Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tulum tour

One of the highlights of my trip to the Mayan Riviera of Mexico was the excursion to the Tulum ruins. We opted for Amstar’s “Tulum Express” tour, a small-group tour with a maximum of 12 passengers. It cost around $60 per person, which included all transportation and entrance fees.

Secrets Silversands is near Puerto Morelos, about 15 minutes drive from the Cancun Airport, so it was about an hour to Tulum (a little more due to construction). The van picked us up at the resort at 8:00 am, and we returned at 1:00 pm. There were only seven of us in the group. The road is very good but not particularly scenic. There is still a lot of development and construction going on in this area.

The parking lot is a distance from the ruins, with a mediocre craft market. A trolley takes you to the ruins for a small fee (included in the tour) or you could walk. Tickets are required to enter the ruins, and there is an additional fee for video cameras (digital cameras and cell phones with video capabilities were ignored).

This walled city has a spectacular location perched above the Caribbean Sea with amazing views. The reef from Belize protects the shore and creates a lagoon-effect with turquoise waters. The ruins aren’t that old (the city’s heyday was 1200-1500) but it was interesting to imagine this ancient gated beachfront community for the affluent and powerful. There is even a Mayan lighthouse! Nothing remains of the thatched huts outside the walls where the peasants lived. Wooden steps lead to a small public beach. Lots of iguanas wander the grounds.

For those really interested in the Mayan civilization, Chichen Itza (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Coba may be better options, but both would be a full- day trip with much longer travel times. For the rest of us, Tulum is perfect- a pleasant few hours where you learn a little about the history of the region and are back at your resort in time for lunch. Families might enjoy a combo tour to Tulum and Xcaret, an eco-archaeological theme park with cultural demonstrations, or Xel-Ha, an open-sea aquarium.

Click here for my Slideshow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hola from Mexico!

Here is the view from our Junior Suite at Secrets Silversands on the Mayan Riviera. This morning we're going to explore the ruins of Tulum.

Flights from Ithaca on US Airways went pretty well, and the resort is just 15 minutes from the Cancun Airport. The room is very nice, complete with jacuzzi tub and marble shower. Meals have been good, especially the chicken mole. Gotta make time for the spa.

I will report in detail soon!

Friday, December 11, 2009

CityCenter Las Vegas

The CityCenter development in Las Vegas is HUGE. They say you'll either love it or hate it but I still can't decide.

CityCenter is very grey and the contemporary architecture is very different from the rest of the Strip, but it is sexy. The public art like this eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (I hope) and Henry Moore's 'Mother and Child" are nice additions. Right between Bellagio and Monte Carlo on the Strip, the location is excellent. Hoards were pouring into Crystals, the mega-mall (correction: "Retail & Entertainment District"). The Mandarin Oriental was having a grand opening celebration which prevented me from snooping.

Pedestrians are justifiably outraged by the design, which forces them to walk the equivalent of three city blocks (complete with huge flight of stairs) to keep their driveway free of human obstructions. Perhaps when construction is completed, they'll implement a better solution.

I admit to loving the molto fabuloso Las Vegas and Caesar's Palace is still my favorite hotel here (best shower ever). So when Vegas goes all urban sophisticate, it feels inappropriate. If CityCenter were in NYC, the piazza-like space would be for people, not cars and there would be a lot more plants to mitigate the grey.

Steve Marcus took way better photos than I did for the Las Vegas Sun, click here for his Slideshow.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Holidays from Vegas

They have definitely decked the halls Vegas-style at MGM Grand in Las Vegas! The conference was great, I learned a lot. A highlight was the 'Speed Dating' sessions where I met with over 75 representatives from hotels, cruise lines and tour operators in a single afternoon!

It was also nice to meet my new colleagues from FROSCH. With 45 locations in 12 states, this huge company still feels like a family business. After the New Year, we will complete the transition by changing logos and email addresses (I'll keep you posted).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Update

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Las Vegas for a conference and will be out of the office Thursday, Dec. 3, and Friday, Dec 4. I will be checking voicemails and emails periodically, and can book travel, but my response time will be slower than usual. The conference schedule is intense but I do plan to check out the new CityCenter, which opened this week.

The following weekend, I am escaping to the Mayan Riviera for some fun and sun. I will be out of the office Monday, Dec. 14, and Tuesday, Dec. 15. I haven’t been to this region since Hurricane Wilma, and plan to tour the ruins of Tulum this time.

For the holidays, the office will be closed Dec. 24–25 and Dec. 31–Jan. 1.

