12.13.2014

Christmas at FS Maui, anyone?



A 2 Bedroom Oceanfront Suite at Four Seasons Maui just became available overnight for Festive Season.

Dates of stay: December 24 - January 1

Terms of reservation: Nightly rate is $6100 + tax. Full deposit taken at booking, and the reservation is non-refundable.

Preferred Partner amenities
  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Food and beverage credit of USD100
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites and villas)
  • Now standard at all properties: Complimentary basic Internet (up to 2 devices) in all guest rooms, complimentary premium Internet (up to 4 devices) in all suite
How to book. This will not stay available for long. Call my office immediately (510.647.8444) or phone the resort directly at 800.334.6284. Mention that your travel agent is David from Brownell Travel so that you can receive the Preferred Partner amenities.

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.

12.12.2014

what Parisians do in Paris



What do Parisians do in Paris? There are alternatives to standing in line at the Eiffel Tower, seeing a postage-stamp sized Mona Lisa in the middle of a large gallery with hundreds of tourists crowded in front of her, or having Starbucks coffee in the 6th arrondissement. Much better alternatives!

That's the idea behind this Google Map of 34 places in Paris that Parisians visit on their own. Only one of the 34 spots on this map (the Musée d'Orsay) is an attraction that would be on most tourists to-do lists. This map is a great for your next trip to Paris.

And when you're in Paris, I recommend you stay in one of the city's traditional "palace hotels" — the George V, Le Meurice, the Plaza Athenee, Le Bristol, the Ritz, and Hotel de Crillon (the last two hotels under renovation), or one of the new additions, the Mandarin Oriental, Royal Monceau, Shangri-La, and Park Hyatt Vendome. Need advice about where to stay? I've seen all nine, so please reach out to me. As a Virtuoso travel consultant, I can provide valuable amenities including complimentary daily breakfast for two at each of these hotels, upgrades, and additional perks.

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.

12.10.2014

ANA Takeoff Mode | iPhone app for nervous flyers



It's a cute idea… a little puzzle app that nervous flyers can play with on their iPhones during takeoff, said to be the most stressful part of a flight for anxious flyers. Though developed by ANA, the Japanese airline, the app will of course work on any airline :-)

Take a look at the video at the top. Passengers start playing the game during takeoff, and the app automatically adjusts for the ambient noise inside the cabin. There is apparently a special animation and message when the plane reaches full throttle.

It's free, so give it a try the next time you fly… and let me know what you think. Here's the download link.

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.

12.09.2014

They Eat Horses, Don't They? | The Truth About the French



I loved this book, but then I'm an avid Francophile. Of course, that's the target audience. Written by Piu Marie Eatwell, a Brit whose weekend trip to France ten years ago ended up being a permanent stay,  the author's own love of everything French shines in this enjoyable read.

Eatwell examines 45 "myths" about the French in the course of 45 essays, each examining one particular perception about French life and culture. There are sections of essays related to French (1) cuisine, (2) women, (3) sex, marriage, and children, (4) plumbing, (5) manners, (6) history and society, (7) culture, (8) the city of Paris, (9) going on holiday, and (10) relations with England. Chapters are short, readable, and witty (up to eight pages each) and are full of interesting sidebars, photographs, and footnotes. You will definitely learn much about French life, history, and culture that you didn't know before… such as an enlightening historical discussion of the bidet.

Who should buy this book? Confirmed Francophiles. Future visitors to France. Folks who've been to France a dozen times or more. And if you're keeping score… the myths are pretty evenly divided between True and False. The book goes on sale today; here's a link to the Kindle edition on Amazon.

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.

12.05.2014

Tahiti travel deals | combinable with Virtuoso



If you're planning to book a trip to Tahiti, Bora Bora, or Moorea, some extra value is waiting just around the corner. Tahiti Legends calls it their Twelve Days of Christmas offer. While the full details are here, these are the headlines.

