All Inclusive Nuevo Vallarta – Marival Residences & World Spa


I learned about this incredible, luxurious, all-inclusive resort at an all day event put on by WESTA, the consortium that my host travel agency belongs to.  I have to say, I was blown away!  When I checked out the prices, especially with the 40% off special they are offering right now, I was even more excited to let my clients know about this fabulous resort which is located in the heard of Nuevo Vallarta, just 10 minutes from the Puerto Vallarta airport. 

The 1 – 4 bedroom residences start at 1400 square feet, sleeping 3 – 11 guests.  There are only 162 residences total, so you won’t feel crowded like you do in some mega-resorts.  The 7 villas, each with a private pool, have three bedrooms and are an incredible 3940 square feet.  Although this is a fully all-inclusive resort, the residences do include a full kitchen and all the modern comforts & amenities you would find in a luxurious home. 

Marival Residences & World Spa the inclusions:5 star Gourmet Dining in your choice of 3 restaurants.

  • All beverages, including national & premium brand drinks.
  • Featured house wines at the Brunello wine bar
  • Complimentary water, soft drinks & beer in rooms.
  • UNLIMITED rounds of golf (not including cart fee).
  • One FREE tour, with additional select tours for $30 per person (catamaran sailing, Zip Lining, City Tour, Dolphin Encounters, etc.)
  • PrivateVIPBeach Club with full food & beverage service & concierge services.
  • Second all-inclusive resort included with exchange priveliges at Marival Resort & Suites including free shuttle service.
  • Kids 0-6 stay free. 

Also available for additional fees are the Melange World Spa, beauty salon, tennis lessons, babysitter service, and Bug’s Kids Club. 

Additional amenities include:

  • Bathrobes & Slippers
  • Luxury bedding & pillow menu
  • Private adults only pool
  • Kids pool
  • Flat screen TV’s & IPOD docking station 

Marival Residences & World Spa has some Perfect Perfect Romance packages, starting with a FREE Wedding Package valued at $2500.  The package includes judge fees & Nwedding certificate; decorated location; tropical wedding toast with Margaritas & Martinis, Bride’s bouquet & Groom’s bouttoniere; 3 course dinner for wedding group; 30 massage for the bride & groom; and more.  Honeymooners and Anniversary couples will also merit special treatment. 

That is a start of what you will experience when you visit Marival Residences & World Spa.  

And, I don’t want to forget to mention, that they are offering some special amenities to travel agents that are members of WESTA – including a $100 Spa Credit.  

(One of the vendors I met with on Saturday represents a Luxury all-inclusive resort in Nuevo Vallarta, with suites starting at 1400 square feet.  Not only are all your meals and beverages included, but you get unlimited golf at 3 difference courses PLUS one free tour with additional tours at only $30 per person.  And exclusive benefits for members of my consortia include a $100 spa credit and room upgrade if available.  I always learn so much at these events!  I want to go now.  Oh, and did I mention, they are offering 40% off for winter and spring stays.)

Perfect Paradise Vacations can get you all of these amenities and disounts.  Call 206-433-0721.

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Aren’t Travel Agents Extinct?


I’m asked a version of this question at every social or networking event when asked what I do.  People wonder how I compete with the Internet.  I consider myself much more than a travel agent – I’m more of a travel “concierge” or personal vacation planner for my clients.  Even though I really don’t consider the Internet as my competition, I do like to stay informed on what is happening in the industry overall. 

I was listening to the radio recently and I heard one of the large online travel agency’s commercials, and their tag line was “Where You Book Matters”.  I found myself surprised to agree with them for once!  Although for different reasons than they were stating.  They were touting their low hotel prices, but I wondered, what really matters to consumers these days?  Is it truly the lowest possible price, or is it value? 

