Turkey’s Tourism Comeback

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Despite the U.S. State Department’s current Level 3 (“reconsider travel�) advisory for Turkey, which stemmed from events including a terrorist attack in 2015 and a failed government coup the year after, foreign visits to the country increased by 23 percent in 2017. Royal Caribbean International, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and other lines recently announced they’re returning to Turkey in 2019, with port calls scheduled in Kusadasi and Istanbul. “I had an amazing experience on a recent trip to Istanbul,� says Enrique R. Felgueres Jr., a Virtuoso agency executive from Coral Gables, Florida. “The city is clean, safe, and full of energy, with great service at hotels and restaurants. I would strongly recommend Turkey to travelers.�

Felgueres, Jr. and other Virtuoso travel advisors traveled on a custom-planned itinerary by Heritage Tours to Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Bodrum. Below are some of the advisors’ thoughts on why now is a great time to travel to Istanbul and Turkey, and why they loved the country.

A feast for the senses.

“Istanbul is a vision for the eyes, surrounded on all sides by water, with inspiring minarets piercing the skyline. It’s also a feast for the senses of smell and taste, whether it’s walking through a bazaar, enjoying a rooftop cocktail, or fine dining in a historic palace. But what attracted me most was the city’s soul and history. From the Silk Road to Byzantium to Constantinople to today, Istanbul has been ‘the place to be’ for centuries. You can feel and see this history, all while in a chic urban destination.�
– Virginia-based advisor Beth Jenkins

Exploring rooftop views in Istanbul.

A must-go.

“It’s vitally important to emphasize the positive in Turkey – the warmth of the people, quality of the hotels, and excellent cuisine. The exotic nature of the country combines two great continents, Asia and Europe. There’s wonderful sightseeing in Istanbul, Bodrum, and Cappadocia. Add an excellent airline, Turkish Airlines, that makes international connections easy, and it’s a must-go.�
-New York-based advisor Bob Watson

It’s now simple for Americans to visit.

“We have loved Turkey since our first visit many years ago. In the last two years, there has been so much in the news with politics creating a difficult environment for Americans to visit Turkey. Thankfully, as of several months ago, that has changed and it’s now simple for Americans to visit. Istanbul is bustling, and we had an amazing tour with Heritage Tours of ‘Hidden Istanbul.’ We visited three fantastic hotels – Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus, and Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet– that were full with people hosting special events and weddings. It felt as safe as visiting London or New York.”
– Atlanta-based advisor Peter Lloyd

A view over the Bosphorus at Ciragan Palace Kempinski.

A place filled with the familiar.

“Travelers may think of Turkey as this exotic, foreign land. And while it does live up to this reputation, you may also be surprised to discover that it’s a place filled with the familiar. Did you know tulips originated in Turkey and were a gift offered to Holland in the 1500s? Or that the Sultan had a favorite dessert called sherbet – a blended mixture of snow carried down from the mountains in goat skins and mixed with fruit?

Unfortunately, when you mention Istanbul, some travelers still have images of the protests from two years ago. I experienced something quite different. Locals were very welcoming and attractions were filled with tourists.�
– Minnesota-based advisor Jim Bendt

It beguiles you every morning.

“Istanbul remains one of the most evocative and enigmatic cites in the world. It beguiles you every morning with the distant call to prayer and sparkling sunlight on the Bosporus. Some of my favorite memories: seeing the wonders of Topkapi Palace; exploring the Grand Bazaar’s 4,000 shops selling gold, leather, silver, carpets, and more; and enjoying freshly caught seafood with mezze and delicious lamb dishes.

Outside of Istanbul, don’t miss Ephesus with its unrivaled Greco-Roman architecture, enchanting Bodrum on the sea, and the treasures of Cappadocia.�
– Michigan-based advisor Phoebe Weinberg

Children play outside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Top photo: Sunrise balloon ride over Cappadocia. All photos by Annie Fitzsimmons.

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Summer in the Mountains

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Warm weather months offer fresh ways to explore your favorite mountain towns.

We love mountain towns in the winter for snow sports, fireside drinks, and a chance to break out our coziest clothes, but consider a summer visit to famous ski towns like Vail for great hiking, adventure, and the ultimate fresh air. You’ll probably get a better deal, too – five-star hotels, for example, offer less expensive rates compared to sold-out ski weekends.

“Many of my clients head to the mountains for their outdoor summertime fix,� says Lori Stone, a New York City-based Virtuoso advisor. “They want something different than a beach vacation, along with R&R at a great property.�

What’s more, it’s much easier to bring your dog along in the summer months – Max and Molly will enjoy it as much as you – and many hotels offer special amenities for canine companions. “I have clients who love to bring their dogs to the Four Seasons Resort Vail in the summer,� says Wendy Wood Prince, a Virtuoso travel advisor from Lake Forest, Illinois. “They’re welcomed with open arms and special treats.� Montana’s Resort at Paws Up, another dog-friendly hotel in the Virtuoso network, provides Fido with a complimentary kennel, a Paws Up collar, and tasty treats from its pet-friendly room service menu.

