The Maestro's Travel Blog


The Travel Maestro Awarded Marriott International Luxury Brands 2017 STARS Celestial Club!

Marriott International STARS Celestial Club
Patrick Millard Receiving 2017 STARS Celestial Club Award at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

On September 15th, 2017, Marriott International Luxury Brands held their annual STARS Celestial Club Celebration Gala at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.  The Marriott International Luxury Brands STARS Celestial Club is a global award honoring the top 50 travel advisors around the world that book the most revenue to their properties.

 

The Travel Maestro is honored to be the recipient of this award for a second consecutive year!  Thank you to all of our clients for your continued support of The Travel Maestro and giving us the opportunity to work with you on your travel arrangements.

A Customer Service "Wow" Story From Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve



Customer service is truly a lost art and I will be the first to tell you that when traveling, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find people that genuinely care about customers (or guests).  However, there are a few places throughout the world where customer service is not only alive but it's thriving.  One of these special places in the world is Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, located in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico.

 

My wife and I were fortunate enough to honeymoon at Dorado Beach back in May 2015 and now after almost 2 years away, we decided to return for a few days at the end of April to celebrate our 2 year anniversary.  

 

For those of you that have not had the opportunity to stay at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, I highly recommend it for any special occasion or even if you just want to a quick getaway to disconnect and feel like you are far removed from the hustle and bustle back home. During our stay at Dorado Beach, we stayed in an East Beach Plunge Reserve Room with a King Bed.  As seen in the picture above, our room featured our own private plunge pool and outdoor terrace area with ocean front views.  There are very few places in the world where you can take a dip in a pool only about 10 steps from the ocean.


Upon arrival, we received a very thoughtful welcome amenity that included a note from the staff wishing us a happy 2 year anniversary and a beautiful rose petal turndown in the evening when we returned to our room.  Needless to stay, the ladies and gentlemen at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, continued to amaze us every day during our stay.  If fact, it was actually something that happened on the final evening of our trip that compelled me to write this story about customer service.

 

As is often the case with most people when they travel, my wife and I had to leave behind our littlest family member, our lovable 5 pound Chihuahua, Bella.  Thankfully, she is always in good hands when we travel because she stays with my mother-in-law.  Even for a relatively quick 4-day trip, we still miss her (particularly Kathryn).  Since we had previously stayed for our honeymoon, the staff knew about Bella as we had shown them picture of her.

 

So, on our final evening at Dorado Beach, we returned to our room to a truly amazing and incredibly thoughtful surprise.  The hotel staff delivered a final amenity, they put together a picture collage and a written a note "from Bella" of all of things she (secretly) did the last few days at Dorado Beach.  The chef at the resort even made a doggy treat for us to take home to Bella because it was going to be her birthday the following week.  Below are the pictures I took of what the amazing team at Dorado Beach created for my wife and I and also for our little family member back home, our Chihuahua, Bella.

 

Thank you to everyone at Dorado Beach for making our 2-year wedding anniversary stay so special!  We will never forget our time at the resort and all of you that made it happen.  I would be remiss if I did not specifically recognize a few members of the staff that went above and beyond during our stay.  Thank you to Alejandra, Remus, Iva, Marcos, Marat and the entire Pastry Team!  You were amazing and we are so grateful for everything you did for us.



Destination Review: Galapagos Archipelago with Lindblad Expeditions - March 2017



On March 18th, I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list trip to the Galapagos Islands.  Ever since I was a child, the Galapagos Islands have been an iconic destinations that I've read about and seen hundreds of times on TV when I watch National Geographic and Discovery Channel.  When I received this invitation to join Lindblad Expeditions on the new, National Geographic Endeavour II, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to experience the natural wonders of the Galapagos Archipelago.

 

If you are interest in going to the Galapagos Islands and want to experience all of it's natural wonders, the best way to travel is on an expedition ship instead of staying at a hotel and being on a single island, like Santa Cruz.  The Galapagos are made up of 13 major islands and 6 smaller ones.  So, you can imagine that staying at a hotel makes exploring all of them almost impossible.

