1.22.2020

Hotel Castille | wonderful 4* Parisian property



by guest columnist Jessica G. Ourisman

When my boyfriend and I moved to Paris, we were initially stranded — stranded at The Ritz, mind you, but stranded nonetheless. Although we had leased an apartment in advance of our arrival, both our rental agent and property manager were MIA. This meant that the two of us, our two miniature schnauzers, and more checked luggage than you should ever travel with, were left with nowhere to go.

France has a reputation for being generally dog-friendly, but this is not entirely accurate. The boutique hotels in the 7th arrondissement were unwilling to accept our pets. Luckily, my dad and stepmom were staying in a suite at The Ritz and they graciously loaned us the use of their room for the afternoon. However, while The Ritz is a spectacular place — a vision that Ernest Hemingway equated with heaven — to stay there indefinitely was beyond our means (and that's putting it nicely).

It ended up being an entire day and night before we could gain access to our apartment. In the meantime, my dad booked us a room at the Hotel Castille on rue Cambon. Situated directly behind The Ritz, which you enter off the Place Vendome, Castille's location proved ideal for the transfer of our luggage. Moreover, its location in the central 1st arrondissement is ideal for sightseeing, shopping, and dining. Walking distance from Coco Chanel's O.G. atelier, amble just a bit further to find The Joelle Ciocco Spa where you can get a world-class facial from Paris' cult-favorite, celebrity esthetician.

Hotel Castille was perfect for us. A charming 4-star hotel with a boutique feel, it provides all the necessary amenities. While staying at The Ritz provides an immersive experience into France's lavish cultural legacy, the stylish-but-contemporary decor at Hotel Castille imparts a less extravagant — but more livable — Italian-inspired feel.

We were thrilled. Our top floor room offered a view of the Parisian rooftops, while in-room dining made it possible for us to snack while still sleeping off our jet-lag. Guest services brought up a dog bed and bowls for our furry "children," and we were able to truly relax for what seemed like the first time in months.

The next morning, our apartment was finally ready for move-in. We enjoyed a buffet-style breakfast, including what tasted like drip coffee (versus espresso, which you will find almost everywhere else in Paris). Checkout was a pleasant surprise at a price that — unlike that of the Ritz — was also much more "livable." 

Although we didn't sample many of Hotel Castille's amenities — including a fitness room and a restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef — the four of us (pups included) could not have been happier during our brief stay.

Note from David — We can offer Travel Leaders Select amenities at Hotel Castille.
  • Complimentary Full American Buffet breakfast for two daily
  • Early check-in and late check-out subject to availability 
  • Upgrade upon arrival subject to availability
  • $100 F&B voucher for the restaurant (not including minibar)
copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.21.2020

three reasons NOT to book this online rate...




Online bookings can be a big mistake, and this article will highlight one of the pitfalls of using expedia, hotels.com, or other online wholesalers. This information is based on a mock booking at the beautiful Park Hyatt Sydney — a one-night stay on 14FEB for the lead-in room. The screenshot above is from expedia.com, and the rate is displayed in US dollars.

It would be a mistake to book this rate online. Here are three reasons why...


Reason One — expedia's rate is non-refundable

Take a careful look at the small print at the top center of the screenshot, just above "Free WiFi," you'll see the words Non-Refundable. Click on the question mark icon, you'll find this explanation.




Reason Two — expedia's explanation is deceptive

"This specially discounted rate?" Expedia seems to justify the non-refundable rate with the claim that they're somehow saving you money ... but they're NOT.

The Hyatt website shows a rate $983 with tax included. Hotel rates in Australia always include tax, but Expedia is hiding the room tax. You won't know about it unless you click the "price details" link. Or until you book the room and learn that your card has been charged a non-refundable $983. (By the way, the rate on hyatt.com is refundable.)




Reason Three — you're missing out on an even better value

For the same $983 USD, you can book the same room through your Virtuoso travel advisor, make no prepayment, have the freedom to cancel up to 48 hours before arrival, and receive additional Virtuoso amenities that will definitely save you money.

