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Showing posts from 2017

Top places to ring in the New Year

Top places to ring in the New Year By Damien Martin
A new year means a new beginning. A chance to start fresh, when anything is possible and you don’t know exactly what adventures lie ahead. We all have our own traditions, and as long as you’re spending time with people you care about, there’s really no wrong way to ring in the new year. But some destinations put on a better show than others, and here are a few at the top of the list.
Sydney
Featuring not one but two fireworks shows, Sydney Harbour provides an excellent venue for celebration. The festivities kick off while the sun is still out, with a tug-boat water display followed by an air show. A cleansing ceremony honoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures takes place around sunset, as flares and eucalyptus smoke fill the air. At 9 p.m., there’s an 8-minute fireworks show that serves as both an appetizer for the main event and allows children who might not make it to midnight to celebrate. After that, a parade of elabora…

Last Minute Winter Getaways

Last Minute Winter Getaways
By Damien Martin

So you couldn’t get the whole family on the same page in time to coordinate a trip over the holidays. Instead, you’re even more desperate for a vacation after the constant stream of visiting or welcoming relatives, shuttling back and forth between parties and overloading on holiday cheer. Well, you’re in luck, because January offers an abundance of great travel opportunities with smaller crowds and lower prices than during the busy festive season. Start the new year off right with one of these last-minute getaways.
Skiing
Still haven’t gotten a chance to hit the slopes? There are great deals to be had, such as 20 percent off for stays of five or more nights at Virtuoso-preferred Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail or a seventh night free at Richard Branson’s The Lodge in Verbier, Switzerland. One particularly enchanting itinerary is Alpine Adventures’ South Tyrol ski safari. The seven-night adventure includes four-star lodging in Alta Badia and Val Gardena…

Destination Weddings Made Easy

Destination Weddings Made Easy
By Damien Martin


It’s the happiest day of your life, right? But we all know there are a million different things that can go wrong on your wedding day. From minor inconveniences to major crises, there’s always some potential disaster lurking in the shadows, ready to ruin everything. Or at least, that’s how it can feel. There is a lot of planning that goes into making your day perfect, and it starts months in advance. So why not outsource some of that stress with a destination wedding? A few things to know about the process:
Who The whole idea behind a destination wedding is to make it fun and easy. So, you’ll need trusted people to do the legwork for you. Your travel advisor will work with you to find your ideal resort to ensure your special day is a memorable one. Your advisor can handle the details of booking rooms, flights and transportation for your guests, and also put you in touch with the wedding coordinator at your chosen resort. The wedding coordina…

Top Christmas Markets in Europe

Top Christmas Markets in Europe By Damien Martin 
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Neighborhoods are all lit up, and there’s a chill and a holiday spirit in the air.  In Europe, that convivial feeling gets kicked up a notch with the advent of Christmas markets. They’re a great place to do a little shopping, grab a bite to eat and a mulled wine, and do some people-watching. Each city puts its own twist on the tradition, and it’s impossible to go wrong, but here are a few not to be missed.

Strasbourg Owing to its history of being passed between Germany and France, Strasbourg draws from both influences for a unique Alsatian celebration. Billing itself as the “Capital of Christmas,” the city has hosted a Christmas market since the 1570s. This year’s events feature a tall tree and strands of lights adorning the streets, illuminating booths of vendors selling ornaments and traditional fare. For a journey into the past, there’s an exhibition on Christmas in Strasbourg at the t…

Let's get real about The REAL ID Act

Let's get real about The REAL ID Act
By Damien Martin



One of the simplest ways to ensure a great vacation is having all the proper documentation. Everybody knows you need a passport to travel internationally, but several countries also require U.S. citizens to have visas to enter. For residents of certain states, it’s domestic travel that might get a lot more complicated in the coming year, thanks to varying degrees of compliance with the REAL ID Act. The last thing you want to do is show up at the airport and be surprised to learn you don’t have what you need. You can always buy a toothbrush if you forgot yours, but if you don’t have the proper identification, you’re in real trouble.
Passed in 2005, the REAL ID Act set minimum standards for state-issued identifications in order for them to be accepted by federal agencies, including the TSA. As of now, 27 states are in compliance with the federal requirements. Six states (Illinois, New York, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and Rhode I…

Top Trips for Foodies

Top Trips for Foodies By Damien Martin 

It’s Thanksgiving week, time to stuff your face with abandon and enjoy all your favorite foods. While 2017 has been a tough year for travel in a lot of ways, especially hurricane season, there is plenty to be thankful for, such as the lifting of the laptop ban on certain flights. One of the best things about travel is sampling foods from all over the globe and experiencing different flavors, smells and atmosphere throughout the culinary world.

