Business Travel: It Only Looks Easy

Some of you may not realize this fact (since I rarely address the subject in this blog) but in addition to making your vacation dreams come true,  we are also very good at managing corporate travel.  We have an entire second website devoted to business travel.

Since by now you are familiar with my embarrassing displays of immodesty from time to time, I don’t mind saying we are pretty darn good at it.  Which, I suspect,  might lead you believe that arranging business travel is quite easy.  Keep reading and you will soon be disabused of that silly notion!

View from airplane window

A lot of things in life look deceptively easy that really aren’t.  Take golf.

Just for the record, this is not Ernie Els.

Just for the record, this is not Ernie Els.

Tune into a PGA tournament on TV this weekend and watch Ernie Els hit a golf ball.  He seems to expend virtually no effort with his legendary, lackadaisical swing and yet the golf ball explodes off the club face like it was shot out of a cannon. His iron shots pepper the flag stick and his putts curl into the cup with monotonous regularity. As a golfer myself, I only wish it were half as easy as Ernie makes it look.

But it isn’t just golf. Whether you are talking about cooking a gourmet meal, playing a violin or adding an entertainment theater to your house,  professionals are paid huge sums of money to make their finely honed skills appear routine and commonplace.

Booking corporate travel is no different. The advent of online booking tools only reinforced the notion that booking an airline ticket, a hotel and a car could be done by a chimpanzee trained to hit three buttons in the proper order. And, in point of fact, a reasonably bright monkey probably could be trained to book a reservation.

But here’s the rub. The airfare might well be $400 higher because the monkey had no idea that a flight into John Wayne airport was significantly cheaper than LAX. The hotel might well be twenty miles and 45 minutes from your meeting place and the car might be booked for the day after you arrive. Sound familiar?

When a company starts spending significant sums on travel, rest assured some well-intentioned executive will pop up with the not so revolutionary suggestion that since we travel so much, we should just handle it ourselves. They will quote the low transaction fee of an online agency as justification for making this precipitous leap. That is analogous to an inexperienced sailor becoming fixated by the tip of an iceberg and ramming the ship into the ninety percent of the ice flow below the waterline.

Frustrated at keyboardIs it realistic to expect an administrative assistant, however bright, for whom travel is just one of many responsibilities, to book travel with the same speed, accuracy and creative faring as a professional corporate travel agent who has been doing this task all day, every day for fifteen years? It makes about as much sense as hiring some fresh-faced newbie and explaining that their duties will entail answering the phone, doing some filing and, oh by the way, performing a little brain surgery. “Don’t worry, after a few stabs at it (pun intended), you’ll catch on.”

In a blog post this short there simply isn’t space to explain all the thousand and one ways in which booking corporate travel is complex, complicated and convoluted (none of which is it reasonable to expect an admin to know). But then again, if you have any personal experience with the “do it yourself” approach to managing travel, perhaps you don’t need a lot of convincing.

I’m not saying that booking corporate travel is rocket science. I’m just saying it’s pretty darn close. At Travel Leaders we make corporate travel management look easy . . . perhaps even a little too easy.

If you would like to discuss travel management for your company, CLICK HERE.

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Zoëtry Villa Rolandi: Such An Easy Decision!

Life, as you may have noticed, is filled with one brutally difficult decision after another.

  • Is this really the soul mate of my dreams or the beginning of one long nightmare?
  • Is a college degree a sound investment for me or a fool’s path to crushing debt?
  • Should I vacation on a Caribbean island this year or yield to the magic of Mexico?

OK, since I am neither a marriage counselor nor a life coach, I am going to pass on offering advice regarding the first two questions.  However, since I am a renowned travel maven (in the murky corners of my own mind, at least), I will gleefully presume to dispense my own brand of wisdom in regards to the last question.  As I like to say, my advice is as simple as it is self-serving.

Zoetry Villa Rolandi ExteriorContact me to book your next vacation at Zoëtry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun and you will find yourself enjoying both.  The reason is, Isla Mujeres is both a Caribbean island and a charming part of Mexico.  This “Island of Women” is located about eight miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea and is home to one of the most delightful resorts it will ever be your privilege to experience.

In spite of what they say, getting there is seldom half the fun.  In this case, however that old saw is true. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and whisked to a nearby pier where you will board your aquatic transfer to your all too temporary abode.  Aboard the twin hulled, 42′ power craft, the CoCoon, you will soon discover that it is not only the panoramic skyline of Cancun that begins to recede.  As the high-rise hotels of Cancun gradually become less imposing in the distance, so too will the weighty responsibilities and worrisome cares of life back home.   Before you can say Danaus plexippus (or “monarch butterfly” for the non-scientists in my audience), you will find yourself casting off your own cocoon thus releasing the butterfly of your better self.

