Thursday, December 29, 2011

Travel News!


I am excited to announce an important change in my business that will have significant benefits both for you and for me: I have joined the Tzell Travel Group, one of the nation’s largest travel management companies. You will continue to receive the same personal service from me you've come to expect, and I think you’ll be impressed by the additional perks and discounts I can now offer you through Tzell's resources.

MY NEW EMAIL ADDRESS IS: sserino@tzell.com. The phone remains the same:
(607) 279-1734.

Please update your contact information for me now. I will not receive emails sent to the old address, so be sure to delete the Linden and FROSCH email addresses from your address book and be careful when sending that your computer doesn't automatically send it to FROSCH. After a couple times your computer will get used to my new address.

Headquartered at Times Square in New York City, Tzell currently has 1,200 employees companywide with 72 locations (including one in London), and more than $1 billion in annual sales. They’ve been in business for 44 years.

On a personal note, 2011 was a year of many challenges, but it was also an exciting one. My new experiences included zip-lining in the rainforest, snorkeling in a cave and hiking the citadel of Machu Picchu. Life is short, so it’s important to live each moment and embrace every opportunity for new adventures.

I’m looking forward to helping plan your future adventures (and having more of my own). Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful New Year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rosewood Mayakoba


Welcome to Rosewood Mayakoba
Our visit to Rosewood Mayakoba started like an ordinary trip. After a quick four-hour flight from Newark, we arrived in Cancun. Customs and Immigration went smoothly, and our driver met us just outside the exit and escorted us to a waiting SUV. Cold-scented towels, bottled water and soft drinks refreshed us for the 30-minute ride to the resort in the Mayan Riviera. Check-in took place in their open-air lobby, and then we boarded the resort’s boat and left the familiar behind. The cruise along the verdant lagoon was tranquil, with exotic water birds taking flight on our approach. Modern, cube-like bungalows were scattered along the shoreline. Where are on earth were we?

My heated plunge pool on the lagoon
The boat docked right at my room, where steps led up to my private deck. First thing I saw was the private plunge pool (thank you) and double lounger overlooking the lagoon.  My butler met me inside to show off the Deluxe Overwater Lagoon Suite. Nespresso maker, check. Walk-in closet, check. Soaking tub, check. Outdoor shower, yes!

Soaking tub, indoor and outdoor shower because you can't be too clean!

The spacious living area had contemporary décor, with floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls, which slide open (with screens) to let the outside in (but not the bugs).  Wherever we were, I liked it. A lot.


The next morning, I took a long walk in the mangrove preserve, and then we headed out for a full day of adventures. First, we enjoyed a private tour of the Mayan ruins of Tulum. This ancient waterfront resort is impressive (click here for my Tulum post). Then we went zip-lining through the rainforest- thrilling! After that, we explored a cave and went snorkeling in a cenote, an underground pool formed by rain filtering through the limestone. Swimming around giant stalagmites with the black fish was a surreal experience, like exploring a lunar landscape.

This full-service beachfront resort also has the usual amenities: a championship golf course, a wonderful spa,  a Kids Program, a few pools, and a couple of bars and restaurants. The resort's special sense of place, sensational suites and the fun adventures make this destination seem out-of-this-world.

Oh yeah, the beach

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Waldorf Towers


We interrupt this South America coverage to review my night at the Waldorf Towers in New York on September 29, 2011. This is the residential part of the legendary Waldorf Astoria and is perfect for extended stays or when you want more space than the typical NY room (which can be as small as a “New York minute” is fast). Click here for my photos

My Luxury Suite at the Waldorf Towers
My  Luxury Suite was huge and had a Park Avenue view. The décor was traditional but with modern amenities: iPod docking station, flat-screen TV, etc.   A grand foyer complete with chandelier led to the living room, which had ample space for entertaining with a sofa and plush chair. There was also a desk and the dining area had a table for two.  Then a corridor led to the Bedroom, but closer inspection revealed a wet bar, full size fridge, and cabinets stocked with glassware, etc.

The bedroom had a very comfortable King bed and an antique armoire along with the second TV. Beyond that was the Dressing room with vanity, valet and huge wall closet. The original safe was in the room and it was a thing of beauty.

