Savvy Navigator, purveyor of gay tours the world over, was quoted in a recent issue of Smart Money magazine in an article about Luxury Travel for Less to the wine country in Mendoza, Argentina. With the US dollar bouncing back this week, traveling south of the Equator will provide an unsurpassed luxury vacation experience. Here are some highlights from Kristen Bellstrom’s article in the June 23rd issue:
“Jeffrey Ward rarely takes a vacation that doesn’t involve serious consumption, and last winter was no different, with the Washington, D.C., executive coach and his partner jetting away for nine days of wine buzzes and decadent alfresco dinners. But where the couple is used to scrumming with other oenophiles for a prime spot in the tasting rooms, on this trip they were given intimate private tours by vineyard owners, who offered samples straight from the barrel and would happily chat for hours. What changed? This time Ward wasn’t quaffing Bordeaux in France or Chianti in Tuscany. He was in Mendoza, Argentina, famous for its Malbec wine and a newbie on the gourmet travel scene. With one in six U.S. travelers now enrolling in a cooking class, touring a vineyard, or otherwise including food and wine activities in their vacation since 2004, epicurean travel is no longer just for foodies and wine snobs. Clearly, the unabashed gluttony and hedonism of some of these trips doesn’t hurt. Ward’s trip, for example, was at the Cavas Wine Lodge, a tony Relais & Châteaux property where he and his companion ate succulent Argentine steak under the stars and had massages on their private patio in the shadow of the snow-peaked Andes mountains. Indeed, guests there who don’t get their fill of grapes by imbibing can drop $450 on a “wine therapy” spa package, which includes soaking in a giant tub of Malbec and wine-yeast body wrap.
But despite all the indulgence, gourmet travel is feeling the impact of the fading dollar, with culinary hot spots like Italy and France taking the biggest hit. The International Kitchen, a cooking-vacation outfit that does more than 70 percent of its business in Europe, saw bookings drop about 20 percent this year. Some companies have responded by dishing out new deals. Chicago-based travel agency Select Italy, for one, which used to offer tours like its daylong Chocolate, Wine and Cheese of Piemonte ($537) exclusively on a private basis, now allows travelers to join groups of up to eight, reducing prices by about 25 percent. And new destinations are jumping into the market, with companies like Poland Culinary Vacations hoping to turn pork rolls and pierogies into the next gourmet superfoods.”