Club Med Rio das Pedras

Prevue: Club Med Rio das Padras Unveils $8 Million Renovation

Club Med Rio das Pedras

Pool views of Sugarloaf Mountain

About 75 miles outside Rio de Janeiro, nestled between a soft beach and lush rainforest, Club Med Rio das Pedras completed an $8 million renovation this year. The 320 rooms, restaurants and convention center were all upgraded, and there’s a host of new group amenities.

At one end of the 74-acre property, the new adults-only pool area hosts group mixology lessons, where everyone learns how to make the national caipirinha rum drink. At the other end of the resort, the expanded watersports center offers group lessons revolving around waterskiing, wakeboarding, snorkeling, sailing and kayaking. All motorized watersports are included in the group rate, which is something rare in the all-inclusive universe.

When staying in one of the revamped deluxe rooms, you really do feel like you’re in a sun-soaked Brazilian home.  French architect Marc Hertrich used classical tropical color schemes of teal and pink, unique feather lamps hanging on the wall and large sliding glass doors opening out to a short path leading straight to the ocean.

The guest rooms have flat screen TVs, mp4 players and fast WiFi ready. Chill out on the super soft beds below a giant ceiling fan that blows the cool breeze over you.

“I sought to create contemporary apartments, comfortable and colorful,” says Hertrich, who headed up the redesign. “I also wanted them to take into account the nature of the lush surroundings.”

Room furniture is designed to evoke local Brazilian culture. The headboards are lined with track lighting and were inspired by the pediments of 18th century baroque churches. The nightstands are made of native wood called Cumaru.

“We believe in a deep immersion destination experience,” says Patrick Mitchell, vp of U.S. sales. “Each Club Med is a bit different because they’re designed to make you feel like you are in a destination.”

From your room you can stroll along the beach to the main pool with a brilliant view of the verdant rainforest. That’s right next to the bar area and performance venue, where Club Med puts on colorful nightly themed parties.

The main restaurant was redesigned and expanded for 790 people. It’s designed with five unique areas of seating, each with a different theme, so it’s easy for planners to create a semi-private venue. Club Med also offers buyouts through its Rent a Village program.

Club Med just reopened its convention center after a $2.5 million renovation. The modern facility is 10,200-sf, divisible into six breakout rooms. Whether you want to have dinner in the Alps or a business meeting in the desert, the rooms can be transformed into a wide array of decor themes.

I definitely noticed that the staff at Club Med Rio went out of their way to make sure everyone in our group experienced Brazil the way each of us wanted to. The staff all seemed to speak at least three languages and they’re all multi-talented. At night someone might be teaching you a dance move or serving you a drink. The next day that same staff member is leading a class in archery or craft making. All the activities can be specialized as teambuilding events for groups.

My favorite activity was an archery event where five people at a time stand at their mark waiting for the instructor to yell “shoot.” You fire three arrows at the targets and everyone howls with encouragement when you hit the target. With the mountains as a backdrop and your friends rooting you on, it kind of feels like something out of Robin Hood.

There’s also a great kayaking adventure along a shallow river winding through the jungle around the resort, where you can hang out with Brazilian wildlife. We met a few tiny monkeys who walked up to us and took food from our hands.

For something a little less spirited, organize a 90-minute nature walk through the jungle with one of the resort’s naturalist guides. Our guide told us many different stories about the exotic trees, plants and birdlife. And then we stopped for a refreshing swim under a natural waterfall.

RIO DE JANEIRO

Words cannot describe the exhilaration while riding the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio, because this is easily one of most breathtaking urban landscapes in the world. Everyone in our group jumped at the chance to take in the 360-degree views up top.

Likewise the enthusiasm for a visit to the mountaintop base of the Christ the Redeemer statue. The largest Art Deco statue on the planet is mesmerizing up close, almost as much as the views.

