January 17, 2011
Club Med, Sandpiper Bay--Day Two
One of the nice things about all-inclusive resorts is that they feed you. No, I mean they really feed you. Gout has to be a real danger for regular all-inclusive visitors. And, happily, the food at Club Med Sandpiper Bay is both plentiful and very tasty. Their buffet restaurant, Marketplace, has lots of food for everyone--vegetarians and carnivores, kids and grownups, those who like it hot and those who like it mild. It's a bit overwhelming. Tell your clients to take a walk around the room before making their selection (unless they see any prime rib--then all bets are off). Also tell them about the wonderous white chocolate bread, which must be tasted to be believed, and which probably gave me diabetes. It was worth it.
After breakfast, I headed over to the resort's spa, which will be getting an overhaul in coming months (more on that later). The therapist for my Signature Massage was Sandra Lamb, who pushed and pulled on all my muscles until I was wonderfully relaxed and zen. She also explained exactly what she was doing throughout the treatment and gave insights on why it was helpful. Request her by name when booking treatments for your clients--she really does a lovely job.
Soothed and relaxed, my little group toured around the resort for a few minutes, wandering around the adults-only infinity pool and different sports facilities. (In keeping with the family vibe, the resort has child-sized tennis courts so that smaller players aren't overwhelmed by a full-sized one. Nice.) We also checked out a Deluxe Family Room (one of the remodedled suites). The room has a gentle, nautical theme and nice touches like painted hardwood floors. It has plenty of room for four people (two bedrooms, two bathrooms), and lots of light.
And somehow, it was lunchtime again, and we dined alfresco at Soleil, the a la carte restaurant with a rather limited menu (some sandwiches, a few entrees and some snacks). Still, the food is part of the all-inclusive, and the views of the river are lovely, and it's nice to be able to sit and relax for hours and ask for cheese and crackers throughout a conversation. (So I hear. Ahem.)
Not content to simply taste food, we went around to a side room off of Marketplace for a cooking demonstration with sous-chef Erik, who showed us how to make a delicious duck breast over a rice pilaf. (I didn't know how important it is to score a duck breast before cooking it, so that the fat drains away. Learn something new every day!) The lesson was not overly complicated, and we were invited to ask questions about the preparation, the food and just about anything else involving cooking for a huge resort. (Apparently hot dogs and hamburgers are the most-requested dish for kids, and crabs legs are popular with grown-ups.)
And then came the moment I'd been dreading. Y'see, I'm terrified of heights. No, you're thinking I just don't like them. I mean I can't breathe when I'm up too high. (And "too high," for me, is about two feet off the ground.) On the other hand, I love great views, and I love trying new activities. And Club Med Sandpiper Bay has a full-size trapeze and a staff to teach guests how to fly, which is fantastic for anyone who wants to try a totally different kind of sport...but was just too much for me and my vertigo, alas. But encourage your clients to at least give it a try--if they can handle the high ladder, they'll be rewarded with a truly unique experience they'd be hard-pressed to find outside of Ringling Bros., and some great views while they swing to and fro. And we got to see some very small kids scaling the ladder and swinging happily above the net, so the trapeze is clearly popular among the junior set, too.
Before dinner, we stopped in at Slice, the resort's bar and nightclub, for a wine-tasting with Marcel, the sommelier, who explained what kinds of wine went best with what meals, and how to properly taste and enjoy different vintages. (Yes, we slurped the wine. Not very graceful, but it certainly does enhance the flavor!) Marcel, by the by, has some great stories in addition to a vast knowledge of oenology, and if your clients happen to spot him at Slice or when he isn't setting up wine in the Marketplace, they should see if he'll talk about his adventures around the world.
Of course, there is music every night at Slice, and families can gather to dance to Zumba or Club Med's signature Crazy Signs. And another nice feature: The nightclub serves complimentary cocktails (including frozen drinks and mojitos), but allows kids to enter so they can listen to music with their parents. Including the kids is what makes this a genuine family resort, rather than a resort with a children's program.
January 17, 2011
Richard Nahem's Paris Hot Chocolate
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog at www.eyepreferparis.com.
Drinking hot chocolate in Paris is a very special experience, much different than the sad instant powdery mixes in the U.S. In Paris, it’s pure, straight-up chocolate, almost like drinking a hot, melted chocolate bar.
