Author Archive

The Sagamore Hosts Largay Annual Meeting

By Paul Largay   Thursday, April 26th, 2012

On Friday, April 27th, Largay Travel will host its annual company retreat. The Sagamore Resort and Hotel will serve as the backdrop for the Largettes as they work with each other and travel suppliers to improve their already incredible skills and abilities. Suppliers attending the annual gathering include, Adventures by Disney, Crystal Cruises, Holland America, Micato, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Tauck World Discovery, Travel Impressions, Travelex, and Virtuoso. Over the course of the weekend the Suppliers will showcase their travel offerings, while the Largay Travel team assesses each, in order to strengthen their understanding of each supplier’s market. This way, customers will be directed to the best tour or cruise for them, based on their own travel desires. Company Vice President Amanda Kilmak is very enthusiastic and optimistic about the weekend.

“Our company retreat is a way for us to improve our business on every level. We get to work with each other and enhance our abilities as travel advisors, we get to work with our travel suppliers and see how they have changed and evolved for the future. This year we are giving the suppliers incentive to really WOW us but rating their presentations. Our ultimate goal is to find better ways to serve our clients, and what better way than to pull all the pieces together for an annual tune up.”

All in all, the annual retreat looks to be successful, enjoyable and very productive as it is every year.




Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas: BIG done Very, Very well!

By Paul Largay   Monday, April 9th, 2012

When I first 1st learned that the Allure of the Seas accommodates in excess of 6000 passengers and has a crew of 2500+, I was initially tempted to QUICKLY jump ship & swim for shore. After all, I was interested in a cruise not a stampede- what I envisioned at dinner time would be the Caribbean equivalent of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Oh how wrong I was.

There is no denying it; it has the title of ‘World’s Largest Cruise ship’ because it is, but big in this case is not synonymous with bad or inferior. Quite the contrary, after having a look around, I was pleasantly surprised that the ship was designed & strategically divided into what can best be described as neighborhoods complete

with names such as Central Park, and the Boardwalk. Central Park was home to a number of intimate, alternative restaurants and a fabulous wine bar proudly displaying the world’s largest bottle of Cabernet!

In contrast, the Boardwalk neighborhood’s authenticity immediately reminded me of my childhood days in Coney Island. There are hot dog/ice cream stands, carnival games, popcorn/candy apples, and of course the requisite/magnificent wooden, hand carved carrousel. Does incredible begin to come to mind?

The active and adventure sports offered on-board are highlighted by a (40) foot rock climbing wall, flow rider(s) (go figure I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to surf, and now I do), a zip line -yes an actual zip line- strung 50 feet

above the deck (the 1st step is the most difficult!), and a running track that encircles the ship that helps you to keep pace with the additional calories found around every corner of the ship (kinda, but not really!).

The gym/workout facilities and spa boast abundant, state of the art pieces of equipment, instructors, and attendants. Not only can you get a personalized exercise/nutritional program,but have your teeth whitened, receive a Botox treatment and experience acupuncture as well. Lions & tigers& bears, oh my!

If nighttime action and entertainment options ‘float your boat’ (sorry it was there) then you’re in luck. AGAIN! As a matter of fact you may be exhausted just deciding between jazz/rock/disco/karaoke music. Or perhaps you want your evening’s entertainment menu to include a combination of a comedy club and a Broadway show (Chicago), or maybe an Ice Capades performance followed by an aqua theater nightcap.

The aqua show can best be described as a unique combination of Cirque de Soleil meets the cliff divers from Acapulco. The choices go on as long as the night.

After sailing for (7) days, my experience/impression is that this ship is a ‘boat load a fun’, unique, and certainly in a class by itself. This ship, like all ships, is NOT for everybody. Folks accustomed to more intimate settings, variety of ports, large cabins and surroundings will be better served elsewhere. But, singles, active couples, families (so PERFECT for multigenerational trips/reunions) should seriously consider adding the Allure to their respective bucket lists. The food, entertainment, and service all exceeded my expectations.