I hear it in commercials all the time – “we have the lowest prices”, “if you don’t shop here, you’ll be sorry” and so forth.  Which tells me that consumers ARE looking for the lowest price on everything.  Times are tough and we need to save money wherever we can.  I’m the same way, but I’ve come to realize that, especially when times are tough, I need to get the best value for my money.  If you’re buying laundry detergent and one store has your brand for $2 less than another, you get the better value by purchasing at the store with the lower price (unless you have to spend $2 worth of gas to get there).  But if you’re purchasing a vacation is price really the only distinction that matters?

What DOES matter to you?  Is it price alone?  Value?  The experience?  By using a qualified travel agent who asks questions to find out exactly what does matter to you, you should have a better experience.  You will have an advocate for you in case there is a problem during your trip.  Your agent should be knowledgeable about the destination you are considering.  She should ask you the purpose of your vacation, what kind of experience you want, what sort of resorts you have stayed in previously, etc.  She should advise you about the differences in the resorts that you ask about, about the category of the room, about the amenities included in the price.  For instance, many hotels have Oceanview room categories, but that doesn’t mean the same thing at each hotel.  In one hotel an Oceanview is truly what it says – you can see the ocean from the window or balcony.  In others, Oceanview means you get a peek of the ocean if you lean over your balcony – if you want the full view you need to book the Deluxe Oceanview.  If an Oceanview is important to you, you want to make sure you book the right category. 

 

Is the resort planning a renovation during the time of your vacation?  Will the pool be closed?  The restaurant?  These are details your travel agent should know, but that online booking engine won’t tell you about.  And, in most cases you won’t pay more for a travel agent’s services for the same itinerary.  Imagine that – a better vacation experience, with personalized service, for the same price as the online agency offers!  Now that is truly valuable! 

Another thing I noticed recently was the cancellation policy of the travel agency division of a large local company.  I’m one of those that likes to read the fine print, and I saw that for hotel only bookings the deposit is $100 per person.  Very reasonable.  However, if you cancel anytime after 48 hours from making that deposit you lose the full $100 per person, even if the hotel’s policy says you can cancel up until the day of arrival.  I have no problem with a travel agency having a cancellation or change fee policy, because we get paid by commission and have spent some time with you and should be paid.  But, if you book online with them and then decide to cancel, do they really need $200 of your money just to process the cancellation?  There were other penalties as well and some other policies that would give me pause if I were booking with them, including charges for changes that were higher than I usually I felt they should be for a more or less do it yourself booking company. 

It DOES matter where you book your travel.  The next time you need to make travel plans what I ask you to think about is “What matters to YOU”?  Consider calling a travel professional and comparing what they can do for you to what you are finding yourself. 

Ask why you should work with them.  For example, I specialize in tropical destinations.  I have earned my Caribbean Destination Specialist certification from The Travel Institute.  I have taken courses from the tourist boards for many Caribbean Islands, as well as several cruise lines.  I’ve taken courses offered by several resorts to learn more in depth information about them.  I’m also a Hawaii and Mexico Destination Specialist and have studied several areas of Mexico in depth.  I have taken many webinars from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau to learn more about the islands.  I have visited about 12 Caribbean islands, some several times.  I’ve visited both Hawaii & Mexico several times, touring different areas.  This is just a short list of my qualifications – the kinds of continuing education I do to keep myself current and up to date so that I can make sure my clients have their Perfect Vacation in Paradise.  A good travel professional does the same no matter what their specialty is. 

Here’s to your next Vacation being Perfect for YOU no matter where your Paradise may be.

Should You Take A Cruise??


Almost everyone I talk with who has taken a cruise has absolutely loved it! In fact, cruise vacations have the highest satisfaction rate of any type of vacation!  Once in awhile though, I come across someone who says “I guess we just aren’t cruise people.” Generally after asking them a few questions about why they feel that way, the reality is that they were on the wrong cruise for them. So, how do you know that YOU are on the RIGHT cruise?

