Friday, October 13, 2017

Sad news: Catalina Express ending free birthday rides promotion

Free rides end  as of 2017 but you can still grab one if your birthday's coming up until Dec. 31, 2017. 

A public service announcement by Patti Pietschmann

The promotion began on the 30th anniversary Catalina Express in 2012. Since then, it  ferried around  500,000 registrations on 200,000 round-trip voyages. Alas all good things come to an end. Greg Bombard, president/CEO, says, “Catalina Express wishes to thank its more than 45 island partners who participated in the Birthday Island program over the past six years, offering discounts, perks and value-added products and services for birthday celebrants. This program made visitors’ special day on the island even more meaningful with other visitors, residents and business owners wishing them a happy day."

“We launched the program not only to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but to provide an incentive for visitors to get a ‘taste’ of the new Catalina, which has grown and evolved with the opening of new attractions, restaurants, culture and entertainment.”

Keep an eye out for future Catalina Express deals which I will post when they happen. 

Nestled off  the coast of Southern California, some 22-miles across the sea, Catalina Island is accessible by boat from three ports via  Catalina  Express:  San  Pedro,  Long  Beach  and  Dana  Point.  Catalina  Express runs up  to  30  daily departures and year-round service to Avalon and Two Harbors, transporting nearly one million passengers annually. It offers comfortable airline-style seats and grouped table seating. Traveling to Catalina Island in as little as one hour, each vessel was designed  and built/purchased  specifically  for comfort  and speed. Catalina Express is an unparalleled resource in Southern California, and one of the world’s most respected ferry fleets. For information and reservations, call 800-429-4601, or visit Catalina Express 

Chef Mavro creates fabulous four-course fall flavors menu for discerning tastes

A fall feast of flavors from one of Hawaii's top chefs

By Patti Pietschmann

Peterson farm egg   
yukon potato, san danielle prosciutto, poutargue
(photo credit: Melissa Chang)
day-boat catch          
saffron, zucchini, aïoli
2 lady farmers roasted pork rack
wilted romaine, star fruit, mac nuts, apple cider pork jus
a side of upcountry vegetables

Jose Calpito's fig & pistachio declinaison   
tapioca, celery

 Chef Mavro-- fine dining at its best in an intimate, candle-lit setting. Make reservations online, or just drop by 969 South King Street, Honolulu  (just 15-minutes by car or cab from Waikiki).
Brought to you by
Most of the Chef Mavro team

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Southwest planning Hawaii flights but not for this Diva unless it adds business class

Being cramped in seats for 5 or more hours not my way to fly

What's more I want seat selection

Patti Pietschmann

Go ahead call me a Diva but when I fly to Hawaii, which is often, I want to be comfy, cozy in First or Business class.  But as I understand, since I haven't flown it in awhile, budget-saver Southwest Airlines is all economy all the time.

I usually fly Delta to the islands but my ears perked up when I heard that Southwest is flirting with the idea to fly to the Big Island, Kauai and Oahu. But then I remembered about the no seat assignments etc. unless you pay for Business Select for which you get priority boarding and a free drink and fast lane through TSA lines, but no more leg room or bigger seat. But of course the fare is right for  and popular with non-discerning flyers on a budget. A friend who flies Southwest often from coast to coast likes the cost and service and doesn't mind a little inconvience.

Southwest Airlines Co. is planning on selling tickets in 2018 for service to Hawaii, "A day long-awaited by our customers, fans, and more than 55,000 of the world's most-loved airline Employees is finally within sight—a day that will showcase your hospitality, about as far Southwest as you can go in the U.S.," chairman & CEO Gary Kelly told thousands of Southwest Employees at a Company gathering in Southern California. "Hawaii is an important place for Southwest Airlines because so many people count on us to take them everywhere they want to go reliably and affordably. We're ready and excited to address a request we've heard for years."
Southwest President Tom Nealon joined the announcement via satellite from Honolulu's famed Waikiki Beach and introduced the Governor of Hawaii, the Hon. David Ige, who shared his welcome with Southwest Employees. "The unmatched combination of our people and low fares with nothing to hide will be a game-changer in the U.S. to Hawaii market," Nealon said in accepting the Governor's invitation.
The Company's aircraft and available seat miles plans for 2018 are unchanged with today's announcement.