Our favorite part of Rio was Ipanema Beach, one of the most upscale neighborhoods in the city. We visited the oldest cafe in Rio, the Confectionery Colombo, founded in 1894. It feels like you’ve been transported back in time when you walk downstairs into the classic bakery with some of the best key lime pie I’ve ever had. Upstairs, the elegant buffet restaurant features an eclectic range of cuisine from wonderful sushi to a perfect filet mignon. It looks straight out of an old Sinatra movie but the dress code is casual.

For fine dining events, Porcão in Ipanema is one of Rio’s top ranked restaurants. Service staff dressed in tuxedos bring swords of delicious churrasco (Portuguese barbecue) to the table prepared and seasoned in different ways. Then they shave off slices that you request, including my first ever chicken heart. There’s also a regular buffet table with salads, cold pasta dishes and fresh oysters.

Private dining rooms seat groups seat 50-250 pax. Porcão is the perfect place to kick off or end a program in Brazil.

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Recommend: Five-Star Hotel Escapes

Rock Bar at AYANA Resort and Spa.

Rock Bar at AYANA Resort and Spa.

Your clients can lap in luxury at one of these new five-star hotels popping up in far-flung destinations from Bali to Nairobi.

In September, AYANA Resort and Spa opened sister hotel RIMBA Jimbaran Bali, a 282-room property on the Karang Mas Estate, overlooking Jimbaran Bay.

The name RIMBA was derived from the Indonesian word for forest, paying tribute to the property’s forest-like setting, designed to feel like a national park, and use of sustainable materials. Since AYANA is on the ocean, guests at RIMBA will also have access to the private Kubu Beach, as well as priority access to Rock Bar, meaning they can skip the line at this hotspot perched on the rocks about 46 ft. above the Indian Ocean.

The hotel also features six swimming pools and a swim-up pool bar; the Ah Yat Abalone Seafood Restaurant, which serves dim sum and live seafood cooked-to-order; the UNIQUE rooftop pool and bar; rooftop spa rooms that are part of the Thermes Marins Spa at AYANA; a children’s pool with waterslides; the RIMBA Kids Club; a cooking school; and complimentary WiFi.

Call for rates. When guests book before Dec. 22, they can receive complimentary daily buffet breakfast, a Balinese massage for two people, and a $50 resort credit per room. For more information, visit rimbajimbaran.com.

The Four Seasons, meanwhile, has opened its eighth property in China, the 266-room Four Seasons Hotel Shenzhen.

Located downtown in the modern city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong, the hotel is set within walking distance to shopping malls, the Shenzhen Museum and the Concert Hall. The contemporary tower that houses the hotel features a sixth-floor reception with panoramic views of the city, and rooms feature pillow menus, mini iPads, Nespresso machines, flat-screen TVs, a 15-minute room service menu, contemporary art on the walls and hand-painted headboards. If your client wants a truly decadent stay, book them one of the rooms with a soaking bath with prime views of the city.

“Each design detail is unique to this hotel—but it’s our renowned Four Seasons service that truly sets us apart,” says general manager Arthur WC Ho. “Whether an international traveler arriving for the first time or a local dropping by to have a drink with friends, the warmth and hospitality they will feel will surely bring them back to Four Seasons Hotel Shenzhen again and again.”

Call for rates. For more information, visit fourseasons.com/shenzhen.

Kempinski has expanded in Africa with the opening of its first hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, the Villa Rosa Kempinski Nairobi.

The 10-floor hotel features 200 rooms and suites, including a presidential suite on the top floor. Guests at the five-star property can enjoy dining at restaurants and experiencing lounges such as 88, a pan-Asian restaurant; Lucca, an Italian restaurant; Cafe Villa Rosa, which serves international cuisine all day long; and Tambourin, an Arabic rooftop lounge.

If your clients are in need of some relaxation, recommend a treatment at Kempinski The Spa, a two-level spa with nine treatment rooms, a gym, an outdoor pool, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. The spa offers a seasonal menu of treatments, inspired by European seasons.

