Our Recent Visit: Hermosa Inn

Our Travel Designer, Robin, just back from a great weekend checking out a bunch of different properties in Scottsdale. One of her favorites? The Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley!

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at what Conde Nast says is the “Best Hotel in Arizona”!


What I loved:

The Hermosa Inn is the definition of romance! This resort is small and intimate with only 43 rooms available. Famed artist Lon Megargee created The Hermosa Inn in the 1930s as his private escape before opening up to guests. All these years later, the luxury boutique inn retains that original intimate feel, complete with homey touches: Lon’s original artwork hanging on the walls, a flourishing garden, and upscale furnishings throughout. Top it off with the best service of any resort I have ever stayed at, and you have the perfect weekend getaway with your significant other or friends!

Where to eat:

The Hermosa Inn is home to two great dining options: Lon’s and Lon’s Last Drop. If you are in the mood for true farm to table Arizona fare that is sure to “Wow”, Lon’s is the best spot for not only guests, but any foodies visiting the Paradise Valley.

Lon’s Last Drop is connected to the acclaimed restaurant and serves up handcrafted cocktails, local beers and delicious small plates. Enjoy these dished inside amongst the authentic Arizona artwork or outside amongst the beautiful trees and garden - an unlikely sanctuary in the middle of the desert.

Room details:

Each room at Lon’s is it’s own private oasis. You will not find the traditional hotel room keys here - Hermosa Inn still uses an actual key to open up its rooms in an effort to remain true to Lon’s original vision! Each guestroom and casita is individually decorated in warm, Southwestern style. Fireplaces, secluded patios and vaulted ceilings add to the relaxed appeal. Enjoy your coffee in the shadows on Camelback while admiring the lush gardens around the property.

What you get with a stay:

  • Complimentary self-guided art walk of the property

  • Fully equipped fitness center

  • Access to the Blue Door Spa Suite

  • Bike rentals to explore the surrounding area

  • A full calendar of events - from brunch with well known artists to dinners with acclaimed pianists

  • Close proximity to nearby hiking and jogging trails

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to Phoenix:

Clearly, I am a huge fan of this boutique inn as an adults only, wellness focused escape. While I would not recommend it for a lively crowd looking for the nightlife of Scottsdale or large families traveling with small children, I do think this is the perfect stay for anyone needing some much needed R+R!

Friday Feature: Seychelles

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Scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are an archipelago of 115 islands located off the eastern coast of Africa. While picturesque beaches of the islands main attraction, these beauties draw in guests from around the world for diving, world-class resorts, and fishing! How do you get to this tropical paradise? Direct flights connect the Seychelles with China, France, Germany, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. From the US, you'll need to take a connecting flight from South Africa, Europe or the Middle East. The Seychelles International Airport, outside of Victoria, is the only international airport in the Seychelles.

Best Times to Visit: The best times to visit Seychelles are April, May, October and November. These months during shoulder season allow for fewer tourists and warm temperatures. These are also the best months for diving visibility.

Things to do:

Spend the day exploring the beautiful water. The Seychelles are known to be the premiere diving and/or snorkeling destination in the Indian Ocean. There is excellent diving off Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the three main islands, as well as off the other inner and outer islands. Don’t worry if you aren’t a great swimmer - there are places to go for every level or expertise. Disclaimer: Diving in the Seychelles heavily hinges on the weather conditions, currents and direction of the wind. However, diving can be sampled during all seasons as there are always sheltered conditions. The seas are calmest from April to May and October to November.

Toss a line. It only makes sense that water this beautiful is teeming with fish! Just about any resort, tour operator, or dive centre will be able to set you up with a fabulous charter to the open waters. Job-fish, groupers and red snappers are most commonly caught, but you're also a good chance of reeling in a tuna, sailfish, or marlin.

Parasailing along the coast. If you are wanting truly picture perfect views of this beautiful place, consider taking a parasailing ride! You can fly solo or tandem with a partner. Beau Vallon Beach is a great spot for this - be sure to check out the Beau Vallon Aquatic Sports Center. They'll strap you into your harness and you'll be airborne in no time, wind conditions permitting.

Take a sunset sail. Since this destination is best experienced by water, it is only right to end your night sailing those same beautiful waters while watching the sunset over the horizon. If you want a longer expedition, there are day to week long cruise options available through certain hosts. The best months for cruising are April and October; the worst are January, July and August. 

Feature Hotel: Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Banyan Tree Seychelles

Things to know before you go…

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  • Be sure to enjoy the ride. Time in the Seychelles move slower than in America, so do not get in a rush.

  • Ask before snapping pictures with the locals. Always respect the wish of locals. Ask permission to photograph and don't insist or snap a picture if permission is denied.

  • Keep you clothes on. Although beachwear is fine for the beaches, you will cause offense and may experience pestering if you dress in skimpy clothing elsewhere. Nude bathing is forbidden.

For more information, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Philippines

Philippines

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From lush rainforests to world class beaches, the landscape of the Philippines is one of the most diverse and drawing more and more visitors from around the world! With over 7,000 islands, you really have to choose your Philippines travel itinerary carefully if you want to take in all of this incredible country! There are five different airports to choose from, making it easily accessible from various parts of the world.

Best Times to Visit: The Philippines are most popular during the dry season, between November and April. Temperatures are high during March and April, so it's best to travel during the cooler months of December to February.

Places to see:

Twin Lagoon and Banol Beach, Coron Island. Surrounded by towering cliffs, and filled with crystal clear water, the lagoons are a must see. You won't be alone. Large tour groups come and go all day, but if you stick around for long enough you can find a little piece of paradise for yourself. Banol Beach is everything you would imagine the Philippines to be - crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and surrounding mountains-cape. The cliffs are scattered with old fisherman’s huts, which have the effect of transporting you back in time.

El Nido, Palawan. Do yourself a favor and give this beautiful place a Google… yeah, crazy right?! Aside from it’s beauty and friendly locals, this town has an abundance of tours that will take you island hopping with a great local host who can point out the various island and beaches!

Binalayan Hidden Waterfalls, Cebu. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, the cliff diving in Binalayan Falls is magical. This hidden gem is in the middle of the jungle with three distinct streams and ledges of varying heights for the those willing to take the plunge! There is a short walk required to the falls so wear good shoes - you won’t regret it!

Feature Hotel: Amanpulo

Things to know before you go…

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  • Don’t get in a hurry. There is no thing as fast travel in the Philippines, as most travel is done from island to island on boats! So kick your feet up and take your time with this country.

  • Skip the car rental. While some travelers gravitate to the flexibility that a car offers them, it is best to skip it in the Philippines. Aside from being both stressful and dangerous, it is also best to see the sights and beauty of the country.

  • Brace yourself for the heat… because the heat and humidity of the country is no joke.

  • Tip your servers! The Philippines is a country that provides cheap service so tipping is common practice. At restaurants, it’s customary to leave 10-15% of your final bill, unless service charge is included, in which case, less is fine.

