Greetings fellow members of the IFWTWA:
As I write this in mid-January, most of the attendees have barely un-packed. Sit a minute, tuck a flower behind one ear and read about our visit to the sunny Mexican Riviera via our "Conference at Sea."
I‘m going to share with you the first part of a thank you IFWTWA guest chef Mario Martinoli’s producer Andrew Harris rushed off to President Maralyn Hill as she boarded her plane home from San Diego:
Hope you’re back in Phoenix safe & sound. I’m going to miss my nightly pillow gifts… Glad Chef Mario was able to add a dash of pizzazz to your "Conference at Sea" aboard the MS Oosterdam…"
The "IFWTWA Conference at Sea" aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam was a success by all definition. As direct result of the quality of this conference, more writers are electing to join IFWTWA; we have strengthened our ties with a major cruise line; and several hotel properties and have increased the visibility and viability of the IFWTWA in the international market.
Conference days at sea were an opportunity to attend professional development presentations, relax aboard ship, get to know other members and form new friendships. Topics included the "Evolution of Publishing," demystifying the book publishing process (PODs and e-books) thanks to John Harnish and Infinity Publishing; a tongue-in-cheek wine appreciation romp via the "Grape Adventure" with kudos to member Cork Millner; successful online marketing by " Turning your blog in to an effective marketing tool" thanks to Jeniffer Thompson of Monkey C Media. An entertaining "outside the box" presentation on "Marketing yourself in this market" with promotional writing by Gail Gerson-Witte assisted by Emanuela Angelo and Carolyn Delafrange generated a buzz of ideas. An inspiring moderated discussion on "Whatever it takes" by book authors Brenda Hill and Maralyn Hill shared an insider’s look at writing a book and publishing for all of us would-be authors.
Culinary Co-Chair Andrea Rademan set up the Chef Mario Martinoli presentations aboard Holland America. His sold-out Pinnacle Grill Dinner and culinary demos were a solid success on-board pleasing the Holland America Line, cruise guests, Chef Mario, and his radio show producer Andrew Harris and, of course, the IFWTWA. In addition, and as an example of brilliant cross-marketing, Mario and his wife Amy Strong broadcast their weekly Los Angeles radio show as we docked in San Diego interviewing Captain Van Der Loo and the Oosterdams’s Executive Chef Rolando Obierna. Well done, Andrea!
In the ports of call, members chose a variety of tours or activities. The Puerto Vallarta shore excursions included a Swim with the Dolphins at Dolphin Discovery; a Zip Line adventure over a jungle river by El Eden; and a city sight-see combining shopping and tequila tasting tour by Arthur’s Tourismo. When we all met up at Villa Premier Hotel for a delightful luncheon with local notables from the Puerto Vallarta Hotel and Tourism Board, all participants waxed poetic when asked about their "once in a life-time" adventures. The tender fresh-fish entree, pretty tables, blended mango margaritas and the cooling breezes blowing through the pool area out to sea all merit our special thanks. Our gratitude to Nora Ocegueda, Destination PR Coordinator, Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board for organizing this memorable day. Thank you to all who gave us this taste of lovely Puerto Vallarta! Forgive me for not thanking you all by name but the El Eden Zip Line adventure and possibly the Don Crispin Tequila tasting had clouded my interview skills!
Los Cabos’ "Day to Remember" hosted by the Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau was another generous gift of Mexican hospitality. We managed to get everyone off the boat and through the shore-excursion plaza to make our way by motor coach up the coast to the gorgeous Sheraton Hacienda del Mar for a property tour with Rene Aguado, Director of Sales and Marketing. Several peaceful gardens, three inviting pools and one knock-out ocean vista under the blazing sun later, we welcomed the refreshing champagne-luncheon reception. Talking with the F & B, convention, wedding and room-services brass, time was just too short to drink in the view of sapphire sea, not to mention the exceptional margaritas! Our final stop was the Casa Dorada Los Cabos at Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas to meet with Thierry Bauez, Director of Sales and Marketing. After touring the beautiful hotel pool area, we were treated to an afternoon repast right on the beach. A few of us sank right down into the soft sand in our chairs — pre-margaritas! If you enjoy a coastline view, a huge sparkling pool with private cabanas, miles of beach and activities nearby, this is a perfect hotel to spend your days (and nights).