Call for rates. For more information, visit kempinski.com/en/nairobi/hotel-villa-rosa.

Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale

Recommend Travel: Fun Florida Hotel Packages

Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale.

Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale.

Plan an over-the-top escape at a Florida hotel with everything from martinis and mega yachts to the ultimate guys’ golf getaway.

Sometimes boys just want to have fun and The Vinoy Renaissance is offering a package for a “mancation,” whether it’s a birthday celebration, bachelor party or just a guys’ getaway.

The 2-night Lines & Links package features luxury accommodations for four in two double rooms; one round of golf for four at The Vinoy Golf Club; a Sailing Florida fishing trip for four, which includes fishing licenses, bait and a captain; and a $400 food and beverage credit, valid toward all five restaurants and bars at the resort.

The 361-room Vinoy is set in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg and originally opened in 1925. The historic hotel features a private 72-slip marina, 12 tennis courts, a fitness center with classes, a salon and day spa, and a pool with waterfall.

Rates start at $1,399, and the package is available through Dec. 30. For more information, call (888) 303-4430 with promo code ZJL or visit vinoyrenaissanceresort.com. For more on The Vinoy Renaissance, see Resort-Style Getaway in St. Petersburg, FL.

Fort Lauderdale is known as the yachting capital of the world and the Pelican Grand Beach Resort is giving you a chance to experience this first-hand with the luxurious Mega Yachts & Martinis package.

The 3-night package for two, available through Jan. 31, 2014, includes a 2-night stay in an oceanfront suite and a 1-night stay on a private chartered yacht. You will be taken to and from the yacht via sedan service; receive a Sun Yourself kit with tanning oil, lip balm and bottled water; and enjoy catered meals and snacks by the resort’s OCEAN2000 restaurant, as well as a magnum of Moet & Chandon. Guests will also receive bottomless martinis from O2K Lounge at the Pelican Grand.

The resort is set on a 500-ft. beach in Fort Lauderdale and rooms feature private balconies with ocean views. Pelican Grand also features the city’s only lazy river, as well as an oceanfront pool, beachside dining at OCEAN2000 and onsite paddle board rentals.

Rates start at $13,000. For more information, call (954) 568-9431 or visit pelicanbeach.com. For more on Pelican Grand Beach Resort, see Old Florida Charm at Fort Lauderdale Hotel.

If you are heading to Key West for Fantasy Fest 2013, which takes place Oct. 18-27, Parrot Key Resort is offering the Fantasy Fest package placing you in the center of the action.

The package requires a minimum 4-night stay and features a 10 percent discount on accommodations and $50 per night valid at Cafe Blue. The 10-day festival will feature costume competitions (including one for pets), promenades, street fairs and a parade with bands and floats.

At the 148-room hotel, guests can choose a waterfront or gardenview room, suite or villa with a patio, porch or balcony; swim in one of the four pools; dine al fresco at the tiki bar at Cafe Blue; relax on a white-sand sunbathing terrace; or go on an excursion, such as kayaking through the mangroves.

Rates start at $329 per night. For more information, visit parrotkeyresort.com. For more on Fantasy Fest, visit fantasyfest.com.

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Discover Casa Palopo, a lakeside getaway in Guatemala

Recently introduced to the North American market is the luxury boutique hotel Caso Palopo in Guatemala, perched above the wondrous Lake Atitlan. Transformed from a private home to a luxury boutique hotel, Casa Palopo is an intimate property able to accommodate no more than seven reservations a night.

The hotel’s bright stucco walls boast a collection of original Guatemalan paintings and artifacts for guests to appreciate, and outside, guests can’t escape the panoramic views of the lake and its three majestic volcanoes across it—the only thing more breathtaking is riding a helicopter in and out of the property, which the hotel staff can help guests arrange.

History and culture merges with this boutique hotel as twelve indigenous Maya villages line the shore of the lake, each named after an apostle and known for its unique offering—San Antonio for ceramics and Santiago for the historical cathedral, shops and vendors.

