Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - October 22, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - October 22, 2011
Venice, Venezia, Italy Tips for Booking the Best Priced Travel Options and Accommodations Plus Warnings About Travel Offers to Cuba; Checking Out Funny Upcoming Events at the Beech Hill Country House in Derry, Northern Ireland with Social Director Brenda Donnelly; Upscale Hotels in Italy From the M Gallery: Pierpaolo Cocchi Has the Details on the Papadopoli Venezia in Venice and Gino Giacchetti on the Hotel Cerretani in Florence; General Manager Marc Langevin Shares the Exciting Activities Available at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Cayman Islands; General Manager Peggy Benua Introduces the New Hotel Dream South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida.

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Jump to a guest: Brenda Donnelly, Pierpaolo Cocchi, Gino Giacchetti, Marc Langevin, Peggy Benua.

Hour 1

Topics Include:

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News and Updates from Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

Travel Expert and Show Host Stephanie Abrams shares some advice and tips to help listeners get the maximum enjoyable experience out of their excursions and to ensure that travels go smoothly. She also encourages listeners to participate in the Travelers411 forums and to share their experiences and insider tips on places to visit. As she notes, some of the best travel advice and tips come from someone who’s just returned from the place.

She also suggests double checking hotel and airfare prices if using an aggregating site to book these parts of your journey. Such sites often feature necessary price markups in order to stay in business. Going directly to airline carrier websites can be a little bit cheaper. Another option to consider is consulting travel agents, who are often offered deals that don’t exist the greater marketplace. They can be an advocate acting on your behalf in negotiating bookings.

That's not to say you shouldn't act for yourself! Stephanie relates an anecdote from her recent Hawaii trip about deciding to change to a smaller and more conveniently accessed hotel, as opposed to a big resort. She looked up rates for a place online and for the night she wanted to stay, the rate was $119. She called the hotel directly and was told the rate was $269 per night. The travel industry discounted rate was quoted as $249 per night. The $119 rate wasn’t even on a large travel agency website, but on the hotel brand’s own website. The lesson is to check every possible aspect of booking, because you never know where a deal will be found.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams notes that if you've received a solicitation for travel to Cuba, research the company and offer thoroughly. Restrictions on travel to Cuba remain in place and it is not accessible for easy holidays. She has skepticism about some programs offered under the guise of educational or humanitarian travel. The situation is reminiscent of times when there were fewer restrictions on charter flights, and organizations creatively skirted rules in order to get deals and better rates on these. There were complicated schemes perpretrated to attain these cheaper flying rates. Now, Stephanie tells that charter flights operate differently with groups able to purchase seats at different rates on regular flights. The point is that something is not quite right and shouldn't be trusted as the operation may not be adhering to all legal guidelines.

"If there's anything that doesn't quite smack of truth in there, don't get involved in it!" Stephanie advises. She also advocates checking state.gov to review restrictions on travel to Cuba if you're really interested in going. However it should be noted that in general, open tourist traffic to Cuba by U.S. citizens doesn't exist.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
Coming Soon!


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Brenda Donnelly, Social Director, Beech Hill Country House, Derry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
www.beech-hill.com

Radio Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams welcomes Brenda Donnelly, Social Director of the Beech Hill Country House in Derry, Northern Ireland. Stephanie calls her the "front line" between guests and visitors at the Beech Hill. Brenda shares that some recognizable guests of Beech Hill include President Clinton on multiple occasions, actor and comedian Will Ferrell, designer Tommy Hilfiger, Congressman John Kerry, and the late Ted Kennedy. Stephanie adds that "you don't need to have the income or net worth of the folks you've mentioned in order to be a guest at Beech Hill." Brenda agrees, adding that the history of the location as an American base camp during the second World War is a major draw for repeated American support of the establishment.

Stephanie comments on the beauty of the house's grounds, calling it "as charming and as comfortable as it could be" with "top notch" dining room service. She adds that when local residents choose a location for their celebrations and events, you know that it's a special place, and she sees this happening often at Beech Hill. Brenda says that her aunt Patsy O'Kane, the house's owner, is a brilliant host, to which Stephanie happily adds that she makes you feel at home in the house.

