CSR—doing what comes naturally for Resorts with a heart

Meritage Vineyard Deck at Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa

Meritage Vineyard Deck at Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa Valley

Giving back to the Napa Valley community has become part of The Meritage Resort & Spa’s DNA. Their latest project is such an obvious “do” that it is a wonder more properties haven’t joined in as well. Instead of dumping the doors, desks, chairs, lamps, flat screen TVs, bedframes and sofas from the recent renovation of 157 of the 322 guestrooms located within the four-diamond Napa Valley luxury resort complex, The Meritage has donated them to Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity and the St. John’s thrift store. The renovations and expansion began 18 months ago and were completed in March.

Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina and Pack for a Purpose have come up with a plan that will only cost travelers up to five pounds of space in their luggage but will provide so much more for the BVI (British Virgin Islands) Autism Centre, where the resort is also based. Scrub Island is the newest luxury private-island resort in the British Virgin Islands. Pack for a Purpose’s mission is to positively impact communities around the world by helping travelers make meaningful contributions to destinations they visit. The CSR project works like this: travelers are encouraged to save at least five pounds of their available luggage allowance for supplies requested by the Autism Centre, such as books, toys, art supplies, and other items.  Once guest unpack, the supplies are taken directly to the BVI Autism Centre. A full list of requested supplies can be found at “Many of our guests are very involved in philanthropies and charities at home, and this new program offers an easy and enormously rewarding way for them to extend their generosity to this island community they love,” says Scott Ward, Director of Sales and Marketing for Scrub Island Resort.; 877-890-7444

Hot Deals—Get them before they’re gone!

You missed attending Omni Hotels & Resorts sixth annual “Here Comes Omni” day, where the 60-property luxury chain pays homage to its customers, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on their current sales promotions. Book and fulfill a meeting from now through September 28, 2014 and receive one of the following:

  • Internet TV streaming device or a $100 master account credit or charitable donation (for meetings with rooms spend of $3,000 – $6,000)
  •     Mobile tablet or a $400 master account credit or charitable donation (for meetings with rooms spend of $6,001 – $20,000)
  • Laptop or a $1,000 master account credit or charitable donation (for meetings with rooms spend of more than $20,000)

And wait—there’s more! (I always wanted to say that. Must be too much infomercial watching!) But yes, there is more and this will far more interesting to you than watching infomercials. Omni has unveiled the Omni Meeting App, powered by Encore mobile application. Available at participating properties, any planner who uses Encore as their AV provider will be able to simultaneously access event information from any Internet-connected smart device. The complimentary app will help meeting planners eliminate print costs while offering digital way finding, inner-meeting messaging, video access and more.; 1-800-788-OMNI. Travelers

Four Gaylord Hotels want to spruce up your Spring and Summer getaways with hard-to-beat discounts. Book a two or three-day stay by May 9 to be fulfilled no later than June 30 at any of the four Gaylord Hotels (Gaylord National, Washington, D.C. area; Gaylord Opryland, Nashville, TN; Gaylord Palms, Orlando/Kissimmee, FL area; Gaylord Texan, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX area) and you can save 20% off the cost. When booking, use promotional code D3Q.

That time frame doesn’t work for your special celebration? No worries. Be happy with a $50 or $100 resort credit per night if you use promotional code ZJL when booking a stay through December 30 of this year. The $100 credit is available for the Gaylord National. The $50 credit is good for the other three Gaylord Hotel properties. www.gaylordhotels.come;

Eyes wide open, Millennials. The latest renovations at the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott have been designed with you in mind. General Manager John Magnifico (don’t you love his name?) says the redo of the new Greatroom lobby and its 30,000 sf of high-tech event space are the final phase of the hotel’s redo. Think of the Greatroom as your family room, a place to congregate, chillax, plug in at small tables set up in pods. The menu is better than ordering out. The “5, 10, 20” menu guarantees you will receive your food in 5, 10, or 20 minutes, depending on the order. The new 10,000 sf Grand Ballroom features energy-saving LED lighting. The foyer just outside the ballroom incorporates three state-of-the-art double doors, which enables planners to bring in massive displays. Obviously, the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott includes free airport shuttle to all terminals, sound resilient windows and lovely landscaping, but did you know the hotel also has two on-site restaurants, a fitness center, and an indoor pool?; 973-623-0006.

There are more than 350 hotels in 40 countries on four continents in the Meliá resort collection but if you book a stay by April 30 at any one of them, you can save 30% off your booking and also receive 12,000 MeliáRewards points.

Coming to Orlando in May? If you book your meeting at Floridays Resort Orlando in May, you will receive free room rental, AV and coffee break. Floridays Resort Orlando is an all-suite two-and-three bedroom condo style property with more than 2,500 sf of flexible function space. The Conference Center on the 2nd floor of the Reception Center overlooks the Grand Pool Complex. Floridays  is on International Drive, minutes away from attractions, shopping and restaurants.

The Bradenton Area CVB is offering an introductory rate to first time bookings at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. The Bradenton Area has is an active member of Florida Green Lodging Program, a voluntary initiative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that designates and recognizes lodging facilities that make a commitment to conserve and protect Florida’s natural resources. These are some of the program’s hotels with meeting spaces.

