Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Travel Exchange staff members attend the 12th annual Benefit for the Elton John Aids Foundation on October 12th in New York City.

An “Enduring Vision” was the theme of the gala benefit which was held at the famed Cipriani Wall Street.

Since its founding in 1992 as a nonprofit organization in the United States the EJAF has raised more than $300 million. The goal of the organization is to combat stigma, prevent infections, provide treatment & services and to motivate government to end AIDS.

The organization presented awards to Sandra Lee, Howard Rose & Ron Perelman. A special tribute was paid to Hillary Rodham Clinton for her support and contribution to gay rights as well as HIV/AIDS issues. In recognition the EJAF awarded her the very first Founder’s Award.

American Airlines is a strong supporter of the Elton John Aids Foundation. Pictured above is Mary & Tom Mullen of the Travel Exchange along with Natalia Quesada
of American Airlines.

Tom Mullen
Director Edgewood Division
Travel Exchange - A Proud Member of Virtuoso
67 Holly Hill Lane
Greenwich,CT 06830

Monday, October 7, 2013

Punta Mita Four Seasons

This was my first trip to this area and I hope to return as often as possible.   Of course, in true Four Seasons' fashion the trip was made even better with impeccable service, views and accommodations that were provided at the resort.

But before going into detail, I'd like to add a few comments , etc. with regards to getting to Punta Mita.

Before arriving into Mexico, I had researched a few alternatives for transportation.   Punta Mita is approximately 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta airport (PVR) (60 minutes from Puerto Vallarta Centro)

Four Seasons offers roundtrip transfers for 200USD and there are taxi services also available for approximately 80-100USD each way.  However, I would recommend a car rental for a couple of reasons. Number one, they're pretty reasonable - 5.00-8.00USD daily, but keep in mind insurance can run you a few hundred dollars for a week, but  is a necessity, especially when traveling outside of the US.  Number two - to get to anything outside of the hotel;  like some of the charming villages surrounding the resort complex, or even Puerto Vallarta it will cost you a minimum of 20.00USD daily and 200.00 if going into PVR.  Number three - it is extremely easy to navigate the countryside with basically one road that runs the entire route from the tip of Puerto Vallarta to the tip of Punta Mita - Highway 200.  An easy road with plenty of gas stations, etc. along the way.  Just beware of the speed bumps in the areas surrounding Punta Mita.

Now - on to Four Seasons Punta Mita

The greeting - Welcome Home is most fitting this luxurious slice of heaven.  I've stayed at Four Seasons before, but I do believe that Punta Mita has the warmest staff I've ever encountered.  Accommodations offer breathtaking views of the ocean and all the amenities you come to expect at a five star resort - well appointed rooms, decor is comfortable elegance - with an emphasis on relaxation.  (clearly evident in the hammocks stretched along the balconies, and beaches)

I was so fortunate to have received an upgrade to a Beachfront Casita offering even more space, beach access through your patio, plunge pools, and a separate living room and additional bathroom - absolutely your home away from home.

The resort's dining options are many.  Asian influences, Mexican Flare, Continental - with lounges throughout the resort area and open air lobby that all support the 'comfort' and 'relaxation' theme throughout while providing a simple elegance for evening affairs.

For groups - they've completed a large palapa that is state of the art - offering air conditioning and can hold up to 300 people for a banquet dinner!   In addition, there are areas throughout the resort  tucked into the property strategically where you can sit, lay, float - and relax.  There are three pools, each offering  something a little different.  The adult pool  is elegant, reserved and refined - tucked into the mangroves on the resort.  The lazy river is built right through the lush vegetation and is most relaxing when experienced through an inner tube with a drink in your hand!  Finally, the beachside infinity pool is so well positioned that you really feel as if you're floating at the edge of the world.  Probably one of the optimal places to sip a cool drink and watch the sun fall into the sea.  By the way - once again they've thought of everything and wouldn't want you to exert yourself by walking to the other side of the pool for a drink, so the waiter is happy to wade through the water to serve you inside the pool! - taking the poolside service to a whole new level.

The resort is not short on activities and the staff are always ready and eager to help you get up on a paddle board, kayak, fish, snorkel, scuba dive, etc.   All right from the beach.  You can literally roll from your beach chair into a kayak and back!  Wouldn't want anyone to exert themselves.

For the more adventurous  - there's a yacht that can be rented for the day which will take you deep sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, etc. or the resort offers hikes along the property and beachside for  those who prefer a bit more exercise.