The net result when I think back upon this cruise-and I’ll do so very fondly-is a big ol’ Fashioned smile.




Backroads Biking Adventure through Calgary

By Paul Largay   Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Each time I consider taking an active vacation there are some immediate  questions/concerns that surface prior to taking the trip itself: have I chosen the right company, have I chosen the correct trip for me with regards to activity levels,  geographic venues, style/ levels of hotels? What will my group of fellow travelers/ adventures be like? Most importantly, HOW GOOD WILL THE TOUR DIRECTORS/GUIDES BE??!!

 Prior to ultimately selecting the Backroads Canadian Rockies biking trip, I spent considerable time seeking answers to all my aforementioned questions.I knew I wanted a physically challenging program that had multiple options for both longer & shorter days on the bike.  I wanted (4-5) star hotel properties.  I wanted nightly fine wine & dining opportunities.  I wanted less travelled country roads.  I wanted magnificent scenery and authentic wildlife encounters.  I wanted moderate temperatures conducive to long days on the saddle.  I guess you could say, like most folks, I essentially wanted it all…

 Backroads and the National Parks of Canada didn’t disappoint & delivered in style.

 For (6) days we were treated to a buffet and endless stream of brilliant blue skies, iridescent , jewel-like lakes, majestic, craggy-faced relentless mountain peaks.  Abundant wildlife seemed to magically and strategically await us around each bend in the road (big horn sheep, elk, black bear, and yes even a mother grizzly bear…YIKES!).

 The challenges of the daily distance and considerable elevation gains were a test of our collective wills, but whose attainment always offered the reward of a magnificent, scenic, visual dessert.

 The guides were all incredibly energetic (they had no choice with all these ‘type A’ personalities!) knowledgeable, personable, and unilaterally available.  They somehow innately understood & catered to the uniqueness of each participant and, in certain select instances, when somebody climbing a mountain pass ‘ran outta gas‘ , provided a seamless ‘lift‘ to the top where they eventually toasted & celebrated our arrival.

 The hotels were all ‘best in show’ in their respective locales.  The service, accommodations, & cuisine at the Post Hotel was in a category second to none and would rival ANY US/European ‘best of the best’ property.

 Because of our desire to be situated in a very remote wilderness environment, everyone understood that on certain nights the level of accommodations would be adequate but NOT exceptional.  On those particular nights the level of service, food, charm ,and dinner conversation offered by the inn keeper and his staff more than compensated us for the utilitarian accommodations.

 What a privilege it was to bike & physically experience this hidden gem, pristine and well preserved wilderness area.  The memories of this experience, like the endless rewarding scenery & wildlife of Calgary, will provide lifelong memories for all fortunate enough to have participated!




American Safari Cruises through the Hawaiian Islands

By Paul Largay   Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

If you ask me, choice is one of life’s greatest challenges because eventually by  its very definition you need to make one. So, here I am again, it’s another year, another February vacation opportunity; ultimately another choice needs to be made.
Oh where oh where should I go this year? And what should I do once I get there? Said the cobbler’s son :O)

Well, after reviewing multiple options (translated professional & personal zip code fantasies!) I’ve decided upon a rediscovery tour of the Hawaiian Islands. The 1st runners up, The Maldives, Tahiti, Dubai, etc. etc. etc, will just have to take their rightful, patient place in my traveler’s universal category of ‘must see & do, just not now!’
I describe my choice as a “rediscovery of the Hawaiian Islands” because I’ve been fortunate to have traveled there several times on traditional, multiple Island hopper itineraries-staying a few days on one Island and then taking a puddle skipping transfer to another. Can you say fly & flop? But this time, I wanted to see it from what I anticipated would be a unique and rewarding perspective: from the vantage point of cruising on an ultra yacht.
The ship we (my significant only Ms. Reenie is always at my side!) chose, the Safari Explorer, was (1) of (3) ships in the fleet from American Safari Cruises (can you, should you call it a fleet if there are only three vessels?). Their ships range in size from 8 to 36 passengers and sail, depending upon the season, to

