Is It Safe to Travel?

June 29, 2016

A day after the latest terrorist bombing this is a fair question to ask. I could go along with my industry and say something trite like “borders divide, travel unites” or something like that but I won’t.

Yes, that phrase is true, but travel in the wake of recent world events would give many people pause. Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando, Istanbul & Istanbul again are all etched into our minds.

In times like these I can totally see the comfort of nesting in my safe home here in San Francisco. Maybe it’s time to go through decades’ worth of photos in your closet instead of exploring a new country, or revisiting a favorite one. I have plenty on those lists. I have plenty of photos too.

It’s an intensely personal decision whether to travel or not. And I’m not going to say, “yes, it’s safe,” or “no, don’t go.” I’ll just say do what your heart tells you to do, today. You can always change your mind. My mom taught me that.

josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco
415.987.0372 |
an independent affiliate of travel experts | a virtuoso agency
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four seasons preferred partner


Josh Friedman is an old-fashioned travel agent offering highly personalized 24/7 service. Specialties include high-end and bespoke luxury travel for small groups and individuals.  His areas of expertise include ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations & luxury hotel stays.  He also plans spectacular honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and completes trips that clients have started and just can’t quite figure out how to finish.

His relationships built over twenty years with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful vacation. As a client you get exclusive and complimentary perks that you can’t get on your own — from VIP introduction to the hotel’s management to upgrades, scrumptious breakfasts and hotel spending credits.

Call Josh for details, the ultimate in service & exclusive luxury hotel amenities with Virtuoso.

4083 24th street, #460250,  san francisco, ca 94114 cst# 2080753-40

Josh Friedman Luxury Travel | San Francisco


Virtuoso Travel Hotel Awards

Live from Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada. All are our wonderful hotel partners providing our clients with personalized service. You won’t get this by booking direct or online. This is a people business! And a great one at that.

Best achievement in design : Park Hyatt Sydney

Best culinary experience: Sur Mersur, Mandarin Oriental. Paris

Best Bar: L10 at Montage Beverly Hills

Best Family Program: Four Seasons Punta Mita

Best Spa: Le Royal Monceau (Miraval runner up)

Most Innovative Guest Experience: Las Ventanas

Most Socially Responsible: Lefay Resort and Spa Lago di Garda, Italy

One to Watch (best? new hotel):  Amanruya, Aegean Coast Turkey

Hotelier of the Year: Villa d’Este, Cernobbio Italy – Danilo Zucchetti

Hotel of the Year: Beverly Hills Hotel, Dorchester Collection


josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco’s financial district
415.987.0372 |
with casto, a virtuoso member agency


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Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys.  Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler.  His personal  relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies often allows for exclusive amenities and VIP status. 

 If you’d like to learn more about luxury travel and our services, please contact Josh Friedman Luxury Travel in San Francisco’s Financial District via phone at 415.987.0372  or email: josh [at] joshfriedmantravel [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, too.

associated with casto, a virtuoso member and four seasons preferred partner, 500 sansome st., san francisco, ca 94111 cst#1008439-10

Seabourn Sojourn Review | Still the Best of the Best

November 17, 2010 

One day when I walked into my office at Seabourn in the early 90s I found out that we had been voted the world’s best small cruise line by the readers of Conde Nast.  And I have a blue t-shirt to prove it! Then a year later, it happened all over again. Fast forward 16 years and now instead of a Seabourn employee I’m a luxury cruise specialist [aka travel agent] sailing along the Great Bahama Banks aboard Seabourn’s inaugural North America sailing of the Sojourn

. seabourn sojourn

Wow! It’s still the best of the best. I’ve been aboard many luxury ships from several lines since my Seabourn days and absolutely nothing compares with Seabourn Sojourn. [or presumably her sister ship, Odyssey, who premiered last year.]  The ship itself is fabulous – absolutely stunning. And the service, which without the hardware would be just expensive steel, hearkens back to Seabourn’s first days when they were the only game in town, and were winning awards right and left. 

