About Terry Denton

Inveterate traveler, proficient writer, avid golfer, unremarkable person. Co-owner of Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel of Fort Worth, Texas · http://www.travelleaders.com/fortworthtx

Royal Caribbean’s Royal Suite Class: Best, Bester, Bestest

My abject apology to English grammarians around the world (or better yet, across the seas) for trampling upon their sacrosanct rules governing comparatives and superlatives.  I was an English major myself so, for what it’s worth, my sin . . . while no doubt mortal in their eyes . . . was at least not committed unconsciously.  The reason for the title is simply that the time-worn phrase “Good, Better, Best” just doesn’t cut the mustard in this instance.  Shall I explain?  Indeed, I shall.

Royal Loft Suite with BalconyRoyal Caribbean International next May will launch a newly enhanced luxury at sea program called the “Royal Suite Class”.  This program offers three levels of delicious self-indulgence.  Picture yourself standing on the spacious balcony of one of these suites as I was just a few days ago on the Anthem of the Seas.  Your gaze quite naturally falls first upon the glistening sea below, then rises to the brilliant sky above and finally, as twilight falls, to the luminous panoply of stars beyond.  Thus, the names of the three tiers almost begged from the beginning to be known as Sea Class, Sky Class and Star Class.  See how easy this all is when you have moi to guide you by the hand!


Something all three classes have in common is access to the Coastal Kitchen, a dining option exclusively for suite guests and Pinnacle members.  Think a fusion of Mediterranean coastline and California farmland.  They pretty much had me when I read about ” . . . Med-inspired tastes like Serrano ham, whipped goat cheese and roasted grapes.”  Granted “whipped” and “roasted” sounds a little violent from the food’s point of view but I am pretty sure you will enjoy the results!

This particular class has one category perfect for families.   On the Quantum Class of ships, the Family Connected Coastal Kitchen Anthem of the SeasJunior Suite provides the greatest number of guests in connecting rooms of any suite configuration.  It provides space for up to 10 guests!

I am desperately trying to picture nine other friends,  relatives or even passing acquaintances willing to share that level of intimacy with me and so far I am drawing a blank.  If you find yourself both wealthier and more popular than your humble scribe (not a high bar), you will just have to move up to the Star Class on one of the Oasis class ships where the Four Bedroom Family Suite sleeps fourteen!

All three classes of suites afford access to two other fantastic features.  The first is the suite lounge where you will enjoy 24-hour access to this intimate setting which offers complimentary breakfast and evening drinks.  Secondly, you can recline in the comfort of a plush lounge chair and bask under the Caribbean sun in a private Sun Deck reserved just for you . . . well, you and a handful of other discriminating suite guests.


This year has been a pretty good year for you, all things considered.  Are you ready to take it up a notch?  If you have ever stayed in a five-star hotel, you know the value of a great concierge.  When you book this class, your exclusive concierge will assist you in booking priority reservations and theater seats.

Take a look at all the suite benefits and concierge services that are at your disposal.  You haven’t been pampered like this since you first learned as an infant to scream your head off in the middle of the night sending your parents scurrying about like the fire alarm just went off.

Sky Class


If you book the Star Class, you receive  all the amenities listed in the chart above PLUS unlimited beverage package, complimentary specialty restaurants, in-suite hand crafted cocktail service, complimentary minibar, Nespresso coffee maker service, complimentary fitness class, complimentary in-suite movies, daily gratuities included, Duxiana mattress, and Frette linens, towels and robes.

Sky Loft Suite With Balcony  Royal Suite with balcony bathroom

With all those inclusions, I have saved the bestest for lastest.  For the Star Class guests, Royal Caribbean is introducing something called the Royal Genie Service.   Royal Genie ServiceThe concept is not just to attend to your every need and desire (legal and moral, let me qualify) but to actually anticipate them.  The rumor is that these future genies are being trained even as we speak at the London School of Mental Telepathy.

To summarize, the Royal Suite program will be available on two classes of ships:  the Oasis Class and the Quantum Class.  There are three tiers of suites:  Sea Class, Sky Class and Star Class.  Finally there are sixteen different categories of suites such as Royal Lofts and Owner’s Suite.

I beg you, don’t try to sort this out all on your own.  You will only bruise your precious little gray cells.  Instead, reach our to one of our Royal Caribbean experts.  Why not let your Royal Genie service begin with the booking process?

Make Portugal Your Port O’ Call

One of the absolute best things about being in the travel business is getting to visit places I have never been before.  As Simon Raven said, “…life is short and the world is wide” so it is hardly surprisingly that there are still many places that my foot has yet to touch.

When the chance arose to do a Globus Journeys tour of Portugal and Spain, I was on it like an Anatidae on a Phyllophaga (or duck on a June bug as we say here in Texas).   The extent of my previous knowledge was limited to a vague awareness that some of the world’s best port comes from Portugal.

