Santa Barbara Travel Aboard Crystal Serenity

Santa Barbara Travel on Crystal Serenity

Santa Barbara Travel Advisors, Sheila, Kathy, and Tina, on Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity sailing the Northwest Passage

Crystal Serenity sailing the Northwest Passage

Crystal Serenity often visits our hometown of Santa Barbara on its journeys along the West Coast. This last weekend, three of our advisors—Tina, Kathy, and Sheila—were invited aboard for a special tour. The ocean view was spectacular, but more impressive were the enrichment programs, exclusive Nobu Matushisa Restaurant, and the diversity of themed itineraries that will spark or fulfill your cultural passions.

“Travel is about discovering the world, as well as yourself. Crystal’s renowned roster of complimentary enrichment invites you to pursue individual interests and challenge yourself to try new things…allowing you to write as many new stories about yourself and the world as you wish.”

For those who revel in days-at-sea for the sheer bliss of getting away and changing your typical routine, you will appreciate the vast offerings from Crystal Cruises. Feed your passion and learn something new while on vacation!

Enjoy complimentary progressive courses offered by experts: develop a second language, learn the secrets of floral arrangements, become a wine connoisseur, study Tai Chi, pick up a paint brush, dive into the subjects of health and wellness, or catch up with the digital world with Crystal’s Computer University@Sea.

For the (physically) adventurous, you’ll love the Discovery Channel™ with expert shark divers, underwater photographers, and deep-sea treasure hunters!

Crystal Cruises also offers one of the most diverse groups of themed cruises in the industry. Like the perfect pairing of fine wine and cuisine, themes are connected to the region you sail, presenting you with opportunities to raise a glass of Australian Shiraz en route “Down Under” or to golf the legendary courses of Great Britain, not to mention the unbelievable talent aboard the opera and ballet cruises. You can also expand your passion for jazz, big band, up your golf game with PGA pros, and more.

…And it only gets better! Crystal Cruises just announced they will be redesigning Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, including larger suites, upgrades to the user experience, like open dining versus the current reservation system, and updates the restaurants.  Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, the specialty dining venues by famed Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, will be rebranded as Umi Uma – reflecting the Japanese word for Crystal’s eponymous seahorses. The authentic venues will still serve the inspired cuisine of Nobu, prepared by his personally trained chefs, and will remain the only Nobu restaurants at sea. As always, each guest may receive a complimentary experience at each restaurant.

Talk to our experts about the many wonderful options available through Crystal Cruises!

Tina Slimp

Tina Slimp

Phone: 805.869.1112
Santa Barbara Office


Kathy Reimer

Kathy Reimer

Phone: 805.869.1151
Ventura Office


Planning a Destination Wedding? Answers You’ll Want to Know

Thinking about a destination wedding? You'll want to start here.

Thinking about a destination wedding? Here are some answers to your basic, but pressing questions

Planning a wedding is one thing, planning a trip is another, and planning both is a special talent. Each bride and groom has unique questions, but these are always on the list. Here are the questions you really need to ask to start making decisions about the destination and property.

With destination weddings, either the guest list or the budget is the problem. What is the balance of guest attendance and a great location?

Essentially, guest attendance depends on how affordable and accessible your itinerary is, paired with the travel experience of your guest list. To make the journey easier and more affordable, areas with direct flights from different parts of the country will cut hundreds of dollars per ticket and connection hassle for you and your guests.

On the other hand, those with unmanageable guest lists can solve that problem by choosing a remote destination. Have fun finding out how far your guests are willing to go! No matter what you choose, using a travel advisor will save you and your guests valuable time and money through their partnerships and group rate access, and give your party support through last minute changes and travel mishaps.

Visit the Resort before the wedding to meet with your wedding planner and take a much needed trip with your fiance.

Visit the Resort before the wedding to meet with your wedding planner and take a much needed trip with your fiance.

Should we take a trip to the property before selecting the destination or after?

It depends on your budget and style. If you and your fiancé want to take a trip to Mexico and stay at potential venues along the way, we highly recommend it. You will have a better sense of the atmosphere, service, surrounding area, ease of transportation, climate, and more. More often than not, we can get you an upgrade with our affiliates.

Of course, your travel advisor will also be familiar with the area, so if you can’t make it down there, you have more than the internet on your side.

Visiting the destination before you make the choice  ensures you both love the choice, and gives you some alone time.

Visiting the destination before you make the choice ensures you both love the choice, and gives you some alone time.

Does the property I choose need to have experience with destination weddings?

Yes! Coordinating the guest list and travel details will be one thing, but you want a wedding planner who knows the area and all of the local vendors. Make sure there is an event planner on staff, or at least a good one they can recommend. Meet with the event planner often—at least twice a week via Skype or email. You’ll want to make sure that the event planner becomes familiar with you, your preferences, and your budget, so they can help make the best decisions.

European Planning or All-Inclusive?


Ideally, the property can offer guests both plans in order to cater to the budget and travel style of each guest. Of course, all-inclusive plans are the easiest to coordinate—order what you want, eat any time, and the price is paid with the room. Another alternative is to consider two sister properties that offer a variety of price points and share amenities.

paul G bora bora


We are worried about proper marriage documentation. What do we need to know?


In some destinations, the legal requirements are complicated. An easy, pre-planned way around this is to make things official at City Hall before you depart, then invite family and friends to celebrate at the destination. You can still have a ceremony and exchange vows, of course. Otherwise, the rules change per country and you will need to learn the requirements.


