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Hi Everyone! 

So yesterday I attended the annual course for my Sandals Specialist Re-Certification.  This is for all of the resorts under the Sandals Brand – Sandals, Beaches, Royal Plantation and Grand Pineapple.  I will talk a little more in a later post about all of the wonderful new improvements with  Sandals Resorts…  However, today I want to briefly throw at you Beaches! 

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Beaches was introduced by Sandals, when they started to notice 9 months after their guests visited a Sandals resort, there was a third…  Beaches is a family resort, who has partnered with Sesame Street and Crayola.  The kids can spend the day with Elmo & Friends!   Storytime with Elmo, Scavenger Hunts with Grover and even Bake with Cookie Monster!  Best of all –coming soon is the Count!  Now I know all of you out there are hearing it your head, one, two, THREE…

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Beaches have many different categories of rooms for familes.  They even have rooms that can accomodate up to 5 people! 

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I highly recommend considering booking your next family vacation at Beaches Turks & Caicos.  It is recently renovated and has expanded the number of all-inclusive restaurants to 16!!!

Below is a current special, so CONTACT ME TODAY about the details!

Autumn at Beaches is all about “falling” prices and round-the-clock fun. Come enjoy our amazing WonderFALL celebration featuring an endless line-up of themed activities and events for tots, teens, parents and grandparents! Play on pristine, white-sand beaches caressed by crystal-clear seas while spending your family vacation in luxurious rooms and suites. At Beaches Luxury Included® Resorts, just about anything you could ever imagine is included. So leave your cares behind, and get ready for the time of your lives!    

For a limited time only, save up to 60% and get up to 1 night free on new bookings made before Aug. 27, 2009.

So last March I lucked out and got to do more than spend an afternoon doing a ship inspection – I got to sail on Carnival Cruises brand spanking new ship, the Splendor!  It was a 3 day/2 night cruise to nowhere out of San Francisco.  Okay, I can see some of those heads cocking to the side like a cute poodle…  A cruise to nowhere is when the ship simply sails around and does not stop at a port.  There’s this long boring regulation called the Jones Act, which simply says any foreign registered cruise liner (in which 99% of them are – the NCL Pride of America is the exception and it will be discussed in another posting at a later date) must make at least 1 stop in a foreign port.  Otherwise, it can only do an itinerary and say it loudly, “A Cruise to Nowhere.”   In our case, we just putted along in the Pacific far enough out that we did not see the coast.

Of course, I did not sail alone, as I had my partner in group travel, Rita & my agency owner Anita along for the ride.  Lots of fun, lots of laughter and of course, LOTS OF WINE!  Why not?  It was free!  Not that has ever stopped this crowd before…

Now let’s talk about this ship – she is the competition for RCCL’s Mariner of the Seas (see earlier posting), doing 7 night Mexican Riviera out of Los Angeles.  Personally, I think even though they both cater to families, I would actually prefer to put clients with young children on the Splendor, than the Mariner.  The reason – I found the children’s areas and programs great!  RCCL has great entertainment and amenities (like the rock wall, inline skating, etc…) that older kids would totally enjoy.

Kids Waterpark. Yes, I got soaked trying take this pic

Kids Waterpark. Yes, I got soaked trying take this pic

They even thought of the little people when designing their bathroom in the play area, called Camp Carnival.

Camp Carnival Bathroom - So Cute!

Camp Carnival Bathroom - So Cute!

I thought this was a really nice ship, with 1 exception.  When the designers got together, I picture someone shouting out in the meeting “PINK POLKA DOTS” and everyone must have agreed how brilliant.  Really?  They went a little overboard in that department…

Pink Polka Dots

The two story dining rooms were impressive.  Not as beautiful as Mariner, but still very nice.  They are named the Gold Pearl and Black Pearl.

The Black Pearl Restaurant
The Black Pearl Restaurant

In regards to food, I have always been pleased with Carnival.  This is surprising, because I don’t think that highly of their other brand – Princess Cruises’ cuisine.  Don’t get me wrong – they are not as good as Celebrity Cruises, but the food was good and plentiful onboard.  I still really enjoy their pre-dinner sushi bar (and, one night they did Tapas), located on the Promenade level.  Because you know when you cruise, one MUST feed every few hours!

I found that there were a lot of bars on this ship vs. places to just lounge around.  However the décor of the public spaces are great and I loved the casino the best!

Casino

The staterooms were what I have come to expect from Carnival.  Décor was strange, while also being on the plain side.  I like the size of the standard balcony stateroom.  Plenty of space, lots of mirrors and a nice sized seating area.  And, of course, no Carnival cruise is without coming back at the end of the night to your towel buddy…

Towel Buddy

Carnival has some of the best pricing and I would be happy to discuss booking your next family vacation and include some extra amenities!

