. In fact, if clients are traveling internationally and choose not to purchase insurance, I require them to sign a waiver. I want them to have medical coverage in the event they are sick or injured while traveling. People assume their regular insurance will cover them abroad and that is not always the case. The companies I work with offer policies on a trip-by-trip basis, but I also recommend MedjetAssist, which offers annual plans.

What insurance companies do you work with the most, and why?

I work mainly with Travelex because of my good relationship and history with them. They have gone to bat for my clients in several instances, and while filing an insurance claim is not something anyone wants to do, Travelex has provided assistance with the process and has been very fair. In some cases, vendor insurance, like that offered through a cruise line, is sufficient.

When has travel insurance mattered for a client of yours?

The primary purpose of travel insurance is to cover the cost of delays or cancellations, but the medical assistance benefits cannot be overstated. Last year, I had a client traveling alone in Europe who suffered a serious, totally unexpected heart episode on her second day in Rome. She had purchased Travelex insurance, and they stepped in right away, talking with her family, making sure her doctors in Italy communicated with her doctor at home, and even covered the cost to upgrade her return flight once she was released, as her doctors would not let her fly economy. They provided assistance for the five days she was in the hospital and again once we were ready to file the claim. That same week, I was on a work trip in Spain when one of my fellow travelers took a hard fall over a loose cobblestone and broke her hip. She was flown home via medical jet with a nurse onboard thanks to travel insurance.

What do plans actually cover?

Each policy is different. You may not get 100 percent of your money back for a thunderstorm that causes a huge delay. It’s up to the client and agent to thoroughly understand what they are buying and what they foresee needing to cover.

Terrorist activity is usually only covered when the client’s exact destination has been attacked within a specific timeframe. So, you can’t cancel Normandy because there was a subway bombing in Paris. And you can’t cancel Paris because of something that occurs more than 30 days before your trip there. However, I haven’t had a single client want to cancel a trip because of a terrorist attack.

To get a policy that you can cancel for any reason, shop early, because this benefit is only available for a short amount of time from the initial trip deposit date. Once the first payment is made toward the trip –  whether for a flight, lodging, cruise, or other –  travelers have between 14 and 30 days to buy coverage. Most policies offer this benefit as a selectable upgrade, which will raise the premium cost by about 50 percent.

“Cancel for any reason” requires that all prepaid and non-refundable trip costs be insured on the policy. This means travelers don’t have the option to only insure a flight and not the cruise. Bottom line, if it’s paid before the departure date and the money would be lost if the trip were cancelled, it has to be listed on the policy.

Any tips or tricks to filing claim paperwork and getting the maximum reimbursement?

Save all receipts, first and foremost. I will have already documented the cost of the trip, but if it’s delayed or cut short, clients will have to provide receipts for the cost of meals, taxis, hotels, clothing, and toiletries that were incurred as a result. For a medical situation, they’ll need to make sure the doctor fills out his or her portion of the paperwork very specifically and correctly. Don’t be vague – that’s the general trick to not having the claim kicked back or denied. There are gray areas on the forms, and my best advice is to fill out the claim with your travel advisor, who can call the insurer directly to clear up any questions. If the claim is denied, the advisor can help again, providing additional details or calling his or her insurance company rep to see if it’s something that can be remedied.

Any more tips?

If you feel that the cost of insuring a trip is prohibitive (or don’t care about getting your money back), you can purchase a plan without trip cancellation. You won’t be reimbursed for the cost of the trip if it’s cancelled, but you will still get many of the in-travel benefits such as trip delay, emergency medical, lost or delayed baggage, and so on. The cost is quite a bit lower and worth looking into for those services.”

Virtuoso Preferred Insurance Partners: Travelex Insurance Services, Allianz Global Assistance and MedjetAssist

For more information about travel insurance, contact your Virtuoso advisor.

Top Photo: Getty Images/goldy. 

