It's always a happy holiday with a Christmas tree of Dunham Cellars wine bottles

It’s always a happy holiday with a Christmas tree of Dunham Cellars wine bottles

In Part 1, Yakima Valley Wineries were discussed

All photos by Russell Wagner

Two of the biggest decisions we faced when deciding to visit both Yakima Valley and Walla Walla wineries were where to stay for the easiest travel after a day of exploration and sipping, and which of the many wineries to visit of those we knew or had been recommended to us. There were far more wineries on our list than we could reasonably expect to actually drop into. Where to stay turned out to be Kennewick, because it sits roughly an hour’s drive between the two wine regions along accessible highways.

Next time we go (and after this visit it’s not an if, but definite), we may stay at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel, a luxury lodging in downtown Walla Walla, built originally in 1927. All of us—Russ, his brother Randy and our sister-in-law Cher, relish historically preserved and revered architecture. This 133-room hotel, restored and reopened in 2001 represents the essence of elegance, sophistication and beauty from an earlier era. We did dine at The Marc Restaurant, named “Restaurant of the Year” by the Washington State Wine Commission, which I will happily rave about at the end of this blog.

With the question of where to stay on our current journey resolved, the next was where to do our tastings. Russ and I have been drinking wines from Walla Walla more frequently, discovering them at various tastings at home in Central Florida. Walla Walla has been recognized as an AVA (American Viticultural Area) since 1984. Two-thirds of the AVA is in Read the rest of this entry »

Map of Yakima Valley, WA. photo by Russ Wagner

Map of Yakima Valley, WA. photo by Russ Wagner

This latest visit to Washington wineries confirms what my husband Russ and I had already determined: we prefer bold and brash merlots, cabernet sauvignons, zinfandels, malbecs and syrahs.

Of course, there are other varietals and blends we are happy to wrap our tongues around (so to speak), which includes some crisp and clean whites and rosés, but give me a jammy red that fills my mouth with flavor and I am in my happy place. Which is why Yakima Valley and Walla Walla wineries jumped to the head of our “wine labels to explore” list.

Yakima Valley appellations – which include Yakima, Zillah, Prosser and the Red Mountain & Vicinity AVAs– is an 80-mile stretch of rural countryside. We focused our time in Red Read the rest of this entry »

Laser light shows light up the St. Louis Union Station Hotel every evening. photo by Russ Wagner

Laser light shows light up the St. Louis Union Station Hotel every evening. photo by Russ Wagner

Vintage train travel evokes an atmosphere of retro sophistication, the clacking of wheels rolling over tracks, elegant club cars with linen-covered tables and plush chairs, and where the ultimate goal is less about the destination than the journey. That ode to yesteryear has emerged as one of the most comforting trends in alternative event venues.

One of the most recent to capitalize on that nostalgic environment is the St. Louis Union Station’s nine retrofitted train cars, housed under an open—air steel beam canopy soon to be transformed into an attractions park featuring food outlets, a 200” high observation wheel, light and fire shows, a fountain and an outdoor plaza. Already onsite is a Landry’s seafood restaurant and Hard Rock St. Louis.

On a recent trip to St. Louis with my train-fascinated husband, Russ, we were given a private tour of the four trains Read the rest of this entry »

The Silver Chalet Dome at St. Louis Union Station wants to be your group party venue

The Silver Chalet Dome at St. Louis Union Station wants to be your group party venue

In this issue: Vintage Trains roll on in St. Louis and Napa Valley
Making Moonshine: the new teambuilding event guaranteed to bring smiles
Exotic destinations and discount offers
HOT DEALS!!!!!
Exotic getaways that offer discounts or incentives is always exciting, but Design Hotels, has cranked up their summer offerings. Take for instance, the chance to enjoy a three-course set menu dinner in The Dining Room, a trendy new restaurant at Blakes Hotel in London, UK. The South Kensington couture hotel designed by former Bond girl, Anouska Hempel, features individually-styled boutique furnishings in each guestroom. No minimum stay requirements. At the Nakar Hotel in Palma De Mallorca, Spain you will have to book at least three nights, but you get great rates, free breakfast and WiFi, and the chance to be on Avinguda Jaume III, one of the area’s liveliest shopping streets. The 57-room hotel is fashioned from local materials and the onsite restaurant serves authentic “urban Majorquine” cuisine. Of course, if you’re looking for a relaxing, food-driven stay without all the

C-hotel, Lake Como, Italy

C-hotel, Lake Como, Italy

glamorous décor, check out C-Hotel & Spa in Cassago Brianza, Lake Como, Italy. You can smell the rich chocolate notes of freshly ground coffee the moment you step in to the stone-clad lobby that emanates from the family-owned 18-room hotel’s Italian bar and confectionary shop. Incentives include breakfast and those tantalizing dishes made from locally-sourced products.
http://www.DesignHotels.com
Omni Hotels & Resorts knows you work hard and wants to reward your efforts by using your work travel as a vacation opportunity when staying at one of their luxury hotels. Group guests (at participating Omni properties) can extend their stay by two days either before or after the original stay dates at an exclusive rate. Simply apply the promo code EXTENDG for 15 percent* off the best bar rate. Omni will also send a “reminder” email two days after a room reservation to notify the guest that the reservation is eligible for the exclusive rate extension. The offer only applies to reservations that are originally less than six nights. There are other restrictions but you can check Read the rest of this entry »

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

April 1. April Fool’s Day and the biggest joke of the day was our group thinking our early morning LAN flight to Santiago, Chile would leave on time. We were at the Puerto Montt Airport by 8 am for a 10:15 flight. Technically, our airplane was there but it was somewhere above us circling above the dense fog that rendered anything beyond the glass windows just an opaque smoky haze.

The arduous pace our group has kept has taken its toll. Some are sick. Most of us are exhausted. The hours of fog-induced delay have pushed our schedule back. The plan to tour Santiago before our night’s activity became an hour stroll among crowded streets and an even more crowded plaza (watch out for the pickpockets!!). We spent little time in Santiago but my initial impressions are of a tattered-appearing city, overcrowded and ill-adept or disinclined to preserve their historical architecture. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we met inside the lobby of Hotel Atton Vitacura to find out which home we’d each be visiting for dinner with a local host.

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

As this was Russ and my first group tour, we didn’t quite understand what dinner with a local host meant. In this case, volunteers who are part of the Smithsonian community agree to host a home cooked meal for a designated number of people. As we came to understand, the host is provided requested provisions. Our group of four couples was assigned to Andrea, a well-travelled woman in her 30s who spoke fluent English. A driver picked each group up and delivered us to the respective front door. In our case, Andrea and her five-year-old (total cutie) son Read the rest of this entry »

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Our lake thinks it’s an ocean with a tropical storm pushing its waves into foamy peaks before it slams onto the shore. The lake is just across the street from the picture window of our room in the Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur in Puerto Varas, Chile.

It’s day 12 of our 18-day expedition to Patagonia with Smithsonian Journeys. Getting to Puerto Varas was tedious. Our group of 20 travelers from across the United States and Switzerland, as well as our illustrious Tour Director, Nick Tozer, left the iconic mountains of Torres del Paine National Park, drove three hours by coach to the Puerto Arenas Airport, flew two hours and then drove another half hour by comfy coach to our fifth hotel. Each hotel becomes progressively more modern, more beautiful.

View from our room at Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur, Puerto Varas. photo by Russ Wagner

View from our room at Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur, Puerto Varas. photo by Russ Wagner

Our travel was delayed yet again by a late LAN flight. So far they’re batting 100%. No flight has left on time.

We don’t arrive until 11 pm, still the dinner hour for many Latin Americans. Though we are a tired party, none of us turn down welcoming gestures of the bartender’s freshly made pisco sours and the chef’s homemade miniature empanadas. As if the delectable bites weren’t a treat, our room bears another plate of tasty bites: cheeses, nuts and slices of lunch meats. We nibbled, put the rest in the fridge, and decide this room, rich in creams and brown tones, was comfortably cozy. Maybe because the 98-room contemporary hotel is now a part of the Radisson Hotel family, we can flush toilet paper in the toilet! (If you don’t get my exhalation of joy, read Read the rest of this entry »

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park

Google Patagonia, Chile and the iconic picture that pops up is likely of The Masif. Photos of the 10,000 foot high giant rarely do it justice, especially when you’re staring at its snow-bald cap under a startling blue sky streaked with puffy white clouds. Few get to see The Masif preening in all its glory. Mostly the base is visible under a heavy blanket of fog or grey rain. Once again, the weather gods were kind to our intrepid group.

We’d seen the Masif in the distance, but our six-hour bus ride from Punta Arenas (where we’d disembarked from our ship, the Stella Australis) brought us up close and personal. For the next few days, the rustic 95-room Hotel Rio Serrano, located near the entrance of Torres del Paine National Park, would be our home. Our

An early morning rainbow bursts from the mountain in Torres del Paine area, just outside of our hotel. photo by Russ Wagner

An early morning rainbow bursts from the mountain in Torres del Paine area, just outside of our hotel. photo by Russ Wagner

Smithsonian Journeys-arranged lodging backed up to a horse farm, green and gold grasses, glaciers glinting in the sunrise orange sky and a rainbow bursting from the cracks of steep craggy Read the rest of this entry »

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park. photo by Russ Wagner

Thousands of shipwrecked sailors’ bones are forever entombed in the turbulent sea crashing against Cape Horn, the 1,400-foot high promontory soundlessly monitoring the endless savage confrontation of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Gusty winds and roiling seas batter the tiny isle of Cape Horn, of which the fabled promontory is like a jutting chin facing down the world’s most treacherous waters. Naturalist Charles Darwin tried unsuccessfully in the 1820’s to do what our intrepid group of adventurous tourists accomplished; we landed and hiked on Cape Horn (National Park), the northern boundary of the Drake passage and the last spit of land before one reaches Antarctica.

We reached Cape Horn aboard the Stella Australis, a sleek white Expedition ship. But before our afternoon boarding of the elegant lady, our Smithsonian Journey’s Patagonian Expedition group of 20 spent two days in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city.

Usushaia, Argentina

There are many reasons why Patagonian adventures begin in Usushaia. It’s where our ship would launch.