  • Courtyard by Marriott – University Parkway
  • Courtyard by Marriott – Bradenton Riverfront
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Ellenton
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Hilton Longboat Key
  • Holiday Inn Sarasota Bradenton Airport

Can’t say that I’ve ever heard of booking amenities like this one from QT Sydney in Sydney, Australia. Book a stay by September 28 and you can choose from daily breakfast, one dinner or one spa treatment (plus a shave or a haircut). QT Sydney is part of the Design Hotels collection, with stunning properties around the world. Many of them are offering great savings in the most exotic locations in such places as Croatia, the U.K, France, Turkey, Oman, Portugal and Italy (just to name a few). Hey, too many details to name them all. Check them out for yourself.

You may not be ready to hear this yet, but Christmas promotions from venues are already being offered. Take this one from London. Book a company party by May 31 at Troxy for a Speakeasy Christmas experience that won’t get you busted by the local police. Troxy has partnered with Smart LIVE for these individualized experiences. Troxy originally opened in 1933 as a grand theater. In 2005, current owners, Ashburn Estates, restored the venue as much as possible to its original glory, whilst incorporating the needs of today’s event requirements. The versatile venue can seat 800 comfortably for dinner or 1800 for a cozy reception with your new closest friends. Did I mention that if you book by May 31 you will receive 10% your event fees?

Tips on Travel, whether in a group or flying solo to London

Last I was in the U.K, I took advantage of the London Pass sightseeing card provided me by my group’s host. Already a bargain for taking in the city’s attractions, the London Pass team has redeveloped their app, which when linked to your pass via your IPhone or Android, provides you access to exclusive customized special offers. The free app is loaded with bus maps, guides to different London vicinities, itinerary suggestions, useful phone numbers, climate and currency info, and everything you didn’t know to ask about the 60+ popular tourist attractions offered with the London Pass. Even better, you can access the info offline. The Leisure Pass Group, which operates the system, says that visiting just four of the attractions on a three-day pass–such as The Tower Bridge, the London Zoo, Kew Gardens, or Windsor Castle, you will have saved enough money to have paid for the card. Think of it as the “go more, save more” plan. Like me, you may discover places you didn’t know existed but won’t leave London without seeing.

Hotel Redos

New patio adds nighttime romance at Norman's at The Ritz-Carlton

New patio adds nighttime romance at Norman’s at The Ritz-Carlton

Norman’s at The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, named for its legendary celebrity Chef Norman van Aken (aka “the founding father of New World Cuisine”) has brought the outside in with a new terrace designed for 110 seated and 200, reception. Norman’s terrace will beat the Orlando (FL) heat with fans, heaters and clear, motorized, drop-down walls. There’s a private entrance (no paparazzi, please!) and room for a private bar to be added for events. Lounge furniture, highboys and traditional dinner tables cover the terrace, because who wants to miss out on the terrace’s view of the Greg Norman Signature Golf Course or The Ritz-Carlton lake?

There are only two Guy Harvey Outpost hotels in the United States and the 211-room resort in at St. Pete Beach has a May 16 opening date set for RumFish Grill & Bar. Located just 30 minutes from Tampa on Florida’s west coast, the latest TradeWinds Beach Resort restaurant will feature a 33,500-gallon aquarium built by Wayde King and Brett Raymer of Animal Planet’s hit series, “Tanked.”

“RumFish will not only be a unique experience for our guests, it will also be a destination restaurant offering day travelers an all-encompassing Guy Harvey experience, said Keith Overton, president, TradeWinds Island Resorts. “Not only will visitors be able to dine, but they can also explore the tanks, enjoy extensive entertainment options and browse the large 2,200 square foot retail shop.” Guy Harvey Outpost guests will exclusively be able to snorkel in the tank among indigenous fish such as snook, redfish, trout, tarpon, grouper, snapper, small sharks and even eels.  Resort guests can also participate in a “behind the scenes” tour highlighting eco-initiatives and tank management, and includes the chance to feed the fish.

TradeWinds Island Gand Resort's new 3-story beach slide

TradeWinds Island Grand Resort’s new 3-story beach slide

A number of other tanks will be placed around the salt-water-themed restaurant, giving diners a “fully immersive” dining experience. RumFish will seat up to 150 in the main dining room and 160 in the indoor and outdoor bar areas. The décor will feature ocean blues and greens, dark woods, Guy Harvey designs, and original artwork by local marine artists. There will be numerous TVs and live entertainment nightly on two stages.; (844) 786-3474

Discounts for leisurely activities

The long-awaited Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando opens November 6. Consider the naming of the preferred caterers as an appetizer to the announcements of the shows that will begin gracing the stage in December. Caterers named are Arthur’s, Food Glorious Food, Hyatt Regency, and Puff ‘n Stuff. For event booking,

If you want to know plays will be showing to bring yourself or group to, here’s the schedule.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA December 3 – 14, 2014

NEWSIES January 27 – February 1, 2015

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL March 10 – 15, 2015

PIPPIN April 21 – 26, 2015

ANYTHING GOES May 26 – 31, 2015

I LOVE LUCY® LIVE ON STAGE June 23 – 28, 2015

Season specials are THE BOOK OF MORMON December 26, 2014 – January 4, 2015 and Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST May 12 – 17, 2015; 800-448-6322

If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil show and you happen to be a Florida resident in search of a thrilling theater experience in the Orlando area, La Nouba in the Downtown Disney West Side may be what you’re looking for. There is special Florida resident pricing available for shows running between May 10 and June 28 of this year. Tickets begin $49+ taxes. Anywhere you sit in this theater will offer great views, but you want to go for the best (Category 1), tickets begin at $89+ taxes. 407-939-1287

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.;; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady


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