Sunday, February 21, 2010

Culinary Travel Adventures with Bon Appetit


Coral Gables, Fl. Feb 21, 2010 – Lorraine Travel, a member of Signature Travel Network, announced Bon Appétit magazine will participate in Lorraine Travel's popular Personal Enrichment Series offering their clients exclusive and authentic culinary travel programs geared to epicurean enthusiasts.

With the launch of a series of cruise and land vacations available for purchase exclusively through Lorraine Travel, travelers can now delve into culinary adventures with a variety of Bon Appétit branded vacations. One of the featured Bon Appétit trips will be a 10-day cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner departing September 22, 2010. The experience will visit the Tuscan region of Italy and the South of France.

Travelers will now be able to familiarize themselves with a destination through culinary experiences such as: hands-on cooking classes, select tastings, wine and food pairing dinners, and much more. “We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership. We’ve found that these are the types of unique experiences our clients yearn for in a vacation,” said Jack Guiteras, Owner, Lorraine Travel.

Bon Appétit trips will work under Lorraine Travel popular Personal Enrichment Series. The Bon Appétit travel programs will provide enriching benefits to Lorraine Travel clients through a variety of special offers, valuable amenities and experiences. Barcelona, Spain and Tuscany, Italy are among some of the new program’s featured destinations where guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a private car and driver to guide them on a tailored culinary visit crafted by Bon Appétit.

For information on how to book one of Lorraine Travel's exclusive Bon Appétit trips, click here .

About Lorraine Travel
Lorraine Travel is headquartered in the heart of Coral Gables & has been in business since 1948. is a website property of Lorraine Travel, a member of Signature Travel Network. For more information, visit: or

About Signature Travel Network:
Signature Travel Network is a member-owned, travel cooperative, headquartered in Marina Del Rey, California, with a branch office in New York City. The network was established in 1956 and today includes 190 member agencies with 330 retail locations throughout the USA. Collectively, Signature members generate over $4 billion in annual travel sales.

About Bon Appétit:
Bon Appétit celebrates the world of great food and the pleasure of sharing it with others. Every issue invites 8 million readers into a hands-on experience, engaging them in all aspects of the epicurean lifestyle—cooking, dining, travel, entertaining, shopping and kitchen design.

For Further Information Contact:
Greg Guiteras
Senior Vice President
Lorraine Travel
305-446-4433 / 800-666-8911, ext. 3015

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ski with an Olympian Medalist

The Four Seasons Whistler is arranging for guests to ski with an Olympian after the Winter Games' closing ceremony - but be prepared to pay.

Starting at $3,860 per couple (rate's based on double occupancy), the resorts "Ski with an Olympian" package gets you three nights' lodging in a basic room, an apres-ski spa treatment and a day of skiing and with an Olympic medalist. The hotel is Canada's only AAA, 5-diamond property. The price escalates as you choose bigger rooms - and higher-ranking Olympic athletes.

For the best of the best - the top-ranked skier participating in the Four Season's offering, and a one-bedroom deluxe suite, expect to pay about $10,000 for the three-night package.

Besides the actual skiing, the package also gets you VIP lift line priority, a meet-and-greet at the resort and a gourmet lunch with the skier on top of Whistler or Blackcomb with the Olympian. Athletes available to ski with:

•Manuel Osborne-Paradis, a current Olympian (although he did not place during Monday's downhill competition), 3-time World Cup champion and a 2006 Olympian,
•Cary Mullen, 3-time Olympian, World Cup downhill champion and record holder for world downhill speed record,
•Erik Schlopy, 3-time Olympian, 2003 - giant slalom bronze medalist at World Championships, and 7-time National Champion,
•Hilary Lindh, Olympic Silver Medalist, World Downhill Champion (1997) and 3-time World Cup Champion, and
•Kathy Kreiner, Olympic Giant Slalom Gold Medalist, World Champion and Guinness World Record holder for youngest alpine ski gold medal.

Interested in booking the Olympic package? Due to the complexity of coordinating the different athletes' schedules, email your request to

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lock-Ups that have been Done-Up

If you're a prisoner of love, you and your Valentine may want to escape to a prison hotel and embrace your sentence -- at any time of year.