For more helpful tips, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Napa Valley, California

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Napa Valley

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Nothing says relaxing getaway quite like Napa Valley and Sonoma, California. Besides the obvious reasons to go (i.e., world renown, locally-owned wines galore), this area of the United States is truly beautiful! From rolling hills to vines galore, there is no better place to sip on a glass of white outdoors while admiring the picturesque scenery.
We suggest flying into San Francisco, renting a car and driving the winding country roads all the way to wine country - the drive is absolutely spectacular and bonus… take a drive over the Golden Gate bridge before heading out of town.
Pro tip: Add a couple days to the front or back end of your vacation to explore San Francisco!

Best Times to Visit: If you want fewer crowds, cheaper hotel rates, and perfect weather, the absolute best month to visit this area is October!

Things to do:

Take a morning hot air balloon ride. This is the best way to see and learn about the beautiful vineyards and unique agriculture in the valley. Plus, there is no better start to a day full of wine tasting than by watching the sun rise over the surrounding hills. If you are afraid of heights, you can watch the dozens of balloons bounce around the sky early in the mornings while enjoying a warm cup of coffee. Our favorite tour is Napa Valley Aloft!

Pamper yourself at one of the luxury spas in town. Napa Valley knows luxury. The hotels and resorts all have the most amazing spas on property, making carving out a little '“me time” easy! If you are not staying at a property with a spa, make sure to reserve your service in advance!

Spend your day vineyard hopping! This is the most obvious of our list but we have included some of our favorite vineyards below. Make sure to reserve your space ahead of time as most vineyards require a reservation for tastings.

  • St. Supery - amazing Sauvinon Blanc & friendly staff with excellent recommendations

  • Domaine Carneros - best for bubbles and beautiful views

  • Domaine Chandon - very popular sparkling wine, and a great place for a picnic

  • V. Sattui - organically farmed vineyard in St. Helena with 60 different highly rated wines

  • Sterling Vineyards - great wines but the tram to the top of the vineyard is truly beautiful. Great views to enjoy lunch and a glass of white.

Feature Hotels: Meadowood Napa Valley, Carneros Resort & Spa, Bardessono

Our favorite restaurants are…

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  • Bouchon - authentic French bistro fare from world renown chef, Thomas Keller

  • Bouchon Bakery - best macaroons and pastries in the valley

  • Grace’s Table - charming eatery with globally inspired menu

  • Boon Fly Cafe - Fresh and casual California fare , great for lunch!

  • Bottega Napa Valley - Rustic Italian food served in an indoor/outdoor, lively atmosphere

  • The French Laundry - famous farmhouse, world class restaurant to splurge on an amazing meal

Our Recent Stay: Four Seasons Bora Bora

Our fearless leader & CEO, Jennifer, just got back from an amazing stay at the Four Seasons Bora Bora… and it was next level luxury to say the least!

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at this Tahiti paradise.


Why I went:

The Four Seasons isn't just a hotel - it's an iconic brand representing quality and the epitome of high end experience. The location of the Four Seasons Bora Bora is hard to beat. Boasting views of Mount Otumanu and bungalows hovering over crystalline waters, this resort rivals it's next door neighbors with vengeance. 

What I loved:

I have to admit that I teared up a bit when I got off the plane...not only was I ushered onto a luxury boat that seamlessly transferred me to my hotel, but I couldn't stop saying..." I'm in BORA BORA...I never thought I would be in BORA BORA." From the moment you walk onto the property, you are engulfed in the lush surroundings of the grounds. The walkways are nestled into nature and essentially hug you while you explore the property. The rooms are out of this world- you walk into a living space, through a bathroom featuring an ocean view bathtub, and into the bedroom. The amount of space justifies any length of stay, allowing you to settle in and feel at home. In fact, I felt so "at home" that I used the self-service laundry at the end of each bungalow section...saving me from smelling like a sailor fresh off the boat (y'all....Tahiti is HOT!). 

What I ate:

Ok, ok...don't hate me, but the first thing I did when I heard that the pool bar offered two-for-one drinks in the afternoon was saddle up poolside, order a cool glass of French rose and hover over a heaping plate of truffle fries. Authentic? Maybe not...but I have no regrets. With all indulgences aside, the breakfast is one to remember. A juice bar, fresh made crepes, eggs to order, and authentic Polynesian fare made this buffet a satisfying spot to start the day. 

How I slept:

Like angels kissed my face and sang me a lullaby. You think I'm joking....but, may I remind you that I was in a cool room over the ocean, in the fluffiest king bed that the islands can offer, and facing a star sprinkled sky...I would not joke about this level of sleep. In fact, I can only dream about this level of sleep for the rest of my days. 

What I got with my stay:

The service offered at the Four Seasons can simply not be rivaled. I asked for ONE safety pin (due to a minor wardrobe malfunction) and came back to find a bag chock-o-block full of safety pins, next to a sewing kit. Need a ride to the restaurant? Simply call the front desk (don't judge...heels on a dock is no small feat). From simple asks to big requests, the resort was willing to offer support.

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to Nashville:

In the event that you didn't read the previous responses, I'll sum it up for you...do yourself a favor and book the ticket, make the reservation, and pack the sunblock (my souvenir was a gnarly sunburn). The Four Seasons is plenty large to enjoy a long stay, and the views will beg you to stay even longer than you originally planned. If you love being near the water, having your breath taken away by nature, and incredible gastronomy - look no further than Four Seasons Bora Bora! 

Friday Feature: San Miguel de Allende

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San Miguel de Allende

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This vibrant, fun city is teeming with exceptional food and culture. Located in Mexico’s central highlands, San Miguel De Allende is about 3 hours north of Mexico City. It has a great mixture of Mexican and European flare that will leave you begging to return. The closest airports to San Miguel are in Léon (about 70 miles away) and Querétaro (about 45 miles away). From there, a relatively inexpensive (between $30 and $60) hour-long shuttle or cab ride will bring you right to this charming city!

Best Times to Visit: the best times to visit are from November through April. The San Miguel's climate doesn't vary too much throughout the year, however November through April experiences less rainfall than in the summer months.

Things to do:

Experience the La Gruta hot springs. Just 10 minutes outside the city, this beautiful springs are a great family-friendly getaway. The spring has a handful of paved pools perfect for lounging on a sunny afternoon, or make your way into the caves to feel the hottest water and steam! There is a $6 entrance fee.

See the Parroquia De San Miguel Arcangel. This bright pink cathedral is located in the center of town in El Jardin and a true sight. Modeled after Belgian church, the architecture is beautifully unique. El Jardin square is a nice place to just sit on a bench to people watch or browse the numerous restaurants and street vendors nearby.

Sample the local fare. San Miguel del Allende is teeming with amazing rooftop bars and restaurants serving up authentic Mexican flavors that you won’t want to miss! Some of our favorites includes: Le Mesa Grande for a latte and breakfast, Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar for Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine, and Restaurant Nectar for a great organic brunch! Another great option is a food tour!

Take a trail ride through the countryside. San Miguel de Allende has multiple horseback riding options and this is a great way to take the slow route and truly experience the beauty of this place! There are options for all levels of riders and most tours include lunch!

Feature Hotels: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

Things to know before you go…

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  • Book your stay in advance! This city is growing in popularity which requires booking reservations farther in advance, so don’t wait!

