Posts Tagged France
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.
The year of 2011 may mark the end of the “staycation” as travelers once again embrace the opportunity to explore the world. Advisors from luxury travel network Virtuoso® say their clientele increased travel purchases by 36 percent from 2009 to 2010, with luxury international leisure trips being the dominant choice. More than 90 percent of Virtuoso’s elite travel agency membership lent their insight to the 2011 Virtuoso Luxe Report, which tracks trends in travel destinations, comparisons to travel in 2010, and above all, forecasts the travel decisions and motivating factors of some of the most upscale travelers in the United States and Canada.
This year’s report shows international travel is slated to be the most popular type of trip in 2011, with 57 percent of respondents reporting clients reserving international trips of eight days or longer. To where will these international travelers be venturing? Italy, France and South Africa nabbed the three most popular international destinations for travelers in 2011, followed by Australia and Mexico. Vietnam took the front-running spot as the most popular emerging destination – a position previously occupied by India, which instead became the second most popular emerging destination; followed by China, the Galapagos Islands and Morocco.
For families traveling in 2011, Europe is also in position to be the most popular destination to tote family and loved ones, continuing to support data that international travel is on the rise. Italy and England were ranked the two most popular family travel destinations for this year. Also included were sunny trips to Hawaii and Costa Rica, followed by a northern trip to Alaska.
Interestingly, the survey reported that family and multi-generational travel is the biggest emerging travel trend for 2011. Additionally, the survey found that more and more travelers are including infants and toddlers in their trip planning. Of those booking travel, the top three motives influencing travel choices included: seeking authentic experiences in new destinations; rest and relaxation; and spending time or reconnecting with loved ones – further supporting the increase of family travel.
The Luxe Report also affirms the value that high-end travelers place on working with a professional travel advisor. When booking vacations, the Virtuoso survey found that the largest influences on consumers’ travel decisions are their travel consultant’s advice, word of mouth and travel publications. In this era of on-line marginalization, experience, knowledge and personalized service still emerge as the very things travelers value.
“The Luxe Report findings offer great insight into the mindset of the upscale traveler and predict the trends in luxury-focused, leisure travel for 2011,” said Virtuoso CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch. “A strong return to international travel indicates a certain level of economic recovery, as does the increase in families traveling together. There is no better way to strengthen personal relationships and family ties than by creating memorable experiences together. A family vacation affords the perfect opportunity to discover a new destination and create bonds that will carry through generations.”
Advisors from Virtuoso member travel agencies were invited to take the survey in December 2010 and January 2011. Results were tabulated from more than 250 responses from the United States and Canada.
To read more about the key findings from the 2011 Virtuoso Luxe Report, click here: http://www.virtuoso.com/thecompany/luxereport2011
Click here to learn more about Virtuoso.