Alaska , British Columbia, Sea of Cortez/Baja, U.S./Canada, and most important of all, (because this is after all.. all about me!) to the Hawaiian Islands from October to May.
Our ‘official ‘Hawaiian itinerary included The Big Island/Maui/Lanai/Molokai. The unofficial, actual itinerary was where the wildlife, culture and the real, pristine beauty of Hawaii led our talented and affable captain.
(5) minutes after embarking and setting sail from the Hilo area our published course took a 180 degree turn as we lazily paralleled (20) migrating

humpback whales and their recent offspring, and a school of spinner dolphins intent on doing their best to live up to their name! The only aspects more incredible than the immediacy, and abundance of the wildlife sighting were the resolute discipline of the crew to respect a non-invasive distance from the marine life, and the breadth of their mammal and environmental knowledge that they dispensed with ease, precision, and artistry-as if they were the love children of a maestro conductor and a college professor.
The precedent of flexibility and ‘Hawaiian go with the flow’ had been established and magically mirrored for the balance of the week. We were treated to a blended collage of water sports (snorkeling/scuba diving/kayaking/zodiac tours), contemplative sunsets, cultural immersions, active hikes, bike rides and good ol’ fashioned Happy Hour socializing with our fellow travelers. We would gather at day’s end to reflect and share the personal experiences, activities and insights we had collected during the day.
One of the most unique and enriching aspects of the experience was the familiarity and intimacy of the group that developed and matured as trip progressed. We seemed to magically morph from (12) individual couples to a familial, fraternal group similar to the social dynamics in one of my favorite movies The Big Chill.

I LOVED this ship and experience, but it is NOT for everybody. Travelers accustomed to, and expecting the more traditional cruise experience are best served elsewhere. If multiple dining venues & extensive menu options, nightly choreographed entertainment, spas, large commodious cabins, assigned dining room seating, and a large variety of daily shore excursions and a formal shipboard dress code is what constitutes the ‘DNA’ of vacation success, you won’t find ANY of this aboard the Safari Explorer.
What you will find is a floating house party properly primed (great bar!) and supported by the all inclusive nature of ship board life. Your fellow passenger (historically 50+ years of age) will be successful, highly educated (present party and author excluded!), well travelled, and most willing to share their

respective life & discovery experiences with you over a hearty glass (or two) of scotch. The nightly meals include a choice of meat or local fish accompanied with fresh vegetables & all too delicious homemade desserts. All meals are nicely prepared and graciously delivered in portions that thankfully won’t have you mistaken as cargo as you disembark the ship.
The entertainment, when not generated by the interaction of the passengers, usually consists of a compelling lecture about the local marine creatures or the culture and traditions of the local people. You will find a very upscale but incredibly understated experience. Never to be confused with bohemian, but, with a complete and refreshing absence of glitz and pretense.
In closing I would be remiss if I did not point out that the crew was indeed the crown jewel in the overall experience. The crew (2 to 1 ratio to the passengers) were a magical, eclectic group comprised of eager, gregarious, talented, interesting, and knowledgeable individuals, (where did they learn ALL that stuff..I think they would clean up on Jeopardy or perhaps Cash Cab!) who were ready to please and delight. They essentially personify the essence of what the cruise; authentic, unstructured, beguiling, educational, engaging and just plain and simple..A total ‘hoot!’




Silversea Expeditions

By Paul Largay   Monday, September 12th, 2011

Paul Largay sat down with Silversea Cruises VP of Sales, Steve Tucker, to talk about Silversea Expeditions voyages on the Silver Explorer.  This ship offers cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic Region, as well as many other wonderful destinations.  Cruises are exciting and adventurous, while maintaining the luxury and comfort that Silversea Cruises is known for.




