Archive for the ‘Largay Travel’ Category

Crystal Symphony Debuts World’s First Living Wall at Sea

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

LOS ANGELES, September 10, 2012 – In an industry first, ultra-luxury Crystal Cruises has unveiled the world’s first self-contained, free-standing living wall at sea, created and crafted by UK-based ANS Group Europe.  ANS Group Europe spent two days installing the living wall on the 922-guest Crystal Symphony as the ship sailed from Portland to Dover to complete its 11-night “British Isle Brilliance” voyage.

Crystal Symphony's Living Wall

Crystal Symphony's New Living Wall

Designed for an al fresco area in the ship’s Deck 11 Trident Grill, the unique living wall uses a varied and diverse selection of indoor plants to display a world map.  The living wall is 37.7 feet (11.5 meters) long and 7.9 feet (2.4 meters) high and will receive regular maintenance by Crystal Symphony’s onboard team of florists.

“In keeping with our ongoing focus on design, we wanted to create a focal point that was both highly contemporary and visually stunning,” says Alexandra Don, Crystal’s vice president, hotel design and services.  “The end result is a living wall that brings the Trident Grill to life and serves as an eye-catching backdrop to the incomparable service and choices that always characterize a Crystal holiday.”

Trident Grill Living Wall

The Living Wall at the Trident Grill on the Crystal Symphony

Joel Nash, marketing manager for ANS Group Europe added, “This bespoke project is an exciting and exhilarating scheme.  Installing living walls on a cruise ship is taking us to a completely new level and opens up all sorts of possibilities.  When you think this wall will be travelling as far north as Lapland and down to Cape Horn, it takes your breath away.”     

A living wall is a vertical garden that is pre-planted in panels and then attached to the wall or facade of a building.  Plants stay intact in their vertical positions because their root structures are anchored in two to four inches of soil kept within the panel.

 

The installation of the wall on Crystal Symphony is yet another example of Crystal’s “Crystal Clean” environmental and educational efforts both onboard and on shore.  A living wall acts as a bio filter, enhancing air quality by breaking down harmful airborne contaminants and transforming them into clean oxygen.  By absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, it reduces greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Crystal’s passion for taking care of guests in an inviting environment of extraordinary space, quality and choices has earned the company more “World’s Best” awards than any other cruise line, resort or hotel in history.  A keen focus on design has also earned the line numerous industry design honors, including first-ever awards from Hospitality Design magazine and the Association of Retail Environments (A.R.E.) in 2012.

For more information on Crystal Cruises and reservations, contact a Largay Travel Specialist at 1-800-322-9481, online at www.LargayTravel.com or email us at vacations@largaytravel.com




Discovering the World of Global Entry

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Monday, September 10th, 2012

In the world of luxury travel, there are many things I have learned.  First, my job as a travel advisor is to give advice based on my first-hand experiences so I know what works and what doesn’t.  Next, that well-traveled individuals HATE, and I mean HATE, to stand in line.  Most hotels and cruise lines make a conscious effort to help travelers avoid lines, however, US Customs and Immigration was different.  Traditionally travelers could spend a small eternity (anywhere from 30 – 90 minutes or more) waiting on line to be welcomed home after long international flights.  This was a sad fact because as advisors, we would spend hours planning the perfect trip, carefully selecting the itinerary, choosing the hotels and arranging flights on the airline with the best on-board experience.  Only to have our precious travelers left holding their bags in an endless line when re-entering the US.  Traditionally, this was out of our control to advisors, however, now, with the new Global Entry program, we can make those lines disappear and the trip home seamless.  So, as all good travel advisors do, I took the two hour ride to JFK Airport to complete my Global Entry application, so I can test the system and make a recommendation.

The Global Entry membership allows travelers to walk past the long lines at immigrations and customs, breeze up to a kiosk, insert their passport and have their fingerprints scanned.  They then bypass the immigration agent, for they have already been pre-qualified as a Global Entry traveler.  For those of you who travel internationally and are unfamiliar with Global Entry, you need to pay attention because this information will change your traveling life forever.

The Global Entry membership program allows travelers to go through an application and screening process in order to bypass immigration and customs lines when you re-enter the US from abroad.  The application is quite simple and only takes a few minutes online and the interview, which is scheduled in advance with the Global Entry Officer, is only about 15 minutes long. Once the interview is complete, you are photographed and fingerprinted, which allows you to use the kiosk in the airport when re-entering the US.  The membership fee is $100 and lasts for 5 years AND, as if that wasn’t good enough, you are automatically qualified for TSA PreCheck clearance, which allows you to keep your shoes on and laptop in your bag at certain domestic airports when you travel domestically.  Also, anyone paying with an American Express Platinum card will receive reimbursement for the charges.