Of course, there are the usual things to do like yoga classes, ceramics, kids club for the young ones you bring along, etc. - really if you feel like doing something - there truly is a plethora of things to choose from.
However, if relaxing is what you've come for - you're in the right place.  The Four Seasons Punta Mita offers the most luxurious of beach beds I've ever encountered.  With ample shading, an abundance of plush pillows and linens - it is so comfortable you would find it hard to ever get up!  To add to the convenience - they stock it with cold waters, bring you your lunch on bed trays, cool towels to wipe away any bead of sweat that may appear and the occasional mojito or margarita of the day! 

Four Seasons staff - from the moment you arrive at the bell stand, to your breakfast in the morning, your beachside relaxation, front desk, etc. you're treated like you've returned home and the staff give the impression that they're not only tops in their fields of service but that they truly enjoy their positions with Four Seasons.  They are always willing to chat and offer assistance when it comes to their resort,  Punta Mita and Mexico.  A true testament to the training and philosophy behind Four Seasons management.
Four Seasons Punta Mita , your home away from home and an experience you must have at least once in your lifetime.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

London Report May 2013

JFK AA Tower
I was one of the lucky agents to be invited on this very special London familiarization trip which took place May 30-June 2, 2013. It all began with our arrival at JFK airport and a personal behind-the-scenes tour of the American Airlines Terminal # 8. Our guide was the Head of Operations for American Airlines at Kennedy Airport. Our tour began with the flight control tower which we reached through a series of restricted access doors, video monitored hallways and a short elevator ride.Once inside we were in the command center for all AA lights in & out of JFK as well as all airport operations in the terminal below. It was a fascinating spot and the people monitoring the computers were very willing to answer our questions.

We then were escorted back out and down to the departures area where we had a chance to see the American Airlines Flagship Lounge which is for the exclusive use of First Class passengers followed by a tour of the Admirals Club Lounge which is open to Business Class passenger as well as Admiral's Club Members. After a quick drink in the Admiral's Club it was time for us to board our flight to London on American's newest aircraft the Boeing 777. Onboard the plane Business Class seating is 1-2-1 all facing forward no climbing over people to get in or out of your seat. The seats do go completely lie-flat and are very well designed and comfortable. Bose noise-canceling headphones and a very nice amenity bag were provided at each seat as well as a large pillow and blanket sealed in a plastic bag.

Service was nicely paced by a very friendly & professional crew. The dinner meal was served one course at a time followed by an elaborate desert cart. Announcements were kept to a minimum and a self-service snack & beverage station was set-up i the forward galley area for late night snackers.. In-flight entertainment was very extensive with multiple choices of movies, TV series, documentaries as well as foreign films.

With a few hours of rest it was time for a quick breakfast as we made our approach to Heathrow Airport and an early arrival at 630am. As Business Class passengers we could  follow the Fast-Track lanes at Immigration & Customs and bypass the longer lines. Once we were through that process we could then experience the joys of the American Airlines Arrival Lounge located just one floor above. It was here that we could enjoy a hot shower in very clean individual compartments. For anyone that was hungry or thirsty there was large spread of breakfast items in the lounge with plenty of hot & cold beverages to choose from. Comfortable seating, television sets as well as quiet areas truly make this spot a welcome refuge after an overnight flight. Once our group assembled after getting refreshed at the Arrival's Lounge we were met by Tri-Star Worldwide Chauffeur Service for our transfer to downtown London and the beginning of our hotel inspections & tours.

First stop the Pelham Hotel    
Buckingham Gate
This stylish boutique hotel in the heart of South Kensington is a good choice for those looking to be close to Buckingham Gate which is a 5 star property operated by the famed Taj Hotel Group complete with a Michelin Starred restaurant. All 86 contemporary rooms are suites from 1 to 9 bedrooms all with fully equipped kitchens and living rooms & luxurious bathrooms. It's a great choice for families as it is truly a home-away-from-home in the heart of Westminster just minutes from Buckingham Palace.Our last stop of the morning was the Four Season's London where we were met by the friendly faces of Marion Ryan and Gesine Hubner who expedited our check-in and got us all squared away into this magnificent hotel in the heart of Mayfair. We were all eager to get out and enjoy the beautiful afternoon so we set off by foot to the nearby Athenaeum Hotel offering hotel rooms, suites and townhouse apartments opposite the Royal Parks and just down the road from major museums & galleries.
Harrods, The Victoria & Albert Museum as well as Royal Albert Hall. There were lots of stylish shops and trendy restaurants in the neighborhood. We then moved on to Westminster and 51

Continuing our trek we ventured over to the West End and took a tour of the recently re-opened Cafe Royal Hotel located on Regent Street. This property would be a good choice for those interested in being close to the theatre district as well as Bond Street & Savile Row shopping.