I’ve saved Mazatlan for last because the day was so exceptional, even jaded travel writers were impressed! The shore excursion was beyond belief. I’ll try to capture the rapture for you: while our contingent photographed cliff divers on the Malecon oceanfront, ogled busty bronze mermaid statues, popped into a few museums and the historic Opera house, chefs and local dignitaries gathered in Plaza Machado, the square heart of vibrant old town, preparing a magnificent feast.
About noon, a jazz saxophonist blew sweet mercy as thirsty IFWTWA members wandered in and helped themselves to cold local beer from a beached dory full of ice. A sip of hibiscus and pomegranate tea or a shot of the smooth Sinaloan tequila brought an instant smile. Representatives and chefs from local restaurants and resorts, mayor‘s office, an emissary from the United States Consular agency, local print media, television and the Departamento de Turismo Sinaloa greeted us.
Under a massive tent, fresh blossoms exploded out of dried gourds in the center of each carefully set table. Crystal glasses soon filled with wonderful local wines. Along the edges of the tents, the fresh local seafood bounty of this place known as, "The Pearl of the Pacific" was artfully displayed. A riot of yellows and reds of the tablecloths and florals stimulated the appetite — what a spread! Huge oysters, sweet lobster and crab, plump, fresh shrimp, tuna, the most fantastic banana pie I have ever eaten; salmon, duck, snapper, ceviche, marlin, pineapple rum cake, octopus, pork, scallops, Mahi Mahi; elegant chocolates and petit fours were all inventively presented. The seafood was the freshest I have ever had unless I had caught it myself (I’m from Hawaii, remember?)! It was rated a "10" by all attendees! Thank you, Mazatlan.
We’d also like to extend another invitation to Pueblo Bonito’s Chef Gilberto Del Toro to be a part of IFWTWA. Thanks also to La Cordeliere Executive Chef Marino Maganda Pacheco, Ernie Tomato’s Chef Samuel Bastidas Osuna, El Shrimp Bucket’s Chef Santiago Delgado, El Capitano’s Chef Victor Manuel Burgueno Olivas, Pedro & Lola’s Chef Mariana Gomez Rubio, Restaurant Bar La Costa Marinera’s Chef Reynaldo Rodriguez among many
others. Thank you to all of the restaurant owners and officials from the Sinaloa Secretaria de Tourismo’s office including Raul Llera Martinez ,Melissa Coppel Urrea, Monica Coppel Tirado, Victor Urrea and John Palmerin U.S. Consular Agent; and everyone behind the scenes. Forgive me if I have left anyone out but I was trying to eat and drink while conversing! Special thanks and bravo to IFWTWA member CHRISTIE GREGOVICH, Account Executive, Public Relations,
Y P A R T N E R S H I P who set up this outstanding excursion for us.
Our gratitude also to Erik Elvejord of Holland America Line. Our cruise was sublime; the cabins comfy and spotless, and your gracious staff and cocktail parties will be missed! Thank you for the champagne and flowers.
The support you gave IFWTWA to hold our conference on board was deeply appreciated. We know that working with you on this Mexican Riviera Cruise Conference is just the beginning of a long, beneficial relationship.
Maralyn Hill, you are an incredible gift to the IFWTWA. A year of work, countless phone calls, e-mails, organizational meetings, conferences, planning lists, inventive presentations, swag gathering, etc. (all done though volunteer effort!) Thank you again to Andrea Rademan, your fab 2008 Trips Committee co-chair who has done so much for this organization. And finally, thank you to our hard working and always cheerful Executive Director Patty Anis.
I’m told that on the cruise neither Patty nor Maralyn were ever spotted laying out in a deck chair — they worked the entire trip! You deserve our deepest thanks for creating a fabulous conference and Mexican experience.
Lastly, we’d like to thank the people of Mexico for sharing your culture and beauty with us. You have planted the seed: many of us wish to return to more fully explore your paradise and to share our experiences with a larger audience. We hope to see you soon!
Mucho Gusto! Happy writing about Mexico and adios all!