Good news for those ready to travel again (according to our recent survey, that’s 42 percent of you), hotels are reopening their doors … and their suites, spas, and poolside cabanas. Of course, things don’t look the same as they used to – until there’s an effective Covid-19 vaccine or treatment, social distancing and mask-wearing will remain the necessary norm. Our favorite hotels are adapting with style, implementing new safety protocols and delivering the escapes we’re craving.

Virtuoso travel advisors are getting back out there, checking into hotels near and far to pick up some firsthand knowledge that will help travelers make the best future vacation decisions for their own comfort levels. We asked a few advisors to tell us about their recent stays, and here’s what they want you to know about checking in.

A Beach Club suite balcony at The Cloister at Sea Island.
A Beach Club suite balcony at The Cloister at Sea Island.

The Cloister at Sea Island
Virtuoso travel advisor Kate Johnson flew from Houston to Jacksonville with her family in late June for a five-day stay at The Cloister at Sea Island, a 200-room coastal Georgia retreat. The resort reopened last month, debuting renovated Beach Club suites steps from the water. “The Lowcountry has always been on my domestic bucket list and Sea Island is a client favorite,” Johnson says. “The various styles of accommodations appeal to so many: families, golfers, multigenerational travelers, and couples.”

First impressions: All employees were wearing masks, hand sanitizer was readily available, and there were plexiglass partitions and social distancing stickers on the floor at check-in to remind travelers to keep their distance.

What felt different? Several restaurants were closed, room service wasn’t available [The Cloister will begin reintroducing in-room dining next week], and the food and cocktail selection was limited. Housekeeping wasn’t as frequent to help limit exposure, but guests can request more cleaning.

And what felt the same? The level of service was great, and the resort was as beautiful. We had a great, socially distanced meal at Rainbow Island and had dinner at the River Bar. We took a fun jet-ski ride (and saw tons of dolphins!), my husband golfed, and we enjoyed the beach and family pools and rented a cabana at the adults-only pool.

Your advice for travelers? The Cottages at Sea Island would be a nice option for families who want to be away from the resort but still have access to its amenities. There’s a grocery store nearby for beach toys, snacks, and food – the Cottages and new Beach Club suites have their own kitchens. Have your travel advisor make dining reservations in advance, since options and space are limited. And of course, always keep a mask and sanitizer on you.

Virtuoso guests receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

A log cabin at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Colorado.
Anderson’s Cabin at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. (@ritzcarltonbachelorgulch)

The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
Colorado’s 180-room Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is an ideal social-distancing escape, with its direct access to Beaver Creek’s surrounding forests and trails. During a recent three-day stay, Virtuoso advisor Chelsea Martin took advantage of those wide-open spaces.

First impressions: For the most part I thought the new cleanliness protocols and social distancing guidelines were integrated well. I’d already stayed a couple nights at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel earlier in June, and the new guidelines felt consistent across the brand. I think protocols such as QR code menus, six-foot social distancing markers, and recommendations to not share elevators are going to become standard everywhere.

How was your stay? As a person who generally doesn’t enjoy crowded spaces, I love the social distancing protocols. The pool never felt crowded, the emphasis on outdoor dining was gladly welcomed, and the increased sanitation measures (especially in the gym!) were appreciated. We didn’t partake in any organized resort activities, but we still did our fair share on the property – hiking around the resort, enjoying some pool time, having a picnic at Anderson’s Cabin, and, of course, indulging in our morning coffee and evening wine on our balcony with its stunning mountain views.

Your advice for travelers? Make sure to talk to your travel advisor about what’s open and closed where you want to go. A hotel might be known for its spa, but the spa could be closed; on the other hand, a hotel that’s well known for its culinary program could be offering some once-in-a-lifetime dining options as it innovates to adapt to this new climate.

Virtuoso guests receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

Bellagio Fountains
The Fountains show must go on. (MGM International)

On June 4, when Las Vegas’ 3,933-room Bellagio began welcoming guests back to Sin City, Virtuoso agency executive Jim Strong was there, checking in for an overnight stay. “My colleagues and I wanted to assess the safety standards of one of the world’s most traveled-to destinations,” Strong says. “It was evident that Bellagio wants to keep everyone safe while maintaining the fun factor that Las Vegas is known for.”

First impressions: We were greeted outside with big hellos from the bell staff, who were wearing masks. Inside, temperature checks for guests, social distancing, and protective shields at check-in were the norm. You couldn’t help but notice the quiet casino area, with fewer seats, every other machine turned off, and plexiglass partitions at the gaming tables.

What about your guest room? The door to my room and the minibar were both sealed with tape to prove they had been completely sanitized. Extra items, including magazines and decorative pillows, had been removed; and we were told that we could opt-out of dailiy housekeeping if requested. An in-room amenity kit came with hand sanitizer, masks, and a Bellagio-branded stylus for opening doors and pushing elevator buttons.

Were the restaurants open? Not every restaurant and bar was open [as of early July, 17 of Bellagio’s restaurants and bars are back open], but there were sufficient options. We had drinks and snacks at the Petrossian Bar – the menu was only accessible only by scanning your phone. The resort’s new Mayfair Supper Club was also great.

Virtuoso guests receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

The lobby at Ocean House Rhode Island.
Ocean House’s lobby.

Ocean House Rhode Island
New York City-based Virtuoso travel advisor Limor Decter and her husband made the three-hour drive to Watch Hill, Rhode Island, in late June to celebrate their anniversary at the Ocean House, a 68-room Victorian-style estate overlooking the Atlantic. “I’ve always been intrigued by this stunning grand dame hotel, and wanted to travel to a domestic destination to lead by example,” Decter says. “I want to inspire my clients to travel again and I want to be able to instill trust and confidence.”

First impressions? Ocean House has put together a complete health and safety plan, and they did a terrific job executing new protocols while delivering five-star service. I felt safe throughout my stay and noticed constant sanitizing and cleaning. The staff was exceptionally welcoming, gracious, and well-versed in all the protocols. Check-in was expedited, and everyone walking through the lobby or taking the elevator wore masks. The receptionist walked us to our room and asked about our housekeeping and turndown preferences. The entire staff took great measures to make guests feel safe.

Highlights of your stay? We went to the Beach Club daily and explored Watch Hill, visiting the Watch Hill Lighthouse, the Flying Horse Carousel, and many of the art- and antiques-filled boutiques. The hotel offers several daily guided tours focusing on its history, art, and architecture.

A favorite amenity: Each guest receives a reusable water bottle to use throughout their stay. Eliminating single-use plastics is one of the hotel’s many sustainability efforts.

Your advice for travelers? Go, go, go. It’s so refreshing and exciting to travel again, to explore and gain new perspective. It’s always a great idea to change your scenery – life is not meant to be lived in one place. I can’t wait to keep traveling.

Virtuoso guests receive breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.

Top Photo: Ocean House

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