The hotel has launched its Discover Casa Palopo package, which 3-night accommodations; welcome cocktails and local Guatemalan bites on the main terrace; daily breakfast; private car transportation to and from Guatemala City; boat tour to Lake Atitlán towns of Santiago and San Antonio Palopo; and helicopter transfer to and/or from hotel available for an additional fee

Rates start at $413 per night based on double occupancy (taxes and tips included, for minimum three night stay). To book, e-mail reservations@casapalopo.com or call 1-888-479-6026.

For more information, visit www.casapalopo.com

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Book The Angel Orensanz Center For Creative NYC Events

The Angel Orensanz Foundation Center of the Arts is a museum and event space, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The 3-story building was created as a synagogue in 1849, designed to resemble the Cathedral of Cologne with a tripartite facade of red stone brick that is framed by a pointed gable at the top. The building was designed by German architect Alexander Saeltzer.

The 7,000-sf main floor seats up to 300 pax for a seated meeting or 700 for a reception. The 3,500-sf balcony overlooks the main floor providing additional space for attendees to mingle. The facility includes WiFi, flatscreen TVs and live broadcast capabilities for totally modern events in a magical historic venue.

The building was a favorite space for fashion legend Alexander McQueen, who hosted fashion parties and trunk shoes at the venue until his death in 2010. Other famous events include the wedding of Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in 1997.

Famed artist Angel Orensanz bought the building in 1986, renovating the facility into a gallery and studio, modeling the interior to look like the Sistine Chapel. The original dark wood alter, open-air facade and cathedral ceiling provides planners with an open canvas for creative gatherings.

The historic temple includes arch tall lancet windows and doorways. Its larger center door is crowned by triangular molding that is almost as high as the second floor. The tradition of the German Reform Movement of the mid-19th century is thoughtfully displayed on the blue ribbed ceilings and towers. It also has interior wooden vaults, and several tiers of balconies that lead to the museum and studio on the third level.

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Pride Package in South Beach

The gay-friendly The Beacon Hotel South Beach is offering a Pride package with savings for your LGBT clients.

Located only 10 minutes from downtown Miami and near the area’s gay-friendly beach, The Beacon places your clients right on Ocean Drive near all of the restaurants and nightclubs. To get their stay started off right, the package includes two welcome mojitos and complimentary use of beach chairs and towels. The Pride package also includes 10 percent off rates, complimentary breakfast, complimentary WiFi and the option to upgrade to an Ocean Front King room for $25.

Rates start at $169 per night. For more information, visit beaconsouthbeach.com and use promo code LGBT.

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Island Lodge Stockholm: The ROI of a Rustic & Refined Incentive Program

Island Lodge is located on a small private island 45 minutes from Stockholm in the Swedish archipelago, surrounded by thousands of other islands covered with native forest. There are seven high-tech geodesic dome tents overlooking the water, designed for corporate incentives for up to 14 pax. For planners seeking something way, way out of the ordinary, a couple nights here will have a powerfully calming effect on your group.

I knew this was going to be special because Island Lodge epitomizes the “glamping” and “digital detox” trends. As it turned out, this was one of the best group dinners of my life, best night’s sleep, and surprisingly, best hot tub.

Groups pull up by boat to a small dock in a little cove, leading to a safari-style camp restaurant at the end of the shore. It’s a couple minutes walk up an easy incline to the various camp tents, and as you’re walking your excitement builds in anticipation because you’re not quite sure what to expect.

The large domes turn out to be quite luxurious. They feature blond hardwood floors, animal skin rugs, fantastic beds with Mille Notti fine linens and wool pullovers, and a small wood burning stove. There are six orbital windows in each tent so you have great views of the woods around you.

It goes without saying the area smells fantastic with all of the pines trees surrounding you.

Club Med

Continental Airlines

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Saint Lucia