No disrespect to Vicksburg, MS but I was more than surprised to learn it was named as one of the top 13 places to visit in 2013 by “AAA Southern Traveler” and “AAA Midwest Traveler.” Some of the other cities named were expected, such as Orlando (bring on the tourists, please), Ireland, San Francisco (always a favorite) and Las Vegas. Panama made the list. I just returned from a glorious press trip to Panama, so I can understand why this city is so intriguing. On that trip, we stayed at Trump Ocean Club (stunning architectural beauty surrounded by the Pacific Ocean) and visited hot spots like the Panama Canal (undergoing an impactful expansion) and the Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum, which is so colourfully exquisite in both the architectural conception and what will be contained within, that I am sure when it opens later this year (keep your fingers crossed) the world will be beating a path to its door. More on Panama later… after I write my story for “Prevue Magazine.” Other destinations named in the top 13 to visit are Christchurch, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Spain and Turkey (on my bucket list). But Vicksburg? What’s there to see? The Vicksburg CVB happened to send me a few samples of why you should take the trek. The Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration begins in April with Tapestry: The Pilgrimage to Vicksburg and the Vicksburg Heritage Fair (through July 4, the anniversary of the Siege of Vicksburg’s surrender). Some of the activities include: concerts by the U.S. Navy Band, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Jackson State University Mass Choir and the 41st U.S. Army Band; living history presentations Civil War soldiers’ daily lives and a rededication of the Iowa Memorial. For all the events, www.visitvicksburg.com.
This offer from Club Hotel and Spa in St Helier, Jersey (Channel Islands) sounds ideal for fighting off winter blues. I mean, c’mon. Even in Florida we had two days of wind and cold that dropped to a chilling 34. Anyway, the Club Hotel and Spa is calling this offer their Winter Rescue Spa Day. Just in case someone wants to gift me, here’s what the options include: 3 Treatments of your choice; full use of the spa facilities; hearty health boosting soup and homemade bread; and a non-alcoholic health ‘tonic’ cocktail. A couple of these treatments sound good enough to eat, like the Ginger and Mandarin full body exfoliation and body balm or the Ylang Ylang and black pepper warming back massage. Gift certificates have to be bought by March 31 and used by May, 2013.
Have never been a big fan of South African wines, but I am willing to sacrifice my time and taste buds to see if any of the wines to be sampled at the Nairobi Wine Festival next month can change my perceptions. Hey, for all you travel agents who follow my blog: The Kenya Tourism Board has a new incentive program that will reward you for your bookings. Rewards include a monthly gift giveaway, featuring Kenya-based handicraft products, as well as a quarterly incentive of four $50 gift cards to be distributed in a random drawing, cash gift cards, and the top selling agent will be guaranteed a spot to attend the October 2013 Magical Kenya EXPO and FAM trip. The rewards program runs through June 30, 2013.
HOTELS/RESORTS WITH CLASS AND VERVE
I must say, the name of this Norwegian hotel has my curiosity piqued. In 18th-century Oslo, criminals were brought to justice on a tiny islet whose infamy gained it the name “Thief Island”. Today, The Thief is an upscale waterfront hotel in Tjuvholmen, Oslo’s most contemporary neighborhood development. The hotel’s interior contains original artwork selected by curator Sune Nordgren and furniture selected by Anemone Wille-Våge. Next door is the new Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano.
I’d like to wake up at Blakes, a newly refurbished 47-room luxury boutique hotel designed for former Bond girl Anouska Hempel. The South Kensington, London hotel is a fusion of eastern and western styling. Each of the rooms is inspired by different countries. The Corfu Suite centers around a tall four-poster swathed in romantic pure-white muslin, while the Empress Josephine Suite shrouds a tented bed in opulent shades of ebony and gold. High end accessories by Bang & Olufsen create the feeling of a self-contained hideaway.Destin is closer than London, even with the price of gas rising by the day. I’d be happy to make the trip to Serenity by the Sea Spa at the beachfront Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa for one (or more) of their treatments. The Northwest Florida spa on the Gulf Coast has been ranked among the ‘Top 270 Spas in North America, Caribbean, Mexico and at Sea’ in the “Condé Nast Traveler” 2013 Readers’ Poll. Serenity placed #26 among U.S. resort spas in a list including top resorts from California to Miami.
In a city that never sleeps, it seems as if there’s always a new resort climbing out of the Las Vegas desert. The latest is Nobu Hotel Restaurant and Lounge at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, which opened Feb. 4. Nobu is the first celebrity chef-branded hotel venture in Las Vegas. There are 181 guest rooms, including 18 suites that range from one-bedroom, 1,000 sf to five-bedroom, 3,500 sf configurations. The 12,775 sf Nobu Restaurant and Lounge holds a 327-seat restaurant with sushi bar. www.nobucaesarspalace.com
You can still view “Three Faces of Miami,” featuring the works of renowned artists Sheila Elias, Mike Rivamonte and Robert Swedroe at The Conrad Miami. The works will be displayed on the 25th level of the hotel through May 2013.
Mainsail Suites Hotel & Conference Center in Tampa, Fl is shedding some of its 360 rooms and transitioning to 120 one- and two-bedroom suites. The conversion will include $1.5 million in interior upgrades to rooms and the hotel lobby. Completion is expected by August. The remaining 240 units will be converted to rental residences operating as Mainsail Apartment Homes. Centrally located in Tampa, the Mainsail Suites Hotel & Conference Center has more than 12,000 sf of flexible indoor space and 6,000 sf of lushly landscaped outdoor space. www.MainsailTampa.com or 866-SAIL-2US (724-5287).
THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO SEE
Ringling College of Art and Design will host the second annual international Service Design Tourism conference on its campus on November 22-23. Ringling College is partnering with Management Center Innsbruck (MCI), the host of the inaugural SDT 2012 conference in Austria. Dr. Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, says SDT 2013 proves that “Service design is an increasingly important discipline that leads to a competitive advantage for any business – and tourism especially – that aims to provide an exceptional customer experience.” As Florida is one of the country’s top tourism destinations, “We have much to share with our international counterparts to complement what we learn from them.” SDT 2013 will draw an interdisciplinary mix of attendees including designers, tourism industry professionals, and academicians. Details about the SDT 2013 conference agenda and registration information will be posted online in June. www.servicedesigntourism.com. Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota is a private, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering the Bachelor’s degree in 14 disciplines. It is recognized as being among the best and most innovative visual arts colleges in the United States as well as a leader in the use of technology in the arts.
Fire up the grill or just plan on lip-smacking through the tasty offerings at the 2013 Great Southern Tailgate Cook-off to be held Aug. 23-24 on Amelia Island. The Amelia Island CVB is partnering with Smithfield® Rib Super Series for one of just 12 high-profile Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned events to participate in the series. The Smithfield® Rib Super Series is a points chase competition with bonus money payouts for the top three finalists in the Ribs category, at each contest, and overall. All participating teams will receive two complimentary racks of Smithfield Spareribs to use as their turn-in or for experimentation. Teams participating in the points chase will also earn points based on their finishing position at their best four events in the series, making them eligible for additional bonus Grand Prize money. Interested in participating? Register at the KCBS Web site at KCBS.us/Smithfield for additional registration. Participating teams must be registered at least two weeks prior to the event. For those more into eating than cooking, the two-day, family-friendly event features free live musical entertainment and and barbeque samplings from some of the top competitors in the country. Teams can register starting in April at www.gstailgatecookoff.com.
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ThePsychicLady.com