60 Second Geography - Santorini
Rising out of the Aegean sea, Santorini is really a jewel among the many wonderful Greek islands. Set in its volcanic rim, surrounded by the bluest of water, the island and its villages are one of those destinations that find their way to the top of many traveler's "must see and do before" lists.
- 70% of tourist arrivals are in the months from May to September. Famous for its white buildings set against the blue seas, Santorini sits on a volcanic structure and a cataclysmic eruption may have given rise to the legend of Atlantis.
- Greece is one of the most affordable of European destinations.
- The villages of Thira, Firastefani and Oia are perched high above the sea on the side of the island most often visited by travelers.
- The main port at Athinios will take you to Thira, the island's capital. Thira, and the smaller town of Oia, offer the visitor the culture of Greece, quaint hotels, a wide variety of shopping experiences and great dining all set on the edge of a volcano from which one can sit for hours and enjoy the view.
- Oia's port is easily accessible from the town and surrounded by sea food dining and taverns. After a meal, the traveler can return to the top of the hill by donkey.
- The villages of Perissa and Kamari have black sand beaches on the eastern side of the island. The black sand is beautiful, but — and this is a real warning — very hot in summer: wear beach sandals!
- Public transportation on the island is cheap and pleasant, though sometimes crowded. Scooters, motorbikes and autos are available for the more adventurous. Diving centers are available across the island; scuba and snorkeling are favorite activities here.
What are you waiting for? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and explore Santorini yourself
60 Second Geography - Cuzco
Cuzco (often spelled Cusco), is located in the Southern Sierras in Peru It is a fascinating city which was the capital of the Incan Empire. Cuzco is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is one of Peru's most visited cities as it is the largest and most comfortable city from which tourists can begin visits to the many Incan sites in the area. Cuzco is considered the gateway to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
- Walk around the Plaza de Armas; the square has churches, shops, restaurants and bars backing on to it and is a great place to spend an afternoon. The historical center of Cuzco is beautiful, but you will have to deal with all the street vendors and hawkers of cheap paintings and other souvenirs. They are everywhere in and around the Plaza de Armas.
- Get a massage. You will invariably be propositioned by young ladies handing out flyers advertising massages. These are legit, only cost 15-20 Soles for 1+ hour, but are not done by trained masseuses. Still, for the price it can't be beat.
- Play Sapo, a traditional bar game played in chicharias all over Peru. The game involves throwing small coins, called fichas, at a table with a bronze sapo (toad) attached. You get points for making it into holes on the table, and a ton of points for making it into the sapo's mouth. Best played while drinking chicha (corn beer) at a local dive. Ask an old timer to show you the correct throwing form, as it's difficult to master.
- Talk to local store owners, waitresses and bartenders. They typically know a little English if your Spanish is not good; and are generally happy to share interesting information about the city not found in guidebooks. This is also a great way to find the best places to try cuy, alpaca, and chicha.
- Rent a motorcycle. There are several shops on Calle Plateros, just north of Plaza de Armas, that rent motorcycles for the day. You do not even need a motorcycle license, just your license from home. Prices are typically $40/day which includes two helmets, gloves, and jacket. Where to go? A loop of the Sacred Valley, taking in the market at Pisac, lunch in Urubamba, and several Incan sites, can easily be done in one afternoon. Or head south to some of the less-visited but just as pretty small towns and Incan ruins.
- Try a downhill mountain bike trip either across the Chincheros plains, past Inca ruins and down through the spectacular Maras Saltpans or the 45 mile downhill from Abra Malaga to Santa Maria and onto the totally awesome hot springs of Santa Teresa. If you decide to try this, make sure you hire from a reputable company as there are a lot of bikes out there not maintained for this trip.
What are you waiting for? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and experience Cuzco for yourself.
60 Second Geography - Costa Maya
Don't be led to believe that beaches are all there is to the Costa Maya region. If you want to venture a bit further and immerse yourself in some true Mayan culture, you have several options. The region is home to some lesser known (but still important) Mayan ruins with the most prominent one being Chacchoben, a city dating back to around 350 A.D. The seaside village of Mahahual is also worth a visit. It's history began as a fishing village, but now, with the advent of Costa Maya and more recently some financial gain from Hurricane Dean, there are seaside huts, beautifully groomed (and calm) beaches which are perfect for families, and a boardwalk. However, be aware of the buskers who will be selling the traditional souvenirs.
- The Chacchoben Ruins are the most popular site in Costa Maya. For many years the ruins of Chacchoben remained silent as evidence of the greatness and glorious past of the most brilliant civilization of the new world. Today Chacchoben has become the most popular shore excursion in Costa Maya! Kohunlich Ruins is also popular. This city is dedicated to Kinich Ahau, the Sun God for the ancient Maya.
- The Dzibanche Mayan Ruins are located in the heart of the Costa Maya region. It may take a while to get there, but it is one of the more impressive ruins in Mexico with some of the greatest examples of architecture and urban organization. The city is an ancient ceremonial center surrounded by many religious buildings. Excavations in the larger temples in Dzibanche, revealed tombs holding jade offerings for members of the elite and ruling families. A set of inscriptions recently discovered in Dzibanche, suggest that it could have been home of one of the most powerful dynasties in the Mayan territory.
- The Ruins of Kohunlich are one of the most studied sites in the area with the centerpiece being its spectacular temple dedicated to the Sun God. You will see temples housing stucco masks that are part of a symbolic decoration system reflecting the importance of the cosmos for the ancient Mayans. Kohunlich also features residential complexes and palaces that present a very elaborate architecture, that evidence the importance and status of the families who once lived there.
The ruins are begging to be explored. Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and get started!
60 Second Geography - Colonial Mexico
The colonial cities of Mexico dot the west coast. Each city is unique and brings its own separate character, history, and architecture to the forefront to tell a unique and vibrant story.While these cities are a wonderful place to visit, be sure to look at them from beyond the eyes of a tourist.
You will find many festivals throughout the year in cities like Guanajuato, Morelia and Merida. In San Cristobal de las Casas, you will find an indigent tribe who still believes that the Mayan culture is alive and flourishing-despite the poverty in which they live and the opulence (relative) with which they are surrounded.These cities have it all. From spectacular beaches, fascinating archaeological sites and one of the world's largest cities in the middle of it all. But don't let the tried and true keep you from digging a little deeper into these magical cities and these magical people.
- Chiapas is home to the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Chinkultic, and Toniná.
- Guadalajara's historic downtown features a number of beautiful squares and parks including: Parque Morelos, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Liberacion, Plaza de los Mariachis, Plaza Fundadores, Plaza Guadalajara, Plaza Tapatia, and Rotonda de los Jalicienses Ilustres.
- In Oaxaca, there is a large population of Zapotec and Mixtec Indians in the central highlands surrounding Oaxaca City. It's a land of mountains and valleys checkered with cornfields, at its prettiest during the rainy season (Jun-Oct), when the corn is green. The villages here are famous for their crafts and attract visitors from all over the world.
- Puerto Vallarta is one of the most visually beautiful cities in Mexico. If you are a fan of being outdoors, this is the city for you. You can cool off in a waterfall, scuba dive with manta rays off Islas Marietas or enjoy a sunset stroll along the Malecón promenade. If shopping is your thing, the city has a plethora of boutique shops. The nightlife is electric and some of Mexico's finest dining can be found here as well among the cobblestone streets and adobe homes.
- San Miguel de Allende is a delightful city with a distinctive bohemian atmosphere. Its well-preserved structures house many luxury boutique hotels, art galleries, patio restaurants, and fine shops. By just wandering around the city, you get to admire its unique beauty and feel its distinguishing provincial charm that makes it a true colonial gem. You can also explore your artistic skills at one of its many art and language institutes.
- Guanajuato is a charming colonial city with a unique landscape. Its steep cobblestone streets and formidable architecture portray a singular beauty and a stately allure. Such attributes have made this beautiful city a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can admire the numerous historic sites located all over the city, enjoy the quaint shopping and dining venues, or simply participate in one of many cultural activities organized throughout the year.
- The city of Campeche has a diverse set of historic gems to share with its visitors. Founded in 1540 on a former Mayan trading village, Campeche was the Yucatan Peninsula's main port. Due to the frequent pirate attacks, a set of defensive walls and fortifications surrounding the entire city was built to protect its people. You can see the beauty and magic of the city's colonial buildings, the many archaeological sites nearby, and its natural wonders.
- The City of Villahermosa is a modern city with well-kept colonial buildings and nearby archaeological sites. You can take advantage of its top notch shopping and dining venues, archaeological parks, and several deluxe accommodations. Founded in 1519 by Hernan Cortes, Villahermosa was the area's best-kept secret until in recent years, large oil deposits were found in this region. This contributed to a major economic boom in the area.
- The city of Puebla has been the stage of various key events in Mexican history. Most importantly, Puebla was the set of an unprecedented battle in 1862 where Mexican troops defeated the French Army. Such victory is celebrated today as Cinco de Mayo. The city is known for its unique colonial legacy, growing industrial centers and, for its remarkable contributions to Mexican cuisine. As home of the famous Mole, Puebla is a city that you cannot miss. The city of Puebla has been the stage of various key events in Mexican history.
What are you waiting for? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and experience the beauty of Colonial Mexico for yourself.
60 Second Geography - Colombia
Colombia is such a beautiful country, their people are always happy despite the hardship they've been through. Go to Colombia with an open mind and heart and you'll be guaranteed to come back full of great memories. There is a lot to see in Colombia-Balnearios, or "retreats" within the cities, with Olympic pools, play areas for children, and some wonderful homemade lunch or dinner at an affordable price. The biggest risk for travelers in Colombia is common theft. Crime in general is only a minor concern in large urban areas such as Bogotá, Medellín and Cali, and as long as you take sensible precautions, you are unlikely to experience any problems.
