Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - "Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show Shownotes for MM DD 2010
Travel with Stephanie Abrams! - March 07, 2010 - Shownotes & Audio Archive

Hotel Viking, Newport, Rhode Island; International Tennis Hall of Fame; Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships; Newport National Golf Club; Cruise Travel Insurance; Noble House Hotels & Resorts; Preservation Society of Newport County; Newport Mansions; Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur; Affordable New York City Hotels, Broadway Shows; Gaborone, Botswana, Maun and Kasane; Safaris by Land and Air.

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Hour 1

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The "Travel With Stephanie Abrams” Radio Show is broadcasting from the Hotel Viking at 1 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island and welcomes Anne Marie McLaughlin, who does Marketing and Communications for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Walking into the tennis stadium is like "walking into The Great Gatsby,” Stephanie says.

Newport Mansion
Newport Mansion.

Just a 3 minute walk from the Hotel Viking, the Tennis Hall of Fame features the world's largest tennis museum, tennis-themed art, fashions of the game from the 1800s to the present day, and historic artifacts from the game's biggest legends, says Anne Marie. For example, the museum has the outfit Roger Federer wore in the 2009 French Open and Rod Laver's Wimbledon trophies. The complex, called Newport Casino, also has 13 grass courts where visitors can reserve playing time. Anne Marie explains that the "casino” name came from the late 1800s, when socialites staying at their Newport summer cottages came to the complex to play tennis, attend the theatre, or socialize in the ballroom.

Anne Marie McLaughlin
Anne Marie McLaughlin International Tennis Hall Of Fame.

The Tennis Hall of Fame also hosts several tennis tournaments every year. On July 5-11, 2010, for example, it will host the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. Anne Marie adds that the tournaments often feature players in period clothing based on the museum's collection. The tennis stadium with its timbered buildings is a "really unique place to watch tennis,” says Anne Marie. "You're right on top of the action and it's so quaint and relaxing.”

NYLO Hotel
NYLO Hotel in Warwick Rhode Island.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead, & White, which included Stanford White, architect of NYC's Grand Central Station. Anne Marie mentions that the Newport Casino complex features a theatre that was White's pet project and the only remaining theatre that he designed.

Newport, Rhode Island Mansion
Newport, Rhode Island Mansion.

Anne Marie particularly recommends that visitors come and see the clothes worn by tennis stars from the 1800s as well as those worn by the Williams sisters, Tracy Austin, and Chris Evert. "It's very interesting to see what women were wearing then and compare it to what Serena and Venus [Williams] wear now,” she says.

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Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show are talking golf with Robin Hyson, Controller of the Newport National Golf Club in Middletown, Rhode Island.

Robin Hyson; Newport National Golf Course
Robin Hyson; Newport National Golf Course.

Even though the club is located in Middletown, Robin starts by reassuring listeners that it's only 2 miles from Newport, or about a 10 minute drive. Newport National is a newer course, opened in 2002, that was designed in the links style. "If you want to experience an Irish-style links course, Newport National is the place to play,” says Robin, adding that it's been named the best course in Rhode Island by several major golf magazines. Her favorite holes are numbers 7 and 13, although she says you'll want to bring your camera for all of them.

NYLO Hotel in Warwick Rhode Island
NYLO Hotel in Warwick Rhode Island.

Newport National will host several collegiate and women's tournaments this year. Robin expects the golf course to open the weekend of March 6, 2010, with a forecast of temperatures in the fifties.

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Click here to listen to Jim Grace, President & CEO, interviewed by Stephanie Abrams without commercials.
Listen to this segment, commercial-free featuring: Jim Grace from Visit the Travelers411 InsureMyTrip Directory Listing.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams reminds listeners of the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show that cruises can be a major investment. If your whole family is going, it can run between $2000 and $4000 for a week, she says.

Stephanie Abrams (L) and Vikki Corlis(R)
Stephanie Abrams (L) and Vikki Corlis(R) at the InsureMyTrip Headquarters.