Paris and Brussels

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Combine these two great cities in this air inclusive value added package for only

$1,695* per person

 Package includes:

Economy Class round-trip air from most US gateways

3 nights in Paris at the Hotel La Demeure

2 nights in Brussels at the Hotel NH Stephanie

Rail ticket between Paris and Brussels 

Daily breakfast at hotel

Hotel taxes

*Offer valid for travel through Deccember 31, 2009.  Blackout dates may apply.  Price is per person, based on double occupancy and subject to availability at time of booking. Taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges of approximately $125 per person are additional.

So I am going to go backwards from time to time here, because I have a lot of catching up to do… 

So at the beginning of June, I headed up to the Port of San Francisco (yeah, I know I tend to do that from time to time…) to spend the afternoon touring Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas.  This visit was all thanks to the overly dramatic Swine Flu epidemic in Mexico!  RCCL repositioned the Mariner from doing the Mexican Riviera out of Los Angeles, to Roundtrip Los Angeles for a Pacific Northwest experience for a few weeks, until things returned to “normal” in Mexico. 

We are so fortunate to have this Voyager Class Ship here on the West Coast!  Mariner was moved from its former home in Port Canaveral, Florida (they have enough cruise ships out there spare at least one to us) to Los Angeles  YAY!!!!  No more having to settle for the old run down Monarch of the Seas. YAY!!!  Even though this ship holds 3,100 passengers, you wouldn’t know it. She is big, but doesn’t feel big.  There is plenty of space to hang, so you don’t feel over-crowded.

For those unfamiliar with this ship class – it is the first of its kind to have a mall (aka, the Royal Promenade) and an ice rink!  Yes, I said ice rink…

Ice Rink

The Royal Promenade is two football fields in length and four decks high. With a wide selection of shops, restaurants and entertainment the Royal Promenade will be the place to be.  (Check out the staterooms overlooking the Promenade…)

Mall

This ship simply oozes fun!  So much to do – From the great pool areas (including the thalassotherapy pool), to climbing the rock wall, in-line roller skating, basketball (full size court), miniature golf, to catching a parade on the Royal Promenade.

There are many dining options on-board.  You have the main dining room, which is 3 stories tall!  There is also the wonderful buffet and room service – all which is included in the cruise fare price.  Now for a small fee Mariner offers some specialty dining options – Chops Grille Steakhouse ($25 per person), Portofino Italian Restaurant ($20 per person) and Johnny Rockets ($4.95 per person).

Dining

I came across this table which shows what is consumed in entire week by cruisers on Mariner – WOW! 

Beef: 20,000 lb Chicken: 12,000 lb Pork: 5,000 lb Lobster: 1,400 lb
Other seafood: 4,000 lb Salmon: 2,500 lb Fresh eggs: 28,000 Flour: 15,000 lb
Sugar: 4,300 lb Coffee: 1,500 lb Fresh fruits: 35,000 lb Fresh vegetables: 65,000 lb
Potatoes: 18,000 lb Fresh berries: 600 lb Ice cream: 8,000 gallons Milk: 1,500 gallons
Individual yogurts: 4,200 Cheese: 5,800 lb Slices of pizza: 18,000 Beer: 10,700 bottles
Beer: 8,500 cans Soda: 11,500 cans Wine: 2,900 bottles Whiskey: 200 bottles

 

Now I can’t go away from a posting without discussing at least 1 stateroom.  I toured the cabins and found them very suitable.  The ones I was most interested in seeing were the inside cabins that overlooked the Promenade.  For some reason, these are very popular.  Personally, if I am on a cruise ship, give me a view of the ocean not a mall!  I’ll tell ya though, these staterooms sell out quick!!!!  <shaking head in confusion>

Inside Mall Room

Stay tuned for more…

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Love is magically sowed in the Spring, softly sprinkled in the Summer and ready to enjoy a Caribbean harvest in the FALL. Gather your love and enjoy great prices at Sandals Resorts, where the most romantic pearly-white sand beaches are sure to make you and your loved one FALL in Love Again. 

For a limited time only, my clients can save up to 65%, get up to 3 nights free and receive a $250 spa credit.  

Check out where you can be vacationing next – http://bit.ly/4eeAY

Contact me before Aug. 27, 2009 for travel Now – Dec. 26, 2009 and Jan. 1 – Dec. 28, 2010

So today I headed up to the Port of San Francisco, with a few of my favorite colleagues, to do a ship inspection of Princess Cruises’ Sea Princess.  The Sea Princess is doing 10 day round-trip Alaska sailings this summer from San Francisco.  She is 10 years old and I was expecting her to look rather tired.  Much to my surprise, her public areas did not reflect this.  However, she is in desperate need of updated mattresses, bedding and flat screen TV’s in the staterooms.  I was actually shocked on how tiny the TV’s were.  I know as a society we have become spoiled with our Mega Flat Screens, but frankly, I truly believe those were 10-inch monitors…

She holds 1,950 passengers and simply without the travelers on-board yet, it felt cramped with just the 200 or so agents, plus the staff.  I’ve been on plenty of other ships with the same capacity including other Princess ships and my preferred line – Celebrity Cruises are far more spacious than the Sea.