Visit PortugalIt took me about half an hour to be smitten like a junior high schoolboy with Lisbon and its environs.  One of my criteria for a great European city is that it must be walkable.   Every other mode of transportation, with the exception of one I am about to mention, moves too fast for my plodding little gray cells to absorb the surroundings.  Lisbon is eminently walkable if you have  a strategically located hotel like the Sofitel Liberdade Lisbon.   Turn right out the front door and you have before you a beautiful twenty minute walk down to the Tagus River.

Colour Tours Colour Tours

Another option besides walking is the concept Lisbon has borrowed from Thailand called Tuk Tuks.  They can be found scurrying about everywhere like little pregnant motorcycles.  By sheer good fortune, we selected a Tuk Tuk driven by young lady named Teresa (a name shared by my wife) and whose father owns ColourTrip Lisbon.   She had recently started driving for her Dad and was a delightful hostess for her beautiful city.  You can do thirty minutes, an hour or two.  We did one hour and had her drop us off back at the hotel at the end of one of the most enjoyable sixty minutes in my recent memory.

One of the most striking things about Lisbon is the hills that offer some very impressive vantage points.  The locals know it as The City of the Seven Hills.   From a historical point lisbon-burningof view, the most infamous event in Lisbon’s storied past, without question, was the cataclysmic trifecta known as the Earthquake of 1755.  Striking at 9:40 in the morning on Saturday, November 1st, All Saints  Day, it destroyed most of the city.  I called it a trifecta because it combined a horrific earthquake, a calamitous tsunami and  devastating fires that raged for five days.

Leaving on that less than cheery note, let’s recover our serenity with a glass of wine at the My Story Hotel.  Even though we stopped in a couple of times at their charming sidewalk cafe, I never did learn what their Story Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal“story” was.  Maybe I was too awestruck by the modest prices.  Two nice glasses of Cabernet and a large bottle of water was eight Euros (about nine dollars).  That illustrates one of the most appealing things about Portugal and to a lesser degree Spain.  Due, no doubt, to its well publicized economic woes, everything seemed strikingly affordable, especially by European standards.

Another thing I found fascinating was the language.  Portuguese, of course, is one of the five romance languages all of which are largely based on Latin.  I have a passing familiarity with Spanish . . . by that I mean I can get into a conversation in Spanish, I just can’t ever get out . . . and assumed I would be able to pick up a little of the Portuguese banter.  That was not the case.  The “sh” sound is ubiquitous in Portuguese.  Portuguese, to my ear at least, sounds like a Czech school teacher shushing her class of students in Spanish with a decidedly French accent.  I had two separate native speakers tell me that they can understand virtually everything the Spanish say but the Spanish look at them as if they were speaking Mandarin Chinese!

Cork cap and purse from PortugalI wish I had a dollar every time over the years I have been told to “put a cork in it.”  I am finally going to take that advice by putting a little cork in this blog post.  Did you know that Portugal produces over half the world output of commercial cork?  Of course you didn’t.  That would make you as smart as me and we can’t have that, now can we?

You may assume that all that cork goes just to stopping up wine bottles but you would be so wrong.  (I know, nothing is more obnoxious than some wise …  hmm, wiseacre with a bit of new knowledge.)  I will spare you my newly garnered insight into the cork tree growing process, fascinating thought it is.  In point of fact all sorts of products are made with cork such as my new cap and the wife’s new posh purse purchased in Portugal.  (Try saying that without pursing your lips!)

         Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel   DSC02721

As usually, there is so much more to say but our journey beckons.  I will close with this bit of sage advice.  If you want to visit Europe and you’re looking for a place rich in history, gastronomy and hospitality but exceedingly kind to your pocketbook,  Portugal needs to be your next Port O’ Call.  That is, if you don’t mind being shushed all the time.

  •  You can view all the pictures I took on this trip here.

Imbibing In Iberia (or if you prefer) Cuba Libre Continental Style

For the next several posts you will be transported through Portugal and Spain with a dash of London thrown in for flavor at the end.  You will not be boarding a luxury Globus motorcoach, as I recently did, but rather you will be borne along on the fluffy clouds of my velvety prose.

Globus Touring CoachThose of you who live for my next pulsating post no doubt have noticed a dearth of such missives of late.  The explanation is as simple as it is depressive.  For the past few weeks I have been toiling like a serf rather than traveling like a sovereign.  Oh, the humanity!   I feel your compassion oozing across cyberspace even as I write these words but, take comfort, dear heart, I have learned how to steel myself against life’s injustices.

