Photo Of The Day: Leylon Sneed

This Photo of the Day, titled “Leylon Sneed,” comes from Gadling Flickr pool member Trish Hartmann who captured this image using a Nikon E4500.

Captioning the photo, Trish tells us:

“The Leylon Sneed, shown here leaving the harbor at Crown Bay, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (with Holland America’s Westerdam to the right), is a 109 ft. replica of a Chesapeake Bay oyster boat. It was apparently built in 1989 by Heritage Boats. It was used for day trips out of St. Thomas to St. John and other islands for snorkeling and diving.

I took this photo in December, 2006.

In August 2010, this boat ran aground and was beached by Hurricane Earl at Soper’s Hole in Tortola. The salvage company Husky Marine, out of Road Town, Tortola, refloated her in January of this year, but I am not sure what has happened to this boat since then.

And – who was Leylon Sneed? An internet search comes up with a woman named Leylon Elizabeth Sneed, who lived from 1898 to 1994, but I found no other information on her. Who was she?”

Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as Photos of the Day.”

Tips for getting featured: Include the camera you used along with any other equipment or processing software that might help other photographers know more about your image.

A story to go along with your photo, like Trish wrote for this image, is always a good idea.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Trish Hartmann]

Hotel News We Noted: July 27, 2012

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that this is the month of the Olympics – and we’ll be doing our due diligence by bringing you the best hotel news, packages and trend data over the next few weeks in this column and elsewhere. This week, however, we’re highlighting spots of summer with a slew of new hotel stay reviews, openings, trends and far-out amenities.

As always, if you have a comment, thought, or want to share details from a great hotel you’ve recently experienced, send us an email.

Now Open: Scrub Island
If it’s private island luxury you crave (who doesn’t?) try the newly opened, yet unfortunately named, Scrub Island Resort on the east end of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands (shown at top). As the first luxury resort built in the destination in more than 15 years, the hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Set on a private island and rugged cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, you’ll enjoy a choice of 52 rooms as well as two-, three-, and four-bedroom villas, a spa, restaurants, three private beaches and a 55-slip marina. Rates for a July stay start at $400 per night.

Opening Soon: Margaritaville Atlantic City
Under the boardwalk, down by the sea, on a blanket with my margarita, that’s where I’ll be. More likely, we’ll be in the casino at the Margaritaville Atlantic City, predicted for a May 2013 opening. A hotel-within-a-hotel at the Resorts Casino, the Jimmy Buffett hotel will not be the first – there are already casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Las Vegas, as well as a hotel in Florida and a number of the iconic restaurants nationwide. USA Today reports that the complex will have a restaurant, bar, shops, year-round beach bar and the first ever Margaritaville-themed coffee shop.

Fun Perk: Sing-A-Long Movies at the Westin Resort & Casino, Aruba
This fun Starwood resort adds a twist to their traditional “dive-in” movie theme with a family-friendly Sing-a-Long Movie Summer. Every Tuesday through the end of August, guests gather in the resort’s free-form pool to watch and sing along with classic films like “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Wizard of Oz” and more. Summer rates at The Westin, Aruba start at a reasonable $179.

Hotel Review: The Reef at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas
We are going to give the most positive review we can of our recent weekend at Atlantis in the Bahamas‘ Paradise Island. Keep in mind, we’re probably not the hotel’s target demographic – we don’t have kids, weren’t traveling on a company’s incentive trip budget, and don’t generally love gigantic hotels. The famed casino-resort-cruise ship stopping point was to be our home away from home at the wedding of a friend, the one reason we didn’t book a stay at the One & Only Ocean Club on the island instead.

The price for The Reef? A steep $398 per night pre-tax, which totaled out to an additional $120 per night … and this with a near 50 percent wedding rate discount. The rooms were spacious and the kitchenettes offered a good perk – we ordered from the handy FoodStore2Go to stock up for breakfast and other munchies. Red Flower bath amenities were a lovely touch; the horribly scratchy sheets (we’ve had better at a Hampton Inn for sure) were not.

Generally speaking, service was beyond, even the expected, “Caribbean time” slow. The staff (with the exception of housekeeping) was rude and unhelpful, and the resort was packed to the gills with the patrons dropped off from cruise ships each day. The Cove, the resort’s most luxe portion, was by far the best for adults, but even then, a DJ spinning morning and night at the pool made it feel more like Las Vegas or Miami then a relaxing Caribbean escape.

Rooms in other towers – the Beach, Coral and Royal – looked dated and in need of refurbishment. Sadly, rain deterred our plans to visit amenities like the Dolphin Cay and our time was cut short at the Aquaventure water park, but those definitely seemed worthy of a visit, particularly for families with children. The Mandara Spa, however, was a standout – the spa was still very crowded (go early in the day) but the treatment was one of the best we’ve had.

The final verdict? It’s the perfect day visit from a cruise ship or another resort. If you have kids and want to entertain them, it’s an easy alternative to Disney World. If you’re on someone else’s dime, enjoy! The island is beautiful. If you’re coming as a couple, save your money and go elsewhere.

