12.13.2018

when things go bump in the night...




Like the movement of a finely tuned clock, everything about the perfect hotel stay happens behind the scenes. Your booking goes smoothly. Your visit is VIP'ed. Hotel staff discuss your stay during the hotel's daily "morning meeting." Virtuoso amenities are explained at check-in. Hopefully you'll be surprised with an upgrade to a higher room category. Your room is ready when you arrive. Hotel staff greet you by name, and service requests are handled promptly. Your bed is comfortable, the pillow to your liking, and you wake up well rested after a great night's sleep... And, of course, the final bill is correct, with things like breakfasts, internet, and hotel credits properly reflected.

But sometimes there's a wrinkle. To err is human, said Alexander Pope. Everyone — even I — mkae mistkaes. And that's when a great hotel and its team shine. A recent hotel stay enjoyed by one of my clients is testimony to that.

Nothing about this booking was easy (through the fault of no one in particular). Starwood and Marriott, as you may know, have finally completed the massive integration of their reservations systems, and details remain to be perfected. For instance, Starwood's Luxury Privileges amenity program has a new rate code, but it's not yet active in my GDS, making it more time-consuming to book that rate. Marriott's call center had issues making a simple revision to that reservation. At check-out, the guest Folio showed charges for in-room internet, and the F&B credit hadn't been applied to a restaurant bill.

The good news is that the Marriott Luxury team was phenomenal. The national sales team got me to the right individual at the hotel who did a superb job in working through the hassles of booking and revising. The guest was never aware of any of this. He arrived at the hotel, checked in, and enjoyed his visit. And when I noticed a couple of mistakes on the Guest Folio that had been emailed to me, I emailed my colleague at the hotel. The bill was corrected and only then did I forward it to my client.

My client had the perfect stay — with never a hint of any of these issues — because so many people were working SOOOO hard behind the scenes to deliver on a great hotel experience. I want to express special thank you's to Marissa, Ly, and Travis.

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.

12.05.2018

Santa Barbara | tropical resort by the beach

pool at the Beach Club, FS Santa Barbara (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Where to stay in Santa Barbara? A beautiful destination on southern California's Pacific coast, Santa Barbara is an easy drive up the coast from LA. Worth more than one visit, Santa Barbara offers two distinct vacation experiences. You might spend the weekend at an elegant/casual resort high in the hills, with sweeping sunset views of the Pacific Ocean and easy access to the historic sites of Santa Barbara. Or you can enjoy a tropical resort right by the beach.

Four Seasons Biltmore Resort offers the beach vacation option. I made a recent site inspection visit of the Four Seasons and can offer three take-aways:

(1) The lobby is gorgeous. When previously visiting the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, I was most impressed by the tile floors and elaborately painted ceiling beams of this classic landmark. The Courthouse provided the inspiration for the recent redesign of Four Seasons' lobby. It's simply beautiful.

We enjoyed lunch on the patio at Bella Vista, just off the lobby, and enjoyed the ocean vista from our table.

(2) The grounds remind me of Hualalai. Topical greenery lines walkways throughout the resort. While I knew I was in Southern California, it felt like Hawaii. The buildings, of course, were Spanish Colonial in style, not Hawaiian. Four Seasons has its own resort pool just for guests, as well as the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club with its larger-than-Olympic size pool. One of the unadvertised perks of booking through a Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel advisor: guests in all room categories enjoy access to the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club.

(3) For something special, book a Bungalow. Jungle Rooms are certainly comfortable and attractive with 450-550 square feet of living space; I recommend requesting a ground floor room in order to enjoy a large outdoor patio with direct access to the lawn. But Four Seasons' Bungalows and specialty suites are truly unique — they feel like an elegant beach home. The living room of the bungalow we saw is pictured above — and this bungalow even has its own private pool.

As Four Seasons Preferred Partner travel advisors, we offer exclusive amenities that will save you hundreds of dollars during your stay. Each of our clients (even those booked in Garden or Riviera rooms) has complimentary access to the Beach Club. If you're looking for perks such as — actually I'm not permitted to list those on a public webpage, but they're even better than Virtuoso or Amex Platinum amenities — you'll get those benefits through Ourisman Travel. Just email us for the full details!

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.

11.29.2018

4BR residence in the Maldives for after Christmas




Gili Lankanfushi is my favorite sand-between-your-toes resort in the Maldives, an easy speedboat ride from the international airport in Male (so you can arrive at any hour). On boarding their boat, you're handed a bag in which to store you shoes ... and the logo on the bag says, "No News, No Shoes." Truly a place to relax and enjoy the crystalline waters of the Maldives.

Their 4BR Private Residence has just become available for December 27 - January 5. If you've been meaning to make plans for a family vacation but haven't gotten around to it yet, you will love Gili Lankanfushi. Perfect for families, your children will enjoy the waterslide while you can all enjoy at this elegant yet casual resort.

This availability won't last, so contact Team Ourisman right away if you'd like to grab this... 

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.