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Crystal Goes from Sea to ‘Skye’ with a New Private Jet Fri, 04 Aug 2017 16:49:11 +0000 After a few busy years solidifying its reputation as one of luxury cruising’s leaders – a yacht, new river ships,

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After a few busy years solidifying its reputation as one of luxury cruising’s leaders – a yacht, new river ships, and a renovated ocean liner – Crystal Cruises aimed a bit higher (literally) with its next opulent offering. The company debuted its new private charter jet, Crystal Skye, to the media earlier this week during an official handover ceremony in Seattle. It’s the world’s largest privately owned tour jet, and the Virtuoso Life editorial team joined Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez for a sneak-preview tour.

The Boeing 777-200LR can typically fit around 300 passengers, but Crystal retrofitted its jet to seat only 88 – in a very comfortable manner. Ergonomic seats lie fully flat, plush carpeting covers the extra-wide aisles, and every seat has a 24-inch monitor with live TV – plus unlimited WiFi and phone calls. The front of the jet’s dining and lounge area seats 30; it’s a bright space with sleek, white-lacquer gathering tables and a gorgeous, fully stocked bar. We almost forgot we were on an airplane for a second.

A full bar– mixologist included – onboard the Crystal Skye. (Photo: Amy Cassell)

Crystal Skye can fly for up to 18 hours nonstop. Imagine jetting off to Paris with your closest friends, a Michelin-starred meal, a bottle (or two) of vintage Bordeaux from the back-galley wine cellar, followed by turn-down service at your seat. (The crew can kick up the wow factor as high as you want it, from monogrammed bathrobes to custom menus.)

“Crystal Cruises has put its infamous touch on the way people fly, making not just the destination the reward, but the journey too,” says Beth Butzlaff, Virtuoso’s vice president of cruise. “With a personal chef, a sommelier, and a mixologist, Skye is an experience that could only be described as first-class.”


The Skye’s ergonomic, lie-flat seats. (Photo: Amy Cassell)

Crystal Skye is currently available for private charter. If you’re headed to Virtuoso Week in Las Vegas, keep your eyes peeled at McCarren International Airport: The Skye jets to Vegas next for a christening ceremony on August 12.

Top Image: GreenPoint Technologies LLC

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10 Hoteliers On The Best Places to Eat in Vegas Thu, 03 Aug 2017 20:05:43 +0000 From coffee to fine dining, ten Virtuoso hoteliers tell us the best places to eat in Las Vegas.

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Beyond the Virtuoso Travel Week campus at Bellagio, Aria, and Vdara, Las Vegas’ dining scene beckons with everything from celebrity chef-created menus to classic plates of fries. For some of Sin City’s most memorable meals, best-kept culinary secrets, and satisfying late-night snacks, these local Virtuoso hoteliers have got you covered.

Aria Resort & Casino
Paul Berry, Vice President of Hotel Operations

For a Pint: Berry heads to the Todd English Pub, located right outside The Shops at Crystals. “The restaurant has more than 70 beers on tap, great comfort food, and they’re bound to always have the game on for me,” he says.

Elevated Dining: Book a table at Rivea at Delano Las Vegas, which serves French and Italian fine dining in a comfortable environment. “The restaurant sits on the 64th floor of the hotel and has incredible views of the Strip,” Berry says. “If my party wants to continue the celebration, I like after-dinner drinks at Skyfall Lounge next door.” 

Delano’s Skyfall Lounge.

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas
Donald Bowman, General Manager

Off-Strip Fave: “Many of the Cirque du Soleil performers in town frequent Naked Fish’s Sushi & Grill for a casual meal,” Bowman says. The Spring Valley spot is a favorite for Japanese dishes such as yuzu-seared salmon and shrimp tempura.

Late-Night Go-To: Bowman suggests a booth at The Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge on the north end of Strip; it’s a kitschy throwback to old-school Vegas that serves breakfast 24 hours a day.

