Category Archives: Tours

Trip to Japan and Cambodia, August 2016

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We began our trip in Nagoya, Japan, where our daughter lives.  Our first day there, she had to work. My husband and I were proud of ourselves because we were able to walk to Noritake Gardens and purchase tickets on the hop on/hop off sightseeing bus from there.  We were able to go to Nagoya Castle and were going to make other stops.  But, it was so hot and humid that we just went back to the rail station and looked in some shops (they have 6 floors of them on top the station) until she came home and met us there.
The next day, we took the bullet train to Kyoto and dropped our overnight bags at the hotel before taking a regular train to Nara, an ancient capital of Japan.  The bullet train beat flying any day.  No airport hassles, just buy a ticket and get on.  It’s fast, smooth and quiet.  Nara is well known now for the tame deer in it’s park.  We were expecting dozens, but there were hundreds.  And, they don’t stay in the park.  People are selling wafers to feed them out on the sidewalks, so that’s where they come to meet you and continue to areas across the street.  They are cute, but can be annoying because they bite at your clothing to get your attention to feed them.

Across the street is a huge building with the biggest bronze Buddha in Japan and the third largest Buddha built of any material there.  I must admit that it was awesome.  Shinto is the oldest religion in Japan.  It’s a nature-based religion – they worship the sun, water, wind, etc.  Jessie says that most people are born Shinto, but turn Buddhist later in life.  That’s probably because Buddhists believe in a life after death and the Shinto religion is just over when you die.

The next morning, we took a half day tour in Kyoto.  We went to the Ni-Jo Jo Castle, where the floors are made creaky on purpose, so the Shogun could hear intruders.  We saw the Golden Pavilion, which is covered in gold leaf and visited the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.  Japan does have an Emperor, but he’s a figurehead, like Queen Elizabeth.  He lives in the Palace in Tokyo, but comes to Kyoto for certain ceremonies.
We returned to Nagoya and left the next day for Siem Reap, Cambodia.  We learned from our tour guide that the city name means Victory from Siam.  Siam (now Thailand) and taken away much of their land and they fought to get it back.  We arrived late in the evening.  Siem Reap boasts deluxe hotels, like Raffles, but we didn’t stay there!  We went to a small hotel, Hollywood Angkor Boutique Hotel.  It’s an old hotel with about 15 rooms.  We were greeted with cold, scented wash cloths and a cold drink.  You have to use an old-fashioned key, then stick the metal plate attached to a slot in the wall to make the electricity work.  The mattresses were like new and everything was spotless.  The service there was amazing!

The next morning we went out and came back, then went to lunch and came back, then went on an afternoon tour and came back, then to the circus and came back.  Each time we walked in, they were there with cold cloths.  In Japan, people don’t tip, but everyone there works hard on their own.  In Cambodia, the people are much poorer and they do accept tips.  They are very gracious and very appreciative of whatever they get.  The pool area at the hotel had beautiful orchids and flowering trees.  Our last day there, my daughter got a massage and facial (done in the room) for about $32.00.  While we were waiting in the lobby, someone brought us cold bottles of water – just another small way they catered to their guests.
The first morning in Cambodia, we were taken to the park across the river from the hotel.  Traffic there is a free-for-all – not for the faint of heart.  It was Saturday, so the Buddhist temple there had live Cambodian Music.  There were people in the park having breakfast, and children were playing.  There were also giant bats in the trees (at night they fly and eat the bugs).  There were also beggars.  One man only had 1 leg, probably from the land mines that were buried all over Cambodia during their war.  We had arranged private tours through TravelBound because they were the same cost as group tours.  Our Tour guide for 2 days said that tourists bring in money, but not a lot trickles down to the people from government.  They have their own money, but it’s worthless.  Their economy is built on the U.S. dollar.  They won’t accept torn or very worn bills because they know they have to use them for a long time.  Before we went, we got cash because our bank said up front that they wouldn’t approve our credit card in Cambodia.
That first day, we had an afternoon tour to a floating village.  On the way, we stopped in the country to go part way in carts pulled by water buffaloes.  The roads in the country are terrible, but they don’t bother fixing them because of the flooding in the rainy season.  The floating village is a bunch of floating shacks, mostly, where people live.  They also have a cooking school, church, school, store, etc.  Our daughter told us before we went that the school where she teaches sponsors a school in Cambodia.  The students that go to her school are from wealthy families.  Their school has fund raisers during the year to get money to send to Cambodia (the next one coming up is a Halloween Party).  They are able to provide the Cambodian children with breakfast, lunch and a snack, as well as school supplies.  For many of those children, it’s all the food they will get for the day.
The next day was our full day tour of the Angkor temples, etc.  After you get by the people wanting to sell you things, the ruins are amazing.  Both Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat are huge.  They date from the 1100’s and 1200’s.  They are constructed from huge blocks of sandstone.  There are hundreds of statues and the walls are totally covered with carvings, showing life at the time, such as enemy’s coming on boats, royalty, common people hunting and cooking, etc.  They tell the story of the time.  Ta Prohm is the area where Angelina Jolie filmed the movie, Lara Craft, Tomb Raider.  There, the Strangler Figs are taking over the ruins.  They are trying to preserve the Angkor complexes as much as possible.  Stones that have fallen are numbered and some statue heads have been replaced with concrete.