Stephanie asks Jim Grace, President and CEO of, to explain how cruise travelers can protect this investment. The question is especially pertinent in light of the February 2010 snowstorms that delayed flights up and down the east coast. "If you're trying to fly south to catch your ship and your flight doesn't take off, the cruise ship is still leaving!” says Jim. "It's a real problem.” HQ HQ.

If you miss your flight, Stephanie adds, it's too late to cancel your cruise; you will be charged 100% of the cost for being a no-show. "If you can't figure out how to meet that ship in a port along the way, you just lost all your money,” she warns.

Jim recommends that travelers set aside 5-7% of their travel budget to protect their investment in a cruise. This is especially important for warm-weather getaways, when travelers are flying from snowy northern cities to beaches and sunshine and could get caught in winter weather.

Cayman Islands
Cayman Islands.

Despite her precautions, Stephanie once had to fly to meet a cruise ship in Martinique. "We arrived in Martinique at 11 PM and the ship was sailing at 1 AM!” she says, adding that even if you manage to make the ship, "it's not the same vacation and you wind up losing money.”

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The Hotel Viking is located at 1 Bellevue Avenue, Newport's most glamorous street and the location of several lavish mansions built by industrialists of the Gilded Age. The hotel was built in 1926, when the Newport community saw a need for a first-class hotel. "Even the beginnings of the hotel were exciting,” says Marlen. "The hotel committee did some fundraising for construction, and stocks in the hotel sold out in one day.” The Hotel Viking was also unique in being made of brick, as opposed to wooden hotels that tended to burn down very easily. It was renovated in 2007 to restore its Gilded Age opulence.

Stehanie Abrams (L) and Marlen Scalzo(R)
Stehanie Abrams (L) and Marlen Scalzo(R).

Marlen was born and raised in Newport and, as a child, lived on the Hotel Viking's 2nd floor for 17 years when her father was its general manager. "The experience of a rich, cultural, historic hotel just elevates any vacation,” she says. "People looking to get away and experience something will find a great adventure here in Newport.”

Viking Hotel
Viking Hotel.

Newport has much to offer besides its mansions. The Hotel Viking will provide guests with a picnic lunch and rental bikes for a ride along Ocean Drive, which runs 10 miles along the rugged Atlantic coast. Visitors can also bike between mansions or up Bellevue Avenue, which Marlen promises is "not terribly hilly.” The waterfront and downtown areas of Newport are just a 5-minute walk from the hotel. Boutique shops there include designer Angela Moore's clothing shop, a "great” wine and cheese shop, and the Newport Mansions stores, which feature reproductions of everything in the mansions, says Marlen. If you're into antiques, she recommends a visit to Franklin Street, "a whole street of nothing but antiques!”

Viking Hotel
Viking Hotel.

The Hotel Viking features several value packages on selected days through May 30, 2010. Marlen directs visitors to the "Last Minute Deals” section of the hotel website where they'll find rates as low as $89 per night. "If you're available any day of the week, you can really enjoy Newport at a reasonable cost,” she says. If you're more adventuresome, Marlen suggests a package including overnight accommodation, breakfast, and a helicopter tour of Newport.

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Guests Include:

Anne Marie McLaughlin, Marketing & Communications Manager, International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

Robin Hyson, Controller, Newport National Golf Club, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

Jim Grace, President & CEO, Insure My Trip.

Marlen Scalzi, Director of Sales & Marketing, Hotel Viking, Member of Noble House Hotels & Resorts and Historic Hotels of America, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

Hour 2

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The "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show is broadcasting from the Hotel Viking on Newport, Rhode Island's Bellevue Avenue. Hotel General Manager Mark Gervais is here to tell Travel Expert and Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams what makes the Hotel Viking so special.

Mark Gervais
Mark Gervais.

Mark has been at the Hotel Viking for 4 years this May, and says "it's been a joy.” Before joining Nobel House Hotels & Resorts, which runs the Hotel Viking, Mark worked at Starwood Hotels in Massachusetts. He says it was quite a change to go from a chain with 934 hotels to Nobel House, which has 13 hotels. Mark Gervais is grateful for the chance to be creative in a small company and such an historic hotel. (The Hotel Viking is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.)

