Prevue March/April 2016 - (Page 81)

Puerto Rico Caribbean style and authentic cuisine add local flavor to meetings [ON LOCATION] STEVE GRASSO F irst impressions count, and as soon as you arrive at the El Conquistador, a Waldorf Astoria Resort and Spa, you know you're in a luxury space. A blue tile and terra cotta fountain accents a pretty courtyard, which opens to a view of four sprawling swimming pools. Intriguing ironwork sculptures and Mediterranean-style pillars add atmosphere, leading the eye towards the ocean. Our introduction to Puerto Rico began with a 'wines around the world' seminar led by the resort's expert sommelier and crash course on mofongo, the island's national dish, at Chop's Steakhouse. The dish was later brought out to accompany port wine-braised short ribs paired with Caribbean lobster tail. A warm chocolate brownie served in a cast iron skillet with salted caramel popcorn and dulce de leche ice cream proved a hit for dessert. We later explored the resort's considerable meetings space, which includes two 20,000 sf ballrooms, 16 separate breakout areas, and impressive outdoor event space that makes full use of the natural surroundings. The resort recently launched the 'El Con 360' app, which helps planners remotely visualize how their events will unfold in these spaces by viewing 360-degree virtual tours of the whole property. ISLAND VIBE Following a ferry ride to Palomino Island, a 100-acre stretch of private beach owned by the resort that can be hired for events, we experienced island activities including snorkeling, paddleboarding and kayaking. Lunch at Iguana's Cafe, named after the giant lizards that freely roam the grounds, was a whole red snapper with rice and tostones served in a traditional pilon by the resort's event catering team. The island excursion ended with a team challenge where our group competed to build a raft that would float in the sea. Dermont Connolly, managing director of El Conquistador Resort & Las Casitas Village, says VIP breakfast receptions on Palomino Island are also a possibility, adding, "The tropical island paradise can accommodate up to 1,500 guests and is perfect for lavish banquets, business conventions, grand conferences and gala events." URBAN ELEGANCE The second part of our visit took us to San Juan, and the Condado Plaza Hilton. Built in the 1960s, the interiors have been refurbished with a nod to its history. The mid-century modern influence is evident throughout with an urban elegance that makes you feel like you're on-location in a Bond movie. The resort is Puerto Rico's only hotel overlooking both the Atlantic Ocean and Condado Lagoon. The location is alive with shops, restaurants and nightlife, and only minutes away from the Puerto Rico Convention Center and the historic cobbled streets of Old San Juan, the second oldest colonial city in the Americas. Meeting space is plentiful, with 41,000 sf of flexible options, and outdoor events benefit from panoramic ocean views and the atmospheric backdrop of a small colonial era fortification. Cocktails at the Moon Bar were followed by a private dinner prepared by Executive Chef Maria Germania, which included Puerto Rican fish cake, mojito sorbet, and fillet steak with giant shrimp. Other dining options include Picayo, offering Puerto Rican fusion cuisine, and the Eight Noodle Bar, offering a contemporary Asian menu. | 69

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Prevue March/April 2016

Planner’s Pick: Seattle
Fresh Meets: Caribbean Cool
Bureau Buzz: Kansas City
Good Business: Raising the Green Bar
Sea Shores: Celebrity Cruises
A look at inspiring incentive experiences.
MEETING TAKEAWAYS On-site corporate gift experiences gain momentum
GAMING DESTINATIONS Gaming resort incentives are becoming as exciting as their settings
CALIFORNIA DREAMING Delivering creative group experiences
3 US CITIES REIMAGINE MEDICAL MEETINGS Immersive wellness programs make their way into the mix
On Location: SBM Monte Carlo
WELLNESS, SOUTHERN STYLE Southern backdrops rejuvenate groups
SECRETS AKUMAL [ON LOCATION] Luxury & immersive experiences make for a successful 2016 Leadership Summit
On Location: Australia
On Location: Bermuda
Checkout: Azamara Club Cruises
On Location: Puerto Rico
Club Med

Prevue March/April 2016