8.04.2014

Virtuoso Travel Week | less than a week away



You might be interested in this video about Virtuoso Travel Week and all of the preparation that takes place for Bellagio to host 4,000 travel professionals. Travel Week has grown so large that attendees also stay at Aria and Vdara (not to mention the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, and other Las Vegas resorts).

Travel Week is the biggest event that takes place at Bellagio. All 8,000 Bellagio employees are involved in putting on the event (no one can take a vacation week during Travel Week). Despite the large number of guests, everything flows smoothly, and Bellagio's staff is incredibly hospitable. I even enjoy saying hi to the security personnel who make sure you're wearing your Travel Week credentials. Same people every year … almost like family!

Why travel to Vegas in the middle of August? It's not the balmy weather. It's the opportunity to build relationship with the hundreds of hotel sales reps — the very same people who help Virtuoso travel consultants create the magic to help get you upgraded and take care of your special requests. I have about 300 sales appointments during the week, as well the even more productive information encounters where relationships are enhanced.

Example: here's a true story from last year's Travel Week, republished from my August 15, 2013 post:

I was seated at a banquet table when an email came in from a client who had several specific requests related to a prospective booking at Four Seasons Hong Kong. Could he get a spa menu? Could he arrange for child care? Could he make an reservation at one of the hotel's two three-star Michelin restaurants?

I was seated immediately to the left of the hotel's Director of Sales and Marketing. I handed her my iPhone, she read the request, said "Confirmed!", and I immediately let my client know. When I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning, the restaurant reservation had been made, the spa menu was attached, and information on child care was provided. I forwarded it back to my client.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.01.2014

Xander Bar at Four Seasons St Petersburg




Recently in St. Petersburg on Oceania's Baltic Cruise, my associate Sarah chose to forgo a tour of yet another beautiful cathedral (St. Isaac's) and took the opportunity to dash across the street to the newly opened (and utterly gorgeous) Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Located two block from the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum, facing Alexandrovsky Garden and St. Isaac's Square

Xander Bar is named after Tzar Alexander I and is decorated to create a clubby, library feeling. She took the picture above, and it give an idea of the beauty and sense of detail you will experience at the new Four Seasons St. Petersburg.

You can get an Experience More 3,000 RUB food and beverage credit, in addition to the valuable amenities you receive by booking through any Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel consultant: daily full American breakfast for two, a $100 spa credit, and a one-category upgrade upon arrival if available.

Is St. Petersburg on your bucket list? Get in touch, whether you want to travel by land or sea!

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

Plaza Athenee Paris | reopening today



Plaza Athenee Paris reopened this morning, August 1, at 7 a.m. Paris time. The property had been closed for many months for a renovation project incorporating a recently acquired building into the existing hotel. The Art Deco hotel is located on avenue Montaigne, and all front-facing rooms offer guests a view of the Eiffel Tower (if you look off to the right).

A reopening special dubbed "Be The First" is being offered for stays in August at Plaza Athenee Paris, subject to availability. A quick check of the GDS indicates that these rates are discounted 20€ per night. Guests receive American breakfast for two, two Black Rose Royal cocktails at the bar, a chocolate souvenir, and a "ribbon cutting" picture of your room.

An even better value is to book through any Diamond Club travel consultant. You'll pay the regular rate (i.e., no 20€ discount) … but in return you receive the following Diamond Club amenities:


A guaranteed one-category upgrade. Diamond Club guests are upgraded at booking. You want to stay in a Deluxe Room? Just book a Superior! Guaranteed upgrades up to the Junior Suite category.

100€ hotel credit. Yes, one hundred euros, not dollars, and it can even come off your hotel bill. Book a room, and you get a one-time 100€ credit. Book a full Suite, and you score a daily 100€ credit.

Full Breakfast Daily. You can take it in any venue. Want breakfast in bed? Order room service. Want to order off the menu? Anything except caviar and champagne is included, including tax and gratuity.

Free premium internet. Their highest speed internet, for unlimited devices, all for free.


Diamond Club amenities also apply to the other Dorchester Collection hotel in Paris, Le Meurice, as well as to Diamond Club bookings at every Dorchester hotel in the world. (Note that the hotel credit is in local currency. Staying in London? You get a cool 100£ in credits.)

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.28.2014

FS Punta Mita | as nice a beach as you'll ever find

selfie taken during a morning beach walk at FS Punta Mita

I'm still remembering my three days at the Four Seasons Punta Mita, especially this morning walk down the beach with Claire. Four Seasons was running a "selfie" contest for the best selfie taken by the Preferred Partner agents on the trip, and this was my entry. Didn't win, but while it stretches the usual definition of the genre, I believe (1) it is a selfie and (2) it actually has some photographic merit. 

Double-click on the picture to see the grains of soft sand on this wide beach. And did I mention that the water was as blue, warm, and inviting as it could possibly have been?

Best time to visit? I am told the best weather in Punta Mita is from November to April. You're out of the rainy season and the water is an incredible shade of blue… Located at the same latitude as Hawaii, you can see whales off the Mexican coast at the same times of the year that you can see them in Hawaii.