  • Daily Full Breakfast for two per bedroom, served in The Dining Room
  • One way airport transfer in BMW 7 Series (includes tolls)
  • an upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Do you enjoy being your own travel agent and booking on the web? At least book through the Virtuoso website to score these amenities! This link will take you to the Park Hyatt Sydney page on Virtuoso.com. Fill in your dates, select a Virtuoso travel advisor, and take advantage of the best luxury value out there!

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.17.2020

which rate would you book?



This is a true story, and the booking in question was in process when I started this blog. A client wanting to book a one-night stay in Beverly Hills asked for rates. I quoted the Virtuoso rate, $429. She came back to me and said she found an online rate of $364.

Which is the better value?

$364 is an Advance Purchase rate. You have to prepay in full, and after one day the reservation becomes non-refundable. You cannot even make changes. What do you get?
  • a room for the night
$429 is the Virtuoso rate. It's a flexible rate You just provide a credit card guarantee, and you can change or cancel anytime up to three days before arrival. What do you get?
  • a room for the night
  • daily breakfast for two
  • a $100 credit towards food and beverages
  • a room upgrade, if available

Which rate would you book? The better value is obviously the Virtuoso rate. Clearly the lowest price you find on the internet is not always the best value.


P.S. — they booked the Virtusoso rate!

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.13.2020

Australia needs our support




We are all aware of the ongoing bushfires in Australia. They have been all over the news, but it's important to know where they are burning. One of my travel partners, based in North Queensland, writes this:
We are totally unaffected by the bushfires currently causing havoc in the south. We are seeing clients cancelling travel unnecessarily due to media coverage.
Only two areas often visited by international visitors have been affected — Kangaroo Island and the Blue Mountains. 
Sydney, Melbourne and other major cities, Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Great Ocean Road, Winelands, Uluru, the Kimberley and more are unaffected
Affected areas — Kangaroo Island is a small island, 100 miles south of Adelaide (I have circled it on the map above). The Wolgan Valley, in the Blue Mountains, is 115 miles west of Sydney.

Unaffected areas — The Great Barrier Reef is 1200 miles north of Sydney. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is 1260 miles west of Sydney. Would you cancel a trip to Chicago, Illinois because of fires burning in Key West, Florida, 1243 miles away?

The fires have been tragic. An estimated one billion animals have perished in the blazes, and their natural habitat has been destroyed. Southern Ocean Lodge has been totally destroyed, but Baillie Lodges is committed to rebuilding.

Australia needs our tourism support to assist in its rebuilding. Don't cancel your trip at a time when it's most needed. Travel instead to areas unaffected by the fires. Australia is a vast nation, virtually the same size as the continental United States ... and a most incredible place to visit.

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.09.2020

great business class deal to Europe




Book a Tauck Tour to Europe and score round-trip business class air for $2990 per person. Airfares are refundable up to 60 days before departure, and only a deposit is required to reserve.

But first, why a Tauck Tour? A family-owned business since it was founded by Arthur Tauck, Sr. in 1925, three generations of Taucks have led this tour company ever since. Specializing in group escorted travel, the great thing about Tauck is that you'll never feel like you're being herded around in a group. You won't be crowded onto a full 49-passenger bus. You won't find yourself following behind a tour guide holding a flag. And in place of the cookie-cutter experiences provided on big bus tours, each of Tauck's 140+ unique tour features exclusive, out-of-the-ordinary experiences that will bring you a lifetime of memories.

Fully inclusive — all taxes, fuel surcharges, admission costs, meals, and beverages — Tauck experiences have no hidden fees and no surprises. I'll be on my first Tauck Tour experience this April, a river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, and I'll be sharing highlights of the journey.

Take Off With Tauck — round-trip air at $790 pp economy, $1690 pp premium economy, and $2990 pp business class. Book by Feb. 29th for travel through August 31st. Read below for the fine print.