Thank goodness my interminable season of discontent ended on September 23rd when the wife and I boarded a British Airways flight bound for Lisbon by way of London.  Simply return to this site on a regular basis and you can follow along on my grand adventure.

Where to start?  Why don’t we begin with a theme that emerged quite by happenstance?  On the evening of the first full day in Lisbon, I wandered into the bar at the Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade (I am sure I was looking for the sundry store) when I decided to pause for an ever so modest libation.  I ordered a rum and coke, my cocktail of choice, and was quite delighted with the presentation.  So, I snapped a picture and posted this comment on my Facebook page:

“Every bar has a rum and coke. Leave it to the Sofitel Liberdade Lisbon to add the nuts, cranberries, olives AND a bowl for the pits!”

Rum & Coke Sofitel LiberdadeWhen we arrived to the Gran Melia Colon in Sevilla who would have guessed they also had a bar!  Is it my fault that they place the darn things so close to the sundry shops?  I ordered my customary drink and here is what they brought.

Rum & Coke Gran Melia ColonThe post on Facebook read:

“OK, tonight’s rum and Coke in Seville #GranMeliaColon is served with orange slices, peanuts, chocolate and gumdrops.”

I thought this was a particularly nice glass.

I know my readers are unusually astute so no doubt you see the pattern developing here.  Unconsciously (which is, by the way, how I operate most of the time), I was developing my own metric for comparing the various hotels on our itinerary.  The pressure started to build to see if the next venue could rise to the rum and coke test.

Our third stop was at the Alhambra Palace Hotel in Granada. I suppose it is pointless at this juncture to pretend there was a sundry shop anywhere near the bar.  Anyway, I was oRum & Coke Alhambra Palace Hoteln a mission.  I was not succumbing to self-indulgence, I repeatedly told myself, but rather performing scholarly research.

My Facebook post for the evening read:

“Tonight’s rum and coke at the Hotel Alhambra Palace in Granada comes with a sunset!”

Our fourth and final stop in Spain was at the Gran Melia Fenix in Madrid.  With my Rum and Coke Gran Melia Fenixresearch pad in hand, I went in quest of the bar.  Have you ever noticed that in nice hotels the bars are hardly ever difficult to find?  The evening comment in Facebook read:

The Gran Melia Fenix in Madrid offers dark rum and coke with green cherries and a beautiful mural and red rose behind the bar.”

At this point, you might assume that our little rum and coke tour has mercifully ended but you would be wrong Spanish olive breath!   Unless you have been playing your own drinking game and downing a rum and coke every time I said the word “Facebook”, you might recall I mentioned that there was a brief stop in London at the end.

Our final two nights were spent at the One AldwychMy final Facebook post (time for another swig, game players) read:

“Tonight’s rum and coke at ‪#‎onealdwych‬ London features black cherries, green olives, nuts & the most cosmopolitan city in the world!”

Rum & Coke One AldwychNow we really have reached the end.  What would research be, however, without a scientific poll?  Here is your chance to participate.

You can view all the pictures I took on this trip here.

Be sure to come back soon and we will visit each of these spectacular hotels and much of the Portuguese and Spanish countryside.  It will be fun, I promise . . . especially if you bring your own rum and coke!

Radisson Blu Will Leave You Anything But

Generally speaking, I like surprises.  Not the nasty, unpleasant ones, of course.  Not the kind where you find out that tattoo you got all across your back has two misspellings and a grammatical error, not to mention the American bald eagle is cross-eyed.

We even have a term for pleasant surprises in our family (a term admittedly shared by few other families whose ancestors undoubtedly pilfered it from one of my many brilliant forebearers).  We call them “sussies”.   Sussies are, generally speaking, little surprises that are unexpected, undeserved and inexpensive.

My Dad, for example, used to stop off at the “Grizzly Bear” on his way home from work whenever he knew the grand kids were coming over to buy a bag of assorted candy sussies.  The one that stands out in my mind, though it may require psychotherapy to determine why, was a plastic lemon filled with a lemon flavored powdery substance that was probably banned by the FDA a decade ago.

Radisson Blu Mall of AmericaThese days my favorite type of sussies are those that fall into the travel category.  I just attended a Travel Leaders meeting in Minneapolis and was told that the meeting would be held at the Radisson Blu Mall of America.  My expectations were quite modest as most meeting hotels around airports and malls don’t exactly take your breath away (although the smell in a few has done so).  My first thought was that the word “Blu” must have frozen his little “e” off on one of those bone chilling days so typical of Minneapolis and just hadn’t gotten around to having it surgically repaired yet.

Silly me.  It turns out there are Radisson Blu hotels all over Europe and the name was no doubt coined to evoke trendy images and avant-garde emotions and all manner of new wave nuances, all of which were obviously wasted on a Philistine like me.