Bellagio Resort & Casino
Olivia Brown, General Manager

Sin City’s Culinary Secret: “Las Vegas has such an incredible food scene on and off the Strip,” Brown says, “but our Chinatown rivals New York City and San Francisco, and is a favorite destination for some of the city’s most celebrated chefs.”

Post-Club V: Pick up an order of the spice-rubbed French fries at Snacks on Bellagio.

Delano Las Vegas
Matthew Chilton, General Manager

Leave the Heels Behind: Chilton’s most-loved relaxed dining spots include Della’s Kitchen at Delano, and the District One Kitchen & Bar, located a few blocks west of the Strip. “It’s a great Vietnamese and Asian fusion restaurant,” he says. “Some of my favorite menu items include the pho tai rib-eye, Maine lobster pho, and oxtail fries.”

The burger at Della's Kitchen, Las Vegas
The burger at Della’s Kitchen.

Coffee Break: Perk up at Vesta Coffee Roasters in the Arts District.

Vdara Hotel & Spa
Mary Giuliano, General Manager 

Bring the Whole Gang: Giuliano’s best-kept Vegas food secret is the signature paellas available at Julian Serrano Tapas in Aria Resort & Casino. “They’re usually made-to-order to serve two, but can be created for larger groups upon request,” she says.

Worth the Trip: For a casual meal, Giuliano suggests the chicken shawarma plate at Khoury’s Mediterranean Restaurant, a tasty Lebanese spot with hookah on the patio – it’s about a 20-minute ride west of the Strip in Spring Valley.

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas
Mark Hellrung, General Manager

Special-Occasion Standby: Hellrung’s go-to for fine dining is Picasso at Bellagio. “It’s new French cuisine by chef Julian Serrano paired with outstanding service, original Picassos, and beautiful views of the fountains,” he says.

Favorite Meal: The handmade artichoke pasta – cooked in a jar with scallops, calamari, shrimp, tomato, seafood broth, and sweet basil – at Veranda in the Four Seasons.

Skylofts at MGM Grand
Ana Marie Mormando, General Manager

Vegas’ Next Big Thing: “Bank Atcharawan got his start in the city as an incredible sommelier at Lotus of Siam, and then opened his first two restaurants, Chada Thai & Wine and Chada Street,” Mormando says. “Most recently, he launched The Patio Desserts & Drinks, an innovative venue just west of the Strip.”

Where the Locals Go: Mormando loves Honey Salt in Spring Valley for casual farm-to-table fare such as the New England fry with Ipswich clams and calamari.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Simon Pettigrew, Senior Vice President of Resort Operations

A Perfect Vegas Meal: Authentic ramen at Monta Ramen followed by dessert at Sweets Raku. “Watching the desserts being made with such imagination and precision while sitting at the bar is an event in itself,” Pettigrew says.

Order This Drink: The Hot Mess at Echo & Rig in Summerlin, made with tequila, agave nectar, elderflower liqueur, cucumber, and fresh lime juice. Pettigrew loves the restaurant for its amazing views of the distant Las Vegas Strip from the patio.

Wynn Las Vegas and Encore
Ramesh Sadhwani, Executive Vice President & General Manager

Seafood Fix: “At Lakeside at Wynn, fresh fish is flown in daily from Hawaii, and it’s paired with nightly entertainment on the Lake of Dreams,” says Sadhwani.

Happy Hour: For Vegas dining at its casual best, Sadhwani suggests a meal at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar in Town Square, where locals love to descend on its pup-friendly patio.

Bartender at Lazy Dog, Las Vegas
Lazy Dog, Las Vegas.

The Signature at MGM Grand
Jill Archunde Santell, General Manager

Party Time: Make a reservation at Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at the MGM Grand. “It’s great for special occasions, and the menu has something for everyone,” Santell says.