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.
  • Take Off With Tauck is valid on trips departing March 1 through August 31, 2020 as indicated: valid on all Tauck Europe land trips, European river cruises, Tauck Bridges Europe trips, and Europe small ship cruises (Note: Venice & the Dalmatian Coast small ship cruises departing March 1 through September 30, 2020).
  • Above trips must be booked January 9 through February 29, 2020.
  • Tauck’s air package is available to all guests departing from select US and Canadian gateways to Europe; available for new bookings only (subject to availability). Air must be booked with Tauck, and a deposit is required at the time you make the booking. Air is refundable up to 60 days before departure.
  • Premium Economy cabin is offered on trans-Atlantic flights and select carriers only. 
  • Not combinable with other offers.







1.06.2020

clients choice awards — part two

Churchill & Big Ben (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Last week's blog featured the top five hotels booked by my clients in 2019. My methodology was quite simple — the hotels were ranked in order of the total dollars spent by my clients over the course of 2019. At the very top were some of my very favorite hotels and resorts in the world: #1 - Four Seasons Hualalai, #2 - Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach, #3 - Four Seasons Maui, #4 - Le Meurice, and #5 - Peninsula Tokyo.

Rounding out my clients' top ten are five likewise brilliant choices, including one unexpected surprise.

#6 — Rocco Forte Brown's Hotel. A city full of great hotels, Brown's Hotel came in at the very top of London's hotel choices in 2019. A very traditional luxury hotel located in Mayfair, the hotel was founded in 1837. Comprised of eleven Georgian townhouses, you'll enjoy 21st century comforts within the hotel's lovingly renewed 19th century British architecture. Guests looking for a hotel with an unmistakable British atmosphere should definitely consider Brown's.

#7 — Four Seasons Orlando. Are your kids begging you to take them to Disney World? Four Seasons is the obvious choice for luxury-minded guests. Located within the Disney complex, guests enjoy early park admission each morning with complimentary transfers provided to and from the theme parks (so you don't have to bother with parking). An on-resort Concierge is the perfect resource to plan your Disney adventure, guests in Park View rooms can view the nightly fireworks in their pajamas ... and the most brilliant feature of all? Leave the theme park in the afternoon when it's hot and crowded, and relax while your kids enjoy the Splash Zone pool at Four Seasons.

#8 — Marbella Club. A golf and beach resort on the Andalucian coast, think of Marbella Club as a luxurious but exotic destination for a family beach vacation in sunny Spain. A Kids Club offers activities for children, golfers will enjoy complimentary greens fees on the resort's exclusive 18-hole golf course, and guests can pamper themselves at the resort's Thalasso Spa. Don't forget the cultural opportunities — it's a five minute drive to Old Town Marbella and just 90 minutes to the not-to-be-missed Ahambra Palace in Granada.

#9 — Silversea Cruises. Yes, we book cruises, and I've done a fair amount of cruising myself over the past couple of years... but let's differentiate between true "luxury" cruise lines such as Silversea vs. lesser "premium" cruise lines. Silversea offers intimate ships (300 rooms or smaller), larger rooms with nothing but ocean views, fine dining with specialty restaurants included, no added charges for select wines and liquors, and gratuities included. Find an itinerary that intrigues you, and you'll pack and unpack just one time. Oh ... and that sale price you pay to get on a premium ship matters little; it's the price you have to pay when you get off. All-inclusive luxury means ... no unpleasant surprises!

#10 — Montage Los Cabos. One of the new resorts in Los Cabos, Montage has impressed everyone who's stayed. Here's what one very happy client wrote after his stay: "Montage Cabo absolutely blew us away.  It is by far the best resort in the area by a mile and we wouldn’t go anywhere else now...  In addition to the typical Montage highest standard of service, food, rooms, etc., the swimmable beach is gorgeous.  Never seen a beach like that anywhere in Mexico." High praise, indeed!

I can offer the following amenities at the above hotels through Virtuoso, Sir Rocco's Knights, and Four Seasons Preferred Partner — and on select Silversea cruises through Virtuoso Voyages. While the details differ slightly by property, you'll receive at least the following at these hotels:

  • daily breakfast for two
  • $100 hotel credit towards incidental expenses
  • room upgrade if available
  • early check-in and late check-out if available
  • complimentary internet

Get in touch for the full details!