I have, however, cultivated an appreciation for nice accommodations.  I was quite pleasantly surprised to walk into the lobby and see the geometric iceberg in the picture above dominating the entire back wall.

Here is another picture of the quite striking lobby.

Radisson Blu Mall of AmericaLobbyIf you are wondering about those gigantic Hershey Kisses at the far end of the lobby, wonder no more.  Those are hanging wicker basket chairs of the type you crawl into and Radisson Blu Hanging Wicker chairsfall asleep while waiting for your airport van and miss your flight.

Not that I would expect you to give a rodent’s posterior . . . this is a family friendly blog, after all . .  but since the meeting began at one in the afternoon, I had to get up at the ghastly hour of 4am to catch a 6:50am flight.  I can assure you that not even the aforementioned rats are scurrying about at that hour.

The point of sharing this tidbit, apart from a useless attempt at soliciting sympathy, is to explain the absence of other patrons in the restaurant below.  Having eaten a Starbucks breakfast sandwich at 5am, my business partner and I found ourselves banging down the door of the FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar at 11am when they opened.  Here we discovered another pleasant little surprise.  The menu was quite extensive and the food was delicious.  I am pretty sure I would have deemed it so even if I hadn’t been ravenous.

Firelake Grill House and Cocktail BarYou may have noticed, assuming you have not dozed off by this point, that this particular Radisson Blu is called Radisson Blu Mall of America.  The truly astute among you will have worked Mall of Americaout by now that the name probably has some connection to its proximity to the Mall of America.  You would be right although proximity hardly does it justice.  This hotel is joined at the hip (metaphorically speaking) to the mall by a very short covered skywalk.  If you are among a tiny handful in North America not familiar with the Mall of America, it is a mid-size Minneapolis city masquerading as a shopping center with 500 shopping, dining and entertainment options.

I will leave you with this bit of advice.  If you are headed to Minneapolis on business or to do a little shopping and are feeling a little blue (but don’t want to stay that way), this stylish abode will warm the cockles of your heart . . .  and wherever else you may have them!

Special Agents: The SECRET to great SERVICE!

Our esteemed leaders at Travel Leaders headquarters had an epiphany a while back that has had a dramatic impact on the way Travel Leaders agencies like ours go to market.  In a dazzling moment of crystalline clarity, they realized that, in a very real sense, we are all not so much in the travel business as the travel agent business.  By that I mean, the essence of our business is to connect eager travelers to the right travel experience by means of an experienced travel expert.

Special Agent Badge

You can buy this badge by clicking on the image.

According to Wikipedia, “In the United States, special agent is usually the title for a detective or investigator for a state, county, municipal, federal or tribal government who conducts criminal investigations and has arrest authority.”   Never one to shy away from random acts of audacity, I am going to brazenly expropriate that term and apply it to our own front line travel agents . . .  minus the criminal investigation and arrest authority, of course! 

Those who regularly visit these pages know that I exercise remarkable restraint when it comes to blatant promotion.  Only after I have hopefully entertained and educated do I occasionally sprinkle in a little enticement to do business with us.  Today, however, I creating a new category to which I will contribute content consistently but sparingly.  The category is called “Special Agent” and under that rubric I will introduce you from time to time to one of our special travel agents.

What I intend to do now, and in upcoming similar posts, is to give you a brief overview of an agent and provide a link to their “agent profile”.  Whereas, B.E. (that would be Before Epiphany), we would spend our time and money advertising destinations and/or travel provider partners, now we largely focus on promoting our agents through their individual, customized agent profiles.

For example, today I want to introduce you to Sandy DuVall.  Sandy is a consummate Sandy DuVallprofessional.  Over the past twenty-five years, she has traveled much of the world broadening her knowledge and adding to her personal experience. When she recommends a beach, she has likely wiggled her toes in that very sand. When she touts a resort, no doubt she has performed a recent white gloves site inspection.  When she endorses an adult beverage to be sipped pool side . . .  never mind.

While Sandy’s experience is broad, her true travel passions are a little more focused.  In particular, her heart rate rises a few ticks when someone inquires about a honeymoon or destination wedding or about Mexico or Hawaii.

This will become very evident when you visit her Agent Profile.   You can read about each of these three specialties, view picture albums related to each and even read short experiential posts that share her personal insights.  Spend a few minutes perusing her profile and you will find that entrusting Sandy with your dream trip is not just reasonable but downright perspicacious.

HawiiIf I were in the market for a destination wedding, planning a visit to the Hawaiian Islands or longing for an unforgettable Mexico vacation, I would have no hesitancy in seeking the advice of Sandy DuVall.  Now that I think about it, even as an agency owner I have sought her advice more than once!

Bottom line, if you are a traveler seeking a memorable travel experience, you need the assistance of a true travel expert.  Let me be the first to introduce you to Special Agent Sandy DuVall.