We are thinking of taking our honeymoon right after the wedding. Is this a good idea or should we plan a separate trip?

The benefit of combining a wedding and honeymoon is that you are also combining preparation and travel time. The downside is that your wedding and honeymoon can get blurred into one very easily. Remember, your guests are likely staying longer than the wedding, so to start your honeymoon, change properties. We recommend moving to a new area—it’s a new trip, isn’t it?


We are planning on getting married abroad. Is my marriage legal in the United States, and are there religious limitations in other countries?


Almost always, if your marriage is legal in a foreign country, it is legal in the US. Just be sure you have the proper paperwork. Certain countries have requirements that you will need to abide by. If you are planning a religious ceremony, make sure you’ll be able to find an officiate of your religion. For example, in a strongly Catholic country, it may be challenging to find a Rabbi. If it is a same-sex union, make sure the union is legally binding.

For more information about destination weddings and honeymoon planning, contact your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor or our wedding specialist, Erin Zetter.

Erin Zetter

Erin Zetter

Travel Advisor, Santa Barbara

Phone: 805.869.1110
Direct: 805.869.1140

Charles Travels to Paris the 2016 Virtuoso Chairman’s Event

Our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, recently traveled to Paris for the 2016 Virtuoso Chairman’s Event, for what he considers to be “the most remarkable week of travel in my 42 year career in the travel industry.” From a river cruise on the Seine, to lunch and a visit to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, to dinner at Four Seasons Hotel Georges V, to a tour of the Palace of Versailles, to a perfect stay at Le Bristol, our Virtuoso partners have the best recommendations.

Upon exiting the plane, Charles and his wife, Barbara, were met by a representative of “Decouvertes” (“Discoveries” for you non French-speakers), which is one of the premier French destination management companies. They were greeted on the jetway outside of the door of the plane, and 6 minutes later, they were through a special line at Passport Control, at baggage claim, and 10 minutes later were in the back of a Mercedes being whisked in to the center of Paris. Soon enough, they were stepping in to the lobby of Le Bristol Hotel on the Faubourg St. Honore in the First Arrondissement of Paris, 2 blocks from the Presidential Palace.

The attendees of the Virtuoso Chairmen’s Event stayed either at Le Bristol, Plaza Athénée or the Four Seasons Hotel. Other hotels participated, hosting events throughout the week, including The Park Hyatt, The Peninsula, The Intercontinental Grand Hotel, and The Ritz.

Le Bristol, Paris, is the top hotel choice for your Paris stay by our CEO, Charles de L'Arbre

Le Bristol, Paris, is the top hotel choice for your Paris stay by our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre

There is nothing like coming back to a hotel which truly feels like home. For Charles and Barbara, that is the Bristol. “Laure and Louise at the front desk; Olivier who greets us every morning at breakfast at the Epicurean Restaurant; my friend Matthias Obresser in sales and a host of other friends who all greeted us by name as we walked in to the hotel. After a full day of work, a drive to LAX on a Friday evening, and a 12 hour flight, the delight of walking in to an environment which was familiar, warm, and the epitome of French refinement and luxury was one of indescribable joy,” shared Charles. Le Bristol is a Virtuoso property and offers Santa Barbara Travel Bureau highly preferential rates, time of booking upgrades, breakfast (85 euro per person value), as well as a special amenity.

The Opera House of Paris, Palais Garnier

The Opera House of Paris, Palais Garnier

The Virtuoso Event included a show at the Paris Opera House, where several ballets by Balanchine were performed. After the event Barbara and Charles walked over to The Ritz for a late dinner at the Hemingway Bar, which Charles tells us “is fabulous and has to be the best bar in Paris.” Before that, they had been at the Picasso Museum and met the grandson of Picasso.

The bar is aptly named in Hemingway's honor, where he is said to have spent the 1920s.

The bar is aptly named in Hemingway’s honor, where he is said to have spent the 1920s.

Louis Vuitton Fondation designed by Frank Gehry. Photo  from

Louis Vuitton Fondation designed by Frank Gehry. Photo from

A new “must” when in Paris is a visit to the new Frank Gehry building located in Greater Paris, at the edge of the  Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, where Paris meets Neuilly-sur-Seine. The building is incredible– a feat of modern architecture composed of 12 “sails” composed of 3,600 panels of curved glass, cut to the nearest millimeter. The futuristic building is a reflection of the unique, creative and innovative project of the Louis Vuitton Fondation.  The Cheval Blanc Hotel Group hosted a lovely lunch for the Virtuoso Event.

Charles at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris

Charles at the Fondation Louis Vuitton designed by architect Frank Gehry in Paris

“To reflect our constantly changing world, we wanted to create a building that would evolve according to the time and the light in order to give the impression of something ephemeral and continually changing.” -Frank Gehry 

The new Frank Gehry building in Paris. Photo by Charles de L'Arbre

The new Frank Gehry building in Paris. Photo by Charles de L’Arbre

One must visit the Palace of Versailles at least once in their lifetime! The Garden of Versailles is where fruits and vegetables were raised specifically to feed the king and his family. A tour from the head gardener was very informative, and the most interesting part of the garden was was how the fruit trees were espaliered.

Espaliered fruit trees in the Garden of Versailles. Photo by Charles de L'Arbre

Espaliered fruit trees in the Garden of Versailles. Photo by Charles de L’Arbre

The final day of the trip included a reception at City Hall, hosted by the Mayor of Paris and the Minister of Tourism. Dinner was hosted on a Batau Mouch or the “fly boat” which cruised up the Seine. After dinner, the group received a “salute” of flashing lights from the Eiffel Tower as they passed. With Virtuoso, they know who to call.

