AWARD WINNING TRAVEL SERVICE | TOLL FREE: 1-800-350-9333

TOLL FREE:
1-800-350-9333

AWARD WINNING
TRAVEL SERVICE

MENU
menu

TOLL FREE:
1-800-350-9333

MENU

TRAVEL BLOG

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.

rocky-mountaineer-nancy

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.

rocky-mountaineer-roof

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 nherrmann@sbtravel.com. Learn more about Nancy on her Travel Profile

Northwest Passage 2017 Voyage

VOYAGE 7320 | 32 DAYS | AUGUST 15, 2017

NORTHWEST PASSAGE

ANCHORAGE/SEWARD TO NEW YORK CITY | CRYSTAL SERENITY

Responding to continued demand for its sold-out inaugural 2016 Northwest Passage transit, Crystal Serenity’s 2017 Northwest Passage Explorer will once again be journeying from Seward, Alaska, to New York City, New York, on a 32-day journey crafted for the world’s most curious adventurers. We have been following the 2016 Voyage on the “Live Tracker” and can’t be more excited to offer this trip once again!

2017 Northwest Passage Sailling in Luxury

2017 Northwest Passage Sailling in Luxury

Exceptional wildlife sightings, stunning displays of nature, and rare experiences carefully designed to reveal remote cultures in the most authentic and engaging manner are the defining aspects of this life-enhancing voyage. Joined by a dedicated team of approximately 14 professionals, the Captain and his expanded crew of navigation experts will incorporate unplanned “expedition days” when favorable weather conditions allow, as well as Unexpected Adventures™ ranging from Zodiac landings and kayaking in protected bays to trekking the tundra with an experienced guide. To whet your appetite for this extraordinary adventure, feel free to visit our current 2016 Northwest Passage webpage— crystalcruises.com/NWP — that details all you need to know to prepare for this incredible journey, including the proper gear and accessories required to enjoy the experience to its fullest.

WE’VE THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING… SO YOU CAN DISCOVER THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE IN COMFORT AND STYLE.

Crystal Cruises has compiled the following guide to answer your questions and get you excited about this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

2017_Northwest_Passage_townBEFORE YOU EXPLORE

So grand is the voyage, so magnificent the adventure, Crystal’s 2017 Northwest Passage has been perfectly planned. We’ve conferred with Canadian authorities and experts, and engaged the local communities to ensure every detail of this incredible adventure is attended to with the thoughtful finesse and skilled expertise the world’s most discerning travelers have come to expect from the World’s Best cruise line.

How can a luxury cruise ship offer an expedition-style voyage in the Arctic?

Crystal Serenity is experienced in operating in some of the world’s most extreme locations, such as Alaska and Antarctica, and will be navigating the Northwest Passage at the most optimum time of year, when the ice significantly recedes allowing vessels to safely transit with minimal risk of encountering ice concentrations. Two ice pilots will join the Captain and trained bridge crew at all times, and the ship will be equipped with state-of-the-art sonar technologies. The region is not as remote as one might think and the itinerary will pass communities that have regularly scheduled commercial air service. Given the limited infrastructure of many of the communities we will visit, an escort vessel will accompany Crystal Serenity, carrying with it “adventure equipment” including a platform for wilderness landings, Zodiacs, kayaks and a helicopter.

Wildlife Citings Along the Northwest Passage

Wildlife Sitings Along the Northwest Passage

What wildlife will I see?

Seals, whales and seabirds may be seen throughout the voyage and in High Arctic regions Crystal Serenity may encounter walrus, narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales. Musk-oxen might be seen on shore, and the passage boasts teeming colonies of kittiwakes, guillemots and murres. In general, wildlife along the Northwest Passage is unpredictable and often difficult to spot, and while polar bears thrive in this region, there is no guarantee that any will be seen on the transit. However, the expedition team will maintain a keen eye so that if an opportunity arises and conditions allow, the Captain will attempt to position the vessel accordingly.

What kind of excursions will be offered ashore?

We have created a series of immersive Crystal Adventures® unique to this itinerary:

• Complimentary Community Visits will provide insight into the daily lives and customs of the Arctic people. Guests will have the opportunity to go ashore in smaller groups to explore communities and experience the daily life of local cultures.

• Crystal Unexpected Adventures will be serendipitous stops when weather and wildlife present opportunities for sightseeing, whale watching and Zodiac landings.

• Crystal Wilderness Adventures™ & Crystal Overland Adventures™ feature thrilling explorations such as helicopter flightseeing, kayaking and whale watching by Zodiac.

• “You Care. We Care.™” Voluntourism opportunities will be offered on a complimentary basis with occasions to participate in local cultural activities.

Helicopter Ride's Are Amongst the Choices for Shore Expeditions

Helicopter Ride’s Are Amongst the Choices for Shore Expeditions

How do I pack? What do I need to bring?

We recommend packing outdoor wear that can be layered in breathable fabrics of fleece, cotton and wool, along with windproof, waterproof clothing and shoes. Crystal will provide water-resistant parkas and boot rentals, and has partnered with a wilderness outfitter offering expedition clothing for purchase. Onboard evening attire will be significantly relaxed, with very few formal evenings. A detailed packing list will be provided prior to the voyage.