The bathroom was large with marble floors, a big tub, separate shower and pretty porcelain vanity. I couldn’t help wishing it had the old-fashioned claw-foot soaking tub, and the modern showerhead the size of a dinner plate, which shows you just how spoiled rotten I have become.

I enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast in the Astoria Lounge. There was a nice spread with good coffee and lots of copies of the Wall Street Journal available.  Everyone was super nice and I was sorry my stay was so brief. After a cocktail at the Peacock Alley Bar, I was on the road once again. 

FROSCH clients receive $100 Food and Beverage credit (per room per stay, excluding mini-bar, taxes and gratuities) and based on availability at the time of check-in: Upgrade, early check-in and late check-out. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hotel das Cataratas, Iguaçu National Park, Brazil

Hotel das Cataratas, Iguaçu Falls, Brazil

The penultimate stay on our whirlwind tour of South America was at Hotel das Cataratas, an Orient Express hotel within Iguaçu National Park on the Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls. Once again, we arrived late after a really long day of travel. It was too dark to see the falls upon arrival, but the elegant lobby and comfy leather sofas were immediately calming. Click here for my photos.



Our Deluxe rooms were special. The décor was warm and bright with dark woods and tropical accents.  I especially admired the exquisite Orient Express closet. The bathroom featured traditional Azulejos painted tiles that were ever so pretty. After a quick change, we met our hosts on the veranda for Caipirinhas. (pronounced 'KIE-PUR-REEN-YAH'). These Brazilian cocktails are made with Cachaca (sugar-cane rum), limes and sugar and taste refreshingly delicious. Click here for the recipe (but beware of the second caipirinha).

Feeling much better after a couple drinks, we headed into dinner at the Ipe grill for a "gaucho-style barbecue" buffet. An epic variety of meats and sausages were slowly grilled on a spit, a real carnivores delight. The smells were so enticing that I had to discard my vegetarian tendencies and eat like a local, but there were lots of fish and salads for my less flexible companions. 

This restaurant was near the pool, and each trip back to the buffet revealed an incredible night sky floating above a gorgeous pool. As stuffed as we were (and as tired), we couldn’t resist a swim. The Hotel das Cataratas is surrounded by forest and the river, and our stay coincided with a New Moon, so the sky was pitch black with more constellations gleaming than I’ve ever seen before.  Floating in the tranquil water while gazing at all those stars was a magical experience.  They say it’s just as wonderful during a Full Moon when the hotel offers guided walking tours to the falls where you can see a Lunar Rainbow!


The next morning, we hit the trails at 8am and had the glorious falls all to ourselves. The trails were empty except for other privileged guests of the hotel enjoying exclusive access to the park before it officially opens. Iguaçu National Park opens daily at 9:00 am, and it takes the first bus twenty minutes to arrive from the Visitor’s Center to our hotel where it drops visitors off at the trail’s head.

Here’s how UNESCO describes this World Heritage site:
“The Iguaçu Falls span the border between Argentina and Brazil. Some 80 m high and 3 km wide, the falls are made up of many cascades and rapids that generate vast sprays of water and produce one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.”


The trails through lush foliage are very smooth with frequent viewing platforms. Each view is more amazing than the last and there are rainbows in almost every photo.  As you get closer to the waters edge, the trail becomes an elevated walkway extended over the river between two levels of cascading falls. Feel the spray against your face, hear the roar of water gushing over the cataract and breathe in those negative ions (some say they’re the reason we love waterfalls). 


After breakfast (buffet breakfast is complimentary), we headed further into the park for our private Macuco Safari experience.  They bill this as a three-part adventure (trolley, hike and boat) and the rainforest is nice (we saw lots of monkeys) but the boat to the falls was the MOST FUN EVER and not to be missed. I confess, I’ve experienced the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls at least a dozen times, but this was so much more exhilarating because the boat actually goes under the Falls.  Here is a before photo from our zodiac (I’m afraid the after photo is not for public viewing but take my professional advice and wear waterproof mascara, and don’t bother with the rain gear because you’ll get soaked anyway).