Charles aboard the

Charles aboard the Batau Mouch as they passed the Eiffel Tower

Santa Barbara Travel is a member of the by-invitation-only, luxury travel network, Virtuoso – an organization of the top travel agencies, travel providers and destinations worldwide.  Our membership in Virtuoso brings a host of unique travel opportunities and exclusive values to our clients as well as access to the world’s best travel companies, hotels, and cruise lines.  For travelers who depend on experts to reduce complexity and ensure smart choices, your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor will design customized travel experiences using the resources and relationships available exclusively through network membership.

A frequent traveler to Paris, Charles would be happy to share his experiences. Please call or email to talk about your trip to Paris.

Charles de L'Arbre posing at the Picasso Museum in Paris in front of the L'Arbre

Charles de L’Arbre posing at the Picasso Museum in Paris in front of the L’Arbre

Charles de L’Arbre

President, Montecito

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau
1485 East Valley Road #9
Montecito, CA 93108

Phone: 800.266.5452  
Direct Dial:
Cell: 805.698.8751

Advisor Trip: Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona

Two seasoned travel advisors of Santa Barbara Travel, Kathy Reimer and Tina Slimp, recently visited the world’s premier health resort, Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona for four glorious days.  A true destination resort, Canyon Ranch is located in the sunny Sonoran desert with close access to canyons and the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains where outside activities such as hiking, biking, swimming and outside dining are possible all year-round.  The all-inclusive resort offers a variety of wellness packages that include accommodations, all you can eat dining, activities and classes, use of all facilities, gratuities and airport transfers between the Tucson airport and the property.

Beautiful Landscape Views from Canyon Ranch

Beautiful Landscape Views from Canyon Ranch

With a plethora of spa services, exercise, health and lifestyle sessions to choose from, you can make your stay what you want it to be.  You will have the opportunity of pre-planning your Canyon Ranch vacation with a program advisor one month prior to your arrival.  Depending on what you enjoy and what you would like to focus on, a program advisor will customize your daily schedule.

Canyon Ranch Desert Landscape

Canyon Ranch Desert Landscape

Both Tina and Kathy opted for a private consultation with a doctor to learn about a healthier lifestyle and integrating exercise into their busy schedules.  They also took advantage of the resort’s daily cooking demonstrations offered by entertaining, yet informative chefs.  They learned how to cook with alternative oils and ingredients, in place of butter and fattening marinades.  Healthy entrees such as the Canyon Ranch’s mouth-watering Asian Braised Flank Steak with Bok Choy made low calorie cooking look easy.  Tina felt that portion control was essential for healthy eating, and noticed that all food served throughout the resort was served in measured portions.

Relax by the Pool Area with Lunch

Relax by the Pool Area with Lunch

The largest spa ever!  Kathy was in awe when she first laid eyes on the 80,000 square foot, luxury spa.  Housing state-of-the-art cardio and weight rooms, private sunbathing decks, dance, yoga, and Pilates/GYROTRONICS® studios, polar bear dunk, infra-red sauna…the list goes on…just where does one begin.  Luckily classes begin at 6 a.m. and go into the evening allowing you plenty of time to exercise and relax.

Serene Grounds and All-Day Spa and Exercise Options

Serene Grounds and All-Day Spa and Exercise Options

Taking advantage of the outdoors, Tina and Kathy chose to work out each day on the underwater treadmill in the “L shaped” pool, one of Canyon Ranch’s 4 pools.  Kathy enjoyed the early morning 2 mile desert walks as well as strolling through the calming meditation garden. The desert flowers and cacti are in full bloom in the spring with a spectacular show of colors.

Serene Grounds at Canyon Ranch

Serene Grounds at Canyon Ranch

Canyon Ranch offers something for everyone with a wide selection of engaging wellness programs that can vary from weight loss, health assessment and preventive care, stress management, detox, surgery recovery, spiritual health to continuing education credits for physicians and nurses. Additionally, this desert oasis is equipped to handle small groups (birthdays, family reunions, social getaways) to corporate retreats of up to 80 guests.   Whatever your health-related interest or passion, you are likely to find it at Canyon Ranch.

Vistas so Beautiful, They Look Like a Painting

Vistas so Beautiful, They Look Like a Painting

Contact Santa Barbara Travel to for valued added amenities at Canyon Ranch Tucson such as a room upgrade, $50 credit to use toward a Health & Healing service, and early check-in/late check-out or special group rates.

Downtown Santa Barbara: Contact Tina by calling 805.966.3116 or email her directly

Ventura Office: Contact Kathy by calling 805.650.6999 or email her directly

Advisor Trip: The Rocky Mountaineer

Santa Barbara Travel Advisor, Nancy Herrmann, took the two day journey aboard Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer this Summer. This comfortable and luxurious train ride is a wonderful way to journey through the Canadian Rockies. Below, Nancy shares her experience, helpful travel tips, and photos of her journey.

Rocky Mountaineer in Exshaw, Alberta

Rocky Mountaineer in Exshaw, Alberta

ROUTE: I took the “Journey Through the Clouds” from Jasper to Kamloops to Vancouver and down to Seattle. I will start by saying: it was the most beautiful train ride of my life. The observation car allows a comfortable way to see the incredible scenery of Western Canada. The train and views are in the league of the dome cars of Anchorage and Denali, Alaska, with the big-time landscapes. Our itinerary worked with the direction we were traveling, but I would recommend going the opposite way– starting in Vancouver and ending in Jasper. From there you can drive along the scenic highway by motorcoach or self-drive to Lake Louise and Banff.