It’s an easy ride to Tierra del Fuego National Park, a 155,676-acre nature preserve created Read the rest of this entry »

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park. All photos by Russ Wagner

Russ retched up to the moment we gingerly stepped into the zodiac that bounced in the rolling sea. If the Captain of the Stella Australis didn’t call us back due to a rapid gusting wind or sudden stormy skies, we would be among the few tourists this season to land at dawn on the legendary (Island of) Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos), the last bit of land before reaching Antarctica.

But that historic (for us) landing was many days after our group of 20 international travelers began our 18-day Patagonia Expedition with Smithsonian Journeys. It was not an adventure I would have chosen, but it fulfilled my husband’s dream to travel to the ends of the earth to visit one of the most recognized beautiful and relatively primitive destinations left on earth. This was not a laid-back vacation, but an adventure for even seasoned travelers.

Like all journeys, this one began with travel. Over the course of the next 18 days, Read the rest of this entry »

Russ and me, after our successful hike in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.

Russ and me, after our successful hike in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.

I’ve been away travelling, hiking up mountains, glaciers and volcanos throughout Patagonia. Until I can focus on telling you the details of that thrilling adventure, here’s a lot of information on which you can chew and plan your vacation or group meeting. There’s a lot of info here, so grab your favorite beverage, plop yourself into a comfy chair, and dream about the possibilities.

HOT DEAL!

Tech-savvy groups won’t want to miss out on the wizardry  The Mira Hong Kong offers along with its unique thematic coffee breaks, nine meeting rooms that can host from 18 to 800 people, and state-of-the-art AV services. Located in Tsim Sha Tsui, China, The Hong Kong prides itself on Asian hospitality, views of Kowloon Park, and that each of the 492 rooms and suites is equipped with a sleek, portable, and complimentary Wi-Fi device for use on-the-go, allowing for 24/7 connectivity and sharing the signal to up to 10 devices. Book this hotel by August 31 and here are just some of the perks you can gain for your group.

8 to 49 rooms: – For every 5 rooms booked, the 6th room booked will be upgraded to the next category, plus additional privileges

50+ rooms: – For every 50 room nights booked, enjoy one complimentary night for your next visit; Complimentary 60-minute cocktail at the open-air lounge bar or at one of the Specialty Suites designed for entertaining; additional privileges

https://www.designhotels.com/hotels/china/hong-kong/the-mira-hong-kong?utm_source=8800001&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_content=the-mira-hong-kong&utm_campaign=1604

Osthoff Resort cooking school, classes for kids and for adults

Osthoff Resort cooking school, classes for kids and for adults

How come when I vacationed as a youth with my family no one offered kid’s culinary classes like this year’s Summer Pleasures™ at The Osthoff Resort?  The Elkhart Lake, WI AAA Four Diamond resort compounds its “Culinary Kids” cooking classes with junior-sized fishing, Village history treasures hunts, and “Kidz Kraftz” projects for children from four to 10 years old. The summer promotion includes two nights in an elegant guest room and $15 per day towards our Summer Pleasures™ program, which runs May 27 – June 1 and Sunday through Thursday, June 2 – September 30. The Osthoff is one hour north of Milwaukee, less than two hours from Madison and approximately three hours from Chicago.  The resort contains 38,000 sf of state-of-the-art function space, four restaurants, a 20,000 sf Aspira Spa and a classic cooking school.

www.osthoff.com

I’ll for any opportunity to dance. Throw in a luxurious lodging package and the chance to watch celebrity performances during the 28th annual Vail International Dance Festival, July 30 – August 13, and it sounds like a mountain-high grand idea. The Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail Village, CO thinks a package that includes 15% off all spa services, $18 reduced price valet parking and complimentary basic WiFi might be a great incentive for arts patrons. The hotel’s mix of alpine adventure and timeless European elegance are the perfect backdrop to a festival that features Isabella Boylston as Artist-in-Residence, Company-in-Residence BalletX, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dorrance Dance, and Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance. There will be a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Festival’s Artistic Director, former New York City Ballet star Damian Woetzel and at least 10 world premieres of dances.

www.sonnenalp.com; (866) 284-4411; www.vaildance.org

PSST! The secret password to get a special 20% discount on room rates for the newly-opened The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel is GRAND. The rate is available for travel through December 2016. The upscale boutique chain, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, has located their latest property in the first six floors of the historic R.J. Reynolds Building in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. The April 26 opening earmarks Kimpton’s first foray into the Carolinas. I’ve stayed at a number of Kimpton hotels. Each has been eclectically styled and elegant. The Kimpton Cardinal has 174 luxe guestrooms, including 15 suites, each blending the tradition of monograms and tartan fabrics with modern furnishings and playful artwork. Each element tells a story, from the emerald green accents in each bathroom – an ode to the state’s official gemstone – to the oversized portraits of luminaries R.J. Reynolds and Colonel Winston woven into the detailed carpets of the boardroom and mezzanine. Named to the National Register of Historic Places, the building remains an architectural showcase of original gold leaf, rich marble and burnished brass. Common areas include the welcoming Living Room on the lobby level dressed in Carolina-inspired artwork with pops of fuchsia and monograms and a nearly 2,000-sf Rec Room with a basketball court, bowling alley and adult-sized twisty slide. The Katharine, a traditional French brasserie that draws fresh inspiration from classic Southern cooking and overseen by Executive Chef Ed Witt, sits adjacent to The Kimpton Cardinal. The hotel has more than 6,300 sf of function space, including two ballrooms with room for up to 400 guests on the mezzanine level. The 20th-floor office spaces of R. J. Reynolds have been transformed into three meeting rooms, offering views of downtown Winston-Salem and the mountains to the west. Upon arrival, guests of The Kimpton Cardinal will be greeted with a Winston-Salem tradition of Moravian cookies and sweet tea in the Living Room. Other unique local amenities and experiences include an Art-o-Mat® in the hotel’s Rec Room, a traditional cigarette machine repurposed to distribute small pieces of artwork, and the option to utilize the hotel’s yoga mats and bikes for a quick ride and yoga session at nearby Bailey Park. Also tying into its local cycling community, the hotel will be developing specific packages and amenities for cycling enthusiasts. The Kimpton Cardinal takes pet friendly to a new level. Four-legged guests are provided a VIP (Very Important Pet) amenity, pet bowl and pet bed… at no extra charge.

www.thecardinalhotel.com; www.kimptonhotels.com.

Blast off your summer by joining MeliáRewards and get a 15% off the brand new Me Miami, by Meliá Hotels International. You must book before June 30 and stay by that date to take advantage of the offer. The Miami, FL property has 14,000 sf of function space and is in the heart in the heart of downtown, nearby to Adrienne Arsht Center, American Airlines Arena, Perez Art Museum and the new epicenter of the city, Miami Worldcenter.

http://www.melia.com/en/hotels/united-states/florida/me-miami/index.html?

Springmaid Beach Resort's Southern Tide Bar & Grille. A new beginning on the Springmaid Pier.

Springmaid Beach Resort’s Southern Tide Bar & Grille. A new beginning on the Springmaid Pier.

Just in time for a summertime trek to the popular Myrtle Beach, SC, the 30-acre oceanfront Springmaid Beach Resort has completed the first round of its major renovation project. All 452 waterfront guest rooms and the Springmaid Pier restaurant, renamed Southern Tide Bar & Grille, have been fully renovated and redesigned. To celebrate its rebrand as the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton, Myrtle Beach Oceanfront, you can receive a special 15% off introductory savings on all accommodations, F&B, and gift shop purchases, for travel through September 30. You must book by April 30.

Located in the resort’s Live Oak and Palmetto Towers, the redesigned guest rooms feature 40” HD TVs, DoubleTree’s signature Sweet Dreams® bedding, mini-refrigerator, microwave and private balcony with outdoor seating. Outfitted with new ebony wood furnishings, the rooms are dressed in a fresh palette of ocean blues and cool grey, creating a contemporary coastal design. The newly-named Southern Tide Bar & Grille features driftwood finishes, sand and surf hues and a wall of windows overlooking the historic Springmaid Pier. By the end of summer, renovations will also include an all new Main Building and waterfront focal point for the resort with guest registration; the Ocean Blue Restaurant & Lounge with waterfront outdoor seating and private dining room; lobby bar; The Market grab & go snack area; Ocean Terrace and Ocean Boardroom. Additionally, the resort’s 35,000 sf feet of flexible event space and largest ocean-view conference center in Myrtle Beach is receiving an upgrade.

www. SpringmaidBeach.com; (866) 764-8501

You can save up to 45% with this offer by The Wyndham Reef Resort in Grand Cayman. Yes, you read that correctly. 45%. Travel by June 17, book by May 12. No minimum night stay. The secluded 150-room Wyndham Reef Resort is the only full-service, all beachfront resort in the Cayman Islands with all-inclusive packages. Every room features spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea, and all one and two-bedroom suites include a full kitchen and dining area. The resort is also minutes from George Town, Seven Mile Beach, Stingray City and other popular island locations.

www.WyndhamCayman.com; (888) 232-0541.

LOOK WHO’S GETTING A FACELIFT!