- Walk through Cartagena's welcoming alleys and streets and you will discover one of the most fascinating towns in the Caribbean, with a uniquely romantic atmosphere and well-preserved colonial architectural treasures. To add to its Caribbean Sea appeal, Cartagena is home to the largest fortification in the Americas built during Colonial times to protect it from pirates and buccaneers. Throw in the cultural collage resulting from the Spanish-indigenous mix and you have a vibrant city that should be on every traveler's bucket list.
- Bogota today is a modern city with an intense and vibrant cultural, intellectual and social life. Picturesque, with an important architectural heritage, the world's best Pre-Columbian art collection and fantastic museums, it also is a city of futuristic architecture with enormous modern buildings.
- Colombia's second most important city, Medellin, is a safe, modern city filled with sophistication and charm from its Spanish heritage. Medellin is known by its cultural encounters, the warmth of its people and the amazing views that are accompanied by clear blue skies and beautiful sunsets. Medellin is becoming the destination of choice for many new and seasoned travelers. Due to the beauty of its women, the warmth and friendliness of its people, the year-round spring-like weather, and its gorgeous flowers and mountains, Medellin attracts like a magnet.
- Cali is known in Colombia as the capital of fiestas, street partying, dancing, and salsa. Cali's Salsa Clubs are among the most famous in the entire world. As Colombia's third largest city, Cali preserves the air of a small town populated by quaint residential communities, while reaching upwards with its reflective glass towers and concrete buildings. It is a city, which embraces the modern, without letting go of its colonial past. Cali has quickly become a Mecca for tourism thanks to the beauty of its women, its historical sites, and a multitude of spots for day and night entertainment.
What are you waiting for? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and experience the beauty of Colombia for yourself.
60 Second Geography - Central America
Central America is the remarkable bridge of land that links the North and South American continents. Geographically situated as part of North America, Central America's cultural heritage places it geopolitically closer to South America. These mostly sub-tropical and tropical nations have had historically difficult histories, but since the end of the cold war have made amazing strides in developing their tourism infrastructure and today represent some of the best locations for travel in the western hemisphere.
- Geographically situated between North and South America, the eastern coastal lowlands of Central America border the Caribbean and are the most densely populated areas. The more mountainous central highlands are volcanic in origin and the Pacific coast of the land mass is known for its beaches and drier climate zones.
- The extensive and varied colonial history accounts for the varying American dialects of Spanish and English the people of Central America speak. Belize, a former colony of the United Kingdom speaks predominantly English. In many rural areas, visitors will still hear native Amerindian languages spoken.
- Eco-tourism is a vital part of the emerging tourism infrastructure in Central America. Many of the world's most endangered species of plant and animal life are found only here.
- Some countries, notably Nicaragua and El Salvador, are recovering from decades of civil strife. Their emergence onto the international tourism scene is viewed as a very positive development on the road to economic recovery.
- Cultural tourism is very strong in Central America, especially in Guatemala.
- English speaking Belize claims the world's second largest ocean reef and many pristine diving locations. Community based eco tourism is a large part of the government's economic policy.
- Costa Rica's well developed tourism infrastructure is considered a model for many of the other countries. It's long established democracy and land ownership laws have propelled it to the top position in international tourism in Central America.
- Panama is a nation with a variety of holiday attractions, from its rain forests to the many offshore islands that surround the country.
- The spectacular scenery of Lake Nicaragua in Nicaragua is highlighted by a series of volcanic islands. The country is becoming a retirement haven for US citizens, much like Costa Rica before it.
- In the Honduras, the Bay Islands offer strong diving facilities. The Mayan site of Copan is an important archeological center for the study of the early meso-American civilizations.
Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and start planning your vacation.
60 Second Geography - Cancun and the Maya Riviera
The Yucatán coast has been a staple of travelers from the United States for forty years or more. The rapid development in and around Cancun became a model for the best and the worst in the ways in which tourism could enrich a population. This area was largely isolated from the rest of Mexico until the Mexican government selected the region for development.
- The Yucatán's Caribbean coast is more than 236 miles and stretches from Cancún in the north all the way to Chetumal, on the border with the nation of Belize.
- The northern half of the Yucatán's coast is known as the "Maya Riviera" to the south, the "Costa Maya." Between the two is the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.
- South of Cancun development along the Mayan Riviera is on a smaller scale, with a greater understanding for the principles of sustainable tourism and a respect for native cultures.
- The second longest reef system in the world runs much of the length of the coast. Playa del Carmen, Xpu-Ha, Tulum and the other magnificent beaches occur where there are gaps in the reef and the tidal action of the ocean's waves pounds the reef into fine sand.
- The reef provides great snorkeling and diving and the beaches are some of the world's finest.
- Ancient Mayan ruins dot the coast and are easily accessible from the resort communities along the coast
- Inland, vast caves are present and under ground rivers run where travelers can explore with experienced guides.
- The choice of accommodations is large and varied from cabins to all inclusive resorts or boutique hotels.
- The ancient Mayan cities of Uxmal and Chichen Itza remain some of the best examples of the mysterious cultures, the vestages of which exist to this day in the native populations.
Ready to go to the Yucatán coast? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and get started planning your trip.
60 Second Geography - Cairo
Cairo is the capital of Egypt, the largest city in Africa and the Arab World, and one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Cairo has long been a center of the region's political and cultural life. Even before Cairo was established in the 10th century, the land composing the present-day city was the site of national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo is also associated with Ancient Egypt due to its proximity to the Great Sphinx and the pyramids in adjacent Giza. Egyptians today often refer to Cairo as Masr, the Arabic pronunciation of the name for Egypt itself, emphasizing the city's continued role in Egyptian influence. With a population of 6.8 million spread over 175 square miles, Cairo is by far the largest city in Egypt. With an additional ten million inhabitants just outside the city, Cairo resides at the center of the largest metropolitan area in Africa and the eleventh-largest urban area in the world.
- The Pyramids of Giza. On the outskirts of Cairo, these pyramids are the sole survivors of the Seven Wonders of the World. Admission to the larger Pyramids is limited to 300 people per day. 150 tickets are released for sale at 8am, the remaining 150 are released at 1pm.
- Solar Boat Museum (at the Pyramids of Giza). Houses the barques (boats) that were most likely used to bring the mummies of dead Pharaohs across the Nile to the temple tomb chambers.
- Egyptian Museum. More than 12,000 artifacts from every period of Egyptian history are housed in this sprawling structure.
- The Citadel. A series of palaces and mosques which housed Egyptian rulers for more than 700 years make up a compound which offers fabulous views of the city.
- Museum of Islamic Art. This largely overlooked museum houses one of the world's finest collections of Islamic Art.
- Coptic Cairo. This compound is home to Egypt's Christian community as well as being the oldest area of Cairo. It just is a wonderful place to explore the juxtaposition of an ancient Christian community in an Islamic country.
- Coptic Museum. Dating from 1908 this museum is home to Coptic Art from Greco-Roman times to the Islamic era.
- The New Camel Market. About 20 miles northwest of Cairo, this is a must-see. Sudanese traders haggle over the sale of camels in a carnival-esque atmosphere. It is difficult to find so it is best to arrange transportation through your hotel or travel supplier.
- Northern Cemetery / City of the Dead. An unusual area where thousands of Cairo natives, both living and dead are "housed". The popular ancient ritual of building entertainment rooms alongside of the tombs, have now become spaces inhabited by transients.
Cairo, like many other mega-cities, suffers from high levels of pollution and traffic, but its metro (public transit) — currently the only on the African continent — also ranks among the fifteen busiest in the world, with over 700 million passenger rides annually.
What are you waiting for? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and see this jewel for yourself.
60 Second Geography - Buenos Aires
No time like the present to visit Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America. Still recovering from the 2001 peso crisis, the city is not the expensive destination of the late 1990’s. With the strong US dollar and a very cheap peso, Buenos Aires is an unheard of bargain.
- Buenos Aires is home to more than 40 percent of the population of Argentina. This South American metropolis has a rich, passionate history that is inseperable from its character.
- Buenos Aires resonates as an almost European city. The colonial architecture was built by French, Italian and Spanish immigrants echoes of its European culture are distinct and everywhere.
- The moment you set down in the airport, the energy of Buenos Aires is evident. The rich and alluring architecture goes on forever and from the Plaza de Mayo to residential neighborhoods such as La Boca and San Telmo you will find a vibration that is unique to this South American capital. Excellent public transportation is available to carry you from neighborhood to neighborhood.
- La Boca, on the banks of the Río Riachuelo, was originally a merchantile shipyard. The neighborhood is most famous the early origins of the tango which found its genesis in the quilombos (bordellos) that were plentiful in the early years of the city.
- The tango has its origin in Buenos Aires. Each year in February and March the annual Tango Festival holds sway for 6 days. Tango lovers from all over the world mix with locals. Both experts and beginners are in attendance at the many dance salons.
- La Recoleta is the city's most exclusive residential area and has a very European ambiance. Visit during the weekends to experience the many street performances, art fairs, and events.
- La Recoleta Cemetery, burial place of Evita Peron, is a tourist attraction of note. The monuments of Argentina's ruling class are visited daily by thousands of travelers who leave flowers at Peron's
60 Second Geography - Brazil
The largest country in South America is also the most populous and the most visited by travelers. Brazil's varied landscape and travel themes — from the Amazon to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro are the stuff that avid travelers dream about all of their lives. More Europeans than Americans visit each year, but that mix is changing dramatically with the buying power of the dollar and the discovery of Brazil as a new "in" travel destination. Tourism is of central importance for the nation, and the government has fostered investment in infrastructure and training for the hospitality industry. An intense focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly travel promises to preserve this natural wonderland for generations to come.
- The greatest river basin in the world, Amazonia contains more than 20% of the entire world's fresh water.
- It is a nation of superlatives with the largest river, the greatest rainforest and the world's most exciting Carnival.
- Brazil's culture is an amazing mix of Portuguese, African and Amerindian.