Enjoying time with the whole family. Photo courtesy of Resort at Paws Up.

Here, four peak experiences for your summer mountain sojourn.

Hiking

You ski the slopes in the winter, and those same slopes become havens for hikers in the summer. The Four Seasons Resort Vail can arrange for guests to take in one of the region’s “fourteeners� (mountains measuring more than 14,000 feet) during a two-day adventure with an expert local guide. Resort chefs prepare gourmet meals for the trek, and your hiking buddy may include a llama that will carry your gear. In Banff, your travel advisor can work with one of Virtuoso’s on-site connections, Canadian Excursionist, to plan a trek up 7,000-foot Mount Norquay along a “via ferrata,� a protected route that eases climbs and helps eliminate falls.

Hiking with llamas. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Vail.

Fly-Fishing

Once the snow melts, filling streams and rivers, fly-fishing picks up. In Park City, Utah, the Montage Deer Valley arranges guided angling experiences (and complimentary casting lessons on select dates) to secret fishing spots near the Provo, Green, and Weber rivers. The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana offers on- and off-site fly fishing experiences where guests receive personalized lessons in casting and fly-tying before heading out into the water. Full-day off-site float trips are available, or anglers can stay on-site and fish for six different species of trout from Rock Creek.

Fly fishing at The Ranch at Rock Creek. Photo courtesy of The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater rafting has something for everyone, from calm and easy Class I to extreme Class VI rapids. In Jackson, as part of a customized Wyoming vacation, your travel advisor can arrange a private whitewater adventure along the Snake River with Virtuoso’s on-site connection, American Excursionist. Spot elk and bison with the help of a naturalist guide and enjoy lunch at a private camp. The journey starts with a slow, seven-mile float, allowing you to enjoy Teton range views.

Battling down the rapids. Photo courtesy of American Excursionist.

Kayaking

Sure, you can kayak in some winter locales, but it’s arguably a more enjoyable warm-weather experience. Try a kayaking and hiking adventure with American Excursionist at Lake Tahoe, straddling the California/Nevada border, where you’ll paddle your way through clear creek coves; admire the rugged, undeveloped coast of the Sierra Nevada Mountains; and learn about the local geology, ecology, and history from an expert guide.

Kayaking Lake Tahoe. Photo courtesy of American Excursionist.

Top photo courtesy of Montage Deer Valley. 

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Three Super Healthy Hotel Breakfasts

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Rather than serve sugary carbs and fatty proteins, chefs are increasingly drawing on clean and nutritious foods to produce morning meals that power the day’s adventures. Here are three restaurants worth the trek.

Park City

Green smoothie at Apex. Photo courtesy of Jason Sorge.

Montage resorts around the world, including Utah’s Montage Deer Valley, now feature healthy menus from Hollywood wellness guru Kelly LeVeque, known for keeping clients such as Jessica Alba in shape. At the resort’s Apex restaurant, power up with peaches-and-greens smoothies and organic eggs with sautéed spinach and avocado.

London

Channeling the owner’s Australian bush upbringing, Farm Girl focuses on fresh produce in three London locations, including a new all-day Chelsea spot. Tuck into an açai bowl or baked aubergine (eggplant) with a poached egg, and order bee pollen or chia seeds, among other superfood additions, sprinkled on top.

Los Angeles

A modern diner in midcentury digs, Winsome brings a California sensibility to breakfast standards, including potato röstis of crispy spuds topped with smoked salmon, basil tahini, fennel pollen, and sunny-side up eggs. Also highly suggested: buckwheat and semolina pancakes topped with seasonal preserves and chestnut honey.

Top photo: Courtesy of Sierra Prescott. 

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How to Conquer Long-Hauls and Arrive Refreshed: Travel Advisor Judy Stein

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We talked to NYC-based Virtuoso travel advisor Judy Stein for her best tips and product picks while traveling.

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About to take off for New Zealand.

How do you make 14 hours in a plane feel more like a spa?

“It’s all about comfort. I have my ‘plane leggings’ and soft and fuzzy socks that I wear on every long-haul flight. After I shower, before my flight, I put on a favorite lotion, like Hermès Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. It smells so nice, but it’s subtle and won’t offend other passengers – just enough to make me feel good.

What products do you bring with you for a flight?

I always bring my Neutrogena makeup remover towelettes and micellar water. My face needs to be clean before I sleep. Then it’s all about the night creams – first, I put on Sisley Hydra-Global face lotion, then my Sisley Eye & Lip Contour eye cream.

Do you have any rituals before, during, and after you land?

I hydrate well, add new songs to my playlists, put my hair in a ponytail, and off I go. I usually work quite a bit to clean out my inbox, and then I can relax and tune out.

Do you eat plane food?

I look forward to the mixed nuts, as I don’t eat them much any other time, and I’ll sometimes have a glass of wine depending on the time of day and my mood. I’ll nibble on the salad and splurge a bit if there is a pretzel roll (the only time I’ll eat one is on a plane!). I tend to go vegetarian and eat as little as possible on the plane. I bring a bunch of protein bars with me.

