Hotel Cleanliness Initiatives

Cleanliness and privacy have always been luxuries, but they are certainly at the forefront for travelers now. As they reopen, hotels and resorts are going the extra mile to help guests feel comfortable and welcomed as the COVID-19 era enters a new phase. Your vacation is a precious investment of time and money, and the last thing you want is more worry.

To ease guests’ minds, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba is cleaning with environmentally safe hospital grade hydrogen peroxide, ionizer treatment, ultraviolet air and surface sanitizer and installing HEPA air cleaners. After cleaning, rooms are sealed, with a sticker letting arriving guests know that no one has been inside since. Electrostatic guns will apply sanitizer in all public areas, including at the beach.

Chable Maroma and Chable Yucatan on Mexican’s Yucatan Peninsula have added ozone generators for deep sanitation of guest rooms. Sheets, towels and linens are disinfected using steam-based and biodegradable processes, and hygiene stations featuring hand sanitizer are spread throughout the resorts. The sprawling nature of the resorts provides natural social distancing, as freestanding casitas and villas are separated by at least 30 feet from the next.

Marriott’s global cleanliness council continues to introduce innovations at the chain’s more than 7,300 hotels worldwide, including the Ritz-Carlton brand. Electrostatic sprayers and the highest classification of disinfectants are used to clean guest rooms. Hand sanitizing stations are set up throughout hotels and resort grounds. Disinfectant wipes are placed in each room as an amenity. At more than 3,000 Marriott properties, contactless check-in, key card access and room service ordering are available via smartphone. Single-use plastic cups are made from plant material in Ritz-Carlton properties.

In collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, Four Seasons hotels and resorts are implementing the Lead With Care program that includes a hygiene officer at each property, blacklight inspection after cleaning and hourly sanitizing of common areas. Room amenities include face masks, sanitizer spray and wipes. The Four Seasons app and chat feature allow contactless communication with staff. Contactless in-room dining delivery comes in sustainable, single-use packaging.

Restaurants and pool areas will offer limited seating to ensure social distancing, so planning ahead is crucial. Things sure are different, but there are still wonderful places in this world worth exploring. What hasn’t changed is that our partners will go the extra mile to ensure you can enjoy your getaway safely and have a home away from home.

The Importance of Wellness

Wellness is about so much more than a trip to the spa. As we emerge from our shelters and begin traveling again, we will all have some feelings to work through after such a profound change to outlook and way of life. As part of our Travel Dreaming series, Largay president Amanda Klimak spoke with Dora Karanikas of Hidden Doorways, Rebecca Soloff of Six Senses and Janine Cifelli of Janine Cifelli Representation about the comprehensive wellness programs offered at destinations they represent.

“It’s about well-being. It’s about the mind, the body and the spirit, not just about the spa and getting a massage in a beautiful spot–which we do believe in,” Soloff said, explaining the Six Senses ethos. “We believe it’s much more than that.”

Each visit to a Six Senses property is an immersive experience that focuses on the totality of a person. For example, if you’re having trouble with sleep, as many of us have been during self-isolation measures, Six Senses can do a sleep analysis and assessment at many of its resorts. While you can’t travel there now, the At Home with Six Senses program offers live meditation and yoga, cooking classes utilizing Eat With Six Senses philosophy and tips for staying connected with other people.

Cifelli represents JL Bar Ranch in Texas’ Hill Country, which is scheduled to reopen May 20. The horse program there helps visitors find a peace within themselves.

“Horses in general are a direct reflection of you,” she related. “If you’re a mess, the horse is a mess.” If you’re trying to mount a horse and you’re tense, the horse senses that and tenses up as well. So, in earning the horse’s trust, you have to find a place of calm in your own mind. That ability to achieve that inner peace carries forward long after you leave the ranch.

At Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in British Columbia, there is no cell service, so those of who can’t put our phones down are forced to let go and enjoy their surroundings. Don’t worry, you can still make calls over the internet in case of emergencies, but otherwise you’ll be too busy immersing yourself in wilderness.

