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To all our loyal members, we drink a toast to you!
We are so fortunate to work with all of you and be a part of making your travel dreams happen. What a privilege to be trusted and allowed into your lives to help make memories for you and your loved ones. We do not take this lightly and we are so very thankful that you have signed up as ActiveTravels members. This month we are so excited as our valued clients travel to all these diverse locales: South Africa, Hawaii, Dominican Republic, Italy, Florida, California, Switzerland, Belize and France. More clients' travels for the coming year include Cuba, Iceland, Peru, Costa Rica, Spain and much, much more.
Sadly, a very special member of ActiveTravels passed away this week. She had been living with cancer for years before we were introduced to her by another member. For the past two years, we have planned many trips for her and her wonderful family. She had a true passion for authentic travel and was delighted when her husband and kids were as happy as she was exploring nature, walking a beautiful beach and enjoying family time.
Our December newsletter awaits. We are reporting this month about the beauty and ease of sailing vacations, locales to witness the Northern Lights, and where to go if you need to recharge your body and mind during the coming year.
Don't forget that if you buy a gift membership to ActiveTravels for yourself or someone else this month, we will donate half of the proceeds to
Ryan's Well Foundation
. This charity brings clean water and supports sustainable water and sanitation projects to 16 countries around the globe. It was started by a first grader in 1997, named Ryan, who learned that people across the globe were getting sick or dying because they didn't have access to clean water. He and his parents decided to change that as best they could.
As an added gift to the buyer of the membership, we will be sending a children's book called The Water Princess written by Susan Verde and illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Dedham's own Peter Reynolds, that tells the real-life story of an African girl's quest for clean drinking water.
Happy holidays and, as always,
Lisa & Steve
News from the Road:
"Towards you, towards you, pull it towards you," my father yells to my mom, referring to the tiller that sits on her lap. We're aboard my dad's 22-foot Catalina, sailing at a good clip across the dark blue waters of Lake George on our way back to his dock. Mom's steering, dad's barking orders, and I'm on the bow of the boat, ready to jump onto terra firma, but first I have to listen to my parent's banter, a routine I've witnessed far too many times.
"What the hell are you doin'? Aim for the house," my dad yells, pointing to the small white house that stands on the hillside above our dock. My father's voice always seems to rise a notch or two in volume every time he steps foot onto his sailboat. That's usually what happens to former Lieutenants in the Navy. They resign their commission in the military, buy a small boat of their own, and quickly ascend to the rank of Admiral. Nevertheless, my mom always remains as cool as the water in this lake, easily gliding the boat into the dock without a scratch. Once the lines are tied, she stands up, and ends with the tag line, "not bad for a Bronx girl." "Yeah, not bad," my father mutters back, forgetting that Mom also taught him how to drive.
I've been sailing the waters of Lake George before I learned to walk, or so I'm told. So it's not surprising that being on a boat is still one of the sheer joys in my life, long after my parent's last sail. No other sport gives you the freedom to anchor in a pristine cove, hike on an untrammeled island, and sleep with a lighthouse beacon as your nightlight. It's one of the reasons why we continue to promote sailing trips as the ideal vacation getaway, especially come winter. Whether you choose to hire a crew or go bareboat, it's the perfect way to see the Caribbean of yore.
Sailors know the British Virgin Islands as legendary cruising grounds. In places like Virgin Gorda, Peter's Island, and Tortola, you'll find sheltered marinas where you can dock or throw down your anchor, and hit the local shops and restaurants. Even better, you can sail to these various islands without going outside the reefs and into the open ocean.
You won't have to worry about navigational charts on
Festiva Sailing Vacations
7-night night cruise around the BVIs, because a skipper comes with you. Their 45-foot Lagoon 450 catamarans, which sleep 8 passengers in 4 guest cabins with private bathrooms, also comes with a Chef and liquor to make this the ideal all-inclusive package. The weeklong jaunt starts in Tortola and includes snorkeling with sting rays in The Baths of Virgin Gorda, a stop at Cane Garden to listen to the steel band play at Stanley's, and a night anchored off Norman Island, the treasure island author Robert Louis Stevenson made famous in his book.
Sail across the Northwest Passage to the Abacos and you'll realize why Bahamas cruising is renowned. At towns like Hope Town, Green Turtle Cay and Marsh Harbour, you'll find eighteenth-century villages, superb sailing, and restaurants and pubs popular with cruisers. Even better, you can sail to these various towns and anchorages without going outside the reefs into the ocean.
rents all types of craft, from monohulls to state-of the-art 45-foot catamarans. And don't worry if you don't have the ability to bareboat charter. A captain and cook are available options. You could be sailing the Abacos on a week charter with crew, cheaper than it would cost a family of four to go to an all-inclusive resort.
