The post A Marriage Made in Heaven appeared first on RCA.]]>
Why Sandals for the big day? “We are able to offer a tremendous number of options, from ceremonies to receptions, from decor to floral, and infusing and designing all of that together with the aid of a pre-wedding travel team as well as an on-resort travel team, so the bride and groom are hand-held throughout the entire process by a well-trained team of individuals that’s able to showcase the brand and deliver on some of our unique offerings,” says Marsha-Ann Brown, director of romance, Sandals Resorts.
You all know about Sandals’ Your Wedding. Your Style, which allows couples to personally style and execute their dream wedding at any one of Sandals’ 14 Caribbean resorts (Jamaica, Antigua, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas and Grenada), choosing their color palette from 10 different shades, wedding accessories and experiences—in other words, creating a custom wedding—but did you know that Sandals recently launched the ReTie the Knot program? With this vow renewal program, couples that book a minimum 3-night stay at any resort will get an intimate affair with up to six guests that includes help from a planner, celebration cake, dinner, decorated room, and mimosa breakfast in bed ($300 minimum). If they want to up the ante, they can come with a larger group of friends to celebrate their everlasting love, and they’ll get spa treatments, room upgrade, longer reception time and all sorts of goodies.
sandals.com/weddingmoons or sandals.com/tas
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The post Vistas by IsramWorld appeared first on RCA.]]>
Why is IsramWorld hot? Simply put, this tour operator isn’t one to rest on its 40-plus years of experience to draw in clients. It offers an ever-expanding portfolio of product for every budget and taste, including the newly launched, value-priced Vistas; it unveils innovative itineraries such as the LGBT- and Jewish-minded trips to Cuba; and, oh yes, it told Russia “nyet” when the country enacted regulations that could endanger or discriminate against gay travelers or travelers who “exhibit a tolerance for the LGBT lifestyle.”
“As a company, we lead, we act swiftly not waiting for others and following their lead,” says Richard Krieger, executive v.p., IsramWorld. “This is one of our core principals that Ady Gelber [president and CEO] has instilled in our corporate culture and that makes us grow.”
Speaking of growth, the company’s Cuba bookings, which are through its Latour subsidiary, are through the roof, and part of that has to do with its “outside the box” thinking when creating such itineraries as Shalom, Cuba!, geared to audiences interested in the Caribbean country’s Jewish heritage, and Cuban Pride!, geared to LGBT travelers. “Building on existing interest,” says Krieger, “we created programs for specific niche markets, which would differentiate us from the others who are in the market already. As IsramWorld evolves, we feel it is important to drill down to specific client bases and create programs and experiences that are of interest to them.”
Enter Vistas, which launched this past summer and was created for the traveler looking for value-priced, high-quality innovative travel experiences. “As with many tour operators, the time is right to launch a lower price point product. Market shifts require us to not only remain competitive in the piece of market we lead, but to do the same in emerging markets such as innovative, lower cost product lines,” points out Krieger.
Vistas’ brochure includes tours to Brazil, Central Europe, Israel, Morocco, Peru, Spain, Turkey, Vietnam and Russia, although, as of press time, the company was monitoring the situation in Russia and, as Krieger notes, “hopefully, even moderate changes, will allow us to once again promote a destination we love.” Regarding adding to its current list of destinations, the operator will adjust them based on requests, popularity and market trends.
To get a feel for these lower-cost tours, a 7-day trip to Peru, for example, is bookable at $1,918 pp land-only, while rates for an 8-day trip to Spain start at $1,675 and a 9-day trip to Vietnam starts at $1,399. Rates include accommodations, sightseeing tours, English-speaking guides, site entrance fees, and arrival and departure transfers.
But does value mean slicing away at the immersive experiences IsramWorld is known for? According to Krieger, Vistas is focused on tours that are “designed to offer the flavor of a destination while still maintaining cultural and historical experiences,” adding that, “they are less ‘intense,’ without sacrificing memorable experiences.”
On the Wonders of Spain trip, for instance, travelers will get a taste of Spain with visits to Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada, with guided city tours in each. They’ll wander the medieval lanes in Toledo and see the 13th century cathedral up-close; walk through the narrow lanes of the Jewish quarter in Cordoba; and in Granada, visit the beautifully kept Generalife Gardens with its charming ponds and water channels. There’s even time to soak up the sun on the beaches of the Costa del Sol.
Krieger does point out that right now they are seeing tremendous interest in South America and thus its Enchanting Peru trip has proven to be quite popular. That trip offers travelers sightseeing tours of Lima and Cuzco, as well as the opportunity to explore Inca ruins and the colonial village of Pisac, where there’s a chance to shop in its Indian market, and, of course, there’s a visit to the impressive Machu Picchu.
Krieger adds that in terms of the overall outlook for Vistas, agents have been very supportive—“not just in words, but with bookings. Our team of destination specialists have been fully trained to sell Vistas and to walk an agent through the booking process and clarify differences.”
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The post Sailing the Danube with Viking (and a Teenager in Tow) appeared first on RCA.]]>
There’s no denying that river cruising is hot—baby boomer clients can’t get enough of this product, but what about the rest of your clients? Is this something you might consider for your family clients with teenagers? In fact, what better classroom than the cobblestone streets of Europe for teenagers to soak in the history they are being taught back home? We figured we’d give this thought a whirl and boarded a Viking Longship with a teenager in tow, and the result was a delightful vacation (tip to travel agents: think about a mother/daughter bonding trip, which is great during those teenage years). During the 8-day Romantic Danube itinerary on board the Viking Bragi (where my teenage daughter and I shared a Veranda Stateroom and had ample room), social media was tossed out the window, so to speak, eyes were ablaze, and the conversation with fellow passengers—as the wine (and soda) flowed—lasted into the wee hours.
So while some other river cruise companies, such as Uniworld and Tauck, pursue the family market, Viking Cruises does not. In fact, according to what Torstein Hagen said at the ASTA Convention this past September, he doesn’t want screaming teenagers on board the ships, and we get that, we totally do. But that’s why you have to know your clients: If it’s a teenager who can sit back and be amazed at the passing scenery, who likes to lounge about with a book in hand (like many of the passengers do during down time on these leisurely trips) and who is thrilled at discovering new destinations, then a river cruise is an experience they will soon not forget.
Says Michael Consoli, a Cruise Planners travel advisor who received the “Top Travel Advisor” award from Viking Cruises in 2012, “While the ships are not designed specifically for children—they don’t have children’s programs, for example—it’s certainly a great way for families to see the parts of the world where river cruising exists. It combines the interest of history with less-rigorous shore excursion experiences. River cruising lends itself to being more leisurely, and you can basically walk off the ship and you are right in the city.”
