Monday, September 24, 2012

Part 3: Beaches Turks and Caicos Review

Beaches: What’s so Special? : Well, I’m afraid I’ll only touch the tip of the iceberg with this brief overview of the amazing offerings and unique features, but here is what I feel makes Beaches T&C special in comparison to other resorts across the Caribbean and Mexico:
Camp Sesame: if you have little kids, you will LOVE this. At no cost to you, Beaches provides Nannies and Counselors to cater to kids from ages 0-11 months, 12-24 months and 3-4 years old. Campo Sesame has cribs, swings and rockers as well as a canopied covered pool and  lots of play areas for activities of all kinds.
Pirate’s Island: for kids ages 5-7, 8-10, 11-14 and 15-17, there are organized programs with staff. Tweens & Teens have their own lounge and game room(no adults allowed) as well as a HUGE X-BOX Game Garage.
Land Sports: Volleyball, Soccer, Tennis, Shuffle Board, Table Tennis, Billiards, Outdoor chess, Basketball and Board Games
Water Sports: Kayaks, Windsurfing, Snorkeling, Aqua Trikes, Hobie Cats and Scuba Diving. For diving, if you are certified, you can dive FREE. Otherwise, you can pay a nominal fee ( I believe it’s around $75, get resort certified and dive away.
Water Parks: there are two water parks at the resort. One for little kiddo’s and the one we enjoyed, complete with a lazy river and some fun slides.
***All of the above special items ( and there are many I did not cover) are included in the cost of your stay.
Here is a quick list of some neat activities and services that you have access to for additional costs at Beaches:
Catamaran Cruises, Scuba Certification ( as mentioned above), Spa, Gift Shops, professional photography or videography services, romantic candlelight dinner, or in room escape ( scented bubble bath, candles, champagne, etc.), Sesame Street Breakfast/Private Dinner Party, and more………………..

Monday, September 17, 2012

Part 2: Beaches Turks and Caicos Review

Beaches: The Service: Turks and Caicos is a funny island that does not allow transport companies to take guests to hotels/resorts, etc. You must either rent a car or take a cab. Well, when you stay at Beaches T&C the moment you step outside the airport, a representative takes your bags to label with your room number and they hail you a cab, which they pay for with contracts they set up. Not even a 10-minute delay to wait on more guests. Just hop in and go.
     Once you arrive at Beaches T&C you are given a cold drink and a cold towel---ahhhhhhhh. Your bags mysteriously disappear and the check-in process is handled quickly. What amazed me next was that the front desk clerk who waited on us, leaves the front desk to walks us to our room personally. We were not simply given our keys with directions nor did they have a bellman bring us to our room. She walked us into our room, showed us all of the features as well as explained the weekly schedule of events and made certain we found everything pleasant before leaving. ( I did not mention that they CANNOT accept tips).
      For particular Suites, there is Concierge Service which consists of a dedicated Concierge Center, preferred check-in process, in suite stocked bar, plush his/hers robes and a weekly reception just for those guests. The BEST service is the Butler Service offered with other suites. You’ve heard the term “Your wish is our command?”. Well, Beaches has personal butlers trained to pamper you during your stay in extraordinary ways. From unpacking/packing of luggage, attending to your wardrobe, serving meals on your terrace…that’s just a few. You are given a phone which rings directly to YOUR Butler for the duration of your stay.
     What most impressed me on the service was the attention you were given of any staff member when just asking a question. More than once we were not certain where a particular building was (or the 1st night, being dark outside, we could not even find the beach), we’d ask for help. We would have been happy with guidance just to explain which way to go. But, not at Beaches. Staff must be trained to walk you to your destination and chat merrily all the way. It made us feel very special. Did I mention they do not accept tips?? (Well, Butlers and Spa Therapists only).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trip Review - Beaches Turks and Caicos

Where does a Travel Agent go for vacation? Well, this one let’s her family decide (most of the time). For summer 2012 my teenage daughter selected Beaches Resort in the Caribbean island of Turks & Caicos. I have sent many families to the Beaches on Jamaica and many honeymooners to T&C, but had never had any families or couples select Beaches T&C, so I was excited. The resort sells out year-round and I wondered what the hoopla was and if it would meet the expectations that I had for this 5-Star All-Inclusive Resort in Paradise. Well, my review will explain my take on it and I decided to separate it into Part I, 2, 3 and 4: the Resort, The Service, What’s so Special and Sweet 16. I hope you enjoy them and we hear from you to plan your vacation to Beaches Turks and Caicos.

