Pearls of Wisdom

Nowadays, more and more hotels are offering unique services to cater to their guests’ every whim. From surf butlers to in-house tattoo artists to pet psychics, the list of luxe hotel amenities is expanding rapidly (and, many would argue, getting more ridiculous over-the-top every day). Some of these may be gimmicks — seriously, The Ritz-Carlton South Beach, tanning butlers? — but other services are more than just asterisks on amenities lists. Dedicated to their craft and eager to educate others on their field, professionals from a variety of industries have been called on by some our favorite hotels to share their expertise— and we want to hear their stories. Our Q&A series provides an inside look at some of the most fun and, oft-times surprising, services hotels offer. (Check out our first installment, with the Affinia’s pet psychic, here.)

Tea Master Robert Rex-Waller will brew you a perfect cup of tea at the Park Hyatt Washington.

We recently interviewed Robert Rex-Waller, the resident tea expert at the Park Hyatt Washington. Tea experts, also known as tea masters or sommeliers, are growing in demand at luxury hotels around the globe. Brewing a perfect cuppa isn’t as simple as Lipton would have you believe, and that’s where experts such as Rex-Waller step in.

The Tea Cellar at the Park Hyatt Washington features over 50 rare and limited-production, single-estate teas from remote regions of China, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the Himalayas — and Rex-Waller is happy to help guests discover new, unique flavors during their visits, whether they order a calming pot of chamomile tea or a $300 pot of exclusive Pu-erh tea. Check out our interview with the tea expert after the jump. Read More »

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"Single studmuffin" wants to hang with lots of ladies -- and who can blame him!
“Single studmuffin” wants to hang with lots of ladies — and who can blame him!

With our Ask Oyster series, we highlight some of the most interesting questions we receive so that all of our fans can benefit from our expert advice. Have a burning travel question you’d like answered? Contact us and put “Ask Oyster” in the subject line.

Dear Oyster,

I’m planning trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and would love your suggestions for adult-friendly, all-inclusive resorts. I’m looking for high-end resorts with an abundance of single ladies.

- Single Studmuffin

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Pet psychic Catherine Ferguson at home with one of her cats.

Pet psychic Catherine Ferguson at home with one of her cats.

Hotels are offering some pretty creative services these days to attract guests’ attention, from surf butlers to in-house tattoo artists to pet psychics. Many of these offerings may be gimmicks, but we couldn’t help but wonder — what do these specialty jobs actually involve? We wanted to hear from the tanning butlers and soap concierges of the world in their own words, so we decided to launch a Q&A series to get the inside scoop.

To kick off the series, we interviewed Catherine Ferguson Ph.D., the pet psychic patronized by the New York City Affinia hotels. For Affinia, a pet psychic service may be a shtick to prove its pet-friendliness (though its Jet Set Pets program should be lauded for its many amenities geared toward four-legged friends). But our interview showed us that those who believe in Dr. Ferguson’s abilities seem to get real insight and comfort from her pet communications. Below, find out what a pet psychic really does — from talking to pets in spirit form to chatting with kimono dragons (who, by the by, don’t have a whole lot to say.) Read More »

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We met the guys of Delta Spirit at Austin City Limits just a few weeks ago and were instantly hooked on the band’s modern take on rock music. Currently on tour (catch them in San Diego tonight), the band spends plenty of time on the road and share our love — and extensive knowledge of — travel. So we caught up with the group’s lead singer, Matt Vasquez, for a little Q&A to get his take on what makes (and breaks) a vacation. Check it out after the jump!

The band is on tour through January 2013.

The band is on tour through January 2013.

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Ask Oyster: Get Nude Credit: iStock Photo

Welcome to our new series, Ask Oyster! Have a burning travel question you’d like answered? Contact us and put “Ask Oyster” in the subject line.

Dear Oyster,

My husband and I have always wondered what it would be like to try the nude lifestyle on vacation, but I have no idea what kind of resorts might offer this. (And I would be a bit embarrassed to call up a hotel and ask!) What are my options?

