Our travels and ideas for planning your next trip!

Posts tagged ‘Elegant’

Couples San Souci in Jamaica – Brent and Ann’s Honeymoon

Hello Anne,

I’ve been giving it some thought since we’ve been back from Jamaica about the entire experience and I have to say that the resort, Couples Sans Souci, was completely beyond expectations.  Overall we enjoyed every aspect of the resort that was offered, from the room service, daily stocked mini bar, cuisine, Dunn’s river, water sports, weather, everything.  The non-alcoholic smoothie station they have next to the mineral pool and workout room is out of this world.  The mango and strawberry-banana shake are so tongue tantalizing I sometimes forgot about the rest of the resort and even made special trips from my room just for the shakes. 

 

 

We had spent the first day getting a feel for the resort and planning our stay and roughly came up with a game plan of what we’d like to do the rest of the stay.  We were trying to get out as much of the Jamaican vibe as we could, trying to experience what Jamaica had to offer.  One particular day we were going to learn the soca dance and when we had shown up nobody was to be found, we waited a few minutes, then left.  We were next to the beach so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Other days there were activities that we had also wanted to participate in but had a conflict with other activities, then one thing led to another and we missed out on those.  So we didn’t get to do as much activities as we’d hoped.  So I guess in a nutshell for first time travelers traveling anywhere for the first time, it may be difficult to take in everything in that a place has to offer and the sooner you realize you can’t do everything, the more fun you’ll have doing whatever you’ve done.  You just have to plan to make another trip.     

One critique, if you can call it that, was an activity we did sign-up for giving them our room number.  We signed up three days in advance to go scuba diving.  Scuba was at 11 am but you had to go through a small course before at 845ish am.  We had fun the night before dancing and stayed up late.  We needed breakfast and time for it to digest so we order breakfast in bed early at 6 am.  December is one of the rainy months in Jamaica and sometimes makes for rougher seas.  So we go down to the water activities station only to find that the water activities for the day have been canceled.  Now the thing is, is that when it comes to scuba diving, is that you can predict the under water conditions from the weather the night before and the morning of.  And with their experience and expertise (resort scuba instructors)they knew before hand the scuba was going to be out of the question.  So making my point, with them having this knowledge and this being an activity that guests actually sign up for with a room number it would’ve been nice to been given a heads up instead of going through all the effort of waking up early, getting ready, and marching down there to find out its canceled.  They could’ve called and notified us since they had our information on hand.  That was a little irritating personally, maybe its just me.  So another activity we missed out on.  I know above I wrote we enjoyed the water sports and then you read this, but the following day the weather was perfect and we took full advantage, going sailing, snorkeling, and glass bottom boat ride.  So in the end the water activities were very eventful and worth it.  Surprisingly I didn’t expect the water to be as salty as it was.

    

There really is just so much that I could jot down about our experience but It’d just be easier for me to tell you verbally so if you have any questions at all I’d be happy to share more of our experience with you or other people thinking of couples or couples sans souci in particular.  Again, I’d definitely recommend Couples.  We spoke with a number of other guests from all over the country staying there and they say that the extra amenities that Couples offers, you’d have to pay extra at other resorts, yet the price for couples was comparable if not better.  And comparing Sans Souci to the other Couples, many said that the geographical location of Sans Souci compared to the others was the best and there favorite.

 

    

It was pretty easy to have the airlines change Ann’s name on the reservations.  I wonder if we could’ve booked the flight and all reservations with her married name even though the flight was booked before the wedding and we didn’t fly till after the wedding, to avoid any future delays.

    

It would’ve been best if we’d reconfirmed the swim with the dolphins before we left for Jamaica because there was a little difficulty in finding the reservations on their part and also once we arrived at Dolphin Cove at the front desk they could’nt find our rsvp for about 15 minutes.  Even though we had the confirmation papers from GoGo with the Swim with the Dolphins information.  That by the way was an awesome and forever memorable experience which we are completely happy with.  Also how often are you going to get the chance to partake in an event like that so we had to purchase the CD and DVD combo to share our experience.  That by the way was $110, fyi.  It was an unexpected purchase and took most of our souvenir money.

