As you may have heard, the U.S. government issued new restrictions on travel to Cuba last week. They were effective immediately, with educational and recreational (“people to people”) itineraries no longer allowed. Cruise ships, recreational vessels and non-commercial aircraft originating from the U.S. may not go to Cuba.
If you are booked on a cruise that included Cuba in the itinerary, contact your travel advisor for details. Virtuoso-preferred cruise lines are initiating policies to make it up to guests who were looking forward to visiting the island. Land tours and flights booked through June 4 may be grandfathered in, but it best to confirm with your travel advisor, tour operator or airline.
So, is it still possible for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba under the new policy? The answer is yes, for religious travel, meeting and support for the Cuban people programs. You will need to travel with a licensed tour operator that has permits for these types of itineraries.
More than ever, it’s important to work with a trusted travel advisor who stays on top of the latest updates and knows which tour operators are still taking groups to Cuba. Even with the new restrictions, you can still go to Cuba. Contact Stefany at email@example.com or (917) 653-9346 for assistance planning your trip safely and legally.
Taking the whole family on a beach vacation this summer? Want an apartment in the big city for a long weekend? Why, you’ll need to book an Airbnb rental for that, right? Sure, if you want to run the risk of being secretly filmed by your host, as a woman in China discovered this month. Or if you’re OK with the possibility that your host might cancel your booking at the last minute for no reason or because of your race, as occurred with a Big Bear, Calif., rental. Or if you don’t mind that the place you’re renting might not have the proper insurance, safety measures or even be legally available for short-term rentals.
Or, you could utilize the vast resources of the Virtuoso network and stay at a place that has been properly vetted, offers services such as housekeeping and lets you enjoy your experience instead of worrying about what’s actually waiting for you when you arrive and potentially dealing with issues that turn your vacation into a big hassle.
Virtuoso-preferred partners offer a vast array of accommodations around the world. In addition to many Virtuoso-preferred hotels having private villas and apartments, there are several companies who specialize in just this sort of thing.
Villas of Distinction features properties all throughout the Caribbean, in several European countries, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida and so much more. You can filter the number of bedrooms you need, the type of experience and level of service you’re looking for, and special features such as beachfront or fully staffed until you’ve found the villa that is perfect for you and your crew.
Abercrombie & Kent doesn’t just do great tours, from magnificently crafted group and family journeys to completely customized private itineraries, the company also has alpine chalets and luxury villas from Andalucia to Umbria at the best addresses in Europe. So after you return from a day of breathtaking touring with your driver and guide, you can sit down to a gourmet meal prepared by a private chef. Sure beats rummaging through the fridge at an Airbnb.
It’s never too early to think about next ski season. You might need help finding a place that checks off all the items on your wish list. Ski-in/ski-out, hot tub, whatever the request, Alpine Adventures has the rental for you, from Vail to Verbier, Crested Butte to Courchevel and just about anywhere else skis and snowboards tear lines.
There are so many more choices, from the villa collections of Virtuoso-preferred wholesalers Travel Impressions and Classic Vacations to the beautiful villas along Lake Como available through the all-everything Italy specialists at IC Bellagio. Luxury retreats has 4,500 in 100 highly sought-after locations. Now aren’t you glad you don’t have to worry about an Airbnb host dropping by without
notice during your romantic dinner?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the world watched Notre-Dame de Paris burn last month, many of us thought of our visits to the iconic cathedral that has stood in the heart of the French capital for hundreds of years. Those of us who have studied art history admire it as a leading example of Gothic architecture, with its signature gargoyles and flying buttresses.
While Notre-Dame’s treasures and rose windows were thankfully spared major damage, many people wept at the sight of the roof collapsing and the church’s spire crumbling down. Largay Travel advisors shared some of their memories of Notre-Dame. I myself was fortunate enough to ascend to the roof on my first visit at age 17, and each trip to Paris for me must include a visit; now more than ever.
Stefany DiManno Ceccato of DMC Travel Tailor first visited Paris and Notre-Dame in her early 20s. “I remember admiring the Gothic architecture, as I wasn’t used to seeing that in the States,” she wrote. “I lit a candle inside as my mom faithfully lights candles every Sunday in church. I was in awe with the beauty inside, the stained glass windows, the art, the sculptures, the details. I went with a couple of girlfriends from, so the whole trip was special since it was our first time in Paris!