–Uses Lots of Sunscreen

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Hotel Impossible's Anthony Melchiorri poses in front of a hotel with some rooms for rent. (Photo Courtesy of the Travel Channel.)

Our BFFs over at the Travel Channel are launching an exciting new series on April 9 called Hotel Impossible — and we got to come along for the ride! The one-hour program, airing on Mondays at 10 PM ET, will show Melchiorri critiquing online reviews [Ed. note: Like how awesome Oyster.com's are?!], monitoring service practices, and making decisions on a hotel’s structure, ultimately renovating of a part of the hotel. But before the series starts airing  — and we anxiously await the results of the hotels’ renovations — we were able to check in with the show’s host, Anthony Melchiorri, and find out what he prefers when he’s on the road. Check out his favorite city to visit, feelings about airport food, and more after the jump!

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Every so often, us Oyster editors get lucky enough to chat with industry tastemakers and traveling superstars. Most recently, we were lucky enough to grab the Kleier women (Michele, Sabrina and Samantha) in between promoting their new novel, Hot Property, and filming HGTV‘s “Selling New York” to ask them how they travel in style. Read on to find out how New York City’s real estate elite (and top reality stars!) answered our burning questions.

Credit: Bill Brioux

Occupation: Real estate brokers, TV personalities, authors and mothers!
Favorite Destination: Anywhere with each other, but we can usually be found in New York City
Travel Soundtrack: Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” because when we’re not in New York, we’re still thinking about it!
Ideal Vacation in Three Words: Sun, sand, and family.
Favorite Hotel: Villa D’Este in Lake Como, Italy, especially if George Clooney is there.
Ideal Travel Partner: Each other and each of our (matching!) dogs, Roxy, Lola, Dolly and Dixie.
Airport Food Is: Never our first choice.
We Never Travel Without: Our dogs.
Poolside or Oceanside: Oceanside.
Carry-On or Checked: Carry-on if possible (which is rare) or FedEx ahead. [Ed. note: Smart move, ladies!]
Big Resort or Boutique Hotel: Generally boutique, but it mostly depends on the destination.
Room Service or Dining Out: Dining out, unless it’s an early morning after a late night!

Check out the Kleiers and the rest of the “Selling New York” cast on Thursday nights at 9:30 PM EST on HGTV. Their first novel, “Hot Property,” is available on Amazon.com.

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Carry-on or checked? Travel soundtrack? Airport food? We’ll talk to the biggest, baddest, hottest travelers in the industry right now to get their coveted secrets, tips, and tricks on how they travel best. Hey, everyone’s got their quirks. Find out why these notables live to travel, or travel to live.

  • Name:

    Andrew Zimmern

Andrew Zimmern

Personal Zimmern photo: Zimmern, his wife Rishia, and their son Noah on the beach in Florida

  • Occupation:

    Chef, Writer, Culinary Anthropologist, TV Producer/Host/Writer, Overgrown Child.

  • Started traveling when I was:

    5.

  • Travel soundtrack:

    Jourma Kaukonen QUAH, Roxy Music THIS IS ROXY MUSIC, Brian Jonestown Massacre TEPID PEPPERMINT WONDERLAND, CSNY, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Warhols, Eno, Dusty Springfield, Edward Sharpe, Escovedo, Adele, Zappa, Gnarls Barkley, Clash, Dylan, Brother Ali, Little Feat, MC5, Beatles, Frampton, Stones, Steely Dan, Talking Heads, Traffic.

  • Ideal vacation in three words:

    Me, Wife, Beach.

  • First memorable hotel:

    It’s a tie… Caneel Bay in 1971 and The Georges Cinq and Claridges on a Paris/London trip in 1972. Spoiled me forever.

Beach at Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Beach at Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

  • Favorite hotel:

    Hotel Grand Europe, St. Petersburg, Russia. Best people watching on earth and magical service.

  • Ideal travel partner:

    My wife, we have trained each other.

  • Movie that makes me want to travel:

    2001 A Space Odyssey, I have been everywhere else.

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