If you have a travel emergency, please call the 24/7 Linden Travel Hotline so one of my colleagues can assist you. The number is at the top of your flight itinerary.

There is still holiday space available and great deals for winter travel, although the prices are starting to increase. Please let me know if I can help make the season special!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holiday Travel

I was quoted in an article about holiday travel in the Ithaca Journal last week, click here for the story. A similar piece was printed in the Binghamton paper this week. Bottom line is it's not too late to book your holiday travel (even Thanksgiving) but space is getting scarce.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cruises on Sale

October is National Cruise Month and this week is the "World's Largest Cruise Night" (I'm not making this up).  The cruise lines have offered even more reasons to book your next cruise now.  Here is a summary of my favorite cruise lines promotions (most are valid for new bookings made between October 14 - 16). These offers do combine with all current specials.

Azamara: $300-$500 onboard credit for 2010 Europe sailings

Celebrity: $50-$200 per stateroom on 3-9 day sailings

Crystal: $100 per person discount on most 2009-2010 departures

Cunard: Client receive $50-$300 onboard credit per stateroom

Disney: $50 onboard credit for cruises 6 nights or less. $100 onboard credit for cruises 7 nights or longer

Holland America: 3-day Sale with special fares for a variety of destinations Oct 14-16

Princess: Onboard value booklet (worth up to $320) and a reduced $100 per person deposit

Regent: $100 per person on-board credit (book Oct 1 – Nov 14)

SeaDream: $100 per stateroom spa credit on all sailings 

Silversea: $200 savings on all voyages booked between Oct 14-28.

Windstar Cruises: $50 per person on-board credit for selected sailings

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Ithaca-DC service!

US Airways has just announced that it will be adding non-stop flights from Ithaca to Washington DC's Reagan National Airport. This is part of larger deal with Delta where they have swapped  slots: Delta will expand at LaGuardia while US Airways expands in DC. Here's the Press Release

These changes are subject to government approval, and there's no information about when the service will commence, when the flight times will be or how much the fares will be yet. I will keep you posted as more information becomes available.

This is great news for Ithaca,  especially now that winter cruises are sailing from Baltimore. 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Linden Travel merges with Frosch Travel

I am pleased to announce the merger of Linden Travel with Frosch Travel. The transition will be seamless as my focus has always been to provide greater service and it won't effect clients' new or existing bookings. I can assure you that my commitment will continue to remain the same, with added strength.

This merger creates a stronger travel enterprise with greater scale, innovation and customer service. The catalyst of this merger was to be able to deliver greater buying power and in turn give our customers added value.   The cruise program is especially exciting, with more special group rates and amenities offered on more sailings. 

I value our relationship and trust that we at Linden FROSCH will continue to earn your business. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Here's the Press Release:

Houston-based Frosch Travel (“FROSCH”) announced that it has completed a merger with New York-based Linden Travel. The merger creates a fully integrated travel management company with nationwide presence and firmly establishes FROSCH’s footing on the East Coast.

 

“FROSCH was carefully chosen because its culture is very similar to Linden’s in that both companies value high-touch service and acknowledge the importance of relationships. We will continue to provide exceptional service to our clients as we have done for the past 40 years. Our service will only be enhanced now that we can offer a truly global reach,” said Barbara Gallay, President of Linden Travel.

 

“We are delighted to welcome Linden Travel to FROSCH,” said Bryan Leibman, President of FROSCH. “Barbara Gallay and Linden’s travel consultants are some of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and admired in the industry. Our merger with Linden solidifies our presence in New York and positions us to better serve strategic global clients. I have the utmost respect for Barbara and look forward to working with her.”



Founded in 1969, Manhattan-based Linden Travel is considered one of the most established travel management companies in New York City. Barbara Gallay acquired ownership of Linden in 1975 and led the company through years of growth. Linden specializes in providing customized corporate travel management services to numerous industries including financial, entertainment, medical and fashion clientele. In 2008, Linden Travel generated $113 million in sales. Linden Travel has an industry-wide reputation for its service-oriented, customer driven approach to corporate and upscale leisure travel.

 

Barbara Gallay met Richard Leibman, Chairman of FROSCH, in 1988, and the two have maintained a strong professional rapport for more than 20 years. “This merger was the logical next step for Linden Travel,” noted Gallay, who will continue on as president of the New York City office. The merger joins together two leaders in the travel industry that have experienced significant growth in recent years. Additional synergies include expertise in supporting top producing independent travel consultants and leadership in the luxury leisure marketplace.



