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Join Darcy Rhyno on the last leg of their 10-week Costa Rican adventure, and slip into the soothing waters at Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort – a five-star retreat that harnesses a network of naturally flowing thermal mineral springs. Set in the heart of the jungle, this one-of-a-kind escape blends seclusion and romance, immersing guests in the natural beauty of the dense rainforest.
I step into the mineral waters heated by Arenal, the volcano looming over us, and take a seat on the underwater bench beside my wife. Relaxing into the gentle current, I let out a long sigh, the soothing waters slipping over my skin. We’re alone in one of the many secluded pools, surrounded by verdant jungle in the heart of Costa Rica’s first and finest hot springs retreat: the five-star Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort.
For 10 weeks, we’ve been exploring Costa Rica, one unique ecosystem at a time. These are our last days in the Central American country, and as it turns out, we may have saved the best experience for last.
We start the day with a hike across the volcanic scree that covers the face of mighty Arenal. The active, perfectly conical mountain still smokes, rumbles, and leaks glowing molten rock. Its slopes are littered with hardened lava, cooled perhaps decades ago. Among the chunks of rock, rare slipper orchids somehow thrive beneath the tropical sun. As we climb up another side of the volcano, the air is noticeably cooler and thicker. The moss, bromeliads, and orchids that hang from the trees weigh the limbs down close to the ground, which the monkeys and birds don’t seem to mind.
After such exciting adventures, we head back to recuperate in thermal waters. I believe this is precisely what Jaime Mikowski envisioned. He’s the Costa Rican architect who first saw the potential for the mineral-enriched Tabacón River. In the 1980s, his dream was realized with a resort on the incredible 350-hectare property near La Fortuna, the only village that survived the last major eruption about 50 years ago. Mikowski was the first to design a spa that put wild surroundings and the natural therapeutic properties of the thermal mineral waters together, to use for healing and wellness.
While Tabacón is popular with young adventurers and those in search of indulgence, some find their way here to treat various ailments. Tabacón launched “The ESCAPE Route,” a program created in partnership between the resort and Harvard’s Dr. Natalie Dattilo. ESCAPE pairs traditional wellness techniques with science-backed therapies to promote a return to health after crisis and upheaval. Ultimately, it serves as the fulfillment of Mikowski’s mission to take full advantage of the Tabacón’s healing potential.
The program includes additions like a cooking class, a tree planting ceremony, balneotherapy, and complimentary access to the adults-only corner of the hot springs, Shangri-La Gardens.
On our last day, my wife and I decide to close our Costa Rican winter in style with the ultimate experience—a couple’s massage in the jungle. After swapping our clothing for puffy robes, we’re offered nutritious smoothies and led to a palapa furnished with two massage tables. What follows is one of the most relaxing experiences of our lives. Eyes closed, I find myself sinking into the sensations of soft aromatherapy, heat treatments, warmed oils, and deep muscle massages.
Finally, the masseuse takes my hand, joins it with my wife’s, and recites a poem to renew our bonds of love with the force of the volcano, and the warm caress of the Tabacón River. Our two expert attendants retreat, leaving us to slip into a billowing jacuzzi with a bottle of bubbly and a bowl of fresh, tropical fruits. From this earthly paradise, we toast our 10 glorious weeks, its heavenly conclusion, and the renewed energy with which we will re-enter our lives at home.
All Photos Courtesy of Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort
Private Jet Journeys: The Epitome of Luxury
by Nancy Hellmrich, adapted by Ensemble Travel Group | October 2022
Few experiences are more exceptional for seasoned travelers than a world tour via private jet. With Abercrombie & Kent, it’s far beyond a unique and luxurious mode of transportation – it’s an intricate weaving of the finest threads that make up the fabric of a truly unforgettable trip. We’ve caught up with Abercrombie & Kent’s Ann Epting, SVP of Private Jet & Special Interest Travel, to learn a little more about what you can expect from a Private Jet Journey.
