Virtuoso Life September 2017 10 Wow Moments: Crafted By Virtuoso Advisors

10 Wow Moments: Crafted By Virtuoso Advisors

Honeymooning with Gorillas
While planning their ten-day African honeymoon – with multiple stops and hotels, and extraordinary experiences such as mountain-gorilla tracking in Rwanda – Shanghai-based couple Gloriana Vega and Gianni Wigisser turned to advisor Crystal Warner of New York City to help them handle the logistics. She worked with Abercrombie & Kent Tanzania, a local Virtuoso tour connection, to craft a custom Rwanda and Tanzania itinerary. Warner uses WeChat, China’s most reliable social network, to communicate with her large client base there. During the trip, Vega sent Warner photos and video of gorilla tracking via WeChat, plus dietary re-quests to pass on to hotels, and other updates, such as this piece of gossip from one outing: “Leonardo DiCaprio was here yesterday!”
ON THE ITINERARY: Virunga National Park, Rwanda; Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
MEMORABLE DAYS: Gorilla Tracking in Virunga “Hiking to see the gorillas – they are so huge! – was the best part of the trip. We got so close to them and saw more than 30 members of a family, plus a mother and child together. The first hike was very long – about seven hours. On the second day we did a shorter hike, which Leonardo DiCaprio had done the day before,” Vega says. “The government in Rwanda now protects the gorillas because of their tourism value, and we loved seeing how the community benefits from a boom in visitors.”

