Exotic Vacations Extreme Pampering

  • By Jack Dwyer

Many people who truly want to pamper themselves think immediately of travel and the possibilities are limitless. If you want to put a smile on the face of a travel agent, walk into their office and announce that you want to purchase a dream vacation and that price is no object.

Even if you absolutely can’t afford such a trip, I would recommend asking the question. It is absolutely amazing what they can come up with. Spend an evening perusing the colorful brochures while listening to your favorite CD and I can guarantee you that you will be transported to a place of relaxation and peacefulness. I didn’t do it, but you might want to first draw a hot bath and, then proceed as I have advised. Who knows? It may give birth to your personal dream vacation. By the way, you will find no prices for these fantasy trips. For that information, I advise you to contact your professional travel agent of choice.

Touraid Travel and Classic Italy

My assignment found me first at Touraid Travel-Cruise and Vacation Group on Route 3 in Plattsburgh where I met with marketing coordinator Joanne Parkinson. Parkinson listened to an outline of my quest and, without hesitation, vol-unteered, “If you want to be truly pampered, our recommendation for a dream vacation would be a tour of Classic Italy hosted by Tauck World Discovery. They specialize in exotic travel with first class accommodations!” The tour we dis-cussed committed one to 14 days, with the first and the last days set aside for travel to and from Rome.

You will be greeted at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport by your tour director and transported to Sorrento for a wel-coming dinner at your four-star hotel. On day 2, guests arise early for breakfast, followed by a leisurely drive by motor coach along the Amalfi Coast and will visit the seaside villages of Amalfi and Ravello. After a day of sightseeing, you will be welcomed again at your hotel in Sorrento.

Day 3 starts with breakfast at your hotel, followed by a tour of Pompeii.

Conducted by a local expert, your tour will uncover many of the secrets of this ancient city buried by volcanic ash in 79 A.D.

Following the tour and lunch at the hotel, you will again travel by motor coach

to Rome, where you will be welcomed at the Westin Excelsior, considered by most as the city’s foremost hotel. The Westin

Excelsior will serve as your base of

operations for the next three nights as you spend two days on a comprehensive guided tour of some of Rome’s most famous attractions.

In the morning you will awake to a hearty Italian breakfast before setting off on your visits to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Evening will find you dining at a local trattoria. Later evening hours are re-served for your personal pleasure. The hotel is served by an excellent concierge who will be more than happy to suggest and arrange your evening in romantic Roma.

Day 5 is set aside for sightseeing in the Rome of Caesar. Your guide will take you on visits to the Forum, the Colos-seum, and the Imperial Palace. Most visitors discover restaurants that they return to that evening.

The following morning, guests make the short trip from Rome to Orvieto for a visit to the Duomo, Orvieto’s famous cathedral. After a traditional Italian lunch, you will travel to Torgiano where your hotel is situated within a private vineyard. This exclusive setting will be home for the next two nights.

On day 7, your guide will escort you through historic medieval hillside town of Assisi. Breathtaking frescoes await at St. Francis’ Basilica. That evening you return to your hotel in Torgiano where you will be treated to wine tasting and a cooking demonstration.

The Tuscan countryside of San Gimignano and the seaside resort of Viareggio highlight your next day’s travels, which culminate in your arrival at your sumptuous accommodations at the Principe di Piemonte.

On day 9, breakfast will be followed by a private boat cruise along the Mediterranean shores of Cinque Terre for an extraordinary look at centuries-old villages set in the rugged coastal mountains. Few visitors to Italy have ever seen these sights. It will be a tug-of-war to decide which is more beautiful, the villages or the Mediterranean, itself.

That afternoon you will travel to Florence where you will find your luxurious room at the Grand Hotel. Nights 9, 10 and 11 will be in Florence. The following morning, you will be treated to an in-depth briefing by an art history lecturer and a tour of the Galleria dell’Accademia. That evening is reserved for you to spend as you wish.

Day 11 begins with breakfast and a tour of the Uffizi Gallery led by an expert that specializes in the art of Florence. The balance of the day is left free for you to pursue personal interests such as tours of any of Florence’s many wonderful museums.

High-speed rail service aboard Eurostar whisks you to Venice and your hotel, the Westin Europa. Following check-in, guests are invited to visit St. Mark’s Basilica located in the adjoining square. Many who have anxiously awaited the opportunity avail themselves of a gondola ride on one of Venice’s many canals.

Day 13 is entirely free for travelers to do as they please in Venice, one of the world’s most intriguing and historic cit-ies. Again, your tour guide and/or the hotel concierge will gladly offer suggestions if requested. Everyone gathers that evening for a reception and farewell dinner.

A final breakfast waits to be enjoyed before everyone is transported to Venice’s Marco Polo Airport for departure home from his or her dream vacation.

World Travel Services and Tahiti

Lisa Bedard-Dupee, owner/manager of World Travel Services in West Chazy, didn’t blink as she ushered me to a chair. “Tahiti”, she said. “That is where I would send anyone wanting to be thoroughly pampered. The island setting, the climate, the people, the colors, the food, the tranquility, they all add up to the truly ultimate vacation experience. The people I have sent to Moorea can’t say enough about it!”

“But wait”, she interjected, “I am rushing things and rushing is one of the things you never do in Tahiti. Let me start at the beginning. We recommend that you fly from Montreal to LAX in Los Angeles where you will stay overnight before beginning your first class flight to Tahiti. The next morning you board your Air Tahiti flight. A local traditional Lei Greeting awaits your arrival before you are whisked by boat to Moorea.”