Hotel Viking Car
Hotel Viking Car.

The Hotel Viking was built in 1926 and is known as "the people's hotel” in Newport, according to Mark. There are 209 guest rooms and 14 suites, 11 of which are based on the Newport mansions. Designer Andrea Dawson of Seattle went through the mansions and selected fabric, wall coverings, and furniture that echo the furnishings of famous Gilded Age "cottages” like the Breakers and Marble House.

Newport Mansion
Newport Mansion.

Newport is a destination that offers shopping, dining, and beautiful landscapes. This makes it the perfect spot for meetings, family reunions, and other functions, says Stephanie. Besides the mansions, the city is known for its jazz and folk festivals, yacht races, antiquing, and even topiary gardens. It's also easily accessible from the Providence, Hartford, and Boston airports.

Hotel Viking Wedding Party
Hotel Viking Wedding Party.

Mark Gervais agrees, noting that Newport is a destination city for weddings. Since the Kay Chapel is just across the street from his hotel, couples can have a ceremony and then go next door for the reception. The Hotel Viking has two ballrooms: the Bellevue Ballroom, which is more historic and opulent, and the Viking Ballroom, which Mark says is more contemporary but can accommodate up to 225 people.

Hotel Viking Kinsale Menu
Hotel Viking Kinsale Menu.

From the moment Mark first saw the Hotel Viking, it's "blown him away.” He's grateful to owners LaSalle Properties for "throwing money” at the Viking.

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Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show are in Newport, Rhode Island, famous for its mansions. Stephanie talks with Andrea Carneiro, Communications Manager for the Preservation Society of Newport County.

Andrea Carneiro
Andrea Carneiro, Communications Manager for the Preservation Society of Newport County, RI.

Founded in 1945, the Preservation Society runs the mansions and is often known simply as "Newport Mansions.” Andrea explains that Newport is one of the most historically intact cities in America because the community made an early commitment to preserving its history. Visitors really get an idea of a different era and different lifestyles, she says.

Newport Mansion
Newport Mansion.

Newport's history goes back to pre-colonial times. It was a thriving seaport through the Victorian era. Industrialists and entrepreneurs arrived during the Gilded Age and built their stone mansions near Bellevue Avenue between 1850 and 1902. These "summer cottages” were inspired by European castles and were only opened in July and August for summer entertaining.

The Breakers sign
The Breakers sign.

Newport Mansions currently manages 11 houses, although it used to include Hammersmith Farm, site of Jackie and John F. Kennedy's wedding reception and currently a private residence. Of the 11 homes, Andrea says, the Breakers and Marble House are both the "most over-the-top opulent” and the most popular. The Breakers, for example, welcomes over 300,000 visitors each year. Marble House's popularity is partially due to its Chinese tea house, she adds.

Newport, RI tour bus
Newport, RI tour bus.

The tea house was built in 1914 by Alva Vanderbilt, who was particularly interested in Chinese culture. She sent the sons of the architect of Marble House on a year-long voyage to the Orient, where they did sketches and generally "doodled around,” as Andrea puts it, before returning to build the tea house. Eventually, Alva sold Marble House, and it was used as a second home by the Prince family of Chicago until the 1960s. When Mr. Prince died, Alva's son Harold Vanderbilt donated enough money for the Preservation Society to buy and preserve Marble House. The Prince estate donated the original furnishings, which had been kept in storage.

Newport Mansion
Newport Mansion.

The Newport Mansions are close enough that visitors can see several in one day, but they're not all on Bellevue Avenue, says Andrea. In fact, the Preservation Society also runs a topiary garden in Portsmouth, 10 miles north. Fortunately, tickets to the mansions never expire. "You can spread your visits out over a few days or a few weeks. You can even come back a year from now and your ticket will still work,” Andrea explains.

Newport Mansion
Newport Mansion.