   

I don’t know exactly how to put it, but these are some things that I’d recommend or would find useful in future traveling by plane and visits to Jamaica.  I did my best to think about what we’d need along our travels but didn’t think of everything, I didn’t know what to expect.  I’d suggest even if you don’t use it, to have on hand: ear plugs – lets be honest, the screaming kid on even a two hour flight would get on just about anybodies nerves, or better yet an iPod or mp3 player if you have one.  It may not block out all the noise but it helps muffle at least.  Also an eye face mask to block out any light especially if you have to sleep in the airport entrance to catch the morning flight or while on the plane, some times the lights can be bright.  Snacks, snacks, snacks!  Who in there right mind will willingly pay $8 for a sandwhich that you make at home for $2 tops.  Wow, are those airport prices enormously expensive.  There are so many snacks you can bring from home that will save you a bundle.  Also we’ll definitely invest in that neck pillow, for some reason the plane ride can be pretty tiring and it would’ve been nice to have one.  Games, we brought regular cards and uno cards that kept us pretty entertained both on the plane and waiting for the next flight so time went by a little quicker.  Bring water shoes or aqua socks especially for Dunn’s River excursion.  You can rent them but who knows who’s feet have been in them and you only get one use out of them so its a waste of money.  Closed toes are the best, I had sandals, open toed, and continually had rocks in my sandal for the excursion.  Swim goggles are small and easy to carry and would’ve been nice to look under water while swimming around at the beach to see whats underwater.  Didn’t have any need for it but people recommended bug spray so we had some just in case.  If you don’t have one purchase your underwater camera here locally, rite aid has it for $9.  It cost $20 at the gift shop.  When traveling abroad or just in general have a pen to fill out the custom forms, otherwise you’ll be waiting to borrow one since the flight attendants don’t carry any.

Cash, i’d say a few hundred worth or depends on what you plan on doing.  I’d bring at least $20 in ones, $20 in fives, $40 in tens, and the rest in $20’s.  I was a little caught off guard with the tipping ettique and I’m not a big tipper anyway.  Though we didn’t have to worry about tipping at the resort, any excursions to and from, its customary to tip your driver or tour guide.  Just remember you worked hard for that money so don’t feel bad if you don’t tip big. 

There are so many vendors trying to sell you the same thing as the next vendor.  Everything is negotiable it seemed, so don’t be afraid to barter the price with them, your biggest weapon is walking away because the next vendor down probably has the same stuff and they want your money.  These Jamaican’s have been doing this a while and are good with working with your emotions and psychy making it hard to walk away sometimes, but you have to stand strong.  You can find great deals by bartering and shopping around, not hastly buying the first one you see.  Also with the smaller bills you have more le-way* when bartering.  Unlike here, the sale of liquor isn’t regulated by the government.  We purchased a few bottles marked at $28 each for $15 each.   A side note on the liquour too is that you can bring back 2 liters per person, which is equivalent to 3 fiths, to the states but keep in mind that you’ll have to check it at the airport, depending on the airport will cost you an additional $25 that wasn’t on your mind at the time.  Especially if you brought carry-ons to avoid those extra charges. Also, beware that some places charge tax between 8.5% to 18.5% so if you have cash you may avoid tax, depends on the place.  Using a credit card may also cost you an additional percentage by the credit card company for foreign transaction fees and by the shop for them processing it.  Cash is the best option in my opinion, don’t be flashy and use some common sense and have fun with it.  Also cash gives you a budget on how much your going to spend and once you’ve reached that limit then you know it.

Alright, I hope you find some useful information in what I’ve written.  If you have any other questions I’ll do my best to answer them.  I brought back a few brochures about activities if you’d like them for your collection too.  Well that’s enough for now so I hope you enjoyed the pictures and we’ll talk with you later.

