Virtuoso Travel Week:
Best of the Best 2018

Contributed By Kayla Douglas

At this year’s 30th annual Virtuoso Travel Week, the SmartFlyer team gathered to support our hotel partners at the “Best of the Best” award ceremony. With ten categories and top-notch competition, each nominee received well-deserved recognition; but we were thrilled to see so many agent and client favorites selected as winners!

image via Leila Brewster Photography

Hotel of the Year:

Adare Manor (Limerick, Ireland)

Earlier this year, our team traveled to Ireland for its annual SmartFlyer ONE trip. A visit to the Emerald Isle wouldn’t have been complete for our top agents without a luxurious stay in the Irish countryside. Adare Manor ensured that every aspect of our stay exceeded expectations, so we were beyond thrilled to cheer on the property’s team as they accepted this prestigious award on stage in Vegas.

SmartFlyer One in Ireland at Adare Manor, video via Elysium Productions.

According to Michael Schertz, a NYC-based agent, “Adare Manor is perfect for anyone looking to experience the Irish countryside, it’s a great base to use to explore Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, and the Burren.  One of my favorite ways to arrive to the Manor is a Horse and Hound arrival experience – which can be arranged by your travel advisor to include an escort through the private entrance – it’s the quickest way to make you feel like Lord of the Manor!

There are so many activities that can be done within the Adare Manor grounds alone, archery, falconry, clay shooting, and families could also rent traditional Pashley bikes to explore the perfectly manicured grounds. Adare Manor beautifully blend the modern amenities and comfort (like an iPad to control the lights) with the charm and elegance of a historic manor.”

After an 18-month renovation, this five-star resort reopened its doors in November 2017. With the a state-of-the-art La Mer spa, swimming pool, cinema, ballroom, impeccable dining, newly opened Carriage House and five-star golf experience, guests have everything they need and more. | Book Here >>


Best Achievement in Design:

The Silo Hotel (Cape Town, South Africa)

No, you aren’t imagining it. Your Instagram feed has (definitely) been flooded with the stunning views at The Silo Hotel, a family-owned property located in Cape Town.

Not only does this unique all-suite property sit above the museum, but it incorporates that same sense of style throughout the hotel. Truly it’s a work of art itself!

With years of careful planning before opening in March 2017, architecture and art lovers will appreciate this hot spot’s attention-to-detail. No expense was spared in its design, which is evident when admiring the 80 chandeliers spread throughout the property’s 28 unique rooms.

Laura Crafton, an Atlanta-based advisor says, “The building’s former use as a grain silo inspired its name. It’s fitting that it won the design award because it sits above the Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Not only does this unique all-suite property sit above the museum, but it incorporates that same sense of style throughout the hotel. Truly it’s a work of art itself!”

Beyond its sweeping views of Table Mountain, The Silo features a spa and a panoramic rooftop bar complete with a swimming pool, which is exclusively available for hotel guests. For travelers who are truly seeking an artistic experience, a visit to “The Vault” is a must-do. This basement space houses the hotel’s very own private gallery of African contemporary African art. | Book Here >>

Best Dining Experience:

Meadowood Napa Valley (St. Helena, California)

When touring Napa, travelers have no shortage of phenomenal dining options. From vineyards to hotel restaurants, our team has collected several favorite spots over the years. But few leave quite a lasting impression like Meadowood Napa Valley.

The cuisine here is deep rooted in the Napa Valley community to create an in-the-moment sensory experience.

According to NYC-based agent Xavier Cano, “The Restaurant at Meadowood by Executive Chef Christopher Kostow has the highly-acclaimed honor of being a 3-star Michelin restaurant. They have a tasting menu and a chef’s counter menu with optional wine pairings. The menus are seasonal and ingredients locally sourced.

If you happen to be on property when the main restaurant is fully booked, they have a second option, The Grill, for more casual à-la-carte dining open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Service is top-notch at both and the atmosphere remains upscale but relaxed. The in-room dining menu is similar to that of The Grill and can be enjoyed on your private terrace, or even a picnic can be coordinated.”

Beyond the dining experience, Meadowood is perfectly situated to enjoy the scenic elements of Northern California. Our team recommends working with your SmartFlyer adviser to book a morning hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley. There’s no better way to countdown to afternoon wine tasting than floating over the vineyards themselves. | Book Here >>

Best Bar:

Brown’s Hotel, A Rocco Forte Hotel – The Donovan Bar

In a city rich with multicultural influences, finding an upscale yet quintessentially English spot can be daunting. But for travelers seeking a swanky hotel bar with an authentic U.K. vibe, look no further than The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel. Situated in the home of the oldest hotel in London, this hangout perfectly pairs its historical roots with a hip atmosphere. Fresh from a full refurb this year, the Donovan Bar is now bigger, bolder and more glamorous than ever.

A cool, stylish haven in the middle of Mayfair.

According to Emyr Thomas, a London-based agent, “The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel has always been a cool, stylish haven in the middle of Mayfair. The bar is adorned with the pictures of iconic 1960s photographer Sir Terence Donovan with cocktails from maestro Salvatore Calabrese. My drink of choice is stiff Martini.”

While the bar is a destination in itself, Brown’s Hotel warrants accolades from purely a hotel perspective, too. It has the charisma travelers crave while extra perks like use of the house Bentley (for trips within a two-mile radius), complimentary wifi and an on-site spa. After a stay here during the Royal Wedding this May, our founder Michael Holtz gives it his official seal of approval. | Book Here >>

Sustainable Tourism Leadership:

Six Senses Douro Valley

As a part of the Six Senses hotel group – a family of properties known for marrying natural beauty and far flung (yet accessible) locations with phenomenal service – their Douro Valley location does not disappoint. When staying at this 19-century manor house perched on a hill over Portugal’s Douro River, visitors feel a sense of community with sustainability at its heart.