  • Skip the strollers and rolling luggage. San Miguel’s streets are very narrow and uneven so it is best to travel light.

  • Bring comfortable shoes to explore! Walking cobblestone streets in heels, flip flops, or unsupportive sandals on a daily basis is enough to make anyone cranky. We can’t emphasize this enough, bring comfortable shoes!

  • Account for their changing weather. While the days are normally warm and beautiful, nights can grow chilly so make sure to pack light jackets and pants to avoid freezing.

For more helpful tips, click HERE.

Our Recent Stay: Union Station Hotel Nashville

Our awesome Travel Designer, Robin, just back from a luxurious weekend stay at Union Station Hotel Nashville - a beautifully converted train station in the heart of Music City.

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at one of Nashville’s hottest hotels.


Why I went:

Location, location, location! This boutique hotel is only 4 blocks from iconic Broadway, coined Nashville’s Honky Tonk highway and famous bar scene. Not looking for a party scene or traveling with children? This hotel is also close to the Nashville Zoo, Centennial Park, Cheekwood Botanical Garden, the Gluch, and Honky Tonk Central. Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend in the city or to experience Nashville’s nightlife, the Union Station Hotel is central to just about everything!

What I loved:

The details of this place are insane! Walking into the lobby you are awh-struck by it’s 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling and 100-year-old Tiffany-styled stained glass transporting you back in time to this hotel’s past life. However, the rooms have a recently renovated, modern feel that create the coolest mixture of old meets new.

What I ate:

Carter’s is the trendy restaurant and bar located in the hotels main lobby. Like the rest of the hotel, it has a cool mix of southern charm with modern sophistication. The menu offers a great mix of shareable plates, delicious entrees, and desserts that will pain you to share! This pairs perfectly with the drinks menu that has a great selection of classic favorites with an updated twist…. Are you seeing a trend yet?

Another great option is the room service! Your room comes with a hanger tag that allows you to order breakfast for the next morning. All you have to do is select what you are craving, choose what time you would like your breakfast delivered, and hang the tag on your doorknob before midnight! Then boom… fresh coffee and fluffy eggs to wake you up after a night on the town.

How I slept:

I am a big bed critic because I think this truly makes or breaks your hotel stay. The Union Station Hotel gave me THEE best nights sleep on a mattress that made you almost feel weightless. All rooms also come with a walk in glass tile shower that gives you the spa-like feel you want during your stay.

What I got with my stay:

  • Fitness and business center

  • On-site restaurant and bar, Carter’s + in room dining

  • Pet friendly accommodations

  • Live nightly music in the lobby

  • Breakfast scheduled by you and personally delivered to your room (surcharge)

  • Valet parking

  • Helpful concierge staff

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to Nashville:

Clearly, I am a huge fan of everything this hotel is about! From the interior design to the polite and attentive staff, I can’t sing Union Station Hotel’s praises enough. If you are planning a relaxing weekend getaway, friend’s trip, family reunion, etc.: this is the spot for you!

Pro Tip: They are offering some winter deals to help lighten the deal!

Friday Feature: Amsterdam

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Amsterdam

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Between Amsterdam’s forward thinking about recreational drugs and Red Light district, this beautiful little city on the river often gets a bad rap among many. However, we are hear to plead Amsterdam’s case as a charming and wonderful city that you should consider visiting in 2019! Between it’s bicycle covered streets, picturesque canal system, and extremely detailed architecture, Amsterdam is sure to leave you surprised and pleased with your stay! Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is a major intercontinental flight hub and the home of KLM, the national flag-carrying airline of the Netherlands.

Best Times to Visit: The Dutch capital is great all year round, but April-May & September-November are the best time to visit Amsterdam. This is when the temperature is a little more moderate; perfect for canal cruising or a spring trip to the tulip fields of Keukenhof!

Things to do:

Cruise through the Amsterdam canals. The Amsteram canals are often times the first thing people think of when they think Amsterdam. Make sure to rent a small electric boat for a few hours to cruise and see the beautiful city from the water. Our favorite tour company: Those Dam Boat Guys

Rent a bike to explore the city. Given Amsterdam’s relatively small size, the most popular way to travel is by bike. Everyday during rush hour (8-9 am and 5-6 pm), thousands of cyclists take to the streets. The city is quite flat and filled with over 400 kilometers of bike paths. Consider renting a bike while you’re in Amsterdam to travel like a true local!

Visit the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum. For the history buffs, there are plenty of museums and exhibits to explore around the city. Some of our favorites are the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum. On Friday nights from 7 pm, the Van Gogh Museum is turned into a semi nightclub with cocktails and loud DJ music but also some free guided tours!

Heineken Brewery Experience. The Heineken Experience is a self guided interactive journey through the world of Heineken. You can discover the history of the company, the 4 natural ingredients of the beer, the brewing process, a tasting room and the Heineken brand. At the end of the tour you can enjoy 2 Heinekens or learn how to draught the perfect beer yourself!

Explore the Dam Square. This square is home to the Royal Palace and The De Nieuwe Kerk Museum. It is bustling with tourists and locals all day and night checking out the food stalls, restaurants, and trendy shops along the square.

Take a tour of the Red Light District. Explore Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District on an approximately 2-hour guided evening walking tour. Stroll by the red-lit window cabins of the cobbled alleyways of De Wallen, and learn about the area’s history and Amsterdam’s progressive approach to prostitution.

Visit the Bloemenmarkt. You won’t want to miss out on seeing the only floating flower market while in Amsterdam. Located on the Singel Canal, the fantastic displays of flowers at this floating flower market is beautiful to behold. Stop and smell the flowers and be sure to pick up a souvenir to remember your trip!

Other Tour Recommendations: Hungry Birds food tour

Feature Hotels: Andaz Amsterdam, D'el Europe Amsterdam, Conservatorium Hotel

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Fun Facts about Amsterdam…

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  • 165: That’s the number of canals in Amsterdam. In total these waterways add up to more than 100 kilometers or about 60 miles.

  • 25,000: That’s the number of bicycles that end up in Amsterdam’s canals each year. Oddly, they say only 8,000 bikes are pulled out of the canals annually.

  • 1,515: That’s the number of bars and cafes in Amsterdam. Wow! That’s a lot of Heineken. 

  • 881,000: That’s approximately the number of bicycles in Amsterdam. A little funny, considering that there are only about 799,400 people living in the city. 

  • 1,281: That’s the number of bridges in all of Amsterdam. There are 80 bridges within the center of Amsterdam. Magere Brug, also known as the Skinny Bridge, is the most famous bridge in the city. The crossing of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht is known as the Bridge of 15 Bridges. If you stand in the right spot, especially at night, you can see a total of 15 arches into the distance. Pretty!

    Read more fun facts at Awesome Amsterdam.

Friday Feature: St. Kitts

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St. Kitts

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Situated over 1,000 south of Miami, St. Kitts stakes claim on being the first Caribbean island to be colonized in 1623. This beautiful island attracts over 100,000 stay-over tourists and half a million cruise passengers every year. But it isn’t just beaches and sunshine! This island has great cultural and historic significance as well! Multiple airlines will bring you non-stop to this beautiful Caribbean oasis from main hubs like Atlanta and Charlotte. If you would rather take your time getting there, cruises are another great option!