Back to the hotel for a traditional Brazilian lunch of feijoada, a stew of beans, rice and pork parts and garnished with farofa- delicious. We had a little time to digest in loungers by the pool and take a few final photos to help remember our wonderful stay before we headed to the airport. Unfortunately, there was no time to visit the Cataratas Spa or tennis courts. I urge you to stay here three nights so you can also explore the Bird Park and the Argentinian side of the Falls and still have some time to enjoy the resort. It’s a perfect combination with a city stay in Rio or Buenos Aires.

FROSCH clients will receive these exclusive Amenities:
  • One Way Private Sedan Transfer for up to two Guests, from Hotel to Airport (Brazilian side)
  • Complimentary welcome amenity
  • Upgrade based on availability at check-in

Monday, October 3, 2011

Four Seasons Buenos Aires


Welcome to the Four Seasons Buenos Aires
The final stay of our whirlwind trip to South America was at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires. We arrived late after a long day of travel and had very little time to freshen up for dinner at 10pm.  We went to our Junior Suites to discover a delicious chocolate welcome amenity, which was a needed pick-me-up.


Sadly, there were no coffee makers in the room and I didn’t have time for room service.  It was a large room (646 square feet) with the bedroom separated from the living area by a large TV armoire thing. The room décor was attractive in a subdued hotel way, but there were evocative tango paintings on the walls. The furniture was comfortable and looked expensive. Thoughtful touches, like the electric converter in the desk drawer, were appreciated.  The walk-in closet was very well designed.

After I surveyed the room and took some photos, I needed to quickly get ready. At that point of our journey, the dark circles under my eyes had become like ancient leather valises and I despaired my repair efforts would be in vain. Then I heard my name being called softly. I looked around the spacious bathroom to observe the huge Jacuzzi tub beckoning me, scented bath salts at the ready.  If only I had more than fifteen minutes to spare, I knew the hydro-massage would restore me. It wasn’t easy to resist, but our hosts were waiting.
Tempting Jacuzzi tub
Executive Chef Juan Gaffuri created a special Tasting Menu for our private dinner, and it was an exceptional meal. After dinner, we went to a milonga for an authentic Tango experience. It was fun to watch the locals tango and give it a try.
I returned to the hotel at 2am and finally discovered how amazing a Four Seasons bed can feel.  Intellectually, I knew their beds were the best in the industry; but sleeping is believing. Perfection! Only a poet could describe how sublime the linens were. But at 6am, I awoke to hear my name again.  As if the Jacuzzi knew my 7am wake-up call would only permit a quick shower, it tried to entice me once more. The bed would not release me: who knows when I’ll have another opportunity to experience the fabulous Four Seasons bed? It was a pleasant struggle but the bed won the hour. If only all life dilemmas were as wonderful…

It just looks like an ordinary bed

After a quick bite and cafe con leche from the buffet breakfast at Le Mistral, and our private walking tour of the city guided by Abercrombie & Kent, we returned for a tour of the hotel. We inspected a Deluxe room (definitely upgrade to the Junior Suite for the extra space, double vanity and Jacuzzi tub).  We explored the Preferred Lounge called The Library, the full-service Spa and Fitness center and the Presidential Suite in La Mansion, where Madonna stayed while filming Evita.  There they arranged a private tango performance and served champagne- amazing!  From there, we went to Sunday Brunch for another superb meal created by Juan Gaffuri. The musicians played a Tango version of “Autumn Leaves” as I wandered through the garden admiring the heated outdoor pool


As a Preferred Partner of the Four Seasons Buenos Aires, FROSCH clients will receive these exclusive amenities:

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Lunch for two once during stay (up to USD85, excluding gratuity and alcohol)
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites and villas)
  • Welcome note at check-in acknowledging you and your travel agency and the amenities that are being extended
  • Complimentary high-speed Internet access for all suite bookings
  • Early check in subject to availability at time of arrival

Click here to see my Slideshow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

