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Posts Tagged ‘Beaches’

Puerto Rico, Island of Enchantment

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 | BLOG, Caribbean | No Comments

Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment

No Passport Required!

Want to take a trip to the Caribbean but don’t have a passport? Well take off to Puerto Rico. This beautiful green island is a commonwealth of the United States so no passport is required. With its Spanish heritage, this island has more to offer than one can see in just one vacation, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve seen this varied country until you have seen it from east, west, north and south. With both Spanish and English being primary languages, you will have no problem getting around. It’s easy to drive here if you are the adventurous type and want to get out and explore on your own. If you prefer guided tours, there are plenty of those available too.

First you will want to see Old San Juan and El Moro fort. This area is also chocked full of handsome old colonial buildings, some painted in bright Caribbean colors. There is an endless array of shops and fabulous restaurants. Stop by one of the shops that make and sell local Cuban-type cigars. Even if you don’t smoke them, it is really interesting to learn the history and see how meticulously they are hand rolled. You may want to ship some home to your favorite cigar aficionado. While in this area you can also take a ferry across the bay to visit the Bacardi rum factory. Following the guided tour and learning how this delectable drink is distilled, enjoy complimentary Bacardi drinks before hopping the ferry back to Old San Juan. If you arrive in San Juan via cruise-liner, this is the area where the docks are located so be sure to leave enough time before or after your cruise to enjoy San Juan. You may even want to take a tour via Segway. You will find a tourist information center just outside the dock area.

If you want to stay in this area, there are several hotels located right in the old town. Your next option would be to stay in the Condado area. Here you will be within walking distance of the old historic center but you can stay right on the beautiful tropical beach located in this area. Another option is the area of Isla Verde and Carolinas Beach. About 10 minutes via taxi from the docks and old city and 5 minutes to the airport, this is the beach that made San Juan famous as a beach destination in the 1950’s. You will find older remodeled hotels reminiscent of the old Miami hotels, as well as new hotels. There are both chain hotels and smaller boutique style hotels both right on the beach and a couple of blocks off the beach. The main street, Isla Verde, is a great place to stroll and enjoy many restaurants and local shops. You can even get a bicycle taxi to transport you to the beach if you prefer not to walk.This area makes a great pre or post cruise stop too.

There is so much more to see outside the city, but too much to include here, so stay tuned to my follow up blog about the fabulous tropical paradise of Puerto Rico.

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Travel Agent Myth Buster

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 | BLOG, Travel Tips | No Comments

Do you use a travel agent when booking your vacation?

Most people think that their trip will cost more if they use a professional so they do it themselves by looking at a few brochures, reading an article in a magazine or seeing someplace really cool on television and then going online.
Do they save money? Maybe a little bit.
Do they get the most for their money? Probably not.
Travel agents usually do not charge any fees for their services. They work on commission from hotels, car rental agencies, tour operators, etc. They also can sometimes get perks for you that are not available to the general public, like upgrades, cruise or resort credits and such. Think of the travel agent as an outside reservation agent, sort of like theonline booking engines, only we’re real people.

Is it better to use a larger company than an independent travel agent?

No. In some instances it might be better to go with an independent. Most larger companies have preferred vendors and only use them, so they may not actually get the best offer for you while the independent has no obligations to use specific vendors so they can research more options for you. The indepent agent works for you, not the supplier. On the other hand, sometimes the larger company may have more leeway since they sell volume travel, unlike the smaller agencies. This does not always represent the best value for your money, but if lower cost is more important than quality, then that would be best for you.

 

Can you get a better deal on the internet?

Maybe a lower price, but again, take a good look at what you’re getting. Is your cruise stateroom the smallest darkest lowest cabin on the entire ship? Are transfers included? Is your lovely resort suite overlooking the parking lot or delivery area at the back of the hotel? Did they tell you about the extra per person daily resort fee and taxes that are not included? Your all-inclusive resort was a bargain until you learned that you are limited to local liquor only and all meals are at the one buffet and do not include any of the sit down restaurants. Those cost extra as do the steak and seafood dinners. They specified free wi-fi in the room, but when you arrive you discover that it is DSL and you don’t have a cable but can rent one for a mere $10 per day or use the computer in their business center for $25 dollars a day. If there is a problem, will this online company be there to help rectify the problem for you? Well if you used a travel agent, all it takes is a phone call and your agent will handle any of these problems while you enjoy your vacation.

When you talk or “chat” online with a discount internet travel company, do you ask the agent your working with where they have traveled?