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit is in May and June, when hotels lower their rates to lure in travelers and the winter crowds thin out. Carnival is hosted in February during the peak season of December to April.

Things to do:

Take a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. The Scenic Railway offers visitors a glimpse of the real St Kitts along it’s 18 miles route with an additional 12 miles by bus. The complete circle of the island is 30 miles. This 3-hour tour allows visitors to get a glimpse of many of the island’s villages plus famous and historic sites.

Explore Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park was built over the course of 100 years by African slaves mostly under British command. From the high vantage point, it is easy to see why this spot was chosen for a defensive fortress. On a clear day, this park offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and neighboring Caribbean islands - St. Barts, St. Eustatius, Saba St Martin and federation island Nevis.

Take a catamaran cruise to Shitten Bay. This picturesque small bay on the southeast coast of St Kitts has a visible shipwreck with tons of beautiful coral and colorful fish. The best way to get here? A catamaran cruise is the best way to see all of the secluded bays, coves, and the rich sea life.

Explore downtown Basseterre. Be sure to spend a few hours exploring the historic capital Basseterre which has applied for UNESCO World Heritage Status. Wander around and marvel at the architecture on Basseterre’s lively streets like Liverpool Row, College Street Ghaut, Princess Street, Rosemary Lane, etc. Be sure to bring your camera!

Feature Hotels: Park Hyatt St. Kitts, Belle Mont Farm

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Things to know before you go…

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  • Try the local fare. Stewed saltfish with spicy plantains and coconut dumplings is the national dish of St. Kitts & Nevis.

  • You have to talk the talk. Saint Kitts Creole is spoken in the country as a Caribbean creole based in English. While estimated 40,000 people speak creole, it is not officially recognized in the islands.

  • Don’t worry about exchanging currency. The Eastern Caribbean Dollar is the official currency of the islands but the American Dollar is widely accepted as well!

Friday Feature: Why we are begging you to roam Rome

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Rome

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It goes a little something like this…“I hear that I don't really need to spend much time in Rome, so we can skip it."

To an Italy fanatic...this hits me like a ton of bricks....and I hear it all. the. stinkin'. time. People treat this historical mecca like a layover on their way to the Renaissance filled town of Florence, the majestic coast of Amalfi, or the vineyard touting area of Tuscany. But Rome? It gets snubbed as if it wasn't the creator of the newspaper, concrete, welfare systems, roads, bridges, and bound books...y'all...books!

My immediate reaction? Well, my immediate reaction is stifled by my professionalism, but my internal dialogue is screaming, "well, then you are hanging out with the wrong people!" But that's not nice...or fair, for that matter. In fact, I was NOT a fan of this bustling city on my first pass either. While I love historical places, I am not one to "geek out" on the history alone. I travel to "feel" a place- not to memorize information. So hit me with a ruins tour...cool, but take me to a market filled with locals pedaling spices and letting me taste the oil from their family's recent olive harvest - well, HOT damn, I'm in!

So we are here to plead Rome's case a bit, and share why that we encourage our clients to consider a minimum of three nights to get the full feel of this city that is constantly fighting to find the balance of an ancient and modern world.

Feature Hotel: Hotel Indigo Rome - St. George

First off, your hotel plays a BIG role in your experience! What I mean by this more than cushy pillows and fancy Nespresso machines (although, those don't hurt) is the LOCATION of the hotel. On my recent trip to Rome, I was on the hunt to find a hotel that provided a respite from the hubbub while echoing the style of the city. I FOUND IT! This was my fourth time to Rome, and I confidently can say that I have found my new base. Forgive my quick tangent to explain my love affair with this hotel, while I outline the highlights:

  • This is tucked into the "real" Rome- you won't be bumping into tourists, but you will be walking passed artisanal shops, wine bars with locals pouring on the sidewalks, and a quick jaunt away from Piazza Farnese and Campo di'Fiori, where you can find every carb that you ever wished for.

  • History is alive within the building! There are stones within the lobby that date back to the same age as the Colosseum- potentially taken from the exact same quarry!

  • The breakfast. Ok...ok..so by breakfast, I mean the Prosecco and a croissant, but there are MANY more options that a less lushy visitor would want to indulge in. There are cheeses, meats, honeycomb, pastries of every kind, juices, pizza (for. real) and more! Plus, their cappuccinos can rival any in the city. 

  • Spa-aaahhhh. In the bottom floor of this hotel holds an intimate spa that offers treatments, a jacuzzi pool, sauna and steam room to sweat out all that gelato. 

  • Lastly...and the pièce de résistance. The rooftop! Terra cotta as far as the eye can see and a rooftop worthy of skipping your scheduled tour and spending the day sipping rosé. 

And now back to the city as a whole...why add those extra nights onto your Rome itinerary?

Because one day is not enough in any big city! Would you assume that you could see all of New York in a single 24 hours? Times Square does not summarize the numerous boroughs of such an expansive place. Rome is just the same. The Roman Ruins and Colosseum are in one nook of the city- a very busy nook, at that. In that same area is one of the biggest intersections in the city...full of honking and monstrous buildings that seem to remove all personalization out of the experience, and therefore making the intimacy of the other Italian towns quite contrasting. 

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So where do you start? Well, we suggest sectioning your trip out by neighborhood. Don't try and cover ALL the ground in one day, and definitely don't try to hit every monument, ruin and church without stopping for a minute to "feel" where you are.

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  • Regola: This is where I call "home" from now on! You will find Hotel Indigo nestled into this area right on Via Giulia - one of the most important (and elegant) streets of the city! This street was commissioned by Pope Julius II and was designed in 1508 by the same architect that was working on the Vatican. This street is very popular for the ever-so-common "passegiata."

  • Trastevere: This funky and bohemian area is chock-a-bock full of cafes, coffee shops, artist galleries, and youthful events. This is across the river from the main area of Rome, and therefore there immediately is more space to explore and wander. While you're over in the area, take a hike up Janiculum Hill for one of the most incredible panoramic scenes that you'll ever lay eyes on!

  • Testaccio: One word....YUM. Not only is this area HUGE for traditional Roman food (cacio e pepe, osso buco, and the hot spot "Trapezzino"), but this area has a TON of history, including a pyramid- literally an ancient pyramid. It almost looks like it got lost on it's way to the desert, and in some ways, it kind of did! I encourage everyone to head towards this neighborhood built on a hill of pots and learn all about how this area has been shaped over time. 

Of course there are more...but we know you don't have all day to hear us yammer on...we're just trying to make a dad-gum point here! 

So, onto HOW to see/eat/experience it all without devoting your entire trip to Rome! Here are our favorite guided options to help you hit the high points and free up some time to wander aimlessly:

  • EasItaly: This company can tailor and create practically ANY Rome tour that you can dream up! Do you....Want to have a private guide throughout the ruins? Easy! Want to ride bikes outside the city center to the catacombs? They've got you covered. I always get asked, what would YOU do if this was your trip? Hands down- I would ask this company to get creative to make my Rome dreams come true!