Thanks,

Brent and Ann

P.S. The layover wasn’t that bad in North Carolina.  Ann brought a blanket and kept warm. Used sweatshirts as pillows.  For me the eye face mask would’ve been helpful though.  They kicked us out of the terminal so we had to sleep inside at the entrance of the airport. It was cozy though.  Would do it again to save money and add to the experience.

(Note from Anne: They elected to take a flight that gave them an overnight in North Carolina but did not get a hotel.)

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Sandals Emerald Bay

Last week I visited four Sandals resorts in the Caribbean with 160 other travel agents.  Four resorts on three different islands in four days.  Whew!  They treated us royally, fed us superbly and walked us until our feet ached.  I took lots of pictures so that you can get a view of these four resorts from an ordinary point of view (not a professional photographer).  Come stroll with me through the grounds of the first resort, Sandals Emerald Bay.

In case you have never been, let me acquaint you with Sandals.  These are couples only, luxury included resorts, which means all food, wine and licquor is included.  Sandals is the most well know, upscale resort in the Caribbean.  Butch Stewart, the owner of all Sandals resorts likes to say, “More inclusions than any resort on the planet.”  Each resort has its own personality and style.  I hope my notes will help you decide which Sandals of the four I visited suits your vacation dreams.

First stop, Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas

Personality: Quiet, Serene, Pristine Beauty, Isolated, A Place to soak in the sun, play in the silky sand, or just relax away from crowds and cities.

We were welcomed by a Junkanoo band, native to the Bahamas.  Cold fragrant towels and a bottle of water.

 

Then we wandered through the villas and bungalows, gazed at the blue sky and perfect white beaches.  The sand was so soft, white and wonderful, I brought a cup of it home with me.  It sits in a dish with shells so I can dabble my fingers in it and dream of the Caribbean.

 

   Doesn’t this look like a fun water toy…just ride it into the water.

Here is a view of a room decorated with a honeymoon welcome and a bungalow with an ocean front view.  Sandals offers butlers with some suites, complete with cell phones to call him/her at your whim.  “James, a fresh towel and a tequila sunrise by the pool, please.”

    This is the view out the bungalow window.

  Every Sandals resort comes with a Red Lane Spa.  Treatments are an extra cost, yet how wonderful to rejuvenate with a spa treatments.  Every detail is attended to.

For weddings, Sandals offers Martha Stewart packages.  Set up here is the “Natural” package.  Couples can be married in the gazebo or on the beach as well.

 

If total rest and relaxation in a serene location is calling you, grab your honey and fly to Sandals Emerald Bay.

Next stop, Antigua,

Anne

Weddings at Sea Aboard a Cruise Ship

It is your very special day — let Princess make it truly extraordinary!

Imagine you and your sweetheart holding hands while you affirm your love for one another aboard the original “Love Boat”.  Yes, Princess was the cruise line upon which the “Love Boat” TV series was filmed inspiring “Tie the Knot Wedding at Sea by Princess”.  Traditionally, ship captains were able to marry couples when in international waters.  Yet for more than 100 years, getting married upon the high seas had ceased to exist.  In 1998 Princess Cruise Line introduced their Weddings at Sea.  The very first year, 58 couples were married by Princess captains.  Since then more than 4000 couples have chosen this romantic option.

Three soul-uniting choices are available while cruising aboard Princess.

1) At Sea – Invite your guests to sail with you to extend the fun, then get married At Sea, in the chapel or on the deck.  The captain will marry you once you are in international waters.  82% of couples choose this option.

2) Harborside – Your friends and family may join you aboard ship the morning before you set sail for a Harborside Wedding or Vow Renewal by a local clergy, then you sail away blissfully alone for your honeymoon.  10% of couples choose this option.

3)  Ashore – Sail away to your dream destination, then get married ashore by a local clergy. Choose from ports of call in the USA, Canada, Mexico or Caribbean. All the arrangements for the shore wedding are handled by a wedding planner.  8% of couples choose this option.