View from 10th Floor Lounge
Our group re-assembled at 7pm in the 10th Floor Lounge back at the Four Seasons London for cocktails and appetizers. This roof-top lounge serves as an arrivals lounge during the day complete with self-serve food & beverage service as well as private showers and changing compartments for hotel guests arriving in London from overnight flights. It appears to be a welcome refuge for those guests waiting for their rooms to be ready. At night the space is turned into a cocktail lounge with an outdoor deck that has 360 degree views out over the city of London. Our hosts were able to point out all the famous landmarks of London from this commanding spot atop the Four Seasons Hotel. Dinner that evening was at the Amaranto Restaurant located off the lobby of the hotel. The overall theme of the restaurant is Mediterranean and everyone was in agreement that the food & service were fantastic. After a restful sleep in the luxurious accommodations we were ready to begin day 2 with a Thames River boat ride to Canary Wharf and the sister hotel - Four Seasons Canary Wharf. After a top to bottom tour of the hotel we all agreed this riverfront property would be an ideal location for business travelers given the walking distance proximity to so many financial institutions and international firms. The West India Quay is a charming and historic location.

Charlie Chaplin Suite
at The Savoy
Later that day we made our way over to the Savoy Hotel an iconic London institution that has played host to Royalty, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Artists & Movie Stars  for over a 100 years.Located on the banks of the Thames River this landmark hotel really shines in every way. A stay at he Savoy is truly a journey into history & tradition in the best of English style.

5:30pm was our start time for champagne & tour of Claridge's Hotel. Our host for this portion of the evening was the very charming Director of Private Visits & Embassy Relations - Mr Alessandro Bakirtzdis. This property truly holds the claim of Mayfair's Art Deco jewel. It was just a short walk from Claridge's to the Connaught where our  Maybourne hosts Rebecca Sajous and  Head Concierge Corrado Bogni gave us a top to bottom tour of this historic 5 star hotel tucked into a quiet corner in Mayfair.

Enroute to The Dorchester
The following day which would be our last full day in London started with brunch at 45 Park Lane in the Wolfgang Puck award winning restaurant - CUT. Our hosts for the morning were the General Manager - Christophe Hilty and  the Director of Sales for the Dorchester Collection - Victoria White. We had a delicious meal accompanied by the best Bloody Mary's in town. 45 Park Lane is a small 45 room boutique hotel that is very chic and affords all room Hyde Park views. Following brunch and our tour of the property we walked across the block to the flagship hotel of the collection - The Dorchester.The paparazzi was in full-force outside the hotel in the hopes of getting a shot of one of the many celebrities that were in residence that weekend.Our hosts would not divulge which celebrities were actually staying there despite our constant urging.That's reassuring to know that they are truly professional in every sense of the word. The Dorchester is located on Park Lane in between Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch. This property is one of the top hotels in  the world and has a rich history of being center stage for over 50 years and a home-away-from-home to world leaders, royalty and Hollywood celebrities.
View from the Penthouse
at the Corinthia

Our last & final hotel stay was the brand new Corinthia Hotel located close to the Thames and just
moments from Covent Garden & Westminster. This hotel represents state of the art 21st century luxury. The lobby is very contemporary and each guest room is a quiet & peaceful haven that has every high tech amenity one could wish for.

The highlight of our stay was the cocktail party hosted by Marianne Kassapian the Hotel Sales & Marketing Manager which was held on the penthouse terrace. Amazing views out over the London skyline with Big Ben and the London Eye all right there in full view. We were hard-pressed to leave this one-of-a-kind setting. We all tried our best to capture this on film. Dinner that night at Massimo Restaurant located off the lobby was very memorable. Bags had to be packed that night as we had an early wake-up call for our transportation back to Heathrow Airport  and the 1030am departure for JFK.

Tom Mullen
Director Edgewood Division
Travel Exchange - A Proud Member of Virtuoso
67 Holly Hill Lane
Greenwich,CT 06830