- The city of Americana, outside of Sao Paulo, was founded by disenfranchised soldiers of the Confederate army after the American Civil War.
- The city of Rio de Janeiro is made up of 150 districts. Rio is an exciting city with iconic architecture and monuments.
- The statue of Christ the Redeemer rests on Corcovado Mountain at 2,330 feet above sea level.
- Sugar Loaf, the famous peak rising 1,300 feet above sea level is accessible by a cable car ride.
- Ipanema Beach, made famous by the song, is the center of Rio's beach and night-life.
- The "hippy fair" at General Osorio Square is a much visited site for mingling and people watching on Sundays where local arts and crafts may be purchased.
- Brazil loves its soccer. The Estadio de Maracana is the largest soccer stadium in South America, seating 95,000.
- Tijuca Forest is located adjacent to Rio de Janeiro and at nearly 8,000 acres is the largest urban forest in the world.
- With over 5000 miles of coastline, Brazil's beaches are world class. Some are highly developed while others are nearly deserted stretches of beach and ocean.
- Iguacu Falls consists of 275 smaller cataracts along a 1.5 miles stretch of river.
- Rio's Carnival is the most famous in the world. Months of preparation and planning go into the event and more than 300,000 travelers pack the city each February to participate.
Ready to explore Brazil? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and get started planning your trip.
60 Second Geography - Belize
Sitting on the Caribbean coast between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize straddles North and South America. Only a few hours away from the United States by air, this English speaking country enjoys having some 40% of its landmass in a legally protected area. The main urban city is Belize City, but most people go to Belize for the out of doors attractions, not for nightlife. Snorkeling, diving, fishing bird watching, hiking and exploring the jungle are the main attractions here.
- The high season for tourism runs from late November to late April. The climate in Belize is subtropical and generally similar to that of the most southern areas of the United States. The rainy season runs from June to mid-November and the hurricane season generally runs from June to November.
- The diversity of plant and animal life is nearly unmatched. The jungle canopies are alive with birds and plants, monkeys and cover exotic hiking trails through the forest floor.
- The jungle hides the ruins of great Mayan cities from 1,000 BC. By 900 AD, most of the Mayan civilization has disappeared. Nearly 600 archaeologically significant sites have been found, and hundreds more are likely to exist. The largest known classic Mayan city to date, Caracol, is located in Belize.
- The barrier reef offshore is the longest in the Western Hemisphere at 175 miles. Belize's most famous dive spot is the great "Blue Hole" a submerged cave some 100 feet in diameter that has collapsed on the ocean floor.
- The conservation movement in Belize goes back to the 1970's when the Belize Audubon Society became the primary proponents for the Wildlife Protection and National Parks Systems Acts.
- The Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary boasts more than 5,490 acres. The forest and savanna areas provide cover for a wide variety of animals including black howler monkeys, kinkajous and endangered tapirs and jaguar.
- The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center covers 29 acres of tropical savanna near the center of the country and with 125 native animals in residence. Many of the country's native species are represented.
- The smallest national park is Guanacaste National Park. Easily accessible, Guanacaste is situated just outside the capital of Belmopan near the village of Roaring Creek and encompasses approximately 50 acres.
Ready to escape to Belize? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and get started planning your trip.
60 Second Geography - Bar Harbor Maine
Bar Harboris a town on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County, Maine. Located in Downeast, Bar Harbor was once considered a small fishing and ship-building community. Today, it is a favorite destination for people throughout the world. With Acadia National Park in our backyard, a visit to Bar Harbor affords the comforts and luxury of a classic vacation retreat, but also offers spectacular beauty and natural wonder for those who would prefer to spend their time outdoors.
- Scenic Flight. Fly over some of Maine's historic lighthouses (built in the 1800's) including: Winter Harbor, Prospect Harbor, Egg Rock, Baker Island, Bear Island, Bass Harbor Head and the Blue Hill Bay Light and experience the beauty of the area from above!
- Fish for lobstah. Sail out on a fun lobster boat and sample a day in the life of a Maine Lobsterman! Watch the captain haul in lobster traps and listen to the tales of lobster fishing, seals and other marine life in Maine. Lobstermen always have a story and you likely will hear all about the local history and folklore. The tales sometimes seem tall, you decide if it's fact or fiction! Ask about the Flying Dutchman of Maine, the curse of the Saco River, the night during World War II when a German U-Boat landed two spies on Hancock Point, and any others he may want to throw in.
- Explore Acadia National Park. Did you know that Acadia National Park covers over 42,000 acres? Explore its cliffs, rocky coves, glacier-carved lakes, dense forests and get taken aback by the incredible vistas! Some of the more famous sites include Sand Beach, Otter Cliffs, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond House. Most of the park was donated by the Rockefeller family. As you explore the park you will see hand-cut stone bridges and other evidence of the family's elaborate 57 miles of auto-free carriage trails.
Ready to experience Bar Harbor? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and get started planning your trip.
60 Second Geography - Barbados
Barbados has a legacy of three uninterruped centuries of a stable relationship with the United Kingdom and is sometimes called "Little England". Here one can still enjoy afternoon tea in the British style, cricket is the national sport, and many of the native "Bajans" speak with a British accent.
- The lovely beaches of pink and white sand and a West Indian tradition as thick and rich as the Caribbean offers are characteristic of the Bajan experience. The island is easily reached from the United States, and offers a wide array of excellent facilities for travelers.
- Much of the resort development is on the island's west coast near the capital of Bridgetown and land prices here are extremely high.
- The east coast, exposed to the Atlantic and very rough, is protected from development.
- There is gambling aplenty, from penny slots to the highest stake tables and even private card games.
- Barbados offers up terrific scenery and the Bajan vistas are some of the best in the Caribbean. Driving tours are great opportunities to see the quaint seaside villages and plantations, many dating back to the 17th century.
- Hiking or driving through the interior of the island is very worthwhile. The wonderful beaches get all the attention, but the little visited parishes of St. Thomas and St. George, St. Andrews, St. Joseph, and St. John are all memorable points of interest for the visitor really wanting to get to know Barbados.
- Reminders of the island's long history with England are everywhere. At Trafalgar Square, the monument honoring Lorn Nelson and the great public buildings harken back to the colonial past.
- The Anglican church, St. Michael's Cathedral was first built in 1655 but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1780. Rebuilt in 1789, George Washington worshiped here on his visit to Barbados.
- Farley Hill National Park is the grounds of the former mansion now in ruins, Farley Hill. The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is nearby, an excellent spot for a picnic and time spent watching the waves crash upon the shore.
Ready to experience Bardados for yourself? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and get started planning your trip.
60 Second Geography - Aruba
Aruba is a relatively small island. it is only 20 miles long and slightly less than 6 miles across at its widest point. It is one of the Dutch "ABC islands" consisting of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao and only 19 miles off the north shore of Venezuela. It's easy to get around in Aruba. The public bus is efficient and runs through the hotel zone. Taxis, cars, motorcycles and bicycles are also available for rent.
Anguilla is more than a destination. Anguilla is an experience, a special feeling found nowhere else. Anguilla represents the ultimate in escape from the ordinary, the opportunity to leave behind the busy everyday to wrap oneself in the very essence of relaxation. Visitors come from all over the world to Anguilla to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. As they say in Anguilla "Feeling is believing."
- They must do something right in Aruba. It has the highest hotel occupancy rates and the highest rate of return visitors of any destination in the Caribbean.
- Aruba's leading industry is relaxation. Over 500,000 people visit each year, bringing a lot of money to the island. As a result, Aruba is quite prosperous by Caribbean standards. The locals have good housing, healthcare and education. There is very little history of racial or social strife, so the inhabitants are friendly, warm and open with travelers.
- The city of Oranjested is the capital and was named after the first king of the Dutch Royal Family, Willem van Orange-Nassau, in 1824. Today it is known as the House of Orange. In Oranjested you'll find the Aruba Historical Museum and the oldest building in Aruba, Fort Zoutman (1796).
- One of the real graces of Aruba is its near-perfect weather - a nearly constant phenomenon of sunny skies, warm temperatures, and cool breezes driven off the Caribbean. This island's low humidity and desert like terrain is likewise nearly a full-time affair as it almost never rains and the island is far below the hurricane belt of the Caribbean.
- Aruba's beaches are some of the best in the Caribbean with miles of white, sugary sand. The nearly picture-perfect beach settings and gentle surf are what many people have in mind when they think of this part of the world. Aruba is a desert island full of cacti, iguanas, more cacti, a few aloe-vera plants and unusual boulder formations.
- While the resort area of the island has very calm, pristine beaches, the north coast features craggy limestone cliffs, caves, sand dunes, and a more energetic surf.
- In Aruba, there are plenty of activities. It's a great place to experience snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing or kite surfing. Both experienced and novice practitioners of all these sports find great outlets on Aruba. When you tire of the beach you can dine at the restaurants or do some local shopping. Aruba has two horse competitions each year. The horses are descendants of Andalusian and Arabian horses that were brought to the island by the Spanish conquistadors.
Are you ready to getaway to picture perfect Aruba? Contact Sun Sand Sea Travel LLC and get started.
Bermuda – A True Golfer’s Paradise August 2010
Mark Twin once said, “Go to heaven if you want, I’d rather stay in Bermuda.” The creator of so many great tales definitely knew a thing or two about the great outdoors and while his writings tended to have an expansive setting, he also had a keen eye for the minute details of life.
Bermuda, a small island nation occupying just 22 square miles and at the same time holding claim to more golf courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world, lies only 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Can you say “easy access”? Bermuda truly is a gem, a coral jewel set in a turquoise sea, and like most gems does not come cheap. Price, however, has not stopped Bermuda from becoming an immensely popular playground for wealthy Americans, Canadians and Europeans alike.