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

12.31.2019

clients choice awards — top five

Hualalai beach tree at sunset (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Travel magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure post annual Readers Choice rankings of the best hotels in the world. I don't know the magazines' methodology, but their results are sometimes laughable ... such as the time a "nice enough" luxury hotel just off Times Square won the designation of Best Hotel in the World.

I'll be totally transparent about my methodology. Though I'm semi-retired, I do continue to work with a select group of Ourisman Travel clients. These are their top five choices ranked in order of the volume of sales to these hotels and resorts.

#1 — Four Seasons Hualalai. My personal favorite resort in Hawaii, Hualalai is the top resort in the world of all Ourisman Travel clients. Hualalai is the antithesis of the "big concrete box by the beach" that so many beach resorts tend to be. Luxurious and newly renovated guest rooms are located in detached two-story buildings arrayed along four beachfront crescents and around the green of the 18th hole of the golf course. I love Hualalai for its casual luxury. Guests enjoy great food while dining right by the beach where flip-flops are perfectly fine for that "sand between your toes" experience even at dinner. Click here for my slide show explaining the crescents of Hualalai.

#2 — Dorado Beach, Ritz-Carlton Reserve. My personal favorite resort in the Caribbean, I actually vacationed here as a teenager back in the 1960's when Dorado Beach was a part of Rockresorts. Like Hualalai, Dorado Beach is not a "big concrete box by the beach." Guest rooms are found in detached two story buildings, each with a direct ocean view and some with private plunge pools. West Beach rooms step out right onto the beach while East Beach rooms feature the sound of the waves crashing up against the beach rocks... what a restful sound when going to sleep. The beach is great ... soft, white sand and swimmable ocean water.

#3 — Four Seasons Maui. If you catch the trend, beach resorts are tops on our list ... and Hawaii is our clients' favorite destination. Maui was Four Seasons' first resort — set on a wide, sandy, swimmable beach with snorkeling — and it continues to be a popular draw attracting a trendy, cosmopolitan set of guests. High end shopping is available nearby at The Shops at Wailea. The biggest difference: while guests dine by the beach at Hualalai wearing flip-flops, many guests at Maui arrive for dinner with the ladies fashionably dressed and sporting high heels.

#4 — Le Meurice, Paris. The trend continues — I sell what I love — and Le Meurice is my favorite hotel in my favorite city in world. Paris has the world's greatest collection of "over-the-top" luxury hotels, but Le Meurice is not about being "over the top." The smallest palace hotel in Paris, Le Meurice exudes a warm, personable, and comfortable luxury while offering the best possible location in Paris, especially for first-time visitors. Step out the front door, cross rue de Rivoli, and you're in the Jardin des Tuilleries, the beautiful formal gardens in the very heart of Paris. Walk across the gardens, and you'll be at the Musée d'Orsay in 10 minutes. Or turn to the left, and you're just 10 minutes from the Louvre. Le Meurice, ideal for first-time visitors, its guests keep coming back, y compris moi.

#5 — Peninsula Tokyo. Japan has become the hot travel destination for 2019 and 2020. The 2020 Olympic Games have shined the world's focus on Japan, and I recommend booking a customized land tour or a cruise that circumnavigates this island nation. You'll want to begin or end your trip in Tokyo, and of all the great luxury hotels in Tokyo, my clients have most often booked The Peninsula. Why? Perhaps it's due to the hotel's location next to the Imperial Gardens, or because of its thoughtfully designed guest rooms (with such features as nail polish dryers in the bathroom), or even because my PEN Club clients benefit from totally flexible check-in and check-out times.

I can offer the following amenities at all of the above hotels through Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, STARS, Diamond Club, and PEN Club. While the details differ slightly by property, you'll receive at least the following at each of these top five hotels:
  • daily breakfast for two
  • $100 hotel credit towards incidental expenses
  • room upgrade if available
  • early check-in and late check-out if available
  • complimentary internet
In some cases, the credit is more, the room upgrade is confirmed at booking, and the early check-in is guaranteed. Get in touch for the full details!

My next column will take a look at #6-#10 on my list.

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.