The Confidante Your Source for What's New in Luxury Travel
Spring 2014


Nothing makes us appreciate our ability to travel like a Canadian winter! Even a Canadian winter shared with our friends south of the border. No matter how much we may claim to enjoy winter sports, that doesn't include ice storms and shovelling!

And so, it has been a record-breaking season for me, with last minute "Get me South!" calls from clients, often followed a week later by desperate "Get me Home!" calls as flight cancellations and delays disrupted plans. The message from all of this: it will happen again next year. Plan now, and leave a little flexibility to enjoy the sun for an extra day or two if the weather intervenes.

Several of my clients have already booked well into 2015. I also know the phone will ring today for a 2014 March Break request. I love them all. Just call me today and . . .

Consider it done!

Roger Kershaw, ASA
Roger Kershaw Custom Travel Inc.

in this issue
  • Feature Destination
  • Virgin space flights to take off 'within months'
  • Ultimate Africa by Classic DC-3
  • Come Cruise with me! REDUCED 30%
  • WestJet Announces 5 New Routes and a European First!
  • Fogo Island, Newfoundland, not on your list yet?
  • The Ultimate Ancillary: VIP Treatment in the Air
  • Goodbye Orient-Express. Hello Belmond!
  • Virgin to set sail with new cruise venture

  • Virgin space flights to take off 'within months'

    Virgin Galactic will be ready for blast off "in about three or four months' time," according to Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson, speaking at a UAE government summit in February. Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip 2 recently completed a third successful rocket-powered test flight over the Mojave Desert and the company has sold almost 700 tickets for the first commercial flights, at a cost of $250,000 each.

    Sir Richard also said the "ultimate end-game for Virgin Galactic" is to run rocket-powered flights between London and Australia cutting flight times by over 80%. "Obviously if we could fly to Australia in a couple of hours, that would give us a massive advantage over anybody else" he said, cautiously adding that the reality of point to point Virgin Galactic flights is well over a decade away.

    Did I mention that I am your official Ticket Agent for Virgin Galactic? Call me!

    Ultimate Africa by Classic DC-3

    Travcoa has just announced a truly unique expedition-style journey distilling 60 years of travel experience into one epic 20-day adventure. Experience the people, wildlife and natural beauty of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa during this all-inclusive 60th Anniversary Journey.

    Hosted by Travcoa President Jerre Fuqua, guests will travel 5,600 miles by air, enjoying the access, flexibility, and low-level flight-seeing that their own DC-3 affords, while experiencing the "Golden Age of Aviation" aboard the classic airliner. Track Africa's famous "Big Five"-Cape buffalos, leopards, African elephants, and rhinoceroses - alongside expert safari guides. Marvel at Victoria Falls and the Great Wildebeest Migration. Stay in some of the continent's finest lodgings. And venture off the beaten path to an authentic Africa few have the chance to encounter. One departure: September 1-20, 2014. USD 39,900 per person.

    Come Cruise with me! REDUCED 30%

    Christmas Markets 2014 Cruise

    I thought we had negotiated a pretty good group price for our December 9-16, 2014 Christmas Markets cruise with Amawaterways - but things just got better! To sell the last ten cabins aboard the AmaPrima departure from Nuremberg to Budapest, Ama has offered us a 30% discount for double occupancy cabins, and a "No Single Supplement" (waiving their usual 50% surcharge) for singles.

    This is the only group that Jim and I personally host each year, and I can guarantee you that it will be a lot of fun! We'll gather two or three days before that in Prague for some revelling and romantic sightseeing (those of you who joined us last June in Normandy will know what to expect!), then transfer to embarkation and let Amawaterways cast their spell over you as we spend a week floating down the Danube to Budapest, stopping at the Christmas Markets in Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Melk, and Vienna, a veritable mulled wine sampling and shopping tour de cheer!