sojourn poolIf you follow my blog posts, you’ll know that I am insistent that service levels are impeccable, for without service there is no such thing as a luxury experience. I don’t care how much money a company has thrown at the hardware. Seabourn has more than doubled the number of beds in their fleet over the last 18 months, and the service levels are off the charts. Your every need is anticipated. One barely has to turn his head in any of their dining venues to find a waiter. And when you find your waiter the attitude and friendliness is uniformly delightful. It’s obvious they love their jobs and fortunately the guest (you?) are the beneficiary. 

seabourn sojourn restaurant 2The ship is beyond spectacular. Beauty and style rests in the eye of the beholder, so I won’t say that this ship is “the most beautiful” as I don’t know what my readers’ tastes are. But if you like contemporary without being off the wall modern, and if you like a standardized aesthetic across the ship, subtle tones and clean lines – I think you’ll adore this vacation experience. 

Couple the ship itself, the officers and crew, any one of a million itineraries and the exclusive benefits* of booking with Josh Friedman Luxury Travel and you have a heck of an incredible, affordable and memorable  vacation. 

For more photos, please visit my Flickr page at
For more information on Seabourn, including current online brochures and promotions visit

Honeymoons, anniversaries, romantic getaways, summer family vacations, business meetings and incentive groups all have a home on Seabourn Cruise Line.
Book your next Seabourn cruise and get exclusive benefits with us. You cannot find a lower price anywhere over what we offer.  And sail Seabourn for Free. Just bring along 7 of your friends. That easy.

Josh Friedman Luxury Travel, in association with Casto Travel in San Francisco’s Financial District, is a member of Seabourn’s Pinnacle Club of top producing travel agencies. We’re also a member of Virtuoso, offering you additional cruise amenities typically including an onboard host, cocktail reception and a complimentary exclusive shore event  through Voyager Club. Lowest rates are guaranteed, as is our highest level of service during your booking process.  Reach us at 415.248.5079, 800.433.5777 or    Sign Up For Exclusive Offers!

Silversea’s Silver Spirit | A Visit

Silversea CruisesApril 5, 2010

THE PUBLIC AREAS | are very diverse. Outside it’s like being in South Beach, with very contemporary furnishings, artwork and the pool. The tables settings around the pool incorporate Chilewich placemats on brown rattan. Not your average ship. It’s really a game changer. But then you go inside, and your public areas are mostly deco. Having been raised as a little kid in South Beach, the two do actually go together – 1950s meets 2010s.

THE SUITES | (they’re all suites) are large. They start at 376 square feet with a veranda of 65 square feet included). The feel of these is neither deco or South Beach, but rather pleasant contemporary. It’s a look that appeals to a wide variety of tastes (see next week’s blog on the food at the Four Seasons Punta Mita – it’s similar).  But the bathrooms are spectacular and they took a bit more artistic license here. See my Flickr photo album for pix.
Silver Spirit Suite

I was invited by Silversea Cruises to attend an inauguration ceremony for Silver Spirit – their newest ship. So off to Los Angeles and port of San Pedro I went at the beginning of the month.  The event began at 4PM and ended the next morning, so it was just like a mini-cruise.  Cocktails, dinner, dancing, jazz – the whole package.

I’m rather picky about cruise ships, as you know, having working for both Royal Viking Line and more recently Seabourn Cruise Line.  I’d also like to think my mom raised a classy guy so I think I’m a good judge of what’s good and what’s not good.  And as I tell my clients all the time, it’s even more about the service. What’s a beautiful room or awesome lobby if the overall experience isn’t up to snuff?

The revamped Seabourn Pride & Spirit 10 years ago, with cheesy frescoes in the former classy reception area was not good. The South Beach look and feel of Silver Spirit’s deck, on the other hand, is good.  And so are their restaurants, their clubs, their suites (it’s all suites) and their bathrooms, each with a full tub, shower and dazzling sinks.