Everything is provided for Weddings at Sea including music, bouquet, cake, photos, champagne and a wedding coordinator for only $2250.  A vow renewal ceremony is only $285.  What an incredible deal!  This basic package, of course, may be upgraded to suit your every wish and dream.  Since your honeymoon is the cruise itself, the whole affair is less than a wedding at home!  (Cruise cost is extra.)

Wedding Packages by Princess

TIE THE KNOT AT SEA

  • Wedding Chapel or ideal onboard location
  • Candlelit ceremony
  • Captain to perform ceremony
  • Special vows at sea
  • Wedding coordinator onboard*
  • Ceremony music (pre-recorded)
  • Two fresh floral arrangements to adorn the ceremony location
  • Rose bouquet (one dozen)
  • Boutonniere
  • Photographer**
  • Videographer***
  • One 16×20 canvas wall portrait (unframed)***
  • 9″ Wedding cake
  • Bottle of champagne
  • Two Princess keepsake champagne flutes
  • Keepsake wedding certificate

Tie The Knot At Sea Prices

Package Price:          $1,800

License Fees:             $455

(witness fee may apply)

TOTAL:      $2,255

*Available on “sea” days only.  Details, special requirements and upgrades may add onto the basic price quoted.

TIE THE KNOT HARBORSIDE

  • Priority check-in and boarding for couple and guests
  • Wedding Chapel or onboard location
  • Non-denominational officiant
  • Wedding coordinator onboard
  • Ceremony music (pre-recorded)
  • Romantic vows
  • Two silk floral arrangements atop two pillars
  • Rose bouquet (one half dozen)
  • Boutonniere
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • 9″ wedding cake
  • Bottle of champagne
  • Keepsake wedding certificate

TIE THE KNOT ASHORE

  • Beautiful beach or garden ceremony location
  • Non-denominational officiant
  • Wedding coordinator
  • Exotic island vows
  • Bridal bouquet
  • Boutonniere
  • Photographer
  • Transportation for bridal couple
  • Specialty cake for two
  • Bottle of champagne
  • Keepsake wedding certificate
  • Additional roundtrip transportation service for guests from $20 per person
  • Cake and champagne service for guests from $15 per guest

Prices for Tie the Know Harborside and Ashore vary by destination.  For price information, work with your travel agent or wedding coordinator.

EXQUISITE TOUCHES TO FULFILL YOUR DREAM

Many additional features are available.  If you can dream it, Princess will be happy to make it come true.

-Fresh custom flowers                       -Conch shell                   -Custom cakes                       -Dining receptions                      -Hor d’oeuvres bar                        – Ice sculpture                  -Wine packages                      -Champagne waterfall                     -Live musician                   -Spa and Salon services                         -Tuxedo rental                 -Bridal party dinner                      -Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties

     

What do you think?  A Cruise Ship Wedding is a wonderful possibility.  If this fulfills your dream, I would be delighted to assist you.  Just give me a call or email me at (208) 964-3578 or 4anne@dreamalongtravel.com.  Princess pays me, so I cost you nothing at all.

Enjoy Dreaming,

Robin to Barbados

Several  months ago, I introduced you to my associate, Robin Hawkey.  Boy has she been traveling lately…Jamaica, Barbados, Riviera Maya all this summer.  Between the two of us, we check out many resorts every year just so we can make good recommendations to our valued travelers.  We like to wine and dine, lay on the beach and tour the local sites.  That way we are confident your vacation will be one of relaxed luxury.

Robin loved Barbados!  She enthused over the tropical landscape, monkeys, and turtles.  “This is definitely an island for my clients,” exclaimed Robin when she got home. This island is safe. The locals are friendly and glad to have you there.  It is a clean and well-cared for British island, very beautiful.   Here are a few of the many pictures she took so you can get a feel of Barbados.

.    

Robin and her good friend Gail at the Almond Resorts

       

    

 

Adventuring about the island on a tour was a great way to experience all Barbados has to offer!

     

And then there was snorkeling off the catamaran, shopping and street parties. Even the bathrooms were cute!

 

If tropical water, sun and sand is your dream vacation, honeymoon or destination wedding, Barbados is worth checking out!