South America Trip

Hotel das Cataratas at Iguassu Falls, Brazil
I'm packing today for my upcoming trip to South America. It will be an amazing trip! We're staying at some wonderful properties: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, and Aranwa Hotel in Cusco, Peru; Hotel das Cataratas at Iguassu Falls in Brazil; and the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I will be out of the office from Friday, September 16, through Monday, September 26 (I’ll be back at my desk on Tuesday, September 27). While I will be checking email and voicemail, I won't have much time to assist clients; so if you need immediate assistance, please call my colleague Dorothy Campagna in the FROSCH NY office at 212-404-6300.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Culinary Vacations with Food Network Travel

FROSCH, as a member of Signature Travel Network, is now able to offer Food Network Travel guided vacations in Italy, France and Northern California. Launching in 2012 and open for booking this August, these tour packages complement the previously launched Caribbean and Mediterranean Food Network at Sea cruises.
Food Network Travel’s guided vacations will be operated by Trafalgar and have been developed in association with Signature Travel Network and Food Network to bring FROSCH’s foodie clients on highly customized culinary land vacations as seen through the lens of Food Network. Vacations include a Food Network tour director, first-class hotel accommodations and exclusive ‘By-Invitation-Only’ experiences that only Food Network can offer. Guests will sample favorite dishes and visit favorite spots of Food Network stars as seen on such shows as Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Best Thing I Ever Ate. Guests will visit markets and wineries; meet chefs; and even try their hands in the kitchen in hands-on cooking classes, some using recipes developed by Food Network Kitchens. These unique itineraries will immerse guests in the best of local flavors with the brightest stars of the food world.

Flavors of Italy. In a nation known for its diverse and delectable food, Food Network Travel shows travelers the finest that Italy has to offer. Guests will learn first-hand the culinary magic that surrounds the picture-perfect monuments of Rome, the cypress-lined roads to hilltop towns in Tuscany, the serenading gondoliers in Venice. Guests will visit the Forum, the Coliseum, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Plus, they will have the opportunity to sample Rachael Ray’s favorite gelateria in Rome, taste wines and olive oils in Tuscany, and stroll through Giada De Laurentiis’s favorite fish market in Venice. A Florentine cooking class begins at the luscious market of Sant Ambrogio to gather the freshest ingredients, and continues in the hills of Chianti, where guests will learn the secrets of robust flavors and irresistible sauces. Highlights include a Tuscan dinner in a historic renaissance style villa, hands-on pasta-making class and market shopping with a local chef, a luncheon at legendary Villa San Michele in Tuscany, dinner at a private home in Chianti, and a farewell dinner off St. Mark’s Square in Venice. 8-night guided vacation. Select Friday departure dates from USA: May 11, May 18, June 1, June 15, September 7, September 14, September 21, September 28, October 5, October 12, 2012.
 

Flavors of France. Guests will enjoy the must-see sights of Paris – the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre – mixed with the favorite bakeries of Giada De Laurentiis and Ina Garten, the picturesque markets, the beautiful (and flavorful) vineyards of Burgundy and the “gastronomy capital of France,” Lyon. Guests will follow the Rhône River into Provence, stopping in charming villages where they’ll experience the best of local fare. In a landscape straight out of a Van Gogh painting, guests will meet a talented local chef at his restaurant for a hands-on cooking class. Guests will also visit Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, Nice and the legendary Monte Carlo, learning about the local specialties, sampling the day’s market fare and dining on delicacies fresh from the garden and the sea. Highlights include Chef’s lunch at a Chateau in Burgundy, dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in St-Remy, a Royal luncheon hosted by a Baron and Baroness at their winery in Maubec, and a farewell dinner in Nice. 8-night guided vacation. Select Thursday departure dates from USA: May 10, May 30, June 14, September 6, September 20, 2012.