11.26.2018

a perfect Bay Area weekend getaway

view from 668, Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

With so many ways for Bay Area residents to spend a romantic weekend, it's hard to choose! This Thanksgiving, we returned to Half Moon Bay, California. The Bay Area is such a pleasure when the roads are empty! Leaving home a bit after 11 a.m. on Thursday morning, Waze routed us over the Bay Bridge, through San Francisco, and treated us to a relaxing drive down the coast. We pulled up to the entrance to the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay by noon.

Hanging out in the Club... Our room was ready, and after unpacking, we went straight to the Club for lunch. If you've never booked a Club room at a Ritz-Carlton, you're missing a treat. With five meal presentations during the day, the lunch spread included pumpkin soup, sandwiches, salads, cheeses, and desserts ... not to mention Ritz Carlton's addictive chocolate chip cookies. The breakfast buffet now includes an omelet station where the chef will cook your eggs to order ... and Club guests enjoy complimentary cocktails in the late afternoon ... and dessert temptations in the evening.

Golf anyone? The Club's windows look out over the 9th green of the Ocean Course of the Half Moon Bay Golf Links, and I had fun watching golfers playing the hole. But you don't have to just watch... golfers will enjoy the challenge of playing two championship courses — the Old Course and the Ocean Course.

Half Moon Bay is a town with cute shops and good restaurants. We reserved a table for two for Thanksgiving Dinner at Pasta Moon, and our meal was excellent. There were six main course menu options, but I chose the Diestel Farms Turkey — moist and flavorful! I loved my dessert of Warm Molten Chocolate Cake with a scoop of vanilla chocolate gelato. Reservations were definitely necessary, so I'm glad I consulted Open Table.

There's plenty to do to fill a weekend. You can stay at the Ritz-Carlton and luxuriate in the spa — or you can venture forth to hike the redwoods or explore miles of beaches. Here's my blog from my last visit two years ago.

The smart way to stay at RC Half Moon Bay — book through your Virtuoso travel consultant and enjoy a complimentary Full Breakfast for two daily as well as a $100 credit towards a heavenly spa 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.

11.21.2018

stairs at Mission Santa Barbara

stairs at Mission Santa Barbara (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

A postcard from Santa Barbara... a photograph of a colorfully painted stairwell in the museum at Mission Santa Barbara. The mission was founded in 1786, and the church has been rebuilt on three different occasions after damage by fire and earthquake. The mission is under the leadership of the Franciscans.

We attended the 11 a.m. Mass last Sunday. When touring a destination with an historical religious building, I highly recommend experiencing that church (temple, mosque, shrine, synagogue, etc.) as a place of living worship. The service was lead by Franciscan friar Father Dan Lackie, an outgoing and empathetic pastor and a very gifted preacher.

I had a similar experience in London last October, experiencing Westminster Abbey as a worshipper rather than a tourist. It was the highlight of our four days in London!

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.

11.17.2018

hotel desks | ergonomic suggestions



No, my desk at home is never this neat nor clear of clutter. This is the desk in my beautiful room at Belmond El Encanto. The setup is pretty much the same as any hotel work area at any hotel in the world, five star or otherwise. Two power outlets are provided at desktop level, a definite plus. I've sometimes had to crawl under the desk to find an electrical outlet and, occasionally, even had to unplug something else to provide a working outlet for my computer.

I'm writing today with a special plea for hotels: please think ergonomically about the workspaces provided for guests. Ergonomic experts make a number of suggestions. One's eyes should be looking at the top third of the screen, and one's elbows should be above the desk.

Hard to do all of this when traveling with a laptop, but here are five ideas for hotels to consider:
  1. Provide laptop risers to guests who request them.
  2. Even better, offer risers that can be raised to the level of a standing desk.
  3. Consider mounting an external monitor above each desk.
  4. Make available bluetooth-ready external keyboards.
  5. Provide desk chairs whose seat can be raised or lowered.
Interior designers and ergonomic experts will be in conflict over these ideas... but many leisure travelers cannot avoid (or resist, as the case may be) bringing their work on vacation. Hopefully, today's blogpost can start the conversation.



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 our website.

11.14.2018

postcards from England | Cliveden House

Cliveden House (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Have you ever wanted to stay at one of those impressive mansions scattered through the English countryside? You can get that chance at Cliveden House during your next trip to the UK. Set on 375 acres above the Thames River, the estate has manicured themed gardens and endless forest trails, so beautiful that they attract a half million visitors a year. The estate is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public who can walk the grounds, come for tea in the Great Hall, or enjoy an elaborate dinner in the French Dining Room.

Cliveden has been home to British nobility, including an earl, three countesses, two dukes, and a Prince of Wales. It was purchased by American millionaires, William Waldorf Astor and Nancy Astor, in 1893. In an interesting historical twist, Lady Astor became the first woman member of the House of Lords, even though she was American.

Now a luxury hotel, you can spend a night or two at Cliveden. Just a half hour from Heathrow, even during rush hour, this is an ideal place to spend your last night before flying home. A notable recent guest was Meghan Markle who stayed here the night before her wedding to Prince Harry. Pictured below is the Buckingham Suite, the room at which I have stayed during both of my visits. Virtuoso guests receive full daily English Breakfast for two and a $100 hotel credit which you can apply towards dinner or a treatment at the spa.

Buckingham Suite (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved
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.