COLLEEN VISITED UTILA, HONDURAS

Recently we were in La Ceiba Honduras and decided to take the ferry over to the island of Utila and I am very happy that we did.  Utila is a very small island about ½ hour ferry ride from La Ceiba that is your perfect island getaway.  It is only 11.2km long and 3km wide so it makes it easy to walk almost anywhere.  It is known for its great diving as it is situated on the edge of the Mesoamerican reef which is the second largest living coral reef in the world.  I was told that it is also the least expensive place to get your PADI dive certification.

 

IMG_2189 (2)When our ferry pulled up to the dock we were met by different dive companies picking up passengers and hotels looking for customers.  We already had a reservation at the Jade Seahorse so we just jumped into a Tuk Tuk and we were off.  Because the island is so small, there are no cars.  Only Tuk Tuks, bikes or motor cycles.  We had heard great things about our hotel but we were not prepared for the beautiful artwork that makes up the grounds at the Jade Seahorse.  At the back are the 6 cabins that you can rent, each with its own decor and art work.  I say cabins but they all had a fridge, air conditioning, basket of toiletries and floor fans.  We stayed at the Fantasea which is on the top floor with roof top patios that have views of the ocean.  You would have to see it to believe it.  If you are not staying there, you can come in and have a look around.

 

The island is known for its greatIMG_2203 (2) restaurants and night life.  With names like Rehab, Relapse and Skid Row Bar and Grill it makes you think there is a theme there.  Utila is very inexpensive!   Beer is around $2.00 and suppers are no more than $20.00 .  If you are looking for someplace new to go where the water is fine and the living is easy, you should check out Utila.  We will definitely go back!

 

 

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Correna’s Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Royal Princess – Part 2

We arrived into St Thomas this morning. It is a beautiful island but you can still see some of the damage caused by the hurricane this past summer.

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Here is a little tip for you if you are looking for Wi-Fi. There is the tourism office right at the cruise port and they do offer a lot of information as well as free Wi-Fi!  This is a hot commodity as Wi-Fi can be expensive on the ship. I was able to help a couple who were trying to use WhatsApp instead of having to pay the higher rates with their cell phone provider. When in doubt about using other services like WhatsApp, iMessage or Skype through Wi-Fi instead of your cell phone data talk with your tech savvy friends and family before you leave. They will be able to fill you in for sure.

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After Irma, Harvey and the Others – Where Should You Vacation?

It has been a busy season when it comes to natural disasters in Mexico, the Caribbean and Southern United States. We’re sure you’re wondering if your favourite vacation destinations and resorts are where you should choose to vacation this winter.

Here is a list of destinations that we have received notifications about that are just fine or will be very soon:

 

MEXICO

Cancun & Riviera Maya

  • This area of Mexico and the Caribbean has seen no significant damage! All of your favourite resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya are open for business as usual.

Puerto Vallarta

  • This area of Mexico has not been affected by any tropical storms or the recent earthquake that hit the West coast. Feel free to visit whenever you like!

Los Cabos

  • The majority of resorts and hotels in this area of the Baja Peninsula are doing just fine. There are some that will need a week or two to open back up but you can confidently book your winter vacation packages to Los Cabos.

Huatulco

  • Although the recent earthquake was felt in Huatulco all tourist areas and hotels are ready to welcome you.

 

JAMAICA

  • All of your favourite resorts in Jamaica are open for business, unless closed for scheduled maintenance, and ready to serve you.

 

TURKS & CAICOS

  • Beaches Turks plans to reopen cleaned up and better than ever just in time for your winter vacation on December 14!
  • Club Med Turkoise is welcoming guests back to their resort as early as September 30, 2017.

 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

  • The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism reports that the country’s tourist destinations were not negatively affected by Hurricane Irma and are up-and-running as usual. All airports, seaports, highways, tourist attractions, and hotels in all major destinations, such as Punta Cana / Bávaro, Samaná, Sosúa, Cabarete, Puerto Plata, La Romana / Bayahibe, Juan Dolio, Santo Domingo and others are operating normally.

 

BAHAMAS

  • Nassau and Paradise Island were not impacted by Hurricane Irma. Your favourite hotels like Sandals Royal Bahamian, Atlantis Paradise Island, Melia Nassau Beach Resort and Sandals Emerald Bay and more are all open and welcoming guests.

 

FLORIDA

Orlando

  • Walt Disney World’s four theme parks have reopened with most attractions up and running. The Disney Resort hotels have returned to normal operation with the exception of Fort Wilderness Campgrounds and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villas.    The two Disney water parks will reopen later this week.   Walt Disney World is known as one of the safest places to be during an emergency – you can safely plan your next Disney vacation as soon as you like!
  • Legoland Florida’s theme park is resuming its regular schedule today, Thursday September 14. Their water park will reopen soon as well.
  • Universal Orlando Resort is open for business with minor damage to report.
  • SeaWorld Orlando is back to normal as well.
  • Port Canaveral has resumed operations.