Casa De Campo: Mere Resort or More Destination?

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, among others, is credited with coining the aphorism, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  My sincereGood Intentions hope is that he, or whoever authored that phrase, was simply having a bad day and peevishly overstated the case.  I don’t know too many of us who want to be found lazily strolling down the “broad road which leads to destruction”.

Way back on June 2nd, when I published another of my literary gems, “Bit On The Bum By The Teeth Of The Dog”, I had every good intention of following it up in short order with a sequel on Casa De Campo.  I even promised as much.  Life, as it has a habit of doing, managed to intervene.  Sound theology reminds us that true repentance involves not only contrition but a corresponding course correction.  This blog post is my humble attempt to make amends for my tardiness.


For those unfamiliar with this property, Casa De Campo is, as I suggest in my title, best understood not so much as a resort but rather a full-blown destination. It is situated in La Romana on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic and is accessible  by at least ten different airlines flying into either La Romana, Santo Domingo or Punta Cana.

Even as I pen these words,  a large map is spread out across my desk called the “Resort Overview”.  Honestly, I am feeling a bit of vertigo as I try to soak it all in.  My eyes dart between the polo grounds and La Marina, from the seaside “Teeth of the Dog” golf course to the hilltop “Dye Fore” layout, from oceanfront villas to the shooting club to the shops of Altos De Chavon.  It is all rather dizzying.

Casa De Campo Polo FieldsAs a quick aside, don’t you just hate it when people use your image without your permission as was so obviously done above.  Here I was simply trying to collect my thoughts after a tough polo match and the paparazzi could not grant me even a moment of serenity.  $%*& press!

There is a fascinating history to the place which you can read here.  There is not sufficient time or space to recount the story now but it begins with a young Alvaro Carta fleeing communist Cuba in 1960.  If you want to find out how a sugar plantation, the famed golf architect Pete Dye, the crooner Frank Sinatra, the renowned restaurateur Siro Maccioni and the designer Oscar de la Renta are all woven into the history, you will just have to go back and click on the little blue “here” above.

Let’s assume for the moment that you are the type of vacationer who requires constant stimulation to avoid boredom.  If that describes you, rest assured, Casa De Campo will be your nirvana, paradise, heaven, shangri-la or land o’goshen on earth (take your pick).

There are three polo fields (I have no idea how you will get a horse into the overhead compartment), a 245 acre shooting facility (don’t even think about stuffing a shotgun down your pants leg) and 90 holes of golf (the airlines will allow you to check golf clubs but only after they clear out your retirement account).

Casa De Campo Dominican RepublicThis resort . . .  I mean destination . . .has more villas than an Italian count can count, including this little humble abode above called Villa Las Ondinas with a mere ten bedrooms.   I understand this particular villa is a big hit with strict, not to mention virile,  Catholics who take the pope’s views on birth control very seriously.

So where can such a large clan dine with a nice ocean view?  How about this locale where I took a leisurely lunch with a few of my close friends?  (I can only ascribe bad lighting and a quick shave to the fact that my picture here bears so little resemblance to my other picture above!)

Lunch on the beach at Casa De CampoI wish I had time to tell you about all the dining options like the Beach Club by Le Cirque or great bars like Punto & Corcho down by the marina.  If you love to shop, be sure and check out Altos de Chavon.  For some incredible excursion options, just click here.

I don’t know how much clicking through to the Casa De Campo website you have done to this point but I sent you there because it is the source of loads of helpful information about this “destination”.  However, when it comes to making an actually booking, there is only one place to go.   How could you live with yourself if after consuming this extraordinary content, you callously booked somewhere else?  If the road to hell really is paved with good intentions, bad intentions might well be the short cut!

Just a little something to think about when you are ready to book.

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Bit On The Bum By The Teeth Of The Dog

If the expression “Golf is a good walk spoiled” (often misattributed to Mark Twain) sums up your view of the sport, you may want to return to my “What Did I Miss” page to find another subject more to your taste.  But if, as I do,  you have a love/hate  (90% love, 10% hate) relationship with this ancient Scottish game, this little post may strike a few familiar chords.  Terry at Teeth Of The Dog

I can sum up my take on the game of golf in one sentence, “It looks deceptively easy but is actually infuriatingly difficult.”  All those young Turks in the professional  ranks who bomb 300 yard drives with effortless power and complain, after shooting a round of 66 mind you, that they left a few birdies out there on the course don’t exactly make us mortals feel any better.