Four routes of the Rocky Mountaineer. Nancy traveled from Jasper to Kamloops to Vancouver to Seattle.

Four routes of the Rocky Mountaineer. Nancy traveled from Jasper to Kamloops to Vancouver to Seattle.

TRAVEL TIP: Travel from Vancouver to Jasper to end with the “wow factor” of mountainous Jasper.

Another interesting route is the Rainforest to Gold Rush—Vancouver – Whistler – Quesnel – Jasper –-perfect to see the great variety of the Canadian West. Whichever route you go, it is likely to be the best train ride you’ve ever had. The track passes along the coast and through the Canadian Rockies.


Nancy smiles for a photo in front of a high mountain lake

DINING: Meals and drinks are included in the price of the journey. However, Gold Leaf service provides a much better dining experience and is recommended. The meals are the same, but Gold Leaf service comes with a downstairs dining room, allowing you to get up and stretch. Silver Leaf members will dine in their seat. It is worth noting that you cannot walk from car to car during the trip.

Travel Tip: Drive or take the motorcoach from Jasper to Lake Louise and Banff for a few night stay, then fly out of Calgary.

Serenity on Lake Louis

Serenity on Lake Louis, accessed by scenic drive from Jasper or by train on the Coastal Passage and First Passage to the West

JASPER: Jasper is a tiny, tiny little town with a few restaurants and souvenir shops to support Jasper National Park. It reminded me of an old west town, with art galleries and gift shops. If you spend a few days here, take the Jasper SkyTram to the summit of Whistlers Mountain for a beautiful view, or drive the scenic route to Banff or Lake Louise.

KAMLOOPS: Nice farm to table restaurants and a fairly big city considering it is in the middle of western Canada. It is a beautiful town sitting at the confluence of the North and South Thompson rivers, with Kamloops Lake nearby.

VANCOUVER: We started our journey in Jasper, but would have started in Vancouver instead. This beautiful city with mountains and the Pacific would be a wonderful few days spent. Take a bike around Stanley Park, go to the top of the Vancouver Lookout, and visit the market on Granville Island.

Aerial View of Vancouver, Canada

Aerial View of Vancouver, Canada

SERVICE & HOTEL PACKAGE: There are two options– Silver Leaf and Gold Leaf. I chose the Gold Leaf package, which I recommend, as it provides vastly greater comfort and meal options, including meal service downstairs in the dining car and a seat in the observation car with a glass dome roof. There is also an option to upgrade the Gold Leaf Package to the Deluxe, which includes a hotel upgrade to the world famous Banff Springs Hotel. I found the Rimrock Resort Hotel to be comfortable, but it needs an upgrade as it feels quite out dated.

TRAVEL TIP: Choose the Gold Leaf Package, and upgrade your hotel if it is within budget to access the dining car, 2nd-floor seating, and a stay at the World Famous Banff Springs Hotel.


Picture of our train car and Gold Leaf seating. Photo by Nancy Herrmann

WHAT TO AVOID: The Amtrak stretch of the trip was a rickety, uncomfortable 4 hour ride and a big let down after the comfort of the Rocky Mountaineer. I would recommend taking the ferry from Vancouver to Seattle, or just flying straight to Vancouver and spend a few nights to explore this beautiful city.

All said and done, the Rocky Mountaineer offers a great experience, especially for those who will not be itching to hike or swim in the mountains and lakes the trip introduces. If you are taking a cruise that begins or ends in Vancouver, I would highly recommend spending a few days on the Rocky Mountaineer.

rocky-mountaineer-nancyI would love to chat with you personally about the experience and answer any questions you may have. Please contact me by phone (805.869.1100) or email Learn more about Nancy on her Travel Profile

Cruise to the Music of the 80s – February 11-18, 2017

Join Santa Barbara Travel Advisor, Tina Slimp on an “80s” theme cruise in the Caribbean on the stunning Celebrity Summit.

Live 80s Bands and MTV VJs

Cruise Back to the 80s!

Cheap Trick, Belinda Carlisle, Survivor, Debbie Gibson, Morris Day & The Time, Colin Hay of Men At Work, Howard Jones, Berlin, The Romantics, Men Without Hats, Tiffany, MTV VJs and more!

 “Cruise back to the 80s with awesome activities, 80s theme nights, and non-stop music from the decade you love!”

For details or to book this fun-filled cruise, contact Tina Slimp at 805-966-3116 or

PART 3: Charles de L’Arbre in Paris

Paris Day 1—Disembarkation in Monte Carlo

Today our lovely sojourn on The Explorer comes to an end. Our bags were packed and left out the night before. Barbara and I went down to La Veranda for breakfast as the ship slowly warped into the magnificent harbor of Monte Carlo. Looking around, we could see to our left, the Pink Palace, the residence of the Grimaldi family, with the rest of the city in an arc around us.

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

Disembarkation was quick and efficient. We identified our luggage and went to our coach for the transfer to Nice Airport 35 minutes away. I had scheduled an early afternoon flight to Paris. However, we arrived early enough we were make a flight up to Paris which arrived before noon.  Arrival in Paris was easy—a quick walk to baggage claim, out into the arrival lobby and in to a taxi for the ride in to Paris.  An interesting note:  taxi fare into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport is now fixed at 50 Euros—a nice change since our last visit to Paris.  It was good for us, but not for our driver as a bad accident left us in his car for about 2 hours.