Flavors of Northern California (San Francisco/Napa/Sonoma). Guests will enjoy an unforgettable culinary vacation in San Francisco and California’s picturesque wine country. With Food Network as the guide, guests will experience the Saturday morning Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market and taste and dine at several locations featured on Diner, Drive-ins and Divers, Best Thing I Ever Ate and other Food Network shows as guest visit such iconic sights as Union Square, Twin Peaks, the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown. Next, guests will continue to the wine country, where they will visit Food Network’s partner winery, Wente Vineyards, for a private behind-the-scenes tour, garden-fresh lunch and a wine tasting. Highlights include a four-course hands-on cooking class with wine pairing lunch in Sonoma, a private dinner at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega and a farewell dinner at Tyler Florence’s Rotisere & Wine in Napa. 7-night guided vacation. Select Friday departure dates: June 29, July 13, August 3, October 5, October 19, 2012.
 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Celebrity Eclipse ship review

Of all the mega-ships that have launched in the last few years (and they are legion), Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class ships are my personal favorites. Sexy design, thoughtful staterooms, a fabulous spa, and appealing restaurants are all welcome ship amenities in my book. Celebrity Cruises is not a luxury line, but this 'Premium' cruise experience is a very good value. The Celebrity Eclipse debuted in April 2010 and like her Solstice-class sisters (Celebrity Solstice 2008, Celebrity Equinox 2009, Celebrity Silhouette 2011 and coming in 2012 is Celebrity Reflection) she has unique features like the Lawn Club (croquet anyone?).


Lawn Club

I had an opportunity to tour her in Florida this year, and fell madly in love with the decor. Stylish and contemporary, each public room had delightful details that invited me to join the fun.  Every chair beckoned me to 'sit here!' Whimsical lighting features almost winked at me. I was charmed.  

Order from an iPad menu at Qsine


Quasar nightclub has a retro space-age vibe

Make no mistake, these ships aren't for everyone. If the urban martini connoisseur crowd is not to your taste and you have no desire to try a sushi lollipop, then this is may not be the ship for you. Staterooms were designed by a coterie of travel industry insiders, mostly women, to create a luxurious experience with careful attention to detail. Clearly, I am their target market!

It's 5 o'clock somewhere...

I will be sailing on the Celebrity Silhouette's inaugural cruise from New York this November, and I can't wait!
Click here for my photos
Click here for the latest Celebrity Cruises specials.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vacation Like a VIP at Ritz Carlton, Fort Lauderdale

The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale’s “Vacation Like a VIP Package” was featured on the Today Show this morning.  I toured the resort this April and loved it (here are my photos).


The "Vacation like a VIP" summer package includes all of the following amenities:
  • Buy an Intracoastal View room and receive an upgrade to a Partial Ocean View room at the time of booking 
  • $100.00 Resort Credit, once per stay, to be used in the Food and Beverage outlets or Spa
  • Complimentary Valet parking 
  • $25 American Express Gift Card, provided by the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
  • Super Summer 2-4-1 savings card, visit www.sunny.org/supersummer  for details on this savings card. 



FROSCH clients will also receive these exclusive amenities:
  • Complimentary continental breakfast for two daily
  • Pre-registration & express check-in
  • Late check-out (complimentary 4pm departure, if available)
Travel between June 1, 2011 and October 15, 2011 with the minimum 2 night stay requirement. Package rates start at $239.00 per night. Contact me for more details or to check availability.

Friday, May 20, 2011

End of Days Bucket List

All this talk about The Rapture is making me want to escape! CNN has the right idea, suggesting "It may be the end of the world as we know it, so travel like there's no tomorrow." Here's a link to the story with gorgeous photos from their apocalyptic Bucket List. And here's my favorite 'screen-saver moment' from my stay at the St. Regis Bora Bora:

 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Allure of the Seas Ship Review