The courses of Bermuda, some government owned and some private offer a challenge to golfers, even those with the best of skills. Oh yes, and before you ask, all of Bermuda’s courses are carpeted with “Bermuda” grass, the worldwide standard for durability where golf is played in warm humid climates.
With the exception of the 18-hole par 3 course at the Fairmont Southampton, each of these awesome courses will force you to use every club in your bag. Having spent a week in Bermuda in early August, visited and/or played every course and spent some time with the Director of Golf at each facility, I can tell you, at least from this golfer’s perspective, Bermuda is the place to be for the golfer and non-golfer alike. Due to space constraints, this article will deal only with “the golfer”.
We begin our golfing tour of Bermuda with the youngest and westernmost course, Port Royal. Port Royal was originally developed in the late 1960s and opened in 1970. The course has just undergone a spectacular $ 15 million redesign overseen by Roger Rulewich, a former colleague of the original architect, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and has been transformed into one of the world’s finest public courses. Having played this government owned course just six years ago, I was in shock upon discovering what they had done with the place. Over 1000 trees were removed to open the course up to the incredible vistas of the turquoise Atlantic and the prevailing sea breezes. As a part of this expansive $ 15 million redesign, 84 additional bunkers have been added.
Ranked among the world’s best public golf courses by Golf Digest and named Bermuda’s finest course by the New York Times, Port Royal will again this year be the home of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in October. Last year’s Grand Slam was won by U.S. Open champion, Lucas Glover.
During my conversations with Andrew Brooks, Director of Golf at Port Royal, he described his new home as a “subtropical links course” and from the 7th hole forward each and every shot has an ocean view. I also had the pleasure of meeting Steve Johnson, the chief agronomist, formerly at the famous Green Monkey in Barbados and responsible for everything green on this magnificent course.
As I my home for the week was the Fairmont Southampton, the challenging 18-hole par 54 course was next on my list. According to Director of Golf, Andrew Mocklow (a native Bermudian) Golf Digest rates this par three course as the second most difficult in all of golf. Personally my score of 71 would indicate that it is the hardest in all of golf. With one of the more beautiful opening holes in all of golf, this course was designed to ensure a plethora of exceptional views each challenged in a different way by the warm southern Atlantic breezes. With holes ranging from 110 yards to 216 yards, almost every club in your bag will be requires (my driver was the only club that went unused). So if your short game needs a test of perhaps just some skill sharpening, make sure to add this course to list of courses to play when in Bermuda.
The oldest course in Bermuda is Belmont Hills. Initially built in 1925 at less than 5,800 yards and only one par four longer than 400 yards, Belmont is rather short, but what it lacks in length is made up for in difficulty. Belmont’s calling card is its somewhat spectacular views of the capital of Bermuda across Hamilton Harbor with the contrast of cruise ships in port off in the distance.
At 5,800 yards most golfers expect this to be an easy day on the links. With numerous two-tiered greens, tight fairways and blind shots to the green most golfers figure out rather quickly that this will NOT be an easy round. As a matter of fact, even the best of golfers will find themselves consistently missing one green after another with what looks to be an easy wedge shot.
Bermuda’s most heralded course is the exclusive Mid Ocean where guests can generally be only introduced by members. Mid Ocean, designed by Charles Blair Macdonald in 1924 and updated in 1953 by Trent Jones has a setting that is often compared to Cypress Point or Turnberry. That comparison is somewhat unjustified in that only a few of Mid Ocean’s holes actually run by the sea with water being only an occasional threat. One exception to that is the 5th tee where one must decide how much of Mangrove Lake to cut off as they drive down towards a sharp dogleg left. Rumor has it that even Babe Ruth seldom made it across the long end of Mangrove Lake, although he ALWAYS tried.
Should you decide to play Mid Ocean, a caddie is highly recommended as this course offers numerous blind tee shots and virtually every green has a false front. Even if you don’t need a caddie for these two reasons, you will most certainly need one to read the undulating greens of Mid Ocean.
Next door neighbor to Mid Ocean lies Tucker’s Point which originally opened for play in 1931. The course is the centerpiece of a $ 350 million development that houses a five-star rated hotel and spa and dozens of luxury villas and private residences. Tucker’s Point is often referred to as the “Beverly Hills of Bermuda”. Prior to modernization, Tucker’s Point was known as Marriott’s Castle Point. The course which was originally created by Charles H. Banks in 1931 was modified by Trent Jones in the 1950s and finally re-done by Roger Rulewich a few years back.
Tucker’s Point, known for its steep elevation changes and generous runoffs, requires precision shot-making if you are going to successfully find your way around this magnificent course. The signature 17th-hole provides a drivable green that offers an incredible vantage point overlooking Tucker’s Town, but golfer beware … it is full of opportunities to ruin a great round. This hole is fraught with danger!
Far shorter, but by no means easier, is Riddell’s Bay which was built in 1922 on a narrow peninsula only about 600 yards wide. Andrew Mocklow, the Director of Golf at Riddell’s as well as his duties at the Fairmont Southampton, says the course is barely 5,700 yards long from the tips, but it sure seems to me it was a lot longer. The part of this course that gets the adrenalin going is the loop from the 8th hole to the 12th hole. The 8th hole, a 360-yard par-four (and number one handicap) is the signature hole that doglegs around Little Sound and poses a “testosterone” question of how big a slice of the “sound” does the golfer want to cut off with his or her tee shot. I chose to take the dry route and had a short pitching wedge to the green. The 9th and 10th holes are both shorter par fours but require accurate drives across some fairly treacherous bodies of water as well and the 11th is a short par-three. The 12th, while easy on the eye, is not nearly so nice to the golfer as you have yet another tee shot across water to a narrow tree-lined fairway.
Riddell’s is definitely worth a visit while in Bermuda, especially if your game has grown a bit shorter in recent years. Be sure and tell my buddy Andrew you heard about him in Woods and Irons.
The only course not worth a visit is the nine-hole Ocean View course. While it is perhaps challenging, it has fallen into bad repair and is a course that can easily be passed by on your list of things to do while in Bermuda. St. George’s, another government owned course, is still closed to golfers even though it is still being maintained. Rumor has it a Park Hyatt Hotel is coming in on or near the course but no one seemed to know for sure not even the sports folks at the Bermuda Department of Tourism.
Apart from playing golf, there are a number of activities from the beautiful pink sandy beaches, to the magnificent crystal caves, the historic Royal Navy Dockyards, Devil’s Hole Aquarium, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute or maybe just some upscale shopping in the capital city of Bermuda, Hamilton.
So if Bermuda has been on your bucket list for a while, what better time to check it off or if you are a golfer and it is not on your bucket list, its way past time to get that list out and add BERMUDA GOLF TRIP to it.
Beaver Creek, Colorado January 26, 2010
Having the opportunity to enjoy a quick getaway 4 day weekend in the mountains is an offer I have always had a hard time saying “no” to and this past weekend was no exception especially when my good friend Patti offered up her beautiful condo at Creekside in Beaver Creek at wholesale rates. So Lisa and I loaded up her children Alex and Rachel and two of my four kids, Chad and Rachael and we headed up to Beaver Creek for two days of skiing and one day of snow mobiling.
Beaver Creek has long been my absolute favorite spot for winter sports activities and going back there after a five year hiatus was extra special. There were many firsts on this trip:
-First time Lisa and I have ever been skiing together
-First time I have ever skied with Alex and Rachel
-First time in years that Chad and my Rachael have both been with me on a ski trip
-First time I ever rode a snow mobile (more later)
So we flew out on Friday afternoon and by Saturday morning at 9 we were on the slopes for a most enjoyable day of skiing. Colorado has not received anything close to their normal dose of snowfall this year so we were very surprised that all lifts and all runs were open and available for the taking. We skied most of the morning and then stopped for lunch at the Chophouse, a really fine mountain eatery right at the base of the main lift. If you ever have a chance to get to Beaver Creek and you stop for lunch, be sure to stop in to the Chop House and ask for Kathleen, simply one of the most delightful waiters I have ever experienced … and the food wasn’t bad either.
So after a full day of skiing, Lisa and I sent the kids out for dinner and she and I went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Colorado, Splendido at the Chateau. This fabulous restaurant has all the class and sophistication of a New York City restaurant, but in an awesome mountain setting. With fare to rival the best restaurants in any major city and you can get in with blue jeans (freshly pressed) and a turtle neck. In a rather unusual dinner, Lisa and I both had enjoyed a couple of their fish specials.
Day two (Sunday) Lisa had made arrangements for us to be picked up at the condo for a 45 minute ride to Camp Hale for a half day of snow mobiling in the mountains. This was something that has been on my bucket list for years and I finally got to do it … wow, what a thrill. Each of us had our own snowmobile and headed up the mountain with our expert guide Jeff Kieper . Jeff is with Nova Guides (www.nova guides.com), a company that does all types of outdoor activities, whitewater rafting, Hummer tours, ATV tours and rentals, float and wade fishing, mountain biking and even paintball, but today snowmobiling was the activity of the day. We spent over 3 hours exploring endless miles of open meadows and winding mountain roads enjoying some of the most spectacular panoramic views imaginable in the White River National Forest at historic Camp Hale. It was a day I will always remember.
Nova Guides tours include door-to-door transportation, new snowmobiles, snowsuit, boots and a helmet … not to mention our expert mountain man, Jeff. If you ever have a chance to hit the mountains on a snowmobile, I strongly recommend that you do it and only with Nova Guides.
Having worked up quite an appetite we ended our morning with great burgers and various high calorie gastronomical delights before our 45 minute ride back to Beaver Creek.