Tickets to the Newport Mansions are also affordable. You can buy 1-house tickets, but the more tickets you buy, the larger the discounts. A 5-house ticket, for example, is only $31, and a one-year membership in the Preservation Society is only $50 and includes unlimited admission to all properties. Andrea adds that the society is a non-profit organization, so all money from admissions and mansion shops goes back towards restoration and upkeep.

U.S. Naval Academy
U.S. Naval Academy.

The Newport Mansions have also starred in several films and played host to personal and corporate events. Rosecliff is available for weddings and other homes, including Marble House and its Chinese tea house, are available for other functions. Unfortunately, weddings "put a lot of wear and tear on a house,” says Andrea, so Rosecliff is the only property open for weddings. It does, however, feature a heart-shaped staircase carpeted in red velvet that "brides just love.” Stephanie mentions that in her experience, functions at the Newport Mansions are "very reasonable” and in "such a dramatically gorgeous setting.”

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Bill Miller, Senior Vice President at, returns to the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show to share some great airfares with Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams.

All fares are round trip, taxes not included, with departure on Saturday, April 24, 2010, returning on Saturday, May 1, 2010. Since "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” just visited Newport, Rhode Island, Bill starts with fares to nearby airports in Providence and Boston.

Flight Services
Flight Services.

Bill has fares to Providence from Washington, D. C. for $174, Dallas-Fort Worth for $333, Los Angeles for $386, and Miami for $451.

There are fares to Boston from Washington, D. C. for $169, Dallas-Fort Worth for $319, Los Angeles for $330, and Miami for $304.

Continental Planes on Tarmak
Continental Planes on Tarmac.

Bill also searched for fares to international destinations. To Malaysia, he's found fares from Washington, D. C. for $905, New York City for $684, Dallas-Fort Worth for $1062, Los Angeles for $779, and Miami for $1156.

To Gaborone, in Botswana, Bill has fares from New York City for $936, from Dallas-Fort Worth for $1313, and Miami for $1230.


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Guests Include:

Mark Gervais, General Manager, Hotel Viking, Member of Noble House Hotels & Resorts and Historic Hotels of America, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

Andrea Carneiro
,Communications Manager, The Preservation Society of Newport County, Newport Mansions, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

Bill Miller, Sr. Vice President,

Hour 3

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Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams shares conversations from the 2010 New York Times Travel Show on the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show. Stephanie is talking to Salahuddin Mohd Arifin, Director and Vice President of Tourism Malaysia, USA.

Salahuddin Mohd Arifin
Salahuddin Mohd Arifin, Director and Vice President of Tourism Malaysia, USA.

Although Stephanie has only visited Malaysia for a few days, she was very impressed with the "gorgeous airport” at Kuala Lumpur and "amazing” drive to downtown.

Salahudden says that Malaysia has lots more to offer; in fact, the Lonely Planet guidebook series recently ranked Malaysia as a top ten destination for 2010. Located between Thailand and Singapore, Malaysia is a great place for visitors who want to explore southeast Asia. "We're a nation full of diversity,” he says, "but everyone lives in harmony and the people are very friendly and hospitable.” Malaysia has plenty to offer in terms of adventure, culture, heritage, and food. Even in metropolitan areas, Salahudden says that American visitors will find good value for their money.

Salahuddin Mohd Arifin and Stephanie Abrams
Salahuddin Mohd Arifin, Director and Vice President of Tourism Malaysia, USA with Stephanie Abrams at the (Travelers411) booth at the New York Times Travel Show in 2010.

Visitors will find big-city shopping and dining in metropolitan hubs like Kuala Lumpur. Restaurants in Malaysia feature a variety of Asian cuisines, from Malay, Chinese, and Indian to Japanese and Korean. If visitors are more interested in nature, Salahudden says that Malaysia has over 200 golf courses (many of which are on the southern island of Borneo), the "best diving spots in the world,” lovely beaches, and national parks on the Malaysian peninsula. For example, Taman Negara National Park protects a 100 million-year-old jungle that's "some of the oldest jungle in the world,” he says.