Zoetry Villa Rolandi CocoonFor those of you who occasionally miss one of these timeless posts (unless you want an unexcused absence, I will need either a letter from your doctor or your grandmother’s funeral notice in the future), here is a quick review of the Zoëtry concept.  After reading this  post, you will be well versed in the subtleties of Endless Privileges and Wellness and Luxury.

Daniele Sandro Muller

With just 35 oceanfront rooms, Zoëtry Villa Rolandi is about as boutique as a resort can be.   Should we ever meet, dear reader, it will become instantly obvious to you that I have weakness for all things culinary.  Thus, what say we begin our tour with a look at the exquisite dining options?  The stellar quality of the food comes as no surprise since Daniele Muller, the son of owner Sandro Muller and manager of the specialties restaurant “Le Mestissage”, trained at the Institut Paul Bocusse in Lyon, France. Nice pedigree!

On a recent trip with some of our travel agents, we dined at Casa Rolandi, whose offerings are styled “Gourmet Swiss-Northern Italian Cuisine”.   I won’t pretend I can Casa Rolandidistinguish Swiss-Northern Italian from Northern Swiss-Italian in a dark room . . . which this obviously was . .  but, for what it’s worth, I can testify that when I finished, I felt as though I had just consumed a small Swiss chalet.  Yes, I know true gourmands don’t engorge themselves but moderation has never been my long suit.

Since my visit was much too brief, I did not get a chance to sample the French Mexican fusion cuisine at Le Métissage.   Such a pity.   Sandra, our gracious hostess for the evening, assures me that I must rectify that deficiency post-haste.  Well, Sandra, I suppose if you insist though my demanding schedule precludes me getting there before, say . . . tomorrow night!

If you share my lack of dining restraint (oh, and did I mention drinking?), you are going to need somewhere nearby to waddle off to after a night of feasting and imbibing.  With a mere 35 rooms, you should be able to find your lodgings with a minimum of assistance. from the helpful staff.

Superior Junior Suite When you do arrive at your room, this is the type of modern décor that awaits.  I personally love the fine Italian marble and the spacious design.  If you feel the need to wander, but not too far, youZoetry Villa Rolandi Jacuzzi can always retreat to your balcony for a glass of wine or a relaxing dip in your jacuzzi or, even better, combine the experiences.

I once wrote a blog post explaining why no vacation can possibly be complete without a round of golfIf, by some odd coincidence, you share this addiction as well, you can find relief (so to speak) at Playa Mujeres Golf Club where you’ll enjoy complimentary greens fees.  It is a beautiful Greg Norman design with generous fairways and manicured aprons from which you can often putt.  If you are not a golfer and find that last sentence incomprehensible, I suggest you just ignore it and soldier on.  It won’t be the first time someone found my writing mystifying.

Lest I test the limits of your attention span, not to mention mine, I will have to leave the matter here.  There is so much more that could be said about this exclusive resort.  That said, the very best way to learn more is to go there and experience it for yourself!  You will not be surprised when I tell you that I . . . OK, our talented staff . . . can make that happen.  If you can leave tomorrow, save me a seat tomorrow night at Le Métissage.

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Crème van Aruba: The Top Five Resorts

You, my delectable little devotees, will know that I have previously published four posts in my Crème de Mexico series where I shared my expert opinion on the top resorts in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos and Riviera Nayarit (with more Mexico destinations to follow soon).  

I can only imagine how ecstatic you must be to hear that I have elected to apply my not inconsiderable talents to the island of Aruba.  (I am sure that faint ripple of applause I hear trickling through cyberspace will reach a crescendo at any moment.)  What say we start with a word or two about the destination itself before I unveil the lucky beneficiaries of my editorial favor?  Hearing no objections . . . even with the now thunderous ovation I correctly predicted . . . I shall continue.

Family enjoying Aruba

These are Aruba “Happy Returners” Mark and Robin Everly & their children from Frisco, Texas. They travel to Aruba twice a year for their Caribbean Vacation. Click on the image to see other “Happy Returners”.

Centuries of Aruban history is summed up nicely in this one sentence on the Aruba Tourism Authority website,  “What began as a fishing outpost for Amerindians has changed hands between the Spanish and Dutch throughout the centuries, and is now a diverse constituent country of the Netherlands.”  Knowing my audience all too well, I feel comfortable in assuming that your interest in Aruba is more hedonistic than historical so that tidbit should suffice. 

Let me list several compelling, and more contemporary, reasons why Aruba needs to wiggle its way to the top of your bucket list (I’m picturing a pail of slimy fishing worms but you don’t have to).