Safe to play in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

      At the tip of Baha California, the pristine beaches of Cabo San Lucas are still a welcoming, safe place for American to indulge in a luxury sun and sand vacation.  Separate and distant from the turmoils of Mexico, Cabo offers affordable pricing for west coast travelers with hotels ranging from basic to extreme luxury, plus plenty of adventure from snorkeling to zip lining.  The resort location of Los Cabos, Mexico was voted as the #3 Best Destination in the Caribbean and Mexico for the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards.

     On our last trip to Cabo San Lucas, my husband, Gene and I just hung out at the harbor and cantina.    We were in the mood to just relax and stroll.  For those bursting with energy, stop into one of the tourist shops along the walk into town to arrange an ATV trek or check out www.bajaoutback.com .  World class sport fishing awaits those with the lure of the sea.  My Dad, years ago, had the fishing trip of his lifetime here when a great upwelling of fish occured just as he and Uncle Owen set their poles.  Try www.picesssportfishing.com or www.pincantesportfishing.com to charter a boat. 

   Here kitty, kitty, give me a kiss.  A highlight for Gene and I was having our pictures taken with these lion cubs.  The local animal preserve uses this photo opportunity as a fund raiser.  These cuties were about 2 months old and obviously very accustomed to being handled.  The jaguar was not so friendly and gave Gene a nasty nip.

Love being seranaded by the Mariochis! Great fresh seafood for lunch!

   Remember the Eagles’ song, “Hotel California”?  Take a tour or rent a car for a 45 minute jaunt to the quaint town of Todos Santas.  This is the location of the namesake of the song.   Or better yet, rent a utility vehicle such as a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport for a back -country trip down the old road to La Paz.  You may be greeted by burros, cows, pigs, Mexican hawks along the dirt roads.  Stop in the tiny village of La Calenderia to visit the historic church and pause under the plumeria trees. 

     Into the party scene, Cabo is ready for you.  Clubs to visit starting about 11:00 pm include Cabo Wabo and Mandala.  For daytime party fun, try the Passion Club at the ME Cabo hotel on Medano Beach.

     Don’t forget to take a water taxi to get a close up view of the famous rock formations of Cabo. 

    As long as we are relaxing, the ultimate is worth investing in so stay at the  4 1/2 star Zoetry Casa Del Mar Los Cabos.     www.zoetryresorts.com   For romance, attention to your every need, stunning vistas, superb spa and a quiet setting, Zoetry Casa Del Mar is unsurpassed.  Better yet, plan to hold your wedding at Zoetry for exquisite beauty and grace. 

    Dreams Los Cabos Suites is another favorite of mine. www.dreamsresorts.com  Such a beautiful place to plan your wedding or honeymoon.  With their branded “Unlimited Luxury” you will be well pampered.  Just look at the honeymoon package they offer: 

This package is complimentary when booking a Honeymoon Suiteor higher for a minimum of 7 nights.

  • Champagne on arrival
  • Fresh flowers and exotic fruit platter in room upon arrival
  • Champagne breakfast in bed the first morning after arrival
  • Tension Release Massage for two in our couples massage suite (25 minutes)
  • Choice of either a European Facial or a Salt Glow Scrub body treatment for two (25 minutes)
  • Private beachfront dinner one evening- upon return from dinner you will find a romantic candlelit rose petal bath (includes bottle of wine)
  • Private petit fours each evening at turn down service
  • Earn Free Nights towards a first anniversary return stay

Both of these resorts are all-inclusive so every bit of food, drink and activities are INCLUDED!  You may find that you never want to venture away from the resort, there is so much to do and we mustn’t forget lying on the beach with a good book.

Next winter, when snow is on the ground, you will love being in Cabo San Lucas where near perfect weather is an everyday occurance.  For a getaway, honeymoon, destination wedding or romance rekindling…how about Cabo?