Richard Marnell, senior v.p. of marketing at Viking Cruises, does point out that Viking “designs its ships and itineraries for a specific type of traveler—rather than trying to be everything for everyone,” but does consent that “the river cruise experience can resonate with the right mature teenager. And we do occasionally hear from agents with positive reviews from clients who have traveled with a teenager.” Although, again, he does emphasize that Viking’s primary audience remains experienced travelers, aged 55 and older.
So the key point is to know your clients, and know them well, because the last thing you want is for a teenager to keep pestering his or her parents with the proverbial, “are we there yet?” when in fact the passing scenery while cruising on the river itself is just as delightful for any river cruise passenger as the visits to the ports of call.
history comes alive
Imagine gliding past green-draped mountains with castles perched on cliffs. Watching shepherds herding their sheep right along the riverbanks. Having small medieval villages appear seemingly out of nowhere after a bend in the river. As one passenger said to us, “Pinch me, because I can’t believe this is real.” Fairytale landscape? You better believe it—this is the real deal. Sailing on the Danube is truly indescribable because the sheer beauty is so utterly over the top that no adjective can adequately illustrate the magnificence that this region displays.
Our itinerary made its way from Nuremberg to Budapest, and each day brought new surprises that left us awestruck and enchanted: There was Nuremberg and its Nazi history—words do little to depict the feeling that overcomes one when they stand in the shadow of where Hitler once stood; Regensburg, a picturesque, 2,000-year-old town where Bavarian history is alive and well and intermingles easily with contemporary times; Passau, with its cathedral whose intricate baroque interior is an explosion of art difficult to digest in just one viewing; Melk and its world-famous Abbey, whose library was the inspiration for Umberto Eco’s novel, “The Name of the Rose”; the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers up a trove of wine-growing market towns, gothic churches and a handful of ruined castles, including the very one in which King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned back in the 12th century by Duke Leopold V; Vienna, with its plethora of museums, one more impressive than the next; and Budapest, a city whose architecture leaves you breathless and its youthful energy breathes new life into you. Of course, this is only a fraction of what we discovered and what your clients will see as they make their way through Germany, Austria and Hungary, but if you send clients with teenagers on this itinerary, let us point out a few things that we discovered along the way. The included tours that give passengers a taste of the city are great, although sometimes, yes, kids do run out of patience. We partook in the tours at each port until we felt we got the lay of the land and then went off exploring on our own. Before disembarkation, guests can grab a map on board that gives them a good sense of the town or city.
As Marnell points out, “The Romantic Danube itinerary provides the traveler with a truly immersive experience including grand cities and quaint villages along the celebrated Danube River.”
What not to miss? Well, in Nuremberg, recommend clients do like the tourists and turn the ring three times at the plaza’s exceedingly gorgeous fountain (if they are on a summertime sailing, don’t miss a treat at one of the ice cream shops). In Passau, a must is the organ concert (it’s short and unbelievable). Do not miss—no matter how early departure time might be for sleepyhead teenagers—the Melk Abbey tour; its history is unique and its library and gardens are a sight to behold. In Regensburg, cross the town’s famous bridge and explore the “younger” part of town (little hidden gems await). In Passau, cross through the town, passing multicolored gardens along the way, to the other side where the Inn River awaits (there’s a charming park lining the river and a bench or two seemingly waiting for your clients). In Vienna, best to skip the Mozart concert that is offered upon arrival that first evening and head straight to the very famous Vienna Ferris wheel, the Riesenrad, which is part of a larger amusement park, the Prater. And in Budapest, tell clients to board the funicular for a ride up to the old castle district with the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church and for spectacular views of the city.
Dwain Wall, senior v.p. and general manager of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., says, “I actually think that the river cruise experience is a great family experience. We need to teach our kids history and this is a great way to teach them in a live environment. It’s like having a classroom along on your vacation…and you’ll have speakers on board; you can visit museums. River cruising is about experiencing the destination…it’s about where you are, not so much about the ships.”
about those ships, though
You know all about Viking’s well-received Longships—we’ve written about them often enough in the pages of Recommend—so I won’t bore you with all the details, although…. It is lovely to sit in the Aquavit Terrace and view the green-draped terraced vineyards while sailing through the Wachua Valley. The attention to detail in everything from the well-serviced staterooms to the cookies and muffins always on hand at the self-service coffee and tea station is supreme. The crew bestows some of the most personable and friendly service we’ve ever encountered—ask for it, and your clients shall receive. The cuisine is mouthwatering and there are, we’d like to point out, a broad range for all tastes, including gluten free and vegan items (if there isn’t, they’ll whip it up). Also, it’s pleasantly surprising to be able to access WiFi from time to time, although its unreliability is a good thing while on vacation.
Yes, the Viking Longships, which accommodate 190 passengers in 95 staterooms, including two Explorer Suites, seven 2-room Veranda Suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms and 22 French Balcony Staterooms, are state of the art, and as Consoli points out, “Viking has clearly made a niche for themselves with the Longships and have the newest hardware on the river. My clients have responded very favorably to the Veranda cabins, to having a private verandah.”
What we’d like to point out regarding the onboard time is that although we approached this voyage thinking that the time sailing along the river would be a bit of a struggle, for lack of a better word, for teenagers, it was actually amusing to find that she delighted in the several onboard activities that gave a taste of the countries we were sailing through, including German Tea Time, a discussion about German etiquette and another one on Vienna coffeehouses, and she was practically gleeful when the ship passed through the many locks along the river.
Do warn families with teenagers, though, that things start early on board the river cruises—this vacation is not made for sleeping in. Tours start in the early morning, and maid service is the earliest I’ve ever seen (of course, passengers will not be bothered if they wish to sleep in, but when Budapest awaits, who wants to sleep in?).
travel agents, take note
Viking Cruises has ordered more river ships for 2014, bringing the total number of new ships launching in 2014 from 12 to 14. That means that by the end of 2014, Viking will have introduced a total of 30 new ships in a 3-year period, and by the end of the year, Viking will have 48 river vessels in Europe. The 14 new ships, incidentally, will sail Viking’s most popular itineraries in the region. “Three,” says Marnell “will be deployed in France, and we have added a fabulous new itinerary in Bordeaux, the 8-day Chateaux, Rivers & Wine itinerary, a leisurely, food- and wine-filled cruise. It’s an absolute dream for foodies and oenophiles. Additionally, we are adding two new vessels on our popular Douro itinerary in Portugal and Spain, and a new vessel on the Irrawaddy for our Myanmar itinerary, which is also new for 2014.” He adds that in 2013 alone, Viking “is hosting 40 percent-plus more passengers than we did last year—with the vast majority sailing on our new Longships in Europe.”
