4 Warning Signs a Family Entertainment Venue May Have Safety Concerns

How parents can I.D. family venue red flags; Expert spotlights avoidable facility and operational debacles exacerbating safety issues 

Written By Merilee Kern, MBA

The facts are sobering, gut-wrenching and indisputable. America’s children are needlessly suffering—and even dying—due to subpar safety standards at family entertainment venues across the board. This as evidenced, for one, by the ceaseless glut of reports on recent amusement and trampoline park adolescent deaths (many with details too horrific to recount), paralysis and a litany of other catastrophic injuries. But the problem is far more pervasive than that, as an array of other types of family-oriented centers and activities fraught with downright unacceptable facility flaws and inadequate policies, or a lack of suitable safety measures or policies all-together.

Enter family entertainment venue executive Tim Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of Rebounderz Family Entertainment Centers. He’s on a mission to significantly improve safety standards not only within the trampoline park industry (having developed and wholeheartedly enforcing a litany of perfect patents related thereto), but with amusement/theme/activity park, playground, concert hall, and other such family establishments at large.

As part of his goal to help keep kids safe from needless injury and death, Murphy is also advising parents on how they can better assess if a facility they are frequenting has safety concerns—warning signs that, not only should the parent heed with caution, but also should be brought to management’s attention for the collective benefit of patrons.

Below, Murphy highlights four key red flags that a family entertainment venue needs to be immediately vetted for safety shortcomings:

  1. Lack of Proper Management. The number one safety protocol starts with suitable management. Does it appear that the managers are properly trained? Are they engaged with their attention to the facility, employees and its patrons or are they indelibly sequestered “in the back” somewhere? Does there appear to be safety checks and measures in place based on signage, how staffers are managing the floor and regularly checking on equipment and facilities?If the bathrooms are a mess, what might this say about property equipment care and upkeep? If any of these are apparent issues, it’s a major red flag and perhaps the tip of the iceberg among other issues you may find at the location.
  2. Lack of Properly Trained Team Members. Floor staffers are a direct reflection of the management’s training style, depth and frequency.Without proper staff training and experience on the grounds, it becomes problematic for everyone. One wrong or missed action by the team member could be detrimental to any family member or even employees.Is the attraction led by trained staff members that are demonstrably and thoroughly engaged in all aspects of the post for which they are responsible? Are they appropriately managing patrons who are engaging with people or equipment improperly? Are they actively ensuring any safety protocols are being adhered to by guests and continuing to check back? Are they demonstrating proper techniques on how to use equipment? Are they picking up litter or otherwise resolving problems and exuding pride in their role and environment? Are they interacting with customers professionally and with a genuine smile? An absence of these qualities, certainly in combination, is a red flag that attentiveness may be lacking.
  3. Improper Equipment and Standards. Does the equipment appear clean, properly installed and in good working condition at the venue? Or, do you see stains on the equipment or floors, rips, tears, and other obvious signs of equipment use and wear and tear? It’s a sign of poor management and maybe even location cash flow issues. Properly run facilities do daily inspections of all equipment and attractions to ensure that guests receive the best possible experience, as well as keep them safe while using the equipment in the space. Additionally, facility rules are paramount—extremely visible parameters of use that will ensure guests know exactly what not to do, also with staffers proactively ensuring every guest follows these rules. Ensuring there’s no question about what to do, or not to do, helps minimize the opportunity for injury, but also serves as a visual cue for the guest to follow to help aid in preventing injury.

    Finally, if the venue serves food, is the equipment (vending machines, counters, tables, ice cream machines, restrooms, etc.) clean, appear to be in good working order, and has received a formal state inspection posted? If the location serves alcohol, is the business properly licensed by the city, county and state? Cleanliness, good equipment operation and proper inspection signage gives patrons a good indication of the condition of the facility and how well both the staff and management is performing.

  4. Improper Facility & Safety Standards. Firstly and highly fundamentally, warning and rules signs should always be displayed, both in the activity areas, at each attraction, and in the restrooms. If there is few or entirely absent signage in this regard, safety is a concern. This is a baseline standard and if it’s sub-par it’s indicative that safety isn’t a priority for the location. Also, are team members verbally instructing guests on how to use equipment, and intervening when that is not the case? Or are they chatting amongst themselves letting patrons run amuck? Also, when applicable, are smaller kids segregated from more aggressive teenagers and adults, which can help prevent injuries to younger guests? And, do employee uniforms aptly differentiate team members from guests? This allows all guests to know who is in control of the facility and who to talk to, and as well as who is the authority at each attraction. As well, does the facility avail First Aid Kits (including defibrillators), team member headsets and PA systems that also help facilitate a safe and properly supervised environment? If management has taken care of all standards of safety, then all guests should have “maximum” fun with little safety concerns.

Exacerbating unresolved safety concerns like the above is a litany of operational debacles that are equally avoidable. This often includes things like:

  1. Small problems going unreported by staff and/or patrons
  2. Equipment and condition problems going unnoticed or unattended
  3. Deficiencies showing up in audits and inspections not being addressed
  4. Less time taken when doing pre-shift checks
  5. Fewer people participating in safety meeting discussions and ongoing education/training sessions
  6. Company and its leaders spending increasingly less time being proactive about safety
  7. Safety is never completely under control, because people are never under complete control
  8. Safety performance “flatlines”—even when the line goes through zero


Ultimately, ongoing formal and informal inspections, staff and management training, safety videos, ongoing personnel evaluations and other safeguards are absolutely fundamental measures that can help a facility quickly identify and rectify structural and policy issues and ensure employees are aptly educated for the type venue at hand,” Murphy underscores. “Not only will this mitigate the chance of injury, but also help owners avoid expensive liability lawsuits.”

Branding, business and entrepreneurship success pundit, Merilee Kern, MBA, is an influential media voice and lauded communications strategist. As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List International News Syndicate,” she’s a revered consumer product trends expert and travel industry voice of authority who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers. Merilee may be reached online at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

Gamified Dieting for a Healthier, Wealthier Holiday & New Year

Written By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography Courtesy of HealthyWage SM.

Photography Courtesy of HealthyWage SM.

Even during the gluttonous holidays and into the New Year “diet resolution” season, weight loss doesn’t have to be a difficult or costly endeavor. It can actually be quite profitable. One organization founded on much obesity and incentivization research, HealthyWage.com, has found a way to help dieters overcome their short-term financial woes and spur weight loss from the start by applying “double-incentivization” methodology.

The company’s diet-for-dollars program allows participants to make a wager upfront ranging anywhere from $20 a month to as much as $500. Participants then commit to a specific amount of weight loss in a specific time frame, for which they’ll receive a cash prize payout if they achieve their goal in the allotted time. Company reps cite that the average participant wagers $60 per month for 9 months and roughly triples their investment if they are successful at achieving their goal. The financial upside potential is impressive.

Through its website, HealthyWage.com shares an array of inspirational success stories of both women and men who gained financially for their pound-shedding achievements using the company’s unique gamification approach. Jessica C. in Clearwater, Florida won $1,938.70 for losing 67 pounds in 6 months; Mat E. in High Point, North Carolina won $2,952.00 for losing 73.8 pounds in 9 months; Mykerah Z. in Stevens Point, Wisconsin won $2,935.06 for losing 77 pounds in 18 months; Jessica W. in Bellmawr, New Jersey won $1,308.29 for losing 40.2 pounds in 6 months; and Kerry B. in Lindenhurtst, New York won $1,399.09 for losing 51 pounds in 6 months.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The 100-plus club is even more impressive with Kristin W. having lost 114 pounds and winning $4,000 in a 12-month HealthyWager contest. She subsequently lost another 14 pounds for a total loss of 128 pounds, nearing half her starting weight of 279. Nancy W. lost 101 pounds in a 12-month “HealthyWager” contest and won $4,000 as well, and then went on to lose 14 more pounds in HealthyWage’s Summer Jackpot contest, winning another $105 resulting in total winnings of $4,105. Her starting weight was 312, and she got down to 152 with HealthyWage for a whopping 160 pound total weight loss—more than half of her starting weight. Then there’s Danielle S. who lost 127.5 pounds and won $1,323 in a 9-month HealthyWager contest, and Ben C. who lost a solid 100 pounds and won $1,509 in a 9-month HealthyWager contest of his own.

Reportedly overall, more than 200,000 HealthyWage.com participants across America have collectively lost over 10 million pounds and gained over $2.5 million in cash prizes for their success. To me, the fact that so many participants have actually lost over 100 pounds with this money-driven program exemplifies the power and efficacy of this weight wagering methodology. This coupled with more and more studies substantiating the financially-induced diet model both at home and in business among employee groups.

In fact, results from one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicated that “’Loss Incentive’ Motivates Employees to Take More Steps,” finding that financial incentives framed as a loss were most effective for achieving physical activity goals.

“This study, and throngs of others, reiterates the importance of the ‘stick’ in the design of a wellness incentive program,” notes HealthyWage.com co-founder. “Many studies have demonstrated that the threat of losing something of value is much more effective than the opportunity to win something of equal value. That’s precisely why we advocate that program participants ‘pay to play’ and make an investment out of their own pocket in order to win rewards—in our case large cash prizes—for losing weight and getting more active in the program.”