The absolute worst thing about the game is how your swing comes and goes, ebbs and flows not just over weeks or days but often in the course of the same round.  If an amateur golfer, even for one nano-second, allows himself or herself to think (or, God forbid, voice out loud) , “You know, I think I am beginning to get this game figured out”, he or she better scamper to the club house like a scalded cat before bolts of lightning start raining down out of a clear sky.  Let’s just say in my experience the golf gods are not in the least amused by even fleeting cockiness.


Teeth of the Dog, Casa de Campo

I was fortunate enough a few days ago to play this renowned Pete Dye ocean side course located within the famous Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic (more about that momentarily).  Just two weeks earlier I was equally privileged to play the “White Witch” in Montego Bay, Jamaica, another classic layout.  Beyond finding a way to slip in this little “humble brag”, I mention it because that day I was striking the ball quite well . . . by my modest standards at least.  I shot a very respectable 86 and left feeling that my game was in pretty decent shape, thank you very much.

Teeth of the Dog So I had every reason (except long experience and common sense) to think on the day I awoke to play the “Teeth of the Dog” that another nice ball striking day was ahead of me.  What I didn’t reckon on was that my driver, usually a very reliable and trustworthy friend, was going to turn on me like a jilted lover.  There is a driver out there called the “King Cobra” but even though my rental clubs were of a different make, I might as well have been attempting to drive the ball with the head of a live cobra intent on nipping me on the neck in the middle of my backswing.  To borrow . . . steal actually . . . another snake analogy from the golf announcer David Feherty, “I looked like a man trying to kill a snake in a phone booth.”

I began to feel about my driver the way you would feel if you caught a glimpse of your best man lasciviously ogling your bride halfway through the nuptials.  Oh, the sense of betrayal, the keen disappointment, the primal urge to wrap the blasted thing around the nearest palm tree.

Thank goodness my frustration was broken by the spectacular holes that run along the Teeth of the Dogocean.  It suddenly dawned on me that I was playing one of the classic golf courses in all the world with rented clubs,  a serious loft problem (lack of friggin’ talent) all on someone else’s dime.  Instead of cursing my driver, I should be counting my blessings.  Let’s be honest, the course record was never going to be in any jeopardy no matter how well I played.  The remainder of the round I drank in the spectacular surroundings and dined on the camaraderie and even hit a few nice drives.  They came too late to salvage my score but not to top off a spectacular experience.

Having swum several laps in the pool of my personal self-pity, there is no time left to tell you about the remarkable resort called Casa de Campo.  Not to worry.  Merely sign up to follow this blog and you will soon be getting an engraved (OK, not really engraved), more like embossed (OK, not exactly embossed), more like electronic email invitation to return to this site for another happy stroll through Casa de Campo.

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Hyatt Zilara / Ziva Rose Hall: EaZy To Love

Until fairly recently, the self-effacing and unpretentious letter “z” had managed to keep a low profile by hiding in the shadow of the gangly “y'” there at the end of the alphabet.  But once Hyatt jumped with both feet into the deep end of the all-inclusive pool with their Zilara and Ziva brands, those days of obscurity for the ultimate letter were forever lost.  Now “Z” is all grown up and strutting its stuff like a voluptuous Miss Venezuela in the swimsuit competition at the Miss Universe pageant.

ZalaraTake the names of their restaurants, for example.  Petit Pariz is bringing, as they like to say, “Parisian flair to the shores of Jamaica.”    Flavorz is located in the main lobby offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Horizons, whose name they didn’t even have to massage, features international cuisine in a “farm to table” concept.  The lobby bar is called is called Potionz and the pool swim-up bar is styled Islandz.   Time fails me to talk about Choicez, Di Roza, Fuzion, Calypzo, Grindz and Fez.  Unless you have dozed off and are cranking out a few zzzzs by now, I think you get the idea.

If you are eager to know more about how Hyatt is upgrading the all-inclusive experience fromZiva A to Z, you have only to read my typically brilliant post Hyatt All-Inclusive Resorts: Evolution or Revolution?  Should you then be swept away by my lilting prose, you can read about the Hyatt Ziva in Los Cabos.  Speaking of swept away, that already stunning property is undergoing a complete transformation thanks to the visit of a most unwelcome guest last September called Hurricane Odile.

We shall, however, focus our remaining time together on the Hyatt Zilara / Ziva Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica where I was privileged to stay recently.  For those who may not know, the Zilara is the adult only brand and Ziva is the family brand.  In this case, the two brands are adjacent sharing a central lobby.  As the slightly more deluxe brand, all the facilities and dining options of both are available to Zalara guests but not vice versa. DSC02523

I, along with 200 or so of my closest friends, was the recipient of the largess of Funjet Vacations and the Hyatt for this experience.  Those cynical souls who are immediately suspicious of my objectivity need to read my Fool Disclosure page where I lay bare my soul on that subject.  For those who prefer the executive summary:  I don’t claim any . . . objectivity, that is.