tauck’s family sailing & more
“Agents should absolutely be tapping into the family river cruise market, for a number of reasons,” says Tom Armstrong, corporate communications manager for Tauck. “For one, river cruising is great because you don’t have to pack and unpack your bags multiple times over the course of a trip. That’s a convenient selling point for any traveler, but when an agent is talking to a mom and/or dad responsible for packing up a couple of kids, it’s an even more powerful motivator. Equally important, river cruise lines are really beginning to cater to the family market. For example, Tauck offered the first-ever river cruises designed specifically for families several years ago on the Danube, and this year we’ve introduced an all-new family river cruise on the Rhone. Finally, and compared to ocean cruises, river cruises offer greater opportunities for fun, education and enrichment because you’re traveling right through the heart of each destination, with more opportunities for shore excursions.” Armstrong adds that as more and more families realize that there are family-based itineraries available, multigenerational river cruising will continue to grow.
Take, for instance, Tauck’s 8-day Blue Danube: Family Riverboat Adventure on board the Swiss Jewel. Family-focused activities include playing medieval games on a visit to Devin Castle in Slovakia; soaring over Vienna on the Ferris wheel in the Prater; learning how to make strudel aboard the riverboat; visiting Schonbrunn Palace, where Empress Maria Theresa and her daughter Marie Antoinette once called home; bicycling along the Danube and discovering tricky secrets—and “The Sound of Music” locations—at Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg, and making tasty marzipan creations. Rates start at $3,690 and departures are available from June to August 2014.
In addition to its family cruises, Tauck has a few new goodies for 2014, including its first-ever sailing on the Seine. There’s the 10-day Rendezvous on the Seine, from $4,590 pp plus air that includes a 2-night hotel stay in Paris with guided sightseeing, as well as the 14-day Cruising the Seine Plus Versailles, Paris & London, which includes 2-night hotel stays at Versailles and at The Savoy London, with guided sightseeing.
(800) 788-7885; agent.tauck.com
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The post Fall Fares from Rail Europe appeared first on RCA.]]>
Rail Europe is offering two promotions this fall for your clients traveling via rail in Switzerland and Italy.
Travelers can earn an extra day at no cost when they purchase a first class 4-day Swiss Pass, offering five consecutive travel days on the Swiss travel system on routes such as the Glacier Express, Golden Pass Line or Wilhelm Tell Express. In addition to rail travel, the pass includes complimentary public transportation in 75 Swiss cities; 50 percent off most mountain railways; and free admission to over 470 museums in Switzerland. To receive the promotion, the pass must be booked by Dec. 20 for travel from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. Rates start at $482 pp.
With the Eurail Italy Pass promotion, travelers can save 20 percent on travel in Italy via rail, as well as ferry crossings. Tickets start at $238 pp in first class and $194 pp in second class, and must be booked by Oct. 30. Tickets are valid within six months of booking, and then once activated, tickets are valid for two months of use.
For more information, visit agent.raileurope.com.
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The post Connections By Abercrombie & Kent appeared first on RCA.]]>
For over 50 years, Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) has been a pioneer in the development of luxury travel throughout the world, beginning with the concept of the first luxury safari product in the industry. Today, however, they’re going one step further, with the development of the first value-priced program in the company’s history: Connections by Abercrombie & Kent. It’s a portfolio of 17 worldwide destinations promising the same quality of product A&K has been famous for at pricing 30 percent lower than its traditional product.
The response, according to Keith Baron, senior v.p., strategic growth & development for Abercrombie & Kent, who was instrumental in building the Connections itineraries, has been phenomenal. “We’ve already had some record-setting days, brochure requests and hits on our website.”
The seed of the Connections program idea, Baron says, came when “the company came up with a couple of very well-priced products that were well under the normal market rate price in Egypt and Morocco, and the response and demand for it was really high. It was really something of a test. So based on that feedback and response, we said, ‘Hey, there’s really something here that’s a real opportunity.’”
Indeed, he adds, the company realized that because of the lower value pricing, the sales during the recovery period were very good. At the same time, they then decided to offer that pricing to a broader audience, but not dilute the overall A&K product. So the Connections programs are just a little lower tier but still relatively small with only 24-28 participants.
The feedback from agents has been positive, as it’s given them a broader base of clients to sell to because of the lower value pricing. “Our agents have other customers who aren’t quite as excited about the price point that A&K had been offering. But now, A&K is offering them this lower-priced product that’s still a high-quality A&K product,” says Baron.
And indeed, the lower pricing has not affected the quality of the traditional offerings A&K brings to all of its clients. Connections journeys, in fact, are designed and backed by the on-the-ground experts at A&K’s 50 offices around the world. These itineraries were created with experience and value in mind, Baron says, providing the traveler with a deeper understanding of a destination’s culture, history and natural beauty, without the extra amenities that make up a traditional A&K luxury journey.
The itineraries offer local “connections” such as attending a music lecture with a former violinist for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, who provides a unique first-hand perspective on Vienna’s incomparable musical heritage. In China, guests are welcomed into the home of a family living in one of Beijing’s last surviving hutongs where they are taught how to make traditional dumplings by the family’s matriarch. A local fisherman in Croatia shows guests how to harvest oysters and describes why they are considered to be among the best shellfish in the world.
Accommodations, too, reflect A&K’s adherence to providing quality luxury properties, ranging from spacious resorts to luxurious boutique lodgings and hotels around the world. According to Abercrombie & Kent USA president Phil Otterson, “We’ve chosen hotels that represent the unique character of a place, a blend of boutique hotels and familiar names including Fairmont, Hilton, Hyatt Regency, InterContinental, Le Meridien, Marriott, and Sofitel.”
Connections by Abercrombie & Kent offers destinations from Italy, France, Eastern Europe, and Croatia, to China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Australia, Tanzania, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Peru, Canada and the western United States.
Sample pricing and programs include Croatia: Jewel of the Coast where clients get a private tour of Split’s Mestrovi Gallery and enjoy a private talk in Dubrovnik with a local resident who relates her experiences during the Balkan War. Clients will also have a chance to meet traders and craftsmen of Dubrovnik (nine days from $3,675).
There’s also India: Spiritual Splendors with a sunrise and sunset visit to the Taj Mahal, an elephant safari on a private Rajput farm and an evening Aarti ceremony on the sacred river Ganges, plus a sunrise boat ride on the river (11 days from $3,990). In South America, clients can opt for Peru: Land of the Incas where they’ll enjoy two opportunities to explore Machu Picchu, including a sunrise visit, meeting a local family at their home in the Sacred Valley and an internationally renowned weaver who introduces them to this traditional craft (nine days from $4,185).