Day 1 (Dec 8) — free airfare to Bora Bora
Day 2 (Dec 9) — free room upgrade
Day 3 (Dec 10) — free night in Tahiti
Day 4 (Dec 11) — free three-course dinner
Day 5 (Dec 12) — free shark and ray snorkel itinerary
Day 6 (Dec. 15) — free circle island tour by jet ski
Day 7 (Dec 16) — free dinner at Bloody Mary's
Day 8 (Dec 17) — free 30 minute spa treatment
Day 9 (Dec 18) — free sunset cruise
Day 10 (Dec 19) — free canoe breakfast
Day 11 (Dec 22) — free four wheel drive jeep safari
Day 12 (Dec 23) — free lagoon cruise and motu picnic

Hint: the biggest value, worth $500, is the free PPT-BOB round trip offer; this has to be booked next Monday, Dec. 8th.

These offers are combinable with Virtuoso amenities when you stay at a Virtuoso resort and book your Tahiti Legends package through your Virtuoso travel consultant. If you've been thinking about a 2015 trip to Bora Bora, this is the time to get in touch. We can talk about the details now … then finalize your booking on one of the twelve days of Christmas.


the fine print (pretty reasonable)
Valid for travel: December 8, 2014 to December 30, 2015.
Must be booked by: December 23, 2014
Special Code: 12DAYS
Disclaimer for all: Special Christmas promotional offer is valid only for bookings made on specified dates, not combinable with any other promotions, may not be modifiable and subject to availability. Certain restrictions may apply. Christmas promotions must be redeemed for the dates listed, and not combinable with each other, i.e. only one Christmas promotion can be applied per booking, based on choice of island or hotel. Promotion not applicable multiple times. 

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.

12.04.2014

my stay in a floating hotel in Tahiti



Actually, the title of this article may be a bit deceptive. I was invited on a educational trip aboard the Paul Gauguin as it sails on a seven night Tahiti and Society Islands cruise. Actually, if anyone would like to take the same cruise and meet me, we'll be departing PPT on 13DEC and returning 20DEC, and fares are as low as $3,995 per person.

I've never been on a cruise before, although I did enjoy a barge trip in Southern France aboard L'Impressioniste. I'm frankly not a cruise person, but I'm willing to give it a try. I will of course share my impressions, comparing my experience aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise to the luxury hotels I enjoy frequenting.

So why this cruise? In addition to an opportunity to take my wife back to Tahiti (she loves snorkeling in the warm waters of the atolls), I'm looking it as an opportunity to do some site inspections of hotels I didn't get to see back in 2007. Here's my original site inspection report, very much out of date as a new hotel has opened (Four Seasons Bora Bora), two hotels have closed (Hotel Bora Bora, Bora Bora Lagoon), Bora Bora Nui is now a Hilton, and St. Regis Bora Bora is now Virtuoso (it wasn't in 2007).


Le Taha'a Island Resort. A Virtuoso property close to Bora Bora, I've booked it but never seen it. We'll spend a couple of hours there the morning of December 15th.

Four Seasons Bora Bora. This resort was still under construction during my last visit (click here to see a picture I took from the water), but we'll be spending a day there on December 16th. FS is picking us up at the dock at 10 a.m. and returning us at 4 p.m. We'll get to see rooms, enjoy the beach, have lunch, and we've even booked spa treatments.

InterContinental Thalasso (on Bora Bora) is owned by the same company that owns Paul Gauguin cruises, and we'll be seeing it on December 17th.

InterContinental Moorea also has the same owner as the Paul Gauguin cruises. We'll be visiting this property the morning of December 18th, followed by an afternoon site inspection of…

Hilton Moorea. There are really two recommended properties on Moorea, and this will give me the opportunity to see both in a single day — quite helpful in helping clients consider their choices on Moorea.


What about cruising aboard the Paul Gauguin as a way to visit Tahiti? It's certainly economical, as all meals and beverages are included in the price of the cruise — and you only have to pack and unpack once while you enjoy visits to Huahine, Taha'a, Bora Bora, Moorea, and Papeete.

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.

email madness




Have you noticed the same thing, more and more promotional emails hitting your inbox?

I spend my working day in front of a computer. A big part of my job is simply managing emails. I get hundreds of emails per day. They're constantly coming in, so I have to prioritize. What do you suppose actually gets my attention?