Fans of Four Seasons will be very comfortable at FS Punta Mita. Rooms are large, comfortable, with everything that you'd expect: King beds with Queen-size pull-out sofa beds that can easily accommodate 4 kids, marble bathrooms with dual vanities, separate tub and step-in shower, and WC. Preferred Partner amenities provide guests with extra value: free daily breakfast from the sumptuous buffet, a $100 food and beverage credit that should get you a free lunch for two, and room upgrade if available, as well as any promotions such as Third Night Free or Resort Credit rates. Contact your Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel consultant to take advantage.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.19.2014

FS Punta Mita | beach paradise in Mexico

lounging under the manzanita trees at FS Punta Mita

It's all about the beach. Four Seasons Punta Mita has perhaps the nicest beach I've ever seen. Long, wide, and sandy, it's also uncrowded as the beach can only be accessed through the resort. In fact, the beach is so long at FS Punta Mita that there are actually two beaches. Pictured above is the quiet beach, the active beach being on the other side of the main pool area.

We were welcomed by a beach attendant offering piƱa coladas. We chose two lounges under the deep shade provided by a row of manzanita trees, and we were provided with complimentary towels and a menu. As is typical with Four Seasons resorts, an attendant came by periodically with small treats (I recall the frozen pineapple popsicle). The mid-July ocean water was warm, clear, and beautiful — just the perfect temperature to slip right in without even a momentary hesitation about "is it going to be cold."

Especially good values are available, especially if you use a Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel consultant to make your booking. You'll receive complimentary daily breakfast for two, a $100 food and beverage credit, room upgrade if available, and free basic WiFi... along with every third night free for selected dates. An all-inclusive plan is also available, and the Kids for All Seasons program is free of charge.

Guest rooms are large and comfortable. If you're a fan of Four Seasons, you'll feel very much at home at FS Punta Mita; the rooms have everything you would expect. Casitas have marble floors with an area rug in the "living room" section of your room and a Queen-size sofa bed that will easily accommodate two children. Garden view casitas are attractive, and Ocean view casitas offer a straight-on view of the ocean.

For a WOW experience, consider an Oceanfront casita or suite (with a clear, totally unimpeded view of the Pacific) or a Beachfront casita or suite from which you can step out from your patio right onto the quiet beach pictured above. In addition to Residences and Villas, guests who really want to splurge can choose the Coral Suite (one of two incredible 5 bedroom Presidential Suites).

The grounds are extensive, with just 175 rooms and suites spread over 26 acres of oceanfront resort, including two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses and four restaurants. While this can mean a bit of walking, every time I dialed "0" and asked for a cart, a golf cart came for me within a couple of minutes. Punta Mita is easy to get to from many US destinations with easy non-stop flights to Puerto Vallarta.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.11.2014

The Brando | this place looks fabulous

The Brando, Tetiaroa

Just heard about this brand-new resort named after Marlon Brando. The Brando is set on the late actor's private Tahitian island, Tetiaroa, just a 15 minute flight from Tahiti. Small and intimate, guests stay in one of thirty-five luxury villas spread along the beachfront, each with a private plunge pool.

Environmentally sustainable, villas are powered with renewable sources of non-fossil energy. This is an all-inclusive resort with all meals as well as daily complimentary services including one excursion, a spa treatment, and laundry service.

Save 40% during the soft opening, now until the end of September, 2014.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.09.2014

your chance to win a Dakota Clip Clock


Dakota Watch Company sent me a review copy of the clip-on alarm clock shown above. Called the Clip Clock, it would appeal to outdoor and adventure travelers. The watch is extremely sturdy and comes with an impressive five year warranty.

The Clip Clock is just one of their styles. Other models have flashlights, knives, scissors, thermometers, bottle openers, and fishing line nippers. Dakota is said to be launching a Smart Watch early next year.

So here's your chance to win a prize! Book an outdoor travel adventure through me (with any Virtuoso resort, lodge, or tour company) between now and the end of July, tell me you're interested in the Clip Watch when you make the booking, and one lucky winner whose name is chosen at random will receive the watch! US residents (or delivery) only.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.03.2014

China 72 hour transit without visa

Temple of Heaven, Beijing — photo (c) David Ourisman, all rights reserved
A relatively new policy allows travelers to China with US passports (and quite a few other European and Asian countries as well) to avoid the hassle of applying for a Chinese visa if you meet some rather precise criteria. To summarize:

1. Your stay in China is under 72 hours
2. You are both arriving and departing from the same city — Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and a few other cities
3. You're stopping in China enroute from your country of origin, through China, to a third country

My friend Ben S of PointsPros just took advantage of this program on his flight (which routed him from Zurich through Beijing en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — don't ask!) and blogged about it here. A really interesting article with some practical advice, if you're planning to do the same thing. (Ben's team has been phenomenal in helping me use miles for award travel).

Traveling to Beijing or Shanghai? Any Virtuoso travel consultant can provide you with free amenities at ten (10) hotels in Beijing and seven (7) hotels in Shanghai — complimentary daily breakfast for two, room upgrades, and other added perks — added value making these luxury hotels your best deal in these cities.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.