 

Expedition Ships are becoming increasingly popular for those clients looking for an intimate, small ship experience (no more than 100-150 guests) and those couples or families that love adventures.  In the last 10 years or so, there have been a few companies and cruise lines starting Expedition cruises including Silversea, Celebrity, and Un-Cruise Adventures.  However, the leader of Expedition Cruises belongs to the most veteran company in the business, Lindblad Expeditions.  They have a number of ships that offer great itineraries all over the world and their partnership with National Geographic gives them access to the best naturalists, photographers and destination experts.  

 

The National Geographic Endeavour II features 52 cabins and can accommodate 98 guests.  The Endeavour II was built specifically for the Galapagos and it stays there all year round.  There is a family-style dining area where couples and families can share tables, discuss their upcoming activities for the day or recap what they did earlier that day during dinner.  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are served in the dining room and dinner is a plated meal and your select your main course each day when you have lunch.  There is a sign-up sheet with 3 different options available.  

 

The ship has a library, masseuse treatment room, fitness center, observation gallery (where daily lectures occur), and sun deck with lounge chairs and tables.  The ship includes all activities during your cruise and nothing will cost you extra (except alcoholic beverages).  Daily activities include Zodiak Rides, Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hiking, Photography Tours and Lessons, Young Explorers Program (for Children) and Daily Lectures in the late afternoon recapping the day and discussing the next day's activities.



Above, you will see some of the many pictures that I took during my time in the Galapagos.  During my 7-day cruise with Lindblad Expeditions, we visited the following islands: Baltra, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Rabida, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, and San Cristobal.  Each island offers very different experiences and various wildlife encounters, so it's important to make the most of each day, snorkeling every day it is offered and take advantage of the hiking activities every morning to maximize your wildlife encounters and picture opportunities.



In conclusion, I would highly recommend Lindblad Expeditions to any couple or family wanting to fully experience the Galapagos Islands.  The staff on the ship including naturalists, photographers, housekeepers, bartenders, servers in the dining room and the front desk team, all did an amazing job and made us feel like we were family.  I also loved being on a small ship because it was very easy to converse with other guests during activities and meals and everyone departed the ship having made new friends after sharing a week of truly incredible experiences together in the Galapagos.

Destination Review:  Iceland (Winter)

Don’t be fooled by its name!  As a rule of thumb, remember that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice.  The story goes that the native settlers called it Iceland because they didn’t want anyone coming to visit the island.  For centuries that worked pretty well and it really shows when you visit Iceland.  The country’s population is still minuscule compared to its distant Scandinavian relatives in Norway, Sweden and Finland. 

The biggest winner of Iceland’s minimal number of tourists (until 15-20 years ago) are the tourists who go to visit this amazing country and all of its amazing natural wonders, scenery and culture.  During my trip to Iceland, my wife and I did the following tours and activities which I will highlight in this review:  Small Group Golden Circle Tour including Glacier Snowmobiling by Super Jeep, Small Group Northern Lights Sightseeing Tour by Arctic Adventures, Large Group Southern Iceland Tour including Glacier Hike, Waterfalls and Black Sand Beach by Grey Line, and last but not least, the iconic Blue Lagoon.

 

Small Group Golden Circle Tour including Glacier Snowmobiling:

I booked this tour with Super Jeep which is a local tour company offering a variety of tour itineraries in Iceland.  The tour was absolutely great because they picked us up from our hotel in downtown Reykjavik and it was a small group of only 15 people.  Our guide was very courteous and offered brief (very brief) explanations of each sight during our trip.  For my wife and I, this was perfect and it allowed the breathtaking scenery and natural wonders to speak for themselves…which they did!  On this tour, we saw the Gullfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geyser, the continental divide (where the Eurasian continent collides with the North American continent) and we ended the trip snowmobiling on a glacier.  The tour cost approximately $350 per person but most of that cost was for the snowmobiling.  You can do the same tour without the Snowmobiling for about half the cost.

 

I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone traveling to Iceland.  The Golden Circle Tour is an absolute must when visiting Iceland, so the real decision is whether or not you want to snowmobile for an additional $200-$250 per person.  I felt that the snowmobiling at the end made the tour really unique and exciting.  Without the snowmobiling, it still would have been a very nice tour but I think I would have personally missed out on something special.  This decision is purely a personal choice, so it’s up to you in the end.

