Category Archives: Uncategorized

Costa Rica: No Artificial Ingredients

- by: jeffg

 

Costa Rica: No Artifical Ingredients

Costa Rican FrogCosta Rica is a land teeming with the paradoxes of its geographical location, bridging North and South America and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The resulting climate makes it ideal for year-round travel. The forces of nature are at their spectacular best here, churning out rain forest and volcanoes, great beaches and vistas. The animals and plants of the region are of two great continents. The diversity of flora and fauna, of geography and terrain all come together here in a mere 50,895 square kilometers.

Staying in an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica is an especially great value. The all-inclusive resorts are located in the Guanacaste region within driving distance of other major sights.

The elevation of much of the country”s landmass offsets the tropical setting of its location only 8 degrees north of the equator. Like Hawaii in the Pacific, Costa Rica hosts 10 of the 13 recognized climatic zones as well as local microclimates.

The equatorial position of the country means that throughout the year there is a fairly constant twelve hours of light between sunrise and sunset from 6:00 am each day to 6:00 pm. The county”s location also maintains a fairly constant temperature, never varying more than a few degrees on a seasonal basis. If you are traveling from the Northern Hemisphere, you are used to giving due consideration to terms like “summer” and “winter”. However, in Costa Rica, the seasons revolve around a dry season, December through April and a wet season May through November. Costa Rica promotes their “wet season” as the “Green Season.” This is not just clever marketing. The year-round nature of Costa Rica”s travel opportunities has made it the Caribbean destination with the highest tourism growth. The Green Season is an excellent time to travel to Costa Rica. This is when the warm, wet climate brings the plant life into full bloom, and the country”s verdant flora explodes with the vibrant life characteristic of Costa Rica. As we will discuss below, the green season means more wildlife, better visibility and rates that are easier on the pocketbook!

 

December, January, and February tend to be cooler as winds from the north lower temperatures. In the coastal regions, the average temperature at sea level is 82 degrees Fahrenheit on the eastern Caribbean side of the country and 89 degrees on the Pacific side. As you climb in elevation, temperatures begin to drop approximately one degree for every 100 yards. Thus, in the mountains, jackets, sweaters and coats in the highest elevations are definitely in order. Temperatures at night tend to be warmer in the wet season

Costa Rica”s mountain ranges, situated between two oceanic climatic and moisture zones mean that rainfall is a part of Costa Rica”s ecology. Annual rainfall averages approximately 100 inches in the plains and 150 inches in the mountains occurring in the early afternoons in the highest elevations and late afternoon or night in the plains. While mornings during the wet season are often bright and sunny, by afternoon the rains typically fall.

There are real benefits to traveling to Costa Rica during the Green Season. Perhaps the best reason is the abundance of wildlife. The greener foliage and plant life offer a wider range of feeding grounds for the animals. Likewise, because the green season in general means fewer tourists, the animals are more relaxed in their habitat. If one of your reasons for visiting Costa Rica includes paddling sports and time on its rivers, the green season means banks that are consistently filled with fast moving water. The mountains tend to be more clearly visible as the rains carry the fog and haze away making volcano viewing particularly enjoyable.

The Green Season also means fewer travelers in the hotels, shops and dining establishments. As a result, general prices for accommodations and practically every aspect of tourism are less than in peak travel season. Packages in Green Season can be as much as 30% less than in peak, and the local population and shop keepers have more time to spend with travelers on an individual basis.

As a bridge between North and South America, Costa Rica”s biodiversity is astonishing. Monkeys, sloths, tapirs and wildcats as well as an unrivaled collection of bird species numbering more than 800 make their home in the rainforest. With more than 25% of the country in national parks, there is great opportunity to leave the beaten path and to see the wide variety of plant and animal life year round.

The Costa Rican rainforests are vast, but accessible. The road infrastructure tends to be unpredictable outside of the major cities, and caution when driving is highly advisable, especially during rain storms. Many roads are unpaved and bridges are often single-vehicle width. The best advice in any weather is to plan ahead, take your time and enjoy the scenery.