  • Aruba has more than a dozen incredible beaches like Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, etc.
  • Aruba is relatively easy to get to with direct flights from many US gateways.
  • Aruba accepts US dollars and most everyone speaks English (along with Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and even Papiamento (just in case you need to brush up)
  • Aruba offers an almost endless supply of adventure sports such as:  diving, kayaking, sport fishing, parasailing and . . .  Tell you what.  Just go here and you can look at five pages of adventure options.
  • Aruba offers a surprising selection of food as their cuisine is influenced by 90 nationalities!

More about Aruba another time but we must return to the stated purpose of this blog post which is to give you five superlative options for your Aruban home away from home.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in ArubaAs stated above, my number one reason to visit Aruba is the array of incredible beaches.  If you are an aficionado of boutique style resorts that cater exclusively to couples and adults and a world-class beach is a must, then this property is for you.  Located on Eagle Beach, this hotel is owned and operated by the renowned hotelier Ewald Biemans.  You know you are staying in a boutique hotel when the owner writes his own blog which you can read here.

But what if you are not only a beach bum but also a food fanatic?  Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts has you covered there as well.  Carte Blanche is Nirvana for serious food lovers.  The restaurant only seats 16 (now that’s exclusive).  You will want to make your reservation well in advance of your trip to ensure one of those coveted chairs.  As the website explains, “The highlight is Owner/Chef Dennis van Daatselaar cooking a 5-course “Carte Blanche” (chef’s surprise) dinner right in front of you.”

If fifteen fellow diners still make you agoraphobic, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts has the perfect solution.  Simply book a private cabana like the one pictured above where you can choose from a specially designed menu for two.  Now if even two people seems excessive, I am afraid you have psychological issues neither Bucuti and Tara Beach Resorts nor I can resolve in this space!

 The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba

Ritz-Carlton Aruba DiningWhat say we move from the boutique to the bodacious?  This property has 320 spacious rooms, each with a private balcony.  It offers a 15,000 square foot casino open 24 hours a day for those of you still living the fantasy that next time you really are going to beat the house.  If you really want to daydream a little (OK, I know you are reading this at work but I won’t tell your boss), check out the pictures on their website.  I must say they are some of the most stunning you will see of any resort.

Here is a quirky little factoid.  The incredible spa at the Ritz is also 15,000 square feet, the same size as the casino.  What better place to recover from the lingering disappointments of the night before at the blackjack table?   After your Awa Awakening Treatment and the “seven different indigenous local floral and herbal potions . . . created by a Caribbean herbalist,” you will be so mellow you will sneer in the face of your gambling losses.  OK, maybe not sneer but at least stop whimpering.

Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa

Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & SpaThe Radisson Aruba Resort is one of the most popular resorts in Aruba with an impressive number of repeat visitors.

The resort offers a nice selection of dining options but be sure you visit their signature restaurant, the award-winning Sunset Grille.  What caught my eye was the fact that their extensive wine list has received the highly acclaimed Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine 10 years in a row.  I have been known to savor a tantalizing red on a couple of occasions (weekdays & weekends).

Another unique feature of the resort is Biba Aruba each Tuesday from 5 to 9 p.m featuring Aruban food and culture, live music and carnival dancers.

Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba

Would you like to discover one of the nine hidden jewels of the Caribbean?  Before youBoardwalk Aruba room answer, let me clarify that this is not an invitation to participate in another hokey reality show where you get to betray your best friend and sleep with your arch rival.  This is the term no less an authority than USA Today applied to  Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba.

Though they have labored to obscure the fact with their name, I should point out that this hotel is small.  Speaking as one who has yet to be asked if I am a professional basketball player, I have no problem with small.  In fact, I am a big fan . . .metaphorically speaking . . . of casitas (small house in Spanish) which this property offers in spades.  They are doing a lot of things right to be ranked 2nd out of 24 Aruban hotels on TripAdvisor (You know, that site where people go who have yet to discover this incredible blog).

Occidental Grand Aruba Resort (Royal Club)

Occidental Grand Aruba Resort hot tubI am going to wind up this list by sharing a little insider tip.  If you book your trip to Aruba (through us, of course) at the Occidental Grand you will have a great vacation. But if you want to turn great into spectacular, pony up the relatively small difference and book the Royal Club.

The best way to think of the Royal Club is as a hotel within a hotel designed for those with a nose for value.  Paying more is never a guarantee of getting more so it takes a degree of travel moxie to know when an upgrade is worth the difference.  Take it to the bank (my bank, preferably),  this is not the time to quibble over a few bucks.  You get access to the Royal Club Restaurant,  the Royal Club lounge, personalized check-in and a private concierge.  Don’t forget the premium beverages and the free wi-fi as well.

The only problem I see with the picture above is the potential argument over who gets the side with the view.  Although, I suppose you could argue that if you have chosen your roommate well, there isn’t a bad view!

If you have been to Mexico so many times, the consulate is calling and asking if you have thought about applying for dual citizenship, maybe it’s time to spread your wings.  Aruba beckons and one of these five exclusive resorts has a room with your name on it.

