8.13.2018

a Bellagio and Virtuoso weekend

Bellagio's stained glass flower ceiling (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Back from a weekend in Las Vegas for the opening of the 2018 #VirtuosoTravelWeek, we enjoyed spending two nights at Bellagio. The first of the luxury concept hotels created along the Las Vegas Strip, Bellagio has stunning public spaces. Many visitors had their iPhones out to take a photo of this display of Murano glass flowers, and you'll find a new creative attraction each time you visit the fountain area outside of Café Bellagio (soon to become Sadelle's Jewish Deli.)

We experienced the VIP treatment during this visit — thank you to Virtuoso for making this happen! We were met in baggage claim by our driver who had us at Bellagio in about 10 minutes, thanks to the new traffic tunnel that allows airport traffic to bypass busy city streets and especially the Strip.

Upon our arrival at the Bellagio, we were escorted into the Chairman's Lounge (immediately to the left of the front desk) where there was no line. A friendly associate checked us in and gave us keys. Because our room wasn't quite ready (it was only 12 noon), we had a light lunch at Café Bellagio. Before the meal was over, she called with our room number. Our bags were delivered to the suite within minutes of our arrival.

one of Bellagio's three pools (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved


Our Salone Suite was spacious, an open-floor plan junior suite with plenty of living space, a full sofa and desk, a fountain view out one set of windows and a pool view out the other (pictured above). This is just one of the three large pools in Bellagio's pool area — in my opinion the best resort facilities of any Las Vegas hotel.

Bellagio has nearly 4,000 guest rooms, but the hotel's service is impressive nevertheless. Especially if you go for the full VIP Treatment!

copyright (c) 2018 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.

8.07.2018

explore the Vatican without the crowds



Imagine the Vatican without any crowds... The headline says it all. A vivid memory of my last visit to the Vatican — the ever-present crowds. Though we were part of a tour (one way to avoid the L-O-N-G ticket lines), the crowd of visitors took away so much from the visit. The Sistine Chapel, the highlight of our visit, was packed wall-to-wall with people. The corridors were jammed. The experience was one of claustrophobia, not inspiration.

There's a better way! Be part of an exclusive group that enters the Vatican at daybreak. With no more than 20 guests in your group, you and your guide will follow the clavigero (key keeper) as he opens the doors to the Vatican Museums and its galleries. You'll see the Gallery of Maps and Raphael's Room as the lights are turned on for the day. You'll have the Sistine Chapel to yourself. And your group will enjoy breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard.

The cost — from $527.97 per person.

The experience — priceless.

Get in touch, and we'll arrange a Vatican tour you'll always remember ... (and save you money at the best luxury hotels in Rome).


copyright (c) 2018 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

8.06.2018

Regent Seven Seas | $200 to experience the best

itinerary of Regent Seven Seas "Stockholm to Copenhagen" cruise

Regent Seven Seas Cruises — a truly all-inclusive luxury cruise line. Luxury means larger cabins, each with an ocean view; superb meals; and attentive service. All-inclusive means no nasty surprises when you settle your bill at check-out. Your cruise fare on Regent always includes:
  • free pre-paid gratuities
  • free unlimited shore excursions
  • free air
  • free unlimited beverages
  • free 24-hour room service
  • no charge for specialty restaurants
You'll of course need pay for spa treatments and gifts purchased onboard, but we've even got that covered with a special new Virtuoso promotion — $100 per person onboard credit for any new 2018 sailing booked through Virtuoso in the month of August. This is in addition to any exclusive Virtuoso Voyager experiences you'll also receive. Treat yourself ... on us!

It's what you pay at check-out, not the advertised fare, that really matters. That Premium cruise line  you're considering may seem like a bargain, but by the time you're billed for everything from bottled water, soft drinks, alcohol, and shore excursions to the required gratuities, you'll have spent just as much as if you booked a true luxury cruise — and not enjoyed the full luxury experience.