The spa was the most disappointing I have ever seen on a cruise ship!!!  It was dull, lifeless and very small.

Now let’s address what they refer to as the Grand Casino…There was NOTHING grand about this!  It was tiny!!!  I think it only had 30 slot machines?  A majority of the room was geared toward just plain seating.  Am I mistaken, but isn’t the casino on a ship a huge moneymaker for the cruiseline?

Sea Princess Casino

Truly the 2 things I was very pleased with were the size and layout of the mini-suites and the buffet area.  I’ve been on the Coral Princess twice in a mini-suite, in which they are just oversized staterooms.  However, on the Sea Princess, they are large, have wonderful flow between rooms and the bathrooms are the extremely beautiful.  The buffet area and dining room, I thought was a nice size, bright (surrounded by windows) & airy – perfect for Alaska!

Sea Princess Mini Suite

Finally, let’s discuss the food…We were invited for lunch in one of the main dining rooms…I almost would have preferred to eat their pizzeria.  The Shrimp with Melons was bland; the Chateaubriand was overcooked and tough.  The bread & chocolate soufflé were the only things that were worth eating.  If this is what they serve us, what in the world do they serve clients for 10 nights?

Now don’t get me wrong…I am a huge advocate for the 10/11 day roundtrip Alaska itinerary out of San Francisco.  I just think that Princess should put in place a much better ship than the Sea Princess.  When you look at the quality of the competitor’s ships, this cruise ship truly fails.  I highly recommend Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas or Serenade of the Seas (departing out of Seattle & Vancouver, respectively).  These ships were specifically designed for viewing the beauty of Alaska and are a far better value and cruising experience!

Contact me to discuss booking that last minute Alaska cruise for 2009 or locking in a stateroom for 2010 at 2009 rates on either RCCL or Celebrity!

Okay, so I could not pass up talking about this wonderful all-inclusive resort today!  The reason – I was sent a picture on FB of their fantastic Caesar Salad from their outdoor cafe.  Why didn’t I think of taking the picture myself when I was there last October?

Caesar Salad

So here’s a little info on this resort which about 20 minutes south of Cancun Airport:

A modern marvel in contemporary design, Secrets Silversands Riviera  brings sophistication and distinction to the Riviera Maya. This all-suite resort presents “Unlimited-Luxury” in an innovative way featuring suspended beds, chic modern fabrics, alluring décor and captivating lighting. Gourmet à la carte restaurants, eight posh bars and the lavish Secrets Spa by Pevonia are just some of the indulgent amenities set amidst the silvery surroundings.

Oceanview Suite

Yes, this room is GREAT!  Neil & I unfortunately had a garden/very partial oceanview, but we still enjoyed it.  If you are considering a trip to Mexico, drop me a line and I would be happy to book this for your next vacation memory!

Resort View

Greece

The Best of Greece from $1,799*

 

Experience the hospitality and culture of Greece on this 6-night journey back in time.

 

Package includes:

  • 1 nights Athens Hotel Athens Gate
  • 2 nights Mykonos Hotel Petassos Beach Sea View Room
  • 2 nights  Santorini  Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites
  • Airport – hotel – pier transfers in Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini
  • Athens sightseeing tour, including the Acropolis
  • Ferry from Piraeus to Mykonos and Mykonos to Santorini
  • Air transportation from Santorini to Athens
  • 1 night Sofitel Athens Airport before departure
  • Breakfast daily and all hotel taxes
*Price is per person based on double occupancy and valid for travel September 21 – October 31.  For travel July 14 – September 20 add $200 per person.  

Brando Resort

The 47-villa The Brando resort is now being built in Tetiaroa (Tahiti), an island formerly owned by the late actor Marlon Brando. Tetiaroa is a 13-island chain circled by a coral reef offering a tranquil and pure paradise 35 miles from the island of Tahiti.

It will be the only hotel on the atoll, with private plunge pools for each bungalow villa, a spa, a fitness center with a pool, and other upscale touches.

 Slated to Open in 2011. 

Nov. 29 – Dec. 7, 2009

Incredible pricing at only $2,899 pp*double occupancy

Includes air!!!

Dive Phillippines Pic

Your vacation package Includes:

* International air from SFO, domestic air and land transfers

* 7 nights accommodation including all meals

* 10 boat dives included, unlimited shore dives $200

* Night dives and wreck dives available

* Activities for non-divers (non dive pricing available)

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Club Paradise is a tropical Shangri-la nestled on a coral jewel set amidst Palawan’s sparkling turquoise waters and easily accessible reefs with the opportunity to see Dugongs, feed sea turtles and dive WWII wrecks. We offer you an experience of a lifetime on this unique island resort.

 Act now to secure your space!

Group size: minimum 10 required for departure /maximum 20

*Air fuel surcharges subject to change

Contact Lauren Liebert at Ticket to Travel

(650) 906-6000 or lauren@aticket2travel.com