  • Destination – there are literally hundreds of ports of call for cruise ships around the world. Most people think of the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Hawaii and the Mediterranean. Within these destinations there are probably 100 or more ports of call. There are cruises to Asia, Australia, South America and the South Pacific. What about River Cruises – in Europe, China, Russia and the US. Picking the right Itinerary with the right Ports of Call is very important.
  • Cruise Line – Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has 23 cruise lines as members. I know of several others, such as Cruise West, which offer wonderful experiences and itineraries even though they are not members of CLIA. Does the cruise line you choose really make a difference? If you crave quiet spaces where you can relax with your book and end up on a cruise line with non stop action all over the ship, or vice versa – the answer is YES, the line you choose can have a big impact on your vacation experience.
  • Ship – OK, you’ve found the destination you would like to visit, you’ve chosen the cruise line – does the ship really make any difference? In some cases you won’t have a choice – if you want to go to Aruba on Royal Caribbean there may only be one ship that goes there. But if you want to go to the Eastern Caribbean on Royal Caribbean, and you don’t really care which islands you visit, you may be able to choose between a ship that carries 1900 passengers and one that carries 3400. Or, you may only want to sail on small ships with around 500 passengers (or fewer). In this case you may choose your destination after researching which cruise lines offer smaller ships.  
  • Cabin Selection – you say your cabin selection doesn’t really matter because you won’t be in there that much? Well, you may not spend a lot of time in there, but while you’re waiting for your spouse to shower and dress for dinner would you rather be sitting on your bed in an inside cabin with no window or sitting on a lounge chair on your balcony sipping a glass of wine and watching the sunset?  Besides the decision of whether to get an Interior, Oceanview, Verandah or Suite – should you be in the front of the ship, the back, the middle?
  • Timing – the time of year you go can impact your enjoyment of the trip quite a lot as well. If you really want to go to Alaska, but hate the cold, you probably don’t want to go at the beginning of May. If your cruise is a once in a lifetime vacation and you have a specific Caribbean island you don’t want to miss, you don’t want to go during Hurricane season when your itinerary could be changed due to storm activity. Number of nights is important as well – as a first time cruiser a shorter cruise may be best to be sure you are “a cruise person”.

These are all important things to take into account when planning your cruise vacation. There are many more, such as what is the occasion for the cruise? Is it a family reunion with a large age range of passengers; your Honeymoon; a girlfriend getaway; an affinity club? Where is the ship sailing from? How much time do you have for your vacation? Do you want a themed cruise? Do you want a lot of cultural activities that tie into the destination?

These are all decisions that a qualified travel agent can help you make.

And now is a great time to book your cruise vacation!  There are lots of specials going on – lowered deposits, special amenities, special pricing and more.  This makes for a wonderful family or group vacation.  And the best thing is that there is no risk!  I know the economy is a little scary right now.  With a cruise vacation your deposit is fully refundable up until the time you make your final payment (usually 60 days prior to cruising).  You can protect yourself even more by taking out travel insurance – some policies cover you for job loss or allow you to cancel for any reason almost up until the day you sail!

Bon Voyage!

What’s Happening in the Riviera Maya?


This area south of Cancun on the East Coast of Mexico is growing so fast it’s hard to keep track.  One of the new All Inclusive resorts is Sandos Playacar Riviera Hotel & Spa.  This is a sister resort of Playacar Beach Resort and Spa and guests have access to both resorts.

 

Sandos Resort has 400 junior and 2-room suites, many have large in-room hot tubs and all have balconies.  Most rooms are in three story buildings containing a few dozen rooms each, but there are also two story hacienda villas which have 10 rooms each.  These haciendas are popular for family reunions, weddings and other special events.  Each has its own private plunge pool.

 

The property at Sandos is shaded with palm trees and other foliage and it is just a short walk between the 2 resorts.  The sister properties share a new spa with 22 treatment rooms, each with a private shower.  There is also a fitness center with spinning, yoga and aerobic classes – these facilities are free other than the actual spa treatments.

 

The Beach Resort also has a kids program.  Once every week they take over the 600 seat theater performing in Disney character costumes and skits.  The disco is for teens only until 10PM when it changes to adults only. 