THE RESTAURANTS AND CLUBS | For a ship at only 36k GRT and carrying 540 guests, the number of restaurants, grills and clubs (6) is impressive. And there’s a theater big enough for full stage productions to boot.  The design beyond the main restaurant is very modern and classic. The Japanese venue is tres chic (see the window photo above) and the supper club is nice and cozy, and fittingly deco. And the night we were onboard, the entertainer was sultry and mesmerizing. Could have listened to her for hours. On the other hand, the stage production needed to be restaged. Enough said.

It all comes back to service.  But let’s be fair – a brand new, deal changing ship really helps.  Silversea has a phenomenal reputation for service, and one almost never receives a complaint. On their sailings last summer to Alaska to San Francisco we heard rave after rave. That said, growing pains are inevitable, and the service wasn’t perfect. I’d give it an 8 of 10.  And I heard the same thing about Seabourn Odyssey earlier this year. I’m quite hopefully the learning curve will be short.

CRUISING AND VOYAGER CLUB | Of course my one-two solution for learning more about Silver Spirit is to 1) call me and 2) have me book you on a cruise. And remember, you have complimentary membership in Voyager Club, our host and amenities program aboard most luxury cruises aboard Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas.

For more photos, visit my photo site.

Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys.  Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA and abroad, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler and management of study abroad groups. Business services include high-touch reservations, exclusive hotel and airline offers.  His relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful business or leisure trip.

If you’d like to learn more about Silversea, other luxury cruises, or anything else about luxury travel, please contact me in San Francisco’s Financial District via phone at 415.248.5079 or email: josh [at] joshfriedmantravel [dot] com.

Relais & Châteaux | Cookbooks, 85 Inspirational Chefs and Chefs at Home

a culinary idea from

josh friedman luxury travel at casto
in san francisco’s financial district
415.248.5079 |
a virtuoso member agency
[sign up for exclusive offers]

Bring all the favorite Relais & Châteaux Chefs of North America into your own kitchen! Explore an exciting gastronomic world, filled with unique and intriguing recipes. Purchase individually or as a complete set. Call 877-334-6464 to purchase the cook books today!
Maison des Relais & Châteaux, 10 E 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022Get more information by visiting our site


Cunard | Watch Her Majesty The Queen Name Queen Elizabeth

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has named our newest Cunarder QUEEN ELIZABETH
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We invite you to watch as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II names our newest Cunarder, QUEEN ELIZABETH. The naming is a milestone in British maritime history and is a major event of worldwide interest.

Queen Elizabeth is the second largest Cunarder ever built and joins her sister ship Queen Victoria and the flagship, Queen Mary 2. Cunard is celebrating 170 years of famous ocean liner traditions and now operates the youngest fleet at sea.

Naming Ceremony
Queen Elizabeth’s public venues honour the original Queen Elizabeth in her interior grandeur, decor and style, but with modern flair. The Verandah, a new dining alternative, offers guests an experience reminiscent of dining at the original Verandah Grills onboard Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, with menus created by Exceutive Chef Jean-Marie Zimmermann, winner of a coveted Michelin star. The stunning Royal Court Theatre, with private boxes, will feature an imaginative repertoire of musical productions and Shakespeare classics. The Yacht Club, which is named after the lively entertainment space found aft on QE2, offers guests the perfect venue for activities and gatherings during the day or dancing at night, with views from its 270 degrees of windows. The Garden Lounge covered by a vaulted glass ceiling inspired by the glass houses of Kew Gardens, will host occasional evening ‘Supper Clubs’ with live musical entertainment.

Queen Elizabeth will be based in Southampton during her maiden 2011 season, offering roundtrip voyages to the Mediterranean, Baltic and Northern Europe in true elegance.