Northern Lights Sightseeing Tour:

If you are not familiar with the science behind the Aurora Borealis, aka Northern Lights, not to worry, we are not going to get into the science too much.  In broad terms, here is what you need to know: 

·         Seeing the Northern Lights is not guaranteed.  Book a Northern Lights tour your first night in Iceland.  If it doesn’t happen, the tour companies will give you a voucher to come back another night while you are in town (we had to do this).

·         The Northern Lights only occur under the following conditions – Clear Skies, You must be relatively close to magnetic field of the North Pole / Artic Circle, and there must also be solar flares and/or solar activity from the Sun.  I recommend regularly checking the solar activity forecast through the NOAA website.  They have a Northern Lights Forecast which can be helpful to let you know which night during your trip may have the best viewing potential.

The first night of our Northern Lights Sightseeing Tour, we did not see any activity in the sky.  Our driver and tour leader was very patient and took his time to ensure we had a chance to see them but unfortunately they never appeared.  If you want to see the Northern Lights, they will test your patience, so do remember that patience is a good virtue on this tour.

After our first night produced no results, I booked us through the same company (no additional charge) to try to see them again.  I confirmed us to go back out when the NOAA solar forecast was predicting very high solar activity level and thus a high probability of seeing the Northern Lights.  Although the NOAA forecast is never a guarantee that you’ll see them, they definitely got the forecast right the night we went out.  Here are some of the incredible pictures that I took:

 

***Disclaimer:  These pictures are my actual images and cannot be redistributed without express written consent of The Travel Maestro, LLC. ***

Large Group Southern Iceland Coast including Glacier Hike by Grey Line Tours:

This is an all-day tour that picked us up at our hotel at approximately 7am and we did not return to the hotel until 6pm.  The tour was a group of approximately 50 people and we were transported on a large motor coach from Reykjavik to the Southern Iceland coast to Hella and surrounding towns.  This tour featured a very seasoned tour director who provided excellent perspective and descriptions of each destination along our journey.  You can tell that he had been doing this for a while but in a good way.  He enjoyed his job and wanted to share all of the joys, sights and culture of Iceland with the group. 

Although we chose to go with a large group for this trip, there are small group or private tours available through other companies that will take you to the same places.  This tour was approximately $160 per person and given the length of the trip and the tour director’s in-depth knowledge and guidance, I would absolutely recommend this tour option to anyone going to Iceland, especially if you don’t mind being with a larger group.  It was a fantastic value for everything that we did which included a spectacular glacier hike, visiting black sand beach, stopping to see two of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, a visit and great photo opportunity of Eyjafjallajökull, one of the smaller ice caps in Iceland but more notably known as the home to Iceland’s most recent volcano eruption in 2010.

 

The Blue Lagoon - Iceland’s Most Iconic Attraction:

If you’re considering a trip to Iceland for the first time, then you have to visit The Blue Lagoon.  The first thing people think of when they think of Iceland is…The Blue Lagoon!  Okay, maybe some of you think of ice or cold weather but right after that, it’s The Blue Lagoon.  As I did with our other tours and activities, I booked our trip and tickets to visit The Blue Lagoon about 5 weeks prior to our trip.  I purchased tickets to visit The Blue Lagoon on a Saturday, our second to last day in Iceland, with the thought of “saving the best for last.” 

Our tickets for The Blue Lagoon were standard tickets which do not include towels or a bathrobe.  So, remember to either bring a towel with you in a backpack or you can pay to upgrade your standard ticket to a deluxe ticket at the check-in desk when you arrive ($14USD upgrade per ticket).

Upon our arrival on Saturday late morning arrival at approximately 11:30am, we walked up to the entrance of the main building and were greeted by a herd of people, at least 75-100 people in line waiting to simply check-in at the welcome desk.  I would compare it to a TSA airport line nightmare situation but instead of people knowing (for the most part) how a TSA security line works…this was a far more chaotic and unorganized process.  We tried to stay positive during the wait but this was hardly a “spa-tranquility” atmosphere as we waited our turn to enjoy Iceland’s “Fountain of Youth.”

After about 30 minutes, my wife and I made it through the line and completed the check-in process and agreed to meet up in 15 minutes on the other side of the locker rooms.  Thankfully this happened without any issue and we found each other pretty quickly upon exiting the main building near the entrance to the Blue Lagoon.  It is worth noting that our arrival experience overall was VERY overwhelming and quite stressful.  My wife and I both experienced the same volume of people in the locker rooms when we needed to change before going to the Blue Lagoon and it was truly over-crowded and I had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a locker to become available from a departing patron. 

