It’s not often that you win an all expenses paid trip to the continent of your choice, let alone one which includes 4 and 5 star accommodation. It’s not often you win a trip which kick starts your dream career of travel writing, nor one which fulfills bucket list items you’ve waited a lifetime to achieve. But even rarer still, is winning a trip where you are mistaken for celebrities… everywhere you go.
Amidst all of the excitement around traveling the world and traveling for free, what really shocked us and took us by complete surprise was the unbelievable Hilton hospitality.
Yes, as competition winners, we were no regular guests. Each property knew we were traveling to promote DoubleTree and share our adventures with the world – however the treatment we received blew us away.
Treated to the best lunches, dinners and, in Panama’s case, ice-cream, with a personal supply of warm chocolate chip cookies and even warmer welcomes often from the entire hotel staff upon each new arrival, stunning suites, and access, recommendations and private drivers for some of the most adventurous activities in each area, we had to keep our head in check to minimize the damage when we would eventually crash back down to earth.
So this is an incredible thank you to recognize each property and staff member who went completely above and beyond and out of their way to make our time in Central and South America fantastic.
Despite traveling on behalf of the brand, the generosity and willingness of every property to go above and beyond really epitomizes the core values of the brand – that the little things and little efforts are what make a truly remarkable travel experience.
As soon as the staff in Costa Rica heard we enjoyed traveling off the beaten path they helped us scrap the itinerary we had in mind. Monteverde Cloud forest, while a #1 attraction is incredibly touristy and we would have a more unique experience in Carara National Park.
Though allocated a daily budget for activities, Michel Provonost went out of his way to coordinate with local activity and tour providers, letting them know who we were and arranging discounted and complementary activities in return for exposure on our blog. He sat down with us to lay out the tourist traps, recommend onsite activities and set us up with lunch boxes for our daily trips so we wouldn’t have to worry about finding lunch in the middle of a volcano crater!
Further, I was absolutely honored to receive an invitation to present the Crystal Cookie Award – a prestigious prize gifted annually to the DoubleTree property which best exhibits the CARE culture to the local community, through outreach efforts both as a hotel and individual team member efforts. This award is a huge deal, and saw a number of top Hilton executives fly to attend the ceremony.
If there is one thing we’ve come to realize about the hotel industry, it’s that General Managers do not get a day off. So on the rare occasion that they do, the last place I’m sure they want to be is at work.
We cannot express our gratitude enough to Wolf Alexandrovich who drove into the hotel on a Sunday morning to drive us an hour and a half out of the city into the Panamanian Jungle so we could explore by ourselves and not be restricted by a tour. We had the time of our lives in Soberania National Park.
The following night he took us out for the best ice-cream in Panama and we had dinner at an amazing local restaurant with a rooftop bar offering spectacular views over the city.
The staff at Doubletree by Hilton Panama City were phenomenal and gave us taxi calculations to avoid being ripped off, and made international calls to confirm our airport pickup the following morning in Peru without complaint, even though it took half an hour!
Another fantastic experience, with passionfruit juice upon arrival, more of those wonderful homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a mouthwatering platter of local fruits waiting in our stunning (upgraded) suite, the El Pardo DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel was our home away from home, and the property was absolutely gorgeous.
The culinary capital of the world, we were treated to Lima’s finest gourmet cuisine, both on and off site. Between an 11 course dinner & show featuring Peruvian folk music and Andean dance, to a phenomenal spread of local cuisine for lunch each day, Gilles Tissier (property GM), Vilko Dorsner (Concierge) and staff really went out of their way to make our time in Lima memorable.
The highlight of our time in Lima was spreading the Cookie Care. We were invited to hit the streets with the property staff to hand out platters of the iconic DoubleTree cookie in celebration of Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. We literally stopped traffic, and 200 cookies vanished in a matter of 10 minutes!
How often do you arrive at a hotel to find the entire property staff waiting to welcome you! We truly lived like celebrities in Paracas, and were overwhelmed with the Hilton hospitality.
While the room was absolutely stunning, the remainder of the property was even more so, and you couldn’t beat the poolside view which stretched out over the South Pacific Ocean to where the desert of the Paracas National Reserve dramatically met the sea.
Despite the property preparing for an inspection, Marcelino Pangan (property GM) took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to accompany us on tour of the Paracas National Reserve, acting as a translator. We were incredibly honored to have been offered a tour with the Director of the Reserve as our private guide.
We cannot thank Marcelino enough for having coordinated this activity. Nor can we thank him enough for the incredible generosity in covering all of our meals – because let me assure you, you have never tasted seafood until you have tasted the grilled seafood platter at the Doubletree Resort by Hilton Paracas.
We traveled on behalf of Doubletree by Hilton DTour; a whole new way to plan – and share – your travels. We were hosted by the above mentioned properties.