Q: What exactly goes into the making of an A&K Private Jet Journey?
A lot of planning and forethought – these trips are literally years in the making. There are usually about five or six of us; we review guest ideas, we brainstorm, and we investigate new destinations available. Then it’s just a matter of getting in a room with a big world map and saying, “Okay, is this doable?”
Q: What happens when you’re told that something just isn’t possible from a supplier or destination?
A great example we had of being told “no,” was in Cartagena, Colombia. We found this lovely little square and thought, why don’t we have a dinner set up here? They said, “Absolutely not – the government would never allow it.” And yet, with months of negotiating, our persistence paid off and they issued us the permit. It turned out to be a really beautiful evening.
Q: We heard about a landing on Mt. Everest – was that another tough negotiation?
When we told them we wanted to land our guests at 19,000-ft they said, “There’s no way.” No one had ever asked them to do that before. We started a year ahead of time working with the helicopter pilots and the airport to have air traffic control clear some space for us. finally got them to agree, then we sourced high-altitude helicopters from all over the region. Two weeks before the landing, we sent a team of Sherpas up to the top to build three landing pads. We also brought in photographers and a Buddhist lama who offered a blessing. We rotated the helicopters in and out. All that was done by noon, and our guests had lunch with the Bhutanese Royal Family the very next day. It was a huge success – in fact, A&K founder Geoffrey Kent, who was on the trip, called it a highlight of his life. So, we had to include it on our 2023 Cultural Treasures: Around the World by Private Jet.
Image credit: A Privileged landing on Mt. Everest, Abercrombie & Kent
Q: How do you plan an event with royals or dignitaries?
The people we work with are typically very well connected so we ask them to reach out and see what they can do. In Ethiopia, we’ve even been able to have our guests go to a palace to meet the president. A lot of it is through Geoffrey Kent, who served as Chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council for six years.
Q: Can you tell us about any other unique experiences you created?
When we were in Mongolia, we bypassed Ulaanbaatar and went straight out to the Gobi Desert. We brought acrobats and a throat singer in from the city so our guests could experience them, and local villagers recreated the traditional Naadam Festival competitions for us. In Sicily, we thought it would be fun to drive from Taormina to Savoca, but we wanted to do it in true A&K style. So, we brought over 35 vintage Alfa Romeo convertibles so our guests could drive along the coast.
Forgin new friendships in Tanzania
Q: What about accommodations in remote areas?
No matter how remote, we go in and create the luxury experience for them. We paint rooms, bring in furniture, luxury linens, toiletries, espresso machines – you name it, we’ve got it. One couple wanted eight feather pillows, so we brought along eight feather pillows. We do extensive training with the staff as well. We have a high repeat rate and that sort of attention to detail has a lot to do with it.
Q: What are you working on now?
Ladakh, India. That’s an area that Mr. Kent has wanted to visit for a very long time. We’re building it into a Private Jet Journey for 2023. We’re also planning a new wildlife trip for the end of 2023 that includes going to Kazakhstan to see the snow leopards.
Main Image Credit: Abercrombie & Kent
TOP 10 LIST
Surf and Turf
by Fiona Tapp | October 2022
The Turks and Caicos are so much more than sunny skies and white sand beaches. While its popularity among honeymooners is certainly noted, these stunning islands are an ideal destination for families of all ages. Spot interesting animals in their natural habitat, take part in unique cultural events, enjoy child-friendly activities, and discover all the adventures that keep teenagers and parents entertained. This is a gorgeous destination that’s perfect for the entire family.
1 – Ride with Provo Ponies
Provo Ponies, located in Providenciales, started out as a rescue operation for abused and malnourished horses. Now, visitors are invited to ride on the backs of these majestic creatures, through both beach and trail, during a three-hour excursion. This is an incredibly popular tour, so you will need to book in advance. Children aged seven and up are welcome.