Any experienced visitor to Costa Rica will tell you that there is no end to the amazing array of things to do. Costa Rica is a nature lover”s paradise. Better yet, ecotourism is a way of life in Costa Rica. The country plays host to a wide variety of adventure sports and favorites of travelers include mountain biking, river rafting and scuba diving. Hikes through the rainforests include trips to active volcanoes, boat trips on rivers snaking through the rain forests and opportunities to ride a zip line through the forest canopy. You can watch live lava flows on Arenal Volcano, bird watch (some of the best and most diverse in the world), stand on mountaintops where both the Atlantic and the Pacific are visible, watch the marine turtles at Tortuguero or any one of a hundred other terrific outdoor opportunities.

This year, any time this year, give some consideration to placing Costa Rica on your list of “places to visit.” You will be glad you did.

Give one of our professional travel advisors a call. We are happy to help you plan your next Costa Rica adventure! 303.980.6483

LGBT Beach Wedding Travel Agent in Denver

- by: rhonda

The time for weddings to occur is coming soon, and couples everywhere are planning their special day very carefully. Couples who are getting married (especially if their wedding will be outdoors) want to choose a day where the weather is neither too cold nor too warm, so they and their guests can enjoy the day to the utmost.

If you are an LGBT couple planning a beach wedding, the same concerns apply. You want to choose a beach that is friendly toward weddings, not one that is hard to access or is covered in litter. It can be a stress saver to choose a resort with beach access, especially if they offer a beach wedding package. Such packages eliminate a lot of stress from the nuptial couple and allow them to simply pack their bags, show up and enjoy their wedding day. By choosing an ideal location and date, their wedding guests can do the same.

Another way to make your wedding day perfect and as stress free as possible is by working with an all inclusive travel agent. They are consummate professionals who have booked basically any kind of trip before, be it weddings, honeymoons, family vacations, family reunions, or last minute, spur of the moment getaways. They have booked solo trips, trips for couples, vacations for small groups and vacations for large amounts of people.

You don’t need to worry that your destination wedding trip will be too difficult for them to handle. They can book your entire group, no matter how large or small. They can arrange lodging for everyone, as well as transportation at your destination. They can make reservations for dining as well as sign up the interested guests for special excursions at your location. What’s more, they can help you to choose a destination and wedding staff who are welcoming and friendly to an LGBT wedding.

You don’t have to worry about booking a location yourself and choosing a less than welcoming location by mistake. You don’t have to worry about whether the reviews you read online about a location or its wedding staff are accurate. Your all inclusive agent takes care of everything, and that includes working with locations and resort staff for a longtime, and developing a working relationship with them. They know they can trust the staff to treat their guests with respect and love, and they feel comfortable booking your beach wedding with their business partners because they know you will be treated well and have the beach wedding of a lifetime too. Your all inclusive travel agent wants you to make lifelong memories and they will work hard to ensure that those memories are happy ones.

Picture this: you want a beach wedding, but you’re not sure where yet. You have a group of 20 guests. Three have dietary allergies, one keeps kosher and one elderly relative is in a wheelchair. Your all inclusive travel agent can help you to narrow down a location which works best with your budget, secure competitive airfare rates for all guests, and book you at a resort which can feed the kosher guest and heed the food allergies in your party. What’s more, they can make sure that your beach has a boardwalk for wheelchair access. All you have to do is pack your bags.

What are you waiting for? Call today.

Colorado Travel Agent for Caribbean Vacations

- by: rhonda

When you picture a beach vacation in your mind, what do you see? For most people, the crystal blue waters and the warm, sandy beaches of the Caribbean are what immediately come to mind. Is it the same for you? If you are thinking of a Caribbean getaway, it is the perfect time to plan a trip. Don’t groan in defeat, because you think that planning a trip is a huge hassle. All you have to do is call an all inclusive travel agent for an appointment, and they will take care of everything.