A new coat of exterior paint and a redo for Pelican’s dockside restaurant and Sheraton Bay Point Resort will be ready to take the spotlight by Memorial Day Weekend. The Panama City Beach, FL resort has 320 rooms, including 60 golf villa suites, 60,000 sf of indoor/outdoor meeting space, two 18-hole golf courses, including the only Nicklaus Design Course in NW Florida; and the 12,000 sf luxury Serenity Spa.

www. www.BayPointResorts.com

The Mall of America (MOA) opens two new projects this month: the new Parkview Meeting + Event Center and its newest attraction, FlyOver America.  The Saint Paul, MN projects were completed by Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates, Inc. (KOMA), from Inver Grove Heights. FlyOver America is a flight simulation ride that takes guests on a breathtaking, aerial tour of some of the greatest landmarks and regions throughout the United States using virtual flight technology. The ride is adjacent to the new Parkview space in the southwest corner of Nickelodeon Universe and spans from 10 feet below the park up to 55 feet in the air. KOMA was tasked with coordinating a pre-designed three-level ride and screen structure within a newly designed building enclosure within the park. The building is comprised of pre-show exhibits, a 45-foot high theater space, retail areas, box office and administrative spaces and a renovated park plaza. The event center is a marriage of creativity and functional design, evoking an indoor-outdoor feeling overlooking Nickelodeon Universe. Soundproofing was an essential element. The 4,000 sf of private event space has a 700 sf balcony overlooking Nickelodeon Universe. KOMA’s design incorporates perimeter programmable LED lighting and SageGlass LightZoneTM glass in order to give the space a luminescent glow. Customers will be able to control the opacity of the windows overlooking the park.  The space also features a scalloped ceiling, custom carpeting, custom large-scale digital wallcoverings, floor-to-ceiling upholstered banquettes and rich walnut accents. There’s full A/V capabilities, private restrooms, and can accommodate up to 400 guests.

www.komainc.com

The work is underway on the renovation of the 1000,000 sf Benton Convention Center in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. The multi-million-dollar renovation includes significant structural, design and technological upgrades to the interior and exterior of the building.  Key design elements are to create more open, flexible meeting space and pay tribute to Winston-Salem’s historic arts, tobacco and textile roots.  The plans also include expanding the front facade to provide more practical, pre-function space.  More windows and skylights will give the venue a contemporary, open and inviting aesthetic.  The center remains operational during the renovation and is expected to be finalized May 2017.

http://visitwinstonsalem.com/images/BentonFloorPlan.pdf

CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT GOES CODE GREEN WHEN IT HOSTS THIS YEAR’S MEETING PROFESSIONALS INTERNATIONAL (MPI) MPI WORLD EDUCATION CONGRESS (WEC)

Code green is Caesars’ multi-year strategy to identify, measure, manage and reduce their material impacts on the environment. No better time to display their efforts than at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City, NJ when the entertainment company hosts MPI’s World Education Congress, June 11 – 14. Caesars will showcase some of the elements that has won them a silver IMEX Green Supplier Award and Green Key Eco-Rating, such as paperless online event menus, meeting guide, BEOs and billing. All China, flatware and linen are offered in lieu of disposables and water is present only on request.

CaesarsMeansBusiness.com; 855-MEET-CET; Meet@Caesars.com; http://www.mpiweb.org/Events

TECHNOLOGY TIPS TO SAVE MONEY AND STRESS

As an experienced traveler, I am aware that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the best days to fly and that Tuesdays can be the best day to buy airline tickets. Not everyone possesses the knowledge I do, and for those of you who don’t, check out this information by David Weliver, a nationally cited authority on Millennials and money, and other tips he offers on his Money Under 30 site.

http://www.moneyunder30.com/best-time-to-book-a-flight.

If only the fellow travelers on my recent trip to Patagonia knew about this handy accessory they wouldn’t have been struggling with schlepping their camera gear. Tenba’s BYOB Camera Insert converts any existing bag into a camera bag. This new accessory also fits inside their Packlite Travel Bags, the world’s first packable, self-stowing camera bag.

www.Tenba.com

OK, while this admittedly is not technology, I do think it “smart” of Gaylord Hotels to declare what the season’s trendy colors are. The Marriott International brand provides appropriate set designs as visuals for the color schemes. The company says this year’s colors are Rose Quartz and Serenity (promotes happiness and fluidity), Snorkel blue for a nautical theme, Buttercup to create a sunny and cheerful atmosphere, Fiesta (deep reds), and Green Flash for a splash of Spring.

http://www.meetingsimagined.com/tips-trends/ring-spring-pantone-s-2016-palette?scid=d17cf187-f30a-4e69-9de4-25c0d85a9916&elq_mid=3417&elq_cid=1625917&CH=GH041216_MeetingsNews

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI and is now serving on the 2015 – 2016 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

 

Battery Wharf Hotel lobby in Boston is offering great booking deals

Battery Wharf Hotel lobby in Boston is offering great booking deals

PUTTING ON A NEW FACE!
When’s the last time you chartered a boat for up to 45 of your closest friends or business guests? Never? Then now’s the time if you are bringing said-friends or guests to South Florida and want to introduce them to a slice of Florida’s natural heaven. The 80′ Solstice, a private yacht for up to 45 people, has been retrofitted with modern amenities and swank décor. The Solstice now has an iPad-controlled sound-system throughout. Guestrooms have been freshened, a full service bar sits on the refurnished Flybridge. Teak loungers on the top deck, an oversized sun bed and additional seating on the bow provide great views of dolphins frequently swimming alongside.
http://www.waterfantaseas.com; (305) 531-1480; info@waterfantaseas.com
Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront’s Oregon Ballroom got a new “face” and meeting and event Read the rest of this entry »

Russ and me and the rainbow at Gullfoss Falls, Iceland

Russ and me and the rainbow at Gullfoss Falls, Iceland

The opportunity to visit Copenhagen, Denmark began when a bright, red-headed newly-arrived exchange student from Denmark walked into the Merritt Island High School newspaper office and announced in perfect English that she wanted to participate. Little did I know then that my position as Editor and Else’s as Proof Reader (with her grammatically correct English) would form a bond that has endured more years than I wish to publicize.

It was her Facebook search, many exchanged emails catching up those years, and later a visit by her, her charming husband Erik, and their group of witty and affable golfing buddies visiting the Orlando, FL area, that culminated in my husband, Russ, and I selecting Copenhagen the next year as our next big adventure. Coincidentally, Else and Erik celebrated their wedding anniversary while here and we would be celebrating ours while there.

Once Russ began his meticulous research into Copenhagen and took the advice of our Danish friends to fly Icelandair, he received a package offer from the airline that was too tantalizing to ignore. If we stayed two nights in Iceland, a necessary layover between Orlando International Airport and Copenhagen, we would receive a reduced rate for the overall visit.

canal rides at Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark. photo by Karen

canal rides at Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark. photo by Karen

Russ reserved rooms in Copenhagen and in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik and then we told Else we were coming, hoping that for at least one of those days or nights, we’d be able to connect with them and our other new friends. We were overjoyed and overwhelmed by the generous invitations and detailed agenda plans Else sent, indicating that each day she and Erik would guide us through Russ’ assembled list of places to visit. Else included places that are insider’s treasures. She noted places and events for us to visit on our own and Read the rest of this entry »

We’re very fortunate living in the Orlando, FL area. While the rest of the country is still experiencing the bluster of March, we’re enjoying blue skies, low 80’s and gentle breezes. It was perfect weather for sitting on the back porch of Seasons 52 overlooking the lake, sipping on slights of wine and munching on flatbreads.

Seasons 52 is a Darden Restaurant original brand that specializes in fresh, locally sourced foods, with meals, appetizers and mini-desserts typically weighing in at no more than 500 calories, including the aforementioned flatbreads. The menu changes seasonally, and the wines offered on their stellar program called Flights & Flatbreads changes frequently. Each wine comes with tasting notes. The program is available daily up to 6 pm.

For $15, you can have a choice of whites or reds (roughly 3 ounces each) and one flatbread. For $20, their Acclaimed red wines are rated at 90+ points. According to Seasons 52, the Acclaimed wines are rated by Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast Read the rest of this entry »

Diving off Andros Island, home to the largest number of blue holes in the world.

Diving off Andros Island, home to the largest number of blue holes in the world.

I’ve swum with the dolphins, but in The Exumas islands of the Bahamas, you can swim with pigs.

That was just one of many facts I recently discovered about the Bahamas at a press function sponsored by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Office and Diamond PR, and which was held at the award-winning Winter Park, FL restaurant, Ravenous Pig (any relatives in The Exumas?). Frankly, I’ve cruised to the Bahamas, shopped at the famous Straw Market in Nassau and have stayed at the Atlantis Resort on neighboring Paradise Island, so in my until-now uneducated mind, I thought I “knew” the Bahamas and what it was about.

How wrong I was.

shrimp&grits at Ravenous Pig

Key West pink shrimp, Anson Mills Grits, green tomato chutney, chorizo oil and this Shrimp & Grits dish at Ravenous Pig tingled my taste buds. photo by Karen Kuzsel

I had no idea there are actually 700 islands, though just 30 of them are populated. I didn’t realize the 21-mile long New Providence, whose capital is Nassau, contains more than 60% of the population. I know the Bahamas are an easy trip from Florida, whether by ship or air, but was surprised to learn that 85% of their visitors are from the United States, many of whom are from colder climates seeking the more moderate temperatures of the islands. In fact, from September through May, Read the rest of this entry »

The Basilica at Notre Dame, just one of six churches used for venue space in Montréal, Canada

The Basilica at Notre Dame, just one of six churches used for venue space in Montréal, Canada

For the several years that I worked on the radio for three different stations as Natasha, The Psychic Lady, I remember one of the co-hosts regularly signing off with “Remember that it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” That singular phrase sums up why I feel so concerned about what’s going on in the world, what’s happening in America with our election season mudslinging, and why I strive to provide the care and attention to how I treat others, even when stressed by circumstances beyond my control.

I’m an avid newspaper reader and watch a national evening news broadcast when possible. Lately I find myself shuddering with the same head-turning reaction I would give at watching a movie where murder and mayhem run rampant, wondering how can people abuse and misuse others so wilfully and destructively. I don’t understand politicians making a case for their presidency by how aggressively they slam and lie about one another instead of stating what they can (or would like to) accomplish (knowing full well that even the best of intentions cannot politically be achieved without the endorsement of people on both sides of the aisle.) I don’t understand the sheer stupidity of supporting candidates just because they spew vitriolic hate. As a newspaper/magazine writer raised on seeking the truth and not what I’d like the end result to be (a novel approach these days, isn’t it?), I find it appalling how many people accept blindly what they’re told and never bother to question or research (think of the plethora of hateful or deceptive emails you receive and wish you didn’t).

Thank goodness when I am working events as Natasha, I am lauded for my positive messages and the hope, comfort, laughter and friendliness I share. My measure of the event’s success isn’t just by the dollars I earned, but did I make an impactful connection with someone and what lingering peace do I feel from having made that connection.

My wish for you today, and tomorrow onward, is to take as your mantra that “it’s more important to be nice.”

 Ka Maka Landing, a popular Waikolohe Valley water play area at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii

Ka Maka Landing, a popular Waikolohe Valley water play area at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii

HOT DEALS

It’s not too early to think about a relaxing Spring Vacation at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Read the rest of this entry »

BOG Hotel in Bogota, Columbia... just one of the deals offered by Design Hotels

BOG Hotel in Bogota, Columbia… just one of the deals offered by Design Hotels

In this issue: meeting package deals you will want to book

Florida Culinary Students win French education trip

NEW ONE-STOP MEETING WEBSITE FOR LOS ANGELES

meetLA.com is the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board’s new website designed for meeting professionals seeking to book business in that famed city. Critical tools include:

Find a Venue – Users can discover L.A.’s robust portfolio of venues Read the rest of this entry »

T

The glass garden at (Dale) Chihuly’s Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle, WA. All photos by Karen Kuzsel

The glass garden at (Dale) Chihuly’s Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle, WA. All photos by Karen Kuzsel

The best of intentions can go awry.

