Cece Drummond, VirtuosoBy Cece Drummond
Director, Tours Products

I recently had the opportunity to spend five days in one of the world’s great and magical cities – Istanbul. While the sights there were majestic enough, the trip was even more special because of the VIP services I enjoyed there. The good news is that you don’t need to work in the travel industry to enjoy a VIP vacation. But you do need to know what’s possible – and how to make it happen before you leave for your trip.

Istanbul Ataturk Airport is huge and very busy. So the private meet-and-greet service awaiting me was a blessing. I stepped off the plane, and just as I exited the jetway were two escorts waiting for me with a sign bearing my name. They walked me past the hundreds of people in the immigration line and right up to an agent. I was the first one to collect my luggage. Note: If you are flying business class on Turkish Airlines, you’ll have an expedited customs line. But this doesn’t work for any other carrier.

Private, Customized Tour

VIP vacation: visit Istanbul's Spice Market on a customized tour
One important element of a VIP vacation: visiting sites such as Istanbul’s Spice Market with your own guide

On the way into the city, I found out about the next part of my VIP vacation. My guide reviewed my custom-designed itinerary with me, and pointed out spots along the ride to orient myself with the European and Asian sides of Istanbul separated by the Bosphorus. Whatever your interest in Istanbul, Virtuoso’s in-country experts can work with your advisor to create tours just for you.

Perhaps you’d like to cover the must-see sights – the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and its harem section, and more. Another do-not-miss experience is a peaceful private boat ride on the Bosphorus, which provides a different view of the city. If you’re a shopper, have your guide take you to the spice market. You will marvel at the array of exotic spices (you can take them home in vacuum-sealed packages), as well as nuts, figs and of course all varieties of Turkish Delights, a jelly-like candy. Shoppers also can’t miss the Grand Bazaar, with its famed Turkish carpets as well as everything from gold to tiles to scarves. Be sure to accept an apple tea from the shopkeepers as they display their goods to you.

VIP vacation: stay at a luxury Virtuoso property like The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul
A luxury property such as The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul is an essential part of a VIP vacation

Luxury Accommodations

A key element of my Istanbul VIP vacation was the hotel. At The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul, I recharged in the amazing indoor pool, spa and exercise facility. The lovely Turkish sauvignon blanc in the hotel bar also helped! The extensive buffet breakfast was much needed each day before I set out for a full day of sightseeing.

The Ritz-Carlton is one of six Virtuoso properties in Istanbul, and each of them offers amenities at no extra charge just for clients of Virtuoso travel advisors. Click here to see the variety of luxury hotels that will offer you complimentary benefits such as an upgrade to the next category of room; a credit for hotel bars, restaurants and spa; and daily breakfast.

Deluxe Departure

VIP vacation: spend time in an airline lounge like Turkish Airlines'
Spending time in an airline lounge such as the Turkish Airlines one in Istanbul will make travel more enjoyable

On your way home, if you’re flying Turkish Airlines business class, get to the airport nice and early so you can visit their lounge. It’s one of the largest I’ve seen – two floors equipped with various food stations, bars, showers and more. But give yourself plenty of time to walk to your gate and shop your way through the airport.

How You Can Enjoy a VIP Vacation

It’s easy to arrange a VIP vacation experience. Go to the advisor catalog in virtuoso.com and type the destination you have in mind into the search bar on the upper left. Advisors who have expertise in your destination will appear, and you can contact any of them to help you plan your VIP vacation. Their knowledge, resources and special access will help you travel in the style to which you will become accustomed.