But now that we met up with each other and found a place to hang our towel, we entered The Blue Lagoon and our stresses from earlier were definitely melted away.  The Blue Lagoon is truly a unique, one-of-a-kind experience and I felt this way despite the large number of people around us.  Everything from the silicon mud mask that you can apply to your face and body to the saunas, water features and of course the unique volcanic rock surrounding, make this a must-see attraction when visiting Iceland.

 

Overall Recommendation:  The Blue Lagoon is a must-see and I would highly recommend it.  Our arrival experience was definitely less than desirable and it felt like a complete tourist trap on the day we were there but I didn’t want to allow that to take away from its uniqueness and the positive aspects of our visit.  My biggest take-away and piece of advice for anyone visiting The Blue Lagoon… Visit The Blue Lagoon during the week (don’t visit on the weekend, if you can help it) and make sure to buy a ticket for early in the morning before the bigger crowd arrives.  If we had done that, I can promise you that I would still be ranting and raving to all of my friends about how amazing it was but the experience was diminished by the overwhelming number of tourists when we were there.

Hotel Review:  Hotel Borg in Reykjavik, Iceland

After enjoying our first 3 nights in Reykjavik at Radisson Blu 1919, we walk less than 2 blocks to our next hotel, Hotel Borg, for the remaining 2 nights of our stay in Iceland.  We walk over to Hotel Borg early Friday morning before our full-day tour begins with Super Jeep at 8:30am.

 

Before my trip to Iceland, I know that I wanted to stay at Radisson Blu 1919 and Hotel Borg because after thorough research coupled with client feedback, it was clear that both properties were the premier and most luxurious hotels in the city.  With that said, it was also quite obvious that Hotel Borg was the higher end hotel and right behind it was the Radisson Blue 1919.  Needless to say, Hotel Borg’s customer service and beautiful, newly renovated guest rooms and public spaces did not disappoint. 

 

From the moment we entered the hotel, there is an immediate luxurious feel to every aspect of the public spaces.  Hotel Borg was originally built in the 1920s and has a rich history in Reykjavik as an iconic hotel in the city.  However, the hotel’s rich history does not get in the way of it’s beautiful modern renovation which honors it’s history but brings the hotel into the 21st century with stunning décor, well-lit and contemporary designed lobby and restaurant, and guest rooms with all of the modern conveniences and amenities you come to expect from a 5-star luxury hotel.

 

We were checked into a beautiful, newly renovated guest room which was very well appointed with new furniture, a completely renovated bathroom with a walk-in shower, new hardwood floors and a large flat screen TV hanging on the wall above a reasonably sized desk.  The accommodations were smaller than the Radisson and a more typical size that you would come to expect from a European hotel.  Our guest room was approximately 325 square feet.

 

Hotel Borg completed a renovation in 2015 to all of their public spaces and to 50% of their guest rooms.  It’s important to remember this especially if you are traveling to Reykjavik in 2016 because they still have half of their guest rooms which have not been renovated yet and the rooms are very different (I was able to see both during my stay).

 

The biggest differentiators elevating Hotel Borg and separating it from competitor hotels in Reykjavik (i.e. Radisson Blu 1919) is their customer service, immaculate and newly renovated guest rooms and public spaces and their acclaimed restaurant.  The employees at the hotel, particularly the front desk / concierge staff were fantastic and always willing and able to assist us with questions, contacting our tour company to reconfirm pick-up times, providing restaurant recommendations and arranging transportation back to the airport for us.

 

Now the bad news...

 

I foreshadowed the bad news during my review of Radisson Blu 1919, so you may remember how much I appreciated the quiet and serene location and guest room?  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my accommodations at Hotel Borg.  Our guest room was located on the second floor looking into the interior square that the hotel shares with other buildings on the same block (bookstore, gift shop and restaurant/night club which are separate from the hotel). 

 

Although our room was very nice and well-appointed, the hardwood floors make it very easy to hear everything happening in the room above.  If someone drops something, you’ll hear it.  If they talk even a little louder than normal, you’ll hear them.  We also had a very “spirited” group of young professionals that could be heard very well from down the hall. 