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All Aboard The AMRewards Express

If you are among those who eke out an honest living outside the travel industry and also possess a passion for personal travel, this humble little blog was created with you in mind.  The vast majority of the posts are intended to harmlessly entertain and painlessly educate you about various travel destinations.

However, as time goes by, I seem to have acquired a number of devotees to this blog who, like me, toil in the hot sun (not to mention soft sand) of the travel industry.  Many of those are front line travel agents spending their days . . . and likely a few sleepless nights . . . making their clients’ travel dreams come true.  (A few of them are almost as good as our own agents!  See “shameless plug”.)

This particular post is written with those folks in mind.  You who belong to the first category have my permission to jump off the train at any point that your eyes start to glaze over.  The good news for you is that this post is going to be shorter than one of Paris Hilton’s miniskirts if not quite as titillating.

Loco Motive:  Four Not So Crazy Reasons To Enroll In AMRewardsI was recently asked to contribute an article to one of the travel industry’s premier online trade publications called Travel Research Online.  The article I wrote recommends a new program for travel agents called AMRewards.   The title of the article is:

4 Great Reasons To Climb Aboard The AMRewards Express

I am not going to replicate any of the content here for two perfectly sound reasons:

  1.      It would only bore those of you who belong to my primary audience.
  2.      Equally important, if you know anything about how internet search engines work, you may know that Mr. Google (as well as his first cousins Bing, Ask, Yahoo etc.) frown upon duplicate content floating around in cyberspace.

Thus, if you are a travel agent and are dying to read my provocative article, you could buy a ticket, stand on the platform and jump on the AMRewards Express . . . or I suppose you could just click here.  I highly recommend you step on board this milk run to greater prosperity and higher customer satisfaction.   Don’t worry, there is plenty of time to thank me by way of a small but thoughtful gift later.

As for all my non-travel-professional followers, one quick clarification and I am done.  If you are worried in general that any rewards earned by a travel agent are going to compromise their objectivity in selecting the right vacation for you, let me drive a silver stake right through the heart of that old vampire.  In the first place, several of the items referred to in my article accrue directly to the benefit of you, the consumer, not the agent!  Secondly, travel agents live and die on happy repeat customers.  No agent with half a brain would trade loyalty and trust for a trunk full of trinkets.

Come back soon and I promise you more tantalizing travel tales, all written to the same impeccably high standard you have come to expect from this space.  No, really, I’m serious!

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hanging Ten In 2015: The Hottest Trends In Travel

Even if you have never surfed a day in your life and find yourself slightly older that your average backyard topsoil (OK, that would be me), you are still likely familiar with the term “Hanging Ten”, if for no other reason than you lived through all the surfing songs of the sixties.  According to Wikipedia, where we all turn when “remotely close to the truth” is good enough, “Hanging Ten refers to having both feet on the front end of the board with all of the surfer’s toes off the edge, also known as nose-riding.”

2015This blog post is dedicated to those of you who love to live life out on the end of the long board.  You are in a constant quest for the hottest trend and the “new next”.  You scoff at the idea of visiting last year’s destination . . . so utterly passé and embarrassingly démodé!

However, if the paragraph above describes you, you face a rather large dilemma.  How do you find out what are the hot travel trends for 2015?  Make one little misstep and you will find yourself drummed out of the army of the avant-garde faster than Bradley “Chelsea Elizabeth” Manning found his/her way to federal prison for violations of the Espionage Act.

Not to worry!  Here is my very practical suggestion.  Simply ask 1,226 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents.   But what if you are pretty sure you don’t know 1,226 travel agents, at least not well enough to grill them for detailed travel booking data?  Again, not a problem!  My wonderful friends at Travel Leaders Group do and, would you believe, they have already asked them!   How fluky is that?

If I tell you where you can find this treasure trove of timely information, will you promise, scout’s honor, not to go there until you have trudged through this entire blog post?  If you want to see the results of the entire survey, you merely have to click on the image below.

Travel Leaders 2015 Travel TrendsOK, now that was very, very naughty.   Don’t imagine for one moment I can’t tell that some of you have already clicked on the link.  There will be coal in your stocking come next Christmas . . . assuming Santa can still find any coal by the end of next year.  Since you obviously are intent on scouring the entire survey for yourself, I will just point out a few highlights and send you scurrying on your way.

1)  If you want to be hip in 2015, you would be wise to cast anchor for Alaska rather than venture to Vegas.  Why is that?  Cruising to Alaska has dethroned perennial winner Las Vegas as the number one domestic destination for 2015!  There is no better way to see Alaska than on with Un-Cruise Adventures.  Click the image below to see a very neat video.   Un-Cruise Alaska video2)  If you really want to be way cool, tune in to the brand new season of Downton Abbey, not for the riveting production but for the commercials.  One of the main sponsors is Viking Cruises which has helped to put river cruising on the map.  According to the survey, river cruising in Europe jumped another spot among international destinations in 2015 to #4!