2017_Northwest_Passage_view from helicopter

Will there be Internet access and mobile phone coverage?

The ship’s Internet and telephone services will be available for approximately 90% of the expedition, although signals may be slowed or not available at all in the northernmost areas. Shore-based cell phone signals will not be available, except in some of the towns we visit—and guests are asked not to use local signals so the local community’s capacity is not overwhelmed. The Captain and crew will always have operational and emergency communication throughout the entire voyage.

What kind of environmental footprint will the ship make?

Crystal Serenity will be voluntarily using marine gas oil, an extremely clean-burning, low-sulphur fuel that far exceeds regulations, as will the escort ship. The ship’s sophisticated waste management equipment, storage and procedures ensure nothing will be left behind. With regard to the individual communities, we will be working in advance with community leaders to ensure our visits are positive experiences for both locals and guests.

To contact a travel advisor about this incredible voyage in 2017, receive a full itinerary, and talk about specials, contact Nancy Herrmann by emailing nherrmann@sbtravel.com or calling 805.966.3116

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.

fountain_place_des_vosges

Place de Vosges in the Marais District in Paris. Photo Credit: www.placesinparis.com/place-des-vosges/

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.

Lobby

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 charlesd@sbtravel.com

 

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 www.Viator.com

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

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 charlesd@sbtravel.com 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: http://www.timeout.com/barcelona/restaurants/la-pepita

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

La Pepita food

Photo credit: Timout.com

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 charlesd@sbtravel.com

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


chandliers


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 charlesd@sbtravel.com

 

 

World Cruise 2018: La Grande Bellezza

180 Days Traveling the World in Luxury and Comfort

121 Days Traveling the World in Luxury and Comfort

It is, indeed, a beautiful world and this magnificent voyage from Los Angeles to Rome casts a spotlight on all of its richness — mesmerizing landscapes like the blue lagoons of Polynesia and splendors of New Zealand. Ancient wonders from Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal to the epic monuments that straddle the banks of the Red Sea.

Silversea Sydney

Silver Whisper in front of the Sydney Opera House

The ingenuity of modern-day man is also on display: Sydney’s Opera House, the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur, the soaring skylines of Singapore and Hong Kong, forever competing in a global race skyward. La Grande Bellezza was designed to encompass priceless treasures like these. Although the ultimate prize may be more metaphysical — the pampered indulgence of your butler, the intimate ship and highly personalised service, the luxury of your spacious suite and culinary excellence and diversity of the cuisine — the joy of a Silversea journey, itself.

Seven Seas Explorer Embarks on Christening Voyage

Through the partnership of Santa Barbara Travel and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the CEO of Santa Barbara Travel was invited aboard the first voyage of Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer, before the invitation-only Christening Voyage. Recognized industry-wide as “The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built,” expectations are running high, but we have no doubt they will be exceeded. The round-trip voyage out of Monte Carlo will be making port visits to Portofino, Livorno, Ibiza, Barcelona, and St. Rafael before returning to Monte Carlo.

Follow us on Facebook for live updates of the trip!

About the Seven Seas Explorer

New Regent Seven Seas Explorer

New Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Seven Seas Explorer is spaciously intimate, breathlessly elegant and perfectly staffed to offer Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ special brand of all-inclusive luxury. She will bring elegance and glamour to the world’s greatest destinations, offering exquisite dining options that rival those of the finest restaurants ashore and all-suite, all-balcony accommodations boasting the largest balconies at sea.

 

“If you are going to deliver on the promise that this is the Most Luxurious Cruise Ship ever built, there’s a myriad of variables that have to be taken into account, and one of them is the actual materials used,” says Frank del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines. How does that translate into a luxury cruise ship? To start, sleep in a $150,000 bed, play a one-of-a-kind $500,000 Steinway grand piano in your living room, and enjoy in-room spa treatments. Take a full tour of the Regent Suite in the video below.

Highlights on the ship include the state of the art Culinary Arts Kitchen, incredible entertainment, world class luxury suites, extraordinary service, culinary experiences that rival the best on-shore restaurants, top-notch shore excursions, and did we mention, all Regent Seven Seas Cruises are truly all-inclusive?

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby. Over 1 acre of marble and 1 acre of granite used throughout the vessle

See all the Inside Details on the Seven Seas Explorer

Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco will christen the Seven Seas Explorer® on July 13, 2016. Watch the historic ceremony and grand celebration live from Monte Carlo at 2:45 PM (EST) on ExplorerChristening.com

Watch the Christening Ceremony

Talk to our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, about his recent trip on the Seven Seas Explorer. Contact him by emailing charlesd@sbtravel.com

Advisor Trip: Holland America’s new Koningsdam Ship

Janet Morton is amongst our most experienced travel advisors. This Spring, she was invited aboard the newest addition to the Holland America fleet, Koningsdam. Below, she shares her impressions of the new ship, as well as highlights and suggestions for each city along the way. 