Go for the best. Sometimes luxury is also the best value! Drop us a note... 

copyright (c) 2018 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.

8.03.2018

Airbnb | a cautionary tale

the Airbnb apartment described by David Rowell

Airbnb has become quite popular among travelers. Whether seeking economical accommodations for a business trip or family vacation, many travelers have been satisfied with what they've booked. But definitely not all.

Be aware that Airbnb doesn't always work out the way you'd expect. Travel blogger David Rowell recently wrote of a sub-standard experience in his article Should You be Using Airbnb. After renting the (apparently attractive) apartment pictured above, he experienced the following problems.

1. The rate quoted by Airbnb website was $65. By the time "cleaning" and additional fees were added, he ended up paying $85 per night. Plus tax on top of that.

2. 48 hour free cancellation policy? So said the headline on the website, but this language is misleading if you're thinking in terms of hotel cancel policies. Airbnb bookings can only be cancelled for free within 48 hours of making the booking, not up to 48 hours before arrival.

3. Lack of flexibility. Airbnb doesn't offer the flexibility that business travelers require. On a business trip and need to shorten your stay by a day? You'll have to pay for that day. Want to add an extra day at the end of your trip? While usually a non-issue for a hotel, Airbnb isn't set up this way.

4. Reaching "management" can be an issue if a problem arises. The access code to his apartment didn't work. He had to email the owner, then sit on the steps and wait for a reply — no phone number provided, no front desk to help.

Other bad news he didn't learn until his arrival:

5. There was a climb of 25 steps to reach the front door of the apartment, lugging a suitcase.

6. The neighborhood was sketchy, homeless persons sleeping under a nearby bridge.

7. The lack off a desk meant there was no place to accomplish the work he had to do.

8. Inadequate air-conditioning. He even asked. Despite the owner's assurances that the apartment was air-conditioned, it turned out to be a single window unit in the living room. Totally ineffective in mitigating the 90º temperature in the bedroom down the hall, getting a good night's sleep proved impossible.

His verdict:
The apartment has a five-star rating on Airbnb, and something like 300 generally gushingly positive reviews.  I found it a hellish experience full of unexpected gotcha moments.  And at the end of it all, I was expected to do the dishes, load the washing machine with used sheets and towels, and take the trash out to the rubbish bins around the corner of the building – all the things one doesn’t want to do when on vacation, and doesn’t have time to do when traveling on business.
Is there a better way to rent an apartment or home? I recommend our Virtuoso travel partner One Fine Stay. Yes, you'll pay a bit more, but every property has been vetted. You'll be met upon arrival by a professional team who will let you into your apartment and explain how things work. You'll get a midweek and end-of-week cleaning. You'll be provided with an iPhone, data included, with a one-touch button for assistance 24/7. One Fine Stay even provides concierge services. Read a review here!

Virtuoso amenities are offered in London, Paris, Rome, Milan, New York, LA, San Francisco, Boston, and Miami: your choice of a $100 credit on stocking your refrigerator prior to your arrival ... or a $100 credit toward guest experiences arranged with their concierge. You simply have to book through a Virtuoso travel advisor.

copyright (c) 2018 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.

7.30.2018

if it's August, it must be Las Vegas

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Though I don't think of Las Vegas as a summer destination, I have found myself making annual pilgrimages to Vegas every August since 2006. Why Vegas? Why August? August is the month when elite members of the luxury travel industry gather for Virtuoso Travel Week, an event that has grown larger year after year. Thousands of luxury travel advisors travel to Vegas to meet with reps of of a thousand hotels, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies, and other travel providers.

Think of Travel Week as a shopping spree for travel. I shop for travel ideas for you — new hotels that are opening their doors, older hotels that have transformed themselves through multi-million dollar renovations, creative ideas from tour companies about things to do and see, opportunities for unique experiences that come with a lifetime of "bragging rights." There's always something new and surprising to learn.

