January 26, 2010

A Crystal Clear Luxury Cruise Deal

I couldn't believe my eyes when I made a cruise reservation for a client this week. Not only were they getting a great price on a luxury cruise, but they were going to receive over $2000 per person in shipboard credits, plus many other perks. I double-checked the price against other mid-market cruises I had booked recently for clients, and sure enough, they were getting the same or better price!

If you have wanted to try a luxury cruise, but thought you couldn't afford it, 2010 may be the year you have been waiting for. Crystal Cruises, repeatedly voted the best large ship cruise line by Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler, is offering their best promotion ever on all 2010 sailings. Guests receive:
- 2 for 1 cruise fares on ALL sailings
- Free air (or an air credit) on MOST sailings
- A $1000 or $2000 per stateroom onboard credit on ALL sailings

Because Brownell Travel is a Virtuoso agency, my clients also receive Voyager Club amenities with Crystal. Specific amenities vary by sailing, but always include at least a private cocktail reception and a complimentary shore excursion. In my client's case, their sailing also includes pre-paid gratuities.

My clients will also be paying with a World Elite MasterCard, which provides them with additional benefits on luxury travel arrangements. For a Crystal Cruise, cardholders receive a $125 per person shipboard credit and prepaid gratuities, plus an additional $1025 per person credit as part of a special promotion! And unlike AMEX Platinum, the World Elite MasterCard benefits are combinable with Voyager Club amenities.

Crystal has also announced that kids sail free on two 7 day Baltic cruises this year:

* June 14 – “Ballads of Britain” cruise sailing roundtrip out of London
* August 7 – “Russian Inspiration” voyage from Copenhagen to Stockholm

So what's the bottom line? After applying the free air and 2 for 1 credit, my client's cruise fare is $5680 per person including port charges and fees, plus they are receiving $2150 per person total in onboard credits. That comes to a net price of $3530 per person for a 12 day luxury Europe cruise! Also, they'll receive prepaid gratuities, an exclusive complimentary shore excursion, and be invited to a private cocktail party by a Virtuoso representative who will be their personal host throughout the cruise.

Now that's a deal!

For more information on these and other luxury travel promotions, contact Suzette Mack at suzette@family-treks.com.

January 12, 2010

Big Fun in the Big Apple

One of my favorite movies of all time is “Big” starring Tom Hanks, about a boy who wishes to be grown-up, and then has that wish granted by a mysterious carnival game. Everyone remembers the scene where he dances with his boss on the big piano in the toy store.

So I got a kick out of a new program recently introduced by Kitt Garrett: a private dance lesson on the big piano at FAO Schwarz - before the store opens to the public!

Kitt is a New York City insider who knows just about everyone and everything in the Big Apple. She is my best resource for clients who want exclusive experiences, from a guided walk with a professor of art or architecture, to a shopping tour in the Garment District, to private cooking or dance classes.

"Dance on the Big Piano" is a part of a custom New York City vacation package which can include the following options:

- Roundtrip Airport Transportation
- Hotel Accommodations
- Broadway Theater Tickets and Backstage Access with a Cast Member
- Private Tour at the American Museum of Natural History with Preferred Space Show Seating

- Private Scavenger Hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Lunch at the River Café with Private Guided Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
- One Hour Harbor Tour
- Two Hour Private Bike or Pedi-Cab Tour of Central Park
- Visit to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with a Private Guide

I don't have a price as the program is completely customized, depending on the client's interest and budget. It’s safe to say it’s not the cheapest way to visit NYC. As we found on our trip this past summer, many of the tourist attractions are easy to see on your own (though advance planning is recommended to avoid long lines during peak times).

But Kitt's programs are perfect if looking for something "over the top" to celebrate a special occasion, or as a special reward for a corporate incentive trip. And working with Kitt ensures clients a seamless, hassle-free experience with full VIP treatment.

For more information about planning a memorable trip to New York City, contact Suzette Mack at suzette@family-treks.com.

January 5, 2010

The Best Family Adventures in the UK

I asked Jonathan Epstein of Celebrated Experiences about his favorite hotels for families in the UK, outside of London (which has so many family-friendly hotels it was worth its own blog post.) Here is his top list:

Sheen Falls Lodge (Ireland): Kids can not only learn how to fish, but also how to smoke them. Nearby is Lorge Chocolate which offers classes for all ages on preparing and handling chocolate confections. There is a great swimming pool on the property, which offers a variety of rooms, suites and villas at guaranteed USD rates.

Ashford Castle (Ireland): Regarded as one of the world‘s finest castle hotels, it is full of history and dates back to 1228. Perfect for families, there is a myriad of things to do from falconry and horseback riding to fishing and boating. Rooms and suites are uniquely decorated, but offer modern amenities.

The Torridon (Scotland): This is the most authentic Highlands destination, a 58 acre estate nestled between mountains and a loch. Families will find outdoor activities ranging from kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking to fishing and archery. It even won the prestigious award "Scottish Activity Hotel of the Year." This is Jonathan’s favorite family destination in Scotland.
Mount Juliet (Ireland): Kids can have the best equestrian experience here, not only riding and jumping, but even taking an exclusive tour of the Ballylinch Stud Farm to see the fowls. Nearby, families can also visit many local craftmakers who specialize in silver, glass, crystal, and leather. There is also a Jack Nicklaus designed Championship Golf Course, spa, and indoor pool.
Bovey Castle (England): Located in Dartmoor National Park, a 2 hr train ride west of London, Jonathan says this is the best hotel in the UK for families. In addition to activities such as falconry, tennis, and cycling, kids can collect eggs in the morning, make apple cider, or participate in dozens of activities in the Bovey Rangers program.

I work closely with Jonathan and his staff to create a memorable and fun trips for all ages, whether it’s a short weekend getaway to a themed Harry Potter tour to a custom journey exploring your family history. For more information about planning your next family vacation, contact Suzette Mack at