Swimming with a whale shark

EXOTIC DESTINATIONS. LUXURIOUS LODGING. ACQUISITIONS.

Corporate and leisure-travel readers across the world read my blog, so it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that I am often asked if I know about out-of-the-box trips or exotic destinations of which they may not be aware. This new package just being offered by Montana-based Austin Adventures sounds exactly like it would fit the bill for any adventurous group to undertake. Of course, individuals can sign on for any scheduled trips, but think of the experiences a like-minded, seaworthy group could share by swimming alongside 25-40-foot whale sharks while they float in the warm waters of Mexico’s Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja’s Sea of Cortez. A six-day organized trip leaving October 28 will be led by Dan Austin, founder and president, and his partner in business and life, Carol Austin. The group will fly out from San Diego and head south for two hours.) The Sea of Cortez is home to 900 varieties of fish and 2,000 species of marine invertebrates, making it the richest body of water on the planet. The whale shark, while not really a whale or a shark, can grow up to 60 feet. They diet on algae, plankton and krill. Thank goodness they don’t feast on swimmers scuba-diving alongside.
https://www.austinadventures.com/packages/baja-swimming-with-whale-sharks/; (800) 575-1540; info@austinadventures.com; https://www.austinadventures.com/request-catalog/.

Finca Serena hall in Mallorca.

I visited Barcelona and Madrid, Spain not long ago, but the opening of the new Finca Serena on the island of Mallorca encourages me to make a speedy return to check out a former farm estate that’s been converted into 25 upscale rooms. (https://karenkuzsel.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/spain-and-portugal-how-centuries-of-religious-battles-led-to-architectural-wonders-savvy-cuisine-fragrant-wines-and-the-heroics-of-which-novels-are-written/) The first Único Hotels’ property outside Barcelona and Madrid is set to open this spring in the Pla de Mallorca. Each room will overlook the 834 ancient olive trees, lemon trees and three vegetable gardens that landscape the 100-acre estate of Finca Serena. The produce will be used in Restaurant Jacaranda indoor and outdoor terraces. The estate is for people 14 years and older.

www.fincaserenamallorca.com

Atlanta, GA-based Kingwood International Resorts (KIR) has purchased the AAA Four Diamond-rated Reunion Resort, the 2,300-acre property just minutes from Walt Disney World theme parks. Specializing in golf-centered clubs and resorts, Kingwood International also owns and operates Kingwood Country Club & Golf Resort and Achasta Golf Resort community, both in North Georgia, and the eco-friendly Plantation on Crystal River in Central West Florida. KIR plans to add 1,200 rental accommodations, including a new 400-room hotel with significant convention and meeting facilities. The five-acre Reunion Resort Water Park will get a wave pool, new water slide, putt-putt golf and a larger, covered food and beverage offering. Reunion Resort currently has 360 resort-style accommodations ranging from luxury multi-room villas to private three- to 13-bedroom vacation homes, as well as 25,000 sf of meeting and event space. It is the only location in the world featuring three signature championship golf courses designed by golfing legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. Amenities at the resort include seven casual and fine dining venues, including an award-winning rooftop steakhouse, six hydro-grid clay tennis courts, a full-service boutique spa, 10 community pools, fitness center, and the waterpark.

www.ReunionResort.com; www.KingwoodInternationalResorts.com

RumFish Beach by TradeWinds logo

Goodby Guy Harvey Outpost. Hello RumFish Beach Resort by TradeWinds, the rebranded name given to the St. Pete Beach, FL property owned by TradeWinds Island Resorts. The official name change occurs March 13, but all current and future reservations and rates at the hotel will be honored and unchanged, and property renovations will be finished by the end of February. “Given the success of our RumFish brand, this was a natural progression for us,” said Keith Overton, president of TradeWinds Island Resorts. TradeWinds plans to launch their own “RumFish Beach Life” lifestyle brand that will feature clothing, artwork, beach apparel and other merchandise. Other popular “beach brands” such as Salt Life, Huk and other local brands will now be available for purchase throughout the resort. Guest room furniture and decors are being updated and new beachfront balconies are being added to 56 of the rooms, while new railings and a coat of exterior paint will be added property-wide.

www.JustLetGo; (866) JUST LET GO (587-8538).

Chicago-based business management company PRA has acquired market-leading Koncept Events, based in South Florida. Founded in 2007 by Hillary Smith, CMP, CSEP and Angie Nelson, the award-winning Koncept Events team is comprised of over 35 full-time team members. Rebranded as PRA South Florida, they will continue to specialize in event design, transportation solutions, entertainment, and a wide variety of interactive activities and experiences unique to the South Florida, the Caribbean and other adjacent markets.

www.PRA.com.

CSR, FIREWORKS AND INCENTIVES IN PARADISE

Blue Project Atlantis saves the environment in the Bahamas.