Daily Pampering: Relax Like a Dignitary at Arundel Villa

Arundel Villa was once the vacation home of political advisor and international lawyer Lester S. Hyman. Now, this fabulous Tortola retreat, which has hosted celebrities and dignitaries alike, is available for rental to the rabble — provided that they have the cash.

This 5-star rated property in the British Virgin Islands is highly secluded on the tricky-to-reach isle of Tortola (only American Eagle, Cape Air, LIAT, Air Sunshine and Caribbean Star fly there), and offers the very best in elegant leisure and service.

To start with, the villa itself is a beautiful three bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom estate divided into three pavilions and set in lush, tropical hillside gardens a short drive from Tortola’s pristine shores. When you arrive, a house representative will pick you and your party of up to six up in a luxury car and bring you to the estate above Cane Garden Bay. The house features modern technological comforts from computer workspace and wireless internet to iPod docking stations, with the exception of a mercifully unplugged tatami room for meditation, set off the master bedroom (so host your friends, but get away from them there). As well as the tatami room, the marble master bath is equipped with an indoor-outdoor shower, for the ultimate island rush.

The main pavilion has a gourmet kitchen — but you don’t have to cook there. Catering is easily available, as well as a personal chef and/or in-house spa services, ensuring you are able to completely relax. To add to your enjoyment, the villa features a swimming pool and hot tub with space for large soirees, a wet bar and even a baby grand piano. For art lovers, Hyman’s personal collection of pieces from around the globe, including a ceramic vase gifted to him by former South Korean president Kim Young Sam and a painting from former Haitian president Prosper Avril, are tastefully displayed throughout the estate.

Villa staff is available to help you arrange shopping as well as dinner in charming local shops and restaurants, as well as excursions including snorkeling and windsurfing. Rates for the high season, January 1 through April 18, 2010 are $7,100 per week, or higher per-night for shorter stays. For more information visit

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Through the Gadling Lens: Prepping for a trip

Recently, I received the following email from someone I’ll call “Willy” (because that’s his name):

We’re going sailing in Tortola this summer with another couple, and I want to take some great shots. How can I prepare in advance of my trip to maximize success? All I can think of now is to look through Flickr and get inspired. Any other ideas?

This is such a great question, Willy — and I’m not just saying that in the vain hope that by flattering you, you and your wife might take me with you. I’m of the firm belief that a little pre-planning before you get on that plane (or boat) can result in the photographs of a lifetime. So, if you permit me a little fantasy time, here’s how I would plan if I were invited on a sailing trip in Tortola with friends. (But, you know, no pressure, Willy.)
1. First, buy a guidebook. I know, I know — this is very un-web-2.0 of me. But the fact is that chances are really good that while you’re traveling, you won’t have access to an internet connection (particularly if you’re on a small sailboat), and it’s always nice to have a handy guide that has just about everything you could possibly want to know about your destination country. A quick search on Amazon reveals that this guide book on the British Virgin Islands is one of their more popular — but if you have friends who’ve already visited, and have a recommendation, take their word. In any event, get the book.

And then, before you actually start your vacation, read the book. Many of these guidebooks are written by people who have actually spent considerable amount of time in the location (or, in some cases, live there), and can give you lots of insight into your destination — which, in turn, can help frame the types of shots you’d like to take. Read it with a photographer’s mindset, and mark the pages you’d like to return to, and plan accordingly.

2. In addition to guidebooks, check out blogs and travel websites. If there’s one thing that blogging has brought us, it’s first-hand experiential opinions of every topic under the sun. So, in addition to perusing Gadling for stories on your destination, use services like Google Blog Search and search for terms like “British Virgin Islands” or “Tortola” or whatever your destination to see what people are talking about, what images they upload, and any other nugget of inspiration. And for what it’s worth, I never head anywhere without first checking out — their “Fodor’s Choice” category on their destinations listing their don’t-miss sights has never let me down.

3. Now that you’ve done your research, start looking for inspiration. By this point, you’ve read your guidebook, and checked out the websites. Now is the time to start searching for images for inspiration. Do Google image searches and Flickr searches based on your destination name, but also based on what your research has turned up: remember, you’re not just trying to copy the images of your destination that have already been taken, but you’re also looking for inspiration from shots of other destinations or activities which might be similar to what you’re going to be experiencing on your own holiday.

Let me explain.

Taking Tortola and the British Virgin Islands as an example, in addition to searching on the destination name, you can do searches based on “beaches.” Looking through our Gadling Flickr pool, you might stumble across this shot…

… uploaded by StrudelMonkey, which is sort of the classic beach shot. Note the play of the colours of blue, white and green, and the coconut tree placed off to one side to help frame the shot. Beautiful.

But then, you’d also come across this shot:

… again, another amazing shot, this time by Arachide, and again showing the play of blues, whites and greens. However, in this shot, it’s all about the tree, and not just the ocean and the sky. It makes you think about other, different ways to frame your shots, and keeping both of these shots in mind when you travel can help you broaden how you might want to capture the seascapes.