Viking - Budapest3)  Finally, for those who really want to get all ten toes wet, try one of these hot, up-and-coming destinations:  Croatia, New Zealand (visit the farm where The Hobbit was filmed), Costa Rica or Vietnam.  When you return from one of those destinations, you will be the envy of even your snootiest friends.  After all, what is the point of having a snooty friend if not to make them jealous!

The time has come when you can jump from here to the survey without feeling the least pangs of guilt.  The ones who have already clicked obviously have long since seared your consciences, so you may disregard this absolution.   Have fun discovering the hot new trends and, when you are through, don’t forget to reach out to your old friends here at Travel Leaders to begin planning for 2015.

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Zoëtry In Motion

A couple of weeks ago, I led a familiarization trip to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Mexico for a few of our travel agents and independent contractors.  It was hosted by AMResorts, a company about whom I have written often.  Like many hotel and resort companies, they have elected to group their properties into various brands, each designed to appeal to a different clientele.

In the case of AMResorts, their brands are called Secrets, Breathless, Dreams, Now, Sunscapes and Zoëtry.  Most of those terms could well have been lifted from the pages of a steamy Nora Roberts romance novel.  Should I pause a moment while you fan yourself and regain your composure?

Zoetry YogaLest you imagine that the life of a travel agent is an endless round of one crème brûlée after another (there are a few molten chocolate souflés sprinkled in from time to time), we saw fifteen properties in three days.  Granted, it hardly qualifies as the Baatan death march but one can pick up a nasty blister if the proper walking shoes are not worn and a good antacid to combat all that rich food is a must .  Enough about me and the noble sacrifices I routinely make to bring you these mesmerizing blog posts.   Your touching gratitude, which I can feel wafting over me across cyberspace at this very moment, is compensation enough.

Today’s focus shall be on the last, but hardly the least, brand in the above list.  I am referring to Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts.  My goal for this post is to give you a broad overview of the defining elements of this brand and then, in subsequent posts, to tell you about the two Zoetrys which I visited in person on this recent trip:  Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita, Rivera Maya and  Zoëtry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres Cancun.  You are welcome!

Zoetry ParaisoEndless Privileges

A good place to start is the concept of endless privileges which is what  Zoëtry calls their unique approach to amenities.   This property beckons the most discerning travelers, those with the most discriminating taste.  Picture your next vacation at a resort with no check-in or check-out times, where the maid services your room three times a Zoetry pamper verticalday, where only healthy gourmet cuisine is served and where unlimited top-shelf spirits are provided.

Trust me when I tell you those items I just mentioned are merely the starters intended to whet your appetite.  You can read the full menu of endless privileges by clicking here.

So many amazing touches!  What could be nicer than finding a complimentary bottle of rum or tequila when you arrive at your room?  OK, possibly enjoying daily afternoon tea with live plant infusions.  Honestly, I am not sure what that means but all the glitterati tell me one hasn’t really lived until one has been infused with a live plant.

Did I mention the luxurious Bvlgari® bath amenities and the 24-hour private in-suite dining?  I can’t take responsibility if, at this point, you are starting to feel just a tinge decadent.  It sometimes happens at Zoëtry.

 Wellness And Luxury

I am all for wellness but I must admit I don’t tend to equate it with luxury.  I picture it being achieved at some rustic boot camp where a fitness guru with a terminal case of hemorrhoids finds delight in making sure I am in at least as much pain as he is.  You can’t imagine my relief when I read this sentence on Zoëtry’s website.  “Discover a perfect balance between holistic wellness and unrivaled luxury in blissful ocean front settings.”

Zoetry SpaAnother  aspect of their wellness emphasis is their personalized menus.  They can and will accommodate vegetarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan and pretty much any other dietary preference.  If you are an adherent of the Petra Nemcova carrots, tomatoes and seafood only diet, no problem.  You just have to sign a disclaimer regarding your palms turning yellow as hers apparently did!

Bucket ListCome back soon and I will tantalize you with vivid descriptions of the two Cancun / Riviera Maya Zoëtry properties drawn from my recent visit.

I have added an extended stay at one of them to my bucket list.  Given the fact that, in my case, the metaphorical bucket is starting to loom rather large, that is saying something!

Zoëtry is definitely in motion. They are moving towards new heights of luxury, style and comfort and I, for one, am quite keen to jump on board.

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Dreams Tulum: Perfect For Whom?