Liberty Hotel, Boston
A Champagne check-in, spectacular views of the Charles River and a concierge that lends handcuffs inspire surrender at the Liberty Hotel.

As the Charles Street Jail from 1851 to 1990, the building grew infamous for its squalor. Now it's gaining fame for its sense of humor and beautiful preservation of historic jail catwalks and cells.

The Liberty Hotel opened in September 2007 with 18 luxury rooms in the historic structure, 280 rooms in a new tower, the Alibi Bar (in the former drunk tank) and two restaurants: Clink and Lydia Shire's Scampo ("escape" in Italian).

For romance: The Liberty's Guilty Pleasures Romance Package with chocolate-dipped strawberries, an intimacy kit, etc., is popular year-round. Packages start at $415.

Malmaison Oxford Hotel, Oxford, England

Malmaison Oxford, about 60 miles from central London, encourages guests to bring their own handcuffs. This former prison blends comfy beds, power showers and mood lighting with wrought-iron-work stairs and 3-inch-thick steel doors. There are 40 cell rooms (each created from three cells: two for the room, one for the bath) and 54 rooms that were never cells.

For romance: Love Suite Love package starts about $311 a night and includes a suite, Champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries, aromatic oils and candles and breakfast.

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

This 65-room hotel, built in 1918, was reborn as a Four Seasons in 1996. The Turkish prison's original wooden doors and its courtyard watchtowers (now housing elevators) were preserved along with other architectural features.

For romance: Choose a bed-and-breakfast package, which starts about $471 a night.

Hotel Katajanokka, Helsinki, Finland
The confining bars are gone from the Hotel Katajanokka, which opened as a Best Western in May 2007, but the outer red brick walls and central hallway of the former Helsinki County Jail remain. Each of the 106 rooms (including three junior suites) was created from two or three prison cells.

From 1837 to 2002, the jail housed inmates awaiting trial. For romance: Skip Valentine's Day and go in November or December when you can cuddle through the long, dark night, or go in July or August for a day that won't end. Katajanokka's best romance package includes a glass of sparkling wine and breakfast for $192 a night for a premier double room.

Credits to The Los Angeles Times for this article.

Maui is on an upswing

Hotel room occupancy on Kauai plunged 10.4 percentage points to 54.1 percent for the week ending Feb. 6.

Room rates on the Garden Island were also down — by 9.8 percent — to average $172 a night.

Statewide occupancy was off 1.5 percentage points to 70.2 percent, while room rates dropped 11.5 percent to $164.

Occupancy and room rates for other Hawaii islands were as follows:

• Oahu occupancy slipped 3.1 percentage points to 74.3 percent, while room rates plummeted 13.8 percent to $140;

• Maui occupancy grew 7.8 percentage points to 76.4 percent, while room rates slid 12.8 percent to $213; and

• Big Island occupancy was down 6.6 percentage points to 55.5 percent, while room rates slumped 8.1 percent to $158.

Nationwide hotel occupancy was flat at 48 percent, while room rates eased downward 4.8 percent to average $95 a night.

The weekly Hawaii hotel industry snapshot is surveyed by Smith Travel Research and Hospitality Advisors. See a collection of the finests hotels on the Hawaiian Islands here.

Credits to American City Business Journals Inc. for this aricle.

Don't be afraid to ask a Concierge for just about anything

While on a 2007 business trip to Nashville, Tenn., Caryn Connor was returning from a late dinner with clients. As the assistant to the VP of her company, she accompanied her boss in the elevator to the fourth floor of the Doubletree Hotel. On the elevator was another couple, both had clearly been drinking but seemed friendly enough. That is, up until the woman was sick all over Connor's boss. It was meant to be an overnight trip and he had packed light--so light that he had only the suit on his back. With only a few hours until the team was set to fly out at 7 a.m., the soiled suit quickly became Connor's problem.

Until the professional behind the concierge desk stepped in. "My boss left the suit outside his door, it was picked up and back in his hands by 6 a.m.," she says. "Where he found a dry cleaner open at 3 a.m. in Nashville is beyond me, but I was too grateful to ask questions."

Situations like that are of a sort that concierges from Nashville to New York or Nice see so often they've become commonplace: A guest is in a panic and can't fathom a solution to their problem, whether it's a soiled suit, a canceled reservation or a missing piece of luggage. But to the chief concierge it's all in a day's work.

