Uniglobe Carefree Honored by Sandals at Whitehouse!

Hello from Jamaica and the Sandals STAR Awards.  STAR stands for Sandals Travel Agent Recognition. Every year Sandals invites their top travel agencies to come down to a Sandals location for these awards.  This year we are being hosted at the beautiful Sandals Whitehouse.    

 The Chairman and CEO, Butch and Adam Stewart were here and brought us up to date on some of the things that Sandals has been working on.  Have you ever dreamed about an over the water bungalow but thought Tahiti was too far to go?  Well dream no more.  Sandals, is introducing their new over the water bungalows in St. Lucia in 2012.  They are going to be stunning, with their in room Jacuzzi, glass floors and large outdoor patios.  They will be something to watch for.  Another huge announcement was that Sandals is going to be giving discounts for people in the Canadian Armed Forces.  We will update you as soon as we have all the details in on that program.

 Extensive renovations are under way right now at Sandals Ocho Rios and should be completed no later than February 2011.  For those of you with children, you will be happy to know that Big Bird is coming to Beaches this fall and will be at the Beaches Resorts for the next year.   With so many great things happening at Sandals, it’s hard not get excited about the resorts. 

 Last but not least, Uniglobe Carefree Travel was nominated for Top Travel Agency in Western Canada.  It is great to be among some of the best agencies in the West!

 I would just like to close with Sandals new slogan:

More Quality Inclusions than any other resort ON THE PLANET.  If you have ever been to a Sandals Resort, you know that just about sums it up.  If you are looking for a quality vacation this year, think Sandals.

 A big Thank You to everyone from Sandals for hosting such a great event and we look forward to being invited again next year.

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Jamies Celebrity Solstice update

Welcome to the latest installment of Jamie’s Life at Sea on the Celebrity Solstice!  We have been having an amazing time!  Since my last blog, we visited the island of St. Maarten and spent a sun and fun filled day at the Airport beach, playing in the waves and sand and then shopping in the town of Philipsburg on the Dutch side of the Island.

St. Maarten is half Dutch and Half French.  This was my second trip to the island and it was even more beautiful than I remembered.  There are great bargains on perfume, jewellery and liquor in this port.

Yesterday was spent at sea, catching up on some sun and sleep and enjoying the relaxing life on board.  My final thoughts on the Celebrity cruise line and the Solstice in particular are:

-Very nice modern and classy decor

-Great, friendly staff

-Usually easy to find a chair near the pool and if not, there are lots of other options for lounging around the ship.  Some very nice quiet corners, like the library, the specialty coffee shop, the sunset bar.

-Good food

-Not a lot of kids facilities and not many kids on board.

-Overall, suited to couples and adult groups.

We also enjoyed the spa facilities and it is a really nice and relaxing feeling as soon as you walk in.  Lots of white and blue, soft music and great oceanviews to enjoy.  Well worth the cost, especially if you take advantage of their specials.

We are looking forward to our last dinner with our group and will post pictures when we return home.

Jamie

Solstice at Sea

I find the days at sea to be the most relaxing while on a cruise.  The Celebrity Solstice is an exceptionally quiet ship at sea and you hear almost no engine noise – just the occasional shutter to remind you the ship is under power.   Today, we started with a massage and a facial.  The price was not too bad for a cruise at $99 for both.  Since we are at sea, the all the public areas are much busier and it can be somewhat challenging to find that perfect deck chair.  The outdoor pool tends to be the busiest but the Solarium pool is much quieter and you can usually find a great place to park and read your book, nap or whatever is calling you.  This area of the ship is really where you can run away from the noise or bustle of life on a ship.

Aside from several meetings with other owners, Regional staff and suppliers (yes we do work on these trips), we also went to the glass blowing demonstration.  This is quite unique to a cruise to have a facility and show like this.  We have been to several glass blowing demonstrations including those in Venice (Murano) but I must say that this one was very well done and they explained the process very well. 

On the same deck, this ship has a grass area for bocce ball, croquet and other lawn activities…and yes, it is real grass!  So, tomorrow afternoon there will be the first ever UNIGLOBE Bocce Ball tournament.  Never having played, I think it will be great fun.

Dinner tonight was back in the Epernay Main Dining room and again, I am truly amazed at how good the food is given the number of people they feed every night.  It was cooked to perfection as I ordered it and they accommodated our every request.

It’s going to be tough getting off the ship on Sunday…

Ed Buchholz

Ed’s Amazing Celebrity Solstice Cruise

Before I blog about St Maarten, just an added comment to Jamie’s information on San Juan.  We had a dinner at a restaurant called Marmalade that deserves mention.  About 14 of our group met there and enjoyed their Tapa’s special menu…about 15 courses!  The food ranged from sashima ahi tuna, to red snapper cerviche, scallops, a bean soup to die for, several pasta dishes and a myriad of deserts.  I know that I have missed some, but if you are ever in San Juan, be sure to try stop at Marmalde Restaurant…you will not be disappointed.  I should also note that the wine list is extensive and that the service was exceptional.

St Maarten – both a French and a Dutch Island, there is much to do for the cruise tourist, whether it be beach time, shopping, diving or exploring.  Having been to the Island a few times and the last time being this January past, we decided to visit Maho Beach, also known as Sunset Beach or Airport Beach.  The novelty of this beach is its location.  It’s a relatively small beach but has a good bar and some food to accommodate the many tourists that come to see the planes.

This beach is located right at the beginning of the runway of the St Maarten Airport.  There’s the beach, a small road and then the start of the runway.  The planes are incredibly low when they fly over the beach and that’s the novel appeal of the beach.  The bar even has a surfboard with a sign that announces all the arrivals of the planes.  I swear you could almost reach up and touch the wheels of the planes as they land on this relatively short runway.  So it’s fun and interesting to lay on the beach or play in the water, have a beer or rum punch and even have lunch there.

When the planes take off, the jet blast can be significant and we saw many hats being blown into the water and the blast can create quite a sandstorm behind the jet engines.

For the more daring, there is Orient beach on the other side of the island that does feature full nudity.  It connects with another beach for the more tamer of us that like to keep our clothes on but beware; the clothing optional people sometimes wander over to the other side.

Philipsburg has a nice downtown area with lots of shopping and many restaurants.  The water taxi from the cruise terminal is only $6 return and not only do you get a nice boat ride out of it but you can avoid the traffic of the streets which can get very jammed up.

The Tuscan Grille was where we ate tonight…a specialty restaurant that charges $35 each as a cover but it was well worth the extra money…great food and very attentive waiters featuring the fare from…you guessed it…Tuscany.

Overall the food on board has been very good and the only thing that I have noticed is that the daily buffet for breakfast and lunch is basically the same every day.  There is lots of choice though and if you wanted there are other dining options.

After dinner we took in one the shows…this time a pianist accompanied by the Celebrity Orchestra.  I thought he was excellent with a full range of music from show tunes to the Beatles and even some current songs.  There always seems something to do if you want.

Our general feeling for the ship is very positive to this point and would say Celebrity is an excellent choice in the mid to upper price range.

Ed Buchholz