By admin

Christmas Market River Cruise

In December, I took a wonderful FAM trip river cruising down the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam onboard AMA Waterways ship, the AMA Serena. At first a little leery about cruising, as I am not fond of being around that many people, but once on board this small ship with less than 200 passengers and crew, I had an absolutely wonderful experience.  Deep rooted in holiday traditions, these cruises take place during the most festive time of the year in Europe. These river cruises are so unique and are a perfect option for incentive travel. 

Here are my top reasons why.
From the wonderful steamy glühwein while at the Cologne Christmas Market located in front of its UNESCO­designated Gothic cathedral to the “Capital of Noël,” Strasbourg, the oldest and largest Christmas Market in France, to the world’s largest Advent calendar in Gengenbach, with its brightly lit windows of the neo­classical town hall open and behind each one is a picture by a famous artist, such as Andy Warhol, guests will marvel at the quaintness of each market. 

Unlike most large cruises, there was not a set time or seating for meals, especially for dinner. Guests can choose from the multi-course selection or choose a la carte from the menu and partake any time in the evening. Each night, a certain number of guests can join the chef for a wonderful 8-course dinner in the private dining space. The food and service are impeccable, and the staff is well trained in learning early on guest’s culinary desires. 
Every night and some afternoons, there is entertainment on board the ship. A talented pianist entertains while the guests imbibe on unique drinks created by the bartenders.  Tree and cookie decorating are fun ways to pass the evening and get to know other guests on board. Custom activities can be designed for any required meetings or teambuilding. 
One the best features of these cruises, are the optional tours. For instance, the Schloss Johannisberg bike tour or vineyard hike and the huge favorite, Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum. Located in Rüdesheim, this museum houses hundreds of mechanical devices, dating back centuries. Afterwards, tasting one of the town’s special delights, Rüdesheimer coffee, is the other must. Visit the enchanting Alsatian town of Riquewihr, beautifully dressed in her holiday finery with twinkling decorations and a lively town, which was the inspiration for Belle from Beauty and the Beast’s hometown.  Strasbourg is even more alluring during the season of Advent, where guests will find the Cathédrale de Nôtre Dame with its famous astronomical clock. 

Perhaps the best feature of these cruises is the ability to unpack only once. Most of the  traveling across the river is over night and each morning guests awake in a different city.  Each of these particular types of ships have views of the river and very large accommodations, especially and surprisingly,  the washrooms. 

By admin

San Diego Perfect for MICE Market

With its close proximity to both mountains and the ocean, San Diego, California, has a distinct advantage over most cities. It also has three distinct areas, each with its own vibe and selections perfect for MICE markets.
Along the Coast
La Jolla is about a 30-minute ride from the airport and boasts some of the most gorgeous ocean views along the Pacific. Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines is a mainstay in the area and with 394 rooms and 60,000 square feet of meeting and ballroom space—perfect for medium- to large-size events. On property, there are a number of options to help keep guests active, such as golf on the world-famous north and south courses, hiking and yoga.
For a more relaxing vibe, take a kayak around the Cove or explore into one of the seven sea caves featuring a plethora of leopard sharks and sealions. It is listed as one of Visit California’s top activities.
Coronado Island is a short yet scenic ride from the airport and is the perfect getaway local. The historic (and rumored to be haunted) Hotel Del Coronado is the island’s pride and joy. Its renovation includes 757 rooms and 65,000 square feet of meeting space. The charm and style of meeting spaces make this hotel unparalleled.
The nearby Loews, with 440 rooms and a 4-star rating, recently underwent a complete overhaul. An recommended activity is conducting a boot camp tailored around teambuilding with the Navy Seals at the North Island Pacific Fleet base.
 The Bays 
This area is home to Mission Bay with access to Sea World. The behind-the-scenes tour and park buyout are perfect for large-scale events.
Point Loma Peninsula has another completely renovated property, Kona Kai. This 129-room luxury hotel sits on the water and provides direct access to the marina. Its standout offering is the private beach, which is ideal for a large party, since it is the only resort in San Diego that permits consumption of alcohol.Downtown & Urban
The Downtown and Gaslamp Quarter has changed quite a bit in the past several years. It is now home to more than 40 hotels, including the newly renovated Pendry, which is a preferred collection property. The Marriott Marquis boasts 1,362 hotel rooms, and with its upgraded massive convention space fitted with latest technologies and floor to ceiling glass walls, it is a premiere convention space.
The district also hosts the San Diego Convention Center and other marquee venues like Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Gaslamp Quarter is the epicenter of the entertainment district, bringing the old-world charm and a food revolution spearheaded by several Top Chef contestants. Dine Arounds are easy to accomplish with the 150 area restaurants and a fun way to get around by the use of vehicles from VIP Pedicabs.
Balboa Park is an iconic area with many important cultural influences. Since it is bigger than Central Park, there are plenty of activities, museums, and 65 miles of biking and hiking trails. Be sure to rent electric bikes from Pedigo. The Old Globe Theater (modeled after Shakespeare’s theater in England) and the Natural History Museum, which has a rooftop VIP area overlooking the park, are two perfect locations for themed-celebration dinners.
Inland Valley and Mountains
Although this area of San Diego is a little removed, it is well worth the trip—especially for beer lovers. The “Hops Highway” is home to 78 craft breweries and eight wineries. The Rancho Bernado Inn is nestled in the middle of all this libation fun and is a gorgeous resort hotel. The 80,000 sq.-ft.-indoor-outdoor meeting space features fireplaces, grand foyers and the pièce de résistance: more than 21 distinct fountains nestled throughout the property. The 18-hole championship Golf Course is a true golfers dream having held both PGA and LGPA tours.