Silvana Frappier of Destinations Less Known wrote: “A few years back, my husband and I traveled to Paris to celebrate his birthday. This trip was all about him and for him, but I had one request: ‘I must go to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. As a big fan of the classic movie ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ it was a dream of mine to visit the cathedral. After many photos were taken outside, we got to go inside and tour. My husband kept making fun of me that Quasimodo was going to show up at any minute to hunt me. I said to him, ‘stop making fun of it, something is going to happen to you.’ After that he went to light a candle and say prayers. Doing it he burns most of his fingers. … He said he was cursed. We’re still laughing until today of the episode. We will forever cherish this memory.
Melanie Schultz sent along this memory from clients of hers: “What a wonderful time we had in France last summer. One of our many highlights was seeing Notre-Dame. You couldn’t help but feel the history standing in front of this majestic church. So happy my family and I were able to see her in all her glory.”
President Emmanuel Macron has vowed France will rebuild Notre-Dame as swiftly as possible, and generous donations have poured in to fund the undertaking. While none of us who saw the flames engulf the roof will likely ever forget it, we hope someday the fire of 2019 will be just one chapter in the lore of a magnificent building that stands for hundreds of years more.
The vast majority of the 4 million Italians who migrated to America in mass migration at the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries came from the Mezzogiorno in southern Italy. Their descendants have spread throughout the U.S. especially the Northeast. As heritage travel has surged in popularity in recent years, Largay preferred partner Lush Experiences has put together this sample itinerary exploring Naples, the Amalfi Coast and family history.
Imagine your children are getting older and you want to give them the opportunity to explore their Neapolitan background, possibly meet some distant relatives. As your Largay Travel advisor thinks about connecting you with relatives in Italy, you gather as much information as you can and your advisor reaches out to Privilege Italia to take advantage of its Italian Ancestry program. Working in the “family business” all their lives, Mario and Francesco Staiano are the owners of Privilege Italia, and as cousins truly understand the importance of your roots, and the impact that connection with your heritage means.
Tracing Your Roots
Through extensive research, Privilege Italia traces your family’s lineage and discovers your family came from a small town in Campania, just outside of Napoli. Privilege Italia finds relatives who still live in this town, a true Italian journey takes root. Privilege Italia then crafts an itinerary that let your family experience the authenticity of the region through the eyes of your relatives, from understanding the culture and treasures of the historic city of Napoli to a walk through the mysteries of Pompeii.
The journey begins in Napoli, where your driver takes you to your home in the very heart of the city, the Virtuoso-preferred Romeo Hotel Napoli. Across from the port on the Bay of Naples, the Romeo is the ideal location to explore the city and the islands of Capri, Ischia and Ponza. Your family ascends to the top-floor Beluga Bistrot and Terrace for a welcome cocktail toast with commanding views of the bay and Mt. Vesuvius. After an afternoon of relaxing poolside, you meet your newfound relatives for a very special dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred Il Comandante restaurant. An evening filled with laughs and authentic Neapolitan cuisine by Chef Salvatore Bianco ensues as the family reunites.
Exploring Napoli’s Rich Culture
The next day you take a light walking tour to discover the city and your Neapolitan roots. Your expert guide takes you past imposing fortresses and castles along the water to the famed Pantheon-styled Basilica, with plenty of time to admire the Greek columns and beautiful sculptures and paintings inside. You pass museums, cafes and countless monuments that reflect a 3,000-year melting pot. The final stop is the Naples National Archaeological Museum. Enter this converted 17th century palace to spend the afternoon studying prehistoric artifacts, coins and ancient works of art, as your guide shares the stories behind them. This serves as the perfect primer for the next day’s activity, a trip to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.
Before leaving Napoli, you venture out of the city to your ancestral hometown, sharing a meal at a local restaurant with your new Italian family.
Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast
The next morning, you say goodbye to the Romeo and Napoli and depart for the picturesque Amalfi Coast, and the Virtuoso-preferred Hotel Santa Caterina. On the way, enjoy a guided tour of the famed archeological ruins of Pompeii, located just 30 minutes from the hotel. After a morning walking in the sun with your expert, it is time to cross over the mountain to the Amalfi Coast.