Originally, their religion was Hindu, but they changed to Buddhist.  At one point the Hindu people stole many of the Buddhist statues and knocked off the faces of Buddha on the carvings.  You can take an elephant ride at Angkor Thom and there are wild monkeys at Angkor Wat.  All-in-all, they are just amazing.  We climbed all over Angkor Thom but when we got to Angkor Wat and I saw the steepness of the steps, I let the family go up while I went to the far side to wait in the shade.  Two young Buddhists monks came along and they chatted with me for some time.  They were school teachers and were off for the day (Sunday).  At first, I wasn’t sure what to say to them, but they were just regular people and we had a lovely conversation.
When we left Cambodia, my daughter had to go back to work in Nagoya so my husband & I went to Tokyo.  When we arrived, it was raining and they said a Typhoon was coming.  We figured our tour to Fuji would be cancelled the next day.  The storm went North and the next day dawned beautiful and sunny.  We found lots of English-speaking people in Tokyo, but we were only there for 2 nights.  I picked a hotel that was a stop for the airport limousine bus and also a pick up the Mt. Fuji, Hakone and Lake Ashi tour.  On the bus to Fuji, you could see it in the distance, but by the time we arrived, it was shrouded in clouds.  The tour was still good with a cable car ride in Hakone.  We stopped at a volcano, which had pipes that let out the sulfur  gas.  Usually, they take you up to a hot spring and boil eggs in the water (they turn black, but you can eat them) but, they had a landslide, and no one was permitted up at that time.  Afterward, we had a cruise on Lake Ashi in a pirate-type boat.
Overall, it was the most adventurous and the best trip we’ve ever done.  And, the tours and hotels we arranged through Travel Bound (Virtuoso) came off without a hitch.

For more information, please contact Traveline at 1-888-700-8747.

Exploring Morocco

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Even with all the issues that are going on in the world and the recent travel alert issued by Department of State, we headed down to Morocco for a 10 day trip to see the country as well as a little hiking in the Atlas mountains.

We started with a nonstop flight from Gatwick on British Airlines. Josh and I splurged a little and went with business class tickets. It was nice to get to the airport and head over to the lounge to relax and enjoy a small meal before heading on to board. With the inflight meal of saffron chicken and a lovely glass of wine, we disembarked early enough to also beat the lines for the customs portion of the journey.

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We booked an 8 day tour with Luxor Tour company that included transfer. We met the driver in the lobby and that is where the issues started to occur. Apparently the company placed us on the Spanish tour. Now my Spanish is the point where I can ask, how much, where is the bathroom, do you speak english, and my all time favorite: where is the pharmacy. So I had a couple of concerns on how much I would be able to get out of this tour.

We headed over to the hotel in Marrakech at Hotel Atlas. Located outside the city, it’s not easy to get into town with out a taxi, while can be arranged by the hotel, the concern on how to get back is what caused some problems.

With dinner being included, we headed down to enjoy the meal. It didn’t really leave a lasting impression more so to get your energy for the last bit of the day. Upon returning to the room I noticed another issue that didn’t stand out when we checked in. We shared the wall with the elevator. Now I have a couple of questions on who is using the elevator at 2 am on a Thursday but they are and that prevented me from getting a restful sleep before we would be heading out the next day.

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We found out that they added us to the Spanish group since there was not a lot of English speaking tourist due to the low season. Normally I wouldn’t mind and understand however we were not given a heads up on the change of plans. Also I understand enough Spanish to know that they were getting more information than we were on the tour in English.

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After heading out of town we started the journey to Casablanca where we were driven around to see the city and dropped off in front of Hassan II Mosque. With a private guide you are able to go inside with a scheduled time, all we saw was the outside. Which don’t get me wrong was amazing and I can only imagine what was done inside and wish we had the chance to find out. But it was off to lunch in town before heading up to Rabat.