KLM/Air France drop Business Class fares for spring flights

Purchase by Oct. 17 for spring savings 

Patti Pietschmann

Relax, or sleep, in heavenly comfort in dreamy full flat and spacious beds, after enjoying fine wines or spirits and  delicious dishes crafted by Michelin starred chef Daniel Boulud, such as Braised Lamb with Spring Root Vegetables and Favas; Rice Pilaf with Asparagus, Morels and Peas; and Curried Lobster Salad, on  Air France  without busting your budget.


Both Air France and KLM are offering special Business Class fares for spring travel for purchase now through October 17, 2017 that can be booked  for departure  beginning March 25, 2018, with all travel needing to be completed on or before April 18, 2018. Terms, conditions, restrictions and black out days apply. 
 KLM is  providing Business class travelers with a Delftware miniature house filled with Dutch gin, in celebration of the airline's lnniversary. This year’s Delftware house was modeled after aviation pioneer Anthony Fokker’s house in Amsterdam, celebrating both KLM’s 97th anniversary, and the ending of KLM’s longstanding relationship with the Fokker airplane.
 Sample Fares 
Boston, MA (BOS)
Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS)
New York-Kennedy, NY (JFK)
Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS)
Newark, NJ (EWR)           
Paris-Charles de Gaulle, France (CDG)
Minneapolis, MN (MSP)
Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS)
Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Madrid, Spain (MAD)
San Francisco, CA (SFO)                
Paris-Charles de Gaulle, France (CDG)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Iceland skating in as most popular tourist destination

What makes Iceland such a hot destination

by Patti Covello Pietschmann

Our globetrotting friend, Glenn, just returned from Europe and is off in the next couple of weeks to South America and after that, more parts unknown outside the US. "But," he said during dinner at a The District by Hannah An, trendy West Hollywood restaurant last night, between sips of wine and bites of poke, " I want to go to Iceland." "You and everybody else," I remarked. But why has  Iceland become one of the hottest travel spots on earth?

For starters it's a destination that travelers seem to save for last on their bucket lists and it's so a millennial thing. I haven't yet been but understand Iceland is Mother Nature's masterpiece and still unspoiled. It is also one of the safest spots on earth and has a low crime rate and good medical care.

What's more there are luxurious hotels in which to bed down and commune with nature such as Deplar Farm(see photos below)--a converted sheep farm tucked away in the remote Flijot valley offering bespoke travel in the lap of a luxurious hotel.

Here's a few facts:

Its Flag is blue with a red cross outlined in white fimbration, extending to the edges of the flag. The colors are symbolic for three of the elements that make up the island: red is for the volcanic fires, white recalls the snow and glaciers, and blue is for the skies above.

Population is 332,000 (2016). An estimated 9% (29.900) of the population is of foreign-born nationality.

Capital city: Reykjavík. The largest municipalities are Reykjavík* (122,000); Kópavogur* (34,000); Hafnarfjördur *(28,000); Akureyri (18,000); Reykjanesbær (15.000). * denotes cities in the capital region.

103,000 sq. km (40,000 sq. miles), bigger than Hungary and Portugal and a little bit smaller than Cuba.

Iceland is a parliamentary constitutional republic. Suffrage is universal from 18 years of age. The president is elected by direct popular vote for a term of four years, with no term limit. Most executive power rests with the Government, which is elected separately from the presidential elections every four years. Althingi is a legislative body of 63 members elected for a term of four years by popular vote. Judicial power lies with the Supreme Court and the district courts.

Language: The official language of Iceland is Icelandic, a North Germanic language derived from Old Norse. It has changed relatively little throughout the centuries. English is widely spoken and understood.

Religion: Most Icelanders (80%) are members of the Lutheran State Church. Another 5% are registered in other Christian denominations, including the Free Church of Iceland and the Roman Catholic Church. Almost 5% of people practice ásatrú, the traditional Norse religion.