Beech Hill has some exciting plans for Halloween 2011, and Brenda confirms that Halloween is an unbelievably big event in Derry. They're having comedy dining nights on Halloween weekend, including a murder mystery show, events based on the slapstick comedy Carry On films, and Mr. McCormack, a local storyteller who tells ghost stories. For the Carry On themed shows, an English theater group gets into character inspired by the films and performs a murder mystery play. Brenda describes it as "pure madness" and promises that the comedy group will "have you in stitches". She says this is a new type of entertainment for the city, adding to the appeal for visitors. Stephanie comments that they've done some very inventive things at the hotel in the entertainment field, and Brenda explains that it's important to try new things to entice people to visit the city.

For their Christmas program this year, on the nights of December 9 and 10, 2011Beech Hill will host Fawlty Towers themed evening events. Stephanie says that these are hilarious and not to be missed.

Related Photo Galleries:
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Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13498

For more information visit www.beech-hill.com


Fun Facts:

Stephanie encourages listeners to post questions about destinations in the Ask Stephanie forum. If she herself can't answer a question about a destination satisfactorily, a representative from an establishment in that location will be available to help as well!

The Carry On films were a series of  British parody and slaptstick comedies.


Travel Tips:

Stephanie notes that staying at airport hotels can be very convenient for your travels, due to their accessibility during your travel times and short distances from airport centers.

Stephanie suggests logging your trip outside U.S. territory through a mechanism for this purpose on state.gov. In case of emergency, recording your trip location and dates gives you the benefit of having your contact information left with profesional sources.

Global Entry is a reentry mechanism, also called the Trusted Traveler Program. Stephanie cites it as having a painless online registration process and the benefits are worthwhile. It allows Americans to go through an airport kiosk for check in through immigration and customs without enduring the time consuming process normally required for foreign travel. She recommends checking your eligibility for the program and enrolling if possible to ensure smoother, quicker travels.


Guests Include:

Brenda Donnelly, Social Director, Beech Hill Country House, Derry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
www.beech-hill.com

Hour 2

Topics Include:

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Pierpaolo Cocchi, General Manager, M Gallery Papadopoli Venzia, Venice, Venezia, Italy, Europe.
www.mgallery.com
www.hotel-papadopoli-venice.com

Radio Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams opens a discussion on Italy this hour with Pierpaolo Cocchi, General Manager of the M Gallery Papadopoli Venezia in Venezia, Italy. Stephanie shares that in the past he has managed the Sofitel hotel in Florence and has been in Venice for two years. Stephanie asks how work in Venice compares to Florence, and Pierpaolo says that both are important cities for artistic masterpieces, but a big difference is Venice's location on the water, so no cars! Stephanie adds that "being in Venice is unlike anything in the world." She jokes that some cities are so similar with only changes in the menu and language, but Venice is "unique on the planet". Pierpaolo says that you can get lost in the labyrinth of Venice, but the bright side of getting lost is discovering beautiful, previously unknown corners of history.

Stephanie says that she once was pointed out Casanova's house from a boat in Venice, and she wonders if it can be visited. Pierpaolo reveals that there are many corners in Venice that are said to be associated with Casanova and these can be discovered on a trip. Stephanie plans on taking the Caasanova Trail trip next time she makes it to Venice.

With so many choices of good hotels in the city, Stephanie asks for Pierpaolo's take on why guests should choose the Papadopoli Venezia. He explains that it's part of the M Gallery, a collection of exceptional hotels where guests are offered unique experiences and each hotel has its own identity and tells a story for travelers to live out during their stay. This particular hotel's story is connected to the Papadopoli Gardens near the hotel. It's a love story of a garden dedicated by a count to his wife. He said that the gardens held many parties in the eighteenth century and changed a part of the city which was not previously considered central into a special, exciting, and event filled place. The hotel is connected to the Winter Garden, which contains thirty six plant varieties and can be seen from the window of the hotel restaurant. Famous architect Pietro Porcinai created the spectacular appearance and structure of the gardens.

Pierpaolo describes Venice's "unique ambience" with its arts and way of living and that one must feel it to understand. He cautions to be prepared with tennis shoes and be ready to walk! He mentions close to the hotel the attraction of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which features masterpieces by Tintoretto, and the church Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, with work by Titian. He assures that art lovers will find what they're looking for in the city, and cautions not to forget watching the special, colorful sunsets on the lagoon. He suggests having a glass of Prosecco and taking a gondola ride. According to Pierpaolo, within a gondola is the right place to get a good look at the city, since in the past building entrances were accessible from the water, not from streets as it is today. Because of this historical importance and connection to the core of Venetian life, he cautions against writing gondolas off merely as tourist attractions. His main food suggestion is not surprising for a water-based city: he recommends trying the fish!