  • City Wonders Early Access Tour: While we haven't touched on the Vatican here, you'd be remiss in skipping out on a visit to the Papal state. This company offers an early access tour that allows you to beat the crowds and potentially be the first person to step into the Sistine Chapel for the day. What I also love about this tour is that you are done by 9 AM...perfect time to head to Campo di' Fiori to people watch and enjoy a nice cup of espresso. 

  • Eating Italy Testaccio Twilight Stroll: A night out in Rome starts with apertivos- and so does this tour! You'll be guided to a local wine shop, and given introductory cocktail to hear a bit about the area before venturing on a gastronomic journey. You'll hear about the history of the area, and taste things that you'll be talking about for years to come.

  • ScooteRoma Vespa Tours: Talk about LEGIT! What Romans think is a normal commute is thrilling to this tourist. ScooteRoma guides can zip you through the main sights and the back streets of the city to cover the most ground and in the most authentic way possible. 

So did we do it? Did we convince you? If not...give us a call, and let us tell you more!

Friday Feature: Curaçao

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Curaçao

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Curaçao is arguable one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. This beautiful island is located in the southern Caribbean nestled between Aruba and Bonaire. Cleverly, these islands are known as the ABC islands! Curaçao, the largest of the three, is a unique melting pot of different cultures, cuisines and languages. However, most people also speak Dutch, English and Spanish so you needn’t worry if you’re not multilingual! You can fly direct to Curaçao from Miami into Hato International Airport.

Best Times to Visit: May to November are considered the off-peak season. During these months, you'll find the lowest airfares and hotel rates. Plus, you won't be vying for beach chairs with other vacationers.

Things to do:

Go beach hopping. Most of Curaçao’s beautiful beaches are easily accessible, however some are more tucked away into coves. Banda Bou, located on the western side of the island, is home to some of the best beaches! Rent a jeep for a more local feel!

Explore Willemstad. Most known for it’s beautiful, colorful buildings, this city is a must do during your time in Curaçao. The government allows local artists use some of the abandoned buildings outside walls as a canvas to express themselves. Make sure to bring your camera!

Go diving. The Caribbean is known for it’s crystal clear waters and exotic marine life. There are plenty of reefs off the beaches where you can rent scuba or snorkeling equipment to explore for yourself.

Take it easy! If there one place in the world to relax and unwind, this is it! Make sure that you leave plenty of time to simply enjoy the beaches and sunshine.

Feature Hotels: Baoase Luxury Resort, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Avila Beach Hotel

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Things to know before you go…

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  • There are four languages that are spoken on the islands (English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamentu) but most everyone speaks English.

  • Unlike some of the other Caribbean islands Curaçao is below the hurricane belt so you can go during hurricane season.

  • It is best to rent a car on the island to travel on your own terms.

Friday Feature: Chicago

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Chicago

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Chicago is absolutely jammed packed with amazing things to see and do. From shopping, sports teams, theatre, parks, and beautiful rooftops, this city has everything you need for a great weekend getaway! Hop a quick flight into either O’Hare International Airport or Chicago Midway International Airport. This is a major hub with most cities offering direct flights at reasonable prices!

Best Times to Visit: Chicago is a year-round destination that offers visitors something different each seasons. However, if you are looking for milder weather it is best to visit in late spring, early summer, and early fall; specifically May, June, September, and October. 

Things to do:

Shop Michigan Avenue. Also known as the Magnificent Mile, this iconic fashion strip is host to the best shopping in the Windy City. It boasts more than 460 retailers, including popular brands, designer boutiques, and major department stores. Make sure to account for a shopping trip in your travel budget because this mile of shopping is enchanting.

Explore Millennium Park. Most famous for the iconic bean, Millennium Park is beautiful oasis in the middle of the city. Take in the amazing summer temperatures or ice skate underneath the bean during the winter months!

Snap a picture hanging over 110 stories. The Willis Tower (previously known as Sears Tower) is hard to miss when looking at the Chicago skyline. This tourist destination is most popular for it’s glass box jutting out over the city! Be sure to bring your camera… if you have the nerves.

Take a stroll down Riverwalk. This is especially beautiful in the summer when temperatures are warm and mild! When you hit the DuSable bridge where Michigan hits E Upper Wacker, be sure to take the steps down to the River Walk. Here, you can stroll along the river by foot, hop on a boat for one of Chicago's many tours, or find a restaurant to stop in for a snack or drink. 

Catch a game at Wrigley Field. Wrigley is a special place no matter who you cheer for. If you're in town for a Cubs home game, be sure to go and drink and Old Style, a true Chicago original. If no games are happening during your trip, there is plenty of entertainment exploring Wrigleyville's restaurants and bar scene. 

Cruise on a Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. Chicago’s architecture is absolutely iconic and seeing it from the river makes it even more special. You'll find out how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years. Don’t forget your camera!

Feature Hotels: Omni Chicago Hotel, The Drake, Hilton Chicago/Magnificent Mile Suites,

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Restaurants We Love…

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Hampton Social - enjoy an amazing brunch menu and snap a picture with the iconic “Rose all day” neon sign!

Maple & Ash - a steakhouse that is very much worth the splurge!

Quartino - if you love Italian and tapas, this is the spot for you! They also have to-go wine, which is obviously important.

Cindy’s - the best rooftop bar in the city with sweeping views of Millennium Park

Giordano’s - no trip to Chicago is complete without some famous deep dish pizza

3 Arts Cafe - located inside the Restoration Hardware offering visitors great all-day menu items

TOP 5 LIVE: Things to know about Tahiti/Bora Bora travel ☀️🌴

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TOP FIVE LIVE

Things to know about Tahiti & Bora Bora travel!

After traveling to some of the most beautiful and iconic French Polynesian islands, we are going to dive into the top five things you need to know about Tahiti/Bora Bora islands to better plan your own adventure!

  1. Geography: Tahiti is the considered the “mainland” and the main airport of Tahiti is Papeete, which all international flights have to go through! Usually the layovers are a little funky. There are only a few flights out to the islands a day so a majority of the time you will have to stay overnight on Tahiti before traveling out to your resort island. However, the good news is that there are some awesome markets and food trucks in Tahiti so that the layover is definitely not a drag! The only island off of Tahiti navigable by boat is Moorea. All other islands will require a 45 minute to hour long flight.

    Fun Fact: The Bora Bora airport was the first airport in Tahiti and built by the Navy. For a long time that was the only international airport, until Papette was created. Today Bora Bora Airport is only used for inter-island flights!

  2. Airports: There are three main airlines that service Tahiti from the US:

    1. French bee which goes from San Francisco. This was the first economy long-haul airline.

    2. Air Tahiti Nui which goes from LAX. This is a little more upscale option with French Polynesian flair.

    3. Air France which goes from LAX. They have the fabulous first class pods!

    The airports do not have air conditioning… at all! So make sure to dress accordingly for your travel day. If you are doing an inter-island flight, there are no seat assignments. It is first come first serve style so make sure you get to the front of the line if are picky about where you sit. Also, make sure to pack small bags. With the smaller planes you will most likely have to check your bags due to space, so know that ahead of time and take out any valuables from your bags (i.e. your wallet)!