Downtown Dining: For something decidedly more casual, Santell enjoys Carson Kitchen in downtown Las Vegas. Her pick: the crispy chicken skins with smoked honey.

Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak at MGM Grand
Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at MGM Grand.

Top Photo: Paella at Julian Serrano Tapas (Credit: Biondo Photo). 

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Dream Job: Caribbean Hotelier Karen Whitt Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:31:41 +0000 An interview with Caribbean hotelier Karen Whitt on her dream job, travel rituals, favorite shopping finds, and more.

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Working in the hospitality industry can be a dream job, but Karen Whitt takes dreamy to another level: The transplanted Texan works with not one but three hotels – in Turks & Caicos.

As vice president of sales and marketing for The Hartling Group, she oversees sales, marketing, and branding for the company’s three properties in Turks & Caicos, including The Palms Turks & Caicos and the brand-new Shore Club. She has lived in Turks & Caicos for twelve years.

In addition to her day job, Whitt served as president of the Turks & Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association for five years and is currently vice president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association. She’s earned myriad awards and recognition along the way, and has graced the cover of Luxury Travel Advisor.

“I believe the key to success in our industry is communication, whether it’s with our travel partners, our owners, our guests, or our staff; you have to keep communicating,” she says.

Read on for what she loves most about her job, her packing tips, travel rituals, and more.

On why hospitality is the best industry:

“I love this industry – the people, staff, guests, the experiences, and most importantly, the relationships. Your team becomes family, you spend so much time together, and you are working to a common goal.

Each day is different, and brings a new set of challenges and opportunities. I love meeting and interacting with the people who visit us from all over the world. It’s rewarding to see the excitement of guests who are creating memories in our resorts. I honestly cannot imagine working in any other industry.

On the dreamiest parts of her job:

We create memories, and there is nothing more rewarding than a great success story. I’ve seen some of the most amazing places in the world and met incredible new friends because of my job and I know how lucky I am! I went to South Africa last year for Virtuoso’s annual Symposium, and that was truly a dream come true for me.

It’s been a dream to be recognized over the years for stellar service both personally and for the hotels I’ve managed. Some of the most discerning travelers have voted us among their favorite properties in the world, and it’s a great feeling.

At a party celebrating the Oscars in Turks & Caicos.

On attention to detail:

I have a very critical eye and great attention to detail, which can keep me very busy! Managing the efforts for the three resorts is much like managing my own home, and I want our guests to feel like they are welcome and can do whatever makes them happy.

On a typical day in the office:

I’m working nearly every day for up to 12 hours, and every day is different.

In the morning, I usually spend time with my dog on the beach. Christopher is a rescue dog or a “potcake,” the affectionate name for mixed breed island dogs. My dog Blaze, another potcake, passed away in March. They were both cover dogs for the TCSPCA calendar. I then arrive at the office or hotels to review emails. I like to go to each of the properties, meet with the general managers, and talk through goals, challenges, and upcoming events.

Karen’s dog, Christopher.

In the past few months opening The Shore Club, much of my day revolved around getting that resort ready to open and welcome guests, anything from food tasting to site inspections to choosing furniture and back-of-house equipment. We often have VIP industry guests into the hotels, and I spend time getting to know them over meals and activities. I’m often packing my bag for the next trip, whether it’s sales meetings in the U.S. or Canada, Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, or a press event in New York City. On island, I am involved in many civic organizations like National Cancer Society and Community College. It’s never a dull moment!

Karen with her famous selfie stick at In the Pink, an event she started eight years ago benefiting the National Cancer Society.

Favorite items to pack?

  • I love my Annabel Ingall leather bag and never travel without it.  It’s a nice size and I can throw everything inside and still be stylish.
  • I never travel without a little black dress, great shoes and a clutch – you never know when you will have the chance for a nice cocktail event or dinner.
  • I carry a scarf that can be used to add fun to any outfit or tie on the bag for a pop of color.
  • I always carry hydrating skin products, including lip balm, face, body, and hand cream.  My current favorite is the Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing line.