First, decide where you want to go. The Caribbean Sea is home to thousands of islands, each with their own history and character. If you need help narrowing it down, that’s okay. Your all inclusive travel agent can help you choose a location based on your budget, and can also take crowds, weather and time of year into consideration as well. If you love the warm weather and being around lots of people, then your agent can book your trip during the height of tourist season in one of many locations. You can soak up the sun and have your skin kissed by salty breezes as you meet new people. If you want smaller crowds and milder temperatures, your all inclusive travel agent can accommodate that as well by choosing a different travel time and a more secluded location.

You all inclusive travel agent can book your dream vacation based on which activities you want to participate in, too. When you go in for your appointment, they will ask you questions so they can tailor your trip to your exact desires and specifications. Are you interested in lying on a sandy shore, sunning yourself as the waves lap gently near your feet? Do you want to fish in local waters and eat what you catch? Do you want to charter a boat and go deep sea fishing, and then release what you catch? Your all inclusive travel agent can help you book the perfect trip.

If you want to snorkel and see brightly colored fish and other sea life, your all inclusive travel agent can book your trip on an island with reefs nearby for your exploration. If you want to scuba dive, your all inclusive travel agent can arrange for scuba gear rental and lessons, and even get you an underwater camera so you can take photos, if you wish.

No matter what you want to do, or what special service you might require, your all inclusive travel agent can make it a reality. From airline tickets to lodging, from transportation to excursions, they’ve booked them before so they know what they’re doing, and can easily do it for you. This way you have all the fun and none of the hassle when it comes to taking the Caribbean vacation of a lifetime. If you want to go hiking, or rent a bicycle and tour your island, you can. If you want to go horseback riding on the beach, your all inclusive travel agent can make it happen. Are you ready to plan the trip of your dreams? Call for your appointment today.

All Inclusive Beach Honeymoon Travel Agent in Denver

- by: rhonda

Wedding season is just around the corner, and what comes after the wedding of your dreams but the honeymoon to match? For lots of marrying couples, a dream honeymoon means a beach honeymoon. Close your eyes and picture a sandy beach, with the rays of the sun kissing your skin and the sea breeze teasing your hair and swirling it around you. You can almost smell the salt air and hear the calls of the sea birds as they fly overhead.

Think about the water. Is it a crisp blue with a temperature that has just the right amount of nippy cold to it as the surf rushes around your ankles? Maybe it is a crystal teal color, and warm as a bath and perfect for snorkeling instead. Depending on where you want to go, you can choose how the water feels as well as your activities.

Let’s take a few minutes to explore some of your options. If you are looking for a remote beach with lots of privacy so you and your new spouse can relax and reconnect after the frenzied activity of the wedding, then perhaps the beaches of Mexico are perfect for you.

If you are interested in a honeymoon where everything is upscale to match your formal wedding, then the beaches of St Kitts and Nevis are a good fit. There is nothing but first class accommodation and if golf is a favorite pastime, there are top notch golf courses with stunning beach vistas as you play the links.

If you want to do a little more than just beach activities on your honeymoon, consider booking your trip to St Lucia. There are lush rain forests a short distance away, and you can take time to explore them. You can breathe in the intoxicating aromas of the flowers which grow there, while their beautiful blooms enchant your eyes as well. Just imagine the photos you’ll take both in the rain forest areas as well as those with a backdrop of blue skies, foamy surf and pure white, sandy beaches. It’s the best of both worlds at St Lucia.

Another visually stunning destination is Costa Rica boasts beautiful beaches. Have you been to a beach in your life with sand in either of those colors? It is almost worth a trip alone as a vacation, but it will make your honeymoon even more special. Imagine a getaway to Costa Rica with delicious food to delight your taste buds, vibrant people with spirited music to dance to, and of course, miles of beach to enjoy through sunbathing, swimming and much more.

Another potential beach honeymoon destination is The Dominican Republic. If you want to have a lavish honeymoon, splurge on a trip there. In addition to seeing gorgeous beaches and staying on a small, friendly island in dazzling resorts, you can also sleep in special guest bungalows where you are suspended above the water as you sleep. You can gaze through their crystal depths and see lots of gorgeous tropical fish. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

To begin planning the beach honeymoon of your dreams, call your all inclusive travel agent today.