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

The Koningsdam is certainly the new King of the Holland America fleet, aptly named as “Koning” means “king” in Dutch. The new ship was impressive. Modern technology upgrades make the trip comfortable; the restaurant options are expanded; the spa is the most deluxe I have seen on a cruise ship, and the music-themed ship certainly delivers on both entertainment and décor.

The onboard entertainment is good, appealing to both solo travelers and families. Favorite entertainment options of mine included a Jazz lounge, classical music area, big evening shows, a new glass roofed Lido Deck where evening movies are screened, diverse dining options, and a huge theatre. On days we were at sea, we spent our time by the pool.

Pool area aboard the

Pool area aboard the Koningsdam

 

LAND HIGHLIGHTS

Naples is always a favorite cruise stop of mine, as there is a lot to do quite easily. You can go to the ancient city of Pompeii, the charming coastal town of Sorrento, tour the Amalfi Coast, or take a boat to Capri, each in a day’s visit. I visited Pompeii, an incredible archeological site that captures this Roman city exactly as it was before Mt. Vesuvius erupted.

Elaborate Sign in Pompeii that Translates to "Beware of Dog"

Elaborate Sign in Pompeii that Translates to “Beware of Dog”

In Granada, I joined the offered shore excursion to visit The Alhambra, a castle with Moorish architecture. I typically go off on my own, given my travel experience, but I chose the offered Shore Excursion to The Alhambra. Unless you rent a car, it is quite difficult to get there yourself, and we were happy to join the group for the day. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and friendly, the weather was great, and lunch was included. It was busy, but still enjoyable.

The Courtyard of the Alhambra, the regional  "Taj Majal"

The Courtyard of the Alhambra, the regional “Taj Majal”

The itinerary was well planned, allowing for two days in the city of Barcelona. While there are plenty of shore excursions (up to 20 to 30 at each port), I chose to walk Barcelona. With the quirky art and architecture of the city, maze-like streets, fantastic restaurants, it is a city meant to be experienced up close. Already I am planning a trip with more time in this city, a passion sparked by our introduction on this cruise.

The Port of Gibraltar was an incredible day with a visit to the most interesting airport in the world and the Rock of Gibraltar. If you go anywhere, you’ll have no choice but to drive through the airport, literally. The main road goes right through the runway, and when a plane comes in, stoplights stop traffic on either side, a crew cleans the runway, and a plane lands right in front of you.

The Rock of Gibraltar (left) and Gibraltar Airport stop light (right)

The Rock of Gibraltar (left) and Gibraltar Airport stop light (right)

The Rock of Gibraltar peaks at 1398 feet, and is formed from Early Jurassic limestone and dolomites. There is a tram that takes you up, and the view over the ocean is unbelievable. The Barbary Macaques, or “monos,” are the resident monkeys and quite a scene!

Each port city is such a treat, and it can be difficult to choose from the many wonderful options. It is good to remember that cruises are an opportunity to explore many places without checking in, checking out, and navigating to each city. In fact, this trip has already inspired another to Spain!

To talk about Holland America, Spain or Italy, reach out to Janet Morton by email at jmorton@sbtravel.com

Advisor Trip: Royal Palms, Phoenix, AZ

Looking for a quick getaway in Phoenix or a luxurious stopover on your way to Canyon Ranch Tucson? The Royal Palms Resort and Spa is a MUST STAY.

Royal Palms Entrance

This beautiful property was originally built in 1929 by Mr. Delos Willard Cooke (New York Industrialist) as a Spanish colonial inspired mansion for his ailing wife.  After being owned by several prominent owners, the estate eventually turned into the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, now a 5 Star boutique Virtuoso resort with full spa services.

Royal Palms Camel Back Villa

Royal Palms Camel Back Villa

Upon arrival, I felt I entered a time warp as I walked into this historic Arizona landmark featuring a fragrant orange grove, hidden alcoves, and colorful manicured gardens dotted by water fountains with the flavor of Andalusia. My room’s Juliet-style balcony window overlooked the hotel’s grand entrance. For those that want to relax or enjoy a romantic getaway, you will not go wrong with their spacious bathrooms (mine was just as big as the sleeping/living area) featuring a deep soaking tub and separate shower.

Royal Palms Montavista Terrace Room

Royal Palms Montavista Terrace Room

Definitely try the award-winning restaurant, T. Cook’s, one of the best restaurants I have ever experienced.  I ordered the recommended duck foie gras and glad I indulged.

Royal Palms Spa Treatment

Royal Palms Spa Treatment

Visit in May, as I did, and enjoy hundreds of hummingbirds darting around the garden when dining al fresco for lunch or breakfast.  Did I mention breakfast is included with your stay when booking with Santa Barbara Travel?  Book with me and I will reward you with a $50 dinner credit at T. Cook’s and upgrade your room based on availability!

 

Contact me, Kathy Reimer, at 805-650-6999,kreimer@sbtravel.com or my travel partner in the Santa Barbara office, Tina Slimp at 805-869-1112 ortnordholm@sbtravel.com