Maybe that’s why restaurants over-complicate recipes or hotels focus on the décor and not on guest services. I had the best of intentions to immediately follow up my blog story HOLY C.O.W! (The Wines of California, Oregon and Washington), published in September, with reviews of where to go, where to eat, and where to stay in those same states. Time slipped past like the shadow of an eclipsing moon. So, come into the light with me as I finally shine a spotlight on what places and activities are worth doing, and which ones you may want to forego.

Here’s the itinerary we followed. Russ and I began our trip in Seattle, WA, then moved on to Portland, OR before connecting with friends and family in Bend OR, Jacksonville OR, and then Oakland CA.

SEATTLE, WA

Renaissance Hotel downtown Seattle: Great location. Easy walking distance to many of the city’s main attractions. First impressions: dreary dark colors of burnt orange and muddy brown, especially for a lobby that had just been refurbished. We stayed in room 2308. Musty odor. Called for maintenance to get the AC running or to at least get the air in the room circulating to eliminate the stuffiness. Bottle water in room part of amenity. We had just travelled many hours and needed that water, but there wasn’t any. Both times calls to housekeeping brought prompt service but it wasn’t an Read the rest of this entry »

Omni King Edward Hotel gets a $40 million facelift

Omni King Edward Hotel gets a $40 million facelift

In this issue: Free French breads. Line up soon

Money talks and Resorts reap the benefits

Europe’s hands get cleaner

RENOVATE, RETROFIT AND REDO

It isn’t every day that a hotel receives a $40 million facelift, even an iconic beauty like The Omni King Edward Hotel, built in 1903 as Toronto’s first luxury property. The Canadian luxury hotel, originally including 400 rooms and 300 baths, was designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and Toronto architect E.J. Lennox. Restoration to its original glory while delivering modern amenities has been an ongoing project since 2013 when first acquired by Omni Hotels & Resorts. All 301 guestrooms, meeting space, and restaurants have been updated while maintaining its historic elegance. New ingredients include the exclusive Royal Club: 29 guestrooms and suites, access to the VIP Royal Club Lounge, breakfast, light bites in the afternoon, evening hors d’oeuvres, and on-site guest services including the business center, complimentary use of boardrooms and car service. The 22,000 sf of small to mid-sized meeting spaces, the lobby, and three ballrooms were updated, including four large teardrop crystal chandeliers added to the Sovereign Ballroom. While Executive Chef Daniel Schick and his team have updated the dining menus to include locally-produced seasonal Read the rest of this entry »

Italian cheesecake, berries and mascarpone. All photos by Karen Kuzsel

Italian cheesecake, berries and mascarpone. All photos by Karen Kuzsel

Third in a Series

Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month is over for another year, but I have one more restaurant meal to describe because if next year’s selections were as wonderful as this year’s, Il Mulino New York Trattoria at the Walt Disney World Swan will bump up to our “must do” list.

Honestly, the quality of the meal, presentation and the above-excellent service by a team of servers came as a surprise. We went because we’d never eaten Read the rest of this entry »

2nd in a series

Grilled chicken with herbed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Grilled chicken with herbed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. photo by Karen Kuzsel

There have been a few misses during the years Russ and I have indulged in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month experiences, but none as sharply disappointing as the meal at Ravello, in the Four Seasons Resort. It’s not that our meals were bad; they were just so mediocre and unmemorable. Vastly different from our expectations.

This was our first time to the Four Seasons, so we arrived early to walk around the property. Gorgeous, especially the lobby entrance. Flanking both sides of an impressive curving staircase are tall black vases filled with flowers. Hanging over the staircase are an array of multi-dimensional Read the rest of this entry »

We doubled the pleasure at Wente Wineries in Livermore Valley. L to R: Karen and Gabrielle. photo by Russ Wagner

We doubled the pleasure at Wente Wineries in Livermore Valley. L to R: Karen and Gabrielle. photo by Russ Wagner

Before Napa Valley became the viticultural Eden that it is, there was Livermore Valley. What! You’ve never heard of Livermore?

Neither had we until our recent summer trek to California,  Oregon and Washington to see friends, family, and do a whole lot of wine tasting.

Livermore wasn’t our first stop, but it became an agenda on my planner husband’s activity list when he discovered that’s where Wente Winery is located. Though somewhat familiar with Wente wines, we knew that 80% of all wines produced in California never leave the state, so what higher-end gems were Wente keeping secreted away that only their club members or locals would know?

Livermore Valley, CA

Getting to Livermore was an easy 40-minute car trip from my daughter Gabrielle’s house Read the rest of this entry »

This is the first in a series.

Tender filet medallions with a red wine reduction, Chateau potatoes, and Haricot Verts. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Tender filet medallions with a red wine reduction, Chateau potatoes, and Haricot Verts. photo by Karen Kuzsel

My husband and I love Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month each September. This year the “month” expanded so that it began August 24. All the better to luxuriously dine for $33 for a three-course meal and celebrate birthdays, our anniversary, getting together with friends, or just having an elegant evening out.

Such was our latter raison d’etre for selecting Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House of Orlando. The International Drive location just blocks from the Orange County Convention Center, has only been opened since mid-August, so wondered if it would still be experiencing growing pains. If this is how Del Frisco’s does business after two weeks, I can’t imagine how much better it will be in a couple months. The only negative I could say is that it was raining and there was no undercover protection to get out of one’s car for the complimentary valet service. The newly-built restaurant is contemporary in design, beautiful in taupe tones, and with dimmed lighting that exudes warmth. The staff were first class. There wasn’t one who passed by who didn’t greet us in their own way, all sounding as if they meant it. There are a number of private and large dining room spaces, as well as an extensive lounge area when you first enter. We thought the extended lit faux fireplace we passed enroute to the dining room added an atmosphere of drama. I can hear you saying, “But what about the food”?

My Midwestern-raised meat-and-potatoes husband said it doesn’t get better than this, both in the quality of the juicy, tender steak and in the preparation. A loaf of warm bread and butter was brought out immediately while we pondered the extensive wine list. We both ordered the classic Caesar salad. I had thought about the day’s soup, but mushroom bisque is not a favorite. The salad was crisp, plentiful, with just the right amount of tang from the lemon married to the anchovy salt. The croutons were handmade. I rarely order steak and if this hadn’t been a top-rated steak house, I likely would have chosen the pan-roasted chicken or the pan-seared salmon. As it was, Russ selected the 8-oz filet mignon and I took the (6 oz) filet medallions served with a red wine reduction. They both were cooked exactly as ordered, and a server asked us to cut it open to verify that before leaving our table, and were plated with Chateau potatoes (dense mashed potatoes) and thin sautéed Haricot Verts (green beans). Dessert was a tougher choice. We wanted all three, even though I was full by then and really just wanted to take my generous portion of warm banana bread pudding (chosen over the chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce) home to enjoy. It was served with a large mound of vanilla ice cream and lightly lined with caramel sauce. Russ ate the ice cream, I took a couple bites of the gooey banana concoction and took the rest home. He chose the cheesecake with butterscotch sauce, not a combo one generally sees on menus. The cheesecake was double the size usually given and twice as light and creamy. We took half of it home as well.

Meeting Planners, club and party hosts: this is for you. As I said, there are many dining room group options. The Eagle’s Nest, up to 10; The Executive, up to 28; the Barrel Room (half cellar), up to 45; and the Oak Room (half cellar), up to 35. The Grand Cru (full cellar) can accommodate up to 80 for sit down and 110 for reception. Presentation A/V available, as are flat screen TVs, and WiFi access. www.delfriscos.com

This is the first of our Magical Dining Month experiences for 2015. I’ll be writing about each of the ones we try.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI and is now serving on the 2015 – 2016 MPI Global advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom Expected to open next spring. (Disney Parks)

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Expected to open next spring. (Disney Parks)

IN THIS ISSUE: Star Wars, Pandora, Toy Story and Soarin’—just what is Disney up to?

Hot deals for international resorts keep bookings alive

HOT DEALS BRING THE HEAT TO BOOKINGS

Time’s running out to book Meliá Hotels International Caribbean beach hotels and be able to scoop up on their 25% off promotion. Book by August 31st and stay through December 22, 2015, with certain restrictions and blackout dates applicable.

www.melia.com

It’s not too late for Meeting Planners to take advantage of Hollywood Beach Marriott’s “Meet and Beach” summer group offer. In fact, you have until September 30 to book and use this Florida destination, just six miles from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The advantages include nine meeting rooms, the largest of which can hold up to 500 attendees. Planners can manage the meeting’s needs (climate, coffee, chairs etc) via the Marriott’s new Red Coat Direct Meeting App. Included in this hot deal are Double Marriott Rewards® points; Complimentary 1-hour reception right on the Broadwalk overlooking Read the rest of this entry »

Surrounded yourself with art of the ages at Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China

Surrounded yourself with art of the ages at Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China

In this issue: Exotic resort stays will cost you less while new hotels will vie for your dollars.

HOT DEALS

Summer’s reached the halfway point and Fall is just around the corner, but you have until Dec. 30, 2015 to enjoy a stay at the Gaylord National in Washington DC and receive a $100 per night resort credit. Receive a $50 per night credit for a stay at any of the other three Gaylord properties: Gaylord Opryland (Nashville, TN), Gaylord Palms (Orlando/Kissimmee area), or Gaylord Texan (Dallas/Ft. Worth area). Must request promotional code ZJL.