 

We are not typically bothered by sounds from other guests or any sort of ambient noise so that is what struck me most.  However, that was not a big deal as it was primarily during the day and early evening.  The bigger problem occurred when we returned to our room and went to sleep but were woken up at midnight (and I’m a pretty heavy sleeper) by loud music from the restaurant/night club that is located on the same block (across the interior square).  We eventually fell back asleep 30 minutes later because we were too tired to let it keep us up but that was certainly the low moment of our stay.

 

 

Final Verdict:  Understanding the premise that I am quite forgiving of issues at a hotel that are outside of their control (in this case, ambient noise)… I still found my stay at Hotel Borg to be very pleasant.  The renovations set it apart and above the competition as the iconic, historical luxury hotel in Reykjavik.  Overall, I would give my stay a 7.5 out of 10.  Hotel Borg is more expensive than Radisson Blu 1919 and given the noise issues I experienced, I can’t give my stay higher than a 7.5.  Now…with that said, I would still recommend this property to clients ahead of Radisson Blu 1919 but only after I contact the hotel and they guarantee the room is located on a high floor and facing the front of the building, so you wouldn’t hear the noise from the night club.  If the hotel is unable to guarantee this request…then I would not be able to recommend it.

Hotel Review:  Radisson Blu 1919 in Reykjavik, Iceland

In mid-November, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Iceland for a 5 day getaway before the holidays.  During the planning process it was important for me to experience the two premier hotels in Reykjavik, Radisson Blu 1919 and Hotel Borg.

 

Upon landing at Reykjavik International Airport at 5:30am after a red-eye flight from Baltimore-Washington Airport, we took a taxi to our first hotel on the trip, Radisson Blu 1919.  As I’m sure most of us have experienced during previous trips, when you arrive at 5:30am and try to check into a hotel at 7:30am (8 hours before check-in time), there are certainly no guarantees that our room would be available and for us to check-in.

As the taxi pulls up to the hotel’s front entrance, our courtesy driver assists us with our luggage and through the front doors we walk as we approach the front desk.  The front desk clerk was gracious and very pleasant, welcoming us to the hotel and quickly proceeding with our check-in.  To our surprise and delight, he was able to accommodate us with a beautiful corner guest room that was available for check-in.  The beginning of our journey was off to a great start!

 

As you read this article, I must advise that you discard of any preconceived notions of Radisson Hotels that you’ve seen or stayed at in the U.S.  “Blu” is Radisson’s up-market, contemporary, and chic brand almost exclusively located in Europe.  Radisson Blu 1919 in Reykjavik proved to be much more than I expected especially when considering Radisson’s budget hotel reputation in North America. 

 

The property is well-appointed with a modern look and feel and the room that we stayed in was very spacious particularly for a European hotel.  Our room was approximately 500 square feet with views overlooking the Reykjavik Harbor and beautiful snow-capped mountains in the distance.  The property is situated in the heart of downtown Reykjavik.  An ideal location for walking and exploring the city, plenty of great restaurants and only a 3 minute walk to the main shopping district.  If you are traveling to Reykjavik, you need to stay in this area to truly get a feel for the town!

 

 

Final Verdict:  During our 5 night trip, we stayed 3 nights at Radisson Blu 1919.  I would categorize the hotel as a low 4-star property with a modern design, spacious rooms, friendly staff, and in a great location of the city.  The rooms are not going to “Wow” you but they are very large and have all of the essentials including a large soaking tub in the bathroom which does come in handy after walking around the city in 20 degree weather all day.  After our trip, I also came to appreciate the quietness of the hotel.  There was no ambient noise (i.e. night club or bar across the street, street noise, or guests in other rooms).  This is something I expect and take for granted when staying at a hotel but in my review of the next hotel I stayed at in Reykjavik (spoiler alert), I look back with great fondness of Radisson Blu 1919 and would absolutely recommend it.   I give the property a score of 8 out of 10.

Thank You & Happy Holidays from The Travel Maestro!

The holiday season is a special time of year.  It is the time of year to give thanks and, when possible, give to those less-fortunate.  At The Travel Maestro, we are very appreciative of your support because you helped us make the holidays special for many families in our local community.

 You trusted us to Orchestrate Your Travel Dreams and make them a reality!