Our dining for the evening was my absolute favorite in Colorado, Beano’s Cabin. Not only does Beano’s offer some of the finest cuisine in all the United States, it also offers a wonderful sleigh ride up the mountain to this wonderful eatery. Even though it was an overcast evening we were so excited about the trip ahead of us. As luck would have it our sleigh hostess for the ride up and back was none other than Kathleen, the untiring mom of three children who works three jobs to help support her family and the dreams of Kathleen’s oldest daughter, Greta, who is only 16 and is one of the top rated skiers in the United States. Greta was actually in France this past week competing in a Junior World Cup event … watch for BIG things from Greta in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Upon arriving at Beano’s we were greeted by the hostess and a roaring file with rocking chairs positioned in a semi circle for warming up from the cold sleight ride up the mountain. Beano’s offers a five course meal with your choice of appetizer and entrée. Having been to Beano’s on numerous occasions previously, I am always amazed that they never disappoint. Everyone raved about their entrée and the open log cabin atmosphere makes you realize that you are somewhere truly special. After dinner drinks by the fire capped off a truly unforgettable dining experience. By the time we were ready for our sleigh ride back down the mountain the clouds had cleared and we enjoyed a moonlit starry sky for our brief 15 minute ride down. I just completed a survey of our entire part as we are flying back to St. Louis and Beano’s was the unanimous choice for the highlight of the trip … well as far as eating was concerned. Snowmobiling was the favorite “activity”.
New Year’s Eve on the Celebrity Solstice January 1, 2010
Lisa and I are nearing the end of a wonderful seven night Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Solstice as I write this. It has been an absolutely fabulous cruise with port calls on San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and St. Maarten … more about the ports later.
Let’s first talk about this magnificent ship …
The Solstice is the first of five ships Celebrity has built, is building or will build in the “Solstice class”. I cannot emphasis the word “class” strongly enough. As a veteran of over 30 cruises I can honestly say that I have never sailed on such a magnificent ship as the Solstice. From the moment we stepped aboard, we knew this ship was different. It is different for a number of reasons and many of those reasons start with the "Celebrity’s Leading Ladies " … these five women (a frequent cruiser, a travel agent, a travel writer, a hotelier and a cruise considerer) who had significant input into the initial and ongoing design of the “Solstice class” ships. The public areas are second to none on the high seas …. with a number of “phenomenal firsts” including the first ice bar at sea which turned out to be the best people watching venues on the ship as well as the most phenomenal bartenders on the ship … be sure to stop by the ice bar and check in with Rosa and his staff of “flipping” bartenders. We actually saw him do a number of his famous “stacked martinis”. At one time during the week he did 30 … a bartending feat that makes Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail seem like a rank amateur. Rosa is the only bartender I have ever seen do this … it is truly something to behold. Be sure and stop by for at least his martini “sampler” just so you get an idea of the skill that Rosa and his cohorts employ to entertain and quench the thirsty passengers aboard the Solstice.
Another “phenomenal first” is the Aqua Spa. As the largest spa at sea it also qualifies as one of the top spas to be found anywhere. Another key insight provided by "Celebrity’s Leading Ladies " was the desire for a more relaxed, intimate shipboard stateroom experience connected to the sea and linked to highly personalized spa elements. The result? A unique class of veranda staterooms called AquaClass, an oceanside retreat created for guests who are most passionate about pampering and “getting away from it all.”
Simplicity and comfort are evident throughout the room, from the bathroom’s fog-free mirror and tall jetted bodywash shower, to the robust pillow menu. Aroma scent selections tied to specific vacation goals (relax, revive, re-energize, etc.) provide guests with a multi-sensory experience, while lavish AquaClass toiletries and refreshing daily teas, juices and bottled water round out the offering. There’s even a 32” flat screen TV for those of you (like me) that have to get your daily “news fix.”
Many other upgrades here as well most of which came from the "Celebrity’s Leading Ladies " . As a result of the input from these ladies, the staterooms have larger bathrooms including larger showers and even a special footrest fro the ladies for shaving their legs. Much more storage space and larger dressing table are also a result of the committee and a rounded end queen size bed was a welcome respite from a day full of activities. Our balcony, with its teak flooring and comfortable chairs that reclined with a footstool, were a quiet and secluded getaway from the noise and sometimes crowded public areas of the ship.
AquaClass comprises 130 of the ship’s 1,425 staterooms, each double-occupancy only, creating the perfect grown-up getaway. Guests in AquaClass receive unlimited access to Celebrity Solstice’s new AquaSpa relaxation room on the same deck, and the Persian Garden, an exotic aromatherapy and steam room. AquaClass guests also have an exclusive dining room, Blu, an intimate, 130-seat specialty restaurant with menus developed by Celebrity Cruises culinary consultant, Blau & Associates, which operates upscale eateries for high-end hotels such as Las Vegas Bellagio, Miami’s Setai and Cabo San Lucas One & Only Palmilla. A cut well above the traditional dining room experience as far as food, elegance and atmosphere are all concerned, Blu was a very special treat for each evening that we dined there.
Yet another “phenomenal first” is that the specialty restaurants are all neighbors on deck five aft. Most cruise lines scatter these specialty restaurants all over the ship, but on the Solstice they are all in the same neighborhood. Our favorite by far was the Tuscan Grill, a upscale Italian delight. Lisa and I had dinner here on New Year’s Eve and had a table right by the windows looking out at the illuminated wake of the ship … a most romantic setting. Be sure to make your reservations early (online) and stop by early in the evening to make certain that the maitre de has your special table all picked out for you.
A very special wine bar called, Cellar Masters, was indeed a most enjoyable “phenomenal first” in that it is the first significantly upscale bar totally dedicated to wines from the world over (some 50 to 60 available by the glass … even Opus One and Caymus Select). It is staffed by knowledgeable, well trained sommeliers and was a nightly stop for us on our adventure.
The public areas of the Solstice were too many to mention here, but of significant note was the multistory library overlooking a central elevator corridor with no less than 8 fully glass elevators that run from deck two to deck 14. These elevators overlook the ornately decorated central lobby area that you are able to view as the glass elevators speed amongst the floors. Another “must see” on the Solstice is the Sky Bar located on deck 14 all the way forward. It is here that you can enjoy your favorite beverage while viewing the magnificent blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.
In our opinion, the most unique “phenomenal first” was the “Lawn Club” on deck 14 aft. This ship is the first in the world to have actual real grass growing on deck ... over a halt acre of it! These grassy areas we used for putting, croquet, baci or just lounging around. Seems like every day we saw a different use of the grassy areas including sun bathing on beach towels and teenage kids just sitting in the grass “hanging out“. I particularly enjoyed the freedom to light up a great cigar while watching fellow passengers find different uses for the fresh mowed lawns of the Solstice. This could only be done at the Sunset Bar which is at the absolute aft end of deck 14. In addition to the activities on the lawn, another “phenomenal first” is a glass blowing exhibition that actually produces absolutely beautiful pieces that are sold during the cruise.
For a brief 5 minute video of this beautiful ship as put together by Celebrity Cruise Line, click on the following link …… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=papMCNqe8WM
By now hopefully you get that this ship is indeed my favorite of more that 30 + cruises in the last 20 years …. now for the ports-of-call. First stop, San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship actually docks in old San Juan. This is a 465-year-old neighborhood originally conceived as a military stronghold. Its 7-square-block area has evolved into a charming residential and commercial district. The streets here are paved with cobbles of adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over as ballast on Spanish ships and time and moisture have lent them their characteristic color. The city includes more than 400 carefully restored 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings. The Old San Juan attracts many tourists, who also enjoy the gambling casinos, fine beaches, and tropical climate. More tourists visit San Juan each year than any other spot in the Caribbean. A leisurely foot tour is advisable for those who really want to experience this bit of the Old World, especially given the narrow, steep streets and frequently heavy traffic.
Our next port-of-call was St. Kitts. St. Kitts is a quaint little Caribbean island whose main crop until a few years ago was sugar, which they have now abandoned for tourism (can you spell cruise ship). Having never been to St. Kitts, Lisa and I wanted to get the “full story” so we took a delightful little “sugar train” ride half way around the island and learned about the history of this mountainous Caribbean island. The train which rides on 18 miles of track that took 14 years (Caribbean time??) to build rides along the coast line for the most part and allows you to see life as lived in a variety of small towns along the way. At the end of the 18 mile ride which takes about two hours, we were taken by bus to meet a catamaran for the balance of our trip around the island. On this portion of the trip we were able to see the balance of this beautiful Caribbean island which has a lot of similarities to the Hawaiian island of Maui. While our history lesson on this portion of a four hour excursion was non-existent, the rum punch and Caribe beer were in abundance which made this portion of the trip clearly the more fun part of our four hour adventure.
Next stop was St. Maarten (the Dutch side) of this fun filled Caribbean island which is shared with the French as “St. Martin“. We were one of four cruise ships in port today. This is one of the ports that the new Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas will call upon and they now have the Caribbean’s tallest sand pile as a result of the dredging required to accommodate the world’s largest cruise ship. Lisa and I spent about three hours doing my absolute favorite excursion in the Caribbean, crewing one of the 12 meter America’s Cup yachts in a race with two others. Now don’t think for a minute that I know the first thing about sailing, but the captain and crew do a phenomenal job of quickly teaching you how to perform your duties to make this a fun event for all. Lisa and I were on the Starts and Stripes which was Dennis Connor’s winning yacht in the 1987 America’s Cup Race. It was of significance that we were crewing a boat that was once crewed by the incredible men who won the America’s Cup in 1987. A fun time was had by all and of course, rum punch to celebrate our second place (by a nose) finish. We then spent the rest of the afternoon scouring the local shops and bars and enjoying the local scene in St. Maarten. We even enjoyed a juicy hamburger and a couple of cold beers at the Blue Bitch Bar.
The last two days on the way back to Ft. Lauderdale were spent onboard our beautiful Solstice further exploring all of the public areas of this, the most beautiful ship at sea (in our humble opinions). If you would like to appreciate theis AWESOME ship. give us a call ... we can help you get to paradise!