French Polynesia's Society Islands also remain a popular getaway for charters. One glance at Bora Bora and you'll probably agree with writer James Michener, who proclaimed it the world's most beautiful island. A turquoise-blue lagoon and numerous motus (outer islands) circle this small mountainous island. The thin slab of rock known as Mount Otemanu towers over the shoreline, dramatically rising to 2,300 feet. Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Maupiti are the remaining Society Islands. Huahine is known for its jungle-like interior, which houses a wealth of archaeological sites including the oldest known settlement in the Society Islands, dating from 650 to 800 A.D. Raiatea is the headquarters for the Moorings and ATM Yachts. Rent a boat, with or without crew, and sail to the neighboring island of Tahaa. Maupiti is the most remote Society Island, an unexplored gem well worth a visit if you value your privacy.
We've also booked sailing charters to Greece, Turkey, and Croatia in summer. Lastly, consider a memorable sail aboard a Maine Windjammer, which I just did this past summer with our daughter, Melanie. Maine's 2500-mile stretch of jagged coastline, where long inlets form sheltered bays, is tailor-made for sailing. The 9 tall ships in the Maine Windjammer Association start plying the waters of the Maine coast in late May. Writing about Maine this past quarter-century, the opportunity to hop on one of these historic vessels, smell the salty air, eat lobster to my stomach's content, and spend precious time with loved ones is an unparalleled joy. One image in particular, my father taking the wheel of the Grace Bailey and sailing for at least an hour, is forever etched in my memory.
Hotels We Love!
As our lives get more and more chaotic thanks to modern-day politics, technology, the 24/7 news cycle, not to mention non-stop demands at work and at home, it is absolutely necessary to take a break. These factors affect everyone and binge-watching that latest Netflix series may be a bandage for the moment but it will only partially cure the deeper woes. We all need to reset, recharge and re-energize our bodies and our closest relationships during the year for our well-being and sanity.
This is why wellness travel is becoming so popular. Hotels are adding wellness programs and elaborate spas. Personal trainers, from Olympic athletes to local fitness experts at your gym, are hosting boot camp getaways. The best development in my opinion is that all-inclusive spa hotels are adding daily massage treatments to their offerings. You've got to love that!
Here are some of our favorites. Give
a call to get rates and availability.
This all-inclusive resort located on a splendid beach surrounded by green steep mountains features a glorious spa resembling an Indian palace complete with Ayurvedic treatment rooms, water features and a stunning view of the Caribbean Sea. It's here that all guests are welcome to schedule a treatment per day from offerings like a Coconut Spice Massage, Lime and Ginger Scrub, a Saint Lucian Sizzler full body massage, or seawater hydrotherapy, all included in the overall price.
Add in fun beach fitness classes, hiking and biking trips in the nearby area, and yoga, pilates, water aerobics and tai chi on the premises. The food is good, some healthy and some not so healthy and alcohol is also on the menu and included in the rates.
Located just two hours from Mexico City, this all-inclusive and affordable spa offers two daily treatments plus healthy meals. No alcohol here. Rejuvenation comes in the form of their onsite zen garden, meditation center, mineral baths and yoga, aqua zumba and morning walks and stretching. They offer 4 & 7 night programs. If you're really ambitious, you can sign up for their 10 & 14 night program. We'd suggest you add on time in Mexico City and take their transfer direct to the spa afterward to refresh.
Tucked away along the banks of Lake Austin 20 miles west of the city is this 40 room/suite gem of an all-inclusive spa resort for adults. More affordable than Canyon Ranch and Miraval, you don't have to lay out a sizable sum to enjoy an amazingly restful and healthful getaway. The rates here include food, mostly organic and healthy, and lodging. You are not paying for all-inclusive alcohol, keeping the rates down, though they do sell alcohol for an extra charge. Daily classes in health, yoga, fitness and cooking are offered as is swimming in their two pools and watersports from kayaking to hydro biking and many hiking trails.
Only open from May 11-October 2 in 2017
This destination spa and wellness retreat only hosts 40 guests at a time keeping the retreat as unhurried and relaxed as possible. With offerings from eleven night weight loss retreats to 2 to 4 night mini-wellness vacations, New Life can accommodate people with all kinds of fitness and wellness goals. The emphasis is on hiking from beginner trails along picturesque country routes to intermediate trails on the diverse terrain of the Appalachian and Long Trails. Advanced hikers can challenge themselves with some of Vermont's highest peaks. With very affordable rates, this all-inclusive adult camp is a great place to unwind as a solo traveler, with your honey, parent/child or friends' group getaways. Nightly rates include lodging, three meals per day, guided hiking program, fitness classes and one massage for each three night stay.