    Our annual group consists of friends, family and clients - the distinction blurs as clients become friends and we're all one happy family. Please join us! Prices now starting at USD 2400 per person, including taxes (cruise only. Prague event, airfare and insurance extra). Very limited availability.

    WestJet Announces 5 New Routes and a European First!

    In its new summer schedule WestJet is adding 5 new routes, increasing frequency on 20 existing routes across its network, and expanding 5 seasonal routes to year-round service. Following its launch in Western Canada last year, WestJet Encore moves east to start service at Toronto with flights to Thunder Bay, and between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. WestJet Encore will also launch new routes between Fort McMurray and Kelowna and Vancouver and new WestJet non-stop flights to Las Vegas, and frequency increases to both Calgary and Edmonton.

    The most talked about route for summer 2014 will see WestJet's first foray into the European trans-Atlantic market with direct flights between Toronto and Dublin beginning June 15. (Direct, but it stops in St. John's and it's on a 737.)

    Fogo Island, Newfoundland, not on your list yet?

    Maybe it should be! It takes some legwork to get here: multiple flights, a drive, a ferry, perhaps even an overnight in tiny St. John. But Fogo Island Inn is worth the effort. Set on a remote island in the North Atlantic, the 29-room hotel - a pair of modern white rectangles on stilts by Newfoundland native Todd Saunders - is filled with locally crafted furnishings made in collaboration with international designers.

    No detail is overlooked, from the cozy wood-burning stoves to the pro binoculars for spotting breaching humpbacks, but Fogo's heart and soul comes courtesy of its community hosts, each equipped to unlock the rich traditions of this tight-knit fishing town.

    The Ultimate Ancillary: VIP Treatment in the Air

    Airlines and airports offer high-end, personalized services to celebrities and dignitaries, and you too can enjoy the treatment you deserve - for a price.

    For example, London Heathrow Airport's VIP program is suitable for a star's entourage or a family: Passengers arriving at the Windsor Suite entrance at Terminal 5 are met by a staff member and escorted to a private suite while the baggage team retrieves their luggage. An immigration agent will quietly check passports as the VIPs enjoy snacks and a beverage. When they are ready to board, the pampered passengers are escorted through security and into a sedan that takes them to the aircraft. All this for just under a cool GBP1500 for one to six passengers.

    About 15 airlines around the world have developed similar programs. Some, like the Heathrow program, are quite pricey. Others are priced lower but may limit availability to premium passengers. American Airlines' Five Star Service, while it was designed with high-end travelers in mind, can be useful for an elderly or frail person traveling alone. American's offering includes coordination with a car service; curbside meet-and-greet; assistance with check-in; access to the expedited security queue and to the Admirals Club, and escort to the gate, and is offered only to first and business class passengers at selected airports for around USD300 per passenger.

    Goodbye Orient-Express. Hello Belmond!

    In a move that has the whole industry befuddled, Orient-Express Hotels Ltd has just announced they are dropping their iconic name from their hotel collection in a USD15 million rebranding exercise to "Belmond." Although the original Orient Express (without the hyphen) was simply a normal international railway service, the name has become synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel.

    "Belmond was selected, after careful consideration, as a name that resonates with our celebrated collection of hotels, river cruises and trains. We fully expect to heighten the awareness of our luxury travel experiences amongst existing and potential new guests," reads the press release.

    And it's exactly because a lot of people identify Orient-Express with a historical train, and don't connect the name with the company's multifaceted portfolio, that a change was needed. That train, properly styled the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, will retain the name.

    Belmond. It's a beautiful world.

    Virgin to set sail with new cruise venture

    Not content with trains, planes and space travel, Richard Branson's Virgin Group is looking to make waves in the cruise industry.

    Still at an early stage, Virgin Cruises would likely be based in Miami, to best serve the world's largest cruise market, with a projected launch in 2019.

    The move comes as Virgin prepares to open its first branded hotel in Chicago later this year, with plans for a second property in New York by 2016.