Learn about all of the celebration and latest happenings surrounding QUEEN ELIZABETH
by visiting


josh friedman luxury travel at casto
in san francisco’s financial district
415.248.5079 |
a virtuoso member agency

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Ships’ Registry: Great Britain. ©Cunard 2010. The Cunard logo and logotype are registered trademarks of Carnival Plc, an English company trading as Cunard Line. QUEEN ELIZABETH is a trademark owned by Cunard. All rights reserved in the United States and other countries.


Backroads in 2011 | Biking Hiking Multi-Sports

The latest from Backroads for 2011.


Really great trips. Ask me about them.

josh friedman luxury travel at casto
in san francisco’s financial district
415.248.5079 |
a virtuoso member agency

New Classic Biking Trips

Sicily: Ancient Civilizations and Mediterranean Sensations
Bustling and boisterous. Warm and welcoming. Where orange and olive groves overlook the Mediterranean Sea, a volcano simmers and architectural treasures beckon. Backroads guests will pedal back in time, into an authentic old-world pace of life.

Greece: The Mythical Magic of Crete
What’s your pedaling pleasure? Eating hills for breakfast—and asking for a second helping? Or getting a lift to the top followed by a breezy downhill spin to the seacoast? Whatever your inclination, it’s time to make dreams of Greece come true by joining Backroads on this one-of-a-kind biking adventure.

Burgundy: From the Morvan to the Côte d’Or
From the forests and farmland of the Morvan to the renowned vineyards and vibrant architecture of the Côte d’Or, Backroads guests will find lots to rave about in Burgundy, pedaling on the Route des Grand Crus, visiting famed towns including Aloxe-Corton, and savoring phenomenal wine and cuisine.

Nova Scotia: Lighthouse Route & the Bay of Fundy
Discover the natural beauty and multicultural heritage of Nova Scotia, “Canada’s ocean playground,” on this perfectly paced pedaling journey. Spin along rugged coastline, past weathered lighthouses and fishing villages, relax at historic inns and savor delicious seafood.

New Walking Trips

Spain: From Barcelona to the Costa Brava & the Pyrénées
Walking in Catalonia is one of travel’s perfect pleasures. Amble with us beneath majestic Pyrénées peaks. Wander in whitewashed fishing villages and charming medieval towns. And bask on Costa Brava beaches just steps from the Mediterranean sea.

French Alps: Alpine Sophistication from Annecy to Chamonix
Experience one of Europe’s most breathtaking landscapes with Backroads. From lakeside Annecy, enjoy world-class hiking amid meadows, glaciers and saw-edged peaks. Visit chic Chamonix and relax in luxurious alpine hotels.

The San Juan Islands, Victoria & Olympic National Park: A Classic Taste of the Pacific Northwest
Discover the Pacific Northwest at its finest on this walking trip in the San Juan Islands, Victoria & Olympic National Park. Highlights include a hike to the summit of Mount Constitution, a stroll in breathtaking Butchart Gardens and a vista-filled walk on mile-high Hurricane Ridge.

Vermont: Among Fall Colors in New England’s Autumn Jewel
It’s Vermont as you’ve imagined—only better! Travelers will enjoy leisurely walks amid a picture-perfect New England landscape of red barns, historic towns and peaceful lakes. They’ll sample maple syrup, visit charming Woodstock and savor the brilliant tableau of countryside aglow in fall foliage.

Maine: In Acadia National Park & Along Penobscot Bay
Join us Down East and discover a wealth of natural splendor and authentic New England charm. From the Forests of Acadia National Park, to the islands of Penobscot Bay, to postcard-perfect Camden, you’ll find much to love about Maine.

New Family Biking Trips

Greece: The Mythical Magic of Crete
The magical Greek isle of Crete sets the stage for this stellar family getaway. Discover seaside Rethymno, rich in Venetian and Ottoman history. Enjoy an epic coast-to-coast ride. Go swimming and kayaking in the Mediterranean, and dine on fresh seafood and other local delicacies.