Here are our top choices:
Comme a la Maison
This postage stamp-sized café hidden in a courtyard in the Marais makes a smooth, velvety, not overly thick hot chocolate that packs a lot of punch. Hand prepared by the owner, Kathy, when you order, the drink is flavored with some interesting spices that give it a distinct taste. Served in a big white pitcher, it pours two to three cups, so you might even want to share it. The café also has a light food menu with yummy homemade desserts.
Comme a la Maison
Village St. Paul/ Court Vert
9 rue St. Paul, 4th arr.
Metro: St. Paul
Open 12PM to 6PM, Tuesday to Sunday
Jean Paul Hevin Chocolate Bar
One of the city’s finest chocolatiers, Jean Paul Hevin, has recently opened a chocolate bar upstairs from his rue St. Honoré boutique. The sleek, chic café/bar has a menu with many variations of hot chocolate, including enticing flavors like jasmin, coffee, and orange flower. From noon to 6 p.m. the bar serves an exotic flavor every hour on the hour including carrots, oysters, raspberry, banana, green Matcha tea, and even an aphrodisiac mixed with ginger. Don’t miss the Hevin-ly chocolate desserts Jean Paul Hevin is famous for, if you can stand even more chocolate.
Jean Paul Hevin
231 rue St. Honoré, 1st. arr.
Chocolate Bar open noon to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday
Angelina is the Grand Dame of Paris hot chocolate. The beloved and elegant tearoom, dating from 1903, serves the best-known hot chocolate in the city. Relax in a well cushioned armchair while you are served hot chocolate old-fashioned style: Hot milk is added from a separate china pitcher to a cup of gooey, thick chocolate, and the resulting cup is served on a silver tray. To top it off, a mound of airy whipped cream is served with it. Angelina has a full food and dessert menu and sells bags of its legendary cocoa so you can recreate this taste sensation back home. If you are in a hurry, the shop now has hot chocolate to go.
226 rue de Rivoli, 1st. arr.
Open daily 8AM-7PM
Photo: Comme a la Maison hot chocolate. (Richard Nahem)
By: Richard Nahem
January 13, 2011
Club Med, Sandpiper Bay
After two major snowfalls in New York, it's wonderful to get out of the freezing city and escape to southern Florida, where Club Med Sandpiper Bay has just reopened following a $25-million renovation.
Thanks to Delta and its decision to cancel my flight to Palm Beach, I missed most of the first day I was scheduled to tour the property. (And really, Delta, what gives? Bad weather is one thing, but when my new flight leaves from the same airport at the same time as the canceled one, I begin to suspect shenanigans.) I arrived just in time to see a lovely sunset over the St. Lucie River and enjoy dinner with some GOs and GMs (the resort's lingo for event organizers and guests).
The resort is not along the Florida coast, but rather further inland. The St. Lucie river is huge (and saltwater, I hear...must find out tomorrow), and serves all the functions of a private beach. The marina my room overlooks conjures images of old-fashioned fishing villages, and the low-rise nature of the resort blends in nicely with the scenery.
The resort is presenting itself as the only genuinely all-inclusive family resort in America, and will reportedly focus on sports and athletics. I'm scheduled to try a few of those tomorrow, so stay tuned for more details about what else the resort has to offer.
January 13, 2011
$25 Travel Agent Booking Bonus
Your clients will enjoy the extra space in our one- and two-bedroom suites at Embassy Suites – Waikiki Beach Walk.
They’ll enjoy a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast daily, a nightly Manager’s Reception, domestic long-distance calls and high speed Internet access.
• Each booking must be a minimum five consecutive nights
• $25 booking bonus is payable in U.S. dollars only
• Booking bonus will be paid directly to the travel agent within 45 days of guest check-out
• Booking bonus applies to new bookings only
• Combinable with other special offers and applies to all room categories
• Paid on wholesale packages and GDS, Internetordirect commissionable bookings.
• Valid for stays through June15, 2011
• Blackout dates: December 25, 2010 through January 2, 2011
• Not applicable to groups of 10 or more rooms
• Other restrictions may apply
January 12, 2011
$50 Booking Bonus at Outrigger
Clients will love the upscale amenities in a variety of accommodations – from cozy studios to spacious three-bedroom suites on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Island of Hawaii. And you’ll receive a $50 Booking Bonus for every five-night stay booked.