Once you arrive at the edge of Amalfi town and the dramatic location of the Santa Caterina, you are instantly in awe. Owned and operated by the same family for over 110 years, the hotel is a symbol of relaxed luxury on the Amalfi Coast. Walking across the hand-painted ceramic tile floors of the lobby, you are drawn to the outdoor terrace overlooking the perennial blue of the Mediterranean Sea and sky. It’s the perfect place for a welcome cocktail while your family is mesmerized by the view of the town and the beautiful waters. A casual dinner at the hotel’s seafront restaurant, Al Mare, gives you a taste of the sea and goes perfectly with the extensive wine menu with the sound of the waves crashing below.
The next morning you take a walking tour of the charming town, filled with authentic ceramic shops, and of course the famous limoncello made with local lemons. The highlight is a walk up the steps to the beautiful Amalfi Cathedral in the main square. Back at the hotel, relax by the sea-front pool, take in a signature spa treatment, walk through the gardens or enjoy the view from the terrace. With one final meal at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, it is time to say goodbye and close the chapter on an incredible Italian journey of discovery.
The final season of “Game of Thrones” is upon us. There are a lot of questions to be answered. Who lives? Who dies? Who sits on the Iron Throne when it’s all said and done? Will it even matter because everything’s been taken over by the Night King and his army of White Walkers? The most important questions, however, are, “Where did they film that?” and “Can I go see it?” We might not yet know the full implications of Bran’s ability to travel in time, but we know where you can travel to see these incredible Game of Thrones filming locations.
Dubrovnik doubles as Kings Landing, with Cersei’s walk of shame taking place in the streets of the ancient city. Fortunately, even though Cersei took her revenge by blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor, Dubrovnik’s Old Town still stands. Ston also lends its beauty to some of the fortifications of Kings Landing, while Dubrovnik’s Minceta Tower serves as the House of the Undying, where Daenarys sees visions of the past and future. The Riverlands can be found in Krka National Park, while Kliss Fortress and the Palace of Diocletian in Split represent Meereen. Braavos is actually Sibenik, with St. Jacob Cathedral serving as the Iron Bank.
The Dothraki Sea seen in Season 1 is the Glens of Antrim and Ballymoney, while the Dark Hedges lend their eerie intertwining beech trees to scenes featuring the Kingsroad. Castle Ward’s towers will be recognizable to fans of the Stark family as the towers of Winterfell. The Iron Islands can actually be found in Murlough Bay, while Cushendun Caves and Larrybane Quarry are the Stormlands. The Dragonstone beach where the red priestess Melisandre burns idols of the Seven to appease the Lord of Light is really Downhill Beach.
Supplying most of the ice and A Song of Ice and Fire, Iceland supplied filming locations for pretty much everything north of the wall and some portions of the North as well. The Wildling camp is at Thingvellir, which is also the site of Brienne’s sword fight with the Hound. Grjotagja Cave is instantly recognizable to those romantics who saw Jon and Ygritte fall in love over a hot bath. Lake Myvatn and Vatnajokull provide some of the spectacular scenery north of the wall, while a ragtag bunch of heroes traveled to what looks an awful lot like Snæfellsnes Peninsula to bring back a White Walker.
One of the biggest revelations in Game of Thrones has been the true identity of Jon Snow, who was born in the Tower of Joy. You can find the tower in Guadalajara, where it is known in our world as Castel de Zafra. Danaerys needed a dragon ex machina to save her from an assassination attempt in the fighting pits of Meereen, which are actually the Plaza de Toros de Osuna. The Alcazar of Seville and its gardens served as the royal palace of Dorne in Sunspear, where the Martells held sway. The Roman bridge in Cordoba doubles as the Long Bridge of Volantis. Sam cleans some chamber pots and finds out some important truths at the library in the Citadel, which is really the Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants in Girona.
If you can remember all the way back to Season 1, Malta featured prominently. Khal Drogo and Daenarys were married on Gozo’s Azure Window. Sadly, the rock formation collapsed into the sea in 2017, but the spot is still great for diving. The beautifully preserved medieval city of Medina stood in for Kings Landing in the first season, especially the city gate. Cersei gave Ned her famous, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die” speech at St. Dominic’s Convent in Rabat. Ned, who definitely did not win, lost his head at Fort Manoel, which doubled as the Great Sept of Baelor for his death scene.