Miami

  • Power is returning to Miami neighborhoods as quickly as possible. Miami airport is open and hoping to return to full operations by the weekend.
  • The port of Miami re-opened to cruise ships on Wednesday.
  • Many Miami Beach hotels are currently open offering reduced rates for Florida residents who do not have power yet.

Fort Lauderdale

  • The Fort Lauderdale airport is up and running normally – however some delays are to be expected.
  • Port Everglades has been cleared by the U.S. Coast Guard and is open for business.

 

TEXAS

  • Downtown Houston is dry but may areas of Texas have a long road ahead of them before they will fully recover from the flooding and destruction.

 

ANIGUA & BARBUDA

  • In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the island of Antigua is pleased to report that no hotels have closed as a result of the storm, although a few of the properties had already closed prior to Irma for their annual renovations and general spruce-up, in preparation for the busy festive season. By supporting tourism in Antigua, your patronage will help to rebuild Barbuda.

 

CUBA

  • Information regarding the state of many of Cuba’s tourist areas like Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria is still limited at this time. We’ll work to keep you updated as we know more.   The following details regarding hotels in Varadero was found in the Havana Times on September 12.
    • Blau Marina Varadero – The hotel had to evacuate its guests yesterday morning. The Hotel received serious damage due to its location which is very exposed as it is located right on the tip of the peninsula. The main building suffered serious damage (roof, glass doors, etc.). Structural damage could be noted in the room buildings. The beach eroded due to the waves.
    • Melia Marina Varadero – Some rooms have broken windows and damage to the balconies but the biggest damage can be seen in the common areas of the hotel, especially in the lobby. The hotel is located on a hill so the protection against gusts of wind is minimal.
    • Grand Memories Varadero – The hotel suffered some damage due to gusts of wind. The lobby will require restoration work and it is one of the hotels that suffered major damage to the roof and common areas such as gardens and pool areas. According to reports from the General Manager approximately 40 rooms were damaged and have broken windows. In general, there is no great structural damage and the damage is considered moderate. Access to the beach is virtually blocked.
    • Memories Varadero – The hotel is generally in good condition. Some recovery work will be required in corridors, public areas and some rooms on high floors where roof leaks can only be repaired by replacing the roof in its entirety. The hotel has already re-opened the lobby bar without alcoholic beverages at the moment. Recovery work is being done quickly by the hotel staff to be able to re-establish regular services as soon as possible.
    • Paradisus Varadero – The hotel suffered extensive damage. Ceilings were blown off in some structures in the Family Concierge areas and will require considerable investment to recover. The main building was equally devastated; the new restaurant that was under construction near the beach collapsed.
    • Royalton Hicacos – This is another hotel that suffered major damage. The beach area eroded due to the waves. The restaurant on the beach also suffered extensive damage. The main buffet area is very exposed so it suffered serious damage especially to the roof. You could see a lot of rubble in the area. The Caribeño restaurant has broken windows. The Rooms area did not seem to have major damage.
    • Iberostar Varadero – The Hotel was severely affected. Part of the palapa-like straw roofs disappeared. The theater is partially destroyed. The palapa roof in some rooms was equally destroyed. The palapas around the pool were destroyed and there is debris in the area.
    • Be Live Turquesa – The hotel was evacuated so it was not possible to perform a complete inspection.
    • Playa de Oro – You could see broken windows in several rooms. The pool area was quite affected and the lobby area also has noticeable damage. The disco area has some parts of the roof collapsed. Landscaped areas have fallen trees. The restaurant is running and providing food service.
    • ROC Arenas Doradas – The hotel seemed in good condition. Some air conditioners were ripped off the walls but light damage can be recovered relatively quickly.
    • Meliá Las Antillas – The hotel is generally in good condition and without serious damage to its structures.
    • Blau Varadero – The hotel has a very solid structure however being a tall building it always receives some damage when a hurricane hits the area. The lobby was in good condition however the rooms on higher floors may have suffered some damage.
    • Starfish Varadero – The hotel was generally found in good condition. Lobby without noticeable damage.
    • Brisas del Caribe – The rooms were badly damaged. During the inspection visit you could see several tourists waiting to be changed rooms due to leaks in broken ceilings and windows. The lobby also suffered some damage.
    • Iberostar Laguna Azul – The hotel is located on a hill however it did not suffer serious damage considering its exposed location. Partial damage could be noticed on the roof of the restaurant in the beach area, some palapas destroyed.
    • Starfish Cuatro Palmas – The hotel was evacuated. Some structural damage could be noticed, mainly in the ceilings of some buildings. It was not possible to make a full visit since no staff were found on the property.