Smiles,

Anne

 

 

Anne Marie Off to New York

    A couple of weeks ago, my husband Gene and I, drove from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho over to Seattle, grabbed a couple of hugs from our daughter and a ferry boat ride with our grandson, Liam, then jetted off on Jet Blue Airlines to New York, New York.  My husband being a New Yorker, we have visited the city frequently catching all the tourist sites over the years. My goal, this trip, was to check out a couple of the high end hotels in New York which I have booked for my clients, yet never before personally visited.   Of course, we enjoyed a few of our favorite activities while there which I will gladly pass along to you.

First the fun stuff, being a Californian originally, then an Idahoan, using the mass transit is great fun for me, especially since my husband knows all the routes.  Though I have managed it alone at times.  So here we are taking the AirTrain right into Manhattan.  Then, of course, we traversed the city on the subway. 

The Staten Island Ferry is FREE and gives you the absolutely BEST view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Skyline.  Take a round trip just for the view and you will be delighted.  It is so much fun to see if you can spot locations that were used in your favorite movies.  Don’t forget to have a hotdog from a stand on the street corner.  But watch the price…obvious tourists can pay double if they haven’t checked the going rate.

Touring Europe, I have visited many cathedrals, stopping for a moment of prayer and awe at the glorious arches.  So Gene suggested we visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.  Here too, we lit a candle and prayed for our nephew Patrick. 

We love to catch lunch at PJ Clark’s restaurant.  Gene hung out here as a college student.  It’s just the same as it was when the New York skyline was only two stories tall.  The new owners who bought it about 8 years ago from the original family, restored the building but changed not one iota of the decor.  The steaks are great! “Crowded bar upfront. And great, simple, burgers, fries and onion strings served in the back”.   Wouldn’t go to New York without a trip to PJ Clarks.

    Now, I must get down to business with my hotel reviews:

Refined Elegance and Grace, Understated and Quiet…The Waldorf Astoria, New York 

I loved the Waldorf Astoria!! My husband had Thanksgiving there as a child and was eager to return.  I love the luxury and splendor of yesteryear. Being a “tea party” enthusiast, I couldn’t wait to have afternoon tea at the Waldorf Astoria.   This hotel is a great jumping off spot for a cruise from New York.  Many lines transfer right from the hotel.  “This Art Deco Treasure has been maintained with all the graciousness and indulgent comfort of a timeless landmark.”  The staff was courteous and helpful at every turn.  The rooms exquisite and impeccable.  Not to be outdone by modern spa facilities, the Waldorf has the Guerlain Spa which offers all the sensual pleasures of customized spa treatments. “On fabled Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, the legendary Waldorf Astoria New York hotel stands as a beacon of old-world elegance and service.”

A icon of wealth and elegance…The Plaza Hotel on Central Park, New York

While in New York, I wanted to check out The Plaza Hotel.  It is featured in so many movies as the ultimate hotel so I was excited to finally visit. “Central Park, Fifth Avenue, spectacular art, thriving culture, endless shopping, unbelievable dining and lively nightlife – this is New York City.” The location was perfect.  We relaxed in the plaza right in front of the hotel, enjoyed the fanciful statues and petting the horses from the carriages.  We sat and absorbed the elemental sensations of New York.  Then Tom, the doorman, welcomed us to the fine establishment of the Plaza Hotel.  Though we did not have the privilege of lodging at the Plaza on this trip, we did take a tour of the property.  It felt rich, beautiful and wonderful.  “The Plaza Hotel in New York City is the ultimate luxury lifestyle destination – a timeless urban resort with a new and contemporary spirit. ”

Our final stop was to The Palace Hotel.  The decor was definitely reminiscent of a palace.  We enjoyed our tour and found everything to be quite elegant and fine. Though this hotel was my least favorite of the three reviewed here, I did delight in the creative bulldog statues found about.   Here is my husband doing his imitation of a bulldog. 

Thank you for coming along on my trip to New York.  Of course, you will want to do the usual tourist activities of Times Square, Broadway, Statue of Liberty, etc.  I hope you will check out PJ Clarks and ride the Staten Island Ferry as well.  Listen for that New York accent too and try on a few word just for grins.

Happy Travel Dreaming,

Anne