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.

 CASA DE CAMPO

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

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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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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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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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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The Windsor Court: English Charm Just Five Minutes From The French Quarter

I have remarked upon this irony before that we in the travel business routinely live like commoners yet occasionally travel like royalty.  I just returned from a business meeting in New Orleans where for twenty-four all-too-fleeting hours, I felt like the good princes William and Harrys’ little known and older . . . OK, much older . . . brother.

If you are planning a trip to New Orleans and fortune has been relatively kind to you, you would be doing yourself a monumental favor if you let me book you into the Windsor Court Hotel.   To be perfectly honest, before my trip I was not familiar with this gem.  However, being an inveterate Anglophile, from the second I walked into the lobby they had me by my waistcoat fob pocket.

Windsor Court Hotel ExteriorIf you too are a fan of most everything English, you should return to the link I have provided (after you have read this blog post in its scintillating entirety, of course) and take a few minutes visiting the hotel’s photo gallery.  If you are not totally enthralled by the images then you are clearly missing the “thrall” gene.

This hotel has recently undergone a $22 million restoration.  As they say on their website, “Windsor Court is restored.  Renewed.  Refreshed.”  Ironically, that precisely sums up how I felt after spending just 24 hours there!  Do you happen to know offhand (if you do, I am impressed) how many hotels in New Orleans have both four diamonds from AAA and four stars from Forbes?  The correct answer is just two and Windsor Court is one of them!

Windsor Court LobbyOne of the first things you notice when you walk into the lobby, once you able to tear your eyes away from the spectacular classic furnishings, is that seemingly every wall throughout the hotel’s public areas is adorned with gorgeous original English art.  I was told that there are more that eleven million dollars in original art pieces without one reproduction.  One of my great regrets was that, due to the brevity of my recent visit, I did not have time to download their smart phone app that gives you a self-guided museum-like tour of all the art works.  That would have been a blast.  Oh well, next time.

My room at Windsor CourtMy room at Windsor Court

Next we come to the sleeping rooms and here I need your advice, dear reader, on a rather delicate matter.  Tell me honestly, do you think I may have crossed the line when I sent my dear wife, left behind at home to keep the cogs of industry turning, this text message along with the pictures above?  “I suppose I can make do with this room.  I just need to remind myself I will only be here one night.”

I am thinking perhaps so since her reply referenced the strong opinion that, were there any justice left in this world, I would gag on a plate of rancid Étouffée before experiencing a slow and extremely painful demise.   OK, that wasn’t exactly what she said but after a few fleeting decades of marriage I have astutely learned to read between the lines.   Note to self:  Sometimes it’s best to keep these serendipitous little treats to oneself.

Another huge regret was that there was no opportunity to experience Windsor Court’s high tea.   Just High Tea at Windsor Courtlooking at this picture I am flooded with memories of the times I have taken high tea in London, Australia and even Kenya.   I never feel quite so civilized as when munching on a scone stuffed with clotted cream and strawberry  preserves and sipping an Earl Grey tea with my right pinky extended in the most pretentious, and uncharacteristically effeminate, fashion imaginable.

Time fails me to talk about their spa, the various dining options, their wedding program and so much more.  So instead, I direct you to their website, Facebook page, Pinterest site, and a delightful five-minute Video which includes some nice New Orleans jazz music.

Bottom line, if you are planning a trip to New Orleans and you want to make the trip truly memorable, plan on staying at the Windsor Court Hotel and count on enjoying the most worthwhile five minute walk in New Orleans!

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The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort: Seriously Secure!

For those not familiar with the roller coaster existence led by your favorite travel agent (whoever he or she may be), this particular post should provide a window into all of our kaleidoscopic lives.  You see, dear reader, we are always bouncing between feast or famine, prince or pauper, hero or zero depending on the mood / magnanimity of our suppliers and travel partners at any given moment.

St. Regis Punta MitaAs I pen these words, I am returning from a very enjoyable Travel Leaders owner’s retreat at the new Iberostar Playa Mita Resort just north of Punta Mita, Mexico. On a free afternoon, I decided to do a personal site inspection of the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort. (More about the resort momentarily).  I had the Iberostar sales manager contact the St. Regis sales office to set up a tour of the property.  I hopped in a taxi and ten minutes later found myself at the enclave’s imposing security gate. I could tell immediately from the body language and skeptical expression on the guard’s face that gaining access was not going to be your proverbial Sunday school picnic.

