Saturday, February 5, 2011

Upcoming Trips in 2011

Watch for my upcoming trips in 2011:
  • Dominican Republic
  • Italy
  • Mexico 

Trip to St. Lucia

This trip was a birthday present for me from my partner, so I am very excited to talk about it. St Lucia is a very small island in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. We stayed at the Almond Morgan Bay Resort. Our room was literally on the beach. We can sit from the balcony and watch the waves roll by. The resort was really nice, very clean and the staff was extremely friendly. This was an all inclusive resort. And the best thing about it was at 3pm every day was high tea time. We dined like the British at 3pm every day. The scones were excellent at tea time.

The rooms were clean and very well kept. The food was excellent! Everyday we had dinner at different restaurants and got the opportunity to talk to the chef. There is this one restaurant that leads out into the water and the dining area is open overlooking the water. However, when you are having dinner in the night you cannot see the water, you can only hear the waves… was beautiful! Sometimes when the waves are too high they have to close the restaurant down for the night because the water splashes into the dining area. And at lunch time they have a BBQ on the beach.

The beach is very small but keeps everyone in an intimate environment. It wasn’t too bad. The sand on the beach was the type I’ve never seen before. Because St Lucia is a volcanic island, the sand on the beach is gray. Very fine, very nice clean gray sand. The waves on the other hand were a problem for me. The waves were so high that I refrained from going into the water for days. Then finally I build up the courage and took the dive.

We took a tour to a plantation where we saw hundreds of fruits that were grown. We got the opportunity to taste a whole lot of them. And old woman (the mother of the owner of the plantation) made us breakfast and it was to die for! We then went to visit a rainforest. Now that was spectacular! We did some hiking (not mandatory for everyone), took a gondola ride across the rainforest in the canopy. But the most interesting sight was the St Lucia’s Soufriere volcano. You can hear the bubbling sulfur springs and hissing pools of streams. We also headed off to Marigot Bay…..yes the famous Marigot Bay where the movie Dr. Dolittle was filmed. This Bay was beautiful! I could sit there for hours just gazing at the boats and the beautiful water…..awh, what a vision!

Another trip we took was a day trip on a Catamaran. Travelling in the ocean all day, drinking beer and sightseeing…..doesn’t get any better than that! The Catamaran tour was fantastic! We got to see the famous Piton Mountains, not to mention drinking Piton beer. They also anchor the Catamaran in the middle of the ocean and people go for swimming.

We also took day trips out to the city to do some shopping. The have huge shopping centers where there are some really nice gifts at reasonable prices.

This was a really nice trip. We had a wonderful time except for a few days of rain.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Trip to Cuba – Varadero

My partner and I went to Cuba and stayed at Sandals Royal Hicacos Resort & Spa. Let me tell you, this vacation was the most amazing vacation ever. The resort was very beautiful. And not a long drive from the airport, only about 30 minutes. The rooms are kind of secluded so you feel a sense of privacy. This was an all inclusive resort that does not accommodate for children. It is an adult only resort. So if you want some peace and quiet away children, this is the place to be.

The rooms were very nice and the bed was amazingly comfortable. The beach was only a two minute walk from the room. That was the best thing about that resort. The beach was immaculate! The sand was smooth and the water was jet blue and calm as a clam. The first morning we went on the beach, it felt like paradise. It was so peaceful and tranquil……maybe because there were no kids around….just kidding. The water was so calm that you could walk in as far as possible because the slope was not steep. The water was so clean to the point where not even a blade of grass was in it. The only thing you see when you are on the beach is blue, blue, blue and a peaceful calming effect.

Well so much for the beach. The food was kinda ok. There was variety and plenty, but it was bland. Before we left to Cuba one of our friends told us to take some hot sauce with us. We didn’t believe her. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good and there were lots of variety. I enjoyed the fact that one day for lunch they had whole fishes and they were putting them on the grill….that really made my day because I am a lover of seafood.

There was a show every night in the open stage. One night they had a magician and guess he called up on the stage….you guessed right….your truly. He did an act where he blind folded me. I was scared to death, but I did it anyway. It was a lot of fun!

We booked some tours from our travel agent tour guide at the hotel. We went to Havana; the bus drive was very long, about 2 hours. Havana was beautiful! The ambiance, the people and everyone seen so calm and relaxed in Havana. During the night on the same tour we went to a Tropicana show….it was spectacular! Never seen a show like that before.

We also took a bus ride out of the resort into the city to do some shopping. There are lots of small shops along the road and everyone is so welcoming and nice. We went to the local beach and had lunch at one of the cafĂ©. It was a different experience form being at the resort. Getting off the resort is highly recommended. All the cars on the street were all vintage….something you will never see anywhere else.

Overall, our trip to Cuba was an excellent one and we plan to go back there again in the future. 

Trip to the Dominican Republic – Punta Cana

My trip to Punta Cana was a family affair. There were eight adults and one child. This trip was awesome! We stayed at the Melia Tropical resort. The resort is very large and if your building is not next to the beach; then you have a train ride to get to the beach. The train ride from our room to the beach was a five to seven minutes ride. Not bad. Sometimes we will walk if it’s not too hot.

This was an all inclusive resort, kid friendly with lots of food and drinks. The food was really good and lots of variety. I was very surprised by the quantity and variety of food. The la carte restaurants were really good also. This trip was primarily to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. One night we booked a restaurant and told them about the occasion and they give us the royal treatment. It was very nice!