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Next was a stop at the Royal Palace to view the grounds and see the mosque, again not allowed inside just pictures on the outside. Afterwards we headed over to see the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Which was beautiful. Don’t forget to look up when you enter to take in the view of the roof.

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Then we were to the hotel for dinner at the Helnan Chellah Hotel Rabat. Here we sat with the rest of the group to improve our Spanish and get to know them. The room was alright, nothing to truly write home about. The gym only had one working bike, everything else was in shambles. Dinner as well as breakfast was buffet.

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The next morning we started with a tour of the Rabat Fortified City with the blue paint on all the buildings. It was breathtaking. We also made some friends with the local cats that followed me around the rest of the city. Then it was back to the bus to head up to Tangier.

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At this point, the Spanish portion left for the port to go home and we were given a lift to the hotel and advised that there really wasn’t much to do in town but the night club and to not head out at night. So I decided to head out for the main road in town and walk up and down the area.

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We saw a mall and tried that out, however it was more grocery shopping than a clothes shopping area. There is also the beach to visit however I did not have room in my bag to pack the swim suit.

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We met up with the new tour guide that would be taking us up to Fez for a couple of days. This city needs more than 2 days to appreciate it. From the endless streets of Medina, to all the craftsmanship that they have with leather and mosaics, and let’s not forget the Royal Palace you really need 3-4 days here. I purchased a nice bowl for my sister and a jacket for myself. Here you can really appreciate the local cuisine and were even invited to a dinner show. With great food and entertainment from belly dancing, a mock Moroccan wedding, and music through out the evening it was an amazing couple of days spent in town.

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While in Fez we stayed at the Hotel Sofia, which was amazing with a small balcony on the room and a pool outside, to the spa and gym, and even several different restaurants and night clubs on site. This was the best hotel included in the tour.

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We had the option to take the 10 hour scenic route through the High Atlas Mountains or by highway. Since we came by highway the first go around we choose the scenic route and was not disappointed. With rest stops along the way the journey did fly by with the views of the small towns and man made lake.

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Finally it was back to Marrakech where we stayed at the same hotel as before. Here we visited the Meara Gardens, Bahia Palace and then the Medina in town. You will want to get the Moroccan oil and saffron for super cheap and good quality as well. While the tour finished, we decided to spend two days trekking through the Atlas Mountains. With a local guide and a mule we were off. However it was quickly realized that my foot was not 100% since I dropped the dresser drawer on it a week prior. So with the help of the guide we changed the plan and did one high peak and the rest of trekking through the local towns.

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All in all, the trip was an experience in learning the local customs and seeing a lot of the outside sights. I would recommend a private tour so that you can get inside than just being part of the outside looking in.

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Traveline Assists Team USA to Kosice, Slovakia for ISDE 2015

Shannon Scott and Vicky DiMichele from Traveline assisted Team USA with their travel to Kosice, Slovakia. Team USA riders, support staff, friends and family joined in the group of well over 100 members.

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The Traveline team arrived early to familiarize themselves with the area and make sure everything was prepared for the trophy team to arrive the following day. Throughout the first few days, most of the group members arrived and were met outside baggage claim by a friendly Traveline face. Then, once their car was picked up and they arrived at the hotel, another Traveline member was there to assist with any rooming questions.

The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Kosice was the selected hotel for our team along with a few other country teams including Isle of Man. It was in a prime location just outside of the historic district. Just a half a block away begins the walking street full of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and an array of other sights. The road is also home of the furthest east western-style Gothic cathedral in Europe, St. Elisabeth Cathedral, which is only five minutes walking distance from the hotel and the park with a musical fountain. Košice State Theater is just beyond the fountain with amazing events from ballet to orchestras. Don’t forget to stop by a gelatto stand for some interesting flavors such as Red Bull, Smurf or aloe vera along with the traditional strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.

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Team USA arrived about a week before the event to set up their bikes and walk the tracks where they would be riding for six days throughout the countryside. Preparations went very smooth and most of the riders were done early so they could enjoy some of the sights of the city. The paddock was also where our Traveline girls helped sell Team USA shirts to the many event visitors.

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By the end of the week, Team USA was well prepared and hopeful for a great ISDE event. As usual, there was a big parade of all the participating teams which went through the city center to a large stage in the center of the historic district.

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After the short weekend, the races began and Team USA was off to a great start with riders placing first in many of the events and trails.