The mission of The Ranch is to improve the quality of your life by improving your health. Their programs are immersive weeklong and results-oriented. Each day consists of a strict, "no options" philosophy where 8 hours of low-impact activity (4 hour hike each morning, nap time, afternoon fitness classes and daily massage) and organic, plant-based meals. Thirty days prior to your arrival, they'll help you with a suggested array of exercises, diet and healthy living assignments to get you prepared for your stay. Stays can be 4 days, 7 days or 10 days. Don't miss their Bod Pod machine that tests your body fat.
Who can argue with a place that claims "Nature is the world's most spectacular gym?" The aims of this all-inclusive luxury retreat and spa is to make sure that you relax fully, reduce stress, reset your metabolism and overcome a weight loss plateau. All this is offered amidst the glorious mountains of British Columbia in Canada or near the ocean in Baja California. Their programs are Saturday to Saturday and host only up to 16 guests. Be prepared for some sacrifice however: no caffeine allowed, no WiFi between 10pm and 6am, 3-4 hours daily trekking and no sugar, alcohol, starch or processed food allowed. And, if this doesn't scare you off, "gentle" wake up is scheduled for 6am!
Here's the Deal:
The Royal Portfolio Package
A highlight of our recent trip to South Africa was the night we spent at La Residence, located in the hillside outside of the charming town of Franschhoek. The spacious rooms in this bucolic paradise overlook a pond where a black swan and peacocks roam. La Residence is part of The Royal Portfolio collection, a group of 5 upscale properties run by the Biden Family.
This includes Royal Malewane, an exclusive luxury safari lodge in Greater Kruger National Park, and the soon-to-debut Silo Hotel, which sits atop the future site of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) on Cape Town's waterfront.
With the opening of Silo in the summer of 2017, The Roya
l Portfolio is in a great position to offers guests a package tour of South Africa that includes stops on safari, wine country, and Cape Town. Their 9-night
South African Odyssey
includes four nights at the Royal Malewane, three nights at The Silo, and two nights at La Residence, transfers between The Silo, La Residence and Cape Town International Airport, and a complimentary night at La Residence.
Or opt for their Classic Explorer package with four nights at The Silo and four nights at Royal Malewane. This includes a free night at The Silo hotel and a tour of the wine country with lunch at La Residence.
How do I grab this deal?
Tried & True Travel Tips:
Travel Smart-What to do before you leave
Here are ten expert tips from Virtuoso travel advisors on what to do before you depart for that holiday trip:
- Contact your physician - or better yet, a travel medicine specialist - as soon as you confirm your trip.
- Make sure that all travelers' passports are valid for at least six months after your return date. Expediting services can provide rush (and hassle-free) renewals.
- Set travel alerts for credit and debit cards at least three days in advance of departure, and research which have the lowest international transaction fees.
- Double-check that you have all flight, hotel, and tour confirmation numbers.
- Be aware of luggage restrictions - international airline allowances vary, and some trips, such as safaris, have strict weight limits.
- Pack electrical adapters and know your electronics' voltage requirements.
- Scan or make copies of passports, and leave one with your travel advisor.
- Remove photos from your phone and digital cameras to free up memory space.
- Save contact info for your travel advisor, travel insurance provider, and tour companies in your phone.
- Secure your home: Put lights on timers, stop mail and newspaper deliveries, and ask a neighbor to check on it while you're gone.
The above article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Virtuoso Life.
Iceland has become increasingly popular in winter as more and more travelers try to check the Northern Lights off their wish list. While it's certainly not a guarantee, you have a good bet to see the Aurora Borealis in the clear Iceland night sky. With two airlines now offering a 5-hour direct flight from the East Coast, it's never been easier to get to Reykjavik. Lisa just met a ground operator who specializes in Northern Lights Packages to Iceland. If you're interested, let us know.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
lies 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. After an 80-minute flight from Helsinki, you're picked up by snow shuttle or snowmobile and escorted to the resort. Simply lie down, preferably with a glass of chilled Finnish vodka, and wait for the kaleidoscopic light show to happen. Daytime activities are just as enticing. Choose from a wide variety of winter offerings, from cross-country skiing on 150 miles of groomed trails, dogsledding, snowmobiling, horseback riding, ice fishing Sami-style, or taking a reindeer-led snow ride. Snowmobilers and dogsledders also have the opportunity to spend an overnight at a wilderness hut deep in the forest. A typical stay is 3 nights, with many clientele spending a night or two in Helsinki and then taking a 3-hour train to St. Petersburg to see the Hermitage without the summer cruise crowds.
If you like your Northern Lights with polar bears, consider a trip to Churchill, Manitoba. Since 1989,
Natural Habitat Adventures
has been offering guests the unique opportunity to visit polar bears in, well, their natural habitat. Inside a warm and spacious "tundra vehicle" that crosses the icy plains, you'll view mothers with their cubs as well as young adult males play-fighting. At night, there's a good chance you'll spot the Northern Lights.