1-800-GAYLORD in the US.  Outside the US, http://www.marriott.com/help/global-phone-reservation-numbers.mi

Experience the historic Wine Train and explore Napa Valley wineries in style

Experience the historic Wine Train and explore Napa Valley wineries in style

This one is for all of you who love wine and wish you could explore Napa Valley but who’d rather not try to drive while gazing at a map. Take the Wine Train. Better yet, take one of the Wine Train packages being offered this summer. I’ve taken this train, a restored and preserved beauty. Most of the cars were built in 1915 by the Pullman Standard Company as first­ class coaches for the Northern Pacific Railway. Just sitting in the dining car with original lighting and wooden bar sets the mood for an elegant Read the rest of this entry »

Meritage vineyards & The Crusher Statue, Napa, CA

Meritage vineyards & The Crusher Statue, Napa, CA

IN THIS ISSUE: sizzling summer savings and CSR is the gift you give

HOT DEALS

Summer deals are sizzling at Wyndham Bay Point Golf Resort & Spa on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Their summer promotion is call Sun-Sational Perks and depending on how many are in your group (50-100, 101-150), you have the choice of two or three of the perks, which can range from complimentary continental breakfast to custom gobo to a Sundae Bar. For bookings up to 200 room nights, the perks can also include an one-hour reception or a 3% credit to the master account on sleeping rooms. The bookings must be new. For full details:

www.baypointresorts.com; (850) 236-6033); sales@baypointresorts.com

The ballroom at Brocket Hall, UK

The ballroom at Brocket Hall, UK

Fancy a cup of tea from your traditional English butler or playing on two championship standard golf courses set among 543 acres of private land just 22 miles from Central London? If you think these amenities sound perfect for your group of at least 20 who need a two day getaway, then Brockett Hall in a 5-star standard Regency stately home has a Two-for-One deal you should give consideration. The promo runs through Read the rest of this entry »

The rooftop bar opens July 9, 2015 and has 360 views

The rooftop bar opens July 9, 2015 and has 360 views

The Hotel Zamora Castile Restaurant

The Hotel Zamora Castile Restaurant

Full disclosure: I have not actually been to The Hotel Zamora, but was introduced to its amenities and styling modeled after Zamora, Spain, at a press lunch held at Kasa Restaurant and Bar in Orlando, FL. While this review is to introduce you to the recently built The Hotel Zamora on St. Petersburg Beach, FL, I must also recommend you try Kasa Restaurant’s fare.

Think of The Hotel Zamora as a gangly teen struggling to keep up with his/her unprecedented growth spurt. Though open only since July, 2014 and the first new hotel to be built in St. Petersburg in decades,  The Hotel Zamora’s 72-room Mediterranean styling and Read the rest of this entry »

L to R: Natasha, The Psychic Lady and Melanie LaJoie ply their

L to R: Natasha, The Psychic Lady and Melanie LaJoie ply their “fortune telling” skills at the mystics tent.

Empire-waist dresses, ballooning poet sleeves, puffed vests, monks’ robes, and flower garland crowns gilded young damsels and lords, countrymen and artisans as they passed through the village. Elizabethan history breathed life through the halls of the 500 building of the Winter Park 9th Grade Center as hundreds of English class students dressed in period finery passed from room to room, each representing a craft, skill or facet of life in a Renaissance village.

Trumpeters, flautists, and other musicians entertained. Jesters juggled. Artists painted. Weavers peddled their looms, apothecary shopkeepers displayed their potions and herbs. The King’s Banquet Room laid out tables of fruits, sandwiches, shepherd’s pie, bread pudding, pies, cookies and other foods suitable for feasting. Faces were painted and a milliner’s store offered hats, hair jewels and hair braiding. There were games of chance, games of physical challenge, and next to the mystics tent a Read the rest of this entry »

local produce and fresh herbs picked from the organic garden at Colony Cove

local produce and fresh herbs picked from the organic garden at Colony Club

Frankly, until I attended a press luncheon sponsored by Elegant Hotels and co-hosted by Diamond PR, I knew nothing about Barbados. Lucky you. I’m paying forward my newfound enlightenment.

For instance, do you know that this sovereign British Commonwealth in the Lesser Antilles is only 21 miles in length and 14 miles wide, yet has one of the highest literacy rates in the world or has 1500 rum shops within its borders? It’s true.

In 2013, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) acknowledged Barbados’ literacy rate at 99.7%. If you’re a fan of Mount Gay Rum, did you know the company is a sponsor of the Food, Wine & Rum Festival every November?

I didn’t know that the populace refer to themselves as Bajan, or that signature culinary dishes include macaroni pie (cheddar cheesier than typical mac & cheese and usually has unexpected ingredients such as ketchup and mustard), cou-cou and flying fish, coconut sugar cakes (made with those two ingredients) and salt bread, described as akin to an Irish soda bread.

I learned that the best time to travel there (if watching your dollars) is June through September Read the rest of this entry »

Relax in the new Serenity by the sea Spa atThe Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in South Walton, FL

Relax in the new Serenity by the sea Spa atThe Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in South Walton, FL

In this issue: Hot deals across the globe; Two cities party through the summer

HOT DEALS

Seventy-two percent of American business travelers extend their executive trips with a leisure component, which is why the AAA Four Diamond Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach, FL has created “Benefits of Bleisure*” for meeting travelers during select dates, beginning April 27 through September 10. The Shores Resort took the survey responses conducted by BridgeStreet Global Hospitality to heart, which also indicates that six out of 10 are more likely to take bleisure trips today than they did five years ago. With the Shores Resort program, rates will start at $109 and extend over weekend days for leisure stays. Bleisure benefits will include ocean view rooms, a $5.00 rebate per paid and consumed guest room, complimentary parking, waived resort fee, three upgrades to the property’s all-new Cabana Suites, one upgrade to a Presidential Suite, as well as complimentary use of the Ocean Terrace or Atlantic Room for meal functions.  The Bleisure Benefits are available for new groups with a minimum of 50 room nights. Contracts must be received by May 31. The beachside resort has more than 20,000 sf of indoor and outdoor function space, 212 guestrooms and suites offering water views of the Atlantic Ocean or Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. It recently completed a property-wide renovation.

sales@shoresresort.com; www.ShoresResort.com; (386) 322-7262

Book three nights at Elbow Beach Bermuda and receive the fourth night free. Stay required by September 5. Use promotion code QUEST when booking.

www.elbowbeachbermuda.com; (800) 223-7435

Summer hasn’t officially landed in North America and already there are fall promotions for fall, Read the rest of this entry »

Can you spot the BBQ Shrimp & Grits in this dish? Neither could I. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Can you spot the BBQ Shrimp & Grits in this dish? Neither could I. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Forgive me, Harry Connick Jr, but I was not jazzed up by my recent visit to New Orleans. Matter of fact, if I never return, it’ll be fine by me. Of course, my husband and I loved the beignets at Café du Monde, the Bloody Mary and Margarita at 801 Royal, and the two bands we enjoyed enough at 21st Amendment to return to each twice, but unsure most of the French Quarter was worth the aggravation, sour smells of rotting garbage, urine and vomit; streets clogged by construction and blaring horns; or having to tread very, very carefully with eyes looking down on broken sidewalks. Looking down isn’t advised in a city where we had multiple people intentionally bumping into us (hoping to pick our pockets?) or aggressively thrusting us toward their club, but after several stumbles, I decided looking down was the only way I could safely navigate.

Full disclosure here: I have only been to New Orleans one other time. I was honeymooning with a now-deceased husband and we got food poisoning our first day. We left the next day without really seeing much. I’ve always wondered what I missed.

This trip decades later was my husband Russ’ idea. When we travel, we focus on interesting architecture—usually historic in nature, local cuisine, and people watching. He eats very little seafood and gets sick from any shellfish. I like some Creole and Cajun cooking, but it does not rank high on my list of must-haves. I positively do not like enormous platters of heavy fried food, Read the rest of this entry »

BOG Hotel in Bogota, Columbia... just one of the Shopaholic Holiday hotels on sale by Design Hotels

BOG Hotel in Bogota, Columbia… just one of the Shopaholic Holiday hotels on sale by Design Hotels

In this issue: HOT DEALS ON RESORT STAYS YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS!

If you ever thought a Hawaiian vacation was unaffordable, think again. With this tropically enticing offer from Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, the longer you stay, the more you save… up to 30% for booking five or more consecutive nights. You must book by April 30, but the offer is good for stays through June 15.

(866) 443-4763 or call your travel agent with promo code 1734B ; www.aulani.com

Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda & Spa adds a Traditional Native American Blessing by the Governor of the Picuris Pueblo to a 5% discount for any group meeting that spends at least $12,000 and is held by June 30. Additionally, for a $12,000+ booking, the group also receives a private wine reception at this famed Santa Fe luxurious resort. If the booking is between $6,000 and $12,000, you still receive 5% off the master bill, but must choose between the blessing and the wine reception.

http://hotelsantafe.com/

Hawaii blesses the Aulani pool at night with tropical warmth

Hawaii blesses the Aulani pool at night with tropical warmth

Shula’s Hotel and Golf Club takes a swing at the meetings competition with group rates difficult to beat. Book a minimum of 10 rooms per night at this newly renovated property in the heart of Miami Lakes, FL and receive rates of $109 for single/double occupancy and $65 per person for a complete meeting package. With a minimum of 25 rooms per nights, many concessions are optional, from complimentary room for Planner or a round of golf or spa treatment to no resort fees, a complimentary drink for each guest on arrival, or discounted golf rates at The Senator Course at Shula’s Golf Club. Many more options.

Maria Pellitero (305) 820-8053; maria.pellitero@donshulahotel.com

Omni Hotels & Resorts Summer of Music offers are so sweet you may find yourself singing out loud. Planners who book and complete a qualified group meeting by Sept. 27, with a minimum room spend of $15,000 and who successfully complete the Omni Meetings University course will receive one of the following and be entered into a grand prize drawings. Clients who spend $15,000 minimum in F&B are eligible for the same benefits. The Summer of Music grand prize includes the choice of $1,000 cash or two tickets to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 22 – 24, 2016. It includes two round-trip airline tickets to New Orleans and a two-night stay at the Omni Royal Orleans.

  • A GoPro HERO4 Black Edition Camera
  • Master Account credit of $500
  • Charitable donation of $500

Business travel accounts that increase spending by $15,000 from April 16th – September 27th, over the same period in 2014 will also receive their choice of a GoPro HERO4 or a $500 charitable donation, a $500.00 rebate and will be entered into the grand prize drawing. Just in case you need an added incentive, consider this. Any group meeting the qualifying criteria can also claim Select Rewards and a second entry into the grand prize drawing when booking at one of following 14 select hotels or resorts: Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West, Omni Fort Worth Hotel, Omni Jacksonville Hotel, Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, Omni Los Angeles Hotel, Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, Omni Riverfront Hotel, Omni Royal Crescent Hotel, Omni San Antonio  Hotel at the Colonnade, Omni Severin Hotel, Omni Shoreham Hotel, and the Omni Tucson National Resort.

www.omnihotels.com/meetings; (800) 788-OMNI.