Our arrival at Le Bristol was almost ceremonial. Once we were at the Front Desk, we were greeted in short order by the Reservations Manager, the Sales Manager and other members of the hotel team with whom I have worked for years and who I regard as old friends. We were offered a light lunch in the hotel’s wonderful bar before being shown up to our room—actually a spacious junior suite overlooking one of Le Bristol’s courtyards.

The Garden at Le Bristol is perfect for breakfast

The Garden at Le Bristol is perfect for breakfast

Barbara went out to reconnoiter the nearby shops on the Faubourg St.Honore while I did a little work before going down to dinner at Le Bristol’s brasserie, 114 Faubourg. This is the hotel’s more casual restaurant—which still has been awarded a Michelin Star (the other is the three-starred Epicurean Restaurant). We were given a wonderful table which overlooked the open kitchen on the level below us where we could watch the chefs prepare and plate every entrée. The dinner was sumptuous and the service a wonderful combination of professional, personable and warm.

Paris Day 2—On the Paris Boulevards

After a wonderful breakfast looking out at the garden in Le Bristol’s Epicurean restaurant, we toured the hotel, admiring the beautiful spa and the hotel’s unique swimming pool, Mrs. Oettker, the hotel’s owner, visits from Germany twice a month and clearly makes the decisions on everything including flower arrangements. Le Bristol is clearly a labor of love that is shared by all the staff.


Place de Vosges in the Marais District in Paris. Photo Credit:

We left the hotel and walked the short distance to the Tuileries and the courtyards of the Louvre. After the heat in the South of France, the light intermittent rain was pleasant as we walked through Paris to one of my favor locales, the Place des Vosges in the Marais District. Built in the early 17th century by  King Henri IV and originally known as the Place Royale, it is an enclosed square with no automobile traffic and houses another favorite Paris hotel of ours, The Pavillon de la Reine.

Charles and Barbara in the Pavillion de la Reine

Charles and Barbara in the Pavillon de la Reine


The building housing the hotel was the pavilion or residence of Anne of Austria prior to marrying the French king. This is a perfect spot for anyone wanting a quiet, intimate hotel experience in one of Paris’s most interesting an historic areas.

From the Place de Vosges, we walked for a few minutes to the Musee Picasso—a must visit for anyone interested in the artists. Converted from a magnificent 17th century residence, the Museum has over 5000 works in its collection and tens of thousands of archive pieces.

Charles de L'Arbre posing at the Picasso Museum in Paris in front of the L'Arbre

Charles de L’Arbre posing at the Picasso Museum in Paris in front of the L’Arbre

After our Picasso visit, we had a quick lunch at a sidewalk café—a carafe of red wine, bread and cheese…….perfect……before returning to Le Bristol to get ready for our last evening in Paris—dinner at the newly re-opened Hotel Ritz.


The four year renovation cost an estimated €400m (~$500m US), well over the initial estimate of €140m.

The legendary hotel was founded by Swiss entrepreneur César Ritz in 1898, and is the basis of the meaning “ritzy.” The hotel is famed as the stomping ground of figures such as Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway. You’ll find a dedicated Coco Chanel Suite, and Hemingway Bar in their honor.

The hotel now features the world’s first Chanel branded spa; an underground swimming pool with 800,000 mosaic tiles, and a revamp of the interior detailing that is iconic to the Ritz: delicate silks, draped curtains and gilded mirrors. Highly recommended stay, and worth the long wait. The Ritz Paris is running a few fantastic specials through the end of 2016 that you can view on our specials page.

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona

If you would love to hear more recommendations for your time in Paris, please be sure to reach out to me by phone (805.969.7746) or email


Santa Barbara Travel’s Pre-Inaugural Voyage Aboard Seven Seas Explorer

Through the excellent partnership between Santa Barbara Travel Bureau and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre and his wife, Barbara, were invited aboard the pre-inaugural voyage of Seven Seas Explorer, dubbed “The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built.” Below, Charles shares his experience and passes along travel tips to make your trip perfect.

Day 1 ~ Board Seven Seas Explorer in Barcelona

Today we boarded the Seven Seas Explorer! A 10-minute taxi-ride took us from the Hotel Arts to the Barcelona Passenger Cruise Terminal.  Forty-five minutes later, we, and our fellow passengers were among the first guests to board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer. Glass of champagne in hand, we wandered around the ship—truly impressed with the artwork, the detail and, of course, the layout. Not dissimilar from other Regent ships we have sailed on, there is truly a wonderful aura about Explorer—the public rooms have a lovely scale and the staff absolutely top-notch.

Step into the Lobby of the Seven Seas Explorer

Step into the Lobby of the Seven Seas Explorer

We made our way to Le Veranda—one of three restaurants on the ship serving lunch—sat at a table for 2 and contemplated each other and our good fortune to be there. La Veranda offers a combination of an extensive buffet and cooked to order meats—steaks, chops, sausage—all delicious.

HINT—If you want something cooked to order, it is helpful to have your table number to give to one of the servers. I had forgotten mine, which resulted in a delay.

