Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

The Re-emergence of the Travel Advisor & the Power of One-to-One

I just returned from Virtuoso’s Travel Mart at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I was one of over 3700 people from 90 countries around the globe who had gathered to learn what’s new in luxury travel. This was my first time attending Travel Mart, and I went to Vegas with many newbies on Vision 2000’s @home team with our GM, Lynda Sinclair, and our Exec VP, Stephanie Anevich. But 2011 marked the 23rd such gathering of Virtuoso advisors and suppliers, and it was the 11th straight time the luxury trade show was held at the Bellagio.

Travel Mart’s theme this year was the “Power of One-to-One.”  And I saw how that worked, up close and in person. I had my “aha” moment when I met the representative of Four Seasons San Francisco 24 hours before my client was to check into that hotel. Parul Kaushal of the FS San Francisco”vip’ed” my client, and had a special amenity waiting for her in her room.  That was the power of one-to-one. I could immediately see the value of the connections I was making in Vegas.

Obviously, the power of making those one-to-one connections will be felt by my clients, and will help them develop a strong preference for the Virtuoso brand.

At Travel Mart, I had 312 four-minute “speed dating” sessions scheduled with suppliers over the four days. (Those meetings were supplemented by a dozen or more ten-minute detailed sales meetings. I also attended various luncheons, dinners, and cocktail parties; meeting suppliers, one-to-one). And, since I had a list of whom I would meet in advance of going to Vegas, I was able to contact my important clients, and share the details with them. “Collaborative commerce” was indeed enabled – I met suppliers with my clients’ specific needs in mind. I asked questions related to my clients’ families, and their vacation needs. I often had a photo snapped with a supplier so I could send it back to the client – just to let the client know I was hard at work, planning their next dream getaway. I had a couple going to the Clift in San Francisco on their honeymoon, a mother and daughter wanting to go to the Carlyle in NYC, and another family hoping to go to the Il San Pietro di Positano in Italy. I was busy representing their interests, and had their holidays in mind, as I made connections.

Virtuoso chair, Matthew Upchurch, gave an interview about this year’s Travel Mart with Travel Press. In it, he talked about the bifurcation between the do-it-yourselfers, and those who see the value of using a travel advisor.

It’s definitely true that many consumers have a do-it-yourself mentality (the DIY’ers).  They believe they can get all the info they need to plan the perfect vacation just by spending a few hours on the internet searching. Those same people also could research how to do their own accupuncture just by spending a few hours on the internet searching, but for some reason, I bet they won’t entrust their personal well-being into their own unskilled hands. They don’t want to poke themselves with needles. Yet, they will often entrust another precious (and limited) asset into their own hands – their valuable vacation time. They will risk their family memories… and be oblivious to the pain they are inviting, but more importantly, the pleasure they are missing.

The DIY’ers do not have the resources, the experience, nor the skills to do what professional travel advisors do. They don’t have the booking engines, the tools, nor the clout to wield influence should issues ever arise. It’s hard to act as your own advocate if you’re stuck with 1000’s of other people in some airport terminal. (Talk about poking yourself with needles!)

The DIY’ers also cannot get the value-adds which my Virtuoso traveler clients can get (special amenities, such as breakfast for two daily; a complimentary room upgrade, if available at check in; early check in, and late check out; and another resort specific amenity, such as a $100 food and beverage credit).  And no matter how hard they try, and how  many hours they may spend on the internet searching, the DIY’ers simply do not have the connections that I have. They do not have the business card of the representative of the Four Seasons San Francisco in their rolladex. They have not experienced the power of one-to-one. They cannot pick up the phone to call Parul, and say, “Hey, remember we met at Travel Mart? My vip client is coming to see you tomorrow. Can you please take good care of her?” 

I was an actuary in my former life. I was a specialist in financial risk management. I ensured people were prepared for the worst possible events in their life (e.g., premature death, marriage breakdown, or debilitating personal injury).  Obviously, I still have those risk management skills, and have honed some business savvy. But I also now have the training and experience of being a Virtuoso travel advisor. And, if I can take the liberty of recycling Matthew Upchurch’s interview words, I can truly say that instead of handling people’s nightmares, now I really do orchestrate people’s dreams.