First, just a bit about the island: Turks & Caicos is a little known cluster if 40 or so islands not far from The Bahamas, It’s best known for the powdery sand beaches, level of blue hues of color in the ocean and a 12-mil long beach, which is where Beaches Turks & Caicos resides. T&C is rated one of the top 10 best scuba diving destinations in the world. Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa is a Caribbean wonderland of adventure and luxury for kids of all ages on this fabulous island. Once my family arrived, we never had need to leave, so we didn’t.

Part 1: Beaches Turks and Caicos Review
Beaches: The Resort: Beaches brand resorts are part of the umbrella of amazing resorts offered by Unique Vacations. Sandals Resorts is their adult only sister and the quality that is found in both Beaches & Sandals exceeds most all-inclusive resorts found anywhere. There is a pool for each day of the week, but the largest and best “pool” would be the clear turquoise sea. We toggled between pools and ocean each day-hard choices. Beaches T&C is made up of 4 “Villages”. Basically, these are four distinct areas so you can have the feel of vacationing around the world. You can’t go wrong in any of them:
·         Caribbean Village (where we had the delight of staying) are low-rise pastel colored buildings that offer either garden paradise views or ocean views.
·         French Village is the sophisticated style village with the largest pool we found more quiet than the rest. (no balconies in this area-but neat accommodations that offer connecting rooms if you have large family or a group).
·         Italian Village  is BIG and BEAUTIFUL as the newest section to open. This seemed to be where the “action” was most days.
·         Seaside Village is in the center of the entire complex and many can accommodate for up to 8 persons.
Overall, there are over 600 rooms, divided into 30 categories over 65 acres. It’s been voted the World’s Leading Family All-Inclusive 14 years in a row. WOW!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Norwegian's Hawaii-based cruise ship to get a major makeover

This item was written by Johanna Jainchill, who covers the travel industry for Travel Weekly. Jainchill is serving as Guest Editor of The Cruise Log while USA TODAY Cruise Editor Gene Sloan is away.

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line will invest $30 million to upgrade its only U.S.-flagged ship, the 2,124-passenger Pride of America.
The vessel will begin a 14-day dry dock on March 23, 2013, in Honolulu, where the ship is based, for a major makeover that will include the addition of luxury suites, studio cabins for solo cruisers, and two specialty restaurants.

"As the only large US-flagged cruise ship, Pride of America offers a unique and extraordinary vacation to four of Hawaii's most popular islands," stated Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian's CEO. "We want to ensure that we are continuing to enhance the guest experience on this one-of-a-kind vessel."
The Pride of America, which entered service in 2005, will exit the dry dock with 24 new ultra-luxury suites; four new studio cabins and four new inside cabins; Moderno Churrascaria, the line's Brazilian-style steakhouse; and Norwegian's signature steakhouse, Cagney's, which will replace the vessel's Lazy J's Steakhouse.
Two of the 24 suites on Deck 13 will be 566-square-foot Deluxe Owners Suites that will sleep up to four guests, and feature a large bedroom and separate living area. The remaining Family Suites will range from 363 to 416 square feet, most sleeping up to six guests.
A highlight of the suites will be their balconies, which will range from 245 square feet for Family Suites to 410 square feet for the Deluxe Owners Suites, giving Pride of America the largest balconies in the Norwegian fleet.
The line's popular studio cabins, which made their debut on the Norwegian Epic, are designed and priced for solo travelers, and feature a full-size bed, and a small but separate bathroom area.
The ship also will be given wireless Internet throughout, new carpeting, flat-screen televisions in all cabins, upgrades to the fitness center, new directional signage and renovations to the gift shop, photo gallery and art gallery.
The Pride of America will return to its seven-day Hawaii itinerary from Honolulu in early April 2013.