“We can take the most Type A personality and actually calm them down,” Cifelli said. “It’s a very spiritual experience.”

In their efforts to redefine wellness, Chablé Maroma and Chablé Resort in Mexico’s Yucatan provide temazcal ceremonies with shamans. “Everyone who’s ever done it comes out totally changed,” after two hours of steam and gratitude, Karanikas said.

The physical experience of wellness is very much tied in with the culture of the destination, making each experience unique. Meanwhile, it’s your vacation, so do wellness your way. If that means relaxing with a cocktail, so be it. At BodyHoliday in St. Lucia, there are dozens of options for classes and treatments, but there’s also no pressure to take part in any of them. That’s one of the qualities that makes it a great place to get into wellness travel, and with Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal.

“Wellness is what you make of it,” Karanikas said. “So many people have turned to focusing on themselves and their wellness at home. Know that you can take that with you when you travel if you want to.”

These destinations offer flexible change and cancellation policies, so you can plan your wellness getaway with the peace of mind knowing you won’t be on the hook if the pandemic wreaks more havoc on plans.

“Our health, both physical and mental, is everything,” Klimak said. “Without our health we have nothing.”

Top Places Less Traveled

Travel is easier than ever before, and as a result, we are becoming incredibly well-traveled. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, working with a trusted advisor can open up new regions and territories you haven’t thought about to expand your horizons even further. Maybe you saw the major places on your visit trip or two to a country or region, and now you want to go even more in-depth. These places are for you.

Western Australia

Most of the major cities Down Under are located on the eastern and southern coasts. There’s a whole lot of Outback separating Adelaide in South Australia from Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Perth, the fourth-largest city in Australia with about 2 million inhabitants, is the gateway to the Margaret River wine region, succulent seafood and black truffles just as good as any you’ll find in Europe. These factors contribute to Perth having the most restaurants per capita of any Australian capital and a great bar scene.

Madagascar

You’ve gone on safari. You’ve climbed Kilimanjaro. You’ve even gone gorilla trekking. Well, Africa has a lot more to offer than that. The world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar lies east of Mozambique and is home to 5 percent of the world’s wildlife and vegetation. While the beaches are great, there is a diversity of terrain from rain forest to desert, and much of the flora and fauna are unique to the island. Of the more than 200 bird species, about half are found only on Madagascar, which has almost 20,000 plant species, including seven types of baobab tree. Lemurs leap from tree to tree, while chameleons cling to the branches, making for an entirely different kind of safari experience.

Brittany

Who doesn’t love France? The glamor of Paris, the glitz of the Riviera, the chateaux in the Loire Valley, the beaches of Normandy, the wines of Bordeaux, the food in Lyon. When you think you’ve done it all in France, head to Brittany. Tucked in the northwest corner of the country, it’s one of the last bastions of Celtic culture. The region only came under the control of France in the 1500s and only fully integrated during the French Revolution. You’ll see street signs in Breton and French and experience an entirely different culture and cuisine.

Colonial Mexico

Don’t get us wrong, we love a beach vacation as much as anyone. But with great food, great places and an exchange rate of nearly 20 pesos to the dollar, colonial Mexico is worth a visit. Mexico City is home to the world’s 11th- and 13th-ranked restaurants (plus another in the top 100) and the beautiful Soumaya Museum. San Miguel de Allende is an artist’s or art lover’s dream you should see before it gets too popular, and Puebla is culinary capital with a downtown that is one big World Heritage site. Queretaro’s baroque architecture is a thing of beauty, and Oaxaca preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures.

Laos

Southeast Asia has become exceedingly popular. The beaches of Thailand are known the world over, and river cruises have introduced many people to the wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia. Erase modern borders, and you’ll see that Luang Prabang has all the charms of Chiang Mai without all the crowds. Laos contains elements of traditional Buddhist culture alongside traces of its French colonial past. As with the rest of Southeast Asia, the food scene is hard to beat. The night market in Luang Prabang and street food in Vientiane will have your mouth watering, and you can wash everything down with a Laotian mulberry tea.