There are a few qualifications for Global Entry, however, as long as you haven’t broken any laws, smuggled snails in to the country or lied on your application, you should be all set.  For more information on Global Entry, you can CLICK HERE for a Global Entry brochure or go online to www.globalentry.gov

Later this year Largay Travel will host a Global Entry Day in our headquarters in Waterbury, Connecticut, where Global Entry Officers will be on site to perform interviews.  If you are interested in participating, please email me at Amanda@LargayTravel.com and I will let you know the details when they are available. 

So, this October when I return from hosting a Voyager Club group on the Silver Spirit, I will test the system once and for all.  And maybe I won’t skip past all the weary travelers waiting in the endless line at the airport like I imagined during my long drive to JFK.  Maybe, instead, I will just smile and walk on by knowing that all of MY travelerswill do the same.  Safe journies my friends!




Teaching Largay Travel Advisors that the World is VAST

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Sunday, August 12th, 2012

One of my favorite areas of travel is adventure and experiential travel and every year when I attend Virtuoso Travel Week at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the VAST Globetrotting event is always a highlight. VAST, which stands for Virtuoso Active and Specialty Travel, is comprised of thirty eight companies in the Virtuoso network from all over the world and with all different specialties.

African Travel Training at VAST

Largay Travel Advisors learning about Alpine Travel

VAST Training on Nomads of the Sea

VAST Training with Cox & Kings

VAST Training with Cox & Kings


VAST Training with Micato Safaris

These companies offer clients experiences that range from skiing to heli-hiking to yoga trips and more. Although these companies are a small segment of the entire Virtuoso Portfolio, the advisors who sell them are passionate in a big way. These companies are the best-of-the-best when it comes to adventure travel and the advisors realize that knowing every detail about them is imperative to their clients satisfaction.

What makes VAST training truly special is the time and effort that each company puts into their booth so the advisors can get a true feel for what their company is all about. I mean really, how can you not fall in love with Africa when you are sitting in front of a campfire with a beautiful view of the Masi Mara with a story teller from African Travel giving you the ins and outs of safari travel. Pictured to the right is Gail Rosenberg, Ken Sause and Honey Mistry, three of Largay Travel’s best African specialists.

Maybe skiing is your thing, well Alpine Travel decided to bring the snow to Vegas to get us in the mood. They not only talked about their North America and Europe programs but gave us all a great reminder that ski vacations are not just for winter and that the South American ski season is in full swing.

Another option may be fly-fishing, nature photography and whale watching in Patagonia off a state-of-the-art expedition cruise called Nomads of the sea. This vessel not only offers guests a transport to the fly-fishing river via a helicopter that sits on the back of the ship but also offers exquisite food and wine while sailing.

Cox & Kings took a different approach and brought in a spiritual leader to walk us through meditation for a few minutes before talking travel. It set the mood for us to learn about the Khumb Mela festival that will take place next year in India. Cox & Kings trips to one of the largest human congregations on the Earth, offer travelers an experience that they will never have again in their lifetime, as it does not take place every year.

The best idea of the day had to be the Micato Safaris tent which included a seven minute back massage before moving on to our next experience. Since the Largay Travel advisors work with Micato so much to plan trips, no one felt that they had missed any training.

Our day ended and we all left revitalized, educated and ready to make our clients dreams a reality. The VAST event is only the beginning of Virtuoso Week in Vegas and is the perfect way to kick off what is sure to be an amazing adventure!




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!




Disney on the ‘High Seas’

