Michigan wine-tasting tour is for singles only


LOCKPORT, Ill. -- Singles Travel International, a group touring outfit that caters to middle-aged, single adults, introduced a motorcoach tour of Michigan's wine country.

The all-inclusive, four-night trip departs Chicago on June 26. The cost, which starts at $998, includes luxury accommodations, six meals, three wine tastings, a cream sherry tasting and a champagne and wine reception.

The trip starts with visits to two southeast Michigan wineries: Karma Vista in Colmar, and Fenn Valley, south of Holland, which is a Dutch-influenced village and summer resort on the shores of Lake Michigan.

In Holland, the group will spend an hour and a half touring Windmill Island, where they'll stop at the Posthouse museum, be entertained by Dutch dancers and learn how wooden shoes are made.

From Holland, the motorcoach will head inland to Mount Pleasant, where guests will spend two nights at the new, 512-room Soaring Eagle Resort & Casino, Michigan's only Four Diamond Resort & Casino.

The hotel is motorcoach-friendly and offers packages for motorcoach groups on its Web site at www.soaringeaglecasino.com. Phone: (877) 232-4532.

From Mount Pleasant, the group travels to Frankenmuth, a Bavarian-style village where they'll be treated to lunch, a cream sherry tasting at St. Julien and a visit to Bronners, "the world's largest Christmas store."

Bronners, a 50-year-old, family-run business that said it brings in 2 million visitors a year, features 400 styles of Nativity scenes, 6,000 different types of glass ornaments and decorations and gifts from 70 nations. The store's wholesale division sells to 900 other stores. Items can be purchased on the Web at www.bronners.com.

Directly north from Mount Pleasant, at Mackinac City in the southeastern part of the state's Upper Peninsula, the group boards a high-speed catamaran that takes them to one of Michigan's most popular tourist spots, Mackinac Island, located in the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

A horse-drawn carriage awaits guests outside the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Horse-drawn carriages meet the guests at the dock and take them to the Grand Hotel, the centerpiece of the island.

Built in 1887, the hotel is a member of the National Trust's Historic Hotels of America. According to the hotel's Web site (www.grandhotel.com), each of its 385 rooms is decorated in its own unique style and character.

Mackinac Island constitutes a wrinkle in time. Cars were banned there in the 1890s, and horse-drawn carriage is the chief mode of transportation.

Mackinac Island Carriage Tours lays claim to being the oldest operating horse-and-buggy touring operation in the country. Its origins can be traced to 1869, when Irish carriagemen began conducting tours of the island. Their descendants still manage the company. Narrated carriage tours begin in the center of Main Street and stop at points of interest. For information, call (906) 847-3307 or visit www.mict.com.

A private carriage ride, followed by lunch and a free afternoon to explore the island, precedes an evening in the Cupola at the top of the hotel, beginning with a wine and champagne reception and ending with dinner and dancing. Dress code is jacket and tie for gentlemen and dress for ladies.

The last stop on the itinerary is Traverse City, a short ride from Mackinac City. Travel is interrupted by a wine-tasting lunch at Black Star Farms, a family-owned winery, creamery and horse farm on Leelanau Peninsula just west of Traverse City (www.blackstarfarms.com).

Overnight is at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. With 660 rooms, suites and condos, a 100,000-square-foot spa complex and three championship golf courses, the resort is the area's largest lodging property. Phone: (800) 236-1577; Web: www.grandtraverseresort.com.

The return route follows Lake Michigan via Saugatuck, where guests will stop for optional lunch and shopping.

For more information, call (877) 765-6874 or visit www.singlestravelintl.com.

To contact Destinations Editor Margaret Myre, send e-mail to [email protected].

What agents should know about selling singles travel

LOCKPORT, Ill. -- There are two things Singles Travel International's founder, Tammy Weiler, wants agents to know about her company.

First, that it's here. "Lots of travel agencies have found out about us, but we can't afford to advertise," Weiler said of the 10-year-old outfit, which pays agents 11% commission.

Second, the tours are for singles only, but Singles Travel is not a matchmaking enterprise.

"There are a lot of matchmaking groups out there," she said. "This is different; it's all about travel."

Weiler maintains that her tours -- which she said are upscale, attract 40- to 65-year-old professionals and number 20 to 60 people -- is exclusive in that it brings together people who want to travel but don't want to do it alone.

"As far as I know, we are the only ones catering to singles in that age range," she said.

"The tours are heterosexual," she said. "Sometimes we have more women, sometimes a nice mix," Weiler said. "If I knew how to create a nice mix [every time], I'd be a millionaire."

Some clients come in preformed small groups, but at least half come alone, she said.

"They don't know anybody," Weiler said. "We're really good at assimilating them into the group" -- if that's what they want.

"Most of our people are single or recently widowed, and this is a hard thing for them. We do a good job of caring for them. We meet with them every day, and we have opportunities for them to be together, if they are so inclined."

Weiler said her clients tend to be repeat travelers. "We have a lot of repeat clients who come alone at first, meet others, and then meet up again [on our tours]," she said.

Some, she added, rediscover someone that they had met previously on another kind of tour.

"Now you've got a traveling buddy, which helps people with the single supplement," she said. Singles Travel has a roommate guarantee program.

"That takes the pressure off people who are willing to room with somebody else," she said.

Many of her clients network with each other and move on to travel together on cruises and other types of trips usually associated with couples, Weiler said, thereby getting around the singles supplement and the distaste for traveling alone.

"It's purely about companionship," she said. -- M.M.

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