In the interest of brevity I will spare you the more gruesome details but suffice it to say it PUnta Mita, Mexicotook twenty arduous minutes of wheedling, begging, invoking the name of Yasmin (my contact), calling back to the Iberostar, trying to call the front desk of the St. Regis (all using the saintly taxi driver’s cell phone) and praying fervently to St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers (and hopefully travel agents) . . . keep in mind that I am not even Catholic!  I later learned that the security at the St. Regis is rather legendary owing to the fact that Enrique Peña Nieto, the current president of Mexico, is a frequent guest.

I did eventually breach the ramparts and was given a delightful tour by Karla Villaseñor.  The equally  gracious Yasmin, as it turned out, works at the golf course where I was first deposited and not at the resort.  (If you want to finish this blog while you are still young, don’t even ask how I ended up there.)  At the conclusion of the tour, Karla asked if I need a ride back to the Iberostar.  One snap of her fingers and a Cadillac Escalade magically appeared to whisk me back to my hotel, at no charge I might add. When the doorman at the Iberostar who had sent me off a couple of hours earlier opened the door to my chariot, he broke out in spontaneous laughter. “Senior, you left in a taxi and return in a Cadillac!” Ah, Jose, now you understand the life of a travel agent.  Our lives are spent either in first class or conversely, if not being thrown under the bus, at least hanging partially out the side of one.

THE ST. REGIS PUNTA MITA RESORT

St. Regis Punta Mita GroundsThe first thing you notice about the St. Regis is the impeccable taste (check out the pictures above). You don’t need a degree in interior design to realize that the folks who built this masterpiece obviously knew someone who has several. The furnishings, the wall treatments, the art work all exude an impressive refinement. That same flair applies to the landscaping and horticulture. This thoughtful combination creates an ambiance that soothes the soul moments after arriving.

Remède Spa

All three or four of my regular readers know that I am a pushover for a great spa.  In fact, more than once during a relaxing full body massage I have had to be pushed over just so the masseus could work on the other side.  St. Regis is justifiably famous for their Remède SpaFor those considerably more refined than I, you will recognize the Remède, Bliss and Decleor line of spa products which they offer. 

St. Regis Punta Mita Remede Spa I was particularly impressed by the outdoor treatment options which provide striking views of the gorgeous landscape mentioned previously.   Of course you will find a sauna, steam room, fitness center, salon, Jacuzzi and all the other accoutrements you would expect in  a world class spa.

Guest Rooms

For a property that only has 120 rooms, there is quite the variety of options.  These include deluxe rooms, junior suites, deluxe suites, luxury one-bedrooms and two-bedroom suites and, of course, a presidential suite.  I think even my slower readers can guess who is one of the frequent occupants of the “Presidential” suite.   It is good to rule a country!

Below are pictures of one of the Luxury Suites.  Check out the view from the private pool!

St. Regis Punta Mita Luxury Suite 1   St. Regis Punta Mita Luxury Suite 2

St. Regis Punta Mita Luxury Suite 3 St. Regis Punta Mita Luxury Suite 4

Divine Dining

Those same three or four devotees of this blog referenced above know well that if there is anything I like even better than having my entire body slathered over with priceless oils,  it is sating my seemingly endless appetite.  What my palate may lack in cultured refinement is more than made up for in boundless appreciation.  At St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, trust me, there is plenty to be thankful for.

St. Regis Punta Mita Restaurants

Click on the image above to read about each of these incredible venues!

Glorious Golf

Reverse the order of these three aspects that I have detailed above and you have pretty much constructed my definition of a perfect day in paradise.  Start with a round of golf at Pacifico (with a magical birdie on the “Tail of the Whale” hole, of course), follow it with a full body massage at Remède Spa and crown the day with a relaxing dinner at Carolina Restaurant.

St. Regis Punta Mita GolfSt Regis Punta Mita Resort bills itself as an emerging paradise.  I would not quibble with the paradise part for even a second but it seems pretty darn “emerged” to me.  If you are looking for a vacation spot where you will have a wonderful time AND feel completely secure, take it from someone that knows and visit the incomparable St Regis Punta Mita Resort.

Note:  If you tuned in expecting another post in my series on the Quantum of the Seas, simply consider this a brief hiatus.   Come back soon and I promise you will find another highly anticipated chapter in that riveting series!