By vmastroianni   Thursday, March 29th, 2012

What cruise line could possibly think of having fireworks (yes, fireworks!) at sea, a pirate dance party on the pool deck, Captain Jack’s special appearance, a water slide flowing across both sides of the ship and even OVER the edge? Of course, it’s Disney, with the entrance of its new ship into the fleet, the ‘Disney Dream’.
The Dream welcomes guests onboard with all the latest in technology and design, but brings back the elegance and the ‘grandness’ of ships from the past with its sweeping staircases, nautical theme and colors, attention to every detail, and of course, everyone’s favorite Disney characters.
From the staff, to the food, to the amenities, Disney has gone all out in creating their beautiful new ship. The staff displays Disney’s commitment to excellent service with a friendly smile. The food is served to perfection, both in taste and in appearance, and the staterooms have all the features that one would expect when traveling at sea….and more! With the most comfortable bedding on the high seas, great bath products (H2O), iPod docks/alarm clocks, flat screen TV’s, excellent storage space, innovative WAVE phones for guest use onboard to keep in touch with the family, and the list goes on and on.
Entertainment onboard will amaze both adults and kids. With Disney characters participating in daily activities and leading the way in evening stage shows, the themes will delight adults and kids alike. Characters show up in all areas of the ship all day and night, whether you’re playing sports in the outdoor sports court, or walking to dinner through the main lobby area, they’re always entertaining and making guests smile. The stage shows are creative and colorful and will make cruisers of all ages smile: ‘The Golden Mickeys’, ‘Villians Tonight,’ and ‘Believe’ are each the beginning of a fun and festive night at sea.
A visit to the islands onboard The Dream would not be complete without a stop at Castaway Cay. The Disney-owned island offers everyone the opportunity to relax and unwind in a safe, extremely clean environment, and also explore and be active at the same time. With bike rentals and trails, a lookout tower with binoculars, watersports equipment rentals, excursions, beach bar service and food service, scavenger hunts and yoga, the choices are endless. The three beach areas (watersports, family beach, and “adults only”) everyone can find their own special place. And if you’re looking for some ‘special’ pampering, beach cabanas can be rented for the day ($499/family cabana, $399/adults only cabana). Renters are spoiled with beach butlers, food and beverage service, non-motorized watersports equipment, safe, refrigerators, towels, hammocks, and a comfortable seating area.
Disney’s Dining experience onboard is also a very unique experience. With three restaurants and ‘rotational dining’ each guest will be able to experience every dining venue onboard. The dining rooms hold surprises for all! And, of course, two specialty restaurants (Remy and Palo) serve the best French and Italian cuisine that you would expect from any 5-star restaurant.
Whether you’re a Disney-lover or not, the Disney cruise experience will not disappoint; the only thing missing is a casino, but with every other surprise that you find onboard, you may only realize this when you are returning home from the trip!




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!’




Spelunking in Belize

By Ellen Goldman   Monday, March 5th, 2012
Belize Spelunking

I felt like Indiana Jones. I even had the obligatory chapeau, although in this case, it was a hard hat equipped with a headlamp. Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM, is only one of the many unique excursions one can take from the Cayo district in Belize.

The full day excursion started with a 40 minute hike, complete with three river crossings, to the staging area, where we quickly scarfed down box lunches and strapped on our equipment. Then we climbed down a hill and literally swam into the cave. Once inside, we alternated between walking, swimming, crawling and climbing. Definitely a challenge, mentally and physically (if you are an almost middle aged average Josephina)! Of course, there were numerous stalagmites and stalactites. But, the true reward was the treasure trove of Mayan pottery and human sacrificial remains. I had been concerned that viewing the skeletons would seem irreverent and overly voyeuristic. But, the requirement that all hikers remove their shoes and the accompanying educational commentary insured proper decorum. My children, ages 20, 18 and 16, having been blessed with many wonderful trips during their short lifetimes, declared that ATM was truly one of best, most unique experiences.

In the Cave in Belize

Spelunking in Belize Reveals Many Wonders




The Perfect Weekend Getaway in Arizona

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Twice a year I travel to sunny Scottsdale for my TAMS (Travel Agency Management Solutions) meeting.  Traditionally, my trip has involved a long connecting flight followed by two days of intense and enlightening meetings which leave me thoroughly drained as I rush home to return to the office with a notebook full of ideas and a body full of exhaustion.  This hurried pace often leaves little time for reflection and pondering about how I will once again take on the world of travel.  However, on my most recent trip to Scottsdale in February, I decided that a few days after my meeting with my significant only, Gary, and visit the immense beauty of Sedona, Arizona was just what the doctor ordered.

As we began our two hour journey north from Scottsdale and began to climb in elevation, you could instantly see a change in the landscape.  The saguaro cacti began to slowly disappear and mountains emerged in the distance.  Along the way Gary had suggested a stop at the Caduceus Winery in the historic, and most haunted, town of Jermone and I couldn’t have been happier that he did.  This town of only about 400 residents is perched atop the mountain and is by-far one of the coolest places I have been.  The houses are placed one on top of the other and connected by a main road, which winds up the mountain and past stores, galleries, restaurants and, oh yes, some of the most delicious wineries.  With the location similar to a village in Tuscany and the charm of the old west, Jerome was both fascinating and fun and a must see for any traveler looking to take in true Americana.