As to the resort, here are my observations about both the resort and the destination.

Extraordinary Service

I have often said on these pages that the overall level of service in Mexico has never been matched in any other destination.  While the service levels in Jamaica are quite good, I have always tended to put them a notch below Mexico.   Leave it to Hyatt to make me eat my words.  (Fortunately, they also provided a nice little Cabernet to wash them down!)

The folks at Hyatt have proved that exemplary service is all about setting the right expectations, hiring the right people and providing the right training.  The warmth and friendliness of the staff and their eagerness to serve is everything you could hope for at a deluxe resort.

Beach Lover’s Paradise

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall BeachThe sobriquet “beach lover” does not really apply to me.  Call me crazy but I have an aversion to tiny grains of sand finding their way into every crevice of my body.   However, I am well aware that for many, perhaps most, of you, a quality beach is the most important consideration when selecting a warm weather resort.

If you fall into this category, I can happily report this property has as nice a beach as youBarefoot Jerkz will find nearly anywhere.  There are plenty of palapas and lounge chairs and a nice breaker so even the urchins can enjoy the water.

The most popular beach feature is Barefoot Jerkz where you can get chicken, beef and fish Jamaican style.  Finally, someone has come up with a restaurant named with me in mind!

Rose Hall Great House

If you like to mix in a little history, culture and voodoo witchcraft into your vacation (and who doesn’t), the Great House at Rose Hall, just across the road from the resort, is just what Great House Rose Hallthe witch doctor ordered.  I don’t have time to recount the story of the “white witch” and the three husbands she killed in three separate upstairs bedrooms (plus a handful of lovers but who’s counting)  but you will get all that when you do the tour as I did.  Let’s just say that Annee Palmer was a little, as in 4’11”, ball of pure, unadulterated evil.

Even better than the tour of the Great House, for my taste at least, is the White Witch Golf Course.  While the beach worshipers were back at the resort attempting to inconspicuously deal with their own sand wedgies, I was using my sand wedge to Great House Rose Hall 2extricate myself from one of the numerous bunkers that dot this magnificent course.

There is oh so much more to say about the Hyatt Zilara and Ziva Rose Hall but, alas, no time left to share it.  If you are looking to experience some of the best of Jamaica without the trek to either Ocho Rios or Negril, let us book you into this magnificent resort where the service will impress, the beach will entice and the culture will inspire.

One closing word of caution for the male reader.  It is said that Annee is actively looking for her next husband so if you do tour the Great House by candlelight, you might want to keep up with the rest of your group.  Just sayin’.

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I’ve Got Answers. I Need More Questions!

Having spent a significant portion of my adult life in the travel industry, it would be surprising, I suppose, if I had not accumulated a reasonable storehouse of knowledge along the way.   Setting aside modesty for the moment (My personal record is a decade so a moment is nothing!), I do believe I have acquired a repository of travel nuggets and insider information that would interest the novice and knowledgeable traveler alike.

Those who have clicked on the “Fool Disclosure” tab along the top of this page will know that educating my readers ranks right behind entertaining them in my hierarchy of objectives for this blog.  With all these creative synapses firing off in my brain like roman candles on the Fourth of July, I need a little help in deciding which questions my readers find most universal and pressing.  Hence this post.  What in the world would you like to know?

Planet EarthBefore I spill the entire contents of my brain like I once did with a large glass of red wine all over a friend’s priceless antique purse given to her by her grandmother on her deathbed (or so she gleefully maintained for the next few years of inflicted guilt), I would very much like to hear what is going on in your little noggin.  Specifically, I am soliciting burning questions that I can douse with the cooling waters of my overflowing wisdom. (See comment about lack of modesty above.)

First a few stipulations and then an exciting inducement!


1)  You must use the comment icon on the top of this page to record your question.  No email, text or snail mail submissions, please.

2)  Your question must be specifically travel related:  something regarding airlines, hotels, cruises, tours, rail travel, destinations, etc.  The silo of my wisdom is deep but not very wide.

3)  You can submit as many questions as you like but you will only be entered once.

4)  I must receive at least ten quality questions from separate individuals or the offer below is rescinded.  Thus, you might want to share this post with your friends (see share links at the bottom of the page).   Greed is never rewarded here!  You can follow along at home as all questions will appear in the list of comments viewable by all.

5)  Your odds of being selected are directly proportional to choosing a question that is likely on the minds of lots of other folks.

6)  In the interest of transparency, I should probably exclude relatives.  Sorry Bro!


Fiesta Americana Grand Coral BeachWhy should you take time out of your busy day rearranging your sock drawer or removing navel lint to submit your question?  Since you are beyond the reach of a manageable stick, I will offer a carrot instead.  From among the questions submitted, a committee of one . . . that would be me in case you are not firing on all cylinders today . . .  will select the ten I like best.