Any travel rituals?

  • I always leave room for shopping and try to find a treasure from every city.  I collect memories from all over the world.
  • When I arrive at the hotel, the first thing I do is unpack, organize, and iron my clothes.  Everything is ready to go and easy to find.
  • I pack a great carry-on bag, and a little beauty pouch with essentials including a nail file, gum, lip balm, lotion, Q-tips, band aids, hair ties, and aspirin.
  • Charge up and backup!  Always be ready for the unexpected delay, and back up everything before traveling.
  • For years, I have taken a photo of the airport at every city where I arrive. One day I want to put them all together. Some cities have the most amazing welcome messages!

Tell us more about the treasures you find around the world.

I try to find local items that have specific meaning to the country or area. I am especially fascinated with local artisans and folk art. Some examples:

South Africa 

I was so intrigued with the African wooden warrior dolls.  I went on a search to find the perfect one – there are so many different types, colors, and styles representing specific regions and powers.  I finally chose four from the Namji people of Northern Cameroon, which are hand carved from wood and adorned with glass beads and metal rings.  I also purchased four antique hand-woven baskets – they were used for transporting water and other valuables from village to village. The craftsmanship on these baskets is exquisite and it’s difficult to believe they are antique.

In South Africa’s wine country for Virtuoso’s annual Symposium.


All of Asia is sensory overload, but I was particularly enchanted with Taipei and its intriguing history.  While at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, I fell in love with the Lion Dogs – there are so many different colors and artistic styles.  I chose a pair of Temple Guardian Lion “Foo Dogs” (replicas) from the Qing Dynasty, covered with Sancai glaze and brightly decorated.   Chinese folklore indicates that Foo Dogs or Lion Dogs were the guardians of the temple or home.  They are perfect for me because of my love of dogs and a constant reminder of the spiritual brilliance I felt all throughout Asia.


In China, it was all about pearls, pearls, and more pearls.  I visited several pearl markets, and hand-selected individual pearls for a beautiful necklace which I watched being strung especially for me, as well as earrings and a bracelet.


I have been to Cannes many times for ILTM, and I never leave without exquisite olive oils, soaps, and balsamic vinegar.  During my last visit, I ventured outside of Nice and toured an amazing blown-glass factory.  I was very fortunate to meet the artist there, who had studied with the great Chihuly. He gave me a quick lesson on the art of glass blowing.  It was an unforgettable experience, and I bought a stunning blown-glass tray that he made and several colorful glass balls which I use during the holidays.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

I was recently in Santa Fe, and found one of the best shops for Indian artifacts.  It’s called Nambe Trading Post, and I bought two amazing antique Hopi Kachinas, these are handcrafted dolls, spirits or personification of things in the real world.  These spirits are believed to visit the Hopi villages during the first half of the year, and are understood as a powerful being who can use his particular power for human good bringing rainfall, healing, fertility or protection.


Brazilians are well-known for their colorful style and flare, and I purchased several pieces of painted art in Rio and Sao Paulo.

What are your favorite destinations outside of Turks & Caicos?

I’ve been to so many amazing places, but my top three so far are:  Brisbane, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; and Shanghai, China.

Any favorite restaurants around the world?

I could list at least 50! To narrow it down, I thought of places where I looked forward to returning – that’s the true test if you visit a city again and cannot wait to return to a specific restaurant. Then, it’s truly a favorite!”

Daniel: New York City

Rodeio: São Paulo, Brazil

La Mirabelle: Cannes, France

Tomasita’s: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Parallel23: Turks and Caicos

All photos courtesy of Karen Whitt. 

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Here’s the Scoop: Five Ice Cream Shops Around the World You Can’t Miss Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:10:50 +0000 By Evan Upchurch Nevería Roxy’s – Mexico City, Mexico Indulge in Mexico City’s most beloved ice cream produced using artisanal methods.