After a wonderful afternoon in Jerome we continued north on to the city of Sedona and the Enchantment Resort.  This resort is located about 15 minutes outside of the city of Sedona in a remote canyon at one of Sedona’s well know vortexes, which made it perfect for our sun rise hikes and mountain biking adventures.  With red rock canyon walls rising on three sides of the resort, this locale provides, spectacular views, unlimited outdoor activities such as; hiking, biking, tennis, health & wellness classes and an extensive kids programs.  The rooms are spacious and the Mii Amo spa provides a feel of serenity that is sure to please even the most discerning of guests.  With an 18 million dollar renovation to the lobby and restaurant close to completion, the Enchantment Resort is perfect for guests who want lots of options in an environment that is truly relaxing and laid back.

The Twisted Branches of the Juniper Trees on the Vortex

The Twisted Branches of the Juniper

The vortexes of Sedona were of particular interest to me, as I had heard that they have healing powers and provide one with a sense of energy and a renewed spirit, which I definitely felt I needed.  There are vortexes located around the world; some of which major monuments have been built on, such as the Great Pyramid in Egypt, Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia and the Bermuda Triangle.  So, with a map from the concierge and a good pair of hiking shoes, Gary and I set off to find our Mecca in the desert.    After a short hike with a beautiful view, we arrived at the first of Sedona’s four major vortexes.  As I understand it, the vortex is a spot earth where a strong amount of energy is released in almost a tornado like fashion and you definitely get that feeling, as the traditionally strait juniper trees that sit on the vortex have braches that are completely twisted like a pretzel.  

Our visit to Sedona would not have been complete without a visit to the local artist galleries and shopping venues.  Although I found uptown to be a bit too touristy for my taste, the Tlaquepague Arts & Crafts Village was right up my alley.  Tlaquepague, meaning “best of everything”, has over 40 specialty shops including art galleries featuring local artists, restaurants and wine bars.  Built in the 1970 as a Mexican style village with vine covered stucco walls, cobble stoned walkways and magnificent arched entryways, you have the distinct feeling that it has been here for centuries.  Although the dining experiences are unlimited, I highly recommend a stop at the Oak Creek Brewery for one of their freshly brewed beers and, if you are very patient soul, dinner at Elote, just up the street is a must, however, be prepared to wait up to two hours in line, since they do not take reservations.  If you have the patience of a saint, then you won’t be disappointed.

L'Auberge Resort in Sedona

L'Auberge Resort in Sedona

Our visit to Sedona concluded with a brunch and tour of the L’Auberge Resort.  Located in the heart of Sedona and within walking distance of almost everything, this resort is the perfect local directly on Oak Creek.  The placement of the resort and the sound of the babbling creek completely drowned out the busyness of the world above and give guests the feel that you have been transported to a whole different world. Cabin accommodations are strategically perched on the hill, giving them the perfect view of the Red Rooks above and although the log cabin exteriors may look rustic, they are certainly not.  With modern and bright décor, some with fireplaces and outdoor showers, these cottages are perfect for a romantic getaway.  The restaurant is located along the side of the creek and offers wonderful outdoor dining when weather permits, which almost always and one can’t forget to take the time to feed the resident ducks or sit by a campfire, as these are some of L’Auberge Resorts best kept secrets.

Our weekend getaway had to come to an end but not without an overnight at the Canyon Suites at the Phoenician in Scottsdale.  Just 15 minutes from the Sky Harbor Airport, this resort was the perfect location for our early morning flight home and was a wonderful combination of an exclusive, concierge style experience, combined with all of the choices and activities that the Phoenician has to offer.  Located on the property of the Phoenician, the Canyon Suite, with our own private entrance, lobby and pool and suite that included many wonderful complimentary amenities, this was a perfect way to end our journey.  As our personal ambassador, Julian, persuaded us to dine in one of the many restaurants at the Phoenician and temped us with rounds of golf and spa treatments, wild horses couldn’t have pried us out of our Canyon Suite.  I’m not sure if it was the palatial estate we called home or the feeling of relaxation we had gathered from Sedona but this was, in fact, the perfect ending to a perfect Arizona getaway.  Of course I still returned to my office with all the fresh ideas and plans we had made at our TAMS meeting but I was now rested, relaxed and ready to take on the world.