The currency: The Icelandic monetary unit is the króna (plural krónur) – ISK.

Time Zone:
Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) throughout the year, and does not go on daylight saving time.

Getting there

Options for direct flights from the US are more limited than if you fly to other European destinations. You could get a very cheap deal on WOW Air if they have a seat sale. But Icelandair and Delta (summer flights only) can be competitive. 
Check out: 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Santa Barbara's beautiful Bacara Spa becomes a Ritz-Carlton

Renovated property is shining star or RC collection

Patti Pietschmann

When Bacara Spa opened in 2000 it was received as one of the most glamorous of the time.  A distinction that attracted the beautiful, rich and famous (along with ordinary mortal).  It cost $222 million to build and recently underwent a major multi-million dollar renovation and handover to  The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C.

 "We are delighted to welcome this iconic property into The Ritz-Carlton portfolio of nearly 100 hotels around the globe," said Hervé Humler, president and Chief Operating Officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. "The Ritz-Carlton's world class service, led by the resort's fantastic Ladies and Gentlemen, together with the Bacara's history, will make The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara a standout on this part of the California coast."

The hotel sits on 78 acres of prime California coastline with direct beach access, three salt-water swimming pools, a 42,000-square foot luxury spa with 36 treatment rooms, a salon and a fitness center, as well as large indoor and outdoor event space. 
Of course Ritz-Carlton won't be sitting on  it luxury laurels, The company plans to upgrade a wide variety of guest spaces, including  revenue-generating meeting and event venues, the main lobby, food and beverage outlets, the fitness center, pools and spa. There will also be a new Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge--a signature fixture  that the brand does exceptionally well providing lovely environments in which to enjoy drinks and usually generous  snacks.
Four Seasons lobby shot by Richard Pietschmann
Other luxury properties in Santa Barbara include a fabulousFour Seasons, Belmond El Encanto and a bit of a worthwhile drive away, the ultra-exclusive  San Ysidio Ranch.
El Encanto pic by Richard Pietschmann

Friday, September 29, 2017

Carnival adding faster than lightening Internet speeds

Faster Internet on its way via MedallianNet
Photo of Seabourn Quest by Richard Pietschmann
Whether traveling by land or sea most of us hope for free fast WiFi for business or pleasure. It doesn't always happen. But soon, for passengers on Carnival Corporation,   10 distinctive  brands-- Princess, Seabourn, Cunard, HAL and others, the Internet will really become your friend. The world's largest cruise ship operator is installing  MedallionNet™. --  game-changing connectivity service enabled by SES Networks that will deliver the best Wi-Fi experience in the cruise industry" today saying that MedallionNet will provide guests with easy-to-access Wi-Fi that features exceptional speeds and bandwidth, pervasive stateroom signal strength and unprecedented service consistency.

In business-like parlance, "The connectivity service – to be delivered in connection with SES Networks, a business unit of SES (PAR/LuxSE: SESG) – will collectively leverage the leading global satellite operator's geostationary earth orbit (GEO) and medium-earth orbit (MEO) constellations, managed services, antenna and shipboard technology to significantly enhance the guest experience by providing high-performance and reliable broadband connectivity at sea. This innovative service is enabled by hardware and software shipboard technology advances associated with Carnival Corporation's proprietary O·C·E·A·N Experience Platform."

"Staying connected is inextricably linked to our daily life experiences and that now extends to the vacation experience, even when sailing in the middle of the sea," said John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer for Carnival Corporation. "MedallionNet will set the new standard for Wi-Fi service at sea and we look forward to rolling it out to our guests. Our top priority is doing everything we can to exceed guest expectations, and by listening closely to our guests, we know Wi-Fi connectivity is important to many of our guests.  For guests who want to disconnect, they are free to do so. But for those who want to stay connected, MedallionNet will make it easy for them – and that includes being able to easily send photos, videos and messages letting everyone know they are having a fabulous vacation."