Book and stay at least a one-night at any of four Gaylord Hotels by September 14 and receive an instant resort credit per night. $100 per night at Gaylord National. $50 resort credit per night at Gaylord Palms, Gaylord Opryland and Gaylord Texan with a max of $100 per stay.

(800) GAYLORD. Ask for promotional code ZJL.

Save up to 40% off on Meliá Hotels International beach front destinations. Book by April 17 and travel between June 1 and August 20. Restrictions apply. Two kids up to 10 years old stay for free with two adults. Resort credit can be used for and enjoy a few days in paradise with Kids stay free.  MeliáRewards Resort Credit can be used for room upgrades, YHI Spa services, premium dining reservations, vintage wines and exclusive resort experiences.

www.Meliá.com; (800) 336-3542

If the world renowned festivals don’t lure you to Montréal this summer, the Canadian city has some sizzling discount offers that may seal the deal. Book at least a two-night stay by April 30 on hotels that begin at $99 per night and receive 50% off the second night. You also receive a coupon booklet worth up to $455 to Montréal’s top attractions and activities. There are at least 25 hotels participating. For a full list of properties and prices, http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/Offers/spring. Here are just some of the city’s famed summer festivals.

Digital Spring (March 21 to June 22) -150+ events, ranging from installations to projections to electronic music showcase a daring and innovative digital arts scene, guided by this year’s theme of light.

The Chromatic Festival (May 17 to 23) – multidisciplinary program of visual, audio and interactive experiences high atop Mount Royal and at the Satosphere.

Festival Transamériques (May 21 to June 4) – offers events appealing to fans of contemporary dance and theatre

C2-MTL (May 26 to 28) – a mash-up of business and creativity on the cutting-edge of the next best thing out there. A-list guest speakers include Kevin Spacey, Chelsea Clinton, Andre Agassi, Carolyn Everson (Facebook), Phyllis Lambert and many other luminaries.

MUTEK (May 27 to 31) – mix of music, technology and digital creativity and live performances

MURAL (June 4 to 14) – Montréal’s urban art festival

Festival International de jazz de Montréal (June 26 to July 5) in the city centre.

Osheaga (July 31 to August 2) – rocks out another indie-music spectacular in Parc Jean-Drapeau MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE (July 2 to 12) – reunites the zany, brave and boundary-pushing entertainers, acrobats and aerialists of the circus arts world.

Just for Laughs Festival (July 11 to 25) – street and venue comedy performances

Ten perfect off can buy you lots of souvenirs in many countries, especially if you’re taking advantage of Design Hotels latest offerings. Plan a trip to cities such as Vienna, Istanbul, Hamburg, Stockholm, and Gurgaon in India to Bogota in Colombia to get your shopping on. Most of the properties offer free buffets, free WiFi and an assortment of other benefits if you stay by August 2 and stay at least two nights.

www.designhotels.com/shopaholicholidays

I toast to your travelsKaren Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady

Widowmaker: a killer pizza from Prato in Winter Park. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Widowmaker: a killer pizza from Prato in Winter Park. photo by Karen Kuzsel

If food tours were people, they’d be my new besties.

What’s not to like? On the tours I’ve taken, you make stops at locally known restaurants and stores to sample a dish and/or an adult beverage the hosts hope entices your return. More than just a walking tour through a neighborhood catering to a particular ethnicity or style of food, I enjoy the running commentary by amiable tour guides about iconic architecture and historic anecdotes that are typically included. My recent Sunday afternoon strolling along sunny Park Avenue in the upscale neighborhood of Winter Park, FL with my husband Russ and our friends, Sandy and Dom Pizzarusso, for the three-hour jaunt with Orlando Food Tours was one of our best food tours to date.

There are several reasons why this particular tour looked to be a winner even before we hooked up with our guide, Marshall, and the other eight folks on our tour. (The groups are usually no more than a dozen anywhere to facilitate conversation and easier serving for the various venues.)

One, Orlando Food Tours is a fairly new company so we were eager to jump on a LivingSocial coupon that discounted the price a tad. Everyone loves a bargain, right? Having that discount pushed us to try this unknown company’s offering. Second, even a fussy eater like my husband (a meat and potatoes Iowa man who can’t eat shellfish) would be able to indulge in each of the offerings. And that brings up another reason. Most tours don’t tell you exactly where you’re going or what types of food you’ll sample. This tour gives you the rundown upfront, with the stipulation that there could be last minute substitutions. On our registration form, we were even asked if we Read the rest of this entry »

The elegance of Das Stue in Berlin, Germany, one of DesignHotels.com properties

The elegance of Das Stue in Berlin, Germany, one of DesignHotels.com properties

In Orlando, we’ve skipped Spring and jumped straight into 88-degrees of Summer. In Boston, their renowned St. Patrick’s Day Parade had to be cancelled due to impending snow atop already record-breaking blankets of white that have created mountains where once concrete ruled the pavement. No matter where you are and no matter what your weather, escape can be a car, train, boat or plane ride away.
HOT DEALS
DesignHotels.com is one of my favorite websites to ponder when I’m dreaming the dream of exotic travel. Now, instead of having to scroll through each country’s options, Design Hotels has compiled their latest 279 handpicked exotic hotels locations among 178 worldwide destinations into one 500+ page guide that you can peruse at leisure, earmarking the must-dos for your next getaway. There are glorious photographs and behind-the-scenes stories of the Original hoteliers who created them. Pre-order this edition of The Design Hotels™ Book 2015 by March 31, 2015 and you become eligible to win a two-night stay at one of five great Design Hotels™ properties in Stockholm, Berlin, London, Hong Kong, or Read the rest of this entry »

hotel sezz paris, in the Design Hotels collection

hotel sezz paris, in the Design Hotels collection

In this issue: New shows at Disneyland ignite meetings

Emeril Lagasse highlights Florida’s culinary scene

Design Hotels discounts 15% on luxury hotels

DISNEYLAND PAINTS THE SKY WITH FIREWORKS, COLOR AND MEMORIES

New technology and immersive special effects are adding more pomp to the circumstance of meetings held at Disneyland Resort. The three nighttime sky spectacles—“Paint the Night” and “Disneyland Forever” at the Disneyland Park and “World of Color” at Disney California Adventure Park begin May 22 as part of Disneyland’s (60th) Diamond Celebration. Walt Disney opened Disneyland July 17, 1955. More than 1.5 million individually controlled lights illuminate the new “Paint the Night” parade, the first all-LED parade at the resort. “Disneyland Forever” sets a new standard for theme park fireworks. An oversized projection mapping technology will create vivid story scenes onto park icons, such as the Matterhorn. Mickey Mouse narrates “World of Color,” which tells the story of Walt Disney and the Happiest Place on Earth through fountains, film, animation, and a stirring musical score. Private viewing locations for “World of Color” make the show ideal for receptions and dessert parties of up to 9,000 people. The show is available for buy-outs and can be customized Read the rest of this entry »

Exploration Tower's ode to the ocean hanging sculpture. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Exploration Tower’s ode to the ocean hanging sculpture. photo by Karen Kuzsel

This begins my new “column” called Florida Fun. I realized when I was on this overnight getaway to Melbourne and Port Canaveral that I have written about many wonderful day trips, events, restaurants, adventures and venues, without drawing attention to them as tourist and group destinations within Florida and without including theme parks in the same breath.

Not that I don’t write about theme parks elsewhere in my blog or for magazines. I love theme parks. I consider myself a theme park-aholic without being obsessive, but I also realized how many Florida places I visit that perhaps others would enjoy knowing. So, here it is, the premiere of Florida Fun.

My husband and my recent 30-hour adventure began when he booked us into the Residence Inn Melbourne, located near Read the rest of this entry »

Sink your teeth into the delectable Tuna Tartar at Bistro CloClo. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Sink your teeth into the delectable Tuna Tartar at Bistro CloClo. photo by Karen Kuzsel

In This Issue: Visit Florida Grant Applications yours for the asking

CSR: What has your company done lately?

Hot Luxury Hotel Deals

I heard on one of those end-the-year news wrap up programs that the word “foodie” was as hot as a skiable mountain during the polar vortex. I am as deeply muddled by that pronouncement as I am worried that snow will bury my Florida home during the summer.

I am a foodie. I say that while aromas of warm cookies, spicy sauces, and savory meats ingested during the recent holidays still linger affectionately in my memory. I’m not snobby about being a foodie, nor would I ever want to challenge Andrew Zimmerman for “who can eat the nastiest morsel.” I simply enjoy well-prepared cuisine that’s sits prettily on the plate and is packed with flavour. I also enjoy sharing some of my favourite meals or restaurants with others, which is why I’m telling you about my husband and my latest go-to restaurant, Bistro CloClo in the Dr. Phillips area of Orlando.

You may surmise from the name, it is French in its exquisite renditions of duck a la orange or my hubby’s new fave, steak frites. I actually salivate just thinking about their tuna tartar appetizer, a hefty mound of minced fresh tuna Read the rest of this entry »

Two little apple lovebirds sitting in a  watermelon of love. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Two little apple lovebirds sitting in a watermelon of love. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Chef demo of making a Christmas tree completely of chocolate, including the glittery balls. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Chef demo of making a Christmas tree completely of chocolate, including the glittery balls. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Sea life centerpiece. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Sea life centerpiece. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Oh, and while you’re at it, do it within a specified time limit under the watchful eyes of judging chefs and other culinary world volunteers who are making sure you’re following the guidelines set forth in the Orange County Public Schools Annual Hospitality and Culinary Competition. After all, with 220 competitors registered for the hospitality or culinary portion of this 5th annual competition, each student will want to showcase his or her specialized skills for the maximum benefit.

As one of the judges who has watched this competition grow each year, I am in awe of the talent and training our future hospitality and culinary staff are receiving. Sure, they’re competing for trophies and awards that honor their school program as well as their own abilities, but what’s at stake could also be scholarships to college programs. The first year I judged, I tasted about 20 desserts beginning at 10 am. Let’s just say I was happily shifted, and where I’ve remained each year, to judging the final presentation of edible centerpieces. I watch them carve fruits, craft shapes and create vignettes from apples Read the rest of this entry »

My idea of luxury camping. Loimugi House at Serara Camp, Kenya.