It is wholeheartedly focused on sustainability and doing its part to protect the environment.

Dallas-based travel advisor Hillary Taylor visited in December and loved her experience, “Six Senses Douro Valley is not only committed to providing an exceptional experience to its guests with its gorgeous property, impeccable food and wine programs, plus its unbeatable spa; but it is wholeheartedly focused on sustainability and doing its part to protect the environment. On property, Six Senses has curated an organic vegetable garden as well as a protected four-hectare woodland which reflects the extensive ecosystem of the Douro Valley. The production of mineral water on property and efforts to compost, recycle and reuse resources where possible invites the guests to partake in sustaining and protecting the environment as well. Working with local farmers and business owners allows the hotel to play an integral role in advancing sustainability for the whole region as well as serve its neighbors and small businesses.

It comes as no surprise to Smarties that Six Senses Douro Valley received recognition for its leadership in sustainability. Our advisors love working alongside a property making such a positive environmental impact. The fact that they can serve up a delicious Portugese wine is just an added bonus. | Book Here >>

Best Family Program:

The Ranch at Rock Creek

Known as a destination for Hollywood’s elite, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers the ultimate luxury experience in the heart of Big Sky Country. Its diverse 29 accommodations range from Granite Lodge suites to a converted historic barn to glamping tents. With family dynamics running the gamut, travel advisors know that options reign king. That being said, the many different ways to enjoy this property make it a winner for multi-generational trips.

The Kids Club isn’t designed just as a drop-off point for children, but as a truly immersive experience.

New Orleans-based travel advisor Lila Fox has visited and came back raving to her clients, “This beautiful slice of Montana is the most authentic luxury ranch experience out there in my opinion. Complete with a real rodeo on-property (at certain times throughout the year), guests are truly immersed. Specifically, The Ranch at Rock Creek‘s ‘Little Grizzlies Kids Club’ program is a huge benefit for families.  “I’ve had guests return here over and over again because there are amenities for the entire family. The Kids Club isn’t designed just as a drop-off point for children, but as a truly immersive experience.”

The program caters to children aged four to twelve years old and keeps things active with several rotating themes. These include things like Survival & Outdoor Safety Day, Splash Day and Treasure Day. Each one helps to reconnect children with the natural world and broaden their horizons.”

Not only does this Montana ranch have it all for the kids, but mom and dad will have no shortage of things to do either. Activities are dependent upon the season, but include fly fishing, mountain biking, archery, trap & skeet, cross-country skiing, ice skating and more. For the traveling family looking to reconnect to the great outdoors and get their sweat on, this is the ultimate spot. | Book Here >>

Best Wellness Program:


For the traveler seeking a wellness retreat, a simple search will have you with hundreds of options in queue. But they aren’t all created equal. The BodyHoliday is a step above the rest, not only because it includes healthy meals, spa treatments, yoga and other outdoor fitness in their guests’ stays, but because it is set in the lush landscape of St. Lucia.

Where else can you choose from more than 30 rotating group activities and have a personalized health plan awaiting your arrival?

When recalling her experience staying at the ultimate center for restoration, Fort Lauderdale/Miami-based agent Phyllis Samowitz shared, “The BodyHoliday is where rejuvenation and well-being are made fun. All while enjoying the stunning natural beauty of the island’s rainforests and gardens.

This retreat will have you testing your limits by trying new things like sailing, scuba diving, biking or beach volleyball on the private beach. Not to mention, the recently completed $20 million renovation to its hillside and beachside suites, yoga platforms and dining spaces are sure to impress.”

With a mantra that states ‘give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind,’ The BodyHoliday doesn’t just make big promise, but truly delivers. The staff here recognize that every visitor is seeking something different, so plans are optimized to various activity levels and interests. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so be ready to approach this Saint Lucia wellness getaway at your own pace. | Book Here >>

HĂ´tel de Crillon

Best Virtuoso Newcomer:

HĂ´tel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel

He then reminded me that we had last met in Turks and Caicos a few years ago, when he was working at a property there. I was speechless, and continued to be surprised by these special little touches throughout my stay.

The Hôtel de Crillon’s recent $200 million renovation resulted in an even higher caliber of luxury for its discerning clientele. Known to draw a celebrity crowd – particularly to its Karl Lagerfeld-designed suite – this Paris hotspot just got even hotter. Not only is it a trendsetter, but it is steeped in history, too. Case in point? Marie Antoinette once took piano lessons here.

NYC-based SmartFlyer advisor Suzy Xiu describes her stay with fond memories. She shared, “The vibe is Parisian chic. The hotel partners with Saatchi and Saatchi to display unique works of art in each room and includes special little touches like having guests’ initials embroidered onto the pillow cases and bathroom hand towels. The head butler, Alexei, greeted me upon arrival. He then reminded me that we had last met in Turks and Caicos a few years ago, when he was working at a property there. I was speechless, and continued to be surprised by these special little touches throughout my stay. Complimentary wifi and an included minibar are also nice bonuses.

For foodies, I recommend having your travel advisor book you into the property’s fine dining restaurant, L’Ecrin. The chef has been with the hotel since before the renovation and traveled around the world during the four years of the hotel’s closure to perfect his culinary prowess.”

With close proximity to Champs-Elysées shopping, Hôtel de Crillon offers the perfect oasis after returning from partaking in some retail therapy. In fact, if the hustle and bustle of Paris has you needing a longer break, Sense Spa and the wellness pool take relaxation to a whole new level. With so much to enjoy in this city paradise, you may never want to leave. | Book Here >>

If you’re ready to start planning a getaway to one of these top-rated hotels, contact a SmartFlyer agent for more information.

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