 

Each resort has several restaurants serving gourmet meals. For those of you who want the VIP treatment there is a hotel-within-a-hotel component called the Royal Club.  For only $25 extra per day you can have features such as private check-in, a dedicated concierge and a private club room with free top-shelf brand liquors and Internet access.

 

While in the Riviera Maya there are a couple of things you shouldn’t miss.  Snorkeling and Scuba Diving are fabulous here.  The Mayan ruins of Tulum are close by.  And the Dolphin Discovery where you have an opportunity to swim and play with the dolphins.

Mexico Travel Advisories


We’ve all been hearing a lot on the news lately regarding the violence in Mexico.  Since I have been posting some information on travel ideas to Mexico I thought I should address this issue.

 

Most of the violence has been in the border towns.  If you are going to one of the established tourist areas you should be fine.  Here is part of what the US State Dept. has to say:

 

“While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently.  It is imperative that travelers understand the risks of travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and whom to contact if one becomes a crime victim.  Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

 

U.S.citizen visitors are encouraged to stay in the well-known tourist areas of the cities.  Travelers should leave their itinerary with a friend or family member not traveling with them, avoid traveling alone, and should check with their cellular provider prior to departure to confirm that their cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks.  Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.”

 

If you would like to read the full report, visit the US State Dept. website. 

Puerto Vallarta’s International Gourmet Festival


Need an extra reason to head south when the cold weather gets cold here in the Pacific Northwest?  How about the International Gourmet Festival  in Puerto Vallarta in November?  Established in 1995, this year will be the 15th anniversary.  This 10 day, city wide event has more than 24 participating restaurants, educational gourmet programs and 20 renowned chefs from around the world. 

 

Every evening each of the participating restaurants offers a Gourmet a la Carte menu.  You can also enjoy Winemaker’s evenings; Cooking Demonstrations; Wine & Cheeses of the Worlds tasting; and don’t miss the Chef’s Hell Raising night!

 

You could even extend your stay and enjoy an escorted, food-focused package to other areas of Mexico including hands-on cooking classes and excursions to local markets and eateries. 

 

Just one more good reason to head to Puerto Vallarta this fall!

Somma Wine Spa


I read a lot of travel industry and travel magazines to try to stay current with what’s new in the travel world.  I haven’t had a chance to check this out myself, but it’s high on my list of places to go. 

 

The Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos has opened their Somma Wine Spa, one of 6 wine-themed spas around the world, which incorporate the antioxidants and other natural benefits of wine into spa treatments – and even offer up some wine tasting to go with it.  What could be better than drinking wine and being pampered at the same time.

 

You might want to try a chromotherapy bath infused with merlot, or a couples’ massage which incorporates a private Jacuzzi soak and a wine tasting with hors d’oeuvres.

 

I want to indulge in the Barefoot Dining Experience which blends reflexology on the beach with a lavish dinner beneath the stars, including wine tasting of course.  The chocolate body wrap and Chardonnay bubble bath both entice me as well.  Or maybe a facial – should I choose the Merlot, Lambrusco, Honey, Bamboo, or Honey & Chardonnay.  Oh, the choices – I just have to get there first!

 

Here is what their website says about Somma Wine Spa:

 

“The SOMMA Wine Spa is devoted to life, serenity and longevity. The latest developments in cosmetology, antioxidants and relaxation therapies are combined with a menu of innovative and exclusive wine-based treatments to make SOMMA one of the most unique spas in all of Mexico. The ambiance is peaceful and modern. From the moment you enter the beautiful interior, you will start to feel your body relax. A subtle sophistication surrounds you as the bustle of daily life melts away.

Wines from the Mediterranean and Baja California aren’t the only natural ingredients used at SOMMA. Chocolate, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, lavender, hot stones, bamboo and other organic products are infused into various treatments.”

 

I hope you enjoy dreaming about these wonderful treatments as much as I do.  Hope to see you there!

 

The spa is not the only thing that Fiesta Americana has to offer – there is a secluded beach, 5 pools, 3 restaurants, a kids club and 2 golf courses.