  3. Room Types: There are plenty of beach bungalows but this area of the world is most known for their over the water bungalows! Most islands talk about what produce they are best known for… Bora Bora brags that they grow bungalows like the other islands grow produce.

    It is good to know that not all rooms are over the water bungalows and all bungalows are VERY different from one another. Some of the resorts have a very Polynesian, authentic decor while other resorts have a much more commercial feel - so yes, they are all very much their own property!

  4. Budget: This is THEE most common question we receive about this section of the world. If budget is a concern, split your time between islands to save money in a place like Moorea (which is known for their island tours and excursions which means less time lounging in your room) to save up and splurge for your stay in Bora Bora. The water bungalows in Bora Bora can start at about $550/night in the low season and range anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500/night (and up) for a 5 star resort.

    Something else to consider is that in Tahiti it is more expensive to eat. Make sure to work with your travel agent to do an all inclusive or halfboard plans, we highly recommend this so you are not having to spend as much money when you are there! This also helps you stick to a particular budget.

  5. Resorts: This part of the world has some of the most amazing properties! The Conrad Bora Bora is the only property that is situated up a mountain for breathtaking panoramic views. If you are a spa lover, the Intercontinental Thalasso and St. Regis resorts have great spa facilities on site. If you are looking for an authentic, more intimate and quaint experience, we recommend exploring the Intercontinental Moana Bora Bora or Pearl Beach Resort are awesome! They are also more economical option. The Le Meridien’s water was unreal - there is truly something to be said about every single one of them!

    If you have questions about a specific resort or how to turn a quote into an itinerary, feel free to reach out to our team for more information! We are happy to help you create your dream Bora Bora experience.

Another fun option to consider when thinking through your Tahiti travel plans is to consider a cruise! The Windstar also has some great cruise options through Bora Bora and Tahiti. The Aranui is a very awesome brand that travels to the Marquesas Islands, which is teeming with culture and French Polynesian flavors! It is a 13 night high end cruise liner that allows you to see a lot of Tahiti without unpacking your bags. This is a great option for experiential travelers!

Friday Feature: Maldives

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The Maldives are one of those bucket list destinations that hardly need an explanation! Beautiful blue waters and isolated, tropical islands make this a perfect destination for anyone looking to getaway and relax in paradise. To get to this paradise, you will fly into Velana International Airport (MLE) on the island of Hulhule'. Upon arrival, you'll most likely be escorted by a representative from your resort to the island where you are staying. You will have to take a ferry, a seaplane, a speedboat or some combination of the three to reach your final destination.

Best Times to Visit: The Maldives are hot and sunny all year round, but the best weather and the best time to visit the Maldives is between November - April. The high season falls between December - March, and monsoon runs from May to October, peaking in June.

Things to do:

Snorkeling and/or scuba diving. The Maldives is one of the premier scuba diving destinations in the world! It’s crystal clear water, warm ocean temperatures, and diverse marine life make it a perfect spot to spend the day diving and snorkeling. Whale sharks and mantra rays call the Maldives home almost year round!

Spend a day island hopping. Believe it or not, there is a large settlement in the Maldives and many locals live and work on the islands. If you stay at a private island in the Maldives, make sure to look into excursions to a nearby community. It is good to note, the Maldives follow strict a Muslim culture - be sure to dress respectably (i.e., long skirts/shorts and no spaghetti strap sleeves).

Take a scenic flight over the islands. The Maldives are known for its iconic beautiful blue waters and picture perfect beaches. Most resorts require a flight on a small plane to their private island, but if your resort does not look into an excursion to see these beautiful islands for yourself. Don’t forget your camera!

Relax! There is no better place in the world to hit pause on life and truly soak in this amazing destination! Pull up a beach chair, grab an exotic drink, and get in some serious “me” time.

Feature Hotels: Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, Baglioni Resort Maldives

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Things to Know Before You Go…

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  • The Maldives are made up of over 2,000 islands. Some are so small you would never even see them on a map, but the Maldives are expansive with something for everyone.

  • There is a glow in the dark beach. The presence of bioluminescent plankton around the area make the beaches come alive - literally - at night! This is a must see when visiting the area.

  • This is an Islamic population. When planning your trip, consider the traditional holidays and traditions - such as month-long holy fasting of Ramadan. However, when the resort islands you will not have to worry about the traditional attire or customs.

For more information, click HERE.

Friday Feature: New York City (Holiday Edition)

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New York City

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There is truly never a bad time to experience the city that never sleeps. New York City does a great job at offering travelers something unique for each season of the year - fall foliage in Central Park, rooftop bars in the summertime, etc. But there is just something inherently special about New York around the holidays! Getting here is easy with most airports offering a range of direct and affordable flight options to one of New York’s three main airports: John F Kennedy (JFK), La Guardia (LGA) in Queens, or Newark (EWR) across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey.

Best Times to Visit: While New York City is truly a year round destination, the months of April - June and September - early November offer warm, pleasant weather and lighter crowds. The holiday season starts around Thanksgiving and continues through New Years.

Things to do:

Ice skate under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. You can not go to New York City during the holidays without seeing the amazing Christmas tree display in Rockefeller Center! This Christmas icon is free to see and you can spend a couple hours enjoying the view while ice skating in it’s shadow. General admission is first come first serve, so we recommend getting there early!

Christmas lights at Dyker Heights. If you have a love for Christmas lights, Dyker Heights is an absolute must see. The dedicated Brooklyn neighborhood goes all out for the holidays with extensive yard decorations that can capture anyones eye! Take a quick subway ride to Brooklyn and spend a few hours walking the streets or take a tour that showcases all the famous houses!

See the Met’s Christmas tree. The museum displays a beautiful 20-foot Christmas tree in its Medieval Sculpture Hall. The tree is surrounded by a beautiful nativity scene backed by an eighteenth-century Spanish choir screen from the Cathedral of Valladolid. To find this display walk into the Met’s Great Hall then head straight past the stairs to Gallery 305.

Stroll Central Park. Escape the Fifth Avenue holiday shopping crowd with ice skating and carriage rides in Central Park. After a beautiful dusting of snow, there is no place more beautiful than this winter wonderland. Spend a few hours strolling Central Park but make sure to stop for a warm cup of hot chocolate at a nearby cafe afterwards.

Check out the Fifth Avenue window displays. The Fifth Avenue window displays are a NYC staple and made famous by some of our beloved Christmas movies! Peruse the streets, take in the sights, and duck into a nearby lounge for a trendy holiday cocktail.

Explore the Union Square Christmas markets. This is a great place to do your holiday shopping and indulge in some delicious treats (i.e., apple cider doughnuts, empanadas, and warm apple cider)! The market isn’t huge so you can easily walk it all in an hour or so. Bryant Park is another popular holiday marketplace… complete with a ice skating rink!

Feature Hotels: The Michelangelo, The Roosevelt Hotel New York City, The Lexington Hotel

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Restaurants We Love…

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Serendipity - This is a holiday must! Be sure to order their frozen hot chocolate.

Rolf’s German Restaurant - An entire restaurant decked out in Christmas ornaments… count us in!