It’s stupendous! It’s colossal! It’s Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.
Aerial view of Allure of the Seas
The Allure of the Seas made her debut in November 2010 as the largest ship afloat (a fraction of an inch larger than her sister Oasis of the Seas).  She accommodates about 6,000 passengers in 2,700 staterooms. None of those passengers are complaining about being bored.
The first carousel at sea
Kids of all ages will jump at the chance to cruise on this leviathan. Little kids will love the Merry-Go-Round, the Dreamworks characters parade, and the H20 Zone kids pool area with sprawling octopus sprinkler. Older kids will like the 3-D movies (featuring Kung Fu Panda 2 this summer), ice skating rink, and 9-hole miniature golf course. Even teens will be impressed by ship features like the 9-deck high Zip line, FlowRider surf simulator, and Rock climbing walls.
FlowRider surf simulator
Grown ups will appreciate the vast dining and entertainment options. Live entertainment includes Chicago The Musical, signature ice shows, Aqua Theater performances and a comedy club. Restaurants include Samba Grill (a Brazillian Churrascaria), Izumi Asian Cuisine (serving sushi, dumplings and Ishiyaki plates), and Rita’s Cantina for Mexican cuisine. 
Vintages Wine Bar in Central Park
For the Existentialists who think Hell is other people and this ship sounds like Purgatorio-at-Sea, there are some attractive places for you too. The adults-only Solarium is secluded and quiet, Vintages Wine Bar is a cozy hideout in Central Park and Jazz on 4 is a haven for hipsters.
Jazz on 4
The design aesthetic is straight from the shopping mall, but Central Park was pretty and the Boardwalk neighborhood did evoke Coney Island. My personal favorite innovation was the Touchscreen Navigation system at each elevator bank. Like a mounted iPad that not only tells you where you are and maps a route from here to there, it also tells you what’s going on and who’s serving food now (and where there are tables available!). 

Click here to see my Photos. Click here for more information on ship features.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cruise Conference, Part 2


Moonlight Sonata Dining Room on Celebrity Eclipse

Day 3.
Toured Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Eclipse - such a sexy ship! I loved the decor, especially in all the restaurants. Click here for my photos.Visited the trade show in the afternoon before my classes. The Conference Banquet was just OK but the entertainment was pretty good (especially Mosaic).

Day 4.
Went for a nice walk before the tour of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. I wasn't sure I'd like this behemoth- currently the largest ship at afloat. It has a zip-line,  a surf machine, a merry-go-round, an ice rink, a rock-climbing wall, etc. It also has a comedy club, a jazz lounge and the Central Park area was really pretty. Click here for my photos.
Central Park on Allure of the Seas

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cruise Conference, part 1


The view of the intercoastal waterway from my balcony at the Hyatt Pier 66

Day 1. 
My flight was delayed (they couldn't get it started) so I caught a later connection and missed a couple classes. I did enjoy the Silversea, Seabourn, and Azamara presentations. Then I met the lovely Noelle for a tour of the RitzCarlton Fort Lauderdale. Gorgeous! Check out my photos here. We enjoyed a drink watching the beach. Then back to my hotel to dine outside at Pelican Landing on the dock of Pier 66. Bed early at Hyatt Pier 66.


Day 2
Woke up early (well, early for me) and did a little work before my tour of Regent Cruises' Seven Seas Navigator. Much smaller than the Mariner and her sister the Voyager, I wanted to see how she compared. The verandah suites are just as nice. After the tour, I went back to the Hyatt to check in and download photos. Then back to class, learning all about the Baltic Sea ports. Had sushi for dinner at China Grill. Jumped in the jacuzzi and swam in the pool before hitting the shower and soon the bed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April Travels


It looks like Spring has finally sprung, so I hope you are enjoying the season. I spent the entire first quarter of 2011 busy at my desk, and I’m ready to get out of town.

This weekend I will be attending a Cruise Conference in Fort Lauderdale, which will take me out of the office from Thursday, April 14, until Tuesday, April 19. I am looking forward to touring Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator, Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Eclipse and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (check back here for photos). Next week, I’ll be out of the office from Wednesday, April 20, until Monday, April 25.

I will be checking voicemails and emails frequently and working a couple hours each day. The FROSCH Hotline is there to assist you with any travel emergencies while I am away. Thanks for your patience during the next few weeks!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ritz Carlton Toronto


The Ritz Carlton Toronto lobby
The Ritz Carlton Toronto welcomed my mother and me this past weekend. We made heroic efforts to experience all the facilities in two nights, and here is our review. Click here for my photos.

DÉCOR: We both loved the décor (warm and contemporary) and the attention to detail (every single light fixture was attractive). Canadian touches were featured throughout the hotel, from the bronze maple leaves embedded in the lobby’s marble floor, to a stunning Inuit marble carving displayed by our elevators on the 16th floor.