Paul Largay talks with Peter Greenberg

By Paul Largay   Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Paul Largay recently had the opportunity to talk with CBS Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg, about what’s new in the world of travel.  The discussion was both fun and insightful.

For more information on Peter Greenberg, go to www.PeterGreenberg.com




Backroads Biking Adventure to Calgary

By Paul Largay   Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Each time I consider taking an active vacation there are some immediate questions and concerns that surface prior to taking the trip itself: have I chosen the right company, have I chosen the correct trip for me with regards to activity levels, geographic venues, style and levels of hotels. ..What will my group of fellow travelers/ adventures be like..and most important of all..HOW GOOD WILL THE TOUR DIRECTORS/GUIDES BE!!!

Prior to ultimately selecting the Backroads Canadian Rockies biking trip, I spent considerable time seeking answers to all my aforementioned questions.

I knew I wanted a physically challenging program that had multiple options for both longer & shorter days on the bike..I wanted (4-5) star hotel properties..I wanted nightly fine wine & dining opportunities..I wanted less travelled country roads..I wanted magnificent scenery and authentic wildlife encounters..I wanted moderate temperatures conducive to long days on the saddle..I guess you could say, like most folks, I essentially wanted it all…

And, Backroads and the National Parks of Canada didn’t disappoint and delivered it in style.  

Reenie & Paul on the Road

Reenie & Paul Enjoying Calgary

For (6) days we were treated to a buffet and endless stream of brilliant blue skies..iridescent , jewel-like lakes, majestic, craggy faced and relentless mountain peaks.. Abundant wildlife ( big horn sheep, elk, black bear, and yes even a mother grizzly bear.. YIKES!) seemed to magically and strategically await us around each bend in the road..

The challenges of the daily distance and considerable elevation gains were a test of our collective wills, but whose attainment always offered the reward of a magnificent, scenic, visual dessert.

The guides were all incredibly energetic (they had no choice with all these ‘type A’ personalities!) knowledgeable, personable, and unilaterally available.They somehow innately understood & catered to the uniqueness of each participant and, in certain select instances, when somebody climbing a mountain pass ‘ran outta gas‘ , provided a seamless ‘lift‘ to the top where they eventually toasted & celebrated our arrival..

The hotels were all ‘best in show’ in there respective locals.The service, accommodations, & cuisine at the Post Hotel was in a category second to none and would rival ANY US/European ‘best of the best’ property.

Because of our desire to be situated in a very remote wilderness environment, everyone understood that on certain nights the level of accommodations would be adequate but NOT exceptional.On those particular nights the level of service, food , charm ,and dinner conversation offered by the inn keeper and his staff more than compensated us for the utilitarian accommodations.

What a privilege it was to bike & physically experience this hidden gem, pristine and well preserved wilderness area.The memories of this experience, like the endless rewarding scenery & wildlife of Calgary, will provide lifelong memories for all fortunate enough to have participated !




Becoming Royalty in the Berkshires at Blantyre

By Paul Largay   Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
Blantyre

Blantrye, One of the Berkshire's Best Kept Secrets

Last weekend I had the privilege of taking a quick trip north to the quaint town of Lenox, Massachusetts where I discovered on of the true gems of New England, Blantyre. Just 120 miles West of Boston and 138 miles from New York, this magnificent 110 acre Tudor-style mansion is sure to amaze even the most discerning travelers. The overall experience could best be described as ‘ Royal family-esque’.. after all, where else are you greeted upon arrival by a smiling ‘attendant/ escort’ dressed in a stylish tux and wearing a perpetual smile the size of a full moon. The pre-dinner presentation and reception in the main hall was a wonderful introduction and precursor into what was to come. Both with respect to the service standards and cuisine, the ever present, yet non-invasive service, thoughtfully and artfully presented our dining/consumption choices and subsequently delivered them with the artistry of a ballroom waltz and the accuracy of a Swiss made time piece. Our private dining venue, (3) course gourmet dinner, and the vintage, precisely and thoughtfully paired wines made for a remarkable, memorable dining experience. Our room in the main house was both spacious and ‘historically and cosmetically appropriate’ for a facility constructed in 1904. An exquisite breakfast was served in what could best be described as a quintessential conservatory replete with fine table linens, china, and glassware (if any of the water glasses are missing, look no farther ..we took em!) that made me want to delay our departure indefinitely . The head waiter was efficient, sophisticated (as the French always seem to be!) and an engaging conversationalist.