Port of Miami - November 13, 2009
Lisa and I headed to Miami today preparing to board the Norwegian Pearl on Saturday morning for a special Norwegian Seminar at Sea. We decided to stay really close to the Port of Miami this trip and selected the Intercontinental Hotel on Chopin Plaza. The hotel while pricey was very nice with the opportunity for us to awaken to our ship right outside our window.
So Saturday after coffee and a shower we headed over to the ship. Not having boarded a ship out of the Port of Miami in some time, we didn’t really know what to expect, so we headed over early arriving at the port at 11 am. We went right through security to one of the shortest lines I have even experienced in all of my years of cruising. After checking in, we proceeded upstairs to a lounge where we expected at an hour or two wait since we have arrived so early. Can you say 10 minutes??? Seriously, from the time we stepped out of our taxi until we were on the ship sipping champagne was exactly 15 minutes …. WOW what a pleasant surprise.
SO, if you are cruising with Norwegian out of the port of Miami, early arrival pays big dividends. Now don’t expect to see your stateroom or your luggage until well after 2:00 pm, but to be onboard the ship enjoying a bit of exploring and your favorite adult beverage (with an umbrella of course) is always a fun time for all … not to mention the joy of watching those passengers who arrived just a bit later we did standing in lines outside the building, on the street, probably an hour or more away from where we were at our favorite bar on any ship … the Lido deck.
The Pearl … in true Norwegian style, this ship has a lot to offer. She has 8 specialty restaurants, a rock climbing wall, a bar with bowling lanes right down the middle of it, the largest big screen TV I have ever seen on a ship … 2 stories tall in the main atrium of the ship.
So we headed out on Saturday afternoon for the ports of Samana in the Dominican Republic, St. Thomas, Tortola and Great Stirrup Cay.
In Samana we visited the Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Hotel. The Bahia offers elegant seclusion just a 10-minute ride from the mainland to the famous paradise island of Cayo Levantado and the exclusive five-star Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Hotel. At the hotel we were able to enjoy all the amenities of this gorgeous and world acclaimed hotel, numerous pools, private beaches and all of the amenities you would expect at a five-star world class resort.
The warm waters of the Caribbean sea bathe the beaches of the Gran Bahía Príncipe Cayo Levantado Hotel. With its magnificent colonial-style architecture, it is the ideal place to let go and give free reign to all your senses in this secluded island paradise. Restaurants, swimming pools, clubs, shopping centers and leisure areas... it is a place full of interest, where the main sporting attraction is golf.
Cayo Levantado is one of the world's most beautiful islands and an ideal place to enjoy a comfortable luxury vacation amidst matchless natural surroundings. This wonderful hotel offers all the necessary amenities to turn your vacation into a dream trip. Lisa and I spent the entire day at this island paradise before heading back to our ship to head for St. Thomas. Feel free to call for further details.
Having been to St. Thomas at least ten times previously, we were looking for something that neither of us had ever done before on St. Thomas. We found a wonderful snorkel expedition on wave runners!
So after a “mandatory” stop at Megan’s Bay and the temporary “mountain top” (the old one burned down last year) for world famous banana daiquiris we headed to the Wyndam Hotel and Resort to meet up with our snorkel/wave runner tour.
Talk about a fun afternoon, we rode in international waters from St. Thomas cruising near St. John, Tortola, Caneel Bay (home of the famous Vanderbilt estate) and numerous other islands in the British and US Virgin Islands. As you can imagine we were able to get into waters that traditional snorkeling boats couldn’t even come close to. Lisa is the “snorkel queen” and loved the snorkeling while I preferred zipping about from island to island and bouncing across the Caribbean sitting just a few inches off the surface. It truly was one of the most enjoyable days ever on St. Thomas. Something to check out next time you are in St. Thomas. You can find this excursion on our website at www.ssstravel.com and just click on the ShoreTrips logo on the home page. You can actually book this excursion right from our website!
Back to the ship for a quick shower and a nighttime departure from St. Thomas … the most visited port in the Caribbean and in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful places on earth to wake up.
Next stop … Tortola. Having only been to Tortola once before (16 years ago) I was shocked at what all has been built there since my last visit. Tortola boasts one of the largest “for charter” sailing fleets in the Caribbean. Lisa and I spent a couple of hours checking out options for a potential new source of travel for our clients. Imagine yourself exploring exotic waters … enjoying the company of family and friends where you can dine under a star-studded sky … exploring quaint waterfront towns, browsing in high-end boutiques, enjoying a range of watertoys, this is what makes a vacation adventure on one of the 46 to 62 foot crewed yacht so relaxing and memorable. It’s literally the stuff of dreams, a sojourn into the exotic and inspiring from the luxury of your private yacht. All of this hosted by your own captain and personal chef, completely focused upon creating memories that will last a lifetime. Watch here for further details.
Thursday was a day at sea. I love days at sea … resting, relaxing on deck, reading a good book, gambling, bingo, dance lessons, cooking lessons, working out in the gym or just getting a massage … always tons to do on sea days.
Next we called on Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island for a wonderful day at the beach. Great food, volley ball, snorkeling, jet skis or just relaxing on your lounge chair and basking in the sun. Great Stirrup Cay was a fun day for all regardless of chosen activities. The only thing bad about Great Stirrup Cay was it was the last stop on our week of adventure before heading back to Miami.
All in all it was a very fun week of exploring. Thanks to all the nice folks at Norwegian for making it a great seven days for us.
If you would like to know more about any of our travels, simply shoot us an email or give us a call. We are friendly folks who love to travel and assist others in their search of the “perfect vacation”.
October 27, 2009
Well, where shall I start … how about at the beginning.
Several months ago, I asked Lisa what she wanted for her birthday and much to my surprise (not really) she said all she wanted a “trip“. The “trip” was to a resort she had wanted to go to for years and had somehow never managed to get there. The resort is called Cap Juluca and is located on the small Caribbean island of Anguilla. Anguilla had somehow escaped my Caribbean travels over the years also, so it was a trip to a paradise where neither of us had ever been. When I say paradise, it truly is paradise. Let us tell you about it.
We arrived in late October and the entire island with a few exceptions was still closed for the “season” nonetheless our experiences for the most part were over the top.
First of all, paradise(s) are usually never easy to get to, and this one is no different, but three legs (from St. Louis, to Miami, to San Juan to Anguilla) and you arrive in “paradise”. As you make your final approach to Anguilla from San Juan, you realize from the airplane that this place is a bit different … a relatively small island (16 miles long and only 3 miles wide at the widest part of the island) with the bluest waters of the Caribbean rivaling Bermuda in the appeal of the color and clarity of the island.
Upon arrival we proceeded directly to Cap Juluca by private taxi $ 28 US for a 20 minute ride) to the resort. Everything that Lisa and I had ever read about Cap Juluca referred to the beach as “one of the most beautiful in the world” and I’ll have to say the reviews were on the mark. Cap Juluca is situated on the south side of Anguilla facing St. Martin (a mere 20 minute boat ride away and St. Bart‘s 10 minutes further) and receives a generous daily breeze from the south and east that makes the 85 to 88 degrees temperatures and high humidity actually quite pleasant most of the time. We spent a portion of every day on that beautiful beach and were never really uncomfortable despite the heat and humidity.
While we (me in particular) were somewhat disappointed in several ways by the resort itself, all in all, Cap Juluca and, in particular, Anguilla was a delightful adventure for us.
So please let us tell you of our adventures in paradise …
On the day after our arrival, we chartered the Funtime Three, a 37 foot boat, for the day and with Captain Chester and First Mate Checky at the controls, we set our for our day-at-sea adventure. First item of business was a “drive by” of some of the outer islands off Anguilla with names like Prickley Pear Cay, Sandy Island, Meads Bay, Little Bay, Shoal Bay, Sandy Ground and even Long Bay … we saw them all. It was as we approached Mead’s Bay, that we noticed this magnificent new resort, in the final phases of construction, called The Viceroy. The name, of course, is the branding of the Viceroy in other parts of the world … places like Santa Monica, Palm Springs, Miami and Snow Mass. We decided after the “drive by” that we had to see more and were able to arrange a visit for the next morning with Phillip Day (Sales Manager) and Denise Wilder (Meetings and Events) … more on this later.
Next it was off to St. Martin (the French side) for a quick lunch and a camera purchase. Having never been to the French side of the island, it was interesting to see but very familiar with other Caribbean islands where cruise ships make a stop and nothing like the preserved beauty and of yet-to-be-developed Anguilla.
After lunch we headed back to Anguilla where we made a stop at Shoal Bay East and visited with Carol the bartender at Uncle Ernie’s, a cute little “Caribbean like” bar with fantastic rum punch on a the beach just around the corner from the Viceroy. We met some nice folks there (both visitors and locals) and after a quick swim back to our boat and we were on our way again to Little Bay and to check out the CuisinArt Resort … we had to check it out from the waterfront as it had not yet opened for the season. After that it was back to our little piece of paradise for a quick swim then dinner at Pimm’s at Cap Juluca.
One of the highlights of our stay at Cap Juluca was our morning horseback ride on the beach along and in the ocean with our local rastafarian guide. Highly recommend that you do this at least once while in Anguilla.
Our cab driver from the airport told us that Anguilla was blessed with a variety of great restaurants and awesome food and we found out quickly that he was soooooo right.
A bit about our culinary experiences …
Blanchard’s … small, quaint and somewhat overrated by our best judgment, but nonetheless enjoyable.
Veya, by far one of the best culinary experiences Lisa and I have had in quite some time, was one of our favorites for the week. Owners Carrie and Jerry Bogar provided us with an absolutely divine experience … Lisa with her tuna and me with the “five spice pork” found ourselves wondering how could such a fabulous restaurant be found on such a small Caribbean island. It was then that we met Carrie (the chef) and Jerry (her husband/wine sommelier) and began understand why this was such a fabulous place. Winner of numerous Wine Spectator awards, Veya would rival most big city restaurants.