Throughout the week, there were many ups and downs with Team USA from the fastest times to the inevitable injuries. Overall, the races went well. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing supported rider, Ryan Sipes, became the first-ever American to win the Overall Individual award at the ninetieth edition of the International Six Days of Enduro in Kosice, Slovakia. Sipes pioneered his way to a historical victory aboard a Husqvarna FE 350 by winning most of the tests against the world’s top riders in the globe’s toughest competition. Full Article

After the races finished, it was time to pack up the bikes and get them shipped back to the USA. Then it was time for celebrations. The team had an enjoyable evening out and many decided to join a UNESCO Heritage Tour in the Spiš region with the Traveline team.

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The tour included Spiš castle, a lunch break at Salaš (a chalet restaurant offering typical Slovak dishes and homemade sheep cheese products) located below the castle in Levoča and a tour of St. Jacobs cathedral in Levoča. They were transferred by private coach and escorted by two English speaking guides.

The group finally made their leave from this beautiful country on Monday for preparations on their next event or just back to life as usual.

Traveline is honored to assist with Team USA and look forward to next year in Navarra, Spain!

Best Restaurants in Greece

We love eating out!  This way we also have a very good idea of what the best restaurants are whether looking for suggestions in Athens, Mykonos, Santorini or anywhere else in Greece.  Whether your clients are looking for Michelin starred restaurants, molecular cuisine, traditional Greek, contemporary Greek, Japanese or other international cuisines, we know which are the best and we are able to secure the best tables for your clients.  

All restaurant reservations are done complimentary when booking any other service through our agency.  

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Last Minute Travel Specials to the US and Mexico

Unearthed Archeological Discoveries
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Campeche, Mexico is a walled city where the forts are an outstanding example of military architecture from the XVII and XVIII centuries. Visit Calakmul – the largest Mayan city ever discovered and the first and only UNESCO Mixed World Heritage Site in Mexico. Also seek out the Mayan ruin of Edzná, for a peak into life during Mayan times. You’ll also find secluded beaches and quaint fishing villages. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor to plan your next trip.

Charming Charleston, Upgraded
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Upgrade your stay at Belmond Charleston Place, where newly renovated suites and exclusive Club Level rooms are offered to Virtuoso guests at 20% savings. You’re offered a lovely bottle of sparkling wine upon arrival. Choose the spacious Club Level – available by private access only – and linger over snacks and drinks offered at the perfect moment throughout the day. Virtuoso rates FROM $320 per room, per night. Available until January 31, 2015.

Romancing the Riviera Maya: 25% Off Suites
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A truly authentic Mexican escape, Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa is tucked away between acres of lush jungle and an expanse of white-sand beach in the Riviera Maya. Savor a welcome Margarita Maroma, 25% off your suite accommodations, breakfast daily and use of the fitness center. Virtuoso guests also receive a half-hour massage for two. Virtuoso rates FROM $499 per room, per night. Available until December 18, 2014.

Take a Step Back
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The Florida Keys is known for warm water, endless sunshine and a laid back attitude. But with everything from world-class fishing and diving, a thriving art and music scene and an incredible variety of bars and restaurants, you’ll have to learn to pace yourself. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor to plan your next trip.

Return Virtuoso Guests Save in Kauai
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Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is recognizing Ho‘okupa‘a (loyal) return guests with a special 20% discount off lunch at Ilima Terrace each day, 20% discount off a spa treatment for two, plus Virtuoso amenities! Virtuoso travelers enjoy a room upgrade, early check-in and late checkout, if available; breakfast for two daily; an evening appetizer at Seaview Terrace and more. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for rates. Available until December 31, 2014.

Say Hello to Sunny in Greater Fort Lauderdale
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Start planning your sunny escape today with Greater Fort Lauderdale’s free digital Vacation Playbook. Make sure to stay at one of the region’s finest resorts,The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, during your visit. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for information and offers on hotels, attractions, dining, shopping and sports.

New York Nights: Stay Longer and Save
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With gorgeous suites boasting balconies, up to four bedrooms and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, the Hotel Plaza Athenee is ideally located off Madison Avenue. When you stay longer, you’ll save more – up to 15% off when staying four or more nights. Virtuoso guests also receive a room upgrade, early check-in and late checkout, if available; breakfast daily; and a $100 dining credit. Virtuoso rates FROM $591 per room, per night. Available until March 31, 2015.