So if you’re looking for a fun and competitive diet program that proffers cash incentives, social and expert-based support, online tools and resources, goal-setting and tracking technologies and other helpful support mechanisms to better assure your pound shedding success (and monetary earnings related thereto), HealthyWage.com just may be for you. After all, the company was founded in response to academic research proving that even small cash rewards triple the effectiveness of weight-loss programs; that people are more effective at losing weight when their own money is at risk; and that social dynamics play a large role in the spread of obesity, and will likely play a large role in reversing obesity. You can take that to the bank.

~~~

As a branding pundit, wellness industry veteran, consumer health advocate and influential media voice, Merilee Kern spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers.  Also a two-time fitness champion, her ground-breaking, award-winning “Kids Making Healthy Choices” Smartphone APP for children, parents/caregivers and educators is based on her award-winning, illustrated fictional children’s book, “Making Healthy Choices – A Story to Inspire Fit, Weight-Wise Kids.” Merilee may be reached online at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel Gets Multi-Million Dollar Makeover

Written By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy of Downtown Renaissance Phoenix.

As the fifth largest city in the United States, more than 22 million visitors flock to metropolitan Phoenix every year. With a bustling downtown quadrant comprised of around 100 square blocks, this section of town is teeming with fun and exciting things to do—keeping tourists duly entertained and engaged. From professional sports, live music and fine dining venues to festivals, museums, and an endless stream of events at the 24-acre convention center, downtown Phoenix is a bustling hub with an appeal all its own for leisure and business travelers, alike.

No matter your reason for visiting metro Phoenix, one salient place to stay is the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Ensconced in the heart of the city, this enduring property is only four miles from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and within walking distance to the many area attractions, including Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field and the Heard Museum. It’s also convenient to the light rail, which gives guests convenient, quick and reliable access to the rest of the city.

Since 1896, a hotel has been located on the land where The Renaissance currently resides. In 1910, when the hotel was called the First Hotel Adams, it burned in a fire. It was rebuilt and brought the first fire-proof hotel to Arizona. That hotel stayed in place until the 1970s, when it was imploded so that the current hotel could be established. Since its storied inception, the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel has hosted some pretty famous guests over the years like George Burns, Debbie Reynolds, Chris Pratt and Brittany Spears.

Today’s iteration of the hotel boasts a recently completed $13 million renovation to its expansive lobby and reception area as well as its on-site eatery, Dust Cutter. For its part, the lobby is now brimming with artful and visually captivating elements. Spectacular framed works adorn the walls, while sculptures, modern furnishings and light fixtures, eye-catching area rugs, and thought-provoking décor are arranged in various vignette-style seating areas exuding personality with a purpose.

The lobby-adjacent eatery, Dust Cutter, is the property’s primary source of sustenance. This sophisticated saloon-like locale is quite a draw. The moody Edison bulb-lit space is laden with wood, iron, glass and fire—from furnishings to interior décor elements—that all convene to create a cozy urban cowboy atmosphere. This full service bar and restaurant is clearly a key communal space for the hotel as guests mix and mingle in droves amid fabulous fixin’s from the kitchen and the expansive bar.

Given the breadth of the recent revamp, staying relevant in inimitable style is an apparent priority for the property. In fact, of the $13 million makeover, hotel manager Jon Erickson said, “As a result of our renovation, we clearly have the hip, chic, ‘it’ vibe of all the downtown hotels in Phoenix.  The unique design influences, art and especially light fixtures and chandeliers are one of a kind.”

Also in its plight for distinction, in addition to Dust Cutter the hotel features Melinda’s Alley, a semi-secret speakeasy. This underground bar, which exudes prohibition era ambiance, is open only on Friday and Saturday nights.  It’s consistently named among the top 10 Dark Bars in Phoenix and definitely worth stopping in for a cocktail.

The hotel also has a club lounge on the 19th floor called Elevate that’s exclusively available to those staying at the property. According to Erickson, “Elevate ranks among the best lounges in all of Marriott in food quality and guest experience. We focus on locally inspired ingredients to pull through the flavors of the Sonoran climate and region.” For example, since mesquite trees are common in the area they infuse this flavor into things such as waffles, and hatch chilies are made into a syrup and added to mixed drinks.

Downtown Renaissance Phoenix Secondary 1 credit Downtown Renaissance Phoenix

The Renaissance Phoenix has some other unique features that make it a top pick for visitors, like a one-of-a-kind art exhibit in the lower level of the hotel. The exhibit is called “26 Blocks” and is comprised of photos of 26 downtown Phoenix blocks taken by local photographers (26 of them) paired with local writers (26 more). The result is an art exhibit unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, but very much metro Phoenix in flavor.

Even though the hotel recently finished the $13 million renovation, they continue to update the hotel to stay fresh and modern while still keeping the charm of yesteryear. The rooms as they are offer a myriad of creature comforts like ergonomic workstations and deluxe bath products. Each also proffers a view of downtown Phoenix.

“We are also renovating our 24 corner suites; we have new carpet for all of our meeting spaces on the way, and we just decided to revamp all of our 500-plus TV’s in the hotel, also adding an entertainment platform that allows guests to watch programs from their own Netflix account along with other web based services,” said Erickson.

Downtown Renaissance Phoenix Primary 1 credit Downtown Renaissance Phoenix

I also appreciate that guests can keep up their exercise routines at the hotel’s state-of-the-art fitness center and heated rooftop pool. The property also has 50,000 square feet of flexible event space called Skyline, which is the area’s largest rooftop terrace. It’s a great option for weddings and social gatherings and certainly for business and corporate events.

I’m told that as many as 40 different managers are tasked with thinking outside-the-box, encouraged to brainstorm ways to keep The Renaissance at the top of its game. For their part, the artful and enticing communal spaces and decidedly comfortable accommodations are both an effective means toward this end.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority–a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She identifies and reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList and on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or sponsored at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.*** 

Sources:

https://www.visitphoenix.com/media/media-kit/fun-facts/
https://www.visitphoenix.com/blog/post/things-downtown-phoenix/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g31310-d73757-r452474956-Renaissance_Phoenix_Downtown_Hotel-Phoenix_Arizona.html

Vallarta’s ‘Casa Dos Cisnes’ Luxury Private Villa Elevates Industry Standards

Secluded five-star Mexican villa offers an ultimate luxury accommodations experience trumping top resorts; boasts its own gourmet private chef, service staff, elite accommodations up to 10 adults and premier on-site amenities—all amid unrivaled ocean views

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Amid the explosion of “the sharing economy,” the private villa accommodations sector has skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, today’s breed of private villa rentals have become the ultimate in luxury travel lodging for vacationers and business travelers, alike. No surprise, given the vast array of benefits and creature comforts that private villas proffer for couples, families and small groups.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.  Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa. Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

While maximized privacy, uber-personalized service and heightened cultural immersion serve as key drivers in this market niche, the benefits of renting a private villa residence extend far beyond. Indeed, an elite few offer accommodations and amenities as standard that rival high-end resorts, such as custom-prepared meals from a resident private chef, 24/7 butler service, private infinity-edge ocean overlook pool, security and more. And then there’s Puerto Vallarta’s one-of-a-kind Casa Dos Cisnes.

Having myself vacationed at this five-bedroom colonial style beachfront home, I reveled in the fact that this prolific property extends all of these features and more to ensure each guest’s needs, desires, hopes and expectations for an extraordinary private villa vacation are fulfilled. In doing so, this remarkable retreat is single-handedly setting a new, and decidedly elevated, standard for luxe travel.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.  Photographyer courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa. Photographyer courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

Located in Mexico’s fifth largest city in Jalisco, one of the region’s safest states, Casa Dos Cisnes Puerto Vallarta is an exceptional option for a first-class romantic getaway; girl’s weekend; guy’s golfing, fishing or other adventure trip; bachelor/bachelorette parties; family vacations; wellness and beauty excursions; and corporate or other group travel for up to 12 guests (10 adults or 8 adults and 4 small children). With complete privacy and security in the most exclusive area in Puerto Vallarta, including its own 2-car garage, guests commandeer this entire 10,000 square foot, stylishly-appointed authentic Mexican villa home with all of the relaxation, solitude and discretion that affords.

The result is a one-of-a-kind holiday providing an unparalleled culinary and luxury living experience. This includes exclusive use of Casa Dos Cisnes’s phenomenal facilities an array of exceptional 5-star amenities, with many entirely unique and exclusive to this property.  For inquiring detail-driven minds and perennial vacation planners, a list of copious features and benefits this property provides is listed down below.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.  Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa. Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

My own visit to Casa Dos Cisnes was an enchanted escape with my family. With the ability to stock the kitchen with groceries of our own choosing and the option to specify meal and menu preferences with the resident private chef the day prior—or even the same day—the flexibility and responsiveness was extremely advantageous…especially on those days where the itinerary was uncertain. Only the first night’s meal and first day’s breakfast (if either are desired) need to be specified prior to arrival. From there, just tell the chef what meals you would like each day and he’ll shop the market for the fresh provisions and will expertly prepare the meals at the times you specify.

And, Casa Dos Cisnes boasts no ordinary chef. Among the villa’s most impressive offerings is the inimitable gourmet cuisine proffered by this consummate culinary professional. Upon request, multiple times per day he’ll custom-craft sumptuous gourmet meals and snacks that rival any of the fine dining options in all of Jalisco, which can be paired with fine wines and premium spirits complementing the dishes that he’s happy to recommend, if needed.  Dine in the elegant dining room that seats up to 12, or indulge in an intimate dinner on one of the villa’s many terraces.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.  Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa. Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

My family’sown menu choices included authentic chicken fajitas and quesadillas (truly the best I have ever had), beef empanadas, filet mignon, broiled lobster tail, mixed seafood ceviche, fresh salmon filet and so much more—not to mention incredible fresh-made guacamole, pico de gallo and tortilla chips, of course. Our breakfast fare centered around Machaca and cheddar omelets and eggs benedict with fresh mango and kiwi. But, alas, choose whatever you and yours want for breakfast, lunch and dinner seatings as well as for midday snacks and happy hour and the chef is happy to oblige.

During the day my family lounged poolside while soaking in the panoramic vistas of the Banderas Bay, played numerous board and card games the villa provides, sipped cocktails and coffee by the various fireplaces, and watched Netflix movies with surround sound in multiple areas of the home—including an entertainment center—where you can lounge on cushioned couches. Throughout, the staff of three was incredibly attentive, always ensuring we were content and well provisioned no matter what activity we were engaged in.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.  Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa. Photography courtesy of Casa Dos Cisnes Private Villa.

As with any luxury resort property, rates for Casa Dos Cisnes vary by date and season. Current per night rates on the low-season end start around $1,000 U.S. and higher-end holiday rates push $2,000 U.S., with some mid-season rates in between. There is also a four night minimum stay required; seven night minimum week of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Bookings can be conveniently arranged online at www.PuertoVallartaLuxuryVilla.com, where property photos and information is abundant.

With scores of honors and accolades as a leading travel destination to its credit, Puerto Vallarta

is a notoriously safe locale on Mexico’s pristine Pacific Coast, making it an extremely popular target among tourists. In fact, according to Agustín Álvarez Valdivia, Director of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, 2017 is shaping up to be another record year for Puerto Vallarta. Casa Dos Cisnes’s private entryway and top-notch monitored security further guarantees guest safety and peace-of-mind.

For fun-lovers, foodies, shopaholics and adventurers seeking to enjoy time around town, there is an incredible assortment of nearby activities and attractions as listed on Puerto Vallarta’s official Web’s site “To Do” page that may be accessed here: http://bit.ly/2kQzlHO.

Given the astonishing hoard of highlights found at Casa Dos Cisnes that can only be realized in its exclusive private villa setting, it’s rapidly becoming Puerto Vallarta’s foremost premier private villa vacation experience. Understandable given the price point for this righteous retreat rivals—and often betters—that of a luxury resort, making it a “no brainer” for those seeking to get the most bang for their budget—and more out of their precious time allocated for pleasure travel. Beyond the economics of group accommodations making the “per suite” rate decidedly attractive, the personalized professional chef-driven meal service for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and happy hour cocktails all served amid impeccable ocean views, which is integrated into the rate, furthers the fiscal and other copious advantages.

Casa Dos Cisnes Features and Benefits At-A-Glance:

  • Private villa property
  • 10,000 square feet
  • 2-car garage
  • Complete privacy and security in the most exclusive area in Puerto Vallarta
  • Monitored security system
  • Beautiful traditional colonial-style Mexican furnishings, design and artwork with the comfort of modern amenities and technology
  • Spacious, multiple living areas, rooms and terraces, allowing large groups to comfortably enjoy their own space
  • Stunning ocean view on all floors (4 of the 5 bedrooms and all 4 ensuite bathroom showers/bath have views; 5th bedroom has private courtyard)
  • Sleeps 10 adults or 8 adults and 4 small children
  • 2 working gas fired fireplaces in living room and master terrace
  • 5 bedrooms (including Master room) with air-conditioning, overhead fans, plush king-size beds with feather toppers and premium Egyptian cotton sheets and plush robes
  • Massive master suite: bedroom with private retreat room with big screen TV and Bose system, as well as large private terrace with gas fireplace
  • 4 ensuite bathrooms; 5th bathroom with shower off pool terrace
  • Walk in closet areas with individual safes
  • 2 half bathrooms
  • Brick domes in master bedroom, master corridor, dining and living rooms and spiral staircase
  • Large, spiral staircase to all levels
  • Interior courtyard
  • Multiple terraces on each level of house
  • Infinity pool with incomparable view of ocean
  • 3 full-time, full-service bi-lingual staff working 7 days a week,
  • Gourmet cuisine prepared by dedicated 5-star chef (specializing in Mexican-contemporary cuisine) who can prepare three full meals a day plus snack and happy hour service (*meal preparation is included but not cost of food/beverages, which is charged at actual cost without mark-up)
  • Magical Mexican Fiesta: a lively evening of regional food, cocktails and Mexican musicians entertaining at the villa (additional fee applies)
  • Large separate dining room seating up to 12
  • Separate dining terraces at main and pool levels
  • Full pool bar and grill with large-screen TV
  • Fully equipped state-of-the-art gym
  • US Satellite TV throughout the house
  • Large media-entertainment room (games for family/children)
  • Intimate “away” room off of living room for private conversations or meetings
  • 2 Bose Lifestyle systems with Bose sound system throughout the villa
  • Wi-fi throughout the house; Vonage® phone for free calls to the U.S. and Canada
  • Laundry service
  • Concierge service: staff will help plan and customize activities around Puerto Vallarta including golf, tennis, snorkeling, boating and more
  • Spa services: get pampered by professionals who come to the villa for massages and beauty treatments
  • Recommendations, reservations and VIP treatment at Puerto Vallarta’s most prestigious restaurants
  • Access to new beach club, less than 10 minutes
  • Access to small, secluded beach with tide pools less than 5 minutes
  • Spacious layout and services can easily accommodate weddings, reunions & events
  • 5 minutes from the Romantic Zone (La Zona Romántica) in Old Town Puerto Vallarta