Bemelmans Bar - This is a slice of old-school Manhattan that is hard to find anymore.

Ophelia Lounge - This bar is perched on the 26th floor in Midtown East with sweeping views of the city.

For more great restaurants, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Scottsdale, Arizona

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Scottsdale

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With 299 days of sunshine a year, Scottsdale is the perfect desert escape for anyone looking for a change in scenery. It sits just a couple miles north of downtown Phoenix and home to some of the most luxurious resorts, spas, and golf courses in the country. How do you get to this vintage desert paradise? Hop a quick flight into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. This is a major hub with most cities offering direct flights at reasonable prices!

Best Times to Visit: This is truly a year round destination, but if you are looking for blue skies and reasonable temperatures November through April are best. Keep in mind that hotels see their highest rates in the winter months so if you are looking for a better deal we recommend checking in spring time.  

Things to do:

Hike Camelback Mountain. This is one of the most iconic hikes in Phoenix. Camelback Mountain is located in the middle of the Phoenix Valley with picturesque views! The beginning of the hike is easy, with even terrain. The last third of the trail requires scrambling up steep grades with drop-offs on each side. Both hikes are a little under 2.5 miles long. Plan on taking two to three hours, depending on your condition, to make either of the round-trip hikes.

Day trip to Sedona. If you are looking for a break from the city life, Sedona is only a short and scenic 2-hour drive north of Scottsdale. Hike the beautiful red rocks, take a Pink Jeep tour to the most scenic overlooks, or simply marvel at the drive!

Shop & eat your way through Fashion Square. Scottsdale is known for it’s world class shopping and amazing restaurants, so make sure to check out the beautiful Fashion Square while you are in town. You will find just about every store imaginable between Fashion Square and Scottsdale Quarter.

Take a hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert. If you’ve never been in a hot air balloon before, Scottsdale is the place to do it!  Glide over beautiful red rocks, mountains, and cacti while watching coyote run down below.  Hot air balloons float effortlessly in the morning sun, and it’s a scenic and peaceful way to spend a few hours!  

Feature Hotels: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

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Restaurants We Love…

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Diego Pops - great menu that goes way beyond typical Mexican fare.

Fat OX - modern takes on the authentic recipes of rural Italy.

Citizen Public House - named one of the top 10 restaurants in Scottsdale by USA Today.

Farm & Craft - focus on healthy and sustainable food.

Breakfast Club - the locals go for the famous french toast but offers all the usual suspects.

Breaking down the wide world of cruises! 🛳

Cruise Lines 101

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The cruise industry is one of non-stop growth and exciting developments. Companies are working tirelessly to better the guest experience while simultaneously satisfying the growing demand for cruise options across the world. While the Caribbean tends to be a extremely popular destination, guests can now choose cruise options to Alaska, through the Baltic, down the Panama Canal, to Antartica, or even completely around the world. However, with all of these options comes the overwhelming sense of which option is best for me?! Read below as we break down the notable differences between cruise lines and which company makes the most sense for your travel style:

Travel Style: A party-hearty crowd, shorter cruise options, budget-friendly

Best Fit: Carnival. With a relaxed atmosphere and informal dress code, Carnival puts “fun” first. They have a very loyal customer base that will line up for free-flowing water slides, karaoke shows and edgy comedians. The cabins are not overly flashy, but they get the job done. A majority of the fleet sails shorter cruises that are less than seven days with an abundant amount of inexpensive itineraries. Carnival a good starting point for those seeking quick Caribbean getaway. . The line has also focused on the “drive” market with a majority of Americans living within a day’s drive of a port. 

Travel Style: Couples, aspiring globe-trotters

Best Fit: Princess. Originally dubbed the “love boat”, Princess now offers cruisers more family-friendly options especially on it’s newer ships. However, it stands true to it’s romantic roots and a great option for couples looking for a mid-size ship. They offer a more diverse array of itinerary options than most of the major lines, including the largest cruise presence in Alaska each summer.

Travel Style: All cruisers, including families and multi-generational groups

Best Fit: Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean is best known for it’s Broadway caliber performances at sea. However, they truly have something for everyone. The wealth of activities makes most Royal Caribbean’s cruises a good pick for multi-generational journeys. Royal Caribbean is heavy into branding—from Starbucks to Johnny Rockets, and from Shrek to Barbie, the ambience aboard Royal Caribbean’s ships will feel familiar. 

Travel Style: Younger cruisers, budget-friendly, solo cruisers, minimum regulations

Best fit: Norwegian. This cruise line is best known for its “freestyle travel” concept. They do not enforce dress codes or mandatory dining times on their ships, making them a great option for the “go with the flow” travel style. Restaurant options are extensive, with most of the venues requiring a surcharge, but the actual quality of food is not a strong suit for the brand. However, entertainment is above average and waterparks keep kids enthralled. The line also offers smaller cabins for singles on some of its newest ships, a rarity in the industry. 

Travel Style: Adventure traveler, nature exploration, intellectuals

Best Fit: Hurtigruten. Hurtigruten prides itself on tailoring their expeditions to the intellectual community looking to explore exotic areas of the world. During the voyage, guests can enjoy lectures about the area of travel presented by experts such as zoologists, oceanographers, and more! These are smaller ships that travel to more remote destinations like Antarctica, Greenland, and the Arctic.

Travel Style: Families, avid Disney supporters.

Best Fit: Disney Ships. No brand does family fun better than Disney, especially when catering to pre-teens! The novel split-bathroom concept in most cabins is something the other lines haven’t quite matched. As an Orlando-based line, Disney’s itineraries are heavily based on Caribbean travel out of Port Canaveral. All ships are designed with the quintessential Disney characters and stories in mind, a favorite of Disney World lovers and families. They charge a premium for its cruises.

Travel style: Older cruisers, aspiring foodies, world travelers

Best Fit: Holland America. As a more traditional mid-sized cruise line, Holland America caters to an older crowd. However, there are plenty of touches that make Holland America an appealing alternative to the bigger lines, including in-room DVD players with a free library, fresh squeezed orange juice at the buffet, cooking classes in a show kitchen, and bathtubs in most cabins. In addition, the main dining room serves food that is somewhat better, and more adventurous than the mass-market lines. Holland America travels to a greater variety of unusual ports of call, with frequent Panama Canal, Australia/New Zealand, and South America sailings!

What is your favorite cruise line? Tell us why in the comments below.

Friday Feature: St. Lucia

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St. Lucia

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St. Lucia is a honeymoon favorite… and rightfully so! With gorgeous beaches and a beautiful mountain-scape, this is one of the most romantic Caribbean islands. However, you don’t need to be a newlywed to enjoy this beautiful piece of paradise! Large hubs like Miami, Chicago, Charlotte, and more offer direct flights to Hewanorra International Airport (UVF).

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit St. Lucia is between May and June. These late spring and early summer months offer wonderful weather – high 70s to 80s – plus there are unbelievable room rates at some of the best hotels.

Things to do:

Visit the Sulphur Springs. You'll know when you're in St. Lucia once you touch down and get a strong whiff of sulfur. The distinct scent is from one of the island's most historic attractions - Sulphur Springs. This is the Caribbean's only drive-in volcano and is the most active mass area in the Caribbean. You will find bubbling hot spring water pits, mud pools, and steaming vents.