The post Here’s the Scoop: Five Ice Cream Shops Around the World You Can’t Miss appeared first on The Virtuoso Life.

By Evan Upchurch

Nevería Roxy’s – Mexico City, Mexico

Indulge in Mexico City’s most beloved ice cream produced using artisanal methods. Fresh, fruity flavors shine, including strawberry, pineapple, and lemon – try any of the four locations across the capital.


Nevería Roxy’s
Nevería Roxy’s, Mexico City.

Amy’s Ice Creams – Austin, Texas

Many Austin locals will send you to Amy’s for your sweet tooth cravings – their colorful parlors and funky servers stay true to the city’s pledge to weirdness.

Amy’s Ice Creams.

Berthillon – Paris, France

Perfect your Parisian stroll across Île Saint Louis accompanied by a double scoop of Berthillon’s iconic glace, introduced to the city over sixty years ago.

Berthillon, Paris.

Glacé – Sydney, Australia

Known for their inventive ice-cream-based desserts, such as bombe Alaska and checkerboard terrines, this shop (located in the Summer Hill neighborhood) is a must for all the Australia-visiting gourmands out there.

Glacé, Sydney.

Kurt Farm Shop – Seattle, Washington

In the heart of Capitol Hill, you’ll find an ice cream shop that stays true to the “go green, go local” spirit of Seattle. The owner, Kurt, somewhat of a Seattle food legend, provides fresh products (notably ice cream!) from the cows and crops he raises on his small farm in Vashon. Try one of the more unusual flavors, like rose and fig, or tomato jam.

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The Transformative Power of Sedona’s Mii Amo Spa Resort Thu, 27 Jul 2017 16:12:51 +0000 A journey at Sedona's Mii Amo spa resort includes transformative treatments, curative hikes, and delicious food.

The post The Transformative Power of Sedona’s Mii Amo Spa Resort appeared first on The Virtuoso Life.

By Becca Hensley

The task before me appears simple. But, it also seems like my life depends on it.

I am hypnotized by a wall festooned with 102 identical flacons, each filled with a scintillating, colored liquid. “Squint your eyes,” says Bhakta Ruttiger, an Aura-soma practitioner at Mii Amo, a destination spa in Sedona, Arizona. I feel her urge me forward – and, suddenly driven, I grab a bottle filled with emerald green liquid. Bhakta, whom I first met 15 years ago on my first visit to Mii Amo, and now reconvene with, nods knowingly.

“Next bottle,” she gently orders. I seize another container, this one a bold violet. Increasingly confident, I choose two more, almost carelessly – or so I think. Then, I follow Bhakta into an austere treatment room. Here, she explains the results of my choices, the nuances of something as seemingly simple – and telling – as color.

She first reminds me about the provenance of this energy therapy, devised by Englishwoman Vicky Wall, a blind pharmacist and herbalist who didn’t need to see colors to feel their vibrations. Wall based her healing modality on botanical hues, created from the garden. The theory of Aura-soma is that each color and the order they are chosen can tell your fortune – that is, interpret aspects of your existence, solve issues, ground your soul, and tweak your journey. It can affirm your potential and clarify your path.

Bhakta explains the colors I chose, and what they may mean to me at this point in my life. Her assessment of my current situation (and my past) is stunningly accurate, and mirrors the reading I had with her 15 years ago, though I have made some progress. Flummoxed and awed, I stumble from the spa, feeling empowered and transformed, giddy with the ponderous mysterious of life.

Mii Amo.

