2013 was a year of many things. A year of twerking, tweeting, a heat wave and a Royal baby. It was also, for the Kenwood Travel team, a year of fam’ trips. A fam’ trip is an industry term for when a lucky travel consultant is sent to an exotic global location to ‘familiarise’ themselves – and by extension their colleagues – with the facilities, services and luxury-holiday credentials of the various hotels and destinations with whom we do business. For free. Serious perks, people. Ultimately this practice is designed to better inform you, the valued customer so please, try and put your jealousies to one side as we present our annual round up of 2013’s Kenwood Globetrotters.
Many corners of the globe were covered this year by our roving fam’ family: The Caribbean, the Far East, the Middle East, Indian Ocean and the USA were all paid a visit by Kenwood Travel experts keen on gleaning first hand knowledge of our properties and destinations. And it’s this unique insight that enables our experts to field customer queries confidently and honestly, having experienced the locations from a customer’s perspective themselves.
Kicking things off with our in-house Indian Ocean aficionado, Zoheb Akhtar jumped at the chance in October to check out the best of Mauritius. He was thrilled to discover that the picture of paradise you see on the postcards was actually true. He regards the iconic destination as “having something for everyone” and admits to spending most of his time on the beach. And who’d blame him? The unique marine geography of the surrounding atolls produces some of the softest coral sands on the planet. When not beaching it Zoheb enjoyed sightseeing and sampling the great food on the island, applauding the variety of dishes – not just Creole – on offer to guests. He stayed in numerous hotels and resorts on the island and praises their universally friendly and genuine staff. Some individual merits of the hotels he details as Paradise Cove’s “boutiquey style and suitability for honeymooners”, Le Telfair’s airy atmosphere, Intercontinental’s stylish bathrooms and Shanti Maurice’s “Colonial decor, amazing restaurant, luxurious rooms and very high standard.” Finally, Zoheb recalls his standout memory as “walking with lions.” Says it all really, doesn’t it?
In early December it was time for Las Vegas to get the Kenwood treatment and our executive on the ground was Naina Karsan. It didn’t take long for her to call into question a common stereotype: “I thought Vegas was just about gambling. But I was wrong. Vegas has so much more to offer, from the Cirque Du Soleil shows, spas, shopping and the Grand Canyon tours.” Yet, whilst happy to resist the lure of Sin City’s vices, Naina still acknowledges the “city that never sleeps” and went on to note its fantastic appeal for families, couples, groups and “the young at heart”. Her highlight was The Maverick Wind Dancer Helicopter Tour, a “truly amazing experience,” she says. Icons of the Nevada desert were all witnessed from the air including the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon. There was even a champagne breakfast and a cruise above Sunset Strip. Wow. Naina was also glad to report that Vegas is fully embracing the Christmas spirit, with all the hotels festively decorated from top to toe. Even the Grand Canyon was in the mood, displaying a small smattering of snow.
Heading east from Nevada’s neon playground, we found our USA Specialists’ observational skills flourishing in Florida. Abbie and Ali were invited to sample the delights of Orlando’s Universal Hotels, describing Portofino as classic in style with an Italian feel. They were suitably impressed with the overall atmosphere and ample room sizes too. They also loved the glitz and glamour of Universal Hardrock: “When you walk in and there’s music playing and the front-desk staff are dressed really funky, it gives a cool vibe to the whole experience,” Ali said. Abbie was quick to sing the praises of Universal’s Fast Pass (free to Universal guests), noting how convenient they made everything from Theme Park entry to shopping. Indeed, the girls both agreed that shopping in Orlando was amazing with some excellent malls all within walking distance of the hotels they visited. Our dynamic duo ranked the safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as particularly memorable and were also pleasantly surprised with the lovely weather during their trip, despite it being November. Abbie smiles, remembering how easily they got swept up in the magic of Orlando and says in summary of their trip that they “loved it all,” especially once Ali finally overcame her confusion regarding American driving practices. [Editor’s note: they drive on the right, Ali.]
Aaron Hyde was able to dodge some of our wintry windiness with his trip to Granada in December. Instantly welcomed by “some of the friendliest people in the Caribbean”, he also loved how the island retains a “real olde world charm and un-commercialised feel,” sighting these qualities as what sets Granada apart from some of its neighbouring islands. His highlight activities were river tubing, Friday Fish Fry and snorkelling excursions but also enjoyed the stunning beaches, mixing (drinking – Ed) with the locals and checking out live steel-band music. He lists Grand Anse as a great choice for families due to its proximity to good local restaurants and shops and also advises that December to April – high season – is the best time to visit, although admits Granada is a “great year-round destination”. Having been suitably impressed with his stay at Mount Cinnamon and Calabash, it was Best Spice Island who won his vote of favourite hotel due to its outstanding food and service.
Finally and by no means least, some of our other Kenwood Globetrotters descended on Barbados en masse for their annual staff Christmas party last month. We asked young Les Jordan for his take on proceedings: “If you want to impress your friends, just tell them that you’ve spent the weekend sunning yourself in Barbados. Azure sea meeting white sandy beaches, perfect weather and the friendliest people you could wish to meet. If you were a first time visitor then you would not be disappointed and it combines the colour and vibrancy of the tropics with that feeling of being very British, in the best sort of way. Even the national cricket ground is named the Kennington Oval. Apart from the wonderful beach activities such as sailing, water skiing, kayaking and swimming, those with a more adventurous outlook can take an excursion to the north of the island and experience the thrills of driving a segway. After five minutes’ instruction you are an expert and will be able to travel over rough countryside to view the stunning east coast, which will remind you of Cornwall. We had the pleasure of staying at the newly opened Sandals Hotel, which is situated on the southern part of the island and is close to the lively area of the St Lawrence Gap and the world famous Oystens fish market. This starts on a Friday morning and, with music and al fresco dining, goes on until the early hours. All-inclusive is certainly the way to go in this part of the world; you know exactly what your budget is and the quality of the food and beverages is second to none. Sandals originated this type of hotel and you would be hard pressed to fault their excellent attention to detail.
You’ll find further tales of the 2013 Kenwood Globetrotters’ exploits elsewhere on the blog, including Noel’s Middle East adventure in Dubai and Dan’s Philippines trip. And as we wave goodbye to our well-travelled year, we look forward to 2014 and our continued commitment to providing you with the first-hand knowledge and trustworthy opinions that give our bespoke holiday service such a personal touch.