Eight Ways To Make The Most Of Your Concierge

A concierge is a hotel staff member who is paid to problem solve, or, as Josephine Danielson, chef concierge at the Four Seasons New York puts it, to "anticipate problems or needs of our guests that they themselves haven't even thought of yet." For business travelers whose schedules and needs can be erratic on a good trip and cataclysmic on a bad one, taking advantage of the help might just be life-changing.

"On average, 80% of our guests are business travelers," says Leslie Lefkowitz, director of public relations for Four Seasons New York, "and we have 11 concierges on staff," making nearly any problem no problem at all. Staying in New York and need a flight to Las Vegas for a spontaneous evening of poker? Not a problem. Danielson will call you a jet. Need a yarmulke for a wedding in 10 minutes? She can do that too, with her magic box of "I Need it Now" inventory that includes everything from collar stays to pantyhose in a variety of colors. Moral of the story here: Don't be afraid to ask.

"I've never had a personal assistant, so I'm not used to people doing things for me," says account executive Laura Hawke of Houston, Texas. "I never ask for things from the concierge." Hawke isn't alone. For many business travelers, particularly women of the can-do variety, seeking help from the concierge seems counterintuitive.

"If I'm competent enough to juggle my accounts and my family, then I can definitely make my own dinner reservations--or pick up a new toothbrush if I happen to forget it," says Hawke. Of course she can, but the time spent finding a drugstore in a new city and getting back to the hotel could be 30 minutes better spent preparing for a meeting or catching up on e-mails while a staff member delivers said toothbrush to your doorstep.

Still, Hawke says asking service staff for assistance makes her feel uncomfortable, a sentiment Jeanne Mills, chief concierge at the MGM Grand Casino & Resort in Las Vegas, seeks to alleviate. Mills makes what she calls "a conscious and constant effort" to educate prospective guests of the services her concierge team can provide in hopes of making their stay more fulfilling.

Mills oversees the largest--at 61--staff of concierge professionals in any one property in the world, juggling between 1,600 to 2,000 phone requests daily, which she points out is in addition to any action in the lobby, to serve the hotel's 5,044 guest rooms. Her goal is for every guest to make the most of their trip by taking advantage of the unique role of a hotel concierge.

"So many people think concierge is just about tours and tickets and reservations," she says. While the MGM Grand concierge desk, in the heart of Las Vegas, does do more than its fair share of snagging hard-to-get tickets, "A concierge is more than that," she says. "It's an ambassador, an assistant, a confidant and a friend."

Mills also currently serves as vice president of Les Clefs d'Or USA, an elite fraternity of service professionals. (To give a picture of just how elite: There are roughly 20,000 concierges currently working in the U.S. and 560 are members of the order.) She has first-hand experience in being that perfect mix of pragmatic assistant and friend: She has served in both the most celebratory of events, acting as a witness in countless Las Vegas weddings and has stepped in when illness or tragedy strikes and a guest just isn't prepared to make arrangements.

For concierges, being prepared can mean having an extensive network of service providers and ticket scalpers at their fingertips. "We've done a lot of tracking down of particular luxury items for guests, whether it's a specific car part or a delicacy like an ostrich egg." If you're looking for it, and willing to ask, it can be found.

Sometimes, and especially for business travelers, the biggest challenge can simply be getting to the meeting on time. For that, Mills is at the ready. She's been known to sew buttons, remove stains and even catch you on the way out the door to stop a stocking's run in its tracks with a dab of clear nail polish. Her team members will--and have been known to--give the tie from around their necks to send you on your way looking your best.

Back on the East Coast, the Four Season's Josephine Danielson who also bears the crossed-keys insignia of a Les Clefs d'Or member, shares a feat her team accomplished in the summer of 2008. A guest who was to be married at the hotel in just under a month called in ahead, hoping Danielson could help him find a tuxedo. Not a problem, as the hotel is located next to men's tailor Brioni. However, the tuxedo he desired was created especially for actor Daniel Craig for Casino Royale, and not for sale in the U.S. or Europe.

Where some might resign themselves, Danielson's team forged ahead, calling in favor after favor to have a suit custom built in Italy and tailored to the guest's measurements--all in under three weeks' time. The guest was happily married in a Bond tuxedo, proving that like the superspy himself, Danielson and her team never joke about their work.