Connections by Abercrombie & Kent: (800) 554-7094; ak-connections.com
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The post Westin Hotels & Resorts appeared first on RCA.]]>
Naming the nine luxury resort brands under Starwood Hotels & Resorts is like trying to name all seven of Snow White’s dwarfs—the best way to do it is to recall the various personalities of each one in turn.
(Spoiler alert: We’re going to mention them real soon, and in bold, so if you’re trying to think of all nine brands now, avert your eyes.)
The Starwood collection includes an array of popular, widely recognized names, each offering a little something to set itself apart. For instance, Element properties take sustainable hospitality seriously, while Aloft pumps up the hip factor. Similarly, the rest of Starwood’s seven brands—St. Regis, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Meridien, Sheraton, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection and Westin—each make their own distinctive mark on the hotel landscape, but it’s that last one that we want to draw your attention to.
Westin Hotels & Resorts—designed around healthy living and with 189 properties in 37 countries—is seemingly ever-expanding with an array of properties opening in the next few years in destinations from the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates. But in this shaky worldwide economy, how is it that any hotel chain—much less an entire portfolio of brands—continues to grow ever more prominent?
Chris J. Austin, v.p. of global retail leisure and luxury sales for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, answers modestly. “After a certain point of instability, the future looks brighter. One of the assets that Starwood and Westin have is that, due to the brand’s reputation of operating prime luxury properties, we have built a loyal base of repeat customers. After a guest’s first visit, they are bound to return or recommend our services to others.”
Of course, the fact that Starwood is the largest global hotel-management company and luxury hospitality operation in the world probably helps, too.
“The success is evident. For example, in the second quarter of this year room prices in our properties rose, on average, nearly 7 percent across our worldwide network, while occupancy hit a healthy 72 percent, even in Europe.” Most of those bookings, he says, are through business and high-end travel.
“I think one of the main [things] underlining Starwood’s success is that we benefit from tight supply and stronger demand for our brands,” Austin points out. It’s a fair statement—according to Fortune magazine, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has seen its shares soar more than 30 percent since last year.
This success has meant that 2012 has been a busy year for Westin, with openings in New York, with The Westin New York Grand Central; in Colorado, with The Westin Snowmass Resort; and in China, with The Westin Xiamen and The Westin Changbaishan Resort, as well as The Westin Chennai Velachery in India and The Westin Panama in Panama City (as of press time, set to open next month). And 2013 and 2014 don’t look any less busy.
In Asia, for instance, Westin will be debuting properties in China, India, Indonesia and Singapore. In China alone, Westin is set to debut nine properties between 2013 and 2015.
Honing in on 2013 and in China in particular, Westin will fly its flag at four new properties, including The Westin Wenzhou in the southeastern coast of China’s Zhejiang Province; The Westin Qingdao, offering luxury accommodations near shopping districts and the beaches of the Yellow Sea; The Westin Haikou, with views over Haikou Bay; and the 300-room Westin Chongqing Liberation Square.
Austin refers to The Westin Chongqing as “one of the most exciting properties…it’s a great property that manages to fuse shops with first-class restaurants.” Its location in the city’s downtown Liberation Square means guests will have constant access to culture and entertainment. “It’s one of the best new hotels to open in China.”
Westin is also seriously expanding in North America in 2013 with properties set to open in Houston, Birmingham and San Jose, among other destinations.
Starwood has made a big investment in helping make travel agents’ jobs easier.
“Two of our more successful tools are StarwoodPro and ProLearning. These programs have been designed with the concept that the needs of a client should fit with the property they’re visiting.”
The programs accomplish that goal by providing agents with a wealth of information about each and every property under the Starwood umbrella. ProLearning is in itself a dedicated learning library exclusively for agents’ use; its goal being to strengthen customer relations while improving profits for both hotels and travel agents. StarwoodPro, meanwhile, is an entire research, booking, and commission payment system, capable of finding information about properties and booking your client’s trip all in one.
“We have about 35,000 graduates in 93 countries,” Austin says. “We encourage travel agents to join,” he says, so that “the travel agent recommending the property is fully knowledgeable with it, and as a result the client has no unpleasant surprises.”
Starwood Hotels & Resorts: (888) 625-4988; starwoodhotels.com
Westin Hotels & Resorts: (800) 937-8461; starwoodhotels.com/westin/index.html
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The post It’s All in the Family in Israel appeared first on RCA.]]>
Israel, the ancient crucible of the world’s major religions, the crossroads of virtually every important culture going back thousands of years, and an undisputed depository of history, has all the elements of the once-in-lifetime family vacation.
Of course, the most essential element for family travel—whether it be Israel or anywhere else—is the idea of spending quality time together, be it the family unit itself or multi-generational travel. And on its website, the Israel Ministry of Tourism points out that, “The best news about traveling to Israel with your kids is that because most Israelis go on vacation with the whole family, Israel is very child-friendly. The easier nature trails, for example, are even officially designated ‘family trails.’ And if you are planning to visit Israel during summer or winter school vacations and especially during the interim days of Passover and Sukkot, you’ll find dozens of Israel Nature and Parks Authority sites as well as museums to be treasure-troves of fun and learning—from costumed guides to hands-on workshops in pottery, mosaic-making, bread-baking and other crafts,” something family travelers can do on their own during free time.
Additionally, many Israeli hotels, especially those in resort towns like Tiberias and Eilat, usually have a kids’ club, hosting arts and crafts and other activities.
Underscoring all this, Noaz Bar-Nir, director general of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, points out that agents should not confuse which type of trip to book for families and that there is a difference between family travel and what he calls the vacation market, which is primarily group travel.
“When you’re talking about family travel to Israel, you’re talking about the general market; the vacation market is generally group travel. In the general market, it’s different itineraries and different goals.”
In terms of the record number of visitors from the United States across all the markets—the general market, the leisure or vacation market, the Christian market and the ethnic Jewish market—Bar-Nir says, “I think that the good numbers from the United States show that we’ve succeeded in showing that Israel is really a very safe destination,” an essential factor for family travel, in particular. At the same time he adds, “Even more than that, it’s very lucrative to those who sell Israel. The travel agent can make good money out of selling Israel and the consumer can get added value they can’t get in other destinations,” still another important element for family travel.
Trafalgar has a 10-day Best of Israel (winter 2012/2013) package that’s good for families with a price point of $1,950 pp with daily Israeli breakfast and two 3-course meals included, as well as complimentary airport transfers arriving and departing.