Let me be your advocate. Call me to get my help to orchestrate your dreams. I can call upon my Virtuoso connections, and the power I’ve experienced with the one-to-one, to “vip” you, and give your family the travel memories that will last a lifetime.  (And, go ahead – tell a few “DIY’ers” what they are missing. It’d be good to spare them poking themselves with needles.)

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Partners, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor | 10 Comments

Virtuoso Travel Mart – What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Stay in Vegas

I’m just back from Virtuoso’s Travel Mart at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I’m still processing all of the information that I took in, and the +500 new business contacts I’ve made that will enable me to “vip” my clients.  But the immediate takeaway for me is: “what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas!”

Just like a fashion designer going to Milan to see what’s new in fashion, I headed to Las Vegas to the largest Luxury Travel show in the world, Virtuoso’s Travel Mart, to see what was new in travel.  Thanks in large part to my affiliation with Virtuoso®, an organization of the top travel agencies, the finest travel providers, and premier destinations in the world, I met with a world of resources to plan my clients’ future travel dreams.

As this article notes,,

The Virtuoso Travel Mart…is one of those industry events that makes you firmly believe in the profitable future of travel agents.

I met with 312 hoteliers, suppliers, and onsite destination specialists in 4-minute “speed dating on crack” type meetings, plus met another dozen or so for further in-depth 10 minute sessions. I attended at least 6 cocktail parties, 3 supplier lunches, 2 major supplier-sponsored dinners, and a GALA dinner. I hardly had time to breathe, let alone take in the Vegas sights. (I think I got a 10 minute break for a dip in the Bellagio pool on the last day.)

My head was spinning, as it was the first Travel Mart I’d ever attended. But, while I’m no longer a Travel Mart virgin, I can tell you that everyone in attendance leaves feeling energised and exhausted.

My “aha” moment from attending Virtuoso Travel Mart?  The power of making personal connections came through clearly. At lunch on Wednesday, I met the Corporate Sales Manager, Parul Kaushal, of the Four Seasons San Francisco at lunch. The lovely Parul then “vip’ed” my client who was checking into her hotel at noon on Thursday with a special amenity awaiting for her family in their room at check in.

So – if you want to get “vip’ed” on your travel, give me a call. Let me put my Virtuoso partners to work for you!

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Partners | Leave a comment

The Bellagio in Vegas – Home of the “Best of the Best”

 I just returned from Virtuoso’s luxury travel show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  The Bellagio hosted the “best of the best” travel advisors, hoteliers, suppliers, and onsite destination specialists in a one week trade show that really has blown my mind. While I’m still processing all the information I absorbed, and trying to organize the +500 business cards I collected, I can say that I loved my stay at the Bellagio.

I’d been to Vegas before, and had popped into the Bellagio for a meal and to throw some $ in the slots. But staying at the Bellagio is a different experience. Besides the terrific fountain show out front, and the central location on the strip, the hotel is beautiful.

I can honestly say I’ve never walked so much at a convention, however. The hotel is huge!  It would take me ~15 minutes to leave my room in the Bellagio Tower to reach the Convention Centre. 

The room itself was gorgeous, even though I didn’t spend much time in it. (The days started very early, and ended very late.)

I hardly got outside at all during my stay (the convention was truly that busy that there were days when I didn’t venture outside the four walls at all) – but I did manage to sneak a swim or two in at the pool.

So – if you’re looking for a terrific spot to stay in Vegas, consider the Bellagio. I just stayed there for 5 nights, 6 days, and had a terrific time. Now I have to go back to take in more sights!

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Partners | Leave a comment

Virtuoso Names this year’s “Best of the Best” Hotels

I just returned from my first ever Travel Mart at the Bellagio in Vegas with Virtuoso.  I can tell you it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I have never felt so energised and exhausted at the same time.

The big news for the industry, though, as Virtuoso’s successful 2011 Travel Mart came to a close on Thursday, August 18 was the awards handed out.

See the news article here…

and the article excerpted below:

Last night the industry’s creme de la creme gathered at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for the Hotels & Resorts dinner where Virtuoso execs revealed VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine’s picks for this year’s “Best of the Best” hotels.