It is because of your support that we are pleased to inform you that we were able to purchase and donate more than 75 toys to our partners at Toys for Tots.  These gifts were given out in our local community to families that were unable to provide gifts for their children this holiday season.

Without your support this year, it would truly have not been possible for us to donate this many gifts to families in our local community.  We wish you and your family all the best this holiday season and we look forward to working with you on all of your travel arrangements in 2016!

 
Best Wishes,

Patrick Millard
President & Founder
The Travel Maestro, LLC

5 Myths About Using A Travel Agent

Courtesy of Brownell Travel
Courtesy of Brownell Travel

Many people predicted that travel agents would go extinct with the rise of the Internet. Online booking engines allowed people cut out the “middle man” and secure their own flights and hotel rooms. Travel agents who simply made bookings without insider knowledge became an endangered species. But the Internet came with a dark side. Information overload, misleading photos, fabricated reviews, and shady businesses turned travelers back to the people who know the industry best: the Travel Advisor. As the travel agent faded out, a new generation of experts emerged from the rubble as the Travel Advisors people know and trust with their travels today.

Though the industry has shifted, there are still preconceived notions about travel agents. We debunk 5 myths about using a travel agent—ahem, Travel Advisor—below.

1. You can find it cheaper online.

There was a time where you might have been able to find it cheaper online, but if it seemed too good to be true, it’s because it was. Advisor Deborah Barth warns that some flash-sale sights that have rock-bottom prices come at a cost. “The rooms are typically ones that are only used for connecting rooms, if say a family was staying there. The parents would have the oceanfront suite with sweeping views, and the connecting room for the kids overlooks another building, parking lot, etc. Not a type of room the hotel typically sells on its own, and definitely not what you want for your vacation.”

Even if the rate is cheaper up front, the end cost is less. A Travel Advisor can secure upgrades, complimentary breakfast, a spa or food & beverage credit, early check-in and late check-out free WiFi, and more—an added value that can be worth hundreds of dollars. And a Brownell Travel Advisor has access to preferred partner benefits (like Ritz-Carlton STARS, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Mandarin Oriental Fan Club and more!) as well as Virtuoso amenities—something that makes even a weekend stay worth calling your Advisor!

2. The fees outweigh the benefits.

If you are using a true luxury Travel Advisor, the fee is nominal in the scheme of things. Your Advisor spends hours researching and finding the destination and property that fits your unique needs, and then uses their network and consortia affiliations to get you the best value and experience.

In addition to the personalized service, you’ll also have your Advisor as an advocate throughout your trip. Flight cancelled? Your Advisor will re-book you before you could speak to an actual human on the phone. Luggage lost? You can enjoy your private tour while your Advisor tracks it down and has it delivered to your hotel. You’ll be able to enjoy your vacation to the fullest knowing your Advisor is only a phone call or email away (and you won’t end up like this traveler).

3. I can do the same thing on my own.

Sure, you call a hotel or credit card call center on your own and book a room. Will you get the added benefits and amenities (see #1)? No. Will the general manager know you’re coming and make sure everything is in tip-top shape for you? No. And keep in mind, clients of Advisors in preferred partner programs are at the top of the list for upgrades and won’t face a walk situation if the hotel is overbooked.

If you’re headed out of the country or planning a longer, more complicated trip and want to research it yourself, get ready for an onslaught of information. When you google “villa in Italy”, there are over 170 MILLION results—you’ll need to take a few days off simply to sift through the results! Your Travel Advisor can edit the world for you. You’ll get a narrowed down list of villas that have been vetted (because we all know a nice photo does not translate to reality) and have the amenities that match your needs.

4. The agent just wants to book me at the hotel or on the cruise with the highest commission.

A true Travel Advisor with a passion for creating an exceptional travel experience is not focused on the commission but rather on the client. The relationship between the Advisor and the client is of utmost importance. If you call a hotel or cruise line, the person on the other end won’t tell you that another vendor is truly a better fit for you. And the person at an American Express call center won’t know that the property is undergoing a renovation, so your ocean front view will be blocked by a crane. Your Advisor will guide you through finding what is best for you, regardless of the commission.

At Brownell, our Advisors go through a Discover More process with clients to understand their unique needs and wants, and then they create a personalized itinerary that includes hotels, tours, etc custom to the client.