Think of this is earning rewards for being kind to the environment. Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas has designed a “give back” program that benefits the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation while ensuring that the beauty of the surrounding waters and Bahamian environment, Additionally, Atlantis Paradise, part of the Associated Luxury Hotels International, is literally offering a fireworks show at Paradise Harbor Beach or West Beach for booking a minimum of 1,500 room nights by April 30, 2019 and used by December 30, 2020 as an incentive.

www.ALHI/Atlantis.com; (866) 303-2544

Havan aCabana at Key West Hotel.

NEW CORP. RETREATS WITH KEY WEST FLAIR

The motivation behind the 106-room boutique waterfront Havana Cabana at Key West Hotel’s new meeting planner packages is clear: remove incentive group events from boardrooms and ballrooms and inject them with a Key West (FL) experience. New meeting packages at the Cuban-themed lodging the Key West Retreat 2019 for 10 or more, the Key West Escape Corporate, and the Resort Buy-Out. The Retreat package provides lite breakfast, meeting room rental and welcome cocktail upon arrival (two vouchers per room). The Escape Corporate package includes one hour of complimentary cocktails, one team-building activity for the group, and a dedicated concierge. The minimum two-night Buy-Out transforms the entire hotel to the group’s use and includes a first night welcome reception with live music and exclusive use of Key West’s largest pool. Team building activities to enhance group experiences can be food tours, and classes for Cuban sandwich making, mojito mixology (which comes with the Havana Cubana branded fedora, oak muddler, copper shaker and etched pint glass), and cigar rolling.

bit.ly/HavanaCabanaMeetings; (305) 451-8500; www.HavanaCabanaKeyWestHotel.com

HILTON’S GALLERY OF WOW! NEW INTERACTIVE TOOL FOR PLANNERS

Based on feedback from planners, Hilton hotels has created a new tool that showcases all Hilton properties that host meetings and events. This interactive site features a fun quiz called “What’s Your Event Planner Personality”? that will allow planners to determine the perfect location type for an upcoming meeting. Once the location is determined, the planner will be directed to Hilton city guides to determine the ideal hotel. The Gallery of Wow! Features photos of all the hotels and a live feed of @WowWithHilton

CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT RECOGNIZED FOR REDUCING THEIR CARBON IMPACT

I typically don’t write about companies, hotels or people winning awards or receiving promotions, but I really think Caesars Entertainment Corporation should have their latest award be recognized by the Hospitality, Meetings & Events industries (of which I am a proud, active member). The company has been awarded a position on the Supplier Engagement leader board by CDP  (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, the non-profit global environmental disclosure platform) as acknowledgement of Caesars actions and strategies to manage carbon and climate change across its supply chain. Caesars ranked in the top 3% of the 5,000 companies that were assessed. “In the ten years that we have been working with purchasing organizations we have seen a fundamental shift in expectations around business action on sustainability,” commented Sonya Bhonsle, Global Head of Supply Chain at CDP. “Leading purchasers are using disclosure to push positive change down the supply chain, with data playing an increasingly important role in their decision-making. If suppliers continue to cascade good practices further down the supply chain, this has the potential to play a huge role in the rapid transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy.”
www.caesars.com/corporate;  www.CaesarsMeansBusiness.com

PAST MEETS PRESENT ABOARD TALL SHIP LYNX HARBORED IN PENSACOLA, FL

Tall Ship Lynx. photo by Visit Pensacola.

Hoist the sails, steer the ship, and immerse yourself in the historic glory of Tall Ship Lynx, a 19th-century sailing schooner that has harbored at Palafox Pier in Pensacola, FL through March 11 for the inaugural Tall Ships Pensacola Festival. All ticket sales support the educational programs supported by Tall Ship Lynx.

peacock@tallshiplynx.org; Captain Donald Peacock (978) 479-2197.

Pueblo Bonita Pacifica golf course.

FUN IN THE HOT SUN IF YOU GET YOUR STORY “WRITE”

OK, so I played with the grammar a bit to tease that headline, but it did entice you to read to see what’s up, right? Grab your pen or keyboard for any chosen device. Don’t forget a camera because you’ll need both to win a three night stay for two at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach or Pueblo Bonito Pacifica (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico). The all-inclusive resort grand prize is for submitting the winning photo of a favorite moment spent at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort, along with a small write-up. Runner ups receive $100 U.S used during a minimum three-night stay. Entries must be submitted by February 28. Now I’m off to locate my photos from staying at this gorgeous, sprawling, romantic resort.

https://www.pueblobonito.com/resorts/pacifica/

Michters on Louisville’s Whiskey Row.msg.

IT TOOK 7 YEARS, BUT MICHTER’S DISTILLARY NOW IN LOUISVILLE, KY

Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery may have been the first bourbon label to announce plans to build a distillery in downtown Louisville, KY back in 2011, but after seven years of refurbishing an 1`890’s building, they are finally open for business. Of course there will be tours, tastings and a gift shop, but what sets the company apart is that onsite whiskey production will use the legendary pot still and cypress wood fermenter system from Michter’s Pennsylvania Distillery, which traces its history back to 1753. On the second floor, The Bar at Fort Nelson, will host educational seminars from leading industry professionals.

www.michters.com; www.bourboncountry.com; www.gotolouisville.com.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2019 – 2020 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. 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.