By Melissa LaScaleia
Insider: Tell me about Pampered Journeys.
Marina: I specialize in customized luxury travel trips for individuals, couples, and groups with an emphasis on food, wine, art, and culture. I design each trip differently for each of my clients, because it’s based around their unique interests. I can help a client to realize almost any authentic dream that they have for a foreign travel experience.
Insider: How are you able to offer such hugely customized trips?
Marina: About 80% of the time, I’ve been to the country. So I’m familiar with the culture and have first-hand experience and knowledge of the place.
Additionally, I’m affiliated with Virtuoso, a large luxury consortia comprised of the world’s finest travel agencies and advisors. I forge personal relationships with the people who represent them, and have contacts all around the world, so I can call someone in any country, give them specific instructions for the accommodations, activities, and experiences my clients are looking for— and they will work with me to orchestrate a trip.
We also make suggestions based on a client’s interests of really unique things for them to do. I’ve arranged for clients to share a private tea with Buddhist monks in Korea, a country famous for their teahouses. I’ve planned the itinerary of a group of golfers cruising around Europe, so they hit all the top golf courses enroute; and for a couple who were wine connoisseurs to have a private dinner in one of the best wine cellars in South Africa while they were on safari. I can also secure people reservations to things that book out six months in advance— I arranged for clients cruising around South America to have dinner at two restaurants in Lima that are on the list of the 50 best restaurants in the world—seats not easy to come by.
Insider: Tell me more about your customization process and the resources you have at your disposal.
Marina: I have my clients fill out a questionnaire that elicits the information that I need to give them the best tailored travel experience. My contacts in country through Virtuoso can provide me with current information about construction in hotels or sites, unexpected changes, or cultural upheaval, so I can help my clients avoid the pitfalls that you often can’t discern from researching a place online or in travel magazines.
With Virtuoso, I get benefits for my clients like reduced rates, complimentary perks, and special destinations for cruises, as well as upgrades like private charters. I also have my own personal travel magazine that is tailored to what I offer, which gives clients ideas and options about what’s available for them.
Insider: What’s on tap this winter with Pampered Journeys?
Marina: Winter is cruising season and the time to book is now. Luxury cruise lines are hugely popular because they are like 5-star hotels that you can move around the world in without packing and unpacking. There are a lot of luxury cruise lines as well as European River Cruising operators offering promotions for great trips and experiences now. Promotions arise and sell out so quickly that someone who isn’t a travel agent couldn’t keep up with it, or manage the breadth and depth of what’s being offered. That’s the value that I bring.