Image: Horseback riding is a popular activity for Turks and Caicos visitors
2 – Visit Iguana Island
Iguana Island is a great place to get an up-close look at rock iguanas. Easily accessible by boat, this is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Iguanas rule this island, so you’ll spot them as you wander along the boardwalks and surrounding areas. Bring all the beach toys or snacks you may need, this is a great place to enjoy a family picnic. It’s important to remind your group that these iguanas are endangered, and should never be fed by visitors.
Image: Iguana on Little Water Cay, also know as Iguana Island
3 – Kayaking and Wildlife Spotting
The Turks and Caicos have more than 40 islands and cays to discover, but some are best seen by kayak.
Local tour operators take guests on excursions near Princess Alexandra National Park. The only sound you’ll hear will be the gentle slap of water against the blade of your paddle as you navigate through the mangroves. Even small children are lulled into silence as they search for turtles and fish while learning about this unique environment.
Image: Kayaking tour to Mangrove Cay
4 – Go Snorkeling
The islands offer so many opportunities for scuba divers to see a huge array of marine life, but by taking a snorkeling trip, even kids can experience the same sort of underwater wonder. Most boat tour companies in the Turks and Caicos allow children to come along at a reduced price. Some even have boats equipped with slides, and include refreshments. At the Bight Reef (Coral Gardens), expect to see colorful reef fish, stingrays, and turtles. Those with young children may prefer to just simply swim out into the ocean with a mask and flippers and see what they find.
Image: Taken underwater photo while snorkeling
5 – Attend the Thursday Fish Fry
Every Thursday night at Bight Park, musicians, vendors and food merchants gather for a big outdoor party. This is a great family friendly event where you can pick up souvenirs, enjoy some great food, and mingle with locals. At the end of the day, Turks and Caicos is a wonderful destination for all ages. The gorgeous weather, relaxing beaches, and plethora of activities are sure to excite all members of the family.
Image: Buy traditional souvenirs of Turks and Caicos
What’s Trending in Family Travel?
by Ensemble Travel Group | October 2022
From multi-generation trips to a spontaneous getaway; family travel is exploding, and for good reason. This year, family travel is all about reconnecting, making up for lost time, and going bigger and better than ever. Once-in-a-lifetime splurges, spontaneous weekend escapes, bucket list experiences, and adventure stories that will be passed down for generations. You deserve to have a trip that’s as special as your family.
Splurge Travels: Big Budgets, Big Experiences
We get it, you’re looking to “go big” this year. In an effort to make up for lost time, we’re willing to spend more to experience the type of journey we’ve been dreaming of. A family cruise onboard one of the latest ship, a multi-generation safari in Africa, or a hotel room upgrade – there’s so many ways, both big and small, to splurge on your next trip for added value.
Ultimate Family Suite onboard Wonder of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International
The World is Their Classroom
Traveling with young children is more popular than ever. Did you know that children who travel are more empathetic, adaptable, and open to new experiences? Yes, traveling creates lasting memories, but it also boosts your child’s development. So pack those Spiderman rollies and umbrella strollers for the most brag-worthy events, exclusive sailings, and limited-time offers. We want kids to be royally spoiled after their summer break.
Private travel, including yacht charters, secluded villas, and escorted tours are also on the rise, giving families space to spread out and enjoy quality time together. With health and safety concerns still on our minds, exclusive accommodations, and more intimate group settings create the peace of mind we need to truly relax and recharge.
Saving Grace Villa, Turks and Caicos
The All-Inclusive Escapists
A family reunion at an all-inclusive beach resort ensures everyone can relax in their own special way. Attentive beach waiters delivering adult beverages while the children sip on fresh fruit juice. Cozying up under the cabana, reading your book in peace, and not having to worry about making a dinner reservation. We understand the appeal of this no-fuss type of travel as it continues to grow in popularity among large families.