Editors of VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine collaborated with the organization’s top-tier travel advisors to select hotel nominees in 10 categories. A panel of over 6,000 advisors weighed in on the nominees.

And the winners are…

Best Achievement in Design
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Best Culinary Experience
Le 114 Faubourg at Hôtel Le Bristol, Paris

Best Bar
American Bar at The Savoy, London

Best Family Program
Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah

Best Spa
Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach, Florida

Most Innovative Guest Experience
Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana

Most Socially Responsible
Rosewood Mayakobá, Riviera Maya, Mexico

One to Watch
The St. Regis Lhasa Resort, Tibet

Hotelier of the Year
Offer Nissenbaum, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, California

Hotel of the Year
Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin, Venice


If you’d like to check out any of these “Best of the Best” Hotels, give me a call. I’ve now met hoteliers/ suppliers/ onsite destination specialists from around the world, and can seek the assistance of my new +500 contacts to “vip” you for your holiday.

Don’t you deserve the “best of the best?”

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Partners | Leave a comment

Mickey’s Still Buying – Fee Dining Plan Extended at WDW

Mickey’s extended the free dining promotion at Walt Disney World. There’s never been a better time to go visit the head Mouse in Orlando – and have him buy you the food for your stay!

Now through December 17, 2011, if you buy a non-discounted Magic Your Way package for 4 nights and 5 days (or more) at select Disney Value Resorts, you’ll get a FREE quick-service dining plan (which you can keep as is, or upgrade to another plan).  Or, you can buy a non-discountinged Magic Your Way package for 4 nights and 5 days at select Disney Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resorts and get a FREE Disney Dining Plus plan.

Booking Window:

Aug.3-Dec.17, 2011


Travel Window:

Oct 2-8, 2011,

Oct23-Nov.5, 2011,

Nov.13-19, 2011,

Nov.27-Dec.3, 2011,


Jan.8-14, 2012,

Jan.22-Feb.4, 2012,

Feb.12-18, 2012,

March 4-10, 2012,

March 25-31, 2012,

Aug.19-Sept.29, 2012


The regular plus dining is a savings of ~$47 USD/ night for anyone over 10 years of age (or ~$12 USD/ night for anyone aged 3-9 years).  On a family of 4, this is a savings of ~$1000 on a one week’s stay.

Give me a call to get your vacation sorted. Sheila 613-837-0699

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

Walt Disney World’s Monorail System – Zippadeedoodah to the Parks & Back

When you’re riding the Walt Disney World Monorail, it’s easy to have a spring in your step. You can sing “Zippadeedoodah” as you zip over to the Magic Kingdom from your monorail hotel, or zip back and forth to Magic Kingdom. It’s terrific.

The Walt Disney World Monorail puts a spring in the step of ~150,000 people each day – that’s more than 50 million Disney guests each year!  That’s a lot of zippadeedoodahing!

The monorail is a public transportation system that’s been in continuous operation at WDW since 1971 (obviously revamped over time – in the 1990s, the current model was put in place with improved air conditioning, door systems, and safety). There are two lines that encompass Magic Kingdom and Epcot, with three distinct “beams” that travel services on the monorail system.






The monorail runs a span of about 15 miles. At first it circled the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom, connecting the Contemporary and Polynesian with Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). Later, the Grand Floridian was added.  And in 1982, Epcot was brought “into the loop” with a four mile extension from Magic Kingdom.







The 3 Monorail Routes are:
1. Epcot Monorail  – which runs between the TTC to Epcot and back (Service on this route is a single beam running clockwise on the loop.)

2. Express Monorail – which runs between the TTC and the Magic Kingdom and back (There is a dual-beam Magic Kingdom route. The express service runs on the outer loop of this route and travels counter-clockwise.)

3. Resort Monorail – which runs from the Magic Kingdom to  Contemporary to TTC to the Polynesian to the Grand Floridian (The resort monorail service offers round-trip local service on the inner loop, running clockwise.) 