Paradise in Palm Springs
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Golf, spa and respite from everyday worries and cares – it’s all part of the promise at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa, a long-time Palm Springs favorite. Virtuoso guests are gifted with a $100 resort credit, breakfast daily and a room upgrade, early check-in and late checkout, if available, here in this family-friendly oasis in an iconic desert setting. Virtuoso rates FROM $199 per room, per night. Available throughout 2014 and 2015.

The Big Apple for Savvy Family Travelers
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Langham Place, Fifth Avenue welcomes familial gatherings, young and old, with engaging accommodations, breakfast daily, complimentary rollaway beds in your suite, valet parking and a $50 credit at Measure Lounge. Also included free WiFi, Nespresso in-room coffee, water and soft drinks and more. Here, you’re steps from Midtown attractions and the art, fashion and culture of Fifth Avenue. Virtuoso rates FROM $805 per room, per night. Available until January 26, 2015.

Playing Nice in Naples, with $125 Resort Credit
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Your exclusive resort credit is increased to $125 when you reserve your stay at LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort through your Virtuoso travel advisor. Put it to use for golf on the Robert Cupp-designed course or spa treatments at SpaTerre. As a Virtuoso guest, receive a room upgrade, early check-in and late checkout, if available; and breakfast for two daily. Virtuoso rates FROM $309 per room, per night. Available until April 30, 2015; book by December 31, 2014.

2015 Rose Bowl as a Virtuoso VIP
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A must for any sports-lover, the “Granddaddy of Them All,” the 2015 Tournament of Roses, is made legendary with this three-day package from PrimeSport. Travel to sunny California for one of two semifinal games, complete with a luxury hotel stay, VIP pregame hospitality, official Rose Parade tickets and more. Call today to experience the Rose Bowl. Virtuoso rates FROM $1,885 per person. Available December 30, 2014; book by December 5, 2014.

Sun, Shop & Spa in SoCal
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Whether you’re dreaming of regional dining and refreshing spa experiences or cutting-edge fashion houses and trendsetting boutiques, sunny Southern California is the antidote for gloomy, wintery days. In Greater Palm Springs, enjoy a variety of shopping districts with delectable dining experiences. Over in West Hollywood, dine on healthy morsels at Urth Caffe on Melrose, then head to Sunset Plaza for shopping. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor to plan your trip.

A Suite Weekend in NYC
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Need a fast getaway? Check in to The Benjamin this winter, where you’ll stay longer and save more, while taking in the wow-worthy results of a three-year, $10 million dollar restoration project. Save 15% when staying two nights, 20% when staying three or more evenings. As a Virtuoso guest, enjoy a room upgrade, a $100 spa services credit and more. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for rates. Available until March 15, 2015 (Thursday – Sunday stays only).

Stay Longer, Play Longer
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Families everywhere will celebrate an extended stay at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, within easy reach of the area’s world-famous attractions. Stay three nights and receive 30% savings on your stay as well as a number of exclusive Virtuoso benefits– a fantastic excuse to chase the sun for a fall family getaway or holiday gathering. Contact your Virtuoso advisor for rates. Available until December 15, 2014 on Gardenview, Lakeview and Lakefront rooms.

Gilded Age Mountainside Manor, 4th Night Free in Aspen
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Stay longer and savor more of that invigorating alpine air at The St. Regis Aspen Resort. Your stay includes your fourth night free and a $100 dining credit for use at Trecento Quindici Decano, overseen by acclaimed Chef David Viviano. Virtuoso guests also enjoy a room upgrade, early check-in and late checkout, if available; and breakfast for two daily. Contact your Virtuoso advisor for rates. Available until January 31, 2015.

$100 Spa Bonus and Complimentary Breakfast in Acapulco
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Escape to Acapulco with Travel Impressions and enjoy exquisite accommodations, world-class services plus luxurious amenities. Virtuoso guests are treated to a $100 spa credit, a Pearl Golf View room at The Fairmont Acapulco Princess, roundtrip resort transfers, breakfast daily and early check-in, if available. Bask in the privacy of Revolcardero Beach. Virtuoso rates FROM $682 per person for a five-night stay. Book by December 19, 2014.

10% Off Just About Everything in Miami
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When you book your stay at Turnberry Isle Miami through your Virtuoso travel advisor, you’ll receive a 10% discount off dining, golf and spa treatments – plus a 50% savings off your resort fee. Plus Virtuoso-exclusive amenities: a room upgrade, early check-in and late checkout, if available; breakfast daily; and $100 resort credit. Virtuoso rates FROM $199 per room, per night. Available until January 11, 2015; book by December 4, 2014.

Click here for more information or contact us at 1-888-700-8747.