The Ice-Cold Adventurers
Some of us use our vacation time to beat the heat by jetting off to icy destinations like Alaska, Iceland, or Antarctica. If we’re craving adventure and excitement, it may be safe to assume the rest of the family is too. We encourage you to take your little ones on these adventures with you. Day cruises to Alaska invite guests to experience an exciting travel adventure, all while soaking in the family friendly activities on and off the ship. Families especially love earning badges in the National Park Junior Rangers program. There’s truly so much to experience.
Family hiking in Alaska
Similarly, Iceland is renowned for its safe, family friendly culture. The air is clean, the people are friendly, and the adventures are plentiful –whale watching, horseback riding, petting zoos, glaciers, lava caving, geothermal springs, and more. Take a break from the beaches. There’s no better way to make memories than to try something new and exciting, together.
BRB (Be Right Back) Travelers
So much to see, so much to do. Sometimes, a spontaneous family getaway is just what you need. Driving-distance destinations, last-minute weekend flights, around-the-corner guided tours, three-day cruise blowouts, and quick there-and-back trips. Short and sweet, these trips are all about breaking free from the norm and having fun. Enjoying a few days away lets us experience more, while spending less.
Your family trip should be just that, yours. Whether hiking Machu Picchu with your teenagers, lounging by the pool with your kids, or embarking on a multi-generation cruise across Europe; the journeys you go on should be as unique as your family.
Step aboard the world’s greatest ships
Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.
Discover Europe on a Viking Longship®
Planning a trip to Europe soon? Consider a river cruise aboard one of Viking’s award-winning Viking Longships.
A river cruise enables you to travel in comfort, taking in the scenery as you glide from destination to destination. Unpack just once and explore the best of cosmopolitan cities and quaint, small towns. Viking Longships showcase innovative engineering, streamlined Scandinavian design and understated elegance. Thoughtfully engineered to bring guests closer to their destination, they provide unprecedented levels of comfort, including spacious staterooms with full-size verandas and among the largest suites on Europe’s rivers, plus the most al fresco dining on Europe’s rivers. Public areas like the Viking Lounge offer floor-to-ceiling windows so you can enjoy the sunset with a cocktail and watch the scenery pass by as you compare notes about the day’s discoveries with new friends. And, located at the bow of the ship, Viking’s signature Aquavit Terrace serves as a casual outdoor space that offers both al fresco breakfast and lunch—or the opportunity to just relax and enjoy the scenery in the open air.
Designed for curious travelers with interests in science, history, culture and cuisine, Chairman Torstein Hagen says Viking creates experiences for ‘The Thinking PersonSM’. Viking has more than 250 awards to its name, including being the first cruise line ever to simultaneously be named the #1 Ocean Line and #1 River Line in Travel + Leisure’s 2022 “World’s Best” Awards. Viking was also rated the #1 River Line and #1 Ocean Line by Condé Nast Traveler in the publication’s 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards. For years, Viking set the standard for river cruises with elegant small ships (at most 190 guests), destination-focused itineraries designed for more time in port, and amenities that provide everything needed in the cruise price. That’s correct: the cruise fare includes an excursion in every port; free Wi-Fi; beer, wine and soft drink selections with onboard lunch or dinner; plus bottled water and 24-hour specialty coffees & teas!
The Viking Longships are the most award-winning class of river ships, having been recognized by Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Cruise Critic and more, and sailing the waterways of Austria, Germany, Hungary, France, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Switzerland and more. These ships take guests closer to their destination with large, expansive windows, and the ability to dock in the heart of small towns. Plus, since Viking owns prime docking locations along the rivers, guests frequently can walk right off the ship into the heart of town. Viking Longships are perfect for exploring Europe during the Holiday season—visit one city’s Christmas market one day, have a rejuvenating sleep onboard, and wake up in the next city ready to visit the next holiday market. The same ease awaits guests if they travel during spring or summer as well—it’s a key benefit of river cruising. Viking Longships sail Europe’s Rhine, Danube, Main and Elbe, as well as the rivers of France and Portugal.