I think the grounds and floral gardens are a reflection and extension of the attention to detail so evident within the facilities themselves. The spa was intimate and inviting and the gym properly and appropriately outfitted.

Unfortunately for me, but fortunate (and understandable) for Blantyre, the property was sold out so we were not able to see the interiors of the other accommodations but I feel confident that each was just as wonderful as ours. The one exception being the duplex suites in the spa building..candidly I would not book any of those accommodations for my clients as they are just a bit too abstract in their design and configuration..the staircase leading up to the somewhat claustrophobic sleeping area would NOT ring my clients bell..sorry but I fee I must report what I see..

So, in conclusion from the precious jewels in the Blantyre crown that I was able to see and experience my opinion is it is a wonderful (2) day country getaway venue for discriminating clients interested in a historic venue, complemented by a world class culinary and wine experience. The surrounding towns, villages, and recreational and cultural menu of activities only add to the ‘floral lure of Blantyre !!

Unfortunately after a few days back I have begrudgingly surrendered my virtual crown.. and am now back at the professional salt mine of life.. Calgon take me away again..pretty please !?:)




How much is peace of mind worth to you?

By Paul Largay   Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The price of an airline ticket reserved through Largay Travel: $40

The warmth and tranquility of spending the holidays with your relatives, and not (3330+) angry, hostile, desperate strangers at the airport…..PRICELESS!

Twas the night after Christmas and all throughout the Northeast..not a plane was departing, we were all stuck in the house….

A typical phenomenon in our respective lives is that we never truly appreciate or value an insurance policy until ‘disaster’ presents itself.  Prior to any “event”, we have either begrudgingly paid the monthly premiums, or conveniently delude ourselves into the mindset that “it will never happen to me”.  So why should I waste my Starbucks latte funds on something so foolish as insurance?

Well, this past Christmas weekend the travel equivalent of the “100 year event” came in the form of a two foot snow storm and the unfortunate, ensuing, chain reaction for many travelers was disastrous.  Of course that was the case if you didn’t use a travel specialist.  The reality is that depending upon the channel through which reservations were booked (Internet/ retail travel agent!), you were either saved or sacrificed.

The reality was that if planes couldn’t land, then they obviously couldn’t take off either.  All holiday plans, whether they involved a simple , but long anticipated visit to a relative, or perhaps a more complex South American cruise experience were all put on hold.  Literally and figuratively!

So what is the difference in the experience for travelers.  Well, those who booked online or with a airline directly had an average hold time in excess of (3) hours that is IF the phone system even allowed you to hold.  Unfortunately for many,  when a “live” agent did finally pick up, they did so with less than desirable flight options.  You see the week between Christmas and New Year’s was already sold out, so when flights cancelled due to weather, there were no flights to re-book stranded travelers on.  Limited by both the demand on the system and the experience of the airlines agent, creativity and personalization were NOT the primary concerns or motivational incentives of the airline agents.  Simply processing the current call and responding to the next anguished call was the order of the day.

Without sounding entirely self serving or boastful, Largay Travel’s specialists response to the travel crisis began (48) hours prior to the arrival of the storm.  You see on Saturday a report was run showing all travelers who would be potentially affected by the ensuing storm.  Travel Specialists contacted and, in many instances, re booked on earlier flights thereby circumventing the subsequent fallout.  In cases where the flights could not be rescheduled in advance, agents virtually held clients hands as they were talked through the process of rescheduling.  The added anxiety of not knowing what to do, what the available menus of options were, or being placed on hold indefinitely was bypassed entirely.