~~~ 

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority—a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList and on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Source: http://www.travelweekly.com/Strategic-Content/Sharing-Economy

Enchantment Abounds at Puerto Vallarta’s ‘Rhythms of the Night’ Dinner Show

Written and Contributed By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

RITMOS DE LA NOCHE.  Photography courtesy of Vallarta Adventures.

RITMOS DE LA NOCHE. Photography courtesy of Vallarta Adventures.

Rhythms of the Night is an immersive dinner show experience like none other, transforming your night into an enchanted evening on a mystical land. The experience begins with a relaxing cruise across the Banderas Bay where complimentary snacks and cocktails are served. As the sun sets across the sky, you will be rewarded with a stunning light display along the coastline, as the sun sets and the moon starts to rise. This picture-perfect setting is a primer for the experience ahead. As your cruise ship ports at the secluded Las Caletas cove, you will be greeted with a beautiful starry night, a torch–lit pathway, and mysterious islanders coaxing you to your initial destination.

RITMOS DE LA NOCHE.  Photography courtesy of Vallarta Adventures.

RITMOS DE LA NOCHE. Photography courtesy of Vallarta Adventures.

As if the nautical journey to this tranquil cove was not enough, your evening will only get exponentially better. The fire-lit path will guide you to an exceptionally romantic outdoor dining area right along the coast. Nature provides the perfect setting for this outdoor dining experience, as a light wind from the Pacific Ocean blows in the air and through the decorative palm trees. Light from the torches and litany of candles scattered about flickers on the water. The sounds of nature are intertwined with table-side serenades from talented musicians wandering through the dining area. The atmosphere alone transforms dinner into a mesmerizing experience.

Guests are then treated to a full-service buffet that includes thoughtfully prepared food selections to accommodate any dietary preference. The buffet includes grilled chicken, fish and steak, along with a delicious display of vegetables, salads, and, of course, tortillas that are hand-made exhibition style. The dessert buffet is equally tantalizing, with cakes, pies, flan and brownies among the many offerings.

After dinner, you will be beckoned to the outdoor amphitheater where talented local artists will perform a spectacular theatrical performance amid the backdrop of a pyramid adorned with candlelight. Through fire, acrobatics, dance, song, music, comedy and magnificent costuming, the performance proudly reenacts some of the ancient customs that highlights the rich history of this region.

RITMOS DE LA NOCHE.  Photography courtesy of Vallarta Adventures.

RITMOS DE LA NOCHE. Photography courtesy of Vallarta Adventures.

At the conclusion of this perfect enchanted evening, you will receive a final toast as you dance the night away as the cruise ship transports you back to the port with music bumping and cocktails flowing. As with the ride to the cove, the return trip also provides scenic views unique to this part of the world.

Overall, this enthralling evening offers the opportunity to have a relaxing, peaceful and exciting night filled with sights, sounds, smells and tastes you will not soon forget. Whether you are looking for the quintessential romantic dinner experience, a fun-filled family adventure, or are planning a group event, an evening with Rhythms of the Night is a magical journey sure to impress. This mesmerizing experience will captivate your heart and leave you spellbound.

~~~

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority–a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She identifies and reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at
www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList and on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

BANANA WAVE Bananamilk an ‘A-peeling’ Non-Dairy Option

Written and Contributed By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor 

Banana Wave Bananamilk.  Photography Courtesy of Banana Wave Fresh Start Beverage Company.

Banana Wave Bananamilk. Photography Courtesy of Banana Wave Fresh Start Beverage Company.

Move over almond, soy, coconut and other non-dairy milk alternatives….there’s a new and decidedly tasty milk substitute in the supermarket aisle:  BANANA WAVE bananamilk. This natural, plant-based, non-dairy beverage is perfect for those people who dislike—or are just bored—with the standard milk alternatives on the market. It’s also a particularly excellent choice for anyone who cannot drink, or simply doesn’t like, non-dairy milks derived from nuts or for anyone looking for a delicious drink that’s purely vegetarian and vegan.

Indeed, aside from its tropical fruit-driven deliciousness, the newly-introduced BANANA WAVE bananamilk is a nutrient powerhouse created with nature’s superfoods: fruit, grains and seeds. Each 8-ounce antioxidant and fiber-rich serving contains 330 milligrams of potassium (as much one small banana) as well as 29 vitamins and minerals and 1200 milligrams of heart-healthy Omega-3s. What’s more, BANANA WAVE bananamilk is gluten-free, certified GMO-free by Greenleaf Non-GMO, and Kosher. It’s also no surprise that there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Beyond its bevy of health benefits, BANANA WAVE bananamilk tastes really, really, really good. It’s smooth, creamy texture and naturally sweet flavor is derived from an ancient multi-generational African recipe ultimately passed down to the brand founder, Neter Alkebulan, by his own Grandmother.

Not only is this dairy-free bananamilk delightful and refreshing on its own as a snack or meal replacement, but it is also great in smoothies, on cereal and as a secret ingredient in cooking and baking. Plus, it is a nice option for anyone with an on-the-go lifestyle, active kids, athletic lifestyle and, of course, for those who are bonkers for bananas.

So give those traditional nut-based milk subs the slip and hop on the banana boat. You’re likely to love the new BANANA WAVE bananamilk a bunch!