Stephanie adds that Malaysia is just a short trip from Bangkok, Thailand, and it's an easy hop to Singapore. "My experience in Malaysia was so limited, but so lovely,” she says.

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On the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show, Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams talks to John Williams, CEO and Founder of New York Guest. John has plenty of experience providing concierge services to New York City Hotels, and even more reasons why visitors should spend a few days in NYC.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams (L) with John Williams (R) at the Algonquin Hotel
Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams (L) with John Williams (R) at the Algonquin Hotel.

"New York City has never been more affordable,” John says. "You'll find hotel rates that are under $125 per night, and 4-star hotels are running $200-250 per night, even in peak season.” There are two reasons for this, he explains: the economic period and the number of hotels opening in the city.

The Algonquin Hotel in NYC
The Algonquin Hotel in NYC.

Just two years ago, there were "zero” hotel rooms on 39th Street. Today, there are 2700 rooms, says John, and there are over 50 new hotels opening in NYC in 2010. They range from chains like the InterContinental in Times Square, Candlewood Suites, Staybridge, and Hampton Inn to boutique properties. "Whatever style you like--older, younger, hipper, extended-stay--they have it right now at the price you want,” John promises.


He mentions a recent event organized by New York Guest for Swatch watch collectors during the Christmas season. The group of 150 people stayed at the Algonquin Hotel and attended a Prohibition-themed event, all for "half the price of a year ago,” John says.

The Algonquin Hotel upcoming events
The Algonquin Hotel upcoming events.

John and Stephanie agree that although prices on hotel rooms, shows, and sightseeing have come down, January through Easter is the least expensive time to visit New York City.

Midtown Manhatten
Midtown Manhatten.

"What's unique about New York is Broadway,” says Stephanie. "In other places, you can go to the theatre, but you can't go to Broadway.” John says there will be two new shows opening in 2010: an Addams Family musical with Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane opening in March 2010, and a Superman musical with a score by Bono and the Edge of U2, which is scheduled to open but has been delayed. Other shows are still going strong: "Jersey Boys is a hit, Wicked is still the toughest ticket in town after 6 or 7 years, and the Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and Chicago are holding their own,” John says.

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Leslee Hall, Director of the Botswana Tourism Board of North America, visits the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” Radio Show to talk safaris with Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams.

Leslee Hall with Stephanie Abrams (R)
Leslee Hall with Stephanie Abrams (R)

Botswana has become especially popular thanks to Alexander McCall Smith's "#1 Ladies' Detective Agency” books, later made into a TV miniseries. Leslee says the TV show was filmed entirely in Botswana and gives people an idea of the scenery.

How do you get to Botswana? By going through Johannesburg, South Africa, says Leslee. "It's a long-haul destination for Americans (there‘s no direct access from North America), so it's not easy or quick to get there,” she warns. "But once you're there, it's worth it.” She suggests that U. S. travelers route stop over for a night or two in Europe before continuing to Johannesburg and Botswana.

Most visitors arrive in Gaborone, Botswana's capital city, and continue on to Kasane or Maun, the starting points for most safaris to the Okavanga Delta. In Maun, your mobile camping safari operator (if you're going on a land tour) or pilot (if you're going on a chartered bush flight) will meet you at the airport and escort you into the bush. "Fifteen to forty-five minutes after you arrive, you'll be in a remote camp somewhere in Botswana,” Leslee says. If arriving in Kasane, a representative from your game lodge or camp operator will greet you at the airport and take you to your lodging.

"Once you're in the bush, many people say it's almost life-changing,” says Leslee. "There's something very humbling and elemental about being in this pristine wilderness, on the animals' land. The sheer vastness of the savannahs makes you feel like you're the only person there.” She adds that the government has very strict conservation policies in place to preserve the natural environment. The upshot for tourists is that on safari, you'll see very few people and lots of animals.

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Guests Include:

Salahuddin Mohd Arifin, Vice President/Director, Eastern USA, Caribbean, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uraguay, Tourism Malaysia USA.

John Williams, President & Founder, New York Guest.

Leslee Hall, Director, Botswana Tourism Board, North America.

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