Requests from clients are my top priority. I am asked for travel advice, hotel recommendations, rates and amenities. I do the requested research, answer the emails, deal with follow up questions, and make bookings. I want to get back to my clients immediately, if possible.

Responses from hotels are next in line. I've sent off questions: Can the hotel guarantee an upgrade? What's the difference between room types? Can a requested service be provided? These also get read as soon as possible, and the information forwarded to clients.

What about the rest? Frankly, there is no time to read the scores of promotional emails that come in each and every hour, much less digest the information. I trash most of them the second they hit my inbox, especially the load of promo emails in my Inbox when I start working at 6 a.m.

My new strategy: I am systematically "unsubscribing" to promotional emails from most travel partners. I've unsubscribed to over a dozen senders during the writing of this blogpost. This doesn't mean I don't value your product. I'm just trying to get some sanity back into my work day!

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.


11.29.2014

Four Seasons Baltimore | inner harbor luxury

view from Executive Suite # 801, shortly before dawn, (c) 2014 by David Ourisman

A contemporary hotel located right in the heart of Baltimore's inner harbor area, I found the Four Seasons Baltimore to be a comfortable and attractive city hotel. The styling is casual and elegant, creating an "at home" feeling in the guest rooms and suites. The effect is pleasant and extremely well done, and I very much enjoyed my stay. The hotel has 256 rooms, of which 45 are suites. I had the opportunity to see a Partial Water View Terrace Room (502 sq ft), and we stayed in a FS Executive Suite with Water View (953 sq ft).
Regular guest rooms are in the range of 502 - 530 sq foot (inclusive of bathroom and closet area). Entering the door of your room, there is a closet and luggage storage area straight ahead, large enough to use as a dressing area. The bathroom is to one side of the entrance, equipped with a single vanity, TV in the mirror, WC, step-in shower (with both rain shower and wall mounted shower heads), and deep soaking tub. The bedroom is to the other side of the entry. The Partial Water View Terrace room we saw had a King bed, desk space (thoughtfully equipped with four power sockets at desktop level), and sitting area. The bedroom of the Terrace room had pleasant dimensions, more square than rectangular, which helped create the hotel's residential feel.
Thoughts on which room category to choose:
  1. The views from Full Water View rooms are stunning, so if you enjoy a great view, it's definitely worthwhile to upsell into these categories. Because the hotel is frequently 100% occupied, you can't count on an upgrade into the best views.
  2. Unless you intend to make significant use of an outdoor terrace (which occupies some of the room's total square footage), I recommend booking a "regular" guest room in order to enjoy a larger bedroom and sitting area.
We stayed in a FS Executive Suite with Water View (#801), and it was a WOW suite. Wrapping around the northwest corner of the building, the LR faced directly north toward the heart of the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards. The BR occupied the corner, with views both to the south and west. Moreover, the hallway leading to the bathroom and dressing room area had west facing floor-to-ceiling windows; the panorama included a good view of the iconic "Dominoes Sugars" sign to the south (see the photo above). The Executive Suite's bathroom was larger than that of guest rooms but still provided only a single vanity.

Other facilities: The hotel has a fully equipped Fitness center on the fourth floor (open 24/7), offering harbor views while you exercise. An outdoor Infinity pool, open only in the warmer months, offers lounge chairs and resort service reminiscent of Four Seasons beach resorts (roving attendants with Evian mist and occasional cold snacks). The hotel's full service Spa offers complimentary sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi for guests. FSPP guests can make good use of the $100 spa credit, part of the amenity package.
Book FS Baltimore with Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel consultant to receive the complimentary FSPP amenities:
  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Spa credit of USD100 once during stay (not applicable to products)
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites and villas)
  • Now standard at all properties: Complimentary Basic Internet (up to 2 devices) in all guest rooms, Complimentary Premium Internet (up to 4 devices) in all Suites.

copyright (c) 2014 by David Ourisman LLC. As affiliates of Brownell Travel, we can provide our clients with Virtuoso amenities and amenities from other Brownell preferred hotel partners including Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, and more. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.