 FROSCH is a thirty-seven year old travel company based in Houston that generates over $500 million in annual sales through its corporate, leisure, incentive, meetings, and groups divisions. FROSCH has been owned and managed by the Leibman family since 1977. Today, FROSCH has approximately 800 staff in 44 branch offices in twelve different states. For more information regarding FROSCH, please go to www.frosch.com. For more information regarding Linden Travel, please go to www.lindentravel.com.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Enriching Journeys

Enjoy the latest issue of Virtuoso Insights

Whether you're looking to turn your vacations into opportunities to learn new skills or for your chance to save the world, the "Enriching Journeys" issue of Virtuoso Insights offers great ideas for travel that are sure to inspire you. 

Call me for more information: 
607-279-1734.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Family Fun

Memorial Day kicks off the Summer season, and if you haven't made your family vacation plans yet, it is NOT too late. There are fantastic deals out there for beach getaways, Alaska and Mediterranean cruises, and close-to-home quick escapes. Here is a Insider's Guide to Family Fun with exclusive Virtuoso offers. Here you'll find hotels and resorts around the globe that cater to kids with special amenities and acclaimed children's programs. Considering a cruise? That's a great way to stretch your vacation dollars, and I can recommend cruise lines that are especially family-friendly. Click here to see all offers. Enjoy the long weekend!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Virtuoso Quick Escapes


Enjoy the latest Virtuoso® Travel Catalog - QUICK ESCAPES

You don't need to take a long trip to create memories. From quick getaways that include a quaint beach town along the Pacific, an architectural tour of Toronto, living museums of the Mediterranean and more, this catalog is filled with great ideas for mini-vacations that can maximize your Return on Life™.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Four Seasons Resort Exuma Closing

The Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma is closing in two weeks, effective May 26. The Development company that owns the resort has been in receivership and a new owner could not be found.  

There are many lessons to be learned here about traveling in a weak economy:
1. Use a travel agent, preferably one who has a preferred relationship with the hotel company.
2. Don't assume that the hotel brand actually owns the property. Licensing agreements are the norm in the travel industry.
3. Buy travel insurance with financial default coverage (and check the list of suppliers included)
4. Use your credit card for all travel purchases (most cards offer some additional protection for travel purchases but check with your bank for details)
 
Here's an excerpt from the Press Release:
"PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the receiver, has worked diligently to identify a new owner for the development, which includes the Hotel. PWC announced some important developments today regarding the status of the receivership and sale process. 

After much deliberation, and in the absence of being able to identify a new owner for the development, the receiver has reluctantly decided to close the development. This is a decision which was very difficult for the receivers to make, and they look forward to a point in the future when this development will reopen under new ownership and continue to contribute to the Exuma community. Four Seasons has agreed to an orderly closure of the Hotel to guests effective as of May 26, 2009. It is unlikely that the Hotel will reopen as a Four Seasons

Our sales teams both at the Hotel and in New York are actively working with our clients and guests to rearrange any bookings that have been confirmed for beyond May 26. "



Friday, May 8, 2009

Hotel WiFi Report

Here it is: the 2009 HotelChatter.com WiFi Report on hotels internet-access charges and service. Guests rate internet-access as the single most important room amenity, above the signature bedding and decent lighting; but hotels are still slow to accommodate our tech needs. Luxury hotels almost all charge for in-room service while budget hotels often offer it for free. This year's report details The Best (including my fave hotels: Fairmont and Kimpton), The Worst, and a handy chart.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NYC Theater Weekend

My husband surprised me with an amazing trip to New York last weekend. He got tickets to "God of Carnage" and "Waiting for Godot" to create an unforgettable Existential Birthday getaway! Both plays have just been nominated for Tony awards, and we highly recommend them. "God of Carnage" features James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden. The acting was terrific, it was an intense domestic drama. All four actors have been nominated for best actor/actress in a play. "Waiting for Godot" stars Bill Irwin, Nathan Lane, John Goodman and John Glover. It was excellent! The comic timing was superb. We stayed at AKA Times Square which I'll review soon (loved it).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Special Travel Offers from Virtuoso


Now, more than ever, the time you spend with family, friends and even yourself is your most valuable investment. To ensure you're spending it wisely, take advantage of our personal knowledge, expertise, and connections around the globe to design your custom travel experiences. There's never been a better time to invest in your life.
Click here for Special Offers to help you reconnect through unique and wonderful experiences and realize your greatest return on life.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Virtuoso Life Hotel Issue

"Using your Virtuoso travel advisor to plan even a close-to-home hotel stay is a smart move: Your advisor can secure a great rate, along with fun extras such as daily breakfast, complimentary upgrades, late check-outs, even spa treatments, resort credits, bottles of wines and spirits, and the like.... There are more than 800 Virtuoso hotels and resorts and this, our annual Hotel Issue, showcases more than 100 of them. Each one offers something amazing." Editor Elaine Srnka.
Click here to enjoy this issue of Virtuoso Life.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mexico Travel Information (Swine Flu)

An hour after Carnival's press release, the other cruise lines have followed suit (big surprise). Here is a link to to an article describing all revised itinerary details.