My idea of luxury camping. Loimugi House at Serara Camp, Kenya.

In this issue: Hot Deals Will Warm Up Your Winter Chill

Team Building Activities in Montréal Can Run Hot & Cold

HOT DEALS

When you want to save up to £2,000 per day * and are willing to travel to the UK to do it, who are you going to call? Brocket Hall, a 5-star standard Regency stately home that can be your group’s exclusively if you book any time before the end of January 2015 and fulfill the commitment anytime between January and April. The savings include an array of amenities that may make this an offer too good to refuse. Check this out. Traditional English Butler service, complimentary WiFi, meeting capacity for 150 (theater style). The luxurious property boasts 46 en-suite rooms and there are two championship standard golf courses and Palmerston Golf Academy set amongst 543 acres of private land, located just 22 miles Read the rest of this entry »

Skiing just got more exciting at Squaw Valley Mountain Resort in Olympic Valley, California. photo by Trevor Clark.

Skiing just got more exciting at Squaw Valley Mountain Resort in Olympic Valley, California. photo by Trevor Clark.

In this issue: Omni helps planners Escape Their Way”

From snow-capped mountain skiing to tropical Hawaiian island stays

If you could have any wish granted before the New Year’s Ball drops in New York City’s Times Square, what would it be? Would it be to find true love, or to have the money to buy a house or travel first class? Would it be for world peace or to find peace within your heart? Would it be for a job that enables you to safeguard your family’s future or would it be to have a career that suits your personality and capabilities?

I really would like to hear your wish. I’ll even publish it if you respond. Most of all, I want to know how others see the world or see themselves.

I’ll start it off. My wish is to matter… to make a positive difference in someone’s life. My blog posts are just one of the ways I strive to touch someone’s life. If I provide you data on a destination, event, restaurant or resort that guides you on an adventure you might not have otherwise known about, then I feel I have made a contribution to someone’s quality of life. It’s why I enjoy writing this blog. It allows me to connect with you Read the rest of this entry »

Bob Hope is honored with his own room at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, FL

Bob Hope is honored with his own room at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, FL

With real estate, it’s location, location, location.

With travel destinations, it’s experience, experience, experience, especially ones not likely duplicated in your hometown. On a recent press trip to North Florida, I expected to see sand, sun and surf. What I got instead were experiences in unique venues that amped the good-times value meter.

 Shanks for the Memories, Bob Hope

I don’t golf. I’ve had a few lessons, have wiggled my hips in my cute golf skirt trying to place my feet properly, and in my college days, flirted famously with the young pro so I could get a better physical education grade. And though I do know the stellar reputations or tidbits of salacious gossip about celebrity golfers, the game has never held my attention. So why was I standing in the Shanks for the Memories room of the World Golf Hall of Fame (WGHOF) in St. Augustine, riveted in place by a flood of memories?

Surrounding me were images of Bob Hope, a man whose movies I have watched repeatedly throughout my life and who I thought heroic Read the rest of this entry »

Historic. Arty. Modern. It's the H15 Boutique Hotel in Warsaw, Poland

Historic. Arty. Modern. It’s the H15 Boutique Hotel in Warsaw, Poland

IN THIS ISSUE: Richard Petty Driving Experience races you to the finish line.

The London Symphony Orchestra rings in Christmas Holidays with music, dancing and dance.

Hot Deals If I had unlimited funds, I’d travel, travel, travel. At each location, I’d take cooking classes, shop farmer markets (the ones with more than produce), drink lots of locally-produced wines, and luxuriate in all the sensational hotels I see advertised. I get that urge to check out hotels every time I browse the DesignHotels.Com site. The photos of these hotels are meant to entice and intrigue. They’re categorized by country, but also by their individual niche appeal. Is it perfect for a romantic getaway or is the attraction the historical heritage of its architecture and décor? Is the hotel serene or colourfully vibrant? Is it perched atop a mountain or lazily kissing the endless sea? In all cases, it seems that what initially perks my interest are the enticements of incentives. Take for instance, the H15 Boutique in Warsaw, Poland. The 19th century building, originally constructed as a private residence, is located in central Warsaw. Descriptions of the 46-room hotel include that it once hosted secret meetings for Polish independence prior to WWI, was home to a Soviet embassy, and once held the headquarters for the Nazi party. Of course, that’s before the completion of its down-to-the-studs five year renovation that now marries its past through art works with its contemporary image. Best of all, book Read the rest of this entry »

The soaring wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Santiago Calatrava, actually can move up and down. photo by Karen Kuzsel

The soaring wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Santiago Calatrava, actually can move up and down. photo by Karen Kuzsel

in this issue: Hot deals save you hotel fees in luxury properties across globe.

Wine Train celebrates 25 years.

My husband and I were in Milwaukee, WI last week. If you’re like me, going on a mini-vacation to Milwaukee was not on my favored lists of places to see.
It was, however, quite high on his, mostly because he has long wanted to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Johnson Wax Museum structure. The cherry atop the sundae was that not only did he manage to snag the last two open spots (in what is typically a months-long wait) for a free two-hour guided tour of the Johnson Wax building, but two other buildings were just recently included in the tour. I have to admit, I was impressed with both the complex and the detailed history behind SC Johnson and Wright. Just as important, Russ and I were booked into the historic Pfister Hotel, a gem of a classic beauty of architecture. Everything about the hotel, the five-star service and staff, and the culinary delights we ate at its Café were first-class. The hotel’s walkable proximity to famed architect Santiago Calatrava’s soaring addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum was like adding a layer of hot fudge sauce to a banana split.
The moral of my trip recap is that travelling to unknown sites, exotic of domestic, may exceed any expectations and result in memories forged from the surprise of discovery. My wish for you is to discover new destinations in my blog, maybe save some dollars going there by taking advantage of the Hot Deals offered, and to let all of know how it worked out.
Happy travels!
HOT DEALS! MEAN SAVINGS

Governor of the Picuris Pueblo blessed our breakfast at Santa Fe Hotel

Governor of the Picuris Pueblo blessed our breakfast at Santa Fe Hotel. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda & Spa, Santa Fe, NM –  There is simply no other place in Santa Fe, NM where the Governor of the Picuris Pueblo can bless your meeting, you can sup next to an authentic Pueblo tepee, or walk among treasured Indian artifacts and handcrafted furniture. When you consider that if you book your meeting through May 31, 2015, you will not only have the possibility of all that, but you could choose a complimentary morning or afternoon break or even a one-hour welcome reception. I’ve been to this hotel. I’ve been blessed by the Governor. I’ve dined by the tepee and walked the halls. The hotel emanates a spiritually peaceful atmosphere. Be sure to check out Read the rest of this entry »

This issue: Earn CEUs while learning ROI Methodology and Innovative Golf Games to Encourage Group Camraderie

South Place Hotel in London still has availability for Fashion Week

South Place Hotel in London still has availability for Fashion Week

 

HOT HOTEL HAPPENINGS – THINK HOW MUCH YOU CAN SAVE!!!
I’m a diehard fan of Project Runway in all its incarnations. Maybe that’s why when I saw the enticing promo from Design Hotels that Fashion Week is coming to New York, London and Paris and that hotels were sprucing up their discounts with equal verve and finesse, I just couldn’t wait to pass on this info for those of you who may be looking for an excuse to gawk at the upcoming trends by trendy and classic designers.
New York leads off the crushing week of non-stop shows, parties and posing. There are five hotels still available for the September 4-12 shindigs. The Standard has two hotels: The High Line and the East Village. Hôtel Americano’s 56 rooms fuses Latin and industrial flavors while the Gramercy Park Hotel’s 185 rooms go for more classic chic. If price is less an object, Read the rest of this entry »

Design Hotels is offering summer incentives at Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bukit Peninsula, Indonesia

Design Hotels is offering summer incentives at Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bukit Peninsula, Indonesia

Summer may be slipping into Fall but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on hot resort packages, memorable adventures, or that it’s too late to book the perfect destination for your group’s last-minute meeting. So, let’s get to it, right? You may not have time to waste.

HOT HOTEL PACKAGES

Book this Daytona Beach beauty for a meeting or event from November through February 12, 2015 and you can claim this year’s prices even though the property is in the midst of a major redo. Bonus: The Shores Resort & Spa will show their appreciation by offering groups of 100 or more total rooms a one-hour welcome reception on the first night of arrival and guaranteed ocean-view rooms for all guests, in addition to two complimentary upgrades to the property’s all-new oceanfront Cabana Suites*.  More than 20,000 sf of indoor and outdoor function space has been added to The Shores, considered to be Central Florida’s only AAA Four-Diamond oceanfront resort. “From technology upgrades and updated soft goods to new amenities and eco-friendly improvements, our guests will notice a difference at every turn,” says David Rijos, general manager. Cool ocean blues and sandy beach neutral tones dominate the 11th floor meeting rooms. The inspiration comes from the water views available from each room. On the ground floor, the 6,895-sf is getting new carpeting, paint and décor. The new pre-function area pays homage to the golden age of travel in Daytona Beach. Upgraded technology increases wireless bandwidth throughout the property. Have an executive board looking for something more special than four blank walls? A new private dining room being added on the second floor will overlook the Azure Lounge area and offer ocean views. (20 max).

An additional check-in area has been added to the lobby. All 212 guest rooms and suites are getting new furniture and décor. Fourteen lanai rooms are being converted into Cabana Suites, providing a private outdoor space with lounge chairs and flat screen TV. The outdoor area has been pumped up with furniture, turtle-friendly lighting, and games, such as life-sized checkers and cornhole and ping pong.  The shores is pet-friendly and eco-friendly.

Group Sales: (866) 934-SHORES; www.shoresresort.com

Book any of the four Gaylord Hotels by Sept. 28, stay by Oct. 31 and receive a $50 nightly credit. This promotion applies at Gaylord National (Washington DC), Gaylord Opryland (Nashville, TN), Gaylord Palms (Orlando, FL) and Gaylord Texan (Dallas/Ft Worth). Really easy.

Just use this promotional code—ZXO—when you go online or call (800) 228-9290.