Charles de L'Arbre, CEO of Santa Barbara Travel, poses with the Chef aboard Seven Seas Explorer

Charles de L’Arbre, CEO of Santa Barbara Travel, poses with the Chef aboard Seven Seas Explorer

Concierge Suite Deck 14

Following our lunch, we went up to our suite on Deck 14—the top cabin deck on the ship.  The layout was very efficient. Upon entering is the bathroom—marble floor with inlay, double sinks, bathtub, and shower. My wife was happy about the excellent lighting and plenty of counter space.

concierge suite

Beyond the bathroom a large walk-in closet with a safe, and beyond that the sleeping and sitting area, and finally a large veranda. For television and movie addicts, there is a large flat panel television, which swings out for easy viewing from the bed. Channels included CNN and FOX from the USA as well as BBC News, Sky News and Sky Sports and a move channel to round out the English-speaking offerings.  There are also information channels on the ship with information on the extensive Canyon Ranch Spa treatments, shipboard activities and videos of guest lecturers. Finally, there is an on-demand film selection, which allows one to interrupt the film they are watching and then resume the film at that point later in the day!

Dinner at Chartreuse

Chartreuse 3Our first day on board the Explorer continued into evening with a delightful dinner at “Chartreuse,” a French-themed restaurant with a modern twist which was superb—from the fois gras starter through desert and a cheese course to the after dinner cordials. I had requested that a menu be sent to my cabin—alas that did not happen. The one shortcoming to an otherwise perfect meal.

Onboard Dining Options

There is no shortage of dining options on board. In addition to the French cuisine of Chartreuese there are three other specialty restaurants available for dinner:

Chartreuse evokes memories of a chic Parisian fine dining restaurant discovered during an evening stroll. Wherever you are seated in this regal restaurant, you will be treated to a succulent dinner while enjoying incredible ocean views.

Chartreuse evokes memories of a chic Parisian fine dining restaurant discovered during an evening stroll. Wherever you are seated in this regal restaurant, you will be treated to a succulent dinner while enjoying incredible ocean views.

Prime 7 Restaurant is a true classic in every sense, Prime 7 sets a new standard in steakhouse fare with its contemporary interpretation of an American favorite.

Prime 7 Steakhouse

pacious and comfortably casual, La Veranda offers regional specialties that often reflect the cuisines of the countries called on.

La Veranda for Dinner

Celebrating the culinary traditions of Asia and our new Pan-Asian specialty restaurant, Pacific Rim delights guests with the perfect balance of delicious flavors and Zen-like ambiance.

Pacific Rim Pan Asian Cuisine

Besides those, there is the main restaurant on the ship, The Compass Rose—open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more casual dining, you will love La Veranda, which serves both breakfast and lunch and includes outdoor seating. You can also enjoy lunch at The Pool Grill for those seeking something very casual.  There is also The Café, which offers various coffees, pastries, and gourmet sandwiches during the day. No one traveling on the Explorer will go hungry!

Day 2 ~ Day at Sea

This was our only day at sea—and perhaps the nicest!  There is a lovely rhythm to being on the water on a great ship—particularly traveling with someone you love.  Think of it as an extended date during which you are called up to make such difficult choices as where to dine, when to workout (or take a nap) and what treatment to have at the Canyon Ranch Spa.

Luckily, my wife took the guesswork out of all of those items. In mid-afternoon, I had a blissful massage at the Spa—I confess I slept through part of it, followed by a wonderful dinner at Setti Mari where we shared a table outside with some friends as the evening sun was setting. Magical!

This may seem like an afterthought, but the Explorer offers an excellent fitness center with Lifecycles, Stairmasters, Striders, treadmills, a Nautilus machine, free weights etc. as well as Pilates, yoga and various exercise classes—whew. There is also a jogging track (but you can also walk it at a dignified saunter), bocce court, shuffleboard, or you can lie out by the pool and practice arm curls with a glass of adult refreshment.

Day 3 ~ Visit Toulon

Tour of Seven Seas Navigator

We arrived at Toulon, one of the great historical French ports and the Mediterranean home of the French Navy. After breakfast, I was invited to visit the Navigator, Regent Seven Seas Cruises smallest ship. Carrying 500 passengers, she just completed a $50 million overhaul and I was eager to see the results.  She is a cozy, intimate ship.  While the dining options are fewer than on Explorer, she has the same high culinary and service standards, and very spacious cabins. It was clear to see that the crew members I came into contact with are very proud of the Navigator and love serving aboard her.

Shore Excursion: Aix-en-Provence

Aix en Provence Shore Excursion. Photo Credit: The 10 Best Aix en Provence  Tours via

Aix en Provence Shore Excursion. Photo Credit: The 10 Best Aix en Provence Tours via

aixe en Provence

In the afternoon, we took a shore excursion to Aix-en-Provence, a visit I had made decades earlier. We were driven from Toulon through the Provencal countryside to Aix… Our guide, a lovely Frenchwoman from Marseilles with a gift for narrative, pointed out points of interest including the iconic Mont Saint Victoire. 90 minutes after leaving Toulon, we arrived in Aix-en-Provence where we began a two-hour walking tour. Unfortunately, we were in 100+ degree heat so the main highlight of the tour was ending it at the Café des Deux Freres, operating since 1792, whereupon my wife went shopping and I had a nice cold beer.  We returned to the air-conditioned comfort of the ship and happily called it a day.

Day 4 ~ Visit Sardinia 

Today we visit Sardinia, the second largest of the Italian islands after Sicily. It is located off of the Northwest Italian coast and the ports of Olbia and Cagliari are serviced by enormous car and passenger ferries from the Italian mainland. At 6am, I was standing out on my veranda, cup of coffee in hand(that in-room coffee maker an intense blessing at that particular moment), as I watched our ship being navigated between the rocky islands of the Madalena Archipelago. Sparsely populated the islands were starkly beautiful in the early sun—particularly one lovely old castle we sailed past.