As of April 29 at 10a, the US State Department has NOT restricted US travel to Mexico. The CDC has suggested that Americans avoid non-essential travel to Mexico. The WHO has not advised that any borders be closed or any travel to be restricted. That said, I am advising my clients to cancel their upcoming trips to Mexico. 

Most airlines have relaxed their change penalties for tickets to Mexico for travel within the next couple weeks. Here's a link to a summary of airline policies. Many resorts and vacation wholesalers have also relaxed their cancellation penalties and will allow trips to be re-scheduled without penalties. Contact your travel agent for more information. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cruise Line cancels Mexico stops

Carnival Cruise Lines seems to be the first company to cancel all stops in Mexico for the upcoming week due to the Swine flu epidemic. I received this notification at 8pm.  I predict that Royal Caribbean will follow suit shortly to avoid massive cancellations. Most other lines have their fleet based in Europe and Alaska this summer, which are unaffected areas.  
Here's the email:

April 28, 2009

Dear Travel Partner,

Carnival Cruise Lines has decided to cancel all calls at Mexican ports for all current sailings and all voyages departing on Thursday, April 30th through Monday, May 4th.  In many cases, we will be able to substitute the cancelled call with an alternative port.  Additionally, we are working on alternatives for those itineraries impacted by this decision. Full details will be available by 5pm Wednesday, April 29th. Once final details are confirmed for these itinerary changes, we will send you an automated message listing your impacted bookings for each affected voyage.

In the unlikely event that our new itinerary options are not to your clients liking, we will give them the opportunity to reschedule their cruise at a later date.  Those details will also be made available tomorrow.

Our primary concern is your client’s safety.  We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep you updated if and when changes are made.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Adventures at Sea

Cruise deals abound for the rest of 2009 and now cruise sales have been extended through all of 2010, so booking early this year is a great value.  Luxury cruise lines are offering unprecedented discounts, on-board credit offers and booking incentives.  Please enjoy the latest Virtuoso Travel catalog - ADVENTURES AT SEA, which highlights a variety of special offers. To access the digital edition, simply click here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Virtuoso Insights


Please enjoy the latest issue of VIRTUOSO INSIGHTS. To access this digital edition, simply click here to download the issue.

As you read through this Family Issue of VIRTUOSO INSIGHTS, you'll find great ideas for relaxing and reconnecting with those you love while creating travel memories you'll treasure forever. Now is a great time for finding exceptional value on extraordinary travel. As your Virtuoso travel advisor, I'm here to guide you through the terrific options available.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Win a trip from Linden Travel

In celebration of Linden Travel's 40th anniversary, we are offering three great travel prizes in the Linden Travel 40th Anniversary Sweepstakes. Enter every drawing period to increase your chances of winning. 

Click here to enter drawing and view official rules. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Linden Travel celebrates 40 years!

Linden Travel is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, which we commemorate by launching a new website. The designers have done a fantastic job and the travel photos from my colleagues make it sensational. Here's the press release in the Wall Street Journal.

Friday, January 30, 2009

You're Invited!

Join my husband Michael and me on a Windstar Cruises sailing from Turkey through the Greek Islands to Athens. Come aboard our ‘private yacht’ and enjoy the treasures of the Aegean Sea! We chose the perfect ship to explore these fascinating destinations.

The Wind Star departs Istanbul on June 13, 2009, for a 7-night cruise to Athens (arriving June 20, 2009). Ports of call include Kusadasi (tour the ruins of Ephesus), the Aegean beach resort of Bodrum in Turkey, and the Greek Islands Santorini, Rhodes and Mykonos.

Our tall-masted sailing ship accommodates a maximum of 148 guests, while the crew of 94 will pamper us onboard. She offers luxurious stateroom amenities (including iPod Nanos and Bose SoundDocks), and a Water Sports Platform with complimentary equipment. We’ll enjoy excellent cuisine with open seating and no dress codes. Of course the ship also has a pool, Jacuzzi, fitness center, casino and wireless internet access (so I can stay in touch with those of you not able to come along).