In the travel business, we spend a lot of time asking our customers a series of questions to make sure we tailor our recommendations to their unique desires.  As I like to remind our front line sales staff:  prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

And yet, ever so often, we discover a property so versatile, so accommodating that it is difficult to imagine there is anyone who would  not enjoy its disparate offerings.  I just returned from spending a few days at  a resort that pretty much annihilates the old adage “Jack of all trades, Master of none.”  As you might have divined from the title . . . sly devil that you are . .  I am referring to Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa.  The answer to the question posed by the title of this post is simply “whomever”.

DSC02392Dreams Tulum is an ideal selection for at least three categories of travelers:  families, weddings / honeymoons and meetings / groups.  (I can think of several other categories such as couples, golfers, etc. but since this is supposed to be a blog post and not an encyclopedia, I will restrain myself.)

FAMILIES

If you are still at that stage of life where little rug rats routinely crawl all over the furniture in your living room like a small rodent convention, than you are going to love this property.  For one thing, the resort has recently increased the number of connecting rooms in the Deluxe and Junior Suites category.  This gives Dreams Tulum the ability to confirm connecting rooms in advance, something very few other properties of this stature can do!

In addition, this property now offers Family Suites which come in configurations of 4,5,6,7, 10 or even 12 rooms.  They share a large living area and are all accessed through one master door.  There is an additional daily charge for this option.

DRETU_Explores Club    Dreams Tulum Camp Out Adventure

As do all the Dreams Resorts, the Tulum property offers an Explorer’s Club for kids ages 3-12.  This includes such activities as a camp-out adventure pictured above. There is a basketball court, kids can climb rope ladders to a playhouse, enjoy a rock climbing wall and much more.  Dropping your little munchkins off at the Explorer’s Club is not going to be a problem.  Picking them up at the end of the day to clean up for dinner might be another matter!

WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS

So how do you know if a given resort is serious about weddings and honeymoons?  The first clue is whether they have a wedding showroom!

DRETU_Wedding ShowroomThe second question you should ask is, “Do they have an onsite wedding coordinator?  The answer, of course, is . . . “Of course!”.  Finally, do they have several wedding options to choose from with enough flexibility to customize your experience?  Again, the answer is a resounding yes.

You can visit the Dreams Tulum Weddings page for answers to frequently asked questions, to better understand Mexico’s marriage requirements, to see photos of recent weddings, to get a checklist, to see their Pinterest board and a whole lot more.  Planning a destination wedding can seem daunting but our experienced agents will have you feeling undaunted before you can say “I do!”.

The resort also offers Honeymoon packages if you are getting married stateside, anniversary packages and vow renewal packages.  Not to mention, if you have your wedding at Dreams Tulum, you can even return on your first anniversary for complimentary nights!  How sweet is that?

So far as I know, there are no divorce or burial packages but you never know what might be on the drawing board at Dreams Tulum.

WeddingMEETINGS AND GROUPS

So what happens if you want to come to Dreams Tulum and bring along a few hundred of your closest friends?  (For me, that’s not a problem because the people who will admit publicly to knowing me would fit in a VW minivan but I realize that’s not true of everyone.)  Dreams Tulum is a perfect place for any kind of meeting or group.

Dreams Tulum Convention CenterAs a matter of fact, they have a dedicated website for just meetings and groups which you can access here.  That site has a two page fact sheet suitable for distributing to key planners or even all participants.  In the same way there are wedding planners, there are dedicated meeting planners.  There is also a layout guide for planning space utilization.  They have a very robust multimedia capability as well.

I realize groups travel together for a lot of reasons beyond business.  Every year Dreams Tulum hosts affinity groups, multi-generational family groups, Girl’s Getaway groups, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and conventions for left-handed, Bolivian unicyclists. OK, I may have made that last one up.

OK, I am out of time with no room left to give proper due to the beautifully appointed rooms, the Art at Dreams Tulumvarious decadent restaurants which I hold personally responsible for sending me into an eating frenzy or to the epicurean spa.

I will say this though.  Based on my experience, I feel comfortable promising that you will meet some of the nicest people if you visit Dreams Tulum.  As I was relaxing in the spa, I saw this lovely couple (see picture to the right) who were just hanging around the hot tub.  They seemed a little shy.  It was unfortunate my masseuse showed up at just that moment to lead me away to my treatment room because I could sense they were about to open up.  I have a rare gift for reading people.

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Quantum: Debutante Of The Seas

Those of you who hang on my every word . . . assuming for the sake of this post that such hapless souls really exist . .  will no doubt recall that last August I was privileged to see Quanum at the Meyer Werft shipyardQuantum of the Seas in her gawky, gangly, pre-teen stage. Not to be uncharitable, she was displaying some serious zits back then.  You don’t have to take my dubious word for it.  Just look through these prepubescent pictures.  (The last 27 at the bottom are the new ones of the completed ship.)