Related Photo Galleries:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/album.php?albumid=657

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13499

For more information visit www.mgallery.com and www.hotel-papadopoli-venice.com


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Gino Giacchetti, General Manager, M Gallery Florence, Hotel Ceretani,  Florence, Firenze, Italy, Europe.
www.mgallery.com

Radio Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams now checks out accommodations in Florence by chatting with Gino Giacchetti, General Manager of the M Gallery Florence, Hotel Cerretani in Florence (Firenze), Italy. A Naples native, he's been working with the hotel since April and previously worked for the hotel brand in Rome. Stephanie recommends the hotels that are part of the Accor Group, as M Gallery hotels are, as being high quality and great experience for travelers. In the Accor Group, Sofitel hotels are in the luxury range, Mercure is midscale, and M Gallery and Pullman are upscale, and Ibis is economy. Ibis hotels have a set pricing depending on time of year, making them a financially reliable option for travelers. The advantage of the M Gallery hotels is that they offer luxury experience at the upscale pricing point.

Many employees have worked with the hotel since its opening in 1991, and can provide plenty of insider information for visitors on how to get the most out of their trip to Florence. Stephanie comments that Florence is "a very walkable city" and asks what might be within walking distance of the M Gallery Cerretani. Gino mentions the Duomo and its chapel, built in the fourteenth century, which is 150 meters from the hotel. It's the biggest chapel in Italy and third biggest in the world. Nearby is the train station, also conveniently located in the city center. Stephanie comments that train stations in Europe should not be viewed the same as in the United States, where tracks do not necessarily run through the best parts of town. In Europe it is considered a great convenience and traditionally train stations mark busy centers of cities, so it is not unusual to have a high class hotel near the train station. The Florence station features regular train service as well as the high speed train, which travels between Venice and Florence in two hours and Florence and Rome in one and a half hours. Stephanie highly recommends traveling via train as opposed to driving in Italy - where she thinks "traffic signals are a suggestion, not a command".

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams says that Florence can be sufficiently covered in three days and two nights, especially if you're including it in a journey of seven to ten days. She also says that if travelers fly into Rome or Venice, it's most sensible to take the train into Florence to do your exploring. Stephanie gives the tip that Florence is a great city for shopping, especially if your interest is in handbags.

Gino shares the details of a special hotel offer called the Passport. It requires a minimum three night stay and includes breakfast in the rate. It also entails a pass covering free entry to thirty three Florence museums, as well as covering 72 hours of travel time on all public transport. "That's incredible," Stephanie comments. It is available year round and purchasable through the hotel website. The cost starts from 165 euros per night for the three night offer, and Stephanie adds that this is a bargain considering the costs of museum admissions and transportation, which stack up easily.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13500

For more information visit www.mgallery.com


Fun Facts:

Hosting a wealth of art treasures, Florence is also home to Michelangelo's famous sculpture, The David. It can be found in the Accademia Gallery.


Travel Tips:

In Stephanie's opinion, regardless of how many times you've visited Italy, any traveler needs to take a trip to Florence for the Italian experience to be complete.

Stephanie recommends that travelers economize in countryside locations because there, one can still enjoy a great experience without luxury. But in city destinations, she warns that the experience will be compromised if travelers opt not to "live richly". She reminds that deals can be found anywhere, and if your budget is tight, choose to take a trip for fewer days and indulge in a richer city experience to give yourself a more enjoyable trip.


Guests Include:

Pierpaolo Cocchi, General Manager, M Gallery Papadopoli Venzia, Venice, Venezia, Italy, Europe.
www.mgallery.com
www.hotel-papadopoli-venice.com

Gino Giacchetti, General Manager, M Gallery Florence, Hotel Ceretani,  Florence, Firenze, Italy, Europe.
www.mgallery.com

Hour 3

Topics Include:

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Marc Langevin, General Manager, Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Caribbean.
www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/GrandCayman

Radio Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams welcomes Marc Langevin, General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Cayman Islands. He's recently returned to Grand Cayman after working five years in St. Thomas. In answer to Stephanie's inquiry as to what makes the hotel unique, Marc says that each island has something unique and different to offer, and travelers should not assume that each Caribbean island is the same. Grand Cayman is a luxurious and sophisticated environment. He defines it as a very refined and high end island. Seven Mile Beach is a beautiful white sand beach bordering "pristine, crystal clear water", as Stephanie describes it, making a lovely attraction for tourists.