The tour includes four nights in Jerusalem, two nights in the Lower Galilee and two nights in Tel Aviv. Family activities include visits to the Dead Sea, plenty of free time in Jerusalem to visit attractions like the Tower of David Museum, the Archaeological Gardens and the Davidson Center, visiting the holy sites throughout Israel, Haifa and a full day free to explore Tel Aviv, in addition to the city and museum tours.
“Trafalgar’s First Class trips are a wonderful way for multi-generational groups to spend quality time together with great activities and sightseeing highlights for every age group,” says Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar USA. “As the insider of guided vacations, families love that we have taken care of all the travel details and we offer exceptional value.”
At Cox & Kings, meanwhile, spokesperson Natalie Guevara says that family travel to Israel should have a little bit of everything that can appeal across the board to the whole family.
“We think Cox & Kings’ 9-day Israel: The Ancient Land is a great fit as it offers a nice mix of history and adventure/active sightseeing,” she points out. Definitely on the luxury side, this is probably a good choice for a multi-generational tour. At $7,655 pp, it includes four- and five-star hotel accommodations including four nights in the King David Jerusalem Hotel and Dan Hotels in Tel Aviv and Haifa with breakfast daily. The package includes all transfers and sightseeing by private vehicle with an accompanying Cox & Kings driver/guide throughout the journey, entrance fees into historical sites and museums, and baggage assistance at all airports and hotels.
Adele Feldman, president of Herricks Travel Center, an American Express Travel Services representative, agrees that a car and driver are a good option for family travelers to Israel. “If it’s a family, sometimes we like to put them in a private car. They can follow the pattern of a tour, but they don’t have to be on the bus with everybody else.”
Back at Cox & Kings, Nicole Beattie, destination manager for Arabia & North Africa, says the best highlights for families on its Israel: The Ancient Land tour includes the visit to Acre with its medieval atmosphere that’s appealing to children, and where they’ll visit the headquarters of the Knights of St. John with its barrel-vaulted rooms and refectory. And then, of course, there’s the cable car ride to explore the ancient hilltop fortress of Masada and floating on the Dead Sea, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the whole family.
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The post Royal Princess appeared first on RCA.]]>
Stepping on board the new 3,560-passenger Royal Princess, devoted fans of the “Love Boat” line will breathe a sigh of relief.
In designing its first new ship in five years (since Ruby Princess), Princess Cruises knew better than to mess with a good thing.
This 141,000-ton, Italian-built ship—which has its American debut from Fort Lauderdale in late-October—is the largest and most contemporary ship in the Princess fleet. But it doesn’t stray from providing the classic-style cruising experience the line is known for.
Such is the welcome-back feeling on board, that cabin hallways on Royal Princess are decorated with 1,000 photos submitted by past Princess passengers.
There was no giving in to the trend of waterparks and other amusement-park-at-sea attractions here.
Top-producing agents on board for the ship’s naming festivities in Southampton, UK, in June, said that’s a very good thing.
“I’m on this brand-new Royal Princess and it’s clearly a Princess ship,” says Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia CruiseShipCenters.
“They want the guests to be able to go from the other ships onto this ship and still find continuity,” adds Bill Smith, v.p. of cruise sales for Virtuoso. “That to me is ‘wow.’”
the ‘wow’ factor
The “wow” factor comes in the form of the SeaWalk and SeaView Bar, spaces on an upper deck that cantilever 28 ft. off the ship with glass floors so that you can see views of the sea some 128 ft. below (acrophobes, steer clear).
But the ship’s most stellar feature is its Piazza atrium. Princess has put much focus on its atriums of late, making them centers for dining, drinking, entertainment and people-watching (it has even expanded them on older ships during dry docks).
On Royal Princess, the Piazza is an elegant, theatrical 3-deck space where the floors are marble, the lights sparkle, water burbles in fountains and one feels like royalty walking the grand undulating staircases or watching the crowd from the balconies.
Guests can hang out in the Piazza listening to live music, snack on sushi at the new seafood venue Ocean Terrace, eat
the excellent, complimentary Neapolitan-style pizza at the expanded Alfredo’s, people-watch as they sip a latte at the 24-hour International Cafe or sample the tasty treats at the largest gelato shop at sea. It’s not unlike being in the piazza of a small Italian town, in fact.
“They continue to evolve the Piazza. It’s an even larger space to do more things. They’ve really done a good job with that. It’s quite grand,” points out Eichhorst.
To be clear, a lot of what’s new is fee-based—from the gelato to the sushi to the signature champagne drinks at the new Bellini’s bar. So agents should prepare clients for the fact that they will be tantalized by extras. And a lot of these extras—including spa treatments, poolside cabana rentals, a reservation at the chef’s table are, in fact, ideal for your well-heeled clients, although they are not commissionable.
“I think Princess’ objective is to keep the price point attractive and make it easier for a client that way. Consider who the audience is, consider the price point, and sell it that way,” advises Smith.
One thing passengers won’t find in the atrium is the reception and shore excursion desks. They’ve been moved to an adjacent mini atrium.
Right next door, in prime Deck 5 real estate, is the ship’s expanded Lotus Spa. Moving the spa from the traditional position on a top deck to the center of action was a bold move, but also means a prime marketing opportunity—you literally can’t avoid walking by.
With the extra space come enhancements including The Enclave, a new for-a-fee relaxation area with a hydrotherapy pool, specialized steam and sauna rooms, a hammam, and a pair of twin waterbeds. The spa also has new couples’ villas with whirlpools. In fact, recommend to your spa aficionados a massage for two that starts at $449 for 110 minutes. Or, up to four people can share a package that combines spa treatments with such treats as caviar and champagne (from $1,500).
The ship’s oceanview fitness area is separate on an upper deck. It’s next door to the expansive children’s facilities, which include age-appropriate indoor spaces plus an outdoor playground with tricycles for little ones and an outdoor lounging area with wading pool for teens.
Adults (18+) will find expanded outdoor areas just for them, too, whether lounging for free by the lovely Retreat Pool or paying a fee to relax in the plush sunning area, The Sanctuary.
In both places, those looking for privacy can book curtained cabanas (a first for Princess, but popular on some other lines) that come with lots of goodies, including a personal TV with noise-reducing wireless headphones, cushy sofas, luxurious robe and slippers, a welcome cocktail, and healthy snacks including nuts, and dried and fresh fruit (in The Sanctuary cabanas). Cabana rental is from $50 for a half-day at The Retreat, and from $80 at The Sanctuary. Those booking a cabana can also pamper themselves with a gourmet picnic featuring a bottle of wine paired with antipasti, artisan sandwiches, pizza and fresh-baked desserts (from $40). For big spenders, the two high-ceiling Royal Villas in The Sanctuary are some of the most extravagant open-air spaces at sea.
