11.18.2017

do you do Black Friday?

Silversea Black Friday promotion

I received this email blast today, reminding me that Thanksgiving, otherwise known as the day before Black Friday, is nearly upon us. There are a lot of deals out there, including third-night and fourth-night free promotions at some of the world's most wonderful luxury hotels. These deals typically include such amenities as free daily breakfasts and hotel credits through amenity programs such as Virtuoso, Dorchester Diamond Club, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Rosewood Elite, and more.

There's even a promotion from Silversea, a luxury cruise line. Available to previous Silversea cruisers right now, the 5% discount sale opens to the general public on Monday, Nov. 20. Many Silversea cruises are part of the Virtuoso Cruise Program; this means even more savings to you when you book through your Virtuoso travel advisor. (You're free to put a cruise on deposit and then contact your Virtuoso advisor to take over the booking — but be sure to turn over the booking to us before you make final payment, due Nov. 28th if you want to take advantage of the Black Friday deal.)

copyright (c) 2017 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.

11.16.2017

Berthillon | go to Paris, enjoy the ice cream!

Jennifer, pictured in front of Berthillon Glacier on the Ile St. Louis

Jennifer is my massage therapist, and she frequently visits Paris with her husband; they own a tiny apartment in the 1st arrondissement. I've been telling her for years that she absolutely must go to Berthillon — simply the best ice cream on the planet (in my own personal experience).

I recommend their dark chocolate ice cream, but Jen chose raspberry. Her verdict: "it was like raspberry x 100." See Jen's Yelp listing here, 41 well-deserved 5-star reviews.

For other ideas on what to see and do in Paris, just get in touch. Talking about Paris is what I do for fun!

copyright (c) 2017 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.

11.15.2017

tour guides | don't "settle" for your cab driver

Hector, our exceptional tour guide in Costa Rica (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

I just read a travelogue by one of my favorite bloggers, Ben Schlappig of One Mile at a Time. Ben's expertise consists of his encyclopedic knowledge of using "miles" to book premium airline flights and hotel stays. Ben, in addition, has a thorough knowledge of various credit cards and their benefits and sign-up bonuses. I've used his service to book award flights.

Ben's story illustrates why arranging tour guides is an art.  While visiting Jerusalem with his mother, they planned to do some sightseeing. Armed with a list of specific sights they wanted to see, they hopped in a cab to their first destination. The cab driver offered to be their tour guide for the day, and they accepted.

The experience was not what they hoped for. The driver had his own ideas of what they should see and refused to take them to some of the sites on their list. He disparaged some of the Christian sites that Ben's mother wanted to visit. And, perhaps most typical of these kinds of "guides," he insisted on taking them to a tourist shop outside the city to buy a few souvenirs they intended to purchase. It ended up being a crappy, tourist-trappy store, its parking lot filled with tour busses. Once the driver pocketed his commission, the tour suddenly ended, and Ben and his mom were driven straight back to their hotel.

There are exceptional tour guides out there who will treat you to a truly exceptional experience. You'll hear stories, see sights, and gain insights that you'll remember for the rest of your life. Hector (pictured above) was our knowledgeable and personable tour guide in Costa Rica. His love for the animals and plant life of the rain forest was obvious ... and he was a hilarious story teller. I'll never forget his account of the two times he gave tours to "Mr. Jimmy" and his wife Rosalyn. (Yes, that Mr. Jimmy, the 39th President of the United States).

When and where do you find the "best of the best" tour guides? Definitely NOT in the driver's seat of your taxi. Likely NOT at the concierge desk the day before you want to take a tour. And most likely NOT if you start enquiring a few months before your trip; the best guides always get booked first ... and you'll be left with the "best of the rest."

My advice: contact your luxury travel advisor six months or a year before your trip. Sometimes we'll have a personal relationship with a great independent guide, and we can connect you. More often, we will turn to our in-country Virtuoso partners; they have the specialized expertise required to pair you with a guide best suited to you, your family, and your interests.

copyright (c) 2017 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.

11.09.2017

quintessential napa valley

Auberge du Soleil logo (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Just $25 more than the basic room rate, Quintessential Napa Valley is a special package that will pay for itself. Offered by Auberge du Soleil through March 31, 2018, the promotion includes these extras:
  • Complimentary Estate Tasting and Tour at Quintessa including a private, customized tasting experience for two
  • $100 Resort Credit
  • Daily breakfast served in our Michelin Star Restaurant
  • 15% off all spa services
  • Welcome bottle of Auberge du Soleil Cabernet Sauvignon upon arrival
$250 of value for $50. The Quintessa tasting is normally priced at $150 for two guests. An additional $100 resort credit can be applied towards lunch or dinner at the resort's famed restaurant (or towards a spa treatment, discounted by 15%).