All of us who took that tour of the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany last August voiced the same unshakable conviction: there was no way on God’s green earth that this ship was going to be presentable to the public come November. And yet, I was completely, if uncharacteristically, wrong!  I know, I am every bit as shocked as you are!

Quantum of the Seas Michael'sYet, here I sit at Michael’s Genuine Pub penning these words while sipping a brewsky and reveling in Quantum’s debutante ball. For those unfortunate readers who may not flutter about in high society like some of us social butterflys, a debutante is ” a girl or young lady from an aristocratic or upper class family who has reached the age of maturity and, as a new adult, is introduced to society at a formal ‘debut’ presentation.”  I have a little sage advice for you young guys out there. Tread carefully when pulling the pigtails of your best friend’s freckle-faced kid sister.  Some awkward teens grow up to be ravishing young ladies!

There is simply neither space nor time here to detail all the innovative features and fascinating facets of this amazing ship.  Speaking of time and space, did you know that Albert Einstein wrote a book about space . . .  and it’s about time too.  (Sorry, I really can’t help myself.  It must be genetic.)

Bionic BarHere is one of Quantum’s more fascinating features.  This is the Bionic Bar which mixes you a drink, delivers it to you and then listens to your marital woes (although personally, I must say, I found the one on the right to be a trifle aloof and diffident.)

Since we can’t cover everything here, if you are interested in knowing more about:

1)  the back story regarding how this entire series of blog posts came to be, click here.

2)  the trip to Germany, the PreCab Cabin tour and the big “Reveal”, click here.

3)  The amazing technology behind smart check-in, the on-board app, the WOW bracelet, the incredible wifi bandwidth and more click here.

4)  The concept of Dynamic Dining, the wide array of dining options, the North Star and Ripcord by iFly, click here.

5) the average bmi of an adult African aardvark, I don’t have a clue where you should click!

Vicki FreedWho is that mysterious woman sipping a latte in the Royal Esplanade?  Why, I do believe it is Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service.  I interviewed her for this blog a while back . . . and yes, she is that incredibly generous with her valuable time.   Click on the image, or here, to listen to that interview.

One of the dining venues created by Devin Alexander, New York Times best-selling author and media personality, is called “Devinly Decadence”.  For me, while the cuisine definitely pleased the palate, at first hearing the name jarred the sensibilities.  I was all prepared to dredge up grammatical technicalities from my English major past regarding which parts of speech properly modify one another, not to mention spelling, when it finally dawned on me that the name of the venue was not “divinely” but rather eponymous, a take on her name Devin.  OK, so the little gray cells don’t fire as rapidly as they once did!

To tie a final bow on this five-part series on the Quantum Of The Seas, this royal debutante has blossomed into a regal mistress of the high seas.  I have no doubt but that she will delight her guests of all ages and for many years to come.

Quinceañera on Quantum of the SeasOne final note.  As I arose from my table at Michael’s and strolled down the Royal Esplanade, my ear was caught by the lilting voice of a young women emanating from inside Boleros.

As I stood at the door and gazed inside, it was obviously the speech of a newly minted fifteen year old young princess at her Quinceañera, roughly the Latin American equivalent of our debutante ball.    As I listened to her excited but quivering voice, I could not help but smile and think to myself,  “How perfectly apropos!”

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Crème de Riviera Nayarit: The Top Five Resorts

Are your ready for a little creative crème with your morning Mexican coffee?  Today we are adding another installment to our Crème de Mexico series.  Yes, it is entirely appropriate tomexican coffee do the happy dance . . . assuming you remain fully clothed, of course.  This is a family blog site, after all.

Just as Cancun has the Riviera Maya  (or Mayan Rivera, as you prefer) to its south, Puerto Vallarta has the Riviera Nayarit (or Nuevo Vallarta, as you prefer) to its north.  As is the case with Cancun, you fly into the respective region’s main airport, in this case Puerto Vallarta, to reach the bordering destination.   If that explanation isn’t clear on the first read, try another Mexican coffee with a small shot of tequilla and I am sure it will become instantly lucid.

The Riviera Nayarit is one of Mexico’s most exciting emerging destinations worthy of its own full exploration.  Perhaps I can spare you a little time in trying to ferret out the top five resort options for your first, or next, visit as the case may be.   My list is both authoritative and definitive (or at least it seems so to me after following my own advice in the preceding paragraph).   So what are the top five resorts in the Riviera Nayarit?

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

Grand Velas ResortsI think I see a pattern emerging here.  This property’s equally sultry sister, the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, made my Crème list for the Mayan Riviera area a few weeks back.  (See a list of all the previous Crème posts at the end of this particular masterpiece.)

This incredible resort is the only all-inclusive resort in the Mexican Pacific to be awarded Five Diamonds by AAA . . . a feat almost as impressive as the laminated balsa wood award I received recently for the most inscrutable travel blog in cyberspace.)