Perhaps they have seen several of the resorts you’re interested in and can give you recommendations based on personal experience or tell you some neat places to visit on your European vacation or a great tour to take while on your cruise. What?! they haven’t been anywhere outside the windowless office where they answer calls and take orders? Where is their office located anyway? These are good questions to ask any travel agent. Nothing is better than having a professional with personal experience who knows the right questions to ask you before you take out the old credit card and put a big chunk of money down on a non-refundable vacation that turns out to be the worst vacation ever. Find a travel agent that is interested in you and not what they want to sell to you. Tell them what you like to do and what you expect on a wonderful vacation. Let the professional suggest some things that you may not even know about. If the travel agent asks for a small deposit up front that goes toward your final payment, then you know they are truly going to spend quality time searching for just the right trip for you and your budget. This is a sign of a true professional. After all, you don’t see other professional doing intense research without at least a small amount of “earnest” money upfront to assure that you are truly interested as well.

How can you not feel more secure in planning something as special as your vacation, honeymoon, family reunion, etc. etc. by going to an experienced travel professional? Going online is for amateurs who don’t know the difference in quality and quantity and that you can have both. So do yourself a big favor and call a travel professional the next time your have travel plans. Save time, headaches and money and just enjoy the trip. You deserve it!

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Sandals Whitehouse

Sunday, August 29th, 2010 | BLOG, Caribbean, Sandals | No Comments

 I have recently returned form a wonderful trip to Sandals Whitehouse on the southern coast of Jamaica. What a fabulous resort!

      

One of my very best friends and I needed some “girl” time since we hadn’t seen each other in about 1 1/2 years, so we decided that a tropical beach vacation at an all-inclusive resort was just what was in order. I needed to get back down to Jamaica and check out the renovations at Sandals Whitehouse made last winter, so we decided that, even though this is a couples resort, we would go down anyway. We really wanted an adults only resort, but like most adults only, it is usually couples. We decided we are a couple, even if we are just female friends, so off we went.We arrived around 9PM for a ride not unlike Mr. Toad’s wild ride across the mountains from Montego Bay to Whitehouse. Arriving at the resort around 11 PM we were greeted with refreshing cold towels and champagne. We were promply checked in while seated on a plush sofa in the newly remodeled lobby and then shown to our beachfront suite. Of course every room is beachfront at Sandals Whitehouse, so this was not unexpected. The huge room with a split bath was wonderful, especially for 2 women and all our “stuff” . We had premium brand liquors, red wine, white wine, sparkling wine and a fully stocked mini-fridge as well as a coffee maker with wonderful Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee to make fresh every morning and enjoy on our oversized balcony overlooking a turquoise blue bay and white sand beach. There was no need to make coffe because there was plenty at the delicious breakfast buffet or the sit down ala carte restaurant, but it was nice to wake up slowly before heading out for breakfast and then hanging at the pool until the afternoon showers came along around 3:00. Sometimes we didn’t even go in for lunch, just got something at the pool. They have alot of activities and games around the three pools at different times during the day. I actually won a print by a German artist playing bingo and the next day I won another print and a very pretty jade necklace by being the first to answer the winning question. We did go snorkeling one morning , this wa included in the luxry included amentities as all water sports are. We had a spa service one afternoon at the wonderful Red Lane Spa, but otherwise we just relaxed and caught up on everything and laughed a lot. The most difficult thing we did was decide where to have dinner and which wine to drink! One night they had a great buffet on the beach with typical Jamaican foods. I couldn’t get enough shrimp. This is one of the things I like best at Sandals, there is never a fee for seafood, steaks or any of the more upscale restaurants or fancy drinks in coconuts. After the dinner, they had entertainment by some Jamaican musicians and a fire dancer and then some hilarious fun games with guest participation. Since the majority of the guests were honeymooners or couples there to celebrate an aniversary or birthday, you can imagine the merriment. Another night they had music and and then a chocalate and wine party on the Piazza. Now that was really good! We had every intention of taking some tours, but there was so much going on at Sandals, we never left the property. I think if time permitted, we could have stayed at least another week, however, after watching all the romantic honeymooners, I was more than ready to get home to see my honey. Being with your best friend while being pampered at a luxury included resort is wonderful and I would highly recommend this for every woman. If you don’t like to share a King size bed, as all the beds are at all Sandals Resorts, or can’t handle having people looking at you questioningly as if guessing your sexal preference, then you might want to consider Beaches, which offers rooms with different bedding arrangements and is also great if you have a group that want a special getaway.

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