SeaDream to Explore Northern Europe

January 7, 2014

SeaDream Yacht Club will explore Northern Europe for the first time this summer. The 112-guest SeaDream I will sail along the Baltic coast and throughout the Norwegian fjords. “Our past guests are enthused to spend part of their summer in Northern Europe as we explore the region with intimate style only available on a mega-yacht,” said President Bob Lepisto. “We are also seeing many travelers that have cruised this region opting to yacht through the Baltic for a completely new perspective.”

SeaDream I will operate seven- to 14-day voyages in the region from June through August, beginning with the May 31 departure from Hamburg, Germany, and sailing through the Kiel Canal to Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and St. Petersburg, Russia. Because of the ship’s small size, it can dock in locations larger ships cannot, such as the islands of Saaremaa in Estonia and Finland’s Aland archipelago.

Highlights include an itinerary with three overnights in St. Petersburg, allowing time for a private opening of the Hermitage museum, a visit to the palace at Peterhof, and tours of the Neva River and its canals. Other voyages include overnights in Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord, Norway, which allow paddling through the fjords on kayaks launched from the SeaDream I marina or hiking or biking on islands in the region.

Also available is a complimentary land excursion in Oslo to Hadeland Glassworks factory, which is owned by SeaDream founder Atle Brynestad. Inclusive fares begin at $3,599 pp based on double occupancy.

Virtuoso Report: Italy Top Destination, MultiGen Top Trend

January 06, 2014

What are the most popular luxury travel destinations and biggest luxury travel trends for 2014? Virtuoso, the luxury travel network, unveiled its annual Luxe Report, which surveys its travel advisors for their top choices in a variety of categories.

According to the 520 Virtuoso travel advisors who completed the survey (out of a potential 7,200 advisors in the Virtuoso network), the most popular international destination this year, perhaps to no one’s surprise because it is a perennial favorite, is Italy (cited by 61.14 percent of those surveyed). Virtuoso advisors then cited South Africa (40.67 percent), France (33.64 percent), Australia (24.09 percent), New Zealand (22.54 percent), England (19.95 percent), Peru (19.95 percent), Mexico (19.43 percent), Argentina (18.39 percent) and Thailand (17.10 percent).

The 10 biggest travel trends this year are multigenerational family travel (50 percent), river cruises (44.8 percent), active or adventure trips (27.4 percent), celebration travel (27.4 percent), luxury cruises (26.7 percent), culinary travel (20.8 percent), cultural travel (20.8 percent), cultural immersion (19.4 percent), villa rentals (17.7 percent), beach resort stays (15.6 percent), and passion point travel (14.2 percent), otherwise known as romance travel.

In other results of the survey, the 10 most popular emerging destinations cited by Virtuoso advisors for 2014 are: Cuba (39.26 percent), surprising because there are still only a select few U.S. tour operators that can legally take tourists to the country under the people-to-people educational program. Other emerging destinations, in order, are Myanmar (30.37 percent), Vietnam (26.25 percent), Galapagos Islands (23.86 percent), Bhutan (22.34 percent), Cambodia (22.13 percent), Chile (21.04 percent), Iceland (17.35 percent), Turkey (15.84 percent) and Belize (15.18 percent).

The 10 most popular U.S. destinations for 2014, according to Virtuoso travel advisors, are New York City (57.22 percent), Maui (50.41 percent), Napa Valley/Sonoma (43.05 percent), Las Vegas (32.15 percent), Hawaii’s Big Island (23.71 percent), Alaska (22.07 percent), San Francisco (22.07 percent), Miami/South Beach (19.62 percent), Grand Canyon (18.53 percent) and Kauai (17.98 percent).

The 10 most popular family luxury destinations for 2014, according to Virtuoso advisors, are Italy (44.35 percent), England (29.28 percent), Hawaii (26.09 percent), Costa Rica (25.51 percent), Mexico (23.77 percent), South Africa (22.09 percent), France (20.87 percent), Australia (18.55 percent), Galapagos (17.97 percent) and Orlando (16.81 percent).

On the other end of the spectrum, the 10 most popular romantic destinations are Italy (46.83 percent), French Polynesia (46.53 percent), Bali (33.23 percent), France (33.23 percent), Maldives (26.59 percent), Seychelles (19.94 percent), Maui (19.03 percent), Fiji (18.43 percent), St. Lucia (17.22 percent) and St. Barts (13.6 percent).

Virtuoso also unveiled its annual “Hot List” of the fastest growing destinations worldwide, as cited by Virtuoso advisors, base on the largest percentage of tourism growth in 2013. That list was led by Malaysia (107 percent growth), Maldives (91 percent), Puerto Rico (68 percent), Belize (51 percent), Cambodia (45 percent), Portugal (41 percent), Tanzania (41 percent), Croatia (40 percent), Sweden (34 percent) and Mexico (30 percent).