Capitals of Culture

Each year, cities around the world are chosen as capitals of culture to be highlighted and celebrated throughout the year. The European Union began the tradition in 1985 and elects two cities in member states annually. The American Capital of Culture Organization was created to follow suit, and UNESCO chooses an Arab Capital of Culture. The International Organization of Turkic Culture also makes an annual appointment, while the UK picks a City of Culture to serve for four years. This week, we spotlight cities recognized for 2019.

Matera, Italy

Matera is serving alongside Plovdiv, Bulgaria, this year as a European capital of Culture. In Southern Italy’s Basilicata region, Matera has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years as travelers branch out from the usual Italian haunts. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with traces of civilization dating back thousands of years. Matera’s old town, the Sassi, was carved from cliffside caves on the edge of a ravine. Over the years, more and more buildings have been stacked on top of each other, creating a striking scene that has caught the eye of filmmakers using it as a substitute for the ancient Holy Land and travelers seeking new adventures in Italy.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

This colonial hill town 150 miles from Mexico City is this year’s capital of culture for the Americas. A colorful city full of colorful people, San Miguel has attracted expatriates from the world over for its lively arts and gastronomic scenes. Artisans’ markets and galleries seem to pack every street, and the scenery itself is straight out of a painting. The weather is just about perfect at all times, with average temperatures in the 60s and an elevation of around 6,000 feet. Outside the city is a pyramid complex at La Canada de la Virgen, and the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sharjah, UAE

Dubai and Abu Dhabi get all the publicity, but there are five other emirates rounding out the UAE. Sharjah is widely considered the cultural capital of the Emirates, home to a museum of Islamic art and architecture, Al Noor Mosque and a large aquarium. The Emirates Fine Arts Society is located in Sharjah, as is a museum of calligraphy. While Abu Dhabi and Dubai have embraced the ultramodern, Sharjah seeks to preserve Emirati heritage. That isn’t to say that’s it all stodgy all the time, as there are picturesque beaches on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, plus deserts and mountains to satisfy any outdoor thrill-seeker.

Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Osh made a name for itself producing fine silks for traders traversing the Silk Road, and in 2019 it’s Turkic capital of culture. The city remains a crossroads of cultures, with 80 or so ethnicities represented in the population. Sulayman Mountain, the only World Heritage site located entirely within Kyrgyzstan, supplies magnificent views of the city and its surroundings. There are traces of history commemorating pre-Islamic times, the Silk Road and Russian occupation. The mountaintop is considered sacred, and there are ancient petroglyphs at its base. Peruse the traditional bazaar and you’ll see more spices than you can count, another mark of the many cultures that have passed through.

Kingston-upon-Hull, England

Better known simply as Hull, this city on the east coast of northern England has been the UK city of culture since 2017 and will be replaced by Coventry in 2021. Hull’s Museum Quarter contains the Wilberforce House, home of William Wilberforce, who led the movement to stop the British involvement in the slave trade. The Deep is an aquarium at the confluence of two rivers with more than 5,000 sea creatures and a whopping 660,000 gallons of water inside. The city has a renowned theater culture, and the Hull City Tigers soccer team has enjoyed several seasons in the English Premier League in the last decade, reaching the FA Cup final in 2014.

New Destinations for 2019

Perhaps it’s just the company we keep, but a lot of friends made the New Year’s resolution to travel more in 2019. If you are one of them, we thought we’d help you out by offering our thoughts on some destinations to check out this year.

Mainland Greece

The islands are gorgeous, and there are way more to see than the old standbys most tend to flock to. If you have the chance to visit Rhodes or Patmos on a cruise, they will open your eyes to a whole different side of the Greek Isles. Many visitors to Greece tend to spend a day or two in Athens then head straight for the islands. But the mainland features the great sites of classical Greece. See the birthplace of the Olympics at Olympia, the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi and the ancient ruins of Mycenae that helped spawn Western civilization.