Marc recommends a fun attraction on the island, Stingray City, and Stephanie is very familiar with it having visited before. Marc says it is unique and exciting since visitors actually get to get into the water and touch the animals. He says it is a wonderful natural experience, and the interaction is entirely different than a visitor would have from somewhere such as an aquarium or Sea World. Stephanie mentions a similar animal encounter she had in Coral World on St. Thomas with Franco the Sea Lion. She is not eager to be a part of any more animal encounters, but Marc insists that she would enjoy a swim with the stingrays. Later in the show, he says "I love a great challenge!" when she still refuses to get in the water. Visitors shouldn't be discouraged, Marc assures that stingrays are gentle and there's nothing to worry about if you decide to swim with them.

The Grand Cayman hotel has 365 rooms, including suites. In addition to regular hotel rooms, there are residence rooms - two and three bedroom high luxury suites. The entire resort from Seven Mile Beach to North Sound, is covered by a canal which transports visitors to various available attractions quite conveniently, including the restaurant, stingray experience, snorkeling excursion, Swiss spa, and golf course. The restaurant, Blue, is headed by Chef Eric Ripert, previously of Zagat's named number one New York restaurant, Le Bernardin.

Stephanie says that Grand Cayman is a marvelous walking and biking destination because of the easy, flat terrain. The Ritz-Carlton also offers golf and a tennis academy with three clay and one grass court, and an environmental education and exploration program (including kayaking and snorkeling!) for children. Stephanie is impressed and pleased that there is an available program which provides an enriching, learning experience while also providing a fun time for kids on family vacations. Marc adds that adults enjoy joining the program as well. "It makes you discover the island in a different way," he explains.

Marc's final thought for Stephanie and listeners: "I cannot wait to see you here!"

Related Photo Galleries:
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Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13501

For more information visit www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/GrandCayman


Link to this segment

Peggy Benua, General Manager, Dream South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA.
www.dreamsouthbeach.com

Radio Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams talks with Peggy Benua, the General Manager of Dream South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida. The property is new and very design oriented, which Peggy says is unusual for the South Beach location. They are located in the heart of South Beach, one block from Ocean Drive at 11th Street and Collins. They have mood lighting, attention to detail in their design, and photos of the rooms can be found on their website to give guests the best possible idea of what is available to them in a stay at the Dream South Beach.

They have a restaurant called Tudor House headed by Michelin-starred chef Geoffrey Zakarian, and a rooftop pool and bar for hanging out during the daytime, and a lounge in the nighttime. As Peggy says, it's a lot of action for a small hotel! For attractions within walking distance, they are directly behind the Versace mansion and from the pool roof deck, there is a view over the Versace pool to the ocean and beach. Guests also have the option of using the beach in the luxury section from a beach operator that provides items like towels and chairs.

Stephanie states that South Beach is a hot destination for international travelers as well, and can get very crowded, so a hotel that's one block from the beach provides convenience from the hustle and bustle and some much needed tranquility. "It really sounds like an oasis of great magnitude," she concludes.

Related Photo Galleries:
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Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=13502

For more information visit www.dreamsouthbeach.com


Fun Facts:

In January, Grand Cayman hosts an event called the Cayman Cookout, which hosts many top chefs, including Anthony Bourdain, who come to the island to cook and participate.

Stingray City was first formed when fisherman on Grand Cayman threw scraps from fishing into the area, and stingrays began to congregate to be fed. Eventually the stingrays became comfortable with human interaction, and the opportunity to introduce visitors to the animals was created.


Travel Tips:

Grand Cayman is only sixty minutes from Miami and there are many direct flights from there as well as Houston.


Guests Include:

Marc Langevin, General Manager, Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Caribbean.
www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/GrandCayman

Peggy Benua, General Manager, Dream South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA.
www.dreamsouthbeach.com

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