Finally, check out this shot:

Okay, so this beach shot (captured brilliantly in Nova Scotia by borderfilms (Doug)) undoubtedly looks nothing like the beaches of the British Virgin Islands — but how cool is the perspective provided by his fisheye lens? You probably wouldn’t want to take all of your holiday shots with this lens, but for a fun change of pace in your vacation album, this provides some additional inspiration.

One more example — this time, doing a search for “sailing” in the Gadling pool, produces this pretty fantastic “in the moment” shot by Kouiskas:

… but you know what? What if, once you get out there on the boat, the sunsets aren’t perfect, and the water isn’t that blue? Are you just going to give up, and put your camera away?

Likely not, if you also found this shot:

I think you’d agree that the weather was hardly cooperative in the shot captured by il lele, above — but what an amazing image! The contrasts are beautiful, you can almost feel how hard the rain is coming down. A shot like this almost makes you hope for a bad day at sea!

And all of the shots above were found before we even started doing searches for “tropics,” “sunsets,” “lush,” “green,” “sand,” “surf,” “seafood,” “drinks,” “mountains,” “coastline,” and heaven knows what other words we can come up with. Just let your mind go, and see what you find.

4. Once you’re inspired, decide what sorts of photographs you’re going to try to capture, and the equipment you’re going to need to do it. Remember that you’re not just going to shoot scenery shots, but you’re going to want to capture some still lifes, some shots that show the colours and the moods, all types of shots (we talked about the kinds of shots that make a complete album here). And in Willy’s case, since he’s going to be traveling with his wife and friends, he’s definitely going to want to capture some portraits of his travel companions as well. Once yo
u’ve figured out what types of shots you’d like to take, this will help you decide what equipment (particularly lenses, if necessary) you’ll want to pack.

5. Finally, if you don’t have all the equipment you’d need to take all those shots, consider renting. So now that you’ve been inspired, and you feel like you won’t be able to live without that huge 18-200mm lens, or that fantastic fisheye, (or, heck, and underwater camera for your once-in-a-lifetime SCUBA dive), do you go out and spend tons of money? Not unless you really want to — remember, there are companies that will allow you to rent photographic equipment just for your trip. As described in this great post on Shutter Sisters, companies like LensRentals will allow you to rent particular lens, with reasonable insurance rates in case something happens to the equipment. If you do all of the above planning early enough, the equipment will arrive at your doorstep via FedEx in plenty of time for your trip.

So, Willy (and those of you who are planning equally exotic vacations), hopefully this post will help you plan for your trip. And, you know, make you so grateful, you’ll feel moved to invite me along.

Just saying.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks, and feel free to send her your photography questions directly to karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom. She’ll happily tackle them in upcoming posts.
And for more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Luxurious isolation at Peter Island

Four miles south of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and accessible only by boat or helicopter, Peter Island is occupied exclusively by the Peter Island Resort. Consisting of only 52 rooms and three villas-along with 1,800 acres containing five private beaches-you’ll have no trouble finding a genuine retreat from the frenetic pace back home.

Guests at this exclusive resort can revel in treatments at the 10,000 sqft Spa at Peter Island, including signature services such as the Thermal Sand Bundle Massage, West Indian Honey and Sesame Seed Glow and Thalasso Mud Bowls Alfresco. When such pampering becomes tiresome, dinner at Tradewinds can distract, with cuisine reflecting West Indian influences. In the restaurant’s wine room, up to 300 bottles are displayed in a climate-controlled cabinet, and you can gaze upon $60,000 in consumable inventory.

The most exciting offer on Peter Island consists of three villa estates: Hawk’s Nest, Crow’s Nest and Falcon’s Nest. Redefining super-luxe, these three properties are self-contained without feeling confining. Starting at 3,000 sqft (Crow’s Nest) and exceeding 21,000 sqft (Falcon’s Nest, the newest villa), they offer housekeepers, groundskeepers, valets and chefs, as well as in-villa spas, pools and astounding ocean views. Space and comfort represent the twofold focus of the villa properties, and they do not disappoint.

The magnificence of the Falcon’s Nest villa comes as much from a commitment to style as a dedication to luxury. The work of interior designer Cooper Carry sets the tone, and features such as a rain shower with 150 jets make it tangible. A cascading waterfall, grotto and Jacuzzi are within striking distance of a zero-entry, two-tiered pool. And, yes, there is a swim-up bar. Sitting 350 feet above the Caribbean Sea, this particular villa is positioned to make the most of the water’s available views.

Of course, this level of luxury doesn’t come cheap. A night at the Hawk’s nest starts at $3,400, and if you want to stay at the Falcon’s Next sometime between January 4 and March 31, a night of heaven will set you back $15,000. These are 2008 rates; 2009 hasn’t been published yet. Nonetheless, you can see where this is headed. A shower with 150 jets, unsurprisingly, will cost you a fortune.

The fact that Peter Island is remote-despite being only four miles from its neighbor-is supported more by the exclusivity of the resort than its proximity to its nearest neighbor. Often overlooked but never forgotten, the Peter Island Resort starts at luxury, with the villas offering a class of service that is only too rare. Hiking, biking or sitting by the beach, this destination is sure to relax-and send you home refreshed.