The goal of most people who check into the 16-room hotel-within-a-hotel on Enchantment Resort’s red rock-mottled, sun-shimmered, pine forest-speckled expanse is to experience some sort of shift or transformation. Offering four- or seven-night stays, dubbed “journeys,” Mii Amo provides more than 50 distinctive treatments, from classic massages to past life regression sessions. Abundant fitness classes, speeches, blessings, and gatherings occur daily. Wine, cocktails, and beer are available—but also a tempting juice bar. A stay is all-inclusive, with meals taken in the spa’s gourmet, clean-food, southwestern-style café. All itineraries are customized and designed to achieve a goal, whether it’s detox, spiritual illumination, or simple, well-deserved relaxation.

Medicine wheel meditation at Mii Amo.

The spa embraces the healing presence of the mountains in its persona, thanks to its location on the borders of the Coconino National Forest. Explore more than 100 nearby hiking trails, many leading to Sedona’s famous vortexes, locations thought to emit a palpable, healing energy. I enjoyed the Red Rock Inspiration treatment, a personalized guided meditation that draws gravitas from Boynton Canyon’s craggy, paprika-hued rocks.

Exploring the red rocks of Sedona.

Another trail winds to Kachina Woman, a steeple of rock considered sacred by native people. Many visitors feel a curative hum within, a cool wave of utter peace – something tangible, yet unexplainable. According to local legend, Kachina Woman gave birth to the human race right here. This vibe of rebirth makes it a preferred spot to meditate with the sunrise, scribble in a journal, or have a long chat with friends.

On my recent stay, I immersed myself deeply in a metaphysical, otherworldly journey. Before I arrived, a staff member prepared my personalized itinerary based on what I hoped to experience. Though one can change plans upon arrival, having this timetable keeps you moving (or lounging – if that’s what you choose). There is a freedom knowing you can experiment (I had my aura photographed, for example), and believing that you can do as much or as little as you wish. Some people live in their bathrobes, others lounge poolside. I rarely took off my hiking boots, unless I was being slathered with clay or pampered in a facial. At Mii Amo, you hear the truth from highly skilled, intuitive staff – all gifted healers drawn here as a calling. But you only have to go as far as you want. The spa acts as a threshold; a portal to your better self. You don’t have to pass through, but the door’s open for you. It beckons. The quest is up to you.

Mii Amo’s pool.

Virtuoso travelers receive a $100 resort credit (or $200 resort credit for stays of seven nights or more).

All photos courtesy of Mii Amo.

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Go Beyond Beijing: China’s Famed Silk Road Is A Great Adventure Tue, 25 Jul 2017 15:42:58 +0000 You might travel to China for its major metropolises, but consider this new twist: adventure on China's Silk Road.

The post Go Beyond Beijing: China’s Famed Silk Road Is A Great Adventure appeared first on The Virtuoso Life.

By Elaine Glusac

You might travel to China for its major metropolises, but consider this adventurous twist. 

The imperial landmarks of Beijing and Shanghai’s art deco architecture make these cities first and second stops on most Chinese itineraries. When adventure calls, though, try riding a camel train in the Gobi along the fabled Silk Road. The famous east-west trading route started from Xi’an, heading overland to westernmost Xinjiang and on to Uzbekistan, traversing rippling deserts, snowy mountain passes, and the central Asian steppe before reaching the Mediterranean. “The lands of this ancient route are so full of history, from the journeys of Marco Polo to the spread of Buddhism in China, that I can’t think of a better place for a desert adventure,” says New York City-based Virtuoso advisor Crystal Warner, who spends much of the year in Shanghai.

A camel trek in the Mingsha Shan sand dunes.

Along the way, visit the Mogao Caves, nearly 500 sanctuaries carved into cliffs and filled with sculptures and murals representing the world’s largest collection of Buddhist art. Get lost in Kashgar’s tangle of alleyways. And shop markets teeming with trade goods now as they were then.

DO IT: Your travel advisor can work with WildChina, one of Virtuoso’s on-site tour providers, to craft a totally customized seven-day tour of the Silk Road, including visits to the Gobi for a camel trek, the desert oasis of Crescent Moon Lake, and the Mingsha Shan sand dunes, which seem to sing in the wind.

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