Colonial Mexico

Don’t get us wrong, we love a beach vacation as much as anyone. But with great food, great places and an exchange rate of nearly 20 pesos to the dollar, colonial Mexico is worth a visit. Mexico City is home to the world’s 11th- and 13th-ranked restaurants (plus another in the top 100) and the beautiful Soumaya Museum. San Miguel de Allende is both an artist’s and an art lover’s dream, you should see before it gets too popular, and Puebla is a culinary capital with a downtown that is one big World Heritage site. Queretaro’s baroque architecture is a thing of beauty, and Oaxaca preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures.

Western Australia

Most of the major cities Down Under are located on the eastern and southern coasts. There’s a whole lot of Outback separating Adelaide in South Australia from Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Perth, the fourth-largest city in Australia with about 2 million inhabitants, is the gateway to the Margaret River wine region, succulent seafood and black truffles just as good as any you’ll find in Europe. These factors contribute to Perth having the most restaurants per capita of any Australian capital and a great bar scene.

Jordan

A safe destination and a gem of the Middle East, Jordan is inviting visitors to trek the Jordan Trail — about 400 miles traversing the country from Um Qais to the Red Sea — from March 1-April 13. If that’s too much for you, concentrate on such magnificent sights as Petra, an ancient city carved into cliff sides, and Wadi Rum, a valley with an otherworldly feel containing traces of culture from prehistory to the Roman era. Spas along the Dead Sea and resorts in Aqaba along the Red Sea will help you relax whether you brave the trail or not.

Greenland

A trip to the “Arctic Riviera” will open your eyes to one of the last truly off-the-beaten-path spots on Earth. The people of East Greenland didn’t have contact with outsiders until the turn of the 20th century, and the area is still an isolated wonderland of Northern Lights and calving glaciers. Subsistence hunting is still very much a way of life and one that becomes harder to maintain as temperatures continue to rise and change the environment for animals and the people who rely on them to live.

Christmas in July: Make Your Festive Vacation Plans Now

It’s not quite the same as Christmas in July, but you can give yourself the gift of peace of mind by booking your festive season travel now. If you have a specific resort or destination in mind, you might be surprised to find how tight space is already for the period around Christmas and New Year’s. You can’t exactly go on vacation and leave a couple of your kids behind because you couldn’t get another room. So do yourself a favor and start planning as soon as possible.

People who stayed at resorts over the festive season last winter got first dibs on booking that space for the upcoming season. Perhaps they had such a good time, they invited more of their family members to join them this year and have already had their rooms secured for months. If the winters are cold in your neck of the woods, you can rest assured that your neighbors will be flocking in droves to sunny resorts in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

If your crew still can’t get its act together for a few months, your travel advisor will be up to date on which resorts have last-minute space. But don’t leave things up to chance! You’ll be much happier and less stressed if you take the initiative now. If you’re waiting until the weather turns, you could find yourself left out in the cold.

If you’re out of luck on land or prefer hitting the high seas, a cruise could be your answer. Again, though, you need to act quickly, especially if you’re bringing the whole family and need multiple cabins. Virtuoso-preferred partners offer some great itineraries to celebrate in style.

If all else fails, think outside the box. There’s a whole other hemisphere where it’s warm when we’re cold. South America, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, they all have nice weather as one year turns into the next.

It’s not especially warm in Europe’s heartland, though the jet stream does keep things milder than many parts of the U.S., but a river cruise can let you catch the end of the beautiful Christmas markets along the Rhine and Danube. If you haven’t seen a European Christmas market before, they are a sight to behold. Plus, there’s plenty of mulled wine to help you keep warm, there are great Christmas dinners served on the river and you can ring in the new year a few hours ahead of your friends.

No matter what you end up picking, don’t wait until it’s too late and you no longer have your choice of options. There will be plenty of scrambling trying to track down those last-minute gifts. Getting started with your holiday travel plans now could end up as the best gift you and family receive.