~~~

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority—a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList and on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews. 

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or sponsored at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

5 Amazing West Mexico Vacation Destinations

Dinner theater al fresco, adrenaline-pumping activities and luxe accommodations to-die-for

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy Hotel Coral and Marina.

Photography courtesy Hotel Coral and Marina.

For the throngs of people pondering where to go on vacation this year, Mexico may be a strong contender in your cache of options. If so, you’re certainly not alone. According to the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office, in 2016 approximately 30 million U.S. citizens chose Mexico as their travel destination. And understandably so, given there are innumerable reasons to vacation in the region. The weather is warm, people are friendly, the culture is rich, the immersive culinary scene is phenomenal, the beaches are beautiful, and dreamy destinations abound. In fact, below are five of my tried-and-true personal favorite places and activities on the west side.

Ensenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina an All-Encompassing Escape
A mere 80 miles from San Diego lies the port city of Ensenada, a charming Mexican enclave that runs along 700 miles of Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortéz coastline. The city, which is Mexico’s largest municipality in the area, offers endless possibilities for vacationers. The region is replete with culture, adventure, inspired cuisine, fine wine and gracious hospitality that’s all tempered with a relaxed beach and marine mindset. This certainly holds true for the Hotel Coral & Marina—a luxury Mexican resort that truly has it all for families, couples, groups or any well-heeled traveler seeking an easily accessible, all-encompassing escape south of the border.

A glistening getaway on the shores of Todos Santos Bay, Hotel Coral & Marina boasts the area’s only world-class marina with 353 slips that offer shared access to the property’s impressive array of amenities. But, for those seeking accommodations on land, the property offers a comprehensive set of conveniences and creature comforts that start with the 147 rooms and suites with each featuring flat-screen TVs, high-speed Wi-Fi and a coffee maker. Upgrade to a specialty suite for an added refrigerator, dining area, double bathtub, Jacuzzi, wine cooler or fully equipped kitchen. While standard rooms start at 635 square feet, the luxury suites start at 721 square feet (the “Deluxe” suite in which I stayed at 1,022 square feet) and top out at over three times that with the Presidential Triple Suite, which provides a whopping 2,034 square feet of vacation space. In speaking with Lizette Sanchez, Director of Public Relations at Hotel Coral & Marina, she cited many elevated amenities available with the opulent top-tier suites, such as a wraparound ocean-view balcony, chic bar, modern living area, Jacuzzi, hydro-massage shower, dining table and wine fridge.

However fabulous your room may be, don’t stay in it too long as there’s so much more to do and see at Hotel Coral & Marina. Whether your idea of a good time includes indulging in “Baja-Med” style cuisine at the on-site Bistro & Cava indoor/outdoor restaurant or more casual fare at the Marina Grill indoor/outdoor restaurant; cocktailing at the patio bar; taking a dip in the indoor or outdoor pool or in the large outdoor Jacuzzi; pampering with a service at the fully-equipped “C Spa”; sweating out the stress in the state-of-the-art fitness center; or playing an exhilarating game of tennis, the property offers all of this and more to keep you and your companions duly engaged and entertained. Guests can also enjoy various water activities like water bikes, paddle boarding and kayaking all throughout the marina.  With these enjoyable exploits as well as an on-site playground and professionally staffed Kid’s Club, the Hotel Coral & Marina is decidedly family friendly.

There are also on-site eateries. Bistro & Cava is the hotel’s award-winning signature gourmet restaurant featuring a blend of traditional Mexican entrees and locally-sourced Mediterranean cuisine.  But the food isn’t the only notable aspect of the bistro, as it also happens to house the largest local wine cellar in Baja California. From this locale, patrons can enjoy more than 150 labels. Those seeking a more casual atmosphere will enjoy eating at the waterfront Marina Grill restaurant or at the Pool Bar, where I highly recommend ordering the ceviche and a margarita. If this doesn’t put you in a vacation state-of-mind, probably nothing will. The Arrecife Lobby Bar is another communal space offering sports on the flat-screen and a two-for-one drink Happy Hour.

Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic respite or a group getaway, Ensenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina enchants as a one-stop oasis where leisure, recreation and gastronomic pursuits await.

Beyond All-Inclusive Innovation Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort & Spa
The newest property in Grand Velas Resorts’ esteemed portfolio is Grand Velas Los Cabos—an all-inclusive spa resort with stunning ocean views and a wide variety of amenities and activities for guests of all ages. No ordinary destination, Grand Velas Los Cabos has pulled out all the stops in its readily apparent quest to provide an unrivaled luxury vacation experience for guests at every touch point.

Having stayed on-site to see for myself what all of the buzz was about, I can convey with full conviction that this resort proffers what would surely be one of the most impressive and memorable retreats of your life. Not only elevating industry standards for any luxe locale, Grand Velas Los Cabos has certainly raised the bar within the all-inclusive category world-wide. Its level of haute hospitality and impeccable service standards go well above making each guest feel pampered—but also genuinely cared for. Then, of course, the overarching offerings—the grounds, the accommodations, the amenities and more—are each standouts unto themselves.

As with all Grand Velas Resort properties, guests here enjoy spacious and sumptuously-appointed accommodations, numerous gourmet fine dining experiences, 24-hour in-suite service, substantial spa facilitates, fully-equipped and staffed fitness centers, pool decks to-die-for, noteworthy family programs, personal concierge service and much more. The resort features 304 suites, each over 1,180 square feet and every single one with private terraces with cushioned lounge seating and breathtaking ocean views. Some of the suites also have personal plunge pools on the terrace as well. The stylish suites at Grand Velas Los Cabos range in size from 1,180 to a whopping 3,412 square feet. Every one of them features wide open ocean views and a fully furnished private terrace.

The variety of gourmet dining options at Grand Velas Los Cabos is impressive, giving guests the opportunity to delight in dishes from around of the world without ever having to leave the resort. Ever. Choose from several fine-dining restaurants with both indoor and open air seating. This includes Cocina de Autor, the resort’s premier signature restaurant, which shines above all as there’s a two star Michelin chef at the helm. Clearly this resort is making its mark on the gastro-travel front, but its spectacular SE Spa is giving the food and beverage program here a run for its money. The two-level, 35,000-square-foot facility with a multisensory pool “water journey” is a not-to-be-missed experience.

Foodie-Forward Private Villa ‘Victual Vacations’ at Puerto Vallarta’s Casa Dos Cisnes
Whether for adventure travel or more relaxing vacations, travelers are increasingly seeking regionally-authentic itineraries that offer an intimate view of local life. The trend of being “connoisseurs of local culture” so to speak is booming. So indigenous tourism and cultural immersion experiences—especially those with culinary components—are extremely popular right now—and that demand is only growing. Various hospitality sectors have been the beneficiary of the foodie-driven travel movement, and even helping drive it to a certain extent. One of which is the private villa vacation category, specifically. Today’s breed of luxury private villa rentals are becoming an ultimate gourmet indulgence for leisure and business travelers, alike.

One private villa rental exemplifying this experience is named Casa Dos Cisnes, which is a premierprivate oceanfront villa in Puerto Vallarta. This 10,000 square foot, five-bedroom colonial style home has breathtaking views of the Pacific, and really goes over-and-above to ensure each guest’s needs, desires and expectations for an extraordinary, foodie-forward private villa vacation are fulfilled.  This includes custom gourmet meals prepared on-site by a dedicated 5-star private chef specializing in Mexican-contemporary cuisine, served in an elegant separate dining room that seats up to 12. You can either specify what dishes you would like the chef to prepare, or you can give “free reign” and allow the chef to conceive a fully authentic Mexican menu on your behalf. Your choice if you want to go full classic/indigenous or with a more contemporary fare. Here, guests have full culinary control. The ingredients (meat, produce, spices, starches) are usually entirely locavore, meaning very locally sourced, and the recipes, preparation, presentation and such are authentic to the region and culture—all allowing visitors to experience what it’s like to “eat like a local.” You tell the chef what you want to eat that day or you can plan in advance and, either way, the chef shops at the local markets the day of and prepares the meals on-site, which are served in the privacy of your own dining space, either indoors or out. It gives a whole new meaning to a home-cooked meal, for sure.

For some enhanced group or family fun, this private gourmet chef also prepares what this villa calls a “Magical Mexican Fiesta”, which is a lively evening of regional food, cocktails and Mexican musicians entertaining at the property. And all of this is available to guests in addition to three full meals a day plus snack and happy hour service, which can be served in the dining room or the separate dining terraces at both the main and pool levels.

Enchanting Evenings Al Fresco at Puerto Vallarta’s Rhythms of the Night Dinner Show
Rhythms of the Night is an immersive dinner show experience like none other in Puerto Vallarta, transforming your night into an enchanted evening on a mystical land. The experience begins with a relaxing cruise across the Banderas Bay where complimentary snacks and cocktails are served. As the sun sets and dusk sets in as the moon begins to rise, you will be rewarded with a stunning light display along the coastline. This picture-perfect setting is a primer for the experience ahead. As your cruise ship ports at the secluded Las Caletas cove, you will be greeted by a beautiful starry night, a torch–lit pathway, and mysterious islanders coaxing you to your initial destination. As if the journey to this tranquil cove was not enough, your evening will only get exponentially better. The fire-lit path will guide you to an exceptionally romantic outdoor dining area right along the coast. Nature provides the perfect setting for this outdoor dining experience, as a light wind from the Pacific Ocean blows through the decorative palm trees. Light from the torches and a litany of candles scattered about flickers on the water. The sounds of nature are intertwined with table-side serenades from talented musicians wandering through the dining area. The atmosphere alone transforms dinner into a mesmerizing experience.