The main pool is outfitted with an impressive fountain that does double duty as a fun water spray area during the day and the water feature in nighttime water-and-light shows—some of which also make use of the ship’s largest-in-the-fleet Movies Under the Stars screen.
staterooms with views
A key selling feature will no doubt be the fact that all the Royal Princess’ outside cabins come with balconies—including in a moderate price range. And there are 1,438 outside cabins to choose from. The ship has also introduced a new cabin category, Deluxe Balcony, which brings a little more space than standard balcony cabins and some of the amenities found in mini-suites, including an upgraded duvet and comfy waffle robes.
Most balconies on this ship are smaller than on other Princess ships—a move the line explains was made so the larger ship wouldn’t be too top heavy.
The staterooms, meanwhile, have a new and pleasing contemporary decor and a bunch of subtle updates including larger showers with handheld showerheads, square bathroom sinks (providing more storage space), upholstered headboards and pillow-top mattresses. The cabins have also been outfitted with larger flat-screen TVs for a new on-demand system the line created in-house—with a bunch of TV shows and movies to watch, all free (it’s already a customer favorite).
There are five basic types of cabins your clients can choose from: Inside, Standard Balcony, Deluxe Balcony, Mini-suite and Suites (the largest 705 sq. ft. with a wraparound balcony). Additionally, there are 50 adjoining cabins that are available for families. Those seeking accessible accommodations can choose from any category except Deluxe Balcony—with 36 total accessible cabins.
An eco-friendly feature: Cabin lighting is activated when you place your keycard in a reader at the door.
Princess was the first to introduce a chef’s table at sea, and on Royal Princess the experience gets a home at Chef’s Table Lumiere ($115, perfect for your culinary high-brows), a cleverly illuminated space in the center of one of the main dining rooms (a curtain of light makes the space private). The ever-changing menu is based on the chef’s daily whim and is paired with wine ($115 pp).
Guests looking for a special night out can also dine (for $25 pp) at the Crown Grill steakhouse or Sabatini’s, newly connected to pre-dinner bars—the Wheelhouse Bar and Vines, respectively.
The Royal Princess debuts a reconfigured Horizon Court buffet with more action stations including a hibachi grill and taco bar, and a new first-of-its-kind Pastry Shop dessert area, where treats include fruit dipped in chocolate and yummy cupcakes, among other sweets.
At the largest-in-the-fleet Princess Theater, the line has debuted its four new streamlined 30-minute music and dance shows—which make creative use of state-of-the-art technology including LED screens. The ship also debuted a first-of-its-kind TV studio, Princess Live!, the hub for interactive game shows, comedy shows and cooking demos and a daily cruise director-hosted TV show, “The Wake Show,” broadcast ship-wide (expect lots of laughs).
The line continues to have a large number of live performers, including in the Piazza—we counted five pianists alone listed in the daily line-up. The water-and-light shows on deck attracted a sizeable crowd—despite the fact temperatures were cool in Southampton (these will no doubt be a hit when the ships sail to the Caribbean).
Agents on board during the christening ceremonies said Royal Princess was well suited for couples ages 55+ seeking a relaxed atmosphere, rather than the frenetic pace of most new ships.
Bragging rights also count, says Blaine Lambert, COO of Cruise Experts in Vancouver.
“Princess already appeals to a wide range of people. But with the way they have configured the venues, and even having Kate as godmother, this is going to appeal to younger people who want a little more excitement,” he says.
The Royal Princess summers in the Mediterranean and winters in the Caribbean, cruising from Fort Lauderdale (late-October to April). Seven-night cruises from $699 inside; from $999 for a balcony cabin.
Passengers: 3,560 Decks: 19 Cabins: 1,780 Length: 1,083 ft. Service speed: 22 knots Tonnage: 141,000
The Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) serves as godmother of the Royal Princess. This is the third ship, in fact, with the “Royal Princess” name. Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, christened the first Royal Princess ship in 1984.
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The post Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth appeared first on RCA.]]>
Start spreading the news: Cunard’s celebrated code for evening attire has changed—a significant happening duly noted by Recommend on a summer sail around the British Isles aboard Queen Elizabeth.
“It took place in spring soon after the World Voyages,” says Janice Collins, social hostess. “We maintain a high standard of dress and still have the same number of formal nights—for instance, on a 10-day cruise you get three formal nights—but now instead of three dress codes there are only two, ‘Formal’ and ‘Informal.’ The previous ‘Semiformal,’ which had designated a dress for ladies, has become ‘Informal,’ allowing for a dressy pants outfit, and though jackets are still required for gentlemen, ties are now optional.”
“Elegant Casual,” formerly in the evening lineup, is now altogether out of the fashion picture. And while well-groomed eyebrows would surely soar if a passenger showed up in casual mode in the festive Queens Room on formal nights, the Lido buffet and restaurants are always available, Collins adds, as a “relaxed alternative” for dining. The Garden Lounge bar also welcomes those who opt out of evening wear on formal nights. “The code change,” Collins says, “is for the convenience of guests, who will now need less luggage.”
If we appear to be making a big deal about dress requirements, well…with Cunard, the dress code is a big deal. A very big deal. Strictly adhered to, with no nonsense. These, after all, are the ships where memory-making nights in white satin (or red silk or black sequins) are a given. The momentous change, which kicked in as flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth set out in April and May on this year’s main cruising season, may represent a loosening of ties, as it were. But, praise be, there’s no loss of the electric sense of occasion that pulses throughout the ship when women glamour up in sparkly gowns and men give 007 a run for his black tie panache. In today’s sailing scene (and, for that matter, most other scenes), where dressing up is sometimes viewed as a quaint custom of times past, it’s a Cunard signature and a bow to the golden age of ocean travel—an integral aspect of a storied legacy carried on with seamless grace and admirable expertise by the 173-year-old cruise line.
Comments Dorothy Reminick, cruise consultant for Travel Resource in Jupiter, FL, “I am sure there are many, especially Grill passengers, who preferred the formal dress requirements that existed in the past. However, with these being more relaxed now, I think a lot of people who prefer less formal dress will be inclined to try Cunard.”
fit for a queen (or king)
The “Grill passengers” cited by Reminick, who for 30 years was employed by Cunard in reservations and guest relations in both London and New York, are those who reside in one of the 127 Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites, each paired with its own Grill Restaurant, situated in restricted-access privacy on Deck 11 along with a private Grills bar, lounge, and concierge. Other stateroom categories are also linked to their own restaurant, including the Britannia Club, and the 2-deck, art deco-flourished Britannia Restaurant.