 

Keep in mind that clean up and repairs after a disaster can be very costly on a country.   Many of these destinations rely heavily on tourism and would greatly appreciate a visit from you and your family this winter. 

Reach out to our team for more information on these or any other destinations you may be interested in for your winter 2017/18 vacation.  We are here to help make sure you have the very best holiday possible.

Circle Drive  306-934-3400
Sutherland 306-955-1449

COLLEEN’S SECRETS ROYAL BEACH VACATION – PART 3

Our holiday is almost over and we have really loved Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana.   One of the best things about the resort is that you have sharing privileges at the Now Larimar and the Now Garden which gave us access to 13 restaurants!  Our two top picks were Capers which is an Italian restaurant at the Now Garden and the Himitsu restaurant which is the teppanyaki restaurant.  The food at both of these is very good. The other restaurants were good but didn’t have the same WOW factor.

While we were here it was my husband’s birthday and the hotel goes all out. We had a banner on the door, cake, balloons and a card. It was really nice! As you walk around the resort you will see Honeymoon, Anniversary and returning guest banners.  They actually asked when we checked in if we were celebrating anything so no one is missed.  It will be sad to leave but this is definitely a hotel that we will return to.

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If you are interested in visiting the Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana please reach out to our team of agents at 306-242-TRIP. They would love to help you plan your next vacation!

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COLLEEN’S SECRETS ROYAL BEACH VACATION – PART 2

So in talking to people around the resort I always like to ask about what they like best about the resort and some say the great staff, others the food but the best thing around here is the lazy river.

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All of the bottom rooms around the lazy river have lounge chairs so that they can sit on their patios and then it’s just a few steps to the water.

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Some of the rooms are quite secluded around the river with areas to get out if you want there are also hammocks and chairs almost built in along the way.

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Many people come back each year and get their same rooms.  It’s not uncommon to see the waiters walking along the lazy river to bring people drinks.  They all seem to have brought a blow up tube from home or you can buy them from vendors on the beach.  It’s hard to imagine that this is an adults only resort when you see all the blow up toys but it seems to be the thing that keeps people coming back.

Check out my video of the lazy river:

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Colleen’s Secrets Royal Beach Vacation – Part 1

Hola from Punta Cana!

We have been here for a couple of days now and we are staying at Secrets Royal Beach.  This is a great hotel. You pay a little more but it is totally worth it.

Check out our beautiful room.

 

Here are some of the best things about the Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana:

  • Adults only = no kids.  If you have kids you can stay at the Now Larimar next door
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout the resort even works on the beach.  No more sitting in the lobby with a hundred other people trying to get the Internet!
  • No wrist bands!  I love not having a wrist band. Say good bye to the wrist band tan.
  • No towel cards.  You can get as many towels that you want, when you want. No more towel cards to search for every morning.
  • 24 hour room service –  breakfast in bed or that late night pizza, your choice.
  • Great chairs on the beach and a small table at each palapa – no more putting your drink in the sand.  Plus there are a ton of waiters to get your drinks!
  • The Jacuzzi tub on your balcony is a nice touch.
  • There is a lazy river that runs through the property.  I have never seen so many adults with blow up toys.
  • There are 5 restaurants in the hotel but you can also dine at the Now Larimar or the Now Garden giving you access to a total of 13 restaurants. If you stop at the front lobby the bell boys are happy to give you a ride to any restaurant in their golf carts. Oh and there are no reservations required at the a la carte restaurants!

It doesn’t get any better than this. Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana is waiting for you!

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Colleen’s RIU Palace Mexico – Part 2

Our hotel is in the Playacar area that is about 30 mins from Cancun. We have stayed in this area before and we always love it. It is more like staying in a nice neighbourhood instead of being off the main highway. When we walk out of our hotel it’s like walking on a street at home. Every night we are able to go for a walk. There are always a lot of people out and about and there is a small shopping plaza about 2 minute walk from our hotel so you can pretty well get anything you need.

The best part about it is that you are just a 20 minute walk from Playa Del Carman so you can go into town whenever you like and to take a taxi back is 90 Pesos so about 6.00. There are also lots of bikes available if you prefer not to walk into town and a bike stand just as you enter Playa Del Carman. The area has lots of different hotels to choose from.  They also have a couple of golf courses in the area that we walk past everyday including the Hard Rock Golf Club. We love that we can leave our property without having to take a cab.

To see the full beauty of the RIU Palace Mexico check out my resort tour here https://youtu.be/Mjznc4ubGVQ.