Porto Cervo

Olbia is a bustling port. We berthed across from one of the ferries that unloaded its passenSan pantaleogers, cars and cargo with tremendous precision.  Also precise was our disembarkation for a tour to the Bay of Sardinia and the resort town of Porto Cervo. From Oblia, we were driven to the small village of San Pantaleo—renowned for its location surrounded by dramatic rocky and outcroppings and as an artist colony. There are some interesting art galleries, a pretty little church, a few restaurants—and not much else. From there we continued to Baia Sardinia which is a lovely, low key, beach resort with beautiful emerald waters off of a long beach.  As I was another very warm day, the hospitality of the Barracuda Café beckoned—along with a beer—while my wife went to check on the health of the retail industry.

Our next stop was Porto Cervo. This was developed by the Aga Khan and other investors in the 1960’s and became famous as one of the original jet-set destinations. Porto Cervo has a yacht harbor filled with some magnificent yachts, a lot of private houses with high walls and formidable gates, and a lot of high end shops—all of which were closed on the Sunday we were there—my good luck, but poor planning on their part.

The tour ultimately brought us back to Olbia via another route.

I should probably add a note about shore excursions—particularly with Regent who include free and unlimited shore excursions as a feature of all their sailings.  While we were on the first sailing and found something to like about every excursion we took, we also found ourselves wondering if it might not have been more pleasant to stay on that beautiful ship and enjoy the wonderful service, the wonderful food, and the wonderful air conditioning rather than the tour we were on….but hey, “if you don’t go, you will never know”. Once again, we were happy to be back on board.

Dinner that evening was at the Compass Rose—absolutely fabulous. While the menu had almost anything one could possibly ask for, they were also ready, willing and able to make any request that was not on the menu.

Day 5 ~ Visit St. Tropez

St tropez boat

Seven Seas Explorer anchored off St. Tropez

Today we anchored off of St. Tropez for our last full day on the ship. We chose to take a 2-hour walking tour around this little village, made famous in the 1950’s by its association with Brigitte Bardot who still lives there and is often seen by the locals in this little community of 5000 people.  The town is built around the yacht harbor, filled with vessels that, in same cases, dwarf the buildings.  We had a lovely tour that ended at the art museum.  One of my goals had been to see the Hotel de Ponche—a small, often overlooked 5 star hotel in St. Tropez. It looks out a small beach and is one I have used a number of times for clients who want some an intimate experience with reasonable prices. I had never seen it before and was not disappointed.

We decided to go to one of the beach clubs outside the village for lunch and Rose at club 55took a 12 minute cab ride to Club 55—arguably the best-known of all of the beach clubs in St. Tropez. It had not occurred to me that on a Monday we would have any difficulty in getting a table but we were informed that a table would be impossible. I am not sure if it was Barbara’s presence or my very deferential French, but we ultimately were shown to a table in front of which every guest coming to lunch had to pass!  Paparazzi – eat your hearts out!! Barbara could name every handbag paraded past us. I, however, concentrated on the excellent Rose de Provence we were drinking while reflecting on the irony of the term “cover-up.” Two hours later, we were on our way back to the port having pronounced the day a complete success.

Hint—Should you go to St. Tropez, make a lunch reservation at Club 55. The beach is available to you, and the table is yours all day long!

Club 55 in St. Tropez is an elegant lunch destination. Make a reservation beforehand for a table for the day and private beach access.

Club 55 in St. Tropez is an elegant lunch destination. Make a reservation beforehand for a table for the day and private beach access.

We came back to the ship and started our packing for a sailing that, for us, was over way too quickly. The voyage ended in Monte Carlo, where I took the beautiful photo below from the ship. We then spent a few days in Paris to end the trip.

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

Among features of the Explorer that we were unable to take advantage of due to the tight schedule was their exhibition kitchen were cooking demonstrations and cooking classes are offered. The kitchen is state of the art and a huge “must” for anyone with a strong interest in cooking.

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona


The Seven Seas Explorer is certainly living up to its name. The first voyages are all completely sold out and for good reason. The ship is worth the hype. To discuss your itinerary on the Seven Seas Explorer, send me and email at or call 805.969.7746.

PART 1: Barcelona as Recommended by Santa Barbara Travel CEO, Charles de L’Arbre

Charles de L’Arbre, CEO of Santa Barbara Travel, shares his itinerary, reviews, and travel trips from his most recent trip to Europe with his wife, Barbara. In this first installment, find airport and travel tips, and take a tour of Barcelona.

Day 1

We departed LAX on Air France on their Airbus 380—marvelous service and food in business class. Lie flat beds and great entertainment system on board. We were at the Korean Airlines lounge which had very little to offer in terms of food apart from the ability to make ramen noodles and generous helpings of kim chee…..

The transfer at Charles de Gaulle involved 2 long walks and a short train ride to change terminals plus going through security and passport control. With an hour and a half between flights in was manageable and the signage to get from one place to another was very clear.

In Barcelona, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Arts which was built for the Olympics down by the waterfront. The area had formerly been all warehouses and docks and was re-designed by the architect Frank Gehry to include hotels, beaches, and areas with a lot of restaurants and bars. Now a very hip and tourist friendly area.

Hotel Arts Barcelona was built for the Olympics. Mostly warehouses, the area was re-designed by the architect Frank Gehry.

Hotel Arts Barcelona was built for the Olympics. Mostly warehouses, the area was re-designed by the architect Frank Gehry.