Guests are then treated to a full-service buffet that includes thoughtfully prepared food selections to accommodate any dietary preference. The buffet includes grilled chicken, fish and steak, along with a delicious display of vegetables, salads, and, of course, tortillas that are hand-made exhibition style. The dessert buffet is equally tantalizing, with pies, rice pudding and brownies among the many offerings. After dinner, you will be beckoned to the outdoor amphitheater where talented local artists perform a spectacular theatrical performance amid the backdrop of a pyramid adorned with candlelight.

Through fire, acrobatics, dance, song, music, comedy and magnificent costuming, the performance proudly reenacts some of the ancient customs that highlights the rich history of this region.  At the conclusion of this perfect enchanted evening, you will receive a final toast as you dance the night away as the cruise ship transports you back to the port with music bumping and cocktails flowing. As with the ride to the cove, the return trip also provides scenic views unique to this part of the world.

Overall, this enthralling evening offers the opportunity to have a relaxing, peaceful and exciting night filled with sights, sounds, smells and tastes you will not soon forget. Whether you are looking for the quintessential romantic dinner experience, a fun-filled family adventure, or are planning a group event, an evening with Rhythms of the Night is a magical journey sure to impress.

Adrenaline-Laced Activities at Canopy River Puerto Vallarta
Relative to activities, Puerto Vallarta certainly has all of its bases covered—in large part thanks to Canopy River adventure tours, which is perfect for pure adrenaline experiences by day. Indeed, if you are an action seeker looking for excitement and a way to see the beauty of Puerto Vallarta up close and personal, Canopy River tours are for you. This company offers everything from a fast-paced zip line boasting no less than 12 heart-pounding sections, to thrilling ATV tours, which include diving and dipping at a gorgeous hidden river and waterfall basin, to exciting expeditions through the rainforest. You can complement any of these adventures by dining at the breathtaking on-site Los Coapinoles Restaurant where guests can also participate in one of the greatest tequila tastings in the area.

Your zip line adventure begins with a brief safety training provided by experienced, talented and affable zip line professionals. You will then be safely hooked up to a full-body harness and provided with a security helmet, as you and your tour guides head off for the experience of a lifetime. You will zip through 12 different lines that fly directly above the amazing rainforest located in the Sierra Madre Mountains to heights as high as 709 feet. Each zip line ends on a large platform that gives you the opportunity to stop for a moment, enjoy the surroundings and take memorable photos. Adding to the adventure, at the end of the line, you will travel by mule back up the mountain to the point of origination.

The river expedition is definitely designed for both nature lovers and adrenaline seekers. These expeditions start on the coastline of Rio Cuale and take a six-hour journey through the remarkable rainforest of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Among other notables, you will travel across two bridges that reach heights of up to 88 feet. This journey is only meant for true thrill seekers looking for unforgettable adventure. If you want a fun experience, but may not have the daredevil aptitude for zip lining or a full-blown expedition, an ATV tour can provide an amazing experience. These tours are crafted for those with even little or no ATV experience, so even if you have never ridden an ATV before, this tour is for you. This 60-minute thrill ride will take you on a journey through the Sierra Madre Mountains. You will be given the opportunity to stop at several prime locations to view the ample beauty this area has to offer, from stunning flora to incredible wildlife to mountainous vistas beyond. As mentioned, halfway through the trip, the experienced tour guide will take you to one of the most beautiful hidden treasures in the mountains: Piletas. This location will reward you with the opportunity to see a breathtaking waterfall and even take a swim in the pristine waters beneath the falls before hopping back on your ATV and heading back.

With weather to-die-for, gorgeous waters, robust customs and traditions and diverse terrains, it is no wonder that west Mexico attracts huge tourism dollars. Travelers flock to the area year after year to enjoy the amazing and unique dishes that are specific to the region, tour historical sites, experience thrilling adventure and entertainment, and just spend some time relaxing and taking it all in. And, if you have a penchant for luxury accommodations, fine dining and spa treatments, opportunity is plentiful. As you plan your getaways up ahead this year and beyond, a visit to one or all five of these venues should be at the top of your list. Rest assured the time spent would be vacation experience not soon forgotten.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer trends expert, travel industry voice of authority and TV personality who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers. She scours the marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Reach her online at www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Source:  http://travel.trade.gov/view/m-2016-O-001/index.html.

Insights from ‘The Prince of Luxury’ Noel Shu

By Merilee Kern, MBA

Noel Shu.  Photography courtesy of Noel Shu.

Noel Shu. Photography courtesy of Noel Shu.

With a moniker like “The Prince of Luxury,” it’s clear that Noel Shu is no ordinary entrepreneur. This 27-year-old self-made millionaire has accomplished more in business than many do in an entire lifetime, already boasting a client roster that includes billionaires, celebrities and royal families. So keen is his business acumen and venerable his reputation, Shu’s clout earned him a VIP invitation to the last U.S. visit of China’s president, Xi Jinping, alongside other revered titans of industry the likes of Bill Gates and Jack Ma.

Today, Shu brings his wealth of expertise and impeccable panache to the global luxury goods market where he spearheads ultra-super-premium products such as the finest champagne, wine and spirits as well as extraordinary multi-million dollar jewelry and timepieces of unparalleled quality—all targeted to discerning consumers on both sides of the Pacific, including China’s elite,who demand the absolute best in taste and quality.

Aside from having served as a managing partner at the extolled beverage agency Prodiguer Brands (perhaps best known for selling the most expensive single bottle of Champagne in the world, Goût de Diamants, for a staggering $1.8 million), Shu’s own company, Un Joyau Majestueux, recently launched its own new wine brand, Majestic Ruby. This exciting new expression made its world debut at the 2017 Oscars Celebrity Luxury Lounge at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Penthouse where it was reportedly celebrated by an array of Hollywood A-listers.

Further demonstrating his prowess in the world of fine wine, Shu is also a lauded sommelier and one of the world’s leading experts on Chinese wine culture. In fact, he authored the book, “China Through a Glass of Wine,” which offers a fascinating examination of China’s burgeoning wine industry from an insider’s perspective. From China’s rich cultural history to its political climate, this title takes readers on a captivating journey through the country’s viticultural victories and hopes for the future.

Another of Shu’s latest ventures is a film production company, 1768 Entertainment, which brings Shu’s love of luxury to the entertainment industry in the form of compelling documentaries, stories inspired by real events and suspense tales with an Asian influence.

Noel Shu

Noel Shu

Below is some enlightening Q&A with this millennial mastermind through which he offers insider perspectives and lifestyle advice of note for those who like to roll like royalty (or want to look like they do).

For the high end market, there are often many different brands of similar products and services vying for attention. What are some effective ways luxury consumers can stay abreast of the newest, highest quality products and services?

This can actually be the done the good ol’ fashioned way and that’s simply to read a lot. Everything that you can possibly be looking for, think you might be looking for or not even know you’re looking for is on the Internet. Every day when I wake up, I spend a good 30 minutes and go through literally everything while I’m drinking my coffee—from international news to gossip to anything I can find that’s different from what I read before. People are out there doing everything they can to appease the people.

You are a member of a network called, “The Billionaires Club.”  What are some of the luxury brands you and your inner circle are paying attention to and what draws these brands apart?

I would say these days quite a few people have moved away from just so called “big purchases.” Everything is now more about personal touches. For instance, many people own a Rolex, Audemars Piguet or Hublot. More often than not, some of these are one out of however many but how many people really have something that’s one of kind? Not too many. The other point is that the watch may suit you but it doesn’t reflect your own personality, likes and dislikes. So what’s actually becoming quite popular is engraving one’s watches. I’ve seen some crazy designs that really add some character to a person’s wrist such as koi fish, skull heads and zodiac signs.

So back to the main question and one particular brand that has stood out is Golden Concept. Again, it’s all about personal touches these days and being unique. Golden Concept specializes in luxury cases for your phone. They have gold, snakeskin and gator cases just to name a few. All done to the highest of quality and many are customizable. So if you’re looking to stand out, make sure to check them out.

Another brand which has seen quite a bit of press and accolades is JetSmarter, one of the more successful private aviation companies. For many entrepreneurs, meetings take place in different cities, different continents and in different time zones. JetSmarter offers these services in an easy-to-maneuver application that makes flying private relatively affordable and easy.

What are the top three luxury items or brands that have captivated your own attention right now?

Right now there are three top brands that are top-of-mind for me right now. These are Emperada Cigar Humidor by Imperiali Geneve; Astonomia Tourbillion by Jacob & Co; and Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept car.

Not everyone can afford luxury brands. What would you suggest for those who have the desire to appear high end but not necessarily the means?

There’s actually been a lot of hype surrounding brands that cater specifically to people who enjoy the “finer things” but are limited by what’s in their wallet. Many bloggers, for instance, are always writing about the newest gadget, accessory or clothing. I would recommend finding a few that fit your style and follow them on Instagram to see what it is that they’re rocking on a day to day basis. Many people have to understand that your average blogger is there to inform the public on some of the newest fashion do’s and don’ts, and these are all done with new brands or affordable pre-existing brands.

Second, which I have seen quite a bit, is on Kickstarter or similar sites that are always offering “perks” for those who invest early in their brands. Without naming names, a few brands offered a discounted handmade Italian leather, skeleton movement watches for a fraction of the cost to the first “so many” number of investors.