Any favorite TV shows to recommend?

I’m watching This is Us, a great show!

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How Cruise Lines Help Preserve Our Planet

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By: Susan Hanson

Cruise lines and environmentally focused groups unite to celebrate and protect our planet.

Greening the Galápagos

Santa Cruz Island’s lush cloud forest is home to the largest of 15 Scalesia species found in the Galápagos. These native trees and shrubs, which provide sanctuary to numerous types of endemic birds, are often compared to Darwin’s finches for their remarkable adaptability to the archipelago’s different vegetation zones. Scalesia are among the 30,000-plus seedlings planted in Santa Cruz’s Los Gemelos highlands as part of an ongoing collaborative effort between Celebrity Cruises and Galápagos National Park. Celebrity passengers and crew members alike have taken part in the reforestation project, which aims to restore areas affected by humans and invasive plants. Their enthusiasm and hard work have helped the program exceed its initial goal by 150 percent so far.

A tree grows in the Galápagos. Photo by Celebrity Cruises.

Music of the Sphere

An indri – the world’s largest lemur – performing aerial acrobatics in Madagascar’s forest and a fearless giraffe escaping a lion trap set in the Namib desert are just a few of the stars in BBC Earth’s hit documentary series Planet Earth II. Their feats are even more amazing when accompanied by a live orchestra during Planet Earth II in Concert, now showing on most Holland America Line ships. The new multimedia production, which combines incredible nature footage from the series with music from Oscar winner Hans Zimmer, complements additional BBC Earth programming on board.

Planet Earth II in Concert. Photo by Holland America Line.Gauguin Gone Wild 

Protecting the world’s last intact wild places begins with education. Paul Gauguin Cruises’ Wildlife Discovery Series brings Merry Camhi, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Seascape program, aboard the 332-passenger Gauguin to share her research and insights on marine ecosystems during an eight-day Tahiti and Society Islands cruise.

Top photo: Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises. 

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Happy 300th Birthday San Antonio, We Love You.

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San Antonio is in the spotlight this year, as the city celebrates its tricentennial. As a native Texan, San Antonio means a lot to me. I was keenly interested in the Alamo as a kid and adored trips to see its battered walls and storied relics. But as I grew up, each trip to the Alamo City brought new discoveries. I fell in love with its rich history (it isn’t all about the Alamo), inclusive culture, vivid colors, and music (conjunto and tejano, por favor).  The city epitomizes the Lone Star State’s past and constantly changing present.

Here are five things to love about San Antonio:

1) The Missions

Mission Concepción. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

In 2015, San Antonio’s missions – including the Alamo – became official UNESCO World Heritage sites. The four southernmost Spanish colonial missions – San José, Concepción, San Juan, and Espada – are included in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and are much larger and less crowded than the Alamo. Each of these intricately designed missions, where priests and Native Americans lived and worked, date to the 1700s. Each of the four still have active Catholic parishes with regular services and are linked by the eight-mile Mission Reach, a stretch of recreational space, picnic areas, pavilions, and portals to the missions.

2) Puffy Tacos

Puffy tacos. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

Listen to me: Do not skip trying a puffy taco – they’re life changing. A San Antonio original, they feature a puffed shell, made by frying uncooked masa in hot oil until air pockets form. The tacos are topped with ingredients such as picadillo beef, cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato, and other fillings. Ray’s Drive Inn lays claim to the creation; locals also swear by Henry’s Puffy Tacos. Just don’t leave without trying one.

3) The River Walk

The River Walk. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Ernie Pyle once called the River Walk the “American Venice.� The network of walkways hugging the San Antonio River is a favorite for tourists, but also residents, with restaurants, riverboat rides, art galleries, nightlife, and more. Stroll along it at night when the water shimmers with patio and storefront lights. Or hop on an evening boat cruise to enjoy a different vantage point and cool breezes (depending on the time of year!).

4) Great Hotels

Perched on the banks of the San Antonio River, Hotel Emma transformed a nineteenth-century brewery into a sophisticated boutique hotel. Today, the 146-room property offers a locally focused casual restaurant (think crispy, smoked quail with corn relish and potatoes) and spacious guest rooms with the building’s original concrete beams, exposed pipes, and colorful tilework.

Hotel Emma. Photo by Nicole Franzen.

For a taste of Texas hill country, check into La Cantera Resort & Spa, a 496-room resort situated atop one of the highest points in the city. Thirty-four private villas were unveiled last summer, and the adults-only floor comes with daily access to the 25,000 square-foot spa, where treatments are available in the treehouse-like Sky Lofts situated above the golf course.

5) Market Square

Market Square. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

Old Mexico comes to life at Market Square – more than 100 locally owned shops and stalls that form the largest Mexican market in the U.S. Vendors sell everything from tacos and margaritas to handmade Mexican dresses and authentic Talavera pottery. Check out the working artists who set up along the outdoor plazas, and look for Mexican dances scheduled on stage. The venue is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Top photo courtesy of Visit San Antonio. 

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