We stayed up on the Club Level where check-in was handled and were shown to a beautiful room looking north along the beaches. Once unpacked, we went to The Club and toasted our arrival with a glass of cava, jamon de Serrano, Spanish cheeses and other delicacies and made our plans for the next two days.

Hotel Arts Barcelona Deluxe Guestroom

Hotel Arts Barcelona Deluxe Guestroom

The Club at Hotel Arts Barelona

The Club at Hotel Arts Barcelona

Dinner  that night was at a wonder tapas bar, La Pepita where we were looked after by the owner who suggested choices off of their long menu and plentiful wine list.  We left sated and amazed by a bill that was less than 65 Euros.

Photo credit:

La Pepita in Barcelona: A hip, affordable Tapas bar open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

La Pepita food

Photo credit:

Day 2

Breakfast at The Club followed by a cab ride up to the Passeig de Gracia—often described as Barcelona’s Fifth Avenue.  We started on the upper part of the street which is much more of a residential neighborhood and meandered our way down. As I often do, we looked in at various hotels we use in Barcelona.

Hotel Casa Fuster designed by Spanish architect Lluis Domanech

Hotel Casa Fuster designed by Spanish architect Lluis Domanech

The most unusual may be the Casa Fuster which was originally designed as a private home by the great Spanish architect Lluis Domanech I Montaner, considered a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi, done in the Modernist Style. Now a wonderful hotel with a terrific bar, it is very close to the iconic Gaudi structures.

Charles de L'Arbre standing in front of the Gaudí house

Charles de L’Arbre standing in front of the Gaudí house

We stopped in at Casa Batlló, a renowned building in the center of Barcelona remodeled  by architect Antoni Gaudí. It was a 15 minute wait for entrance tickets but well-worth the wait for a self-guided tour with audio-assist of one of the most extraordinary structures in Barcelona. Also on Passeig de Gracia is another Gaudí house: Casa Milà popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry). For anyone interested in Gaudí, this is not to be missed! Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry), and the Casa Battlo. Both are on Passeig de Gracia and open to visitors.

Old Facade of Majestic Hotel in Barcelona

Old Facade of Majestic Hotel in Barcelona

We continued on down Passeig de Gracia, stopping in at the Hotel Majestic—another deluxe and very Spanish hotel with reputation for superb service and an unmatched location—as well as the Mandarin Oriental Hotel which opened 2 years ago. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is very serene and Asian in feeling and is separated from the street by a long entrance hall with most of the public rooms on the second floor. Like its sister hotel in Paris (which we saw a week later), the entire hotel is almost like being in a spa.

New Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona Main Lobby and Entrance Cat Walk show the modern-design

New Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona Main Lobby and Entrance Cat Walk show the modern design

Lunch was at the rooftop restaurant of Hotel 1898 down on Las Ramblas. Lovely service, a bit of a breeze, good food washed down with an excellent Rioja—all a perfect end to the morning hike.  The hotel is a wonderful marriage between traditional and very hip and a good choice for anyone who wants to be down closer to the Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. From  our table we could look out on the spires of the cathedral a couple of blocks away.  Other hotel choices in that area would include the Hotel Colon, which is directly across from the Cathedral, it’s budget-friendly, sister hotel, the Regencia Colon, as well the the lovely Hotel Neri—a modern hotel inside a 15th century palacio.

La Isabella Terraza

La Isabella Terraza, the roof top restaurant of Hotel 1989 on Las Ramblas

Day 3

After breakfast in The Club, we decided to take a quick run up to La Sagrada Familia—something we do every time we are in Barcelona since my first visit in 1977. La Sagrada Familia is the yet-unfinished masterwork of Antoni Gaudi. Construction began in 1882. Gaudi was killed by a streetcar 40 years later and construction progressed slowly until about 20 years ago. Completion is estimated to be about 16 years from now.

Travel Tip: Because it is Barcelona’s most-visited attraction, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to reserve your tickets for scheduled tours in advance! No first-time visit to Barcelona is complete without a visit to this amazing cathedral.

Tour complete, we went back to the hotel, finalized our packing and took a 10-minute taxi-ride to the Barcelona Passenger Cruise Terminal. Forty-five minutes later, we and our fellow passengers were among the first guests to board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer.

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

Glass of champagne in hand, we wandered around the ship—truly impressed with the artwork, the detail and, of course, the layout. Not dissimilar from other Regent ships we have sailed on, there is truly a wonderful aura about Explorer—the public rooms have a lovely scale and the staff absolutely top-notch.

Details of the voyage on the Seven Seas Explorer coming soon

Warm Regards,
Charles de L’Arbre

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona

Talk to our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, about his recent trip to Europe visiting Spain and traveling aboard Regent’s new Seven Seas Explorer. Contact him by emailing

Luxury by Numbers: The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built

Seven Seas Explorer® is officially on duty. Guests may now relish the opulence and extravagance aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises newest ship. From unwinding on the $150,000 Savoir No. 1 bed in the Regent Suite to dining on specially designed Versace plates, here’s why Seven Seas Explorer is the world’s most luxurious ship ever built. Next week, Santa Barbara Travel CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, shares his personal experience and travel tips from his voyage aboard the Seven Seas Explorer.

staff to guest ratio

balcony space



more quality

versace place settings


Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

1 Acre of Marble and 1 Acre of Granite Used to Build Ship

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona

Talk to our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, about his recent trip to Europe visiting Spain and traveling aboard Regent’s new Seven Seas Explorer. Contact him by emailing