All Viking ships feature only outside staterooms. Guests can choose from a river-view picture window, French Balcony, full-size, private veranda, or a wrap-around deck in the luxurious Explorer Suites. And every stateroom category features a queen-size Viking Explorer Bed with luxury linens & pillows, free Wi-Fi, a 42″ flat-screen TV (two TVs in Suites) with Movies On Demand, CNBC, CNN, FOX & more; 110/220 volt outlets & USB ports. Plus, enjoy a private bathroom boasting a spacious glass-enclosed shower, heated floor and anti-fog mirror. Of course, a hair dryer and premium Freyja® toiletries are also included. Other amenities include plush robes & slippers; a phone, safe, and mini-fridge; a roomy wardrobe with wooden hangers plus under-bed suitcase storage space; Individual climate control; bottled water replenished daily; and the services of a stateroom steward and twice-daily housekeeping.
Viking is known for its destination-focused dining—menus that offer regional cuisine representative of the locations through which guests sail. Not only do guests have the opportunity to try local cuisine, Viking also offers complementary local wine and beer with lunches and dinners, and “Taste of” events offer a variety of samplings of local specialties. For those who prefer less adventuresome fare, Viking also offers “always available classics” made with locally sourced ingredients. Viking river cruise ships’ main dining venue, the Restaurant, offers gracious service in an elegant dining room with large, river-view windows. Additional dining is also available on the Aquavit Terrace, which offers the most al fresco dining on Europe’s rivers. Guests can meet new friends over breakfast and lunch as they watch Europe’s picturesque riverscapes unfold in this relaxing, inviting space.
Viking is known for its enrichment programs. Guests can complement their onshore experiences with the onboard lecture program, designed to shed light on the destination’s art, architecture, music, geopolitics, natural world and more. Informative multimedia presentations covering the history and culture of upcoming destinations, as well as highlights of must-see landmarks also enable guests to gain an overview of their next day’s port of call. Each Viking itinerary includes one or more Destination Performances representing the most iconic cultural performing art form of the region—whether it be Portuguese fado with its melancholy melodies and poignant lyrics or Viennese opera, a centuries-old storytelling art form. Local artisans demonstrate time-honored local craft traditions such as glassblowing, lace making and wooden shoemaking. Culinary demonstrations present recipes of regional treats and drinks—Austrian apple strudel, Rüdesheim Coffee and more. And each ship’s onboard Library has been curated by Heywood Hill, an independent London bookseller and Royal Warrant holder, who dedicated hundreds of hours to researching destination-relevant offerings to satisfy the most inquisitive guest. From art to history to destination-focused reading, each book was hand-selected to enhance the guest experience on board and in destination.
The staff of Viking is dedicated to providing warm hospitality to their guests and ensuring everyone feels at home on board. Viking has the most loyal staff in the industry, and with over 90% returning year after year, guests can expect the same quality service every time. Viking’s rigorous training and inspiring leadership make them the employer of choice, allowing them to select the very best people to care for their guests, and Viking’s highly experienced management handpicks each member of the onboard team. With more than 10,000 staff members worldwide devoted to making guests’ stay on board as memorable as possible, Viking is so confident they will exceed guests’ expectations that they are the only cruise line to guarantee their award-winning service.
Tour a Viking Longship
With their innovative design, al fresco Aquavit Terrace, and understated elegance, Viking Longships provide the most rewarding way to explore Europe.
Experience the warmth and sophistication of an Ensemble® Hosted Cruise. Meet your Ensemble Host at a private cocktail party; then enjoy a complimentary Ensemble Experience shore event. Whether you favor glittering yachts, a river vessel, or a larger luxury ship, there’s an Ensemble Hosted Cruise that’s right for you.
Travel, as it should be, enhances your life. Let us help you write the next exciting chapter of yours with customized journeys or enhancements we create in concert with our more than 70 destination experts across the globe. Why settle for anything less than extraordinary!
Credits, deals and special offers are just the beginning. Ensemble Travel Group monthly promotions allow you to take advantage of specials that only an Ensemble Travel Group member can offer.