Picante, the next night, quickly became another favorite of ours and strange as it may seem, yet another husband and wife team … this time is was Theron and Chloe Loizos. Who would ever expect a Mexican/southwest restaurant in the Caribbean much less an awesome one! We started with the ceranno pepper infused (very spicy) margaritas which were an unbelievable surprise and finished the evening with a great meal (enchiladas, local crawfish and steak fajitas) and then more margaritas … with Theron and Chloe who came to Anguilla several years ago from Marin County, California and now call Anguilla home.
Our favorite evening, by far, was our last night in Anguilla. I arranged for a romantic dinner for two on the beach complete with moonlight, tiki torches, the song of the ocean and great food from the hotel’s restaurant called Spice. It was such a perfect evening in so may ways that I decided this would be the time and place to ask Lisa to be marry me … and because of the perfectness of the moment, she said yes.
So, now that Lisa has said yes and I told you earlier that I would have more on the Viceroy later … we are returning to Anguilla in April to recite our marriage vows at this fabulous new resort which sits atop a high coral point separating crystalline Barnes Bay and Meads Bay. Along more than 3,200 feet of exclusive Caribbean beachfront, hotel guests bask in the innovative Kelly Wearstler design, intuitive Viceroy service and unexpected Anguilla resort privileges recognized as Viceroy signatures.
The Viceroy is definitely for discerning travelers who prize polished personal service and sought-after luxury Caribbean resort seclusion, Viceroy Anguilla embodies the sophisticated Anguilla resort experience. Within 35 secluded acres on Anguilla's exclusive west end, the resort's lush landscaping, two beaches, sophisticated architecture and Kelly Wearstler-designed interiors set the stage for an incredible island getaway.
Viceroy Anguilla transcends virtually all Caribbean resorts with its unrivaled accommodation selections, including guestrooms, studio- to three-bedroom suites, penthouses, and four and five-bedroom villas.
Lisa and I can’t wait to return and express our love for each other in true Caribbean Viceroy luxury.
So if you are looking or a Caribbean getaway, off the beaten bath, with some of the world’s most unbelievable beaches and yet untarnished by cruises ships and their passengers call us to arrange your next vacation in PARADISE!
If you would like additional on this fabulous resort, please feel free to give us a call at 877-313-9009 or email us at email@example.com.
August 10, 2009
10 Myths Regarding Travel Agents
Myth Number One: Travel agents are expensive
Fact – In most instances travel agents cost little to nothing. Example … cruise lines … in almost every instance the price you get from a travel agent is the exact same price at the cruise line’s website or toll free number … all inclusive resorts are much the same, i.e. Sandals, Beaches and many, many others.
If a travel agent actually charges a fee it should be fully disclosed so that you can weigh whether it is worth the cost or not … such as airfares … since airlines no longer pay commissions, it is reasonable for a travel agent to add a service fee for their time in processing your reservation. That fee is typically $ 20 to $ 25 and is well worth it if you are a busy person. Some travel agents will usually drop this fee if you are booking other revenue generating travel at the same time such as a cruise, hotel, rental car, etc.
Myth Number Two: All travel agents and agencies are the same
Fact – Just like we are all different as human beings, travel agents are all different as well, each with their own knowledge base and their own area of specialty. So depending on what type of travel you are interested in, one travel agent may suit you better than another. That makes it critically important when planning travel to find a travel agent that specializes in what you want to do and where you want to go.
Myth Number Three: Travel agents can only book my flight and hotel
Fact – Most travel agents can book anything related to your trip … hotels, airfare, rental car, cruises, all inclusive resorts … even a guided trip to Antarctica or an African safari. Personalized tours … mark it done. Travel agents will often get you into places that you would have missed if you just went there on your own. They are also excellent sources of information concerning “places to stay away from” and “things to do when you get there”.
Myth Number Four: Good travel agents are hard to find
Fact - Sure there are some below par travel agents, just like there are below par professionals in every field, but great travel agents usually love to travel and have traveled extensively and thus possess knowledge that may prove very helpful in planning your travel.
Myth Number Five: Travel agents are a waste of time
Fact – Although you often can find a lot of the information that you get from a travel agent on your own, you will spend a ton of valuable time doing it. A good travel agent can save you hours of painful research and price shopping. Their prior experiences and collective knowledge makes them a valuable resource in trip planning.
Myth Number Six: The internet is more up to date than most travel agents
Fact - Travel agents obtain some of their information from many of the same sources as online booking sites. Typically, they also receive daily emails and faxes with new specials from resorts and hotels that may not be published on the internet. Travel agents can also call a place directly to see if they can work out other kinds of special deals for you, something an online site can’t do.
Myth Number Seven: I can easily book my trip without the assistance of a travel agent
Fact - Although travel agents have access to all of the same outlets you would use when looking to book travel, they also have access to exclusive pricing and package deals that are most times not available to the public. Your travel agent also has more leverage in helping out in situations such as hotels claiming to be booked, when in fact they may still have rooms available that are on hold for travel agents reservations. So when everyone else is telling you “No” your travel agent can help turn that to a “Yes.”
Myth Number Eight: Nobody uses travel agents anymore
Fact - According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), travel agents still sell 51 percent of all airline tickets, 87 percent of all cruises, 81 percent of all tours and packages, 45 percent of all car rentals and about 47 percent of all hotels.
Myth Number Nine: Travel agents are trying to cheat me if they don’t get me the cheapest price
Fact - Good travel agents know the ins and outs of different itineraries. While you might find one that is less expensive, that itinerary might involve a whole slew of headaches. For example, longer waits at the airport and odd travel times. A travel agent will be looking to get you the best value for you money spent which should include the most direct and time friendly itinerary they can find. Unless you have told them you would prefer to have the cheaper options presented as well expect value to be a factor included in the trip they plan.
Myth Number Ten: I am a savvy internet user so I know I am going to get a better deal than anybody else
Fact – While this is highly unlikely, it is possible in limited instances. Most cruises lines, all inclusive resorts, tour operators and packagers of travel strictly forbid any form of discounting. For example, while on our website price any cruise or an all inclusive like Sandals then go directly to their website and price it there … the result will totally disprove this myth!
Any discounts that you see will be generated by the purveyor and should be available no matter where you price your travel … can you say level playing field. Many times your travel agent will have what is called “group blocked space” and their negotiated price may be better than you can find even by going direct to the purveyor’s site.
So, to recap … for the same cost, often less, a good travel agent will:
- Save you time
- Provide experiences – their own and those of clients
- Be there when you have a question
- Be a valuable ally in your time of need (you can’t call the internet)
- Often keep you from making a HUGE mistake
July 16, 2009
On The BIG ISLAND - Kona Coast
Night-Time Manta Ray Snorkeling
Last night after dark, Lisa and I (and the entire family ... 19 of us in all) experienced the incredible nightime feeding of the magnificient manta ray. We packed ouselves in a van and after a wetsuit fitting at Big Island Divers proceeded to the marina and boarded our boat for a sunset cruise to the dive site near the Kona airport. By the time it was dark, we had received our instructions from Captain Mike and First Mate, Kerry and we were ready to enter the darkness of the Pacific Ocean ... I must admit with a bit or reluctance on my part. We had been assured that we were totally safe and that mantas are harmless to humans ... just something about getting into the ocean in total darkness.
Interestingly enough, our lights and those of others drew plankton and mantas are filter feeders and feed on plankton, thus we not only were providing a nighttime meal for the mantas, but because we were, we were very welcome guests. We were part of a ten boat (and hundreds of snorkelers and divers) entourage that were all there for the same reason ... to see these magnificient creatures up close and personal. The divers decended to the bottom and sat "campfire" style on the sandy bottom of this little inlet about 30 to 40 feet down with their lights facing up and the snorkelers floated on the surface with their lights facing down ... ladies and gentlemen "dinner is served" or "let the show begin". For the next 45 minutes we floated in awe of the manificient sight of over 20 manta rays doing their nighttime dinner dance coming within inches of us and sometimes actually brushing against us. The divers and crew that were with us do this almost every night and have even named the 160 or so manta rays that call the warm blue waters of the Pacific in Kona their home. We even had the pleasure of seeing Big Bertha, with a "wing span" of over 15 feet from tip to tip ... can you say WOW?
A good time was had by all and we proudly would like to introduce you to the great folks at Big Island Divers ... you can find them at http://www.bigislanddivers.com.
Sport Fishing Off the Kona Coast
July 16, 2009
Wow what a day we had yesterday ... spent the entire day aboard a beautiful 40 foot Hatteras named the Bite Me One (she has two siblings ... you guessed it the Bite Me Two and the Bite Me Three). Lisa took her two children, her step-daughter Angela and her husband along with me for a day at sea. Captain Brian, who was just rated Best Fishing Charter for 2008, was our captain for the day and boy does this guy know how to fish!
Winner of the 2008 award for best fishing charter in west Hawaii, Brian and his entire crew were some of the most knowledgeable folks we have ever met on a boat. Although our "catch" for the day amounted to a few small tuna, that we ultimately used for bait, and one white tip shark that went a bit over 200 pounds (we released it), an AWESOME day at sea was had by all. We saw a couple of other boats nearby who caught several nice blue marlin or at least had them on the line for a long time. A blue marlin "on the hook" is a beautiful thing to see as they try their level best to get away ... jumping and dancing on the surface of the clear blue Pacific Ocean.
Our experience was totally different than any fishing we had ever done before in Florida or Mexico. We got the feeling that it was just a slow day, because with the equipment these guys have and the photos we saw in their offices, they are well qualified to take you out to catch the BIG ONES.
Kona Village - The Big Island
July 10, 2009
Where shall I begin?
Lisa and I were able to spend a very relaxing nine days at this unique resort this month and found our stay there a "mixed-bag".
Arriving at 9:00 pm Hawaii time ... 2:00 am on our body clocks, the check-in process was the most irritating part of the entire trip. Tired from an entire day of travel, we were "forced" to get a detailed description of the entire resort including an arrival lecture complete with a map of the entire property. All we really wanted at 2:00 am was a shower and a bed ... first clue I might not truly love this place.