    Feature Destination


    Since my first visit to Barcelona years ago, Spain has been one of my favourite destinations. Later visits to Madrid, the Balearic Islands, and Malaga reminded me of the diversity and warmth of the people and geography and I was eager to explore even more of this beautiful country.

    In December, with the assistance of Made for Spain, my Virtuoso colleagues, we were able to do just that. We spent 10 days in what easily could have been 20, in Andalusia and Madrid.

    Marbella Club has been a long-term favourite, and although I'd visited before, I'd never had the opportunity to experience this historic property on the Golden Mile. It's a wonderful starting point to acclimate to the Spanish lifestyle, relax, enjoy, and eat!

    The next evening we drove to Finca Cortesin, a purpose-built resort that has spared nothing in their services and accommodations. My golf clients have referred to it as "God's own fairway" - and they haven't even had a chance to experience the spa (complete with ice cave) and dining room!

    Then a day trip to historic Ronda, birthplace of modern bullfighting, high over the deep El Tajo gorge. Our guide introduced us to a variety of tapas and local beverages, walked us through the bullring (sin toros), and made us regret we hadn't chosen Ronda for at least an extra day.

    On to Granada, and its Alhambra - the stuff of legends. Our Made for Spain guide brought them all to life, and our stay at the Palacio de los Patos (and a birthday dinner there that evening) was unforgettable.

    Then to Cordoba, and another guide so proud and cheerful that we fell in love with her and her city despite the drizzle. Two thousand years of history are combined in the magnificent Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Another city we could have spent a week enjoying.

    Seville next, and the iconic King Alfonso XIII, near the main pedestrian zone featuring, among many other things, an entire Christmas Market devoted to Nativity figures, a dramatic sound and light show projected onto the façade of the city hall, and yet another of MfS's talented guides persuading us that Seville would be a nice place to live!

    We returned our car at the Seville train station, noting how easy it was to drive in Spain and how much more of the country you can explore with your own wheels and timetable (as much as MfS allowed in their packed itinerary!). We took the train to Madrid, stayed at the grand old lady of Spain, one of the original Ritz hotels, and had a reunion dinner with Barcelona friends at Botin, "The oldest restaurant in the world."

    Ten wonderful days in six wonderful cities, any one of which I would be delighted to return. Or to share with you.

    Your smartphone may be your next room key

    Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Westin, St. Regis, Sheraton, W Hotels, etc) recently announced they were beginning to test the use of digital hotel keys. A recent article by CNN says Starwood plans to send digital keys to guests' phones via an app instead of making them check in and get the traditional plastic swipe cards. Arriving guests could bypass the front desk and go straight to their rooms. Sounds great! I hope this idea gains traction fast.

    Read Virtuoso Life online

    The award winning magazine published by Virtuoso for its agents and their most travelled clients is available online for everyone. You can always find a link to the latest issue from my website. In the meantime, here are some highlights from the current issue

    This issue features 14 favorite emerging destinations from Virtuoso advisors. We also journey through the kingdom of Bhutan (that's the country's cliffside Tiger's Nest Monastery on the cover) and see Seoul through a colleague's iPhone. So, where do you want to go next? You'll find plenty of inspiration right here in the January issue of Virtuoso Life.

    Life is short. Book the trip. Live in the moment. And, as the cover urges - go now.

    Flip through the latest issue of Virtuoso Life

    Where Now?: Virtuoso travel advisors pick the destinations - plus one truly out-of-this world experience - that will define the year ahead.

    Into Bhutan: In this Himalayan kingdom, travelers find serpentine mountain roads, ancient Buddhist traditions, and, arugula for dinner.

    Best Addressed: We have the hotels that will put Beijing, London, New York, and Miami on your list - plus Courchevel, Venice, and Florence too.

    Seoul Now: An iPhone photo journey though the Korean capital, a city that's ready for its close-up.

    Read the complete current edition of VIRTUOSO LIFE now! © 2014 Virtuoso, LTD.

    Read More >

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