Good for packages and direct bookings. Valid for travel between 12/22/10 – 12/21/11.
Visit http://www.gogowwv.com/GenericImages/OutriggerIncentive.pdf for more information.
January 12, 2011
Earn a Free Night in Kapalua
Simply book five cumulative Suite or Club Level room nights at the newly transformed AAA Five-Diamond Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and you will receive one complimentary night in one of our luxurious Suites.
This offer applies to all new direct and wholesale bookings and is valid for published rates offered by The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
Visit http://www.gogowwv.com/GenericImages/RitzIncentive.pdf for more information.
January 06, 2011
A Tour of Stonefield Estate Villa Resort & Spa in St. Lucia
ST. LUCIA – During a recent trip to St. Lucia, Travel Agent toured the 17-villa Stonefield Estate Villa Resort & Spa, a former lime and coconut plantation that was transformed into a hotel roughly five years ago.
Only 13 percent of all bookings last year were made through an agent, but the resort just started to market heavily in the U.S., which is why you may not heard of this property until now.
This is one of those “disconnect” luxury resorts where no televisions or landlines can be found in the rooms, although cell phones can be requested upon check in. The resort will be becoming a little more connected in June, however, when all the rooms become equipped with iPod docking stations, according to Ernie George, the property’s general manager.
George told us roughly 80 percent of the guests are Americans while 5-10 percent come from Canada and the rest arrive from the United Kingdom. He says most guests usually stay for seven to nine days, but shorter stays of four or five nights became more common when JetBlue Airways launched nonstop service to the island about a year ago.
The only downside here is the lack of a beach on the property. Stonefield, however, uses the very nearby beach at the Jalouise Plantation and plans to add a path from the resort to Jalouise’s beach sometime in the near future, George said. Other plans for the resort include the construction of 13 more villas within the next two years.
The best room at this resort is the Hillside Majestic Ocean View villa. There is only one of these. We saw the Hillside Ocean View room. This room, although not the top category, was pretty impressive, with views of one of the two Piton mountains right smack in front of the room.
The views from the three-bedroom villa’s outdoor plunge pool and hammock are what makes the room worth booking. There are four of these rooms at the resort and they start at roughly $650 a night. The top category is pretty similar although it has 700 square feet of extra room and a larger pool.
The modest but elegant spa, which opened in 2008, has just two treatment rooms and a salon, but most massages at the resort are done in the rooms or outdoors.
Thirty percent of all food served at the resort’s signature restaurant Mango Tree, is grown on the property. The resort also offers cooking classes once a week, beginning in February, and holds Thursday-night barbecues.
Recommend this resort to affluent honeymooners or couples in general. But for the more budget-conscious client, suggest perhaps a one- or two-night stay here followed by a three-or-four-night stay at a nearby Sandals or another more affordable all-inclusive.
Commission ranges from 15 to 20 percent based on the volume of the booking, said George.
By: Joe Pike
December 28, 2010
On the Scene: Traveling During the Blizzard
While spending the holidays in Phoenix with my family, I noticed an amusing Huffington Post article about things that have become obsolete over the last ten years. Included on the list were travel agents, which raised my hackles a bit. I made a memo-to-self to write a rebuttal upon getting home.
Then I tried to get home, and learned firsthand why travel agents aren’t obsolete at all.
The saga began on Christmas day, when we started hearing reports of the imminent blizzard in New York. On Sunday, I called Southwest Airlines to ask their advice for getting back to the city as close to Monday evening as possible. I learned that I could change my flights (Phoenix to Chicago, Chicago to New York), but the next available one was on Thursday. Unwilling to wait that long, I watched the blizzard on TV with plenty of apprehension, but was relieved when I heard that the airports around the city would be reopening at 4 p.m. on Monday. Even better, Southwest still hadn’t cancelled or delayed either of my flights to Chicago or New York, so all signs seemed positive for getting home at a reasonable hour.
Monday morning, I arrived at Phoenix Skyharbor Airport, still checking for any delays. Nothing. I checked in and went to my gate (learning, on the way, that my parents’ flight to Newark had been cancelled and that they would be in Phoenix until Thursday), only to suddenly get a voicemail that my Chicago-to-New York flight had been cancelled. I ran out of the boarding line to ask a gate agent’s advice. No other flights to the New York City area were available, but the gate agent suggested flying to Boston and taking a train to New York. Since the blizzard seemed to be heading north, that sounded like bad advice, so I ran onto the Chicago-bound plane and decided to deal with the problem at Midway.