I’m saddened to read online that the monorail system may be changing its running hours. Rumours suggest the monorail may be shutting down 1 hour after regular park hours starting this month. The monorail always used to run for 1 hour after extra magic hours… which meant that if Magic Kingdom was open until midnight for regular guests, and 3 am for onsite guests (which is what would happen if MK had extra magic evening hours), the monorail would run until after 3am. It was a tremendous perk. Hopefully this is a temporary change. My own family rode the monorail during the extra magic hours in the late evening in June, and loved it. 

But the monorail always puts a spring in our step when we visit the World. We love to Zippadeedoodah to the parks and back!

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

“!Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas” – Disney’s Monorail

Any fan of Walt Disney World has riden the monorail, and knows the Spanish phrase “¡Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas!”.

The words (which mean “Please stand clear of the doors!”) are heard at every monorail stop/start.  And since my family loves staying at the monorail hotels of Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary; we have heard that phrase a lot – on all of our 19 trips to Disney.

The words have become a “catch phrase” in our house. Any time we’re not at the World, and someone’s missing the Mouse, it gets yelled out:  “¡Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas!”.   Usually, there are fits of giggles that follow.

One of my husband’s prized souvenirs of Disney is a t-shirt he bought at a kiosk just inside Epcot’s gates. (Although you can likely buy the shirt at any of the monorail hotels, just inside Epcot is the one spot we have seen the shirt on every visit).

It’s a pretty basic t-shirt. The words are only in Spanish. It shows the monorail going around the castle (which it technically does not), and the shirt also seems to portray the wrong castle (it looks more like Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland, California to me, rather than Cinderella’s castle in WDW, Orlando – and since the words are only spoken on WDW monorail, that seems like a big “oops”)… but it is the best monorail t-shirt we’ve seen in our travels. And real Disneyphiles I’ve encountered online and elsewhere seem to love the shirt even more because of it.

Works for us! Especially when we’re on the monorail!

August 6, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney | Leave a comment

New Year’s Eve Cruise – Regent Mariner vs NCL Pride of America

I had a new client recently call me for a quote on NCL’s Pride of America, sailing 7 nights around Hawaii over New Year’s Eve (Dec.31.11). I got him the quote on the cruise for a balcony cabin, which was $4541.54 for 2 adults.  It is a lovely cruise, and a lovely itinerary hitting 4 Hawaiian islands. Of course, that price didn’t include various things (includ air, shore excursions, gratuities, alcohol, etc.).

Then I started talking to the new client to enquire about what they were looking to get from this holiday. I learned that the couple had a special anniversary coming up, they had sailed on NCL before and quite enjoyed the sailing experience, having a balcony was very important to them, they’d prefer to have limited numbers of children onboard, they were very active athletically and wanted to keep very busy onboard the ship (with a running track onboard, but also terrific shore excursions that would enable them to explore new ports of call in depth while still allowing time to explore by themselves), they weren’t tuxedo/ballgown folks but more the casual elegance sort, they enjoyed the spa/water activities/exploring/history tours, they didn’t like having to put their hand in their pocket every five minutes on a holiday – they wanted to know, as closely as possible, how much the trip was going to cost them upfront – so they could budget accordingly, and just go and enjoy themselves onboard.

I went back to the NCL cruise, and sharpened my pencil. Everyone in the industry knows the cost of all the extras on a cruise can double the cost (especially when you add air).  So, I went back over the details on the NCL cruise, and priced out air from Ottawa, and added a couple of nights in a Honolulu hotel, plus shore excursions, alcohol, etc.  All of a sudden, the $4500 cruise was closer to $11,000.  Plus, the client had to spend 2 full days travelling (and his wife was a teacher, with a very fixed travel window), and they were onboard with 2138 other people.

I started to research options, knowing the client thought Hawaii was of interest, but not key.  Given everything I’d learned about the client (special anniversary, all inclusive pricing would be nice, wanted a balcony, was interested in exciting and new ports, wanted active shore excursions, wanted there to not be a lot of children onboad, while still allowing casual elegance without the need to dress up in a tuxedo and ballgown).  One thought kept coming back to me – upscale but not uptight!

And the cruise line that promises upscale but not uptight is Regent Seven Seas!