Additionally, there were creative, out of the box travel solutions to be offered that the airline just wouldn’t offer.  For example, one client was scheduled to travel on Monday from White Plains to West Palm.  Knowing that the flight would most likely be cancelled, the clients were re-scheduled on Sunday to depart on Tuesday instead.  Being proactive allowed our agent to find space prior to the flights selling out.  Another client who was scheduled to depart Newark on Tuesday evening, well after the storm had cleared, sat on the tarmac for over 3 hours before the flight was cancelled.  The airline offered the next available flight from Newark, which was four days later.  Since this was not an option for the client who is attending the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, the Largay Specialist was on the phone at 11:30 at night reserving a hotel and a car rental, so the client could get the next available flight out of  Washington Dulles Airport the next day.  Certainly the airline would have never offered this option but the travel specialist knew that a 4 hour drive was nothing compared to missing the big game with his grandson.  The reality is that the Largay Specialists were able to offer options to clients based upon personal insights they have with each client individually.  Simply stated, there was no one size fits all mentality, or mass production processing that Internet clients had to endure.

The obvious value of the ‘insurance policy’ benefits of utilizing a travel advisor will long be remembered by both those who did and did not. Many familial holiday reunions and Caribbean getaways were successfully preserved because of an old fashioned concept called proactive customer service and client loyalty.

We are proud to be your Travel Specialists and for all the wonderful memories we help ensure.  We value and appreciate the trust you have placed in our services, and will do everything in our power to continue to earn your respect and business in the new year.

May sunny skies shine down upon us all and may you recognize all of your travel dreams in the year ahead.




Polar Bear Trekking – Discovering the Tundra

By Paul Largay   Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Today we had our first real exposure to the reason we’ve all come here…..the bears. We do this by helicopter and dog sled. The benefit of our 3 hour helicopter ride was that we were able to witness the vast, barren, desolate and rugged terrain the bears call home with a “birds eye view”. It truly gave us an understanding of how everything fits together….the bears, the town, Hudson Bay and the community of Churchill. As diminutive as the town of Churchill is, the total land mass and habitat of the free roaming bears is daunting, memorable and unforgiving.

Throughout our helicopter experience we touched down numerous times to view various points of interest, wildlife and even a bear den, which thankfully was “unoccupied” at the time. The dogsledding experience was good but unfortunately they did not have sufficient snow coverage to allow us to use “true” dog sleds but in true Natural Habitat’s style, they would not leave their guests disappointed. Instead of the normal sled tracks, our sleds were improvised carts with wheels that a team of beautiful Huskies pulled through the region for us. It was fun but did not satisfy my thirst for total authenticity, no fault of anyone except Mother Nature. None the less, animal / dog lovers will be enamored by the passion of the dogs for pulling and will embrace this experience with open arms.

Tonight’s highlight was a trip, via tundra buggy, out to the incomparable Tundra Lodge for a fabulous dinner. The lodge is a quirky mobile motel on wheels that remains stationary for the duration of the eight week bear season. The limited accommodations reminded me of the old fashioned sleeper cars on European trains, in the respect that the actual persona living / sleeping space bordered on claustrophobic and there were no private en suite bathroom facilities. Actually, there was one bathroom per car. The obvious advantage of selecting this style accommodations was, as any relator will tell you, location, location, location. This mobile motel was smack dab in the middle of the cruising and sleeping territory of the polar bears and gives guests twenty-four hour access to the bears. Talk about becoming “one with nature”.

The biggest disadvantage to the Tundra Lodge is the distinct possibility of travelers developing “cabin fever” due to the obvious constraints and restricted mobility imposed by the very design of the lodging concept. Once you arrive, you are there and pretty much isolated from the other potential options in town. Some might regard it as secluded serenity, but for me it would be just too remote for an extended period of time.