Now, here’s where a travel agent would have stepped in and saved the day. While I was in the air, she or he could have been calling Southwest or other airlines to get me to the east coast and finding alternate transportation to get me to New York. I could well have had an alternate game plan in place by the time I arrived in Midway.
Sadly, since I booked the flight myself, I had nothing lined up when I got off the plane in Chicago. My best bet was with the gate agents, who offered to put me on standby for a flight to Philadelphia that night and guaranteed me a seat on a plane to Washington, D.C. at 6 a.m. the next morning. (Sad side story: Southwest lost their standby list for the Philly flight, and decided to go by the “honor system” to find out who was first in line. You can just imagine how well that worked.) I was stuck.
Again, an agent would been a lifesaver at this point. (Well, maybe that’s too dramatic. Sanity-saver, though, definitely.) No hotels in the area were offering decent prices, and I couldn’t try my luck with any other airline (an agent would have contacts at both, and would have been calling all of said contacts to make the situation as good as it could be), so I had no choice but to sleep in the airport in an unused concourse filled with cots. I and the other pseudo-refugees made the best of it, but a cot isn’t a bed and an empty concourse isn’t a hotel room with a private shower. While I sat on my cot, I booked one of the last available train tickets from Washington to New York at a painfully steep price, and learned that I would have to wait at Union Station for the better part of seven hours for my train home. Frustrated to the point of tears, I managed to fall asleep in the eerily quiet terminal.
The next morning, I was up at 4 a.m. and on my 6 a.m. flight to D.C., where I learned that my checked luggage hadn’t followed me. (Not really surprising, but one more thing to deal with in this mess.) I took a shuttle from the airport to Union Station and am now sitting in the Acela lounge waiting for my train. (The lounge is rather nice--not as many features as airport first-class lounges have, but the chairs are comfortable and there are free sodas, so I'm already doing better than I was at Midway.) I’m also kicking myself for booking my flights to and from Phoenix on my own, and for not getting an agent to help me out. For what it’s costing me to take this train from D.C. to New York, I could have had peace of mind or gotten significantly closer to home in less time. Now I’ll be getting home a good 24 hours later than scheduled—and from other horror stories I’ve been hearing, I’m one of the lucky ones. Some people have been stranded at airports for days.
Of course, it’s not the airlines’ fault that this blizzard hit on one of the heaviest travel days of the year. On the other hand, by cancelling the flights rather than delaying them, and by trying to rebook stranded passengers onto existing flights (many of which were already full), they’re making it all the harder for people to get home. I hear that American Airlines is adding unpublished flights to its schedule—call your contacts there to see if they’ll help get your clients where they need to be. But since Southwest made it very clear that they would only help me get home after they helped everyone who was already booked for their existing flights, I’m rather disinclined to ever fly with them again.
And I’m also rather disinclined to ever go on a vacation—even just to Phoenix to visit family—without an agent to contact for help again. (To add insult to injury, I'm listening to other passengers in the Acela lounge talk proudly about how their agents have helped them through the last few days.)
August 09, 2011
Explore Washington, DC
|(c) 2011 Affinia Hotels|
Washington, DC will play host to a bevy of exciting events this year. Stay with Denihan Hospitality Group to get the most of what this exciting city has to offer.
• October: Affinia’s Comfort Month
• October 1-6: Congress of Neurological Surgeons Convention
• October 16-19: AAHSA National Convention & Exposition
• October 23-27: AA Pharmaceutical Scientists Annual Meeting
• October 29-November 2: American Public Health Association Convention
• October 30: Annual Marine Corps Marathon
• November 12-16: Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting
August 09, 2011
Chicago Events from Denihan Hospitality Group
|(c) 2011 Affinia Hotels|
Guests who stay with the Denihan Hospitality Group in Chicago can enjoy that city's intriguing events, including the Chicago Air & Water Show, the Bank of America Marathon and the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.
• August 20-21: Chicago Air & Water Show
• October: Affinia’s Comfort Month
• October 4-6: Motivation Show
• October 9: Bank of America Marathon
• November 19: Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
• November 27-December 2: Radiological Society