Overall, the ship sports 1,046 staterooms, 85 percent of them outside and 71 percent with balconies. The Princess Suite, a popular choice, encompasses 367 sq. ft. with two beds, living area, balcony, bath with tub and shower, walk-in closet, two flat-screen TVs, fine bedding, robe and slippers, and refrigerator. The attractive and comfy but less spacious Club Balcony stateroom, which gives access to the Britannia Club Restaurant, has a small bathroom with shower only.
Additional dining options include evening table-service offerings in the Lido ($10) alongside the traditional buffet, with varying themes such as Aztec (Mexican), Asado (South American), and Jasmine (Pan-Asian). Crowning the food chain, there’s The Verandah (a la carte charges apply), with a contemporary French menu and extensive wine list in a chic-but-cozy setting of mirrored columns and white leather chairs. As in the Grills, service in the Verandah is attentive, with tableside cooking and preparation that show off polished skills.
Other options by day include Cafe Carinthia for tasty snacks and the Golden Lion pub, famous for its fish and chips. The round-the-clock Lido serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets.
dressed to the nines
A handsomely-crafted vessel and a sister to Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth is a rich-textured tapestry of elegant double- and triple-height public rooms, captivating art and memorabilia of the line’s icons and enduring links to the Royal Family, and eye-catching art deco accents, with an abundance of rich wood paneling, mosaics, and marbles. Among highlights is a portrait of the reigning monarch by young artist Isobel Peachey, and a stunning marquetry panel depicting the original Queen Elizabeth (the world’s largest liner when launched in 1938) by royal nephew David Linley.
Pricey art and vintage posters are on tap in the respective Clarendon Fine Art Gallery (a proper gallery, not an auction format) and Cunarders’ Gallery, while Royal Arcade shops feature treasures from Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, and Harris Tweed. The Cunard bookshop is the place to stock up on souvenirs commemorating the summer arrival of the newest prince.
Scoring top marks with seagoers are the wondrous library where you could happily hide away for hours—6,000 books strong with a spiral staircase linking two levels of packed shelves; the Insights program of guest speakers; and top-notch entertainment in the beautiful Royal Court Theatre, ranging from classical piano concerts to West End-style performances featuring song and dance. Indeed, music resonates throughout, luring passengers into such lively spots as the Midships Bar and the Deck 10 Yacht Club for late-night dancing.
Dance being the operative word. We’re talking major participation that you’re not likely to encounter elsewhere on the high seas. Frequent dance classes draw a crowd of enthusiasts, who then display their newly honed talents in nightly twirls beneath the glittering chandeliers of the grandly elegant, 2-tier Queens Room and, most notably, at the series of themed balls that boast one of the largest orchestras out there.
“Anytime you enter the Queens Room while a dance instruction class is being held, the room is packed to the rafters,” Reminick says. Not so with other lines.” And teatime? “You can be sure that the British, wherever they might be, will make it back on board for tea.”
Afternoon tea, in fact, ranks right up there with dancing in passenger popularity, and it’s a safe bet that American
cruisers relish the daily pleasure just as much as the Brits. How could they not when it means a chance to feast on oven-warm scones with cream and jam, served in the Queens Room by white-gloved waiters to the murmur of soft strings or a mellow piano.
castles, beatles & guinness
On this 10-day cruise, which set out from Southampton after an arrival day in London and an overnight at handily situated Grosvenor Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road, passengers soaked up well-organized shore tours in Edinburgh, Inverness, Dublin, Liverpool (a pilgrimage to the Beatles museum is a baby boomer must), and the Channel Islands.
Back on board, along with the aforementioned activities, they sampled spa services, hit the casino, showed up for an art talk or book signing or social bridge or whisky tasting, and headed to the pools or covered Games Deck. There’s a staff of nannies and a playroom for children, plus an activity area for teens. But, truly, this is a ship for grown-ups—who have a taste for civilized adventure with a noticeably romantic vibe.
WHAT TRAVEL AGENTS ARE SAYING…
So, who among your clients would love it? “Mature passengers who are looking for quality and willing to pay a bit more for Cunard,” says Tom Baker, president of Houston, TX’s CruiseCenter and an award-winning specialist with 250 voyages under his belt. “It’s a specialty and a brand I know well since first cruising with Cunard in 1977.” What appeals to American clients, he feels, is “the yesteryear traditional experience in a calm atmosphere devoid of noise and loud music. They are quality seekers looking for something different from other contemporary brands, with British history and other touches that ice the cake. The Grills—Princess and Queens—remain opulent and the class system prevails, although lavish caviar helpings have gone by the wayside.”
Notes Dorothy Reminick, cruise consultant for Travel Resource in Jupiter, FL, “Many of my American clients are repeaters. They like the British atmosphere on board and the international clientele.” (On the British Isles cruise, the passenger list included Brits, Americans, and smaller representations of Germans, Japanese, Canadians, and Australians. Of the 253 Americans on board, 134 had previously sailed with Cunard.)
“I would say that the line appeals to educated, professional people, both active and retired,” Reminick adds. “People who enjoy learning and attending classes and lectures—sophisticated beings who enjoy the culture that Cunard specializes in. Cunard attracts those who like to dress for dinner.”
Passenger capacity: 2,068 Crew: 997 Guest decks: 12 Length: 964.5 Gross tonnage: 90,900 Draft: 26.2
we three queens
The Cunard Line, operator of the luxury trio Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, has been a stalwart symbol of British refinement since the company’s first paddle-wheel steamer, Britannia, crossed the pond in 1840.
Starting in spring 2014 after the three return from their respective World Voyages, the line will launch a series of transatlantic crossings with varied offerings spotlighting the 10th birthday of flagship ocean liner, 2,592-guest Queen Mary 2, which marked a 200th crossing in July 2013. A celebratory “Three Queens” event will be staged in homeport Southampton on May 9. Fares for a 7-day transatlantic crossing begin at $1,199 pp dbl.
Also on tap next season, the 2,068-guest Queen Elizabeth—youngest of the Cunard royals, fittingly christened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in October 2010—will zero in on the Mediterranean, including 7-day sails with fares from $999 to $1,249, pp dbl. The 2,000-guest Queen Victoria—debuted in 2007—will cruise the British Isles, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean on 7- to 14-day journeys priced from $1,599 to $3,199 pp dbl.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/ magazine/issue-archive):
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth (August 2011)
Cunard Line: (800) 728-6273; cunard.com
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The post New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom appeared first on RCA.]]>
We’re strolling through Belle’s French-inspired village in the Enchanted Forest section of Walt Disney World’s New Fantasyland—the largest expansion to date at Magic Kingdom—and we can almost hear a chorus of villagers singing “Bonjour! Bonjour!” as we eye Gaston’s Tavern and a castle in the distance. It’s one of many fairytale moments we had during our visit to New Fantasyland, where guests are transported into the stories of Disney’s timeless characters through a series of attractions, dining venues and shops, all of which have doubled the size of the original Fantasyland.
