|Posted on December 13, 2018 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
Over Thanksgiving we were once again in Jamaica. We stayed at 2 resorts for the first time and I spent a day with the Jamaica Tourist Board to see 5 others. We did the bamboo river raft down the Martha Brae for the first time as well.
I really find that staying at the resorts gives me a better overall feel for how my clients will feel. Tours of resorts are great but give you a much more limited view. In this case we spent 1 night and day at the Melia Braco. This is a family resort and has 2 parts to the resort. In order to really get to use the whole resort you need a club room. There are no elevators and we were on the top floor so the mobility challenged may not find this the resort for them. We really found that the resort had a good deal of Jamaican culture and you may be vacationing with Jamaicans getting away from their daily grind. They had a trampoline and obstacle course plus a kids club for the younger family members. Our dinner was the at the street fair they held that night so we got to start out with all of our Jamaican faves.
We took a short ride the next day for our home for the next week at Excellence Oyster Bay. This is a new resort just opened mid 2018. As such there are a few things to iron out. That being said the resort was quite lovely and located on its own peninsula. Some areas of the beach are not that wide depending on the tide but you can walk quite a while most times of the day. Across the bay you can see cruise ships doc on and off during the week. The rooms are quite spacious and offer room service and mini bar included. The Excellence Club suites are even more impressive and offer extra amenities and access to Club only areas of the resort including their own pool, restaurant, lounge, and pallapa area. The spa has a great included water therapy for any club members or if you book a treatment. This took a whole hour to go through all the steps. My scrub and massage were lovely and ended with me being placed on a swaying bed with aromatherapy to further relax me. Dining option really were plentiful but they did run out of items across the week. The jerk station near the pool seemed to always be a fave of all the guests. The bars were fun and offered different environments across the day. Again they did run out of a few things. Entertainment varied from Excellent (Silver Birds, Live musicians, D.J) to ok (some of the night shows did not resonate with us). Late night there is Karaoke or a D.J. which depending on the crowd could be a blast to meh. We would return but plan to give it a little time to iron out the kinks first. A future note is they are building another part of the resort expected to have Over Water Bungalows and more Club areas.
On my day with the JTB I visited the RIU Reggae and had update tours for Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean, and checked out Sunscape Cove, Splash t see what changes AMR made since they purchased the resorts. RIU Reggae is adults only and seemed like a fun option with a color pallet I like much more than most RIU resorts. Both sides of Sunscape had not changed much since I visited the resorts when they were a Sunset property. Sandals Royal Caribbean finished the Over Water Bungalow since out last vist so it was cool to see this suite category added as an option without the long flight to Tahiti. Most changed though is Sandals Montego Bay; this original Sandals looks almost completely new. If you have already been it may be time to check her out again she is refreshed beauty.
As always we try to see another part of Jamaica each visit. This helps me explain tour options to you my clients and just allows us to spend time feeling more involved in Jamaica than just being on a resort located there. We had a singing captain and learned a lot about him and the river we were guided down. It was beautiful and relaxing.
We ended our trip with private transfers by Travel Around Jamaica and hung out in Club Mobay in the airport. Both of these things just make the process of going home more hassle free than the alternatives.
As always I am here to be your first hand authority on the resorts and tours of Jamaica. Please contact me for all your Jami can travel needs.
|Posted on August 3, 2018 at 3:25 PM||comments (0)|
You can cruise almost anywhere in the world where there is water. It may be a river or ocean cruise. It can be on a large floating city or a smaller more intimat yacht or all the things in between. As an agent I am fortunate enough to have sailed most of the usual cruise lines. A caribbean cruise , a European Cruise from Rome to Dubai, a Pacific Mexico short cruise, and of Course Alaska. Each line has its own personality and focuses and that is where I can really help you navigate all the information you find on line. Specials may make a line that is not usually cheaper not the best choice for the way you cruise. I may also know of lines and types of cruises you never even thought of but once you discover them the wanderlust may take hold.
New ships come out often and each one trying to offer something new and exciting to entice cruisers to come and experience the ship. From new ways to have fun like go carts at sea, laser tag, escape rooms, water parks, shooting ranges, bowling, golf, shows galore, and new dining options to luxury accomodations boasting private areas and butlers you can bet there is a cruise vacation out there for you. Most have some kind of kids club to keep the youngest generations happy . They also have great educational options to enighliten persons of all ages about the areas you are cruising in. New on the horizon is Virgin Atlantic's adults only cruise ship that is now being constructed. Ships now offer all inclusive options for dining and drink packes that help make sure ou know what you are spending up front. Some top tier options also include many options for tours at each port. It is all about finding out what you want in your vacation and helping guide you to the best line, itinerary, and ship for your need.
My current passion is yacht cruising where you rent the ship out and have a captain and a small crew. With a cabin complete with a bathroom and A/C you will comfortably enjoy the area of the world you choose. There are options across the globe to experience this more intimate, upclose, and less scripted way of cruising. You and your group of friends can hang out and snorkel, paddle board, ski, or scuba to your hearts content. You can experience local culture when you want or return aboard to dine and drink with your traveling companions, it is up to you.
There are also theme cruises. These vary from the obvious Pirate,to Holidays, different musical genres, or like minded groups. My fave is a week of Jazz activites with names you only hear about but the 80's hairband cruises and Country options are similar. Cruises like to do Holidays big especially Halloween and Christmas. None more so than the Christmas market river cruises in Europe. Visit cities that look like Christmas cards and get caught up in thier tradiitons.
What ever kind of cruise is for you if you are considering a cruise please email me or call 620-481-1659 and I would be happy to find just the right option for your next vacation.
|Posted on December 29, 2017 at 3:35 PM||comments (0)|
While I was in Exuma, Bahamas for the group trip I toured a villa type resort and explored areas of the island we had not been to before.
Grand Isle was located on the same stretch of beach as Sandals and was also nestled within the Greg Norman golf course. It has units from 1 to 3 bedrooms that can be rented for a more villa type vacation. If you are traveling with other family members they will make every attempt to place you close together. It is large enough to offer several view options. There is currently a pool with bluff views toward the ocean and beach. There is a gym and some dining option currently located near the pool area. Coming soon is a pool on the beach level and a more intimate dining option that will extend their current options. These are due to be completed within the year. Each unit is decorated differently with an amazing amount of detail for rental property. They all come well-appointed including a washer and dryer. You can buy your own groceries on the way there or have the kitchen stocked before arrival. For a small fee you get a golf cart to transport you around the resort. I think this is a good home base for those who like to do things on their own. It is a 20 minute plus drive to the hub of activity so you really need to be there for relaxation and tours.
On our previous trip we did the 4 C's full day tour. This allowed us to see giant star fish in crystal clear water. You would have sworn they were just a few feet down but my husband assures me that he barely made in one breath to pluck one up for us all to see closer. We swam with the piggy’s next. Yes, I said piggy’s. The stories vary a bit on how they got there but as soon as they hear the boats they know it is dinner time and out to the boats they swim. These pigs can be large to little piglets and it is actually a cool experience even for those who doubted it the most. We past many Cays with homes of the rich and famous perched upon them. About halfway through the tour we stopped at the Yacht club and had lunch and drinks. Though there were some yachts the place is more rustic than the name leads you to believe. Next we were off to swim with the sharks at Compass Cay. These are actually nurse sharks so no need to worry about becoming their lunch. They are however pretty good sized and with snorkel gear and underwater cameras it was a cool experience. Next we were off to a sandbar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea at low tide. I tried and tried to get a picture that did all the colors of blue justice and I think I failed. It was just so beautiful. our next stop was the Thunderball Grotto so named because it was in a James Bond movie. You have to go underwater to enter the grotto but once in there is a large space. Many picture opportunities are available and there were a good amount of fish. Our last stop was at Iguana Island where we played with or ran away from the large population of Iguanas. Overall this was a long tour but one of our favorites so far.
We also did the Eco Tour last time. This tour departs from Georgetown. We started the tour by stopping in a cove that had several sea turtles. They came up to the boat and we fed and watched them for a bit. This tour also took us to a sandbar but it was not at low of a tide so we felt a bit more like we were just in shallow water. It was pretty and we were kind of hoping to see a shark but were not that lucky. We were soon taken to a different area to snorkel and one of the crew got in the water to direct us to some cool finds. Next we were off to the Chat and Chill which is a nice little hangout on Stocking Island. One of the coolest things here was the stingrays that hangout at the shore. There was also a bar and grill that offered you a chance to leave a shirt, hat or your signature somewhere in the bar.
This time we rented a car and explored the island on our own. Coco Plum beach is amazing at low tide as you can walk out a long distance. in the other direction from our resort we went all the way across the bridge to Little Exuma to the Tropic of Cancer beach. This was beautiful and almost deserted. After a while of swimming and taking the typical I was here pics we were off to Santana's bar and grill. They fry just about anything you want. Nothing better than some deep fried lobster while staring out at the beautiful blues of the ocean drinking maybe a beer or two. The Pirates of the Caribbean actors were said to of spent many an hour here while filming. Our most exciting find though was the lemon sharks that hang out off the beach. They are very timid but cool to watch. There is also a ship wreck just of shore. Returning to Georgetown we caught the ferry to Chat & Chill. Here we introduced our friends to a lovely song bird we met last trip. we also got to introduce them to the stingrays they rubbed up against your legs like a cat may do. Down the beach you could purchase squid to feed them and they would suction it out of your hand. This pretty much filled our whole day until it was time to return and get ready for dinner.
Our final exploration occurred after checking in for our flight. The waiting area is quite small offering limited food, drink and shopping so we opted to go across the street to the bar and grill there. We had a few drinks, some sandwiches, and left our signed currency with the others hanging around the bar. There is a bit of a chance to souvenir shop as well. We left in time to clear security and wait a bit for our plane.
It is my goal to explore and experience the places I go to better guide and match the vacation to my clients needs. Please use the form to contact me to let me know what kind of vacation I can help you with .
|Posted on December 29, 2017 at 2:25 PM||comments (0)|
Our last group trip was 8 of us for a family member’s milestone birthday to Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma, Bahamas. There is something inherently fun when you bring a group together for a vacation. I know some worry that they will not be able to do their own thing but we have found it to be just the opposite. A group vacation provides built in entertainment and like-minded people when you want and a solitary or couples vacation when you don't. This is a smaller group but slightly larger groups can qualify for reduced costs or even free rooms or air. We did not all arrive or leave on the same day so we had extra flexibility to fit the vacation to our time off and monetary concerns.
We had 8 very different people when it came to vacation style. We had many meals together but also had intimate dinners as couples as well. One couple had a beautiful candle light dinner one night while the rest of us got together for drinks and then dinner at the French option. Some of took advantage of the wonderful massages and other services offered at the Red Lane Spa and other never set foot inside. One of couples was super active and hiked, walked, canoed, paddle boarded, snorkeled, and went night crab watching. A few individuals joined them for some of this but they mostly did it on their own. Some just let the sand or pool gravity take them away and relaxed. One couple went on a tour to swim with the pigs; but the rest of us stayed at the resort having done this on a previous trip. All but one couple rented a car and explored the island. Driving on wrong side of the road to check out beaches, bars and even islands just off shore by ferry. Some of us went to the returning guest dinner and some opted to do their own thing that night. We joined each other for night time entertainment as it worked for each couple. With free Wi-Fi the location of others was only a message away. Many nights ended with Karaoke, pool, and ping pong, dancing, or playing a card game someone brought. The takeaway here is do not be afraid to join a group as you can always make it your own vacation at any time.
There were certainly some things we could all agree on. The resort is located a large stretch of soft white sand with no vendors unless you sought them out at the very end of the beach. The water is an amazing shade of blue. The Greg Norman Golf Course offers challenging play and beautiful vistas along the ocean side. The resort was lush and beautiful. The addition of Soy and Kimono’s offered great sushi and show cooking. Bombay added Indian food as an option and our family style dinner with the whole group was one of our favorites. The stars shine so bright at night that they were their own show. We still find this resort to be more laid back in the day and night compared to many that we have been to which was great for some and a bit disappointing for others. The island feels very safe and with one main road it was easy to navigate and get out and experience it.
If you are considering a group vacation for a wedding, anniversary, birthday, family reunion, or just because please contact me and I would be happy to help coordinate your travel.
|Posted on April 8, 2017 at 5:00 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on April 3, 2017 at 5:45 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on December 17, 2016 at 2:20 AM||comments (0)|
I hope you are poised to have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Thank you all so much for making this the best year yet for Island Girl Vacations and Travel. Trying to fit your vacation to you is truly a joy for me and I hope we all have many more vacations in our future,
This year I was fortunate to visit four different Caribbean destinations. Punta Cana, Jamaica (Negril area), Antigua, and Barbados. I am closing in on 300 resorts visited . I hope this make me a valuable tool for your future planning needs. I stepped out of my comfort zone attended my first national conference for my parent company of Travel Quest/Travel Leaders all by myself. Mid January i will be on my own again for the Sandals Home Based Agent conference in Nassau Bahamas. I continued to train on different specialties. I was very excited to add Alaskan specialist this year. Not the Caribbean I know but an exciting option non the less.
My Punta Cana trip resulted in my touring around 20 resorts while we stayed at the adults only Breathless Punta Cana. I was so impressed with how deep every beach at the resorts I visited was. There are resorts of all types for every traveler. The people were very friendly. As we often do we went off resort and had a wonderful meal at a beachside restaurant. I was so glad to return and have real life input for several clients that have since booked to the Island. I have my first large destination wedding taking place at Barcelo Bavaro Palace November 2017.
We returned to Jamaica in May and stayed in an area we had visited but not called home. Negril is known for its 7 mile beach which we explored on our own and through site visits to even more resorts. Home base for us was Couples Swept Away which is on a great stretch of that beach. It was nice to see the changes at Sandals Negril and Beaches Negril. What was really an eye opener for us was the cliff-side. We have been to Rick's Cafe several times but this time we opted for the less touristy Push Cart. The food was good and the atmosphere more laid back. We watched many of our new friends on the included catamaran tour that docked below the restaurant to play in the slides and explore the caves below. Touring cliff-side resorts was a special treat and would be a great place for those who love to snorkel or just want a different type of Caribbean vacation. The hubs did the One Love Pub crawl and got to experience 8 different stops. Both the cliff side and the seven mile beach offer great sunset opportunities. Even though this was our 12 stay in Jamaica there are still so many more things to do and see there so I can not wait to see what the next time will bring.
We took our group trip to Sandals Antigua in late November. It is really a different dynamic when you travel in a group. Built in entertainment from your friends and family or the ability to do things on your own is a great experience. Some of us held down the pool volleyball court while others lounged in Cabanas. We introduced two in our group to swimming with the stingrays. One stated it was the most surreal but awesome thing he has done. We finished up that tour with a visit to Devil's Bridge, a wave crashing historical site on the island. Four of us did the 360 island catamaran tour that took us all around this small island. Two others in our group did the D party boat and had a blast. The resort was beautiful and fun late into the night with a DJ or Karaoke in the Pub each night. I was supposed to do site visits of other resorts but Prince Harry’s visit cut that short. Some of our fellow guests said they saw him walking the resort while he was staying there. I would say our group had a great time. You know it has been amazing when the tears fall at departure.
Our final trip for 2016 was to Sandals Barbados. This we did as a couple by taking the smaller Liat airline from Antigua to Barbados. It is more difficult from our airports here in the Midwest to get to Barbados so this was a great way for me to experience another island and pass that experience onto you. Our first night we went to Oistin’s Fish Fry by cab from the resort. This fishing village is alive with vendors, music, people, and the delicious smells of their fresh catches that they are cooking up for the throngs of people who come every Friday. The people were very welcoming and though they would prefer you buy from them were not pushy. Over the course of the night my husband overpaid several times trying to get used to the exchange rate and was alway refunded the extra he paid. You can take a stroll from the resort to St. Lawrence Gap and experience even more Bajan culture. The rest of our relatively short stay was spent playing pool volleyball and exploring the beach and resort. We were very lucky to have a Butler room this stay which was a first for us. All the special touches and extra attention can be a great addition for those going on a special occasion or those who just really want pampered. I have to say that this resort had some of the best food we have had on vacation. The resort is undergoing construction and by this time next year will more than double its current size.
Sadly we had to return home and try to catch up on things and prepare to spend Christmas with family and friends. Please visit my Facebook page or website to see pictures of this and previous years travels. I hope they inspire you to go and experience something for yourself. From my family to yours Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
Island Girl Vacations and Travel
|Posted on August 15, 2016 at 3:15 PM||comments (0)|
Sitting here thinking of all I have planned for the rest of the year. I have lots of travelers who will see lots of places and many more in the process of booking their next vacation. I have the Travel Quest National meeting in Minneapolis, the Sandals Home Based Travel Agent conference in Nassau, Bahamas, my personal/group vacation at Sandals Antigua, and lastly a trip to see Sandals Barbados and visit the island.
This will be my first National meeting. This meeting gives me a chance to meet other Travel Advisors and network with tour operators. I also will be taking several seminars to learn more about travel areas that I have less personal experience with. Being located in a small town I get requests for all types of vacations not just my specialties and all options to learn are important to me. I am really looking forward to the Rocky Mountaineer Train Vacation training.
This Year will also be my first Sandals Home Based Agent Conference. I have personally been to Sandals Royal Bahamian last in 2010 when I proposed to my hubs. It will be fun to see the changes that have happened since that visit. They added swim up suites and totally remodeled several areas. I hope to get some free time to snorkel of the private island as we loved it in 2010. I will also be updating my Sandals Wedding Specialist training. A destination wedding can be so very easy and special and Sandals gives so many choices from free to elaborate. I can’t wait to see what new options they are providing. I am sure we will hear more about the new over water chapel in St. Lucia and who know what else.
I will be leading a group to Sandals Antigua after Thanksgiving. We were last at this resort in 2013 as our free week for having 70 paid nights at Sandals (yes it is really a thing). I am excited to introduce everyone to the resort. Many of these same people went with us to Sandals Emerald Bay which had amazing water and a secluded beach. I am sure they will find Antigua is a bit different but still fun with more nightlife and ding options. Many of us are looking forward to swimming with the stingrays. We did this last time and they are such graceful creatures. Others will just enjoy the included 360 boat tour around the island. I will visit a variety of resorts on the island to gain more firsthand knowledge of options for you my clients.
After we bid everyone farewell we will hop over to Barbados. This will be my first visit to the island and the newest in the Sandals family Sandals Barbados. We look forward to walking to the nearby areas and are hoping to get in several tours. I also am working to set up resort tours to see more options.
I promise to update you as these things occur. I know a lot of it seems fun and it is these experiences that help me speak knowledgably about the different resorts, areas, and tours that I recommend.
|Posted on August 2, 2016 at 10:05 AM||comments (0)|
I just had a family return from Memories Splash Punta Cana. They “had an awesome time...loved the water park and the Diamond Club beach and pool! The beach was absolutely beautiful. The food was good at Memories, but amazing at Royalton...we paid the upcharge 2 nights to eat at the Hibachi grill and the Steakhouse...worth it! The transportation to and from the airport was excellent...we felt like royalty on the way to the airport because we had a brand new black Chevy Suburban pick us up. Even the guy handling our luggage for us said we were "traveling VIP style" lol. You checking us in for our flights really helped a lot...thank you so much for that! “My clients were not originally sold on this resort but it was one of the Punta Cana resorts offering all the items they were requesting for the adults and their 7 and 14 year old sons.
In March I stayed in Punta Cana and spent 2 days exploring almost 20 other resorts than the one we had as home base. I used Amstar for our round trip private transportation and for the resort tours. This gave me a good feel for their service. Seeing so many resorts gave me firsthand knowledge of the beaches and real feel of each resort. We were considering Memories before but she was really leery after reading reviews about shuttle times as it sets back a bit behind the Royalton and shares a beach and some facilities. Had room been available we could have just booked them at Royalton but they were booked solid. Touring both resorts let me see just how short the transfer really was. I got to see how massive and fun the water park would be for the boys. Seeing the inclusions and extra services offered to Diamond level rooms also helped me explain to them why paying the small difference could make a real difference in their vacation.
Caribbean wide I have stayed at or toured over 200 resorts. I can compare real experiences and real photos when I am planning my client’s vacations. I know that when people try to book on their own they are bombarded with information on the internet and it is hard to decide how photo shopped the pictures are or who they should believe from the conflicting reviews. My value is my knowledge and my desire for you to have a great vacation. You are not a computer bite to me. I become invested in each vacation I plan trying to make it all each client wants. People vacation very differently and have different priorities and my goal is to discover what is important and provide that. Having been to many islands I also understand the airports. Many do not realize that the Dominican Republic has a tourist fee. My clients are not surprised as these are purchased ahead of time; letting them skip the first line to purchase the tourist card. Consider using my services or even your local travel agent for your next trip to see the difference we can make.
|Posted on June 25, 2016 at 12:45 AM||comments (0)|
This time in Jamaica our home base was on the seven mile beach in Negril. The sand was white and powder soft with clear blue and turquoise waters. The sunsets were perfectly staged on the west side of the island. Some of the resorts we visited were very different since they were built on the cliff side and offered jumping, snorkeling, and caving. The water in both sides was very clear and the prospect of returning and staying on the cliff side really excite me for a different sort of Jamaican vacation.
Rock House, Tensing Pen, and The Caves offer European or all inclusive packages depending on the resort. From cottages built of the rock of the west end to themed wood options abound for all. Special spots for those staying or those who would like to come for a special candle lit diner in the caves abound.
We ate dinner one night at Push Cart. The Jamaica fare was tasty and the drinks cold. I had a ginger infused drink that was especially yummy while the hubs kept to his Red Stripe. While there we danced to the reggae music and explored the decorations. The included catamaran form Couples stopped for the guests to check out the caves below. 3 teenage boys climbed the side of the cliffs with bare hands and feet in order to jump or do flips for tips. It was both cool and sad that their teenage job was one that risked their lives and had already scarred each boy‘s face in some way.
The hubs did the One Love Pub Crawl. He visited 8 “pubs” from small places that made you wonder how you were served a cold drink to ones similar to Push Cart. There were great views and lots of opportunities to interact with the Jamaican People. You will not be going to Rick’s as your driver considers that too touristy but you see lots of beautiful areas mixed in with small mom and pop type “pubs”. You will have multiple offers to purchase local ganja if that is bent. We do not partake but found the people standing with large buds for you to buy an interesting site.
Since you have to be at the airport 3 hours n advance of your flight we always use Club Mobay. They recently added a top lounge to Club Mobay where you can watch planes land and depart. There are adult’s only, quiet, and family sections. Your drinks and snack foods are included while you relax in comfy chairs and upload your vacation pics on the freewifi. This was the earliest we have ever been to Club Mobay and they had breakfast items available.
As always we will miss Jamaica until we return again.