5. All travel agents are the same.

Some people still have the image of travel agents of the past in their mind—the ones who booked your flight and made a hotel reservation before the Internet made them irrelevant.

Today, the travel agent has turned into the Travel Advisor: someone who can offer first-hand knowledge and unmatched expertise to create a custom trip for each client. Just like a doctor specializes in a certain field, Travel Advisors become experts in certain destinations, regions or types of travel. Some can plan an extensive journey through Africa with their eyes closed, others can get access to the very best vineyards closed to the public in France, and others know the resorts that are best for a multi-generational family trip to the Caribbean. The key is to find an Advisor that specializes in the type of trip you desire.

Travel can be a truly life changing experience, and you don’t want to waste your discretionary spending and valuable time on a “deal”. Contact a Brownell Travel Advisor to start planning a bespoke, personalized travel experience.

Still not sure? Check out these 50 reasons to use a Travel Advisor.

Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination - India!


Today's unique travel destination is India!  Of course India is home to the Taj Mahal but it is only one of the many attractions and experiences in India.  Chand Baori and Chittorgarh Fort are two of our favorites!  If you have a unique travel destination you would like us to feature or a picture you would like to share, please send us an email, write a comment on our Travel Blog or post it to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thetravelmaestro.  #TravelWithTheMaestro.

 

Patrick Millard

President & Founder

The Travel Maestro, LLC

Patrick.Millard@TheTravelMaestro.com

Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination - China!

Today's unique travel destination is China!  Everyone knows about The Great Wall but China has so much more to offer.  There are many incredible sights that many people are not aware of including Leshan, Zhangjiajie, Stone Forest and Danxia!.  If you have a unique travel destination you would like us to feature or a picture you would like to share, please send us an email, write a comment on our Travel Blog or post it to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thetravelmaestro.

 

Patrick Millard

President & Founder

The Travel Maestro, LLC

Patrick.Millard@TheTravelMaestro.com

Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination - Norway!

Today's unique travel destination is Norway!  Spectacular scenery coupled with a unique history of Germanic Tribes and Vikings make for an unforgettable experience!  Whether you visit Oslo, Trolltunga, Preikestolen or Trollstigen, there are many incredible areas to explore in Norway.  If you have a unique travel destination you would like us to feature or a picture you would like to share, please send us an email, write a comment on our Travel Blog or post it to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thetravelmaestro.

 

Patrick Millard

President & Founder

The Travel Maestro, LLC

Patrick.Millard@TheTravelMaestro.com

Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination - New Zealand!

This week's unique travel destination is...New Zealand!  With so many activities to choose, here are a couple of our favorites: Hot Air Balloon ride over the Countryside, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, and Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Lake, aka the "Champagne Pool."  If you have a unique travel destination you would like us to feature or a picture you would like to share, please send us an email, write a comment on our Travel Blog or post it to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thetravelmaestro.

 

Patrick Millard

President & Founder

The Travel Maestro, LLC

Patrick.Millard@TheTravelMaestro.com

Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination - Argentina!

This week, our Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination is...Argentina!  Argentina is highlighted by Iguazu Falls, breathtaking glaciers and a vibrant culture that created the popular dance, Tango in the early 1900's!  What's there not to love about Argentina?  If you have a unique travel destination you would like us to feature or a picture you would like to share, please send us an email, write a comment on our Travel Blog or post it to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thetravelmaestro.


Patrick Millard

President & Founder

The Travel Maestro, LLC

Patrick.Millard@TheTravelMaestro.com

Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination - Iceland!

Today, we feature beautiful images from one of the great unique travel destinations, Iceland.  Whether you visit Blue Lagoon, Strokkur Geyser or catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, Iceland has amazing sites for all travelers!  If you have a unique travel destination you would like us to feature or a picture you would like to share, please send us an email, write a comment on our Travel Blog or post it to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thetravelmaestro.

 

Patrick Millard

President & Founder

The Travel Maestro, LLC

Patrick.Millard@TheTravelMaestro.com

Friday Feature: Unique Travel Destination - Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia!

Every Friday, we will feature picturesque places from around the world.  Today, we highlight Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flats in Bolivia. When it rains, the water makes it look like a giant mirror.  If you have a unique travel destination you would like us to feature or a picture you would like to share, please send us an email, write a comment on our Travel Blog or post it to our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thetravelmaestro.