The beach was a little trek away from our rooms. We had to take a train to get to the beach or the pool. The beach was kept very clean but the water was a little rough. The pools were immaculate, not to mention the swim-up bar. We stayed at the swim-up bar for hours, just drinking, acting silly and enjoying ourselves. It was a very relaxing atmosphere.
The rooms were ok. However, they were clean and no musty smell or roaches like in Mexico Gran Bahia Principe. The only drawback was that they were doing some renovations at the time we were there so the building we were in had some construction materials during the day. But we were never around the rooms during the day, so it didn’t really affect us much.

There are lots of tours that can be booked from the hotel through your tour guide. We took a tour where we were transported into a huge monster truck. Everyone felt like they were in a terminator movie. The monster truck took us to sever site. We went to a kid’s school where we were able to go into the classrooms and distribute pens, pencils and sweets to the kids. The looks on the kids faces will last a lifetime of memories. Went to see the works of a witch doctor next to the Haitian border… that was a little scary! Saw a cock fight in a real fighting arena. We went through some rugged and tough terrain in the monster truck…...never did that before so that was an experience. But the most amazing thing about that entire trip was the ride in the monster truck.

This resort was worth the money. But it was too big, because I don’t like the idea of waiting for a train to get to the beach or pool. But I will probably go there again.

Trip to Mexico - The Gran Bahia Principe, Akumel Cancun

My second visit to Mexico was with my partner and family in October 2010. There were five adults in total and one child. We decided to stay at The Gran Bahia Principe in Akumel Cancun. This resort can accommodate kids. But let me tell you, the bus ride from the airport to the resort was like forever.

This was an all inclusive resort also. It must have been one of the largest resorts I have ever seen on my travels. There were three wings to this resort; Akumal, Coba and Tulum. You have to take a train to get around the resort.

So here is the lowdown, the first night as we were in our rooms I noticed some small insects crawling on the floor. I decided to sweep them out the door. That first night we slept well because we were so tired from the travelling and bus ride from the airport. The second night I notice insects again along with a cockroach. Now its war! Because I can’t stand cockroaches in my living space. I killed the cockroach and sweep the insects out the door. As the night progressed, there was another cockroach. This time it was in the bathroom under my toiletry bag with its super long antennas sticking out from the side of the bag. I knew this sucker was large and I was scared to lift the lid of the toiletry bag. I called over my brother-in-law to help with the situation but now everyone was scared, because it looks very large with long antennas that keep wagging. So we stood there for about one half hour with a shoe in one hand to smack it as soon as it tries to move out from underneath the toiletry bag. So it moved and I smacked it and threw a bunch of towels on it and stomp in it. It was a scary situation because this all happened in the bathroom in a confined space. I was scared the roach will leap over and fly on me or something ridiculous like that. So we requested to move rooms. They moved us to another room, but the fears of cockroaches were still in the air.

As my partner and I claimed into bed one night, there was a very strong smell under the covers. The entire bedding under the covers smelled like urine. It was disgusting! We couldn’t stay in the room after that. We asked them to move us again. With some hesitation they did move us that night. And we asked them to spray the room for insects. They sprayed the room that night and we sat outside for two hours until 2am before we were backin the room.

And if the cockroach story was not enough, here is another one for you. One night as I was about to go to bed the phone rang and it was my sister-in-law. She was hysterical! She wanted me to go over to her room right away because there was a huge cockroach in her bathroom. Low and behold, that was the night her husband went out for a walk and she was alone. By now I have lots of experience with roaches. I took a shoe and crept into the bathroom and smack the sucker. This one was a little easier because it looks like it was an old roach and wasn’t very mobile. She was shaking for the rest of the night.

Anyway, the resort was very kid friendly. They have great programs for kids and the sitters are really great with the kids too. A great thing to have if you don’t want to drag your kids around with you all day. My niece said she wants to stay at the Children’s Club all day, because she gets to play with other kids.  

The food was ok. After a few days I started to get tired of it because it was the same thing everyday. Most of the a la carte restaurants were all booked up for dinner, so we spend most of our time having dinners at the buffet…..what a rip off.

The beach was ok. Nothing to scream about. The waves are so high in that area; they install permanent barriers in the water to keep the waves out. The facility was clean, but the rooms were miserable. I forget to mention; all the rooms we’ve been in had a musty smell. Don’t know what it is. But in my mind I was thinking mould.

Again, this is Mexico and there are a lot of tours that you can book right from the resort. Went to see the Pyramids; for the second time. Did a few trips into the city for some shopping and lots of other activities.

However, that will be the last time I am staying at that resort!

Trip to Mexico - The Royal in Playa del Carmen Mayan Riviera

I have traveled to Mexico twice in the past three years. The first time, with my partner we stayed at The Royal in Playa del Carmen in the Mayan Riviera. This was an all inclusive adult only resort. The hotel was spectacular! The resort was very nice and clean. The room was fabulous. There was a free bar in the room, but who can drink all that alcohol in the room when you are outside all day and it is still free. But it’s a nice to have service. There was turndown service ever night with small chocolates bars on your pillow…how sweet is that? This was luxury accommodation at its best.

The food was excellent with lots and lots of choices. They even had an authentic sushi restaurant on site. And one thing that we noticed was that the rich local people will go to the restaurants at the resort for dinner.

The beach was great…..what else can I say. They had beach beds, actual single beds with a canopy on top at the beach and by the pool for cool relaxation.

There are a lot of tours that can be booked from your travel agent tour guide at the resort. We went to see the Pyramids, Xcaret, a traditional Mayan village and lots of other sites. The Pyramids were very fascinating when you have a tour guide.  

This was a really great experience for my partner and me, but we decided to try another resort on our second trip because it was a family trip with kids.