I found a terrific itinerary on Regent Mariner for roughly the same dates, and with everything tolled, roughly the same price!  Not only was there only 700 onboard this luxury cruise line (rather than 2138), and it had all balcony suites, plus it was a 10 night cuise with a free 1 night pre-cruise hotel, it visited 8 ports (not 4), and it offered all-inclusive pricing – which meant, they offered free unlimited shore excursions,and  included air/gratuities/transfers/alcohol, and a guest to staff ratio of only 1:1.6 (which certainly indicates the level of service clients could expect).  It was perfect! 

Plus, we had an added benefit with this Dec.27.11 sailing on the Regent Mariner, my company, Vision 2000, had group promo space on the sailing – which meant I could secure my clients a $400 onboard credit.  AND – the sailing was targeted as a Virtuoso Voyager Group sailing – which meant there was an onboard host, there would be a welcome cocktail party/reception, and the guest could choose a special amenity (either a special Virtuoso led shore excursion in Cozumel, a $125/p credit towards a customized shore excursion, or a $100/p onboard credit).  So, the client could have a $600 onboard credit.

I laid out the pricing and comparison for the client.

ship Regent Mariner NCL Pride of America  
sail date Dec.27.11 Dec.31.11    
embark Fort lauderdale Honolulu    
disembark Fort lauderdale Honolulu    
cruise length 10 7    
# ports visited 8 4    
size ship (guests) 700 2138    
guest: crew 1:1.6                1:2.3    
suite size 301 178    
cruise fare for 2  (excl obc) $11,798.00           $4,541.54    
additional fees onboard cruise        
air for 2 0 2500 est w UA (AC ~$5K)
ground transfers 0 80    
shore excursions 0 1000 est 125/px2x~4d 
1n pre-cruise hotel 0 300 est  
gratuities/ serv. Charges 0 178 est 12/n/p x7nx2
beer/liquor/wine 0 400 est 25/p/d + 15%
water + soft drinks 0 160 est 20/p/d + 15%
alternate dining surcharges 0 60 est 10/p/d
sum additional fees onboard cruise 0 4678    
additional fees for 2 other n Hawaii n/a      
2n extra pre-cruise hotel n/a 600    
food/ drink 3 other days Hawaii n/a 450 est 150/d  
tourist activities Hawaii n/a 300 est 100/d  
additional fees for 2 other n Hawaii n/a 1350    

 (excl $600 obc)$11,798.00



  11 nights in total 10 nights in total  
cost/day 1018 1057    

Guess which sailing the client chose?

He’s now booked on the Regent Mariner, and thrilled with the list of shore excursions he can choose from. (There are 10 in Key West alone!)  And for a price that’s pretty comparable to what NCL would come out at, he’s on a luxury cruise line with white glove service, balcony suites, and all inclusive pricing.

Here’s the itinerary.


So, it begs the question.  What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?  If you think Regent might work for you, give me a call. Sheila 613-837-0699

August 3, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Cruising | Leave a comment

Livin’ Royally at the Fairmont Royal York (esp. w Fairmont President’s Club)

I recently had to go to Toronto for a quick business trip, and my family and I took the opportunity to stay at the Fairmont Royal York for a couple of nights.

The Fairmont Royal York is perfectly located for visiting Toronto, and is within easy walking distance of the Toronto harbour front (including the ferry to Centre Island), the CN Tower, the Air Canada Centre, and various shops and restaurants.  And it’s been a Toronto downtown landmark since 1929. It commands centre stage at Front Street, and has entertained famous guests from around the world.

The hotel has 1365 distinctive guest rooms, 68 unique and luxurious suites, 9 restaurants and lounges, and a health club with pool, plus a business centre and 29 function rooms giving 63,000 square feet of meeting space.

Check out the Fairmont Royal York for your next trip to Toronto. But if you do, please:

1. ensure you’re signed up for the Fairmont President’s club before you go – not only is it free to sign up, but you get some tremendous perks (including free wifi access, and free local calls). And,

2. check with me first – most Fairmonts are also Virtuoso partners with Vision 2000 Travel Group, so I can negotiate even more amenities on your behalf!

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment