Billy Snook, owner of Seven Seas Scuba, tells a story about diving in Browning Pass, north of Vancouver Island, when a giant octopus slithered familiarly onto his lap. Snook’s diving apparatus, a closed-circuit rebreather, allows close encounters like this because it emits no disturbing bubbles and allows longer dives. Since Snook was able to stay still longer and adapt to the creature’s surroundings, he made a new deep-down friend.It’s these types of experiences Snook enjoys while teaching his advanced diving students; the thrill of becoming one with the underwater environment, seeing the beauty of the ocean floor, and enjoying sea life displaying more natural, undisturbed behavior.Name: Billy Joe Snook.Business name: Seven Seas Scuba (owner), 3200 S.E. 164th Ave., Suite 216, Vancouver.Residence city/neighborhood: Sifton.Age: 52.Educational/professional background: I’m originally from upstate New York and was a Navy kid, so we moved 15 times before I got out of high school. I graduated from Columbia River High and then took some vocational training at Clark College.I was working in homebuilding and metal fabrication, and became certified in diving in Maui. While it was a hobby, I was hoping eventually to become an instructor. When the recession hit, I did what I could to make money diving here and in Florida and California.How — and when — you got started in your business: I have been fascinated by the ocean for as long as I can remember. I watched Jacques Cousteau as a youngster and always wanted to learn to dive. I started diving in 1995, became certified and started Seven Seas Scuba in 2004. Now I generally focus my instruction on closed-circuit rebreather diving.
Heralding yet another strong year for growth, Preferred Hotels® & Resorts has accepted 18 new members to its expanding luxury portfolio in destinations across the globe since Jan. 1. The new members span four continents and include nine in the U.S., three in India, and one each in Brazil, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Kenya and Lebanon. They range from the sleek urban towers of The Signature at MGM in Las Vegas and Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago to the exquisite countryside resorts of The Leela Palace Udaipur in India, Castlemartyr Resort in Ireland’s CountyCork and Castel Monastero in Tuscany. Factors contributing to high demand for membership include Preferred Hotel Group’s continued expansion of its global sales team and the robust growth of membership in the I Prefer Guest Benefit Program, which lately passed the 300,000 mark.“Our Preferred Hotels & Resorts brand continues to grow at an impressive rate and each of these 18 prestigious new members reinforces our portfolio in key markets,” said John Ueberroth, chairman and CEO, Preferred Hotel Group. “It speaks to the importance of associating with a strong brand, especially in a challenging economy, and to the real value of the services we offer our members.”Within a private gated environment just steps from MGM Grand’s “Maximum Vegas” experience, The Signature at MGM Grand offers an intimate ambiance that distinguishes it from other accommodations on the legendary Strip. Guests can dine within the sanctuary of their own expansive suite (complete with a fully equipped gourmet kitchen), enjoy seasonal fare at the Signature Bar & Grill, or step out to their choice of exciting restaurants within the MGM Grand resort. Spa treatments are also offered in-suite, and each of the hotel’s three towers features its own heated pool complex. Rising 92 stories above the streets of the WindyCity, Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago offers 339 luxury hotel rooms, a world-class health club and The Spa at Trump, 90,000 square feet of riverfront dining and retail, and a 1.2-acre riverfront park and landscaped esplanade. The hotel represents the Chicago debut of the highly lauded new Trump Hotel Collection brand.Located on the banks of Lake Pichola, the five exclusive suites and 80 guestrooms of The Leela Palace Udaipur overlook India’s picturesque “heritage city” and the Aravali Mountains beyond. This luxurious resort offers a tranquil spa, a lakeside pool, and a selection of fine restaurants – all steeped in the grandeur of Udaipur’s royal past. The Castlemartyr Resort in the Irish countryside of East Cork offers 103 guestrooms housed in a restored, 18th-century Georgian manor, an exceptional spa, and an 18-hole links-style golf course by the award-winning Ron Kirby. The resort’s 220 beautifully landscaped acres hold delights at every turn, from formal gardens to wooded trails to a 13th-century Norman castle. Surrounded by Chianti vines and olive groves, Tuscany’s Castel Monastero, opening in July 2009, will showcase the region’s rich harvest and wines from its own vineyards in its gourmet restaurant. It will feature 74 guestrooms and suites and a spa complemented by a tea room – all within the 1,000-year-old walls of an estate that once belonged to Sienna’s noble Saracini family.In addition to the five hotels and resorts highlighted above, the following exceptional properties are also new to the Preferred Hotels & Resorts brand:· Hotel Zaza Dallas, United States· Hotel Zaza Houston, United States· Innisbrook Resort&Golf Club, Fla., United States· Seagate Hotel&Spa, Del Ray Beach, Fla., United States· MGM Grand Detroit, Mich., United States· Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans, United States· Inn at HarbourTown at The Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island, S.C., United States· The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon, Delhi NCR, India· The Zuri – Kumarakom, Kerala Resort & Spa, Kerala, India· The Habtoor Grand Hotel & Convention Center & Spa, Beirut, Lebanon· RoyalPalmPlaza Resort Campinas, Campinas, Brazil· The Upper House, Hong Kong, China· The DianiReefBeach Resort & Spa, Mombasa, Kenyawww.PreferredResidences.com