MedallionNet is another development to emerge from Carnival Corporation's Global Experience and Innovation Center located in Miami and is the first end-to-end Wi-Fi service development formulated with a focus on exceeding guest expectations through "GuestCentricity™" – an initiative to enhance all aspects of the vacation experience by delivering guests what they want, when, where and how they want it.

"SES Networks is privileged to be associated with Carnival Corporation's Global Experience and Innovation team and to be powering MedallionNet," said Steve Collar, CEO of SES Networks. "We share Carnival Corporation's passionate focus on connecting people, places and cultures around the world with amazing experiences. As the only company to offer a GEO and MEO constellation, unmatched in scale, performance and technological diversity, SES Networks is uniquely positioned to enable the highest performing Wi-Fi connectivity at sea as well as immersive media and gaming content."

MedallionNet leverages multi-band antennas uniquely configured in an innovative shipboard formation to minimize any potential impact to guest connectivity due to seasonal weather or ship positioning, and it fuses multi-orbit satellite bandwidth to deliver a truly immersive guest connectivity experience.

By combining multiple sources of bandwidth to achieve the highest capacity shipboard network ever brought to a cruise ship with an unprecedented volume of shipboard access points, MedallionNet introduces a level of service reliability and signal pervasiveness not previously achieved on ships sailing at sea.

More specifics about MedallionNet and specific cruise brand implementation will be announced later this year.

I wish hotels could add MedallionNet.

Westfield Century City mall looks awesome after billion dollar make-over

The acropolis for consumerism gets a new look

Patti Pietschman

In need of some retail therapy?  Fire up that plastic and hit the mall Oct, 3 Grand Opening of  the billion dollar Westfield Century City.  It's touted to be a  festive event with appearances by  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Westfield's co-CEOs, Peter and Steven Lowy.  Highlighting the day will be the official opening of Century City's new three-level Nordstrom and the full unveiling of the property's outdoor plazas, landscaped terraces and events and entertainment space – designed by Westfield's in-house studio in collaboration with L.A.-based designer Kelly Wearstler

 "California Soul"  is the theme of the day which includes an evening invitation-only event featuring performances from some of LA's hottest musical acts.  The occasion will take place in partnership with the Infinite Hero Foundation, which helps combat the most difficult frontline issues, both mental and physical, that face returning military heroes and their families – while also funding programs that drive innovation and the accessibility of effective treatments dealing with service-related injuries. The partnership with Infinite Hero fits more broadly within the Westfield Veterans Initiative, which was launched in 2015.

 The majority of the destination's 200+ shops and restaurants will be open for business, with additional retail and restaurant arrivals to continue thereafter, including Eataly, which will open later in October. 
Century City reflects Westfield's global flagship portfolio of cutting-edge retail and leisure destinations defined by a careful curation of offerings. Century City's unique mix of fashion retail, food, health, wellness and fitness is designed to fulfill evolving consumer needs – everything from a daily trip to the gym or grocery store, to an afternoon shopping and relaxing with friends or a special dinner out. 
Be sure to  take a look for the new 18,000 square foot state-of-the-art entertainment and events venue called the Atrium. "With our Grand Opening celebration, Westfield's vision for Century City, and our portfolio more broadly, continues to be revealed," said William Hecht, Westfield'schief operating officer in the United States.  "With a curation of the very best in fashion, chef-led restaurants and fresh food, health and wellness amenities, art, music, and entertainment all coming together in a setting that celebrates the best of the Southern California lifestyle, Westfield Century City will be like no other place in Los Angeles." 
To improve your shopping experience the Center offers a professionally trained concierge staff that provides personal services. There is also a collection of Studio Services, connecting retailers with stylists and costume designers across the entertainment and music industries – and provides an additional suite of celebrity and VIP services.
You'll be happy tom now that there's more parking and entry points.  In addition to extensive valet services, the center's new Smart Parking and Reserved Parking services allow visitors to reserve their own private space in advance, and quickly get in and out of the property without ever having to take a ticket or wait in a line to pay. 
Westfield Century City will also include the debut of the world's first-ever permanent Uber Lounge and multiple new Uber stations – all designed to facilitate ridesharing to and from the property.