As you probably know Alaska Airlines this week announced their deal to buyout Virgin America, safe to say if the deal goes through it’ll be several months to a year before Virgin truly ceases to exist and becomes part of Alaska. In the meantime this spring Virgin expanded their operations to Hawaii fro California and Classic is having a sale on Hawaii trips that are done in conjunction with Virgin flights. Four nights or more on O’ahu gets $400 in airline ticket credits, five nights or more on any of the other islands gets $500 in airline credits, and longer stays get even more in airline credits. All travelers get $100 resort credits and West Coast travelers can elect to use that credit towards airfare. Bookings have to be made by June 30 and is good for travel through December of this year.
Hotel Esencia which is a luxury five star resort on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico and gets the full five stars from travelers on Tripadvisor is having some massive sales for travel this summer and fall. Now there is a reason that we’re seeing a lot of deals on travel to the Caribbean, Central and Latin America and it’s because of people panicking and canceling trips due to a certain disease starting with the letter Z, but that aside, these are some pretty good deals and valid for travel between May 1 and December 20 with some blacked out periods around Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. All stays of 3 nights or more get a night free, and all Wednesday nights are free. Then for September they’re doing two for one, yup, get a second night free for every night you pay for, so you can stay for eight night and pay for four. From September 1-December 20 any four night stay also comes with an $800 spa credit to use at the resort. And yes that pic is really the resort.
Did a call recently on two properties in Italy owned by Unique Retreats, both of which are former royal country estates. Everyone wants a few days in rural Italy right? The first property is called L’Albereta and located near Lake Iseo up in the lakes region near Lake Como an hour north of Milan. The property sits in the middle of vineyards and actually produces their own sparkling wines, there are two restaurants on the property including one with a two star Michelin star chef. There is also a medical spa on the property focusing on detox and anti-aging programs and spa attendees have a separate spa restaurant that they can dine at to avoid alcohol and focus on healthier foods. The property organizes winery tours and you are about 20 minutes from the beautiful town of Bergamo. The artist Christo….you know, the Gates guy, is doing an installation on the lake from June 18-July 3 building walkways across the lake, so the lake probably won’t be least known in lake country for long.
L’Andana is in Tuscany but in an area of Tuscany called Maremma in the southwest corner of Tuscany near the Mediterranean which has only really been discovered by foreign tourists over the last 10-15 years, though it’s been a popular place for Italians for decades…because it has one of the few sandy beaches on the Mediterranean. The resort is 500 hectares and includes it’s own vineyards and olive groves, it even has a small chapel on the estate and is a few minutes down the road from the beach. Again there are two restaurants on the property and breakfast is served up in the kitchens with outdoor garden seating. The spa here focuses on herbal treatment using the locally grown herbs and using oils from the property for massages. The property is two hours from Rome or an hour and half from Florence.
Did a call recently with Amtrak Vacations who has a whole bunch of packages they can put together for rail travel in the US and Canada. I think we often forget about rail when it comes to travel in North America, it’s a lot slower than say rail in Europe, but I know the great train rips especially out West are on a lot of people’s bucket lists and let’s be honest with air travel becoming less and less pleasant, maybe rail isn’t such a bad idea. There’s less hassle getting on, you can move around, you aren’t cramped in like sardines, the dining options are definitely better, and most train stations are more centrally located than airports. They can put together guided trips, independent travel, rail to boat packages (they partner with Celebrity and Norwegian) where they can book all in one package rail to cruise trips. They also have a lot of eclusive deals and reserve blocks of rooms with the National Park Lodges which can be extremely hard to get in summer. Just to give you an idea, they listed what their most in demand trips are and they include
1) Chicago-Seattle via Glacier National Park then down to San Francisco and back to chicago
2) Chicago – Santa Fe and then on to the Grand Canyon
3) Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon
4) Denver to Salt Lake through parts of the Rockies inaccessible to cars and then buses that take you from Salt Lake to Yellowstone, then by train Salt Lake to San Francisco
5) Chicago to Glacier National Park, the train stops just a couple hundred feet from the Lodge at Glacier.
6) Seattle to Vancouver and then Vancouver to Jasper through the Canadian Rockies with a side trip to Banff
7) The Cross Canada trip from Toronto to Vancouver
8) Chicago to Memphis and then on to New Orleans
9) DC to Boston with stops in Philly and NY.
Listened to call on two Starwood properties in Peru, the Palacio Del Inka in Cuzco and the Tambo Del Inka in the sacred valley between Cuzco and Machu Pichu. Both are under the same management and what they were talking about is an itinerary arriving in Cuzco but going straight to Tambo because it’s about 4,000 feet lower than Cuzco so your body can better acclimate to the elevation first and then do the trip to Machu Pichu and then finish off in Cuzco.
Tambo is in a valley close to Machu Pichu and several Incan sites, and you can do llama trekking, horseback rides through the valley or zip lining. The property has two restaurants and a spa and offers cooking classes. There is also a private train station at the hotel for daily trains to Machu Pichu. The roundtrip train, park entrance fees, etc. isn’t cheap though, it’s about $350 per person all in, but it is Machu Pichu. Palacio is in central Cuzco two blocks from the main square situated in the old Spanish colonial governor’s palace. Again there is a spa and two restaurants and wine tasting and pisco tasting experiences. The bedrooms are even oxygenated.
Both properties are having a sale through July 27 on all travel through July 31 for Virtuoso clients with the third night free.
Through Elite Axis we have access to sporting events, concerts, and cultural events around the world, including the Kentucky Derby, Formula 1 Racing, the Super Bowl, NBA Playoffs and All Star Weekend, opera, Oktoberfest, pretty much any event you can think of. So if you’re traveling somewhere and want to add on a sporting or special event to your stay, or put together a full event based vacation complete with hotels and VIP access to the event, just let me know.
I did a webinar recently with an onsite tour operator in Iceland, Iceland Encounter. I’m sure Iceland is on a lot of people’s bucket lists and summer is really the best time of year to go, better weather, more hours of daylight and areas that aren’t accessible year round are in summer. They’ll work with us on doing customized personal tours for parties of two to ten people around the island….usually in summer they recommend a 7-10 day trip with 2-3 days in Reykjavik and the rest traveling the countryside, and can arrange anything from glacier hiking to whale watching, and 4×4 exploration, ATV rides, horseback riding to helicopter tours of the waterfalls and volcanoes starting at about $5,500 a person including everything but airfare.