Credit Meghan Casserly from for this article.

Luxury Hotel Deals in Orlando

How much does the average room cost in a high-end Orlando hotel these days?

Three-hundred dollars a night? Try again. Two-hundred dollars? Still too high.

The average daily price among the top 15 percent of hotels in the Orlando market last year: $138. The cost of a room in this "luxury price" category was down 12.3 percent from a year earlier, according to Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotels nationwide. The average room rate for the entire market was down about the same amount, 12.2 percent, to $93 a night.

The sharp price drop is an indication that the recession has reached all the way to the top tier of Orlando's hospitality business. It's also an opportunity for visitors to Orlando who want a taste of the good life while traveling on a budget.

"It's a buyers' market for the consumer," said Richard Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. "There are wonderful deals to enjoy with our Central Florida four-star hotels."

The sour economy has pushed hotel prices down nationwide — they fell 8.8 percent overall and 13.1 percent in the luxury-price category last year. The Orlando market also added several luxury properties in 2009, including the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, the Hilton Orlando Convention Center, and the Westin Lake Mary Orlando North.

"With the new additions, many properties are playing very aggressively," said Karen Galles, director of lodging for "As far as availability, it's plentiful."

But don't bank on concierge service for $138 a night: You're likely not going to get a room for that price at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes or Loews Portofino Bay. A search last week of three dates — one weekday, one weekend and a peak day during Spring Break — found that the area's swankiest hotels are still charging a few hundred bucks a night, at least on their Web sites.

For one thing, in Central Florida, the term "luxury price" comprises the top 15 percent of Orlando's hotel market based on price, not services or amenities. So in addition to the Ritz, the Waldorf and downtown Orlando's Grand Bohemian, the category includes such properties as the Embassy Suites in Altamonte Springs, the Hampton Inn near Orlando International Airport, and the kid-friendly Nickelodeon Suites Resort.

Also, the average daily rate compiled by Smith Travel is the amount hotels are paid for their rooms. If some rooms are sold in bulk at steep discounts to online travel sites or other intermediaries that then mark up the price — and many rooms are —the original, lower-dollar figure is the one that figures in the average.

High-end properties are particularly sensitive to keeping their rates — and their luxury image — intact, even during a recession or travel slump, said Scott Smith, a lodging instructor at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

"If you're a GM [general manager] of a luxury hotel, you make your living off the higher rate," Smith said. "The last thing you want to do — if you're thinking long term — is to offer discounted prices to the public."

So the real eye-popping discounts at high-end hotels are often limited to travel-industry "partners" such as tour wholesalers and meeting planners. They can also obscure a low nightly rate by offering rooms as part of larger packages that include airfare or perks such as champagne or spa treatments.

Hotels such as the Peabody Orlando, the Waldorf and the Villas of Grand Cypress are among those offering attractive package deals when travelers book the airfare with their hotel stays on, said Galles, the Web site's lodging director.

And the discounts aren't limited to last-minute bargains: The same site also has late-spring discounts, such as $93 a night in the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, south of Walt Disney World.

"If the customer is flexible, they can really get good deals," Galles said.

Of course, what's good for the buyer is often not so good for the seller.

Revenue per available room — a key industry statistic — fell 20.8 percent last year for Orlando's luxury-price hotel segment, compared with 19.1 percent for the market overall, according to Smith Travel.

Compared with other U.S. destinations, Orlando ranked No. 32 last year for the average price of its top-tier accommodations, behind cities such as Baltimore, Md.; Scranton, Pa.; and Phoenix, Ariz. The average daily rate for the luxury-priced hotels across the nation was almost $147 a night, or about 6 percent more than Orlando's average.

Also, it is common knowledge in the industry that, while discounts fill rooms in the short term, they can hurt a hotel in the long run.

That's because consumers, as they see more and more deals for a particular type of hotel, lower their "cognitive reference price" — that is, the price they think a stay in that kind of hotel is worth, said UCF's Smith.

"The time that it takes to lower that reference price can be days or weeks," he said. "The time to raise it back up can be years."

This article was copied from The Orlando Sun Ssentinel. Written by Sara K. Clarke.