Hotel Unique in São Paulo, Brazil stands out from the rest of the city

Hotel Unique in São Paulo, Brazil stands out from the rest of the city

It’s an endless summer of discounts when you book Design Hotels in Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain or Turkey. Get up to 30% discount and free breakfast for booking by August 31 any three (or more) night stay at six featured hotels. These include:

Aguas de Ibiza Lifestyle & Spa (Spain) – an eco-luxury 112 room property

Design &Wine Hotel (Portugal) – a 23-room high-tech hideaway in Portuguese wine country

Klaus K (Finland) –139 rooms. Think of it as Renaissance meeting cutting-edge Nordic modernity.

La Maison Champs Élysées (France) – 57 rooms of French elegance

PalazzinaG (Italy) – 22 rooms. Taking 16th century Venetian design into the 21st century

Seaside Palm Beach (Spain) – 328 rooms located in an old palm grove.

There are also 59 hotels worldwide with discounts if you book by Sept. 14. Check out the 65 room Alila Villas Uluwatu (Indonesia) that sits atop a 100-meter cliff or Hotel Unique’s distinct architecture in Brazil.

  1. designhotels.com

 

The New $223 Million LINQ Hotel & Casino opens October 30 in Las Vegas.

The New $223 Million LINQ Hotel & Casino opens October 30 in Las Vegas.

UP AND COMERS

The slogan for Las Vegas may be that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” but the truth is far different. In fact, like most major cities, especially those that attract an international clientele, Vegas is constantly reinventing itself. Take for example what’s happening to The Quad Resort & Casino. At its October 30 reveal this year, it will be known as The LINQ Hotel & Casino, a 2,256 room Caesars Entertainment hotel with 204 suites and 29 cabana suites with private access to the new pool area.  Look for the new automated check-in process and a concierge touchscreen option for immediate bookings of favorite dining and entertainment offerings. The north entry has been redesigned with new retail and quick-service dining options. Significantly, The LINQ Hotel & Casino will connect to the LINQ promenade, which has12 restaurants, eight bars, 14 retail shops and two concert venues. It is anchored by the tallest observation wheel in the world, the High Roller, recently named by Travel & Leisure as the “World’s Coolest New Tourist Attraction.”

  1. caesars.com/thelinq/news.html; www.TheLINQ.com; (855) 891-6863

What does a $10 million makeover get you? If the property in question is the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC), which became privately operated last year by AEG Facilities, the year-long transformation will include:

-Installing a new, energy efficient solar-ready “cool roof” on the South Hall and Concourse Hall

– Rolling out new carpet throughout the Center, including the Concourse Hall, Concourse Walkway, and hall lobby areas

– Overhauling parking systems to provide more automated options and speedier entrance and exit times

– Completely remodeling the 299-seat Theater and upgrading AV capabilities to accommodate a wide variety of current and next-generation technology options

– Installing the latest in energy-efficient and noise-reducing air handling units

– Upgrading air walls, IT infrastructure, lighting systems and numerous operating systems

This is LACC’s first expansion in 20 years. It annually attracts more 2.5 million visitors. The environmentally-friendly facility holds the prestigious U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED-EB Gold Certification.

  1. Lacclink.com

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady

 

Lake Peyto, British Columbia, Canada--one of the world's prettiest lakes.

Lake Peyto, British Columbia, Canada–one of the world’s prettiest lakes.

Canada is not America.

I had to remind myself of that multiple times during our 10 day vacation to Vancouver and Banff.

Yes, we all speak English (unless you’re from provinces that are innately French in culture and language or come from a multi-lingual family), our coin currency does look faintly similar, we drive on the same side of the road (thank goodness), and both our geographic offerings run the gamut from mountains to beach and urban to rural.

Then I would come across something distinctly Canadian, such as a Bloody Caesar Vodka drink. Similar to our Bloody Mary, but using Clamato juice and often other embellishments. The best one I sucked down was at the famed Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel as we sunned on the deck of the hotel’s Walthaus pub, overlooking a gurgling stream running over rocks and a golf course whose water features would be a challenge for any player.

My husband, Russ, had read that the pub’s deck was a hidden treasure not too many tourists discover. Even many of the hotel guests don’t tackle the seven-minute walk from the ornate lobby to the European-styled building, with a fine dining Bavarian restaurant on the ground floor. We lucked out and snagged a table perfect for people and scenery watching.

Russ invariably tries out new ales. I read the description of their Caesar: a blend of olive juice, muddled pickles, Clamato juice, and vodka. The mug Read the rest of this entry »

 

Visiting Vancouver and Banff in British Columbia has been on my husband’s wish list for as long as I’ve known him.

Russ in Butchart's Sunken Gardens. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Russ in Butchart’s Sunken Gardens. photo by Karen Kuzsel

His original thought was to journey through the Rocky Mountains of Canada by train, whistle-stopping through some of the most touted scenic landscapes of North America.

This summer it would finally be possible. Russ had meticulously researched for months, reading through consumer reviews and studying guidebooks. Although many train options exist, about three months before our scheduled departure, he switched gears. Our decision to rent a car, follow a similar route, and stop/eat/rest when we pleased for a fraction of the cost overrode the plan to ride the rails. Russ instead researched hotels, locations, car rentals, routes and must-see attractions.

Most of our trip exceeded our expectations and I will tell you about those glorious occasions soon in another post. This story is about one of the worst vacation experiences either of us has ever had, the misinformation we were told, how it was preventable, and how it may save you headaches in your own travels.

Our day of disaster began with the decision to visit Butchart Gardens, an idyllic setting near Victoria on Vancouver Island. Russ had read Read the rest of this entry »

The 12 private villas of deLMango Villa Estate,  Jalan Raya Seminyak, Seminyak, Indonesia

The 12 private villas of deLMango Villa Estate,
Jalan Raya Seminyak, Seminyak, Indonesia

Planners, grab whatever you use for note taking. Not sure which is hotter right now: global climate changes or the hotel and destination deals being offered. Here’s a sample of what’s happening.

SIZZLING SUMMERTIME HOTEL HOT DEALS

Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes sweetens their deal with a gift card. Book a $5,000 meeting by August 31 and get a $150 gift card, but go for the gusto with a $10,000 party and get double dollars on that gift card. Laura Fletcher has all the details. Laura@Normans.com; (407) 393-4343.

Book any of the four Gaylord Palms hotels by July 21, stay by September 30th, and you will receive savings of 15% off plus a $25 Hotel Credit. Now here’s the part where I sound like one of those late night informercial promos: Wait! There’s More! Yes, there is more. Kids eat FREE all summer long. Anyone who knows Gaylord Palms properties knows there are many, many dining and entertainment options. (800) 228-9290. Ask for promotional code F8L or book online.

If summer is your time to plan for your fall meetings, check out the incentives Pine Mountain, GA is offering at Callaway Gardens®. Book your 25+ group stay from a August 1 through February 1 of 2015 fulfillment and here what your All Fall Complete Meeting Package will include in addition to unlimited admission Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard Salad cools with summery colors and refreshing tastes

Checkerboard Salad cools with summery colors and refreshing tastes. photo by Karen Kuzsel

 

What’s hot, what’s not lists usually don’t pique my curiosity but the Orlando chapter of the National Association of Catering and Events (NACE) cast a spell that had me drooling before I’d even registered for their monthly meeting. Not only was Mark Leggett, owner and designer for Arthur’s Catering going to be discussing food trends for events, but I was going to get to finally satisfy one of my “wonder what this would taste like” cravings.

Now I have piqued your interest, right?

About two years ago, I did a Prevue Magazine story that focused on why a meeting planner’s group returned to the Four Seasons in Phoenix, AZ for their annual conference. While not the only reason her group loved the resort, she said they couldn’t stop raving about the juicy cheeseburger sandwiched between a grilled glazed donut served at their western theme night barbecue. I couldn’t wrap my taste buds around this imagined flavor profile of the sweet donut soaked in the juices of a savory burger.

You know how when you first hear about something, then all of a sudden you seem to hear about it frequently? So it was with this burger, but I had yet to taste one for myself.

That all changed when the menu for NACE’s evening of “Comfort Food vs Healthy Choices: the clash between good and better” teased that one of the butler-passed mini-options would be a Krispy Kreme Burger enhanced by bacon and cheese.

It did not disappoint.

That said, I think the slider was the perfect size because there were so many other delightful dishes being presented that evening at the Ocoee Lakeshore Center and I wanted to taste all of them. There were Rosemary Potato Flatbread, a crunchy bite of Chicken & Waffle, and a Korean Pork Taco Read the rest of this entry »

 

 

Design Hotels is offering summer incentives at Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bukit Peninsula, Indonesia

Design Hotels is offering summer incentives at Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bukit Peninsula, Indonesia

Hot Deals

It’s not often your group can stay in a castle to meet, eat, and play, but if you book Peckforton Castle for your June, August and September events, you can even receive a discounted delegate and residential package. Built in 1840, the medieval castle in the heart of Cheshire, UK, has meeting space for 180 and 48 overnight accommodations that blend contemporary amenities with historic architecture and decor. Call 01829 260 930 and quote ‘Peck News’; www.peckfortoncastle.co.uk/the-castle

Design Hotels collection is so hungry for your business that they’re offering two additional nights free for a five-day booking this summer. But even if you don’t need a 5-day booking at any of the 36 participating hotels, Read the rest of this entry »

Taking a break from a Cooking class at an Orlando Marriott World Center. They presented me with the apron embroidered with my name.

Taking a break from a Cooking class at an Orlando Marriott World Center. They presented me with the apron embroidered with my name.

Some people eat to live.

I live to eat.

Cooking and baking are two of my passions. Thank goodness a third one is exercising (as long as music and dance are involved) or I’d weigh hundreds of pounds. My tongue waters as the smell of onions and garlic sizzling in a hot oiled pan assail my nose like the sweetest of perfumes. Fresh baked cookies, pizza, or a marinated pork roast simmering in caraway-infused sauerkraut… any and all of those aromas and my taste buds perk up like a child’s ears attuned to adults trying to whisper forbidden conversation.

I grew up in an Eastern European Jewish home and learned to cook and bake dishes from those ethnic cultures at the hands of my more than capable grandmothers, aunts and my Mom. A pinch of this. A dash of that. Smell. Toss. Stir. Experiment.

Our military service family moved frequently from state-to-state, country-to-country. Each time my Mom learned to cook like the natives. The education of my palate began early and by the Read the rest of this entry »

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