THE SERVICE: Every staff member that we encountered was friendly (which I expected) but also seemed sincerely desirous to assist us in anything. Everyone offered concierge-like services in an effort to make sure we had a lovely time in Toronto (including the in-room dining staff!). Many staff members acknowledged us by name, which was impressive during such a short stay. Even the doormen were memorably charming. 

The cheese cave at TOCA Restaurant

TOCA by Tom Brodi: This restaurant serves Contemporary Canadian cuisine with a farm-to-table approach in an attractive setting (B/L/D M-F, Brunch and dinner on weekends). There is a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled cheese cave where you are invited to try Canadian cheeses after lunch and dinner. The wine cellar is extensive, and they offer 50 wines by the glass. There is a private dining room with seating for 12, and a gorgeous Chef’s Table in the middle of the kitchen. The dinner menu would impress even the most sophisticated New Yorker (how often do you see beer-battered lobster appetizer or loin of venison?). 

TOCA Bar

TOCA Bar: This sexy watering hole is already popular with the financial district workers. Menu includes sustainable Canadian caviar and a raw bar. I saw strips of bacon standing up in a beer glass offered as a bar nibble.

DEQ Terrace Lounge
DEQ: The Terrace Lounge has cozy indoor seating (sofas and fireplace) and a large outdoor patio with fire pit and pizza oven. All-day dining options include tableside charcuterie, fondue-of-the-day (from the cave), flat breads, etc.  
 

The view from our room
ROOMS: Our Deluxe room was a spacious 450 feet with floor-to-ceiling windows and a great view of Lake Ontario and CN Tower. Tech features include a 42’ flat-screen HDTV with DVD player and a BOSE iPod/radio/CD sound system. All of the lighting was adjustable on dimmers for complete control of our environment. Ritz Carlton hotels are known for their wonderful marble bathrooms, and this one had all the ‘standards’ I expected: deep soaking tub, double vanity, shower stall with rain shower head and adjustable hand held. The heated floor was a nice touch, but the TV mirror was an amazing surprise. 

Our bathroom, complete with a television in the mirror
SPA: This is what lured us back to Toronto: the 23,000 square foot Spa! Best. Massage. Ever. This urban spa has stylish décor, but no photos were permitted, sadly. There were three Relaxation Lounges for guests to await treatments: Women’s, Men’s and the Sun Room (with floor-to-ceiling windows) all in butter and cream with dark tropical woods that remind you of Bali without being ‘Balinese’. There was a very nice tea selection available (the Vanilla Rooibos is delish) and little nibbles (pumpkin seeds, walnuts and dried apricots).  There is a lunch menu available if you can’t tear yourself away, and it’s not just the typical spa fare: bison carpaccio was offered. 

The 16 treatment rooms are candlelit with chocolate tilework and another gorgeous light fixture. I tried their Signature ‘Cloud 9 Massage’ and Margaret my masseuse had wonderful hands. Mom received the ‘Breath of Fresh Air Facial’ which included foot massage and paraffin hand treatment; she emerged relaxed and radiant. Spa features include Steam Room, Sauna and Vitality Pools (the Invigorating Pool was shallow with a curved floor and a dozen jets). There are also two showers with eight heads strategically located for a hydro-massage.
The Salon has private pedicure cabins. Fellow spa addicts should note that this isn’t a “holistic” spa experience: nothing feng shui about the décor, they played low-key contemporary music in the Relaxation Room, the staff didn’t use the phony spa voice, etc. 

The lap pool

The lap pool is surrounded by inviting lounge chairs, windows overlooking the city, and a Jacuzzi discreetly placed in the co,rner. According to the hotel website, there is a Yoga Studio by Yogagurl offering group and private classes and there’s a state-of-the-art Fitness Centre with Techno-Gym strength training, Kinesis and Precor Cardio Equipment (but I didn’t seek out those particular amenities). 


PROMOS: There is an introductory Third Night Free promotion valid until September 5, 2011. FROSCH guests will receive complimentary continental breakfast daily and $100 Food & Beverage credit. My clients will also receive an upgrade and Late Check-out if it is available. 


Toronto Life has more photos, including the Spa.