Snorkel the Caribbean waters. No trip to St. Lucia is complete without experiencing the crystal clean waters that make this destination such a hot spot! Swim with the marine life and see the beautiful reefs that dot this island. Most resorts offer excursions through the hotel, but if you are looking for a different adventure Sugar Beach Resort offers night snorkeling!

Climb the "stairway to heaven" at the Tet Paul Nature Trail. The Tet Paul Nature Trail is one of St. Lucia's most sacred gems. Hiking the trail will take you nearly 45 minutes, but once you reach the top, you’ll experience a stunning view of the Pitons. Along the way, you'll find historic landmarks and practices like indigenous housing and farming to learn more about the local culture.

Make chocolate from scratch at Hotel Chocolat. St. Lucia is teeming with fresh cocoa! At Hotel Chocolat, you can grind cocoa beans to make your very own chocolate from scratch. If you are still craving some chocolatey goodness, head on over to the Fond Doux Plantation and Resort to get a history lesson on your favorite treat!

Feature Hotels: Jade Mountain, Sugar Beach Resort, Royalton Saint Lucia Resort and Spa, Cap Maison

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Things to Know Before You Go…

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  • Crack open a fresh coconut. No trip to St. Lucia is complete without a coconut drink! They are sold by many street vendors throughout the island.

  • Tipping is discretionary! A 10% service fee is added to by most restaurants and bars but anything additional is up to you.

  • You can use US dollars. St. Lucia actually has its own currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar. However, most places accept US dollars (you just might get change in Eastern Caribbean dollars).

  • Beach vendors and guides can be pushy. While working with a vendor or tour guide outside of your resort can save you some money, they also push a lot harder for your time.

    For more tips, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Guanacaste, Costa Rica

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Guanacaste

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Guanacaste is located in the Pacific northwest of Costa Rica on the border of Nicaragua. It is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country with plenty of adventure activities to choose from as well. This part of Costa Rica really resinates with adventure-focused travelers who are looking to stay active and explore the nature/wildlife of the area. How do you get to this tropical destination? If you are heading out to the coastal areas, the best option is to catch a domestic flight to the one of the four regional airports in the area - Tamarindo Airport, the Playa Nosara Airport, the Playa Samara Airport, and the Punta Islita Airport. All found along Guanacaste’s golden shores, these airports provide you with easy and convenient access to the countless beaches found in this area.

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit Costa Rica is between mid-December to April, which is considered the dry season. However, if you visit between September to October you can expect afternoon showers and fewer crowds.

Things to do:

Go surfing or beach hop. Whether you are looking to shred some surf or catch some rays, Guanacaste is the place to do it! The southern part of the province is renown for it’s surfing beaches such as Tamarindo (best for beginners), Avellanas or “Little Hawaii”, and Playa Grande. If you are looking for a more relaxed beach day, the good news is that there is no such thing as a “bad beach” in Guanacaste.

Zipline over Rincon de la Vieja Natonal Park. Ziplining is one of those activities that feels like a “must do” in a tropical destination like Guanacaste. You can experience some of the best views at Rincon de la Viega National Park where the cables are built over a river, through the forest, and takes you to the base of a volcano - giving you the best of everything!

Hike to the waterfalls, rivers, and volcanoes. Beaches are a huge draw for visitors of Costa Rica, but this beautiful providence offers so much more than just white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. If you are looking for some nature and adventure in your vacation, make sure to get out the National Parks in the area. With volcanoes, rivers, and waterfalls, it is hard to beat the views of this region.

Snorkel in the Gulf of Papagayo. If you love the ocean, snorkeling or diving in the waters of the Gulf of Papagayo will not disappoint. With some of the best diving in Central America, you could swim with eagle rays, sharks, dolphins and other creatures of the sea. Or explore the reefs around Samara where you can see eels, colorful tropical fish and maybe a turtle or two!

Feature Hotels: Rui Guanacaste All Inclusive, Dreams Las Mareas, Reserva Conchal Beach Resort, El Mangroove Marriott Autograph Collection Resort and Spa

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Things to Know Before You Go…

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  • Save your pennies by using public transportation. The public transportation system in Guanacaste is really good and a great way to cut out the added costs of private transfers to and from adventures.

  • Pack light. When traveling on small planes between parts of Central America, weight becomes very important. Do yourself a favor and leave that extra outfit behind!

  • Slow down. In the land of “pura vida,” don’t be in a hurry. Buses run late, restaurants close early and flights get delayed. Be prepared to go at Costa Rica pace, not what you’re used to at home.

  • Driving is an adventure all it’s own. Unless you are comfortable with rough, unpaved roads, reading Spanish road signs, and driving stick shift, I would recommend leaving the driving to the locals.

    For more helpful tips, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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Puerto Vallarta

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Puerto Vallarta is one of those beautifully unique destinations that offers travelers a variety of experiences during their stay. It is located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, nestled between the lush jungle of the Sierra Madre mountain range and pristine, crystal clear beaches. How do you get to this beautiful destination? Most major airports offer affordable direct flight options to Puerto Vallarta’s Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport. Rates are the most affordable from April to June before the summer busy season starts up!

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit is between April and June when the weather is pleasant, the rain is scarce, and the crowds are few & far between. If you're interested in whale watching, peak season is from December to March.

Things to do:

Take a sunset sail on Banderas Bay. There is no better way to experience a Puerto Vallarta sunset than sipping a cocktail on a sailboat. This is a great option for couples taking a romantic getaway or planning an anniversary trip!

Stroll through the streets of Zona Romantica. Zona Romantica, or Old Town, is set away from the main resorts of Puerto Vallarta and has a more local, relaxed vibe. Spend some time exploring the locally-owned boutiques and restaurants while taking in some of the music and entertainment of street performers.

Spend some time on Playa Los Muertos Pier. The pier is one of the main attractions of the city and stretches over the Los Muertos Beach, which is THEE beach of Los Muertos. It is also close to shopping and restaurants making it easy to spend an entire day here.

Snorkeling in Los Arcos. No trip to this beautiful coastal city is complete without spending some time exploring the waters and marine life. There are plenty of snorkeling tours that offer you a full or half day’s excursion.

Zip line through the mountains. With beaches and mountains, Puerto Vallarta has the best of both worlds. If you are looking to add some adventure to your vacation, zip line through the beautiful and lush jungle of Sierra Madre while taking in the scenic mountain range.

Feature Hotels: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Hotel Mousai, Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway

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Things to Know Before You Go…

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  • Exchange dollars for Peros at the airport. Some merchants do except US dollars, but you are at the discretion of the store owner.

  • Locals take there tequila seriously! Unlike the tequila in the US, this tequila is similar to wine. There are plenty of tastings and tours throughout the area that are great to learn more about the process.

  • It is safe! There has been a lot of negative PR surrounding Mexico lately, however Puerta Vallarta has very little crime.

  • You get what you pay for when booking hotels. While all budgets are possible in Mexico, it is best to splurge in areas most important to you.

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