Sicily: Ancient Civilizations & Mediterranean Sensations
Where can families bike near an active volcano? In Sicily! They’ll pedal in the shadow of famous Mount Etna and visit the World Heritage sites of Scicli, Módica, Donnalucata and Ragusa, brimming with Sicilian Baroque architecture. Just for kids, there’s ceramic painting and even spelunking.

Dordogne River Valley: Off the Beaten Path & Back in Time
Families will love biking in the beautiful Dordogne, a land where history begins with prehistory. Along the way, kids can go canoeing, try a ropes course, tour a fortified castle, learn to work with stone and fire (just like Cro-Magnons!) and marvel at millennia-old cave paintings.

Ireland: Through Cork & Kerry in the Southwest
The whole gang will adore what’s in store while pedaling with Backroads through Ireland’s west Cork and Kerry: Peaceful routes past green hills, quaint cottages and woolly sheep, a rich look at regional history and village culture, and a stay at the venerable Park Hotel Kenmare.

Le Quartier Français | Franschhoek, South Africa

New – The Common Room at Le Quartier Français


Franschhoek, Cape Winelands, South Africa, September, 2010 – The Common Room, the latest addition to the exceptional Le Quartier Français culinary experience, offers diners a menu packed full of lip smacking delights designed by Margot Janse to serve as snacks or the building blocks of a more substantial meal. Margot, in creating this new experience says “Food is constantly evolving and changing and people enjoy food at different times ………we have created a menu that will encourage people to chill out, taste, share and enjoy good times in great company. Being aware that not every meal has to be a “huge spend” we have kept the prices small and the idea is to share with friends.” Fish pops with chakalaka ketchup, bone marrow with salsa verde crust, chocolate and milk ice cream sandwich, are just a few of the WOW-bites on offer.

Occupying the space previously used by iCi, Le Quartier Français’s, bistro-style restaurant, The Common Room is poised to become Franschhoek’s favourite foodie hangout; the perfect place to relax and linger with friends over a tasty dish or two, the local grazing ground.

Here guests can meet up for drinks and snacks or pop in, sans reservation, for a scrumptious breakfast, lunch or dinner. In a truly delightful twist The Common Room has a strict no reservations policy. This ensures that it is refreshingly first-come first-serve in its attitude towards guests and great cocktails can be enjoyed while waiting for a table.

The decor is plush without being overwhelming, and in true Le Quartier Français style it is supremely comfortable. Common Room themed elements add depth and humour to the experience

The Common Room combines the best ingredients, in both its menu and décor, to create another mouthwatering dining experience at Le Quartier Français.

The Common Room is open 7 days a week from 7.30 am to 10.00pm.

Le Quarter Français is a luxurious Relais & Chateaux country inn situated in the French Huguenot valley of Franschhoek, in the Cape Winelands. The Auberge offers eleven en-suite bedrooms, three Grande Rooms, two Petite Garden Suites, and two deluxe suites (with splash pools), which open onto a rose-filled central courtyard and swimming pool. And for the ultimate in luxury, there are four state-of-the-art suites, The Four Quarters, overlooking a private pool and sun-splashed deck.The Tasting Room under the expert guidance of Executive Chef Margot Janse has been in the San Pellegrino top 50 restaurant list for 7 years.

For more information please contact:

josh friedman luxury travel at casto
in san francisco’s financial district
415.248.5079 |
a virtuoso member agency


Radiance of the Seas | A Visit

Radiance of the Seas

A YEAR AND A HALF AGO, in February 2009, I spent two days sailing on board Mariner of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s quite large ship that had just been moved to Los Angeles.  My experience on this ship was pleasantly surprising and I discussed it on a blog post at that time.