Just keep in mind for everything high-end there is always a cheaper counterpart. Don’t worry just about name brand or high end. All that matters is that it looks good and makes you feel great.

For those who focus on products that are affordable luxury, who are some of the brands doing the best and what are the keys to success?

One of the biggest and most successful brands that I have seen that caters more towards the everyday luxury is Tory Burch. Although TB is for women, I have on many occasions bought it for family, friends and clients so I can safely say I have quite a bit of exposure to this brand and can thus speak with some confidence. Obviously, price point for TB is well within the means of many. Besides that, what is it that has led TB to such success? I would say three main factors: relatability, professionalism and seamlessness. Relatability in that walking through the concrete jungle that is New York, TB products have always caught my eye in their simplicity but also how stylish it is, whether on a working woman running into Starbucks or that beautiful lady going to brunch. Second, professionalism – although many brands always stress the attentiveness of the staff, it pales in comparison to TB. People have to understand that often times upper tier luxury items are for a certain group and employees are naturally prejudiced to people who they perceive not to be at that level. There have been times where I would walk into a Rolex store unattended for 15 minutes and the instant my AP peaks out from under my shirt, someone is there to help. This just doesn’t happen at TB and for that I am quite appreciative. Seamlessness in TB’s product, in that it offers just the right amount “je ne sais quoi.” Most of their products can be matched with a variety of other brands. This has all led to the tremendous success that TB has experienced over these past few years.

What are the top three factors that truly set an ultra-premium wine, champagne or spirit brand apart from less costly luxury beverage counterparts, wine and otherwise?

Marketing wine for the luxury market is a really tough job to do. Quite frankly it’s because you’re trying to appease a group of people who have seen it all. People always say when you do something for long enough, whether you want to or not you will become a bit of a connoisseur. That’s especially true for those in the wine industry. Most are well educated, well informed and have a true passion towards exploring the finer points of what’s in a wine bottle. If we were to say that all wines in the luxury market were of the same caliber, there would still be so many factors in play, the first being accessibility and quantity. Many luxury wines are such because there is a limited supply. You can’t expect a brand to sell at the same price point when there are only 10,000 bottles as compared to 100,000 bottles. However, although there are still 10,000 bottles that were produced, that doesn’t mean your everyday Joe would be able to get his hands on them even if he’s willing to dish out the necessary cash. Thus, there’s another added premium to an already sky high price.

Another example is time and care. For those who are only there to turn a quick profit, the longer time they spend on making a wine, the more money that needs to be invested. That in itself increases cost and decreases profit. This is why sometimes you have wineries that will actually keep the wine in their cellars for years after bottling to ensure that the wine has at least matured to a passable level. By care, I mean winemakers are very passionate about their craft and thus hate having their name associated with subpar wine. Thus, you have some years where there is little to no wine produced by a certain grower because only a small amount of the grapes harvested passed the standard or none at all.

Never one to rest on his laurels and even amid a diversity of endeavors, Shu continues to raise the bar for himself professionally and personally.  Whether it be as an active investor looking for the latest innovation in the luxury and tech space or, despite his jam-packed schedule, his current pursuit of an Ivy League Master’s degree at Columbia University.  Clearly this good life connoisseur turned luxe market mogul will continue making an impact on the numerous high-end industries for many years to come.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

Branding, business and entrepreneurship success pundit, Merilee Kern, MBA, is an influential media voice and lauded communications strategist. As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List International News Syndicate,” she’s a revered consumer product trends expert and travel industry voice of authority who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers. Merilee may be reached online at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

7 Ways Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort Ups the Luxe All-Inclusive Ante

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy of Velas Resorts.

The newest property in Grand Velas Resorts’ esteemed portfolio is Grand Velas Los Cabos—an all-inclusive spa resort with stunning ocean views and a wide variety of amenities and activities for guests of all ages. No ordinary destination, Grand Velas Los Cabos has pulled out all the stops in its readily apparent quest to provide an unrivaled luxury vacation experience for guests at every touch point.

Having stayed on-site to see for myself what all of the buzz was about, I can convey with full conviction that this resort proffers what would surely be one of the most impressive and memorable retreats of your life. Few, if any, other luxury property experiences I’ve enjoyed have made me declare “Wow” as often as this one, with one impressive interlude after another unfolding with unmitigated abandon throughout my stay.

Not only elevating industry standards for any luxe locale, Grand Velas Los Cabos has certainly raised the bar within the all-inclusive category world-wide. Its level of haute hospitality and impeccable service standards go well above making each guest feel pampered—but also genuinely cared for. Then, of course, the overarching offerings—the grounds, the accommodations, the amenities and more—are each standouts unto themselves.

Here are just seven of the many ways this righteous resort is upping the luxe all-inclusive ante.

1. A Prestigious Heritage
Since opening its doors on December 20, 2016, this $150 million resort is proudly carrying on the tradition of high-end hospitality that all Grand Velas Resorts are revered for. In fact, Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit and Los Cabos combined have incredibly earned more than 43 AAA Diamonds, including the prestigious Five Diamond Award. For its part, Grand Velas Los Cabos is making an indelible mark on its own. Located on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, well off the beaten path as far as typical Cabo visits are concerned (read: nowhere near “Cabo Wabo” and other such tourist attractions), this resort is perched on a pristine stretch of private beach between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo and is just about a 30-minute drive from the Los Cabos International Airport.  The resort can, of course, arrange airport transports as needed.

As with all Grand Velas Resort properties, guests here enjoy spacious and sumptuously-appointed accommodations, numerous gourmet fine dining experiences, 24-hour in-suite service, substantial spa facilitates, fully-equipped and staffed fitness centers, pool decks to-die-for, noteworthy family programs, personal concierge service and much more.

2. Contemporary Mexican Design
The resort features 304 suites, each over 1,180 square feet and every single one with private terraces with cushioned lounge seating and breathtaking ocean views. Some of the suites also have personal plunge pools on the terrace as well. The half-moon design of the hotel is eye-catching and functional, maintaining the ocean vista as the prime focal point, with the three-story high open-air grand entrance having that same effect—drawing your eye right to the royal blue ocean ebbing and flowing in the not-so-far distance. The beachfront property sits over 300 feet above sea level and, with its natural hues and materials used throughout the regionally symbiotic architecture and the décor, alike, the resort exists in harmony with its rugged surroundings—an oasis unto itself.


3. Sophisticated Suites
The stylish suites at Grand Velas Los Cabos range in size from 1,180 to a whopping 3,412 square feet. Every one of them features wide open ocean views and a fully furnished private terrace in close earshot to the rumbling shoreline and jetties on which Pelicans are indelibly perched. Each of the rooms also boasts an extremely large high-definition flat screen TV with digital cable, premium mini bar with snacks and refreshments stocked daily, wine from Ensenada, Nespresso coffee maker, L’Occitane bath amenities and goose down comforters and pillows. Each of the expansive bathrooms include a Jacuzzi tub and steam shower with rain showerhead.

Other available in-suite services include personal concierge and butler service, daily turndown and a pillow menu. Guests in Grand Class Suites, Presidential and Governor Suites, and the Imperial Suite also enjoy their own private terrace plunge pools, offering an unforgettable way to gaze at the moon and stars amid fragrant sea breezes and the melodic surf. There are also six Wellness Suite options that feature an array of fitness amenities including recline bikes, Vitamin C sprinkler, spa concierge, healthy crudité mini bar, in-suite massage and an aromatherapy kit, among other health-minded enhancements.


4. Abundant Epicurean Adventure
The variety of gourmet dining options at Grand Velas Los Cabos is impressive, giving guests the opportunity to delight in dishes from around of the world without ever having to leave the resort. Ever. Choose from several fine-dining restaurants with both indoor and open air seating, including Frida—an authentic Mexican fine dining eatery that celebrates the legacy of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and where each dish reflects the rich culinary heritage of the region. There’s also the French restaurant Piaf, an Italian eatery called Lucca, and the Velas 10 steak and seafood house—all highly authentic and with an elevated approach to cuisine.

But it’s Cocina de Autor, the resort’s premier signature restaurant, which shines above all as there’s a two star Michelin chef at the helm. This would be a ground-breaking achievement for any resort, and is nothing short of remarkable within the all-inclusive realm. Ingenuity is fundamental to keeping cuisine “interesting” and this property duly delivers.  For example, Cocina de Autor offers what’s called a “sensorial dining experience.” Here there are no menu choices. Instead, all guests are “taken” on a singular gastro-journey: an 8-12 course tasting menu showcasing the finest fresh produce and local meats from the region, reflecting the culture and life that surrounds, while also exemplifying a tremendous amount of culinary creativity and skill. My own holistic dining experience here was one of the most extraordinary and impressive I’ve ever had—a magnificent mélange of fresh ingredients, technique, texture and visual appeal. It’s epicurean ingenuity at its finest.

Oenophiles also fare well while fine dining at this property with multiple sommeliers, under the guise of Master Sommelier Don Pedro Poncelis Brambila, executed a painstakingly curated wine program boasting varietals from the very best and most prestigious domains from around the globe.

There are other, more casual dinner options on-site as well. For breakfast lunch or dinner you can enjoy an open-air eating experience and panoramic views of the beach at Azul. This is a more casual eatery where local fare can be had, in bottomless buffet form or off the menu, sometimes while listening to mariachis and ogling local artisan wares on display as was the case the evening I dined there. I should also mention that during my visit in the February timeframe, while I was eating breakfast each morning at Azul’s patio with glistening ocean vistas, I could see breaching whales in the distance in all of their glory.  Do bring the binoculars that are provided in each guest suite to breakfast so you don’t miss the action! For a quick pick-me-up any time of day, grab a specialty coffee drink at Amat Café.  Of course, at your preference, you may opt to remain room side and relax with in-suite dining.