I will then write down those ten names on a slip of paper, drop them in my favorite snap brim fedora and draw out the name of the one lucky winner.  As if having your name drawn by me wasn’t high honor enough, I will send you a certificate for a complimentary three night stay at the Fiesta American Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa in Cancun, Mexico.  Yes, I am as serious as a heart attack.

If you are not familiar with this stellar property, you can read about it in a post I wrote aFiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach while back called Crème de Cancun:  The Top Five Resorts.  Just keep in mind that this prize does not include airfare and also that this five-star property is not all-inclusive so you will be responsible for food and beverage.  Other terms and conditions do apply.  The window of opportunity to participate in this little exercise is thirty days from the date this post is published so I wouldn’t tarry!

The time has come to retrieve your thinking cap from the basement where you dropped it when looking for anything of value to pawn during the last recession and come up with something you always wanted to know about travel but were unable to find anyone gullible enough to take you seriously.  I am the crown prince of naïveté so fire away!

In case you have not divined the method to my mad largess, I plan to use the top ten questions and my sagacious answers as fodder for future posts.  So even if you don’t win, you will still get answers to all sorts of puzzling travel questions.

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Time Not Well Spent

Since I got a surprisingly warm reaction to my post the other day on business travel (by way of full disclosure, I consider anything short of an actual cease and desist order a warm reaction), I decided I would magnanimously share a little more of my distilled wisdom on the subject.  Fortunately for the reader, I own my own distillery.

Airplane over buildingsMost highly successful business owners seem to have one thing in common.  They place a high premium not only on their own time but also the time of their employees.  They constantly preach the old adage of not just working harder but working smarter.

So, for example, if the average CEO discovered that the roof of their headquarters building needed replacing and a well-meaning observer were to suggest that he or she organize a work crew from among their existing employees to repair it, that executive would look at the author of that unsolicited advice as if they had three heads.

“You seriously want me to take a dozen people off-line and have them perform a task for commercial-roofingwhich they have absolutely no training or background?  Do you have any idea how much productivity would be lost around here not to mention how shoddy the roof repair would no doubt be?  Why don’t you come back with another idea when you are not smoking a controlled substance?”

And yet (you knew there was the inevitable “and yet” coming, didn’t you?), some business owners think nothing of assigning the critical task of travel management to a group of over-taxed, highly stressed administrative assistants.  Let me see if I can demonstrate how this abysmally bad idea is based on a handful of commonly held but nonetheless erroneous myths.

Myth #1:  Booking travel couldn’t possibly take that much time.

Well, on this one I will give you partial credit.  We have timed our own highly skilled corporate agents who average over twenty-five years experience and they can typically book an air, hotel and car reservation in under three minutes.  That is because they are using a GDS (an airline reservation system) that they have used for decades and their fingers fly over the keys like hummingbird wings over a field of nectar.

Admin stressed outAn admin, however, will typically spend forty-five minutes to an hour on the same reservation once they have visited numerous airline, hotel and car websites and / or placed several phone calls.  Now if your admin is so under worked that you are desperately looking for ways to help combat boredom, then you have found the perfect recipe.  Assuming your company does even a modicum of business travel, you should have no difficulty in quickly filling those empty hours.

Myth #2  We hear travel agencies charge fees these days.  We can’t afford to use a travel agency.

I know.  Shocking, isn’t it!   Unfortunately, some business owners have trouble seeing the forest for the fees. If you run a business, I encourage you to focus on the potential savings, not the minimal costs.   As Robert Burton put it around four centuries ago, “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.”

There is not a travel management company worth its salt that cannot easily offset their service fees with the savings they generate.  We just do it a little better than most.  We are experts at obtaining low air fares, discounted car rates and reduced hotel prices.  We save you money, and . . . in keeping with the theme of this little treatise . . . if you believe time is money, we even compound the savings.

Plane among cloudsMyth #3  We are already paying our admins anyway and the end result is the same.

The finished product is demonstrably not the same, just like with the roof analogy.  It is inevitable that many more mistakes will be made, certainly not due to incompetence, but simply due to  inexperience and lack of training.

What happens when there are weather delays and equipment malfunctions?  It is my observation that when those things happen, as they routinely do, you see two sorts of folks at the airport.  The first group is standing in a long line with anxious looks on their faces praying that there are options still available when they get to the front of the long queue.  The second set  of travelers is sitting in the bar chatting on their cell phone with their travel agent  who has them rebooked before either they or their glass of beer has time to break a sweat.

To summarize, having admins book travel without any professional assistance is decidedly time not well spent  If you are looking for an example of the better use of time, being a coffee lover I will close with this anonymous tidbit.  “A cup of coffee with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.

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