Sometimes you find amazing dishes in unexpected places, like on Celebrated Experiences’ Dublin food walking tour, featuring traditional and contemporary fare from a range of bakeries, food halls and cheesemongers. Wherever you go, there’s always a new taste to be discovered, and below is a rundown of some of the best Virtuoso-preferred companies for going around the world in 180 plates.
EXO Travels

Asia is a tapestry rich with unique spices, vegetables and styles of cooking. EXO can please your palate in a va…

Unique Accommodations Around the World

Unique Accommodations Around the World
By Damien Martin


Sure, the top suite at a hotel is glamorous. But it still has four walls and a ceiling, just like every other room you’ve stayed in, right? Unless you’re watching fish and rays swim by in one of the underwater suites at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai or the Underwater Room at Manta Resort on Tanzania’s Pemba Island, that is. Maybe you have a pretty state-of-the-art aquarium at home and that’s still a little too domestic for you. No worries, there are plenty of unique accommodations that can take you out of your comfort zone while still making you feel warm and cozy.
An inflatable bubble

Iceland’s Buubble bills itself as a “5 million star hotel” and is a perfect spot for viewing the Northern Lights. Most bubbles are fully transparent, but privacy is not a problem, as trees separate each from bubble from the next. The hotel doesn’t even tell you where it’s located until you book, so there aren’t a lot of gawkers milling around. The bubbles…

Villas and Apartments

Take your Villa or Apartment Renting To The Next Level With VirtuosoBy Damien Martin


Taking the whole family on a beach vacation this summer? Want an apartment in the big city for a long weekend? Why, you’ll need to book an Airbnb rental for that, right? Sure, if you want to run the risk of being secretly filmed by your host, as one couple recently discovered was happening to them at a Longboat Key, Fla., rental. Or if you’re OK with the possibility that your host might cancel your booking at the last minute for no reason or because of your race, as occurred in February with a Big Bear, Calif., rental. Or if you don’t mind that the place you’re renting might not have the proper insurance, safety measures or even be legally available for short-term rentals.

Or, you could utilize the vast resources of the Virtuoso network and stay at a place that has been properly vetted, offers services such as housekeeping and lets you enjoy your experience instead of worrying about what’s actually wait…

Spooky Destinations...

Spooky Destinations Around the World
By Damien Martin
Perhaps you’re a skeptic and don’t put any stock in ghost stories. At least from the comfort of your own home. But when you’re out on a crisp night and a chill wind blows through you, is there maybe a second of doubt that crawls up from the ancient parts of your brain and puts you on high alert? If you’re into that sort of thrill, you might want to put these haunted cities on your bucket list.
New Orleans
In the Big Easy, the difficulty might be in finding a place that isn’t reputed to be haunted. A good place to start is the city’s oldest cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. In addition to the unique practice of above-ground burial (made necessary by the city’s low elevation and proximity to the Mississippi River), which gives the cemetery a labyrinthine feel, legendary Voodoo queen Marie Laveau is said to be buried there. Though visitors are now allowed in only with a guide, many have tried their hand at making an X on Laveau’s grave …

Chocolate

Top chocolate tours around the world
By Damien Martin

It has to share the Halloween spotlight with costumes, ghost stories and apple-bobbing, but everybody’s favorite sweet treat gets all the attention on Oct. 28, National Chocolate Day. What better way to celebrate than curl up with a glass of hot cocoa and plan a chocolate-themed getaway? Virtuoso-preferred suppliers have some great tours that offer a taste of the sweet life.

United States

Here in the U.S., there’s no sweeter place than The Hotel Hershey just down the street from Hershey’s Chocolate World in Pennsylvania. There you can delight your senses at the chocolate tasting experience or be proactive and create your own candy bar. In New York, Beyond Times Square lets you get your hands dirty during its three-hour History of Chocolate program. Join director of the Big Chocolate Show and culinary historian Alexandra Leaf as she walks you through chocolate’s origins in Mesoamerica to today’s practices and learn what separates the t…

Craft Beer

Top trips for craft beer loversBy Damien Martin
So beer isn’t exactly a new thing. In fact, several of the oldest known recipes discovered around the world are for beer. The Roman historian Tacitus even made special mention of a fermented drink made from barley or other grain in his cultural survey of Germanic tribes. It’s been a staple in many cultures for a long time. But while the latter half of the 20th century was dominated by large breweries taking advantage of mass-marketing, the new millennium is all about craft and microbrews. Some destinations have been in on the act for a while, and others are just getting started. Here’s a sampler of some of the best destinations for a great brew-cation.
Belgium

The long Belgian brewing tradition dates to at least the crusades, when monks sold their creation to raise funds. Think of it as a medieval bake sale. Over the centuries, the Belgians have perfected the craft and the nation of about 11 million people has approximately 180 breweries an…