WOW MOMENT: Hot-Air Ballooning in Serengeti National Park - “You see the beautiful, vast Serengeti, with so many elephants and zebras below. It’s wonderful to end with breakfast and Champagne after an early wake-up call,” Wigisser says. 
Photo by Robert Harding/Alamy Stock Photo
Great Adventure in Utah 
“We curated a luxury expedition in the Utah desert for a family of five, led by a team of professional rafting guides. The journey included mountain biking, white-water rafting, UTV racing, and slot-canyoneering in one of the most incredible desert environments on earth. Our team set up a series of bespoke luxury camps along the banks of the Colorado River, complete with bathrooms, a personal chef, and stargazing experts. We flew the family directly using specially adapted Kodiak aircraft that could access remote areas. Upon arrival, they were met by their expedition team and kitted out to bike directly down to the rafting launch site. At the end of the expedition, their aircraft was waiting on a dusty strip of earth to whisk them away. After the trip, we presented the clients with a professionally edited movie shot by our GoPro videographer.”  – Chris Brunning, London
In Arches.
In Arches.
Photo by Stan Moniz Photography/Tandemstock
Vintage Fiat Treasure Hunt in Chianti
“We surprised a VIP group with a vintage Fiat treasure hunt. The group was divided into small teams, each given one of the classic cars. They drove through the Chianti hills for two hours on a hunt that involved photographing a farmer, writing a poem inspired by the hills, painting a picture in a Tuscan villa, and collecting specific ingredients for a meal. They ended up in a local winery, where we’d arranged lunch and a winetasting. The prize for the winners, announced at lunch: spa treatments for the afternoon!”   – Keith Waldon, Austin, Texas
Tuscan treasure-hunting with a classic kick.
Tuscan treasure-hunting with a classic kick.
Photo by Toni Anzenberger/Anzenberger/Redux 
Heli-Hot-Tubbing in New Zealand
“A pair of New Yorkers wanted to take their New Zealand adventure honeymoon to the next level, and we organized a helicopter to carry a hot tub to the top of a glacier. The couple spent two hours in the ultimate bath, with Champagne flowing and 360-degree views of raw Kiwi beauty surrounding them.”  – Barkley Hickox, New York City
Lemons into Lemonade in Canada
“I arranged a rail trip in Canada for clients, which was supposed to be followed by a drive through the Canadian Rockies before they boarded an UnCruise Adventures ship to Alaska. Early in their drive, they had a car accident and totaled their vehicle. They were fine, but shaken up, and stayed at a remote hotel for a couple of days to rest. Although they thought they just wanted to fly home, Marc Télio, owner of Virtuoso’s on-site connection Entrée Canada, arranged for them to fly to Vancouver, met them at the airport, and escorted them to the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, where he set them up in a suite for a few days with a huge spa credit so they could recuperate. They were so touched by this gesture that they’ve told all their friends how wonderfully they were treated and helped in their time of need – and how it turned a disaster into a wonderful memory.”  – Lynda Turley, Saratoga, California
A Cuban Birthday Party – For 80
“Last year I organized a 50th-birthday trip to Cuba for one of our top clients and 80 of his closest friends. The planning began right around the time travel to Cuba exploded, so I con-sider it a great success that we even found the space. A year later I’m still bumping into people who say, ‘That was the best trip we’ve ever taken.’ Coordinating travel for 80 people is a tough task anyway, even at a typical destination – then add in Cuba’s quirkiness and newness as a destination for American travelers, and you have a whole different story. We would never have been able to do what we did without our partners at International Expeditions.” – Katherine Melton Norton,  Birmingham, Alabama
Musicians in the Habana Vieja neighborhood. 
Musicians in the Habana Vieja neighborhood. 
Photo by Evan Lang/Getty Imags
A Thoughtful Welcome in Montana
“Sometimes special touches don’t have to cost anything; they just have to be personal. Longtime clients, a crew of gay men from San Francisco, visited The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana. We spent about $10 on bandanas in various colors, and their welcome note contained individual ‘What color is your bandana’ fortunes of sorts, written specifically for each of them. It was spunky, borderline naughty, and a bit weird – and they loved it.”  – Brooke Lavery, New York City
Hearts Touched and Lives Changed in East Africa
“A few years ago, a client approached me to plan an Africa trip for family and friends – a group of 12 people – during the great migration. They wanted a top-of-the-line safari, as well as some time on a beach. They started off in five villas at North Island in the Seychelles, then headed over to Kenya to do a luxury mobile tented camp tour led by Abercrombie & Kent. After three days, they traveled to Tanzania’s Singita Sasakwa Lodge in Grumeti for four nights. They’re a philanthropic bunch and also competitive. I worked with one family member to arrange a day in Moshi, their guide’s village. They challenged the locals to a soccer match and lost – but they had a blast! The daughter had jerseys made for both teams, and fun was had by all. When they returned from their trip, they wanted to help the village, so I put them in touch with Abercrombie & Kent’s Jorie Butler Kent. The family sent a donation that provided for a new school, an orphanage, and a medical clinic, all fully equipped with supplies; building and running them created jobs for the locals as well.” – Ansley Thomas, Atlanta
Game-spotting at Singita Sasakwa Lodge.
Game-spotting at Singita Sasakwa Lodge.
Photo by Singita/Mark Williams
A Birthday Surprise in Russia 
“Our client’s husband had always wanted to visit Russia, the land of his ancestors. With his 60th birthday quickly approaching, she asked me to arrange that epic trip, with one caveat: It was to be a surprise. The plan was to arrange the entire journey without him knowing; it would be revealed only once they were on their way to the airport. In another twist, three couples, lifelong friends, would be joining them. With help from Exeter International, we planned a weeklong adventure for the group in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, with stays at Four Seasons hotels in both cities. After getting over the shock that he was realizing his lifelong dream, the couple arrived in Moscow. The next morning, they set out to tour the city, with him thinking he would be spending an amazing week with his wife to celebrate his birthday. Meanwhile, their friends arrived and checked into the hotel. Under the pretext of returning to rest after a long day of exploring, the pair arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel Moscow’s lobby to find their closest friends waiting for them. The week continued with many more moments that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”  – Joey Levy, New York City
Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Photo by Bill Heinsohn/Getty Images
Tuscan Renewal
“A couple who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary wanted a ‘wow’ moment in Italy. Since they’re wine lovers and were interested in renewing their vows, I booked them at the Villa La Massa outside Florence. This sixteenth-century Medici dwelling looks out over the Arno River and groves of olive and cypress trees. I arranged a vow-renewal ceremony with a local priest at the villa’s private chapel for the next morning. As a surprise, I had the villa make up a bouquet similar to the one she used when she was married and present it to her as she entered the church. After the ceremony, the couple visited Florence, where they had prearranged tickets to see the David statue for the first time. That night, they dined at the Michelin-starred restaurant Borgo San Jacopo, next door to the Hotel Lungarno and owned by the Ferragamo family. Perched over the Arno with a view of the Ponte Vecchio, it has a wine cellar of more than 900 bottles and is run by renowned chef Peter Brunel. The trip concluded with a winetasting tour of Chianti by private car.”  – Lucy Butler, Los Angeles
Villa La Massa.
Villa La Massa.

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