If you follow my postings, or know me, you know that my specialty is luxury cruising, i.e. Seabourn or Crystal. But as their ships are not suitable for an action packed , fun family vacation, another option is required – and I have to say that Royal Caribbean has done a great job of understanding this market.  Besides the rock climbing wall, ice skating rink, Johnny Rockets and other type of kid activities and venues, they also have places on the ship for each age group with supervised activities. And for teens, they have a private club which has a very grown up feel with music videos, a bar (Mountain Dew I suppose) andlounge area.  Not to mention a nearby video arcade. Royal Caribbean’s My Family Time Dining program also allows parents to begin their dinner with their kids, and then after 45 minutes the little ones are whisked away to their private adventures while mom and dad’s table is reset and their romantic evening ensues.

While the typical words “understated elegance” used to describe a small luxury ship wouldn’t apply here, RCI  desginers didn’t learn their trade designing Walmarts either. Both the Mariner of the Seas and the Radiance of Seas are contemporary, clean and, dare I say, sophisticated in look and feel.  My friends at SFMOMA might even be impressed. The Radiance uses lots of glass, light colors and wide open spaces.  There is almost nothing stuffy on the ship, save the library.  Check out my pictures and make your own decision.

Complimenting the look, the staff overall was very helpful and friendly – in my book the most important quality any service focused company must have.  They’re not trained to work in a Four Seasons, but the pride most employees put into their work was impressive. It was better during my afternoon and evening spent on board this time, though, than it was on the Mariner last year.

I’m  a Bay Area foodie and I’ll say that my dinner in the Radiance’s specialty restaurant Chops Grill was good. I’d give it a 4 out of 5.  I’m also a design guy and it’s rare that I can enjoy a meal in an unattractive place. It does something to my tastebuds.  At Chops, I really liked the purple velvet drapes, the sea view and the Scandinavian designed flat ware and dinnerware. Very snazzy.  Service was very friendly if not San Francisco polished, and I had a hard time understanding the waiter’s English.

For more information on Royal Caribbean family vacations, traditional luxury cruising and your complimentary membership in our Voyager Club, don’t hesitate to contact me.

For my complete set of photos from this trip and others, visit my photo home page.

Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys.  Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA and abroad, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler and management of study abroad groups. Business services include high-touch reservations, exclusive hotel and airline offers.  His relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful business or leisure trip.

For more information, to learn about our exclusive benefits, and to book, please contact Josh at 415.248.5079 or 800.553.4777. Associated with Casto, a member of the prestigious Virtuoso Travel network.  Be a big fish in our small pond.

Cunard Line Takes Delivery of Queen Elizabeth

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Cunard Line Takes Delivery of Queen Elizabeth
Pictured: Cunard President Peter Shanks symbolically holds the keys to Queen Elizabeth, which he handed over to
Captain Christopher Wells
30 September 2010 Cunard Line has taken delivery of Queen Elizabeth – the second largest Cunarder ever built and the third new liner for the luxury cruise vacation company in six years.The Handover Ceremony took place today on board the new 92,400-ton vessel at the Fincantieri Monfalcone shipyard. The event included a speech by Cunard President Peter Shanks. The Italian flag was ceremonially lowered and the Blue Ensign was raised, marking the entry of another magnificent Cunard liner into the Register of British Shipping.

“This ceremony to mark the completion of the Queen Elizabeth and our acceptance of delivery, is just the first of a number of significant events over the next few weeks – including the ship’s official naming by Her Majesty The Queen in Southampton on Monday 11 October,” said Shanks. “I’m certain the British will take this truly magnificent ship to their hearts, as they have all the Cunard Queens.”

Queen Elizabeth is due to leave the shipyard on 30 September and sail to Southampton, where she will berth at the Ocean Cruise Terminal on Friday 8 October.

Queen Elizabeth will depart on her Maiden Voyage at 5:00pm on Tuesday 12 October.

For more information about Queen Victoria or to book a voyage, consult your travel professional

josh friedman luxury travel at casto
in san francisco’s financial district
415.248.5079 |
a virtuoso member agency

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