Opening the beautifully photographed brochure, she added, “Sofitel la Ora is the hotel we recommend. It is located on Moorea’s most beautiful beach, surrounded by lush topical gardens. You will stay three nights in an air-conditioned bungalow built right over the water. Some floors are made of glass, so you get the sensation you are encased in the ocean. It is no wonder that snorkeling equipment is provided free of charge.”

The hotel is just a few hundred feet from the bungalows across the white sands of the beautiful Moorean beach. There, guests can access a splendid spa, a Polynesian restaurant and the seaside infinity pool or even a wedding parlor. It is also there that one would sign up for the helicopter ride Bedard-Dupee so strongly recommends. “It isn’t just the thrill of the ride”, she said, “Tahiti’s beauty is overwhelming. The totality of it just can’t be experienced any other way.”

After your stay at Sofitel la Ora, you are again transported by boat to Bora Bora where you will be guests at the In-ter-Continental Hotel. Again, you will stay in an over-the-water bungalow. This hotel also offers two restaurants, a bar, two boutiques and a spa all staffed to pamper their guests. Rental cars are also available to those who wish to tour this island.

Here Bedard-Dupee again suggested a unique experience. “You just have to order one breakfast delivered by local village women in a dugout canoe directly to you in your over-water bungalow. It is a feast of home-made sweets and freshly picked and prepared fruits. It gives a whole new meaning to breakfast in bed!”

After three nights in Bora Bora, you are transported to Tahiti for your flight back to the US. Again, you will spend a night at LAX before returning to Montreal and normality.

AAA Travel and the Queen Mary 2

Quick to get into the spirit of my assignment, Cathy Forget, the manager of AAA Travel proclaimed, “If one wants the vacation of a lifetime and price is no object, my recommendation is a cruise on the Queen Mary 2!”

The materials provided by Forget showed a myriad of trips from traditional Atlantic crossings, to tours of the Medi-terranean, to tours of the Caribbean. She provided ample guidance to me as I tried to sort out the various options. She cautioned, “The internet may be OK if all one wants is an airline ticket, but when thousands of dollars are involved, the traveler is best served to go to a professional.”

As we discussed arranging connections, deciphering insurance plans and selecting the most appropriate time for such a trip, that advice was made all the more evident. For example, Forget pointed out that early booking on the Queen Mary 2 might save a client up to 30 percent of the brochure price. Based on maximizing a modest nine-day vacation with some off-ship travel opportunities, we settled on a seven-day tour of the southern Caribbean. That option left two days for travel to and from Ft. Lauderdale designed to minimize the chance of starting or finishing one’s dream vacation with the stress of scrambling to make connections.

Having provided ourselves the luxury of boarding early, we would have an opportunity to settle into our Q5 Suite. There, fresh flowers and fruit would welcome us into approximately 500 sq. ft. of luxury including a dressing room, bath with separate shower, a whirlpool tub, and our private veranda. We would, in all likelihood, meet our butler and concierge who would make clear that that it is their responsibility to anticipate and meet our needs while in their care. Later, we might walk about the ship, checking out the Queen’s Grill, the elegant Queens Grill Lounge and the private sun terrace reserved for use by those assigned to the Queen Grill as their dining room.

After setting sail at 5 p.m. from Ft. Lauderdale, we would be introduced to the luxury of the Queen Mary 2’s re-nowned Cunard Line cuisine. The feast at our reserved table might be followed by dancing, a tour of the ship, or relaxing in any of the ship’s 13 bars, lounges and nightclubs. Some may find their way to the Empire Casino.

Passengers are urged to take their time, as they will spend the next two days cruising the Atlantic. Upon returning to our suite, we would find the covers have been turned down and the lights dimmed.

What would be better than breakfast in bed on the first morning followed by a walk on the deck? This is the time to explore the elegant behemoth so casually known as QM2. Hopefully, over the next two days, passengers will find what-ever accommodation they desire from a 20,000 sq. ft. spa, to the largest library at sea, to a 1/3 mile full-circle jogging track with its state-of-the-art gym and weight room.

Activities include swimming in any of five on-board pools, use of a golf simulator, virtual rides into space and, if in-timidated by the prospect of ballroom dancing, one might enroll in an afternoon instructional class.

Watercolouring, attendance at a book review session, and/or foreign language instruction are just some of the op-portunities which are presented to QM2 guests.

On day four, passengers awake to find the ship docked in Bridgetown, Barbados where guests have a day to sight-see. After returning to the ship for a 6 p.m. departure, you are again directed to your reserved table (it changes every night) where you will meet and enjoy sharing your adventures with others. This meal might be followed by a visit to the ship’s planetarium, dancing, a visit to a Karaoke lounge, or enjoying music that ranges from the Beatles to Big Bands to Beethoven.

That evening the QM2 will sail to St. Kitts where you will awaken in Basseterre. Sightseeing, shopping, a round of golf, a trip to a private beach or other adventures recommended by your concierge will provide a full day of fun and re-laxation.

This day 5 trip to St. Kitts will be challenged by Day 6 in St. Thomas to see which island destination provides the most stimulating array of activities. When passengers arrive back on QM2 before their 6 p.m. departure, they do so knowing that tonight they set sail back to Ft. Lauderdale. Any melancholy, however, is quickly replaced by another night of immersion into the elegance that is the QM2. Dinner that evening and activities on Day 7, as they again cruise the Atlantic, are designed to provide passengers with one last opportunity to be thoroughly immersed in luxury. The final dinner on night 7 is recalled by many as the most fitting culmination to this, their dream vacation.

Joanne Parkinson of Touraid Travel-Cruise and Vacation Group

Lisa Bedard-Dupee of World Travel Services

Cathy Forget of AAA Travel

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