“This expansion is the largest in our history and it certainly captures the excitement and enchantment of what we do best at Disney, which is tell stories,” says Pam Scott, regional sales director, Disney Destinations. “What is so cool is this new ‘land’ is home to so many attractions that it really goes beyond anything we’ve done before. The new area of Magic Kingdom has also provided an invigorating reason for guests to visit,” or, in the case of Disney fanatics, revisit again and again.
And although New Fantasyland is awaiting its final two elements—Princess Fairytale Hall, where guests meet both classic and contemporary princesses (as of press time, Princess Fairytale Hall was set to open this month), and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train family-style rollercoaster (opening spring 2014)—parkgoers aren’t holding back from visiting this new section of the park.
“A lot of people are looking forward to seeing the entire vision unveiled, but I don’t think too many people are waiting to visit the park, since the majority of the attractions are complete,” Scott says. She adds that guests who have visited New Fantasyland are already looking forward to coming back and seeing the entire park come together.
Divided into two sections, Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus, the land literally jumps off the movie screen and into the parks with the amount of detail and research the Imagineers (the design team, if you don’t speak Disney) put into the creation of New Fantasyland. The Storybook Circus section captures the golden era of the circus from the 1940s, and is inspired by the Circus World Museum in Wisconsin, where Imagineers climbed into all of the circus wagons to capture the right colors and details.
Mark Kohl, director, project management, Walt Disney Imagineering, points out that the thought process that surrounds the “what does it take to create a land or add on to Fantasyland over time?” is one that is really determined by studying the treasured stories that fit within Fantasyland “and really deciding not only what makes sense, but what is really compelling to our guest.”
Guests want to be truly immersed in these stories, and to attain that goal, Imagineers seamlessly blend technology into the rides and take classic meet-and-greets to the next level, such as in Enchanted Tales with Belle where guests spend time within Belle’s story in an interactive experience that makes use of costumes and props, or ride along in a clamshell with Ariel and her friends in Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, which seems to be one of the hottest new rides if the long wait times are any indication. And what were once boring long wait times in lines, queus are now their own attractions with the use of interactive features, such as a scavenger hunt with digitally animated crabs.
Another example of a sought-after element of New Fantasyland that could rank as an attraction is the new Be Our Guest Restaurant located inside Beast’s Castle. The restaurant is divided into three dining rooms: the Ballroom, the West Wing and the Rose Gallery. The castle is plucked straight out of the film with everything from the rose losing its petals in the West Wing to “snow” falling outside of the ballroom behind the windows.
If you haven’t heard about this new dining hotspot at the Magic Kingdom, it offers a lot of firsts at the park, which is probably why it is about as hard to get dinner reservations here as it is at a top restaurant in New York City. The restaurant offers quick service for lunch and transforms into fine dining by night—complete with wine and beer.
“I think more than anything in New Fantasyland, Be Our Guest has been the most popular, and rightly so. It doesn’t hurt that it is the only place in the Magic Kingdom that serves alcohol,” says Cara Goldsbury, chief executive concierge, Glass Slipper Concierge (a Disney travel division for Sanborn’s Travel Service), and author of “The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort.”
The addition of beer and wine to the menu not only adds to the storybook setting, since the movie takes place in France, but also says something about what guests are expecting when it comes to dining, even in a theme park setting where turkey legs may be more the norm.
“It was a very French-inspired location and you can’t go somewhere in France without ordering a glass of wine or beer,” says Maribeth Bisienere, v.p., F&B and merchandise operations integration at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, adding that “guests are more sophisticated than ever about dining.”
While lunch is more of a French bistro affair with croque monsieur sandwiches and Nicoise salad, dinner is more of a “castle feast” reminiscent of the 1400s with ratatouille, mussels provencal and thyme-scented pork rack chop.
“The Magic Kingdom has never really been known for fantastic food, and this is definitely a higher quality food experience… a step above the normal theme park fare at Magic Kingdom,” Goldsbury says.
Since dinner reservations can be difficult to obtain, Goldsbury recommends guests get in line for lunch to experience the cuisine. A perk about lunch in the Be Our Guest Restaurant? Unlike other quick-service restaurants in the park, guests can skip carrying trays and instead find a table where their food will be delivered.
Any child or adult with a fascination for animation will love the Art of Animation Resort at the Walt Disney World Resort, which brings to life classic and new Disney characters.
From the moment we walked into the lobby and spotted sketches of characters such as Ariel and Lightning McQueen, we were sold. While three of the wings offer family suites (320 in “Finding Nemo,” 480 in “Cars” and 320 in “The Lion King”), the latest wing to debut, “The Little Mermaid,” features 864 standard guestrooms.
We stayed in one of the “Cars” suites in the “Cozy Cone Motel” located behind the Cozy Cone pool, surrounded by large orange cone cabanas, all quite fitting for the “Cars” theme.
The suite’s design plays on a classic Americana motel throwing in elements from the Disney-Pixar film, such as pictures of the characters hanging on the walls. Divided into a bedroom with a queen bed and bathroom cleverly disguised as a “car wash”; a living room with a double sleeper sofa; and dining area with a table that transforms into a double bed, with a bathroom for the kids, the suite is the perfect size for a family, while still giving parents privacy. Rates start at $118 per night during the week for The Little Mermaid standard guestrooms, and $282 per night during the week for family suites.
“The family market is huge for us, no matter what your family consists of,” says Scott. “Families at Disney can be the traditional families, or multigenerational, or grandparents taking their grandchildren away as a rite of passage.”
A common trend is grandparents taking the entire family, which may seem like a lot of work dealing with a whole family, but Goldsbury says she typically finds that she works with one point person who makes the decisions for the entire family, and she then helps put together an itinerary.
Beyond traditional park hopping, agents looking to expand sales with their clients can also market special events taking place throughout the year, such as the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival and the holiday celebrations.
Disney also provides a variety of tools and training that agents can use to learn more about New Fantasyland and the parks in general on disneytravelagents.com.
Art of Animation Resort: (407) W-DISNEY; disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/art-of-animation-resort
Disney Parks: disneyparks.com
Disney Travel Agents: disneytravelagents.com
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