And there's networking... One of my favorite Travel Week stories: I was seated at dinner one evening next to my rep from Four Seasons Hong Kong. While we were talking, a client email came in with a special request for her hotel. Handing her the phone, she read the email, said "Done!," and emailed her team in Hong Kong. Luxury travel is all about relationships ... and Virtuoso Travel Week is our chance to nurture those relationships. Virtuoso hotel bookings give you even more than hundreds of dollars of amenities per stay: when you're the client of a Virtuoso travel advisor, hotels receive you as a true VIP.

copyright (c) 2018 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.

7.23.2018

traveling soon? check your passport...


Traveling out of the country? Here's something you should do immediately: check the date of expiration for every passport of your traveling party. Ensure each passport is valid for at least six months beyond the completion date of your trip. Most countries will deny entry — and many airlines will refuse boarding — if your passports do not meet this criterion.

Do any of the countries you're visiting require visas? Note that US citizens traveling to England, France, Italy, Canada, Mexico, and many other countries do not need to obtain a visa... but other countries require visitors to apply in advance. You can apply online for visas for many (but not all) destinations. Use the CIBT website to verify visa requirements for your trip.

In a hurry to apply for (or renew) your passport? Google "passport expedited service" for companies that can assist. If you live near a major US metropolitan area, you may be able apply in person. Make an online appointment at one of 27 U.S. passport agencies where you'll be able to submit your application on the spot. A traveler I know could not find her passport just prior to her trip to Mexico; she was able to obtain a new one with same-day service at the Chicago passport office. Note that there is a $60 expedite fee for this service.

But don't wait! If you're planning to travel internationally in the next year, check your passport NOW! Luxury travel is all about traveling stress-free, so plan ahead so you can relax and enjoy your trip.

from Ourisman Travel's Terms and Conditions: It is Customer’s responsibility to verify that all the visas required for your trip have been obtained, that the visas for each country are valid for the entry and exit dates of your visit, that your personal details are accurately reflected and that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the completion date of your trip.

copyright (c) 2018 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.

7.19.2018

Silversea luxury cruises | exclusive promotion



50 selected voyages
5% savings - pay in full by 31JUL
$1,000 shipboard credit
one category suite upgrade
Virtuoso Voyages amenities

Those are the headlines ... I've looked through the fifty selected cruises, and here are details from two interesting itineraries.

October 16 — New York to Montreal (10 days)
Begin your vacation in the Big Apple, then board the Silver Spirit for a trip that takes full advantage of the autumn colors as you sail up the Atlantic coast and into Canada's St. Lawrence River. Vista Suites begin at $4900 per guest.
New York
Newport, Rhode Island
Portland, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Saguenay, Quebec
Quebec City
Trois-Rivieres
Montreal

Virtuoso Voyages amenity — your choice of Nova Scotia Wine & Culinary Experience, $175 credit per person toward purchase of a Virtuoso product, $150 shipboard credit per person


November 13 — Hong Kong to Singapore (11 days)
The cruise begins in Hong Kong, easy to reach from the U.S. and well worth visiting for a few days before you board the Silver Shadow. Your cruise takes you down the coast of Vietnam — 28 hours in Ha Long Bay (convenient to Hanoi) and 54 hours in Ho Chi Minh City. Vista Suites begin at $6100 per guest.
Hong Kong
(Day at Sea)
Ha Long Bay — 1 night in port
Chan May
Da Nang
(Day at Sea)
Ho Chi Minh City — 2 nights in port
(Day at Sea)
Singapore

Virtuoso Voyages amenity — your choice of a "highlights of Hoi An" excursion, $175 credit per person toward purchase of a Virtuoso product, $150 shipboard credit per person

Silversea is a true luxury cruise line, all ocean-view suites, all with butler service, and most with private verandas. Guests enjoy all-inclusive 24-hour dining, complimentary beverages including champagne, select wines and spirits, complimentary transportation in most ports, and free WiFi. Gratuities always included.

Click here to begin planning your Silversea Cruise!

copyright (c) 2018 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.