When you’re in the mood for a cocktail, there are various venues to suit your mood amid four bars: Sky Bar, Miramar Bar, Koi, and the bar at Cocina de Autor. All bars and restaurants offer stunning views from indoor and outdoor seating. During my own post-dinner visit to Sky Bar for a nightcap, there was an energetic live band playing some great American classics, urging folks to get on the dance floor. Then, to my surprise and delight, a fireworks display commenced just adjacent to the Sky Bar terrace sometime around 10pm. It was a magical end to what was already a perfect evening.


During the daytime, I can’t recommend enough eating some Chocolate Clams poolside. The Cabrilla café on the pool deck has a tank filled with the gorgeous, large-scale living clams known as Baja’s “candy-of-the-sea,” which have a brown shell—hence the name. At this all-inclusive, order as many as you want—sky’s the limit relative to supply, at least. They will fresh shuck the clam and serve the sliced meat in the shell, itself, accompanied by lemons and finely diced tomato, onion, cilantro. Eat them with just these ceviche-esque elements to truly appreciate the sweet flavor of this fabulous clam, or add ponzu or hot/picante sauce to vary the flavor profile. Pair with a side of their addicting spice-dusted tortilla chips, chunky guacamole and a crisp white wine to perfect the meal.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Grand Velas Los Cabos’s Mexican eatery, Frida, also debuted a $25K taco for two, which is yet another example of how they’re innovating and breaking barriers in the food space and is not part of the all-inclusive package, of course. It’s the world’s most expensive taco, and this culinary masterpiece for two includes such premium ingredients as langoustine, Kobe beef, Almas Beluga caviar and black truffle brie cheese. An exotic salsa comprised of dried Morita chili peppers, Ley.925 ultra-premium añejo tequila and civet coffee tops the taco which is served on a gold flake-infused corn tortilla. For a beverage to complement, a hand-crafted white gold and pure platinum bottle of Ley.925 Pasión Azteca Ultra Premium Añejo can accompany the tacos for an additional $150K.


5. Astonishing Spa Facilities
Clearly this resort is making its mark on the gastro-travel front, but its spectacular SE Spa is giving the food and beverage program here a run for its money. The two-level, 35,000-square-foot facility is a not-to-be-missed experience. There are 16 treatment rooms–some with water views–in which all guests enjoy creative, authentic treatments that combine products of the earth with the latest technology and methodologies. Following the changing pattern of the seasons, this indigenous culture-driven spa follows a wellness path represented by a unique totem, in honor of ancient Mayan and Aztec traditions.

Signature treatments, like the one I had, make use of Mexico’s native Blue Agave plant and its ancestral healing benefits. All treatments of 50 minutes or more include a fabulous seven-step water journey like none other. This features a eucalyptus-scented steam room, sauna, polar pool, Jacuzzi and, the pièce de résistance, the multi-sensory pool. Here you can recline in the central, temperate climate pool and enjoy its range of massaging faucets for your neck, upper and lower back and even your feet. Once the kinks are worked out, be sure to relax in one of the pool’s whole body bubble beds. After your water journey, you’ll rest on a heated lounger with a warm neck pillow, scented towels, and cucumbers on your eyes to ensure that you are fully relaxed and ready for your treatment.

The spa center features three pools as well as an ocean-overlook Life Fitness Center with exercise programs such as yoga and pilates, meditation and personal trainers. There are also separate and quite impressive kids’ and teens’ club facilities and activities programs. Men, women and children can also all take advantage of haircuts, nails and other salon services as well as in-suite (or terrace) massages.


6. Laudable Leisure
When you stay at Grand Velas Los Cabos, you’ll enjoy leisurely, effortless days spent soaking up the sun, walking on the private beach (where you’re not being approached by vendors selling this and that), or lounging at one of several infinity pools or in a beach bed overlooking the Sea of Cortes. Be sure to take advantage of a foot or head massage while you’re sunning for a greater indulgence.

If you’re traveling with children, they’ll have plenty to do at the Grand Velas Kids’ Club, which provides a fun, safe environment for kids to explore various activities such as treasure hunting, soccer and cooking classes. A kids’ pool and splash pad are other options. The Teens’ Club is designed to entertain older kids ages thirteen and above with a huge variety of games including a pool table, ping pong, air hockey, foosball, an X-Box Kinect, and a karaoke set. There’s a dance floor, several video game “pods” and a bar where kids can sidle up to order smoothies, burgers and any other all-inclusive delights they desire on-demand.

For something fun for the whole family—or certainly perfect for couples—do some stargazing. Grand Velas Los Cabos’ Night Sky is a unique astronomy experience that takes place during each month’s new moon. Discover the stars, constellations, and planets amid an oceanfront bonfire and signature cocktails. The three-hour experience includes guided use of the largest telescopes in Los Cabos. If you’re lucky, you might even get to take in a meteor shower, which is common in the Los Cabos sky.  Yet another great way to make lasting memories.


7. Eco-Friendly Practices
This resort is designed to exist in harmony with the surrounding fragile environment and, in many ways, goes above and beyond to sustain the planet’s natural resources. For example, to clear the land for the resort, hundreds of cacti and trees were dug up and, rather than being disposed of, were instead transplanted to protect the region’s native flora and fauna. Part of the potable water the resort uses is repurposed either for general use or to return to the subsoil. The laundry facilities also filter soapy water for rinsing reuse in a dedicated water treatment plant, and the residual water treatment facility processes all of the resort’s H2O so that it can be used to irrigate the exterior gardens, mangroves and jungle.


With the above points as proof, Grand Velas Los Cabos extends a truly unparalleled all-inclusive vacation experience. Dramatic ocean views, next-generation amenities, oversized designer suites, a world-class spa, a three-to-one staff-to-guest ratio and a demonstrated commitment to the environment are just some of the things making this an enviable escape—whether you seek to make memories with your family, a special someone, a girl’s weekend, a guy golf trip, or even for some alone “you time” where you can truly relax and recharge. In any scenario, you’ll be enthusiastically spoiled throughout.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority—a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList and on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Anatomy of a Grand Weekend Getaway at Boulders Resort & Spa Arizona

Turnkey, print-ready 3-night itinerary chock-full of fun and fabulosity

Written By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy of Boulders Resort & Spa

Amid my considerably hectic work schedule and family life where there’s nary a moment to spare, let alone full weeks (or more) to take extended trips, I’ve become a master of the “micro-vacation”—those long weekend getaways that strike just the right balance of relaxation, adventure and indulgence to suitably satisfy my persistent wanderlust.  A recent micro-jaunt took me to Phoenix, Arizona—America’s sixth-largest city where cowboys continue to roam and the red rock-laden topography is peppered with the kind of cactus some only see in cartoons. The city’s enduring Southwestern backdrop is not only an indelible draw for me, but also 16 million other leisure visitors who trek to Greater Phoenix each year for some fun in the Sonoran Desert sun.

To ease and expedite the travel scheduling of other micro-vacationers, the good folks at Visit Phoenix—a non-profit that promotes the virtues of Phoenix as a prime travel destination, have devised the sure-fire, tried-and-true long weekend (3-night, 4-day) itinerary below that’s chock-full of fun and fabulosity.

1-main-the-boulders-phoenix-4-courtesy-the-boulders-resort-spa-lo

At the center of this incredible itinerary is the Boulders Resort & Spa, which is located just north of Phoenix in the quaint town of Carefree. The property just completed a multi-million dollar renovation to its Casita accommodations as well as multiple common areas, including its Main Lodge, Discovery Lounge, Latilla Ballroom and multiple of its on-site eateries. According to June Chun, lead designer for DiLeonardo—the firm responsible for the transformation, the rejuvenated relaxed resort environment embraces and respects indigenous inspirations of the Old West, with the scale, pattern and colors from the Native American heritage influencing the architectural detailing, carpet patterns and rich colors utilized throughout. I agree with Chun’s avowal that the result is a rich, organic sense that truly brings the indoors and outdoors together beautifully. For your traveling pleasure, here’s the stupendous schedule.  Just plan it, print it and go live it!

**DAY 1

12:00 p.m.                         

Arrive in Phoenix – secure ground transportation

1:00 p.m.                           

Lunch at Gertrude’s Restaurant housed within Phoenix’s famed Desert Botanical Garden (followed by garden exploration)

Gertrude’s is known for its seasonally inspired cooking that combines American favorites with classic cooking techniques and flavors from around the globe. Under the direction of Executive Chef Matthew Taylor, Gertrude’s seasonal menus celebrate Arizona’s growers and producers while offering a sophisticated culinary experience in a reserved oasis setting. Fresh herbs and vegetables from Gertrude’s patio and the community garden located on property at the Desert Botanical Garden are found in most everything that is served.

A “Phoenix Point of Pride,” the Desert Botanical Garden is one of only a few botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums. Desert Botanical Garden offers the world’s finest collection of arid-land plants from deserts around the world in a unique outdoor setting.

4:00 p.m.

Check into the Boulders Resort & SpaOne of the world’s most celebrated hideaways, Boulders Resort & Spa is named for the 12-million-year-old granite boulders that dot the landscape. The resort’s newly renovated guest casitas and villas are shaped into the natural terrain, many bordering the two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Jay Morrish, Arizona’s only Platinum Medal award winner. This special desert hideaway also offers eight tennis courts, six distinctive onsite restaurants and a 33,000 sq. ft. Spa.  The Boulders also offers outdoor adventure activities that begin right on the resort grounds–from rock climbing, the new waterfall rappel, horseback rides, hikes, bicycling and desert fly fishing to hot air balloon rides, private helicopter tours and desert photo tours. NOTE: The newly renovated private Casita accommodations, with their expansive stone-laden bathrooms and a host of creature comforts, also boast dedicated patios wood-burning fireplaces. It’s the only resort in Scottsdale where guests can burn wood in their rooms. The furnished patios overlook breathtaking scenery—all set amidst boulder rock formations estimated to be 12-million-years-old. In fact, the resort encompasses 1,300 acres of pristine, lush land in the high Sonoran desert that’s a true nature lover’s paradise. 7:30 p.m.  