 

Patrick Millard

President & Founder

The Travel Maestro, LLC

Patrick.Millard@TheTravelMaestro.com

Property Reviews: Miami's South Beach & Bal Harbour

W South Beach

Complimentary Amenities and Benefits Include:

  • Upgrade on Arrival, Subject to Availability
  • Breakfast for Two at the Dutch, Daily
  • $100 Resort Credit, Once During Stay
  • Early Check-In and Late Check-Out, Subject to Availability

Highlights: The W South Beach is the flagship resort of Starwood's contemporary and hip brand, W Hotels.  If you are familiar with W Hotels, you may need to check any preconceived notions with the valet attendant before checking into the W South Beach.  The W South Beach is more luxurious, more artistic, more thoughtfully designed and arguably as a far greater following than any other W Hotel in the world.  It is truly a who's who's crowd that stays at their resort from musicians, actors, entertainers and athletes, it also has a refined contemporary following among the Fine Art community as well because there is more than $100 million of artwork around the resort (the owner is a big collector of fine art and most of the pieces are from his personal collection).  From Andy Warhol paintings in the lobby to skinny bikinis and European fashion trends at the pool deck, the W South Beach almost feels like a luxury resort set along the Mediterranean Sea in the South of France.  During the summer months, it definitely draws a number of European travelers looking for a hip and fun resort in the heart of South Beach.  A fun fact about The W South Beach, they are the newest built hotel in South Beach (completely new construction from the ground up) and all of their rooms and suites have an ocean view.  How many hotels in South Beach can say that?  They're one of the few!!  The guest rooms and also bigger than almost any other property on South Beach.  My guest room had a private balcony, an separate sitting area with an additional TV, work station and L-shaped sofa.  This a huge plus especially for families traveling with a child.  During my stay at The W South Beach, I also had an opportunity to join a 75-minute Muscle Melt Massage at Bliss Spa.  Bliss South Beach is the spa for the resort and although it's a boutique spa, it features a number of treatment rooms, with separate ladies and gentlemen locker rooms and a nice outdoor terrace for relaxing after your massage.  My treatment was first-class and Gaby, my therapist attended to every ache and sore muscle that needed attention.  They also have a nail studio if you need to get a manicure and pedicure during your stay.  Thank you to everyone for taking great care of me during our stay at The W South Beach!

The Setai, Miami Beach

Complimentary Amenities and Benefits Include:

  • Upgrade on Arrival, Subject to Availability
  • Daily Buffet Breakfast for Two
  • $100 Spa Services Credit, Once During Stay
  • Priority Early Check-In & Late Check-Out, Subject to Availability

Highlights:  The Setai was built in 2005 and just recently celebrated it's 10 year anniversary.  Since they opened their doors, The Setai has been consistently recognized as one of the hotel industry's true gems in Miami.  After my visit to the property on July 14th, 2015, I can definitely understand why.  The resort was built using the most luxurious furnishings and design elements during the initial construction process.  The asian influence and zen-like feel throughout the hotel lobby, guest rooms and suites would make anyone feel relaxed, welcomed and create a true sense of well-being.  The resort is not "in your face" luxury with the typical pretentious nature that South Beach tends to influence on other hotels, rather it is more understated but guests will feel a deep appreciation for the thoughtfulness and versatility of the public spaces, pool deck, restaurants and most important the functionality of the guest rooms and residential suites.  Interesting fact about The Setai, they are the only property in South Beach that features one, two, three and four bedroom residential suites.  Their residential units feature spacious kitchenettes, washer and dryers, walk-in closets and ample space for those traveling with children.  The Setai is also one of only 115 properties in the world to be the recipient of the coveted, Forbes Five-Star Rating.  I can say that even during my short time at the resort, their world-class service was impossible to ignore.  Everyone was engaging, making eye-contact, welcoming me to the property, asking if they may be of assistance which is very unusual for resorts in Miami (I'm sorry but world-class customer service is not exactly plentiful in Miami and South Florida).  Thank you to everyone at The Setai for an enjoyable but brief visit this week especially Yasmeen Sarwar for taking time out of her day to provide me with a great detailed tour of their beautiful resort.