Virtuoso also found there was a rebound in tourism among destinations with lower 2012 sales numbers. Portugal, in particular, which was hit by the European debt crisis, enjoyed a 34 percent increase in air sales and a 62 percent increase in hotel sales. Spain (air sales up 13 percent, hotel sales up 25 percent), Ireland (air sales up 13 percent, hotel sales up 28 percent), and Greece (hotel sales up 59 percent) also enjoyed significant growth.

Among North American countries, Mexico had the highest growth rate with an increase in year-over-year sales of 30 percent and a 50 percent increase in luxury hotel sales. Meanwhile, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia were the most popular countries for leisure travel in Asia. Vietnam was the most booked country, with hotel sales doubling. Cambodia also saw its hotel sales double, plus a seven percent increase in airline sales. Malaysia hotel sales surged more than eight times its 2012 numbers.

On the cruise front, the 10 most popular cruise itineraries for 2014, according to Virtuoso advisors, are the Mediterranean (68.64 percent), Alaska (67.46 percent), European River (66.57 percent), Caribbean (46.15 percent), Baltic (30.18 percent), Galapagos (25.74 percent), Greek Isles (21.89 percent), Australia/New Zealand (18.64 percent), South America (18.34 percent) and Southeast Asia (15.09 percent.).

According to the survey, the top five reasons why the affluent are traveling in 2014 are: exploring new destinations (77 percent), rest and relaxation (55 percent), seeking authentic experiences in new destinations (54 percent), rediscovering previously visited destinations (44 percent) and personal enrichment (36 percent).

The survey also found that luxury travelers are considering the following factors when choosing a vacation in 2014: destination (54.2 percent), once in a lifetime experience (29.37 percent), value for money (20.98 percent), activities available (13.29 percent) and price (13.29 percent).

And good news for agents (since this is a survey of high-end travel agents): The five most influential sources of information for luxury travelers are: a travel advisor’s advice (80 percent), word of mouth from friends or family (75 percent), travel publications (32.3 percent), travel website reviews and recommendations (24 percent), and travel and lifestyle websites (19.6 percent).

Virtuoso Releases Annual Travel Dreams Survey

July 07, 2014

Virtuoso’s annual Travel Dreams Survey reveals trips of a lifetime and favorite destinations from high-end travelers. The Travel Dreams Survey was conducted between February 1 and March 21, 2014 and received 8,830 responses from 33 countries.
Australia was the top dream destination. Other destinations include the Amalfi Coast, Rio de Janeiro and Saint Petersburg. Paris and Rome remained at the top of survey categories. Cruising continued to rank high, with European river sailings besting other itineraries and a round-the-world cruise topping trips of a lifetime.
Here’s a full list of the winning destinations:

Top Trips of a Lifetime                                           
1.      Taking a world cruise
2.      Visiting Italy’s Amalfi Coast
3.      Calling on all seven continents
4.      Renting a private island
5.      Renting a European Villa
6.      Seeing the highlights of Australia
7.      Photographing the “big five” on safari
8.      Exploring the Galápagos Islands
9.      Journeying to the Holy Land
10.    Chartering a private jet

Top 10 Dream Destinations
1.   Australia
2.   Italy
3.   New Zealand
4.   France
5.   Fiji
6.   Ireland
7.   Greece
8.   Antarctica
9.   South Africa
10. The Caribbean

Dream Islands                                                          
1.      Hawaii
2.      Greek Islands
3.      Fiji
4.      New Zealand
5.      Capri

Gourmet Favorites
1.   Paris
2.   Rome
3.   Florence
4.   Barcelona
5.   New Orleans

Cities To Explore                                                                        
1.      Paris
2.      Rome
3.      Rio de Janeiro
4.      Sydney
5.      Saint Petersburg

Where to Set Sail
1.   European river/canal
2.   The Mediterranean
3.   Australia/New Zealand
4.   World cruise
5.   Alaska

Best Trips for Two                                                    
1.   Paris in April
2.   The Greek Isles
3.   Overwater bungalow in Tahiti
4.   Mediterranean cruise
5.   Caribbean resort stay

Favorite Family Vacations    
1.   Hawaiian Islands
2.   South African Safari
3.   Ireland’s castles and countryside
4.   Alaskan Cruise
5.   Galápagos Getaway

The survey identified five travel personalities including: the go-getter, the connoisseur, the classic traveler, the relaxations and the trendsetter. Virtuoso’s survey showed that upscale travelers of all types are interested in seeing as much of the world as they can.

The sweepstakes portion of the survey yielded one winner a Grand Prize valued at more than $35,000: a 12-day cruise for two in a penthouse cabin aboard theCrystal Symphony, sailing from Singapore to Bali with air courtesy of Etihad Airways. Virtuoso also awarded five cash prizes of $1,000.