And we can add further value to this package ... our sales representative always tries to upgrade Virtuoso guests at time of booking when we contact her.

Auberge du Soleil is a top idea for a romantic getaway. If you live in the Bay Area, just drop us an email, and we'll do the rest.

copyright (c) 2017 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.

11.08.2017

3rd night free | can I get free breakfast with that?



If you could get free breakfast AND third night free, that would be a great value. New clients ask us all the time, "Do free night promotions also include Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Virtuoso, Diamond Club, (etc.) amenities?" The answer — for most of our luxury hotel partners — is YES!

There are a few luxury brands that are inconsistent about extending consortial amenities to free-night promotions. I regularly remind my sales reps about keeping up with the competition! But I'm happy to say that partners such as Four Seasons, Dorchester Collection, and Rosewood virtually always extend their amenity programs. You benefit from valuable perks such as free breakfasts, upgrades if available, and hotel credits. It's their customer-friendly policy.

Sometimes a promotion may appear on the consumer website ... but not show up on the preferred partner website or in Sabre. Not to worry! This means the person loading the rates accidentally left off a rate code, but can be solved with a simple phone call.

You can enjoy the best luxury hotel values possible by combining amenities with free night promotions. While I'm not allowed to post the exclusive Four Seasons amenities on a public website,  just drop us an email and we'll let you know.

P.S. — You can't book these deals with amenities online. You'll need to to make the booking through a connected luxury travel advisor ... at the very same price you'd pay online.

copyright (c) 2017 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.

10.31.2017

California wine country | open for business

field of mustard (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

The tragic wildfires that blazed through the California wine country have devastated the lives of many people. Over 8,700 homes were destroyed in the fire, leaving so many people without their homes and possessions. Our hearts go out to so many who lost so much.

The tragedy has compounded as our travel partners in Napa and Sonoma are suffering from severely low occupancies. The tourism industry provides a living for so many residents ... and when guests stay away, the area's losses grow even larger.

Wine country is open for business ... and each of the following partner hotels has availability. Now is the time to visit Napa and Sonoma, support the area's economy, and (incidentally) enjoy a better chance of an upgrade.
Meadowood Napa Valley
Calistoga Ranch
Carneros Resort
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn
Farmhouse Inn
Auberge du Soleil
Bardessono
Solage Calistoga
Andaz Napa
Las Alcobas
The resorts with links are all members of Virtuoso. We also provide exclusive amenities at Auberge du Soleil and Andaz Napa.

copyright (c) 2017 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.

10.28.2017

think outside the nutshell

cloud over Nærøyfjord (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Norway in a nutshell® is a registered trademark for an itinerary that's marketed as an easy, fuss-free way to see the highlights of Norway.

The trip has several components, with potential touring components at each stop. You can "do" the entire journey in one long day (13 1/2 hours) ... or spend a day or more at each stop to explore in depth.

During my recent trip to Norway, I experienced two legs of Norway in a nutshell®. We had spent Saturday night in the charming Fjordstove Hotel, a traditional white-framed Norwegian home by the side of a fjord in the small village of Fjærland. The hotel does not pretend to be a luxury accommodation, but this is precisely the kind of place you should hope to stay when visiting Norway. Warm and hospitable, we got to meet the owner and his family, drink his home-brewed ale, and enjoy a wonderful dinner. Rooms were small and simple, but the views were to die for.

rainy day on the fjord cruise (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved


We left the hotel at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning to catch a ferry, arriving in Flåm in time to do some shopping at Mall of Norway before boarding our 9:30 a.m. cruise. The two hour cruise took us through UNESCO listed fjords, and the scenery was beautiful. Had it been winter or spring, with snow glistening off the mountains, it would have been stunning, but it being October, we did encounter a few passing rain showers during our cruise.

The boat was mostly empty — lots of empty seats inside the cabin and very few passengers out on the deck. The cruise was a pleasant and enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours... but, as my colleague Landa pointed out, a fully booked sailing, with every inside seat taken and lots of people crowding the decks, would have felt very crowded and tourist-trappy.

Following the cruise, we experienced the next leg of Norway in a nutshell®. Our driver picked us up in Gudvangen and drove the twisty, hairpin-turning mountain road through Stalheimskleiva. We stopped in the interesting town of Voss for lunch.

Should you do the Norway in a nutshell® tour? My advice:

(1) Don't buy a packaged tour. It will feel like what it is, a rubber-stamped, mass-produced consumer product.

(2) Don't do it in one day. Norway is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Travel slow and savor the experience.

(3) Think outside the nutshell. Work with an experienced travel advisor to help create your own bespoke tour of Norway. Norway is full of charming villages, snow-capped mountains, and gorgeous fjords to fill your days ... and warm and hospitable places to spend your nights.

copyright (c) 2017 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.