Dinner at the Boulders’ on-site Palo Verde RestaurantResort casual attireGreat pleasure awaits at the newly renovated Palo Verde, the resort’s signature restaurant. Chef Brian Archibald offers a new Contemporary Southwestern Cuisine that respects the integrity of the region and incorporates local Arizona ingredients and freshly foraged products from the resort’s Organic Garden.  Relax and enjoy a sublime dining experience on the outdoor patio with glorious views of the scenic duck pond with grassy knolls where Gambel’s quail and newborn rabbits scamper. NOTE: All six of the Boulders’ on-site restaurants use ingredients from their 5,600 square foot organic garden or local farmers or purveyors, which ensures guests experience the sights, scents and tastes of the region. And here’s a fun fact: In 2016 Chef Archibald competed on the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” competition and won! Not surprisingly, the conceptual dishes, expert preparation and gorgeous plating at this restaurant are second to none.

**DAY 2

8:00 a.m.                            

Fitness Center

Get energized with a workout on your own, or sign up to join a group fitness class. NOTE: The spacious fitness center has a wide assortment of newer-model exercise machines, free weights and cardio equipment.

10:00 a.m.   

 Breakfast at the resort’s on-site Spa CafeThere is a special energy and spirit here–a peaceful environment where people interact in easy harmony with nature.  Early mornings are magical when the spectacular desert sunrise casts a warm golden glow on the 12-million-year old boulder formations. The Spa Café menu takes advantage of the ripe bounty from our own Organic Garden offering healthful yet delectable dishes can be enjoyed indoors or the outdoor patio. The cuisine is prepared to ensure peak freshness.

NOTE: Want to eat light post-workout? Try the Spa Eggs Benedict featuring a cast iron seared beefsteak tomato, oven roasted turkey, avocado and yellow pepper “hollandaise,” which you can order “on the side.” A tasty and healthy twist on a resort classic. 11:00 a.m.                         

“Boulder Trek ” Guided WalkThis 50-minute adventure trek includes information about how twelve-million-years-ago a geologic eruption left a series of massive rock formations and also about the fascinating background on the topography, flora, fauna and historical sites with petroglyphs, solstice sightings and more.

NOTE: Guests at the Boulders reportedly see more natural wildlife than at any other resort in Arizona—such as coyote, baby bobcats, quail families, roadrunners, Javalina, owls, and many others darting out into the rough.  There is a Desert Photography Tour offered by the property’s resident nature photographer that takes guests to areas where they can photography all the wildlife.

12:30 p.m. 

Check into the Spa at the BouldersThis 33,000 sq. foot facility is a full service spa where guests find restoration, pampering and renewed energy.  The facility incorporates the elements of feng shui and a Zen-like ambiance while staying true to the natural environs and Native American influences of the region. Its 24 treatment spaces are complemented by such signature elements as a labyrinth (path to tranquility), an authentic Tipi for guided meditation, private Watsu pool, Vichy treatments, Couples Spa Suites and a 5,600 sq. ft. Organic Garden. The spa offers a 2,000 square-foot fitness center, yoga studio, a Spa Café and sweeping views of either the awe-inspiring 12-million-year-old boulder piles or Black Mountain in the distance. Contemplative settings include meditation areas, hydrotherapy, a circular tea room and an interior rock and sand garden.

1:00 p.m. 

“Couples Massage” Spa Service (50/80 minutes)

The Spa at The Boulders pampers couples with private spa suites.  With  800 square-feet and private access, full service amenities include private steam/showers, private patio, vanity area, outdoor shower, outdoor fireplace, internet access, indoor and outdoor massage tables, data port and television) and an outdoor Jacuzzi with cascading waterfall. Internet access, Television, and butler service serviced from the Spa Cafe. The Suites are located in the more tranquil (East) wing.  From the patio, the spas the signature elements (a labyrinth (path to tranquility) and an authentic Tipi for guided meditation) are easily accessible. The suite also offers sweeping views of either the awe-inspiring 12-million-year-old boulder piles or Black Mountain in the distance. 2:30 p.m.        

Signature Prescriptive Facial (50 minutes)

A skilled spa aesthetician will provide a thorough skin evaluation before customizing the perfect facial for the unique needs of your skin.

NOTE: As the Spa at the Boulders incorporates the elements of the Native American influences for the region, another offering that’s particularly unique is the Native American Tipi. Spa guests use the tipi for private meditation, soul readings, or shamanic ceremonies.  Guests may also choose to offer a meditation or “prayer bundle” before or after self-guided time. This is the only spa in Arizona that has an authentic Tipi—the structure stands 18 feet in diameter and 26 feet in height and accommodates up to 10 people, used for guided meditation sessions.

Afternoon at leisure    

Enjoy many other fun and relaxing activities the resort has to offerLounging poolside at your choice of (4) resort pools is always a great option, especially during the hotter months. Or, if you’re hankerin’ to get out on the gorgeous greens, play a round of golf on either of two-championship golf courses. If you prefer to get the blood flowing, hit the tennis or pickleball courts for some friendly competition. NOTE: When poolside, be sure to order the “Bobby Slayer Steak Torta” sandwich, which is what Chef Archibald prepared to take the win over Bobby Flay. It’s loaded with savory skirt steak, Oaxacan chiles, crispy chicken skin, cabbage—all doused with rich avocado crema. Yum!

8:00 p.m.    

Dinner and evening activities at the nearby town of Carefree Cave CreekLocated in the foothills north of Phoenix, Cave Creek and Carefree Arizona are adjacent towns with a unique natural environment in common but contrasting personalities. The air is cooler and cleaner than in the city and the location is ideal for day trips south to Phoenix or north to Sedona, Prescott, Jerome, and Flagstaff. With so much going for them, it’s hardly surprising that these sister communities have been capturing the hearts and imaginations of countless visitors for well over a century.

**DAY 3

8:00 a.m.            

Fitness Center

Get energized with a workout on your own, or sign up to join a group fitness class.

9:30 a.m.                            

Breakfast at the resort’s on-site Bakery CafeGrab your morning coffee, some sweet and savory pastries or a quick breakfast-to-go in this cozy Bakery Café. Inspired by classic pâtisseries, this charming bakery offers freshly baked breads, refreshingly crisp salads and delightful confectionary. Treat yourself to a delicious muffin, silky-smooth espresso or mouthwatering treats.     10:30 a.m.                         

Shopping and horseback riding at the nearby town of Carefree Cave Creek

2:00 p.m.                           

Day trip to Butterfly Wonderland Butterfly Wonderland is Scottsdale’s newest destination attraction and largest glass-enclosed butterfly conservatory in America.  It features a magnificent glass atrium that brings a tropical rainforest environment to the Arizona desert, as well as educational laboratories and interactive exhibits, a 3D movie theater, gift shop, and a café-style dining area.

3:00 p.m.                           

Day trip continues to OdySea AquariumOdySea Aquarium offers an entertaining, educational and interactive experience for guests of all ages by combining theme-park-style amusement with highly engaging presentations of aquatic life like no other in the industry. The facility includes a 3D theater, SeaTREK™ underwater ocean walking and a one-of-a-kind voyage through the “Living Sea Carousel.”  Unparalleled features include massive aquatic orbs suspended from the lobby ceiling and filled with colorful schools of fish, and a giant submerged escalator allowing guests to descend deep into the ocean while surrounded by thousands of seas creatures.  Even the restrooms have viewing windows into the shark habitat so guests won’t miss a thing when they need to take a break.  It is located adjacent to Butterfly Wonderland.

8:00 p.m.            

Dinner at the resort’s on-site Spotted Donkey CantinaResort casual attire Fresh, lively, and energetic, the resort’s Spotted Donkey Cantina embraces Arizona’s southwestern influences with “cantina-style” dishes and western flavors in a relaxing atmosphere. Great pleasure awaits patrons where “Modern Mexican” creative cuisine is a mix of regional flavors, top-notch artisanal ingredients and locally sourced foods. NOTE: Atmosphere here is super lively. My personal favorite dish among the many savored, including the Mexican Shrimp Ceviche appetizer (shrimp, cucumbers, avocado, jicama, cilantro & jalapeño, served in a lime aqua chile sauce), was the Chimayo Chile Filete de Puerco. This oven roasted pork tenderloin is cooked to tender perfection and topped with a rich, perfectly reduced bourbon ancho chili sauce. The sliced medallions are served atop green chili bacon, large noodle “mac and cheese.” Enough said.

**DAY 4

At leisure Breakfast at Palo Verde Restaurant

NOTE: Breakfast here is just as impressive as dinner service. The Short Rib Hash, replete with Yukon potato, rajas and guajillo chile sauce topped with a sunny side up egg and served with 3 flour tortillas—is a memorable way to start the day as your small southwestern sabbatical draws to a close.

By 11:00 a.m.                   

Depart from the Boulders Resort & Spa

Sadly all good things must come to an end. But, given that Phoenix boasts more than 450 hotels with more than 62,000 guest rooms—including over 40 luxury resorts—your next marvelous micro-vacation awaits. For its part, given how much there is to do and see at The Boulders Resort & Spa and the caliber of its hospitality, repeat visits to this relaxing nature-laden retreat are certainly warranted. With this city’s dependably warm temperatures that make outdoor activities a way of life year-round, any time is a great time to visit “The Valley of the Sun.”

~~~

“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***