But if you are looking for serene lagoons surrounded by lush tropical landscaping coupled with dramatic, surreal, black lava cliffs where ocean meets land accompdated by soft, sandy beaches and a protected bay teeming with fish in brilliant colors and an abundant supply of sea turtles then this might just be your paradise.
In this place once bustling as a Hawaiian fishing village, visitors sense the spirit of the land, the healing power of the sun, ocean and all that is in between. Kona Village spreads out like a true Hawaiian village - no concrete, no glitz, just the elements of Hawaiian nature with lots of activities, adventures and sports, community, and delicious foods included.
All guests are lodged only in thatched Polynesian bungalows called "hale" spread out and hidden among 82 acres -on the beach or among the lagoons - a unique luxury resort in Hawaii. Dirt pathways wind through the resort - the paths of the village that lead guests home to their own bungalow ... did I mention 82 acres ... be prepared to do a lot of walking.
As guests here, we experience barefoot "quasi-luxury" in an environment that still speaks to its past and showcases "Hawaii, as it was meant to be.” I really had a hard time with no televisions, radios or telephones (cell phones barely work here and you are "encouraged" to use them only in your hale and only if you "must") ... seems they think those devices distract from the keen sense of place. Lisa on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed the lack of TV and other electronic annoyances of life.
Coconuts supplant traditional “do not disturb” signs. Petroglyphs (carvings in stone) hint of ancient times. Turtles laze on the beach, warming in the sun. Included in our stay were meals inspired by this island home, activities such as snorkeling, fitness facility and tennis, to lei-making, stargazing, fishing the traditional way with bamboo pole and more. Every visitor has the opportunity to choose how much - or how little - to do each day. This is Kona Village where Hawaii still exists; unplugged, unpretentious, unmatched.
While the food was always abundant and good, the service could have used a dose of consistency ... sometimes it was awesome and other times it was TOTALLY absent. For an "all-inclusive" resort they nickel and dime you to death. You can't get a glass of anything without providing your hale (room) number and seems that everything but the food is extra. Cocktails are $ 10 and up and virtually no poolside or beach "service". We usually take our own wine when possible when traveling and were truly disappointed to find that the "corkage" for opening and serving a bottle of wine was $ 35 ... equal to or exceeding many fine dining locations in major cities. Upon arriving I ordered a bottle of my favorite whiskey to the room and the price looked quite reasonable at $ 26 until I realized that it was a pint and not a fifth.
So wile I was sometimes annoyed by the "little" things (Lisa's perspective), our stay there was unbelieveably relaxing and one that was enjoyed by all 21 of us. Perhaps we would even go there again ... seems that most everyone there was a repeat guest.
A Week in Jamaica - 12 Stops Sandals & Beaches
June 28, 2009
Lisa and I just returned from a week in Jamaica touring every Sandals, Beaches, Royal Plantation and Grand Pineapple ... yes every single property ... we overnighted three nights at Sandals Dunn's River and another three nights at Sandals Whitehouse.
In Jamaica alone there are seven Sandals, three Beaches, one Royal Plantation and one Grand Pineapple ... 12 distinctive properties each with their own unique personality.
The beaches in Jamaica are truly spectacular, from secluded private coves to Negril's world-renowned seven-mile stretch of powdery white sand, all looking out onto the ultra-clear, turquoise waters of the Caribbean. So a couple could be forgiven for spending their entire heavenly Sandals vacation basking in the seductive warmth of the ever-present sunshine, while sipping exotic tropical drinks and gazing out at the endless expanse of aquamarine sea. But, truly, Sandals in Jamaica is so much more than just a beach, it's the perfect "couples only" resort.
The major distinction between Sandals and Beaches is that Sandals is an adults only - couples only resort while Beaches is for everyone with an emphasis on families. They all are ...
Our stay in Jamaica enabled us to revel in some of the world's most breathtakingly romantic beachfront settings, we chose daily from an unparalleled array of gourmet á la carte restaurants and embraced ourselves in unimaginable luxury in one of Sandals incredibly lavish, innovative and exquisitely stylish butler suites. This one truly spoiled us ... imagine that you have two full time exclusive British-Guild-trained butlers at your beck and call call 18 hours a day. Luxury takes on a whole new meaning in the butler suites at Sandals and Beaches!
For those who want to restore body and soul, Sandals and Beaches offer the sublime Red Lane Spas (we checked these out with a fabulous couples massage)where you can enjoy the very height of award-winning service, highlighted by the ultra-discreet pampering experience for you. Quite simply, the Sandals Luxury Included® Vacation represents an unprecedented new level of supreme perfection.
With up to 11 restaurants per resort, we found restaurants that captured both the ambiance and flavors of the world's great cultures. And because this is the Caribbean, every resort included at least one authentic island dining experience.
Sandals includes unlimited diving and the Caribbean's most comprehensive scuba diving program. Even if you've never been diving before, their resort certification course (nominal fee applies) will have you experiencing a whole new underwater world by the very next day - with all the instruction and equipment you need for dives up to 30 feet.
Only Sandals gives you this much love! With their "Stay at 1, Play at 7" program, when you stay at any one of their spectacular resorts in Jamaica, you can take advantage of full exchange privileges at all 7 of their resorts on the island and enjoy a stunning amount of amenities and changes of scenery.
Unlimited green fees are included in Jamaica. Expect a worthy challenge as both Golf Digest magazine and the prestigious Frommer's travel guide have recognized Sandals Golf & Country Club as one of Jamaica's best courses.
So while it was a whirlwind tour (12 resorts in 4 days), we were grateful to have the opportunity to tour all of these great properties for our friends and travel clients. There truly is something for every taste and the "all-inclusiveness" of Sandals and Beaches is a huge plus especially if you like great food and premium wines and liquors.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch
April 20, 2009
Set amidst flowering cactus and framed against the majestic McDowell Mountains lies the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, where Lisa and I traveled in April for her job as a meeting/event planner. This resort, long sense driven by for newer versions of hotel/golf resorts of North Scottsdale offers breathtaking desert vistas blend with intriguing Native American culture and pampering amenities to create a Scottsdale Arizona hotel designed to please every guest.
Set on 27 acres with plenty to do to discover your own perfect Hyatt Scottsdale hotel stay. Whether it's the challenging championship golf, luxurious Spa Avania, water playground , tennis or Camp Hyatt Kachina, you will not be bored by the many activities at this totally AWESOME resort. Expansive meeting facilities provide the premier setting for business gatherings, just minutes from all the attractions of this vibrant area. We ichallenge you to experience the ultimate luxury hotel and resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Did we mention golf ... welcome to a golfer's paradise in the Valley of the Sun, where 27 holes of championship golf grace the grounds of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa. The renowned and private Gainey Ranch Golf Club is exclusively available only to members and Hyatt guests. Surrounded by incredible scenery, under beautiful blue skies, Gainey Ranch offers a year-round exciting challenge for golfers of any skill level. Each of the three distinct nine-hole courses of our Scottsdale golf resort, designed by Benz and Poellot, offers a different experience for players. The Lakes features varied terrain in a garden-like setting and plays around a variety of water features. Dunes is set along dramatic terrain, reminiscent of Scottish Courses. Arroyo, the longest and most open course, features a meandering desert wash that provides a natural hazard throughout the nine. On a daily basis, two nines are linked together to build a different 18-hole experience.
Rated one of the top 75 golf courses in the United States by Golf Digest and one of the top 100 resort golf courses in the world by Golf Magazine, the Gainey Ranch Golf Club provides world-class facilities for golfers, including:
- Fully-equipped pro shop and resort boutique
- Cart service with beverages and snacks
- Three putting greens
- Full-service practice facility
- Electric carts
- Equipment rental, including clubs
- Club storage
- Club fittings
After a day on the course, we highly recommend that you rejuvenate with innovative treatments at Spa Avania, surrounded by plush amenities to soothe body and soul. Lisa and I had the 90 minute massage and the world took on a whole new perspective.
So the next time your travel plans call for desert golf, poolside pampering, an exploration of Native American culture or simply a day or two in the world class Spa Avania, we highly recommend that you check out the Hyatt at Gainey Ranch.
The El Conquistador - San Juan, PR
March 31, 2009
Lisa and I just returned from the fabulous El Conquistador Resort where we lost ourselves in the vibrant beauty and captivating allure of Puerto Rico. Perched high above the ocean on 300-foot cliff, El Conquistador Resort is a peaceful retreat on the Island of Enchantment. This resort is divided into five villages, providing a soothing getaway from the stress of the world. We enjoyed the breathtaking, panoramic ocean views at The Grand Hotel including the villages of Las Brisas and La Vista. We can't wait to go back for the pure indulgence of the Las Casitas Village - the distinctive four-diamond resort that shares the grounds, where a resort butler is at your service 24 hours a day in your private villa. Built into the side of a cliff, overlooking the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean on the opposite, and wrapped around its own swimming pool, we let sea breezes caress us in Las Olas Village. One of our favorite spots was the La Marina Village, which overlooks the sea and is home to the fabulous new water park and private marina. Experience this vibrant Puerto Rico resort for yourself, complete with beautifully appointed accommodations, attentive service, and a magnificent setting:
- Located on the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico, near El Yunque Rain Forest
- Four miles from the stores and attractions of downtown Fajardo and Las Croabas
- On-site world-class golf, spa, casino, water park, wind surfing, scuba diving, and fishing
- A 10-minute boat ride from our private Palomino Island
- 31 miles from San Juan and Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU)
So, if you are looking for an awesome resort (part of LXR Resorts) only a couple of hours from Miami (tons of flights) with golf, spa, gambling and tons of water activities ... check out the El Conquistador Resort. Lisa and I can't wait to go back.
Give us a call if you want additional info ... 877-313-9009