Our role is to make sure you have a wonderful time, host a “Welcome Aboard” cocktail reception for our Virtuoso traveling companions, and join you on an exclusive shore experience in Bodrum, Turkey. Special group pricing is available, please call or email me for more information.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Celebrity Cruises

I inspected the Celebrity Constellation in October 2008 and am finally posting the review (click here for slideshow). The truth is that I liked this ship but didn’t love her. The staterooms were attractive with decent design, the public areas were very nice and the space was well utilized. So why am I lukewarm? It looks like a lot of other cruise ships, and there were no distinctive elements to impress me.

In fairness, Celebrity is one my favorite Premium Cruise lines and I loved sailing on the Celebrity Century (before the big stretch and refurbishment in 2006). That ship had a very boutique hotel design with delicious color, space-age furniture, great tile work (especially in the spa) and fabulous carpets. Aesthetically she had a very distinctive personality, which I loved.

The Celebrity Constellation was the last of the four “Millennium Class” sisters (Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Infinity); she began cruising in 2002. Nine hundred and seventy five staterooms accommodate a little over 2,000 passengers. Perhaps the ship designers were trying to appeal to a broader demographic without sacrificing Celebrity’s reputation for sophisticated cruising.

As I said, the staterooms are attractive with lots of wood, and blue/grey/beige colors. The minimum room categories are much larger than any Royal Caribbean stateroom (and for a similar price) and the suites are quite nice (and come with extra concierge class amenities). The Royal Suite is very spacious, with a great layout (538 sq. ft. room with 195 sq. ft. balcony) and two whirlpool tubs (in bath and on veranda). The Penthouse Suite is ideal for entertaining (1,432 sq. ft. room, 1,098 sq. ft. veranda) with a butler’s pantry, wet bar on veranda and baby grand piano, plus there’s a connecting Sky Suite for your entourage (or your kids).

Tha AquaSpa facilities were extensive with Solarium, Thalassotherapy pool and Persian Gardens (fee to use the spa facilities). The Conservatory was special with lovely greenery. The San Marco Restaurant (traditional two seatings for dinner) is grand, and Michael’s Club is always sumptuously comfy. The other public areas were nice, but not unique or sensational.

Which is why I’m so excited by the Solstice Class ships. The Celebrity Solstice debuted in November 2008 with much fanfare after months of hype, and by all accounts she deserves the accolades. Click here for more details on the Celebrity Solstice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Coolest travel gadget ever!

My dream has come true! They have finally invented an audio phrasebook that can download to your iPod (or iPhone). No need to struggle when asking for the time, just click and the properly pronounced phrases are whispered in your ear to repeat at will. Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and German are currently available. And they’re only the cost of one song: 99 cents!

Lonely Planet
offers audio phrasebooks too, including Cantonese, Czech, Japanese, Mandarin, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese. They’re $9.99 each.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 Service Fees

Happy New Year!
After careful consideration, I have decided NOT to increase service fees, at least for the first half of the year.

Here is a summary of the current service fees:


TICKET PROCESSING


• Advise best price, times, routing, connections, and seat options.
• Inform you of airline fees (baggage, etc) and security procedures.
• Arrange car rental, hotel reservations, and travel insurance with no extra service fees.
• Monitor schedule changes until departure
• Negotiate with airlines on your behalf if schedule changes are unacceptable, and re-accommodate you, including re-issuing tickets.
• Provide assistance during travel if flights are delayed or cancelled (24 hour hotline available for clients).

$25.00 Domestic Ticket Processing Fee
(capped at $75 for family traveling together on the same itinerary)

$50.00 International Ticket Processing Fee
(capped at $150 for family traveling together on the same itinerary)

$15.00 Hotel and Car-only Reservation Fee


VACATION PLANNING


I don’t believe vacations are one-size-fits-all commodities, nor I do believe my responsibilities end once the sale is “closed”; it is just beginning. Your leisure time is precious, and vacations should create memories that last a lifetime. Destinations, hotels/resorts, cruise lines, and ships are not interchangeable, and price is only one factor of many to consider. Let me help you make the right choices and make your travel dreams come true. My expertise and inside knowledge are at your disposal and every detail will be considered. I will make all the vacation arrangements (including airport hotels before departure, sightseeing, and travel insurance) with no additional service fee. I can also arrange private tours and unique experiences to make your trip more memorable (cooking lesson in Tuscany, private guide in Hermitage, the possibilities are endless). Every question you have will be answered and we will review all trip details before departure so you know exactly what to expect on each step of the journey.

$50.00 Vacation Planning Fee

$100.00 Complicated Vacation Planning Fee
(Customized journeys, multi-stop independent itineraries, etc)

Group Service fees are available upon request.