Grand Velas Riviera NayaritI  have mentioned frequently on this blog that I place a personal premium on pampering.  Thus, to qualify as a leading resort, it simply must have a leading spa.  This one does . . . literally.  It is home to a Leading Spa of the World!   Condé Nast Magazine, whose exacting standards in such matters almost rival my own, recognized them as a “Most Excellent Spa Hotel.”  If you long to be caressed and mollycoddled by the best (and what self-respecting bon vivant doesn’t), make  the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit your next stop.

The St. Regis Punta Mita

St. Regis Punta MitaThe next two resorts on my list already have an esteemed place on the virtual bookshelf of this blog.  In each case, you need merely to don your cybersuit and transport over to the following link to read all about my recent visit to this incredible place:  The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort: Seriously Secure!   

Follow this link to  read about another great spa, the Remède Spa, sumptuous dining options and another of my favorite topics, world-class golf courses.  This property is about as posh as it gets.

Marival Residences Luxury Resort

There is so much to love about the Marival Residences Luxury Resort starting with the fact that, while most all resorts have beaches (beach resorts anyway), the Marival Residences have their own exclusive VIP Beach Club.   Picture yourself relaxing in one of these beach chairs pictured below.  Find yourself coveting a quesadilla?  Craving a cold Corona to quietly quaff?  Before that thought is fully formed, an attentive (and apparently psychic)  waiter is delivering your preferred refreshment.

Marival Residences VIP Beach ClubAs a matter of fact, I love this place so much that, a while back, I took my entire extended family on a multi-generational  experience of the first magnitude. Naturally, as a compulsive chronicler, I wrote a couple of blog posts about the experience. They were called  Bridging The Generations Down Mexico Way  and Build A Travel Bridge To Somewhere.   Read those two posts and not only will you learn a great deal of helpful information about this unique resort but you will undoubtedly learn way more than you ever cared to know about me and my progeny!

Four Seasons Punta Mita

Take a look at this picture because it represents the most difficult decision you will have to make all week at Four Seasons Punta Mita.  “That hammock looks so inviting but is it really worth the energy to get up out of this chair to walk the three steps over there and lie in it?  Oh well, I do have the rest of the afternoon to decide.”

Four Seasons Punta MitaAs relaxing as that sounds, let’s be honest.  It might be a little risky for some of us Type A’s to try and decompress all at once.  I personally would be afraid of contracting the psychological equivalent of the bends.  We titans of industry require a little activity before we start the unwinding process.

So is there anything to do at the Four Seasons?  Nothing . . . unless you want to count, as they do ” . . .some of the best snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, surfing and golf in theFour Seasons Tail of the Whale world.”  I range between a novice and a non-participant in the first four activities in the list but I am a self-designated expert when it comes to quality of golf venues.  I would give the Pacifico course, with its world famous third hole called “The Tail Of The Whale”  (click on the picture for the full effect), six stars out of a possible five.  I am throwing in the extra star for the incomparable service rendered from the time you enter the pro shop until your golf shoes are handed back to you at the end of the round looking better than when you bought them!

If you rightly equate the Four Seasons brand with delivering guest experiences “beyond compare”, a visit to the Four Seasons Punta Mita should only burnish the brand’s already stellar reputation.

Villa La Estancia

Villa La Estancia dining at nightWhen you vacation at a deluxe resort, you expect dining options commensurate with all the other lavish amenities.  This is one area where this property shines.  La Parrilla Restaurant is the casual, poolside option when you are craving a mid-day wrap or  a bracing Mexican ceviche.  La Casona, the Mexican steakhouse with its selection of Kobe beef, offers a choice of either indoor or outdoor dining. Deluxe Superior Room   Villa La Estancia Three Bedroom Suite

Regardless of the number of guests in your party, the Villa La Estancia has a room category to fit your need.  They have deluxe superior rooms; one, two and three bedroom suites and even Penthouse Suites.

You need not take my word on this property.  Just take a look these intelligent young peopleVilla La Estancia Yoga who are obviously head over heals (or would it be heels over head) in love with this property.

Having just read this exquisitely written synopsis of the best of Riviera Nayarit, I have total confidence you are clamoring to read the other posts in this series.   If so, you have only to follow the links below for more rip-roaring good fun.

Crème de Los Cabos: The Top Five Resorts

Crème de Cancun: The Top Five Resorts

Crème de Riviera Maya: The Top Five (or so) Resorts

I would love to hear your opinion on these two questions.  Which of the four Mexico destinations that I have treated so far is your favorite:  Los Cabos, Cancun, Riviera Maya or Riviera Nayarit?  Also, which of the twenty plus resorts we have highlighted is your personal choice?  The best answer will be awarded a free lifetime subscription to Travel By Terry (my lifetime, not yours!).

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