Seeking Great Food and Wine while Traveling

There are a lot of experiences you can have while traveling. Food, which when prepared correctly, paired with the right wine, and served in a distant land is one of the great  human experiences. The culinary arts have that power to move you. While traveling over the years, I have come to appreciate great meals and have broadened my palate. My wife Karen and I recently cruised on the Crown Princess. Like a lot of these ships, there are the standard restaurants and the specialty (meaning extra cost) restaurants. We have come to expect that the food is ok but rather uninteresting in the standard restaurants, but exceptional in the specialty restaurants Princess was an exception. The main restaurants served outstanding meals. The whole culinary experience added greatly to our trip.

The picture above is from a special meal we had high atop the Burj Al Arab, in Dubai, a six star hotel. After our meal, we were served deserts with real gold. You read that right, real gold. On this, my first trip to the Middle East, I experienced many new foods that were delightful. It sometimes helps to not know what the food is, but just let your taste/smell/touch senses tell you about the experience.

We have some excellent suggestions on vacations that will thrill your taste sense as much as your other senses. Here are some examples:

  • AMA Waterways River Cruises with Wine Experts, Europe
  • Wine Appreciation Avalon River Cruises, 12-19 days, Europe.
  • “Top Chef” at Sea Celebrity Cruises, 7-15 days, Europe.
  • Sail with Chef Nobu Matsuhisa Crystal Cruises, Mediterranean,
  • Guest Chef Cruises on Holland America, 7-14 days,
  • Culinary and Wine Delights of Spain and France on Winstar

Several local restaurant owners host trips that are focused on food and wine. Some are land tours, some are combinations of land and sea tours. We post details of these on our website when they are open to the public. In addition, we offer cruises on Oceania, Regent, Seabourne, Silversea, and Princess, all known for exceptional food and wine. We also can arrange independent travel where you can experience private or group tours of wineries, vineyards, farms, breweries, specialty restaurants and other locations of interest. We can arrange cooking classes or wine tastings depending upon your needs. The world really is your oyster. Break it open and experience life on a grand and tasteful scale.

Call us at 612-332-1100 or email us at We will help you match the destination to your palate.


The Villa Vacation — Is it Right for You?

Jamaican Villa

Many times people come into our offices in downtown Minneapolis and say, “What do you have for a one week stay in Hawaii?” or perhaps it is the Caribbean, Mexico, or some other place. As providers of travel, we know one size does not fit all, and sometimes the client “knows” exactly what they want. If they let us, we dig deeper. Why do you want to go to Hawaii? What kind of vacation are you looking for? Do you just want to relax on the beach or are you interested in hiking around a volcano? Do you want to de stress or do you want to pack as much adventure into your vacation? With these questions we might say that Hawaii is a great destination but there is even a better destination.

It is the same with accommodations. You can stay at a mega resort with more than a dozen restaurants, or you can stay at a small bed and breakfast. Or a small boutique hotel with impeccable service, or a private villa, with a staff.

This blog is all about the private villa. What is it? How to rent one, and how they compare to other accommodations.

First, a bit of a self disclosure. My parents built a villa in Jamaica in the 1970’s for their retirement home. They lived in it for 22 years. As they aged, they made their trips shorter and the villa was unoccupied longer.. They then began to rent it out. They contracted with a local property management company to handle the staff and rentals. Many of the other owners we’ve met over the years rented out their villas as well. And Schilling can obtain a villa for you to rent. I used to take groups to the villa and sometimes the groups were large enough to rent two villas. So I know the business from both sides.

Villas come in all shapes and sizes with different costs and amenities. Some villas come with a staff, others do not. Most in the Caribbean come with pools and staff and range from one to 10 bedrooms. If you have a big family reunion, you might find one of these villas to suit you better than a large resort, as you can all be together in your own private space. If there is a staff, they will handle the cleaning and the cooking. Villas may be part of a resort complex, or standing on their own. When traveling with a large group, the price of a villa vacation can be less than the price at a resort.

When renting a villa, one person should be designated the liaison with the agency. That person should gather the specific type of activities that each of the travelers want. Do they want to just relax on the beach or by the pool, or are they interested in activities such as golf, SCUBA diving, etc. Then one needs to know how many people and what the sleeping room makeup needs to be. Yes, people can have their own bedroom, but as in resorts, single occupancy of bedrooms will cost you more. You should also know what the budget is for the travelers. And of course, what dates your group will travel.

After you know the number of people, dates, sleeping accommodations, activities and budget, it’s time to contact an agent (hopefully us) who will help you find the right property for you. It helps to be flexible on the dates. Unlike resorts, there is only ONE booking (usually) per villa for a set of dates. If you have your heart set on a particular villa, and it is already rented for the week you want, you are out of luck. Fortunately, there are plenty of villas located throughout the vacation world, so you will find something suitable. However, in peak times, its best to reserve 9 months to a year ahead of time. Most villas rent Saturday to Saturday. If you are looking for less than a week, most villas will not rent months in advance on that schedule, but if they have an open week close to arrival, they may relent and rent for less than a week. Bu that is risky to do because if the villa rents the week you were planning, you have very little time to locate another property on the same dates.

Select a few options and go back to your travelers with pictures of the villas, their amenities and nearby activities. Be sure you check specifically on the “musts” on your list, as not all villas have the same amenities. If you want to be steps from the beach, or require high speed internet access, ask about these ahead of time. After you have made your selection, and placed a deposit, you have your reservation set and make your air travel and ground travel plans with the agent.

If you have a villa with a cook, you will want to communicate in advance with the villa rental management on specific food allergies, and preferred food and beverages. The villa will open up an account for your food and other items, which you will be responsible for paying. They will purchase the items in advance for you, so that you will have initial supplies. In most cases, you will be able to return those items you do not want for credit.  If you have other activities that you wish to do such as golf or tours, your agent or the villa staff can arrange for you. At peak times, we would recommend booking tours in advance of the trip so that you can get the tour you want on the day you want.

You will also want to consider transportation, depending upon where the villa is located. You can arrange for a rental car in most places or your can arrange a taxi or other transportation.

If you want to have a great relaxing vacation, away from the beach parties, and dance classes, you might just want to consider a villa as a travel destination.

Destination information:

This will depend upon where the villa is located, and we can assist you in getting from your home to the villa. We have access to some wonderful villas. We suggest that you keep your dates flexible as there is limited inventory. And most villas will not rent for less than one week.