Panama All-Inclusive Surprise

- by: jeffg

My Panama Surprise

Whenever I travel for business, I look for that “unexpected surprise”, and I am never disappointed. On what was my “first” trip to the country of Panama (with the Mark Travel Corporation), there were several surprises and I would like to share those with you now.

Riu Playa Blanca

Riu Playa BlancaNever underestimate what your clients expect when they travel. Riu has taught me that a consistent quality product is possible even when it comes to an all-inclusive resort. This Riu delivered a consistent 3 star quality. But I expected better. First of all, the resort is only 4 years old. In yet, there were sidewalk tiles that were broken and swimming pool tiles that are chipped and discolored from chemical use. And the swimming pools are readily used because the Playa Blanca beach was scorching hot. The beach has streaks of black volcanic sand in it and it is hot to walk on. Furthermore, the palm trees Riu planted on their beach are only 6 ft tall so you cannot get underneath them yet for shade. Here’s where I think the disconnect is…I have been to all the Mexico Riu products, and these naturally subscribe to higher standards. Why? Because they are competing for the North American vacation client. This was my first Riu outside of Mexico and in Panama they market to the Central and South American vacationer. Frankly I think they must be easier to please than Americans. The food was not as quality in Mexico, the brands of liquor were not as high a quality as in Mexico. Even the décor of the resort was not as adorned or comfortable “feeling” as the resorts that attract Canadians and Americans. And there were no English-speaking Satellite TV channels. I only wanted 10 minutes of News before going to bed and it was not to be had.

Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort

Sheraton Bijao Beach ResortUntil this trip I had not heard of any all-inclusive hotels under the Sheraton brand. Come to find out, this is the only one; the Sheraton Bijao Beach Resprt; 90 minutes from the International airport. The Sheraton is a boutique hotel of 290 rooms. It has 4 bars, 1 buffet and 3 specialty restaurants (Asian, Mediterranean and Steakhouse). Guests wear a wrist band and need to make dinner reservations. However, you can make all of them at once, and as early as when you first arrive to the hotel!

The Sheraton has other features Americans will like as well, English-speaking CNN on the television, a 24 hour coffee station in the lobby, a Spa that’s open 10 hours a day and a large fitness center that’s open round the clock. The beach was nice and I might add, a little quieter than the pool area. An animation staff member on a microphone became annoying 5 minutes into our site inspection. We could not see a room because the hotel was at 100% occupancy. Good for you Sheraton and welcome to the all-inclusive resort niche.

The Royal Decameron Golf, Beach Resort & Villas

Royal Decameron Panama SlideThis is hands-down the best family, all-inclusive resort in Panama! It is large (at 275 acres), it has 3 hotel lobbies (serving over 800 beach and garden view rooms) with a private beach that’s a third of a mile long! Plus, the resort has an 18-hole golf course (greens fees are just $130 for two, with cart. A caddy is not mandatory like it is in Mexico) surrounded by 400+ privately-owned, villa style accommodations (similar to the Bahia and Moon Palace resorts in Cancun). This resort is 15 years old and displays some old-world charm with its wooden casement windows and doors, mature landscaping, a friendly seasoned staff that must be treated well (they are so friendly).  The royal Decameron has the widest variety of restaurants (11) and plenty of on-site activities and entertainment, and kids, kids, kids.

There are ocean front buildings with walk-out patio rooms, live music, open-air movies and the best food at an all-inclusive at this destination. All three lobbies have continuous coffee but there is no coffee service and no food service to the rooms. Furthermore, the mini bar, the safety deposit box and wifi in the rooms are all extra. That is, unless you purchase the resort’s Premium Service package which costs $20 per person per night. And it is worth it because you get all the above plus robes and slippers, a pool towel in your room (no towel card) express check-in and a preferred beach view room location. I came away from the Royal Decameron knowing that I could sell this resort to my clients. Heck, I wanted to pack up and move here for the remainder of my trip! There is something to please everyone at the Royal Decameron resort. The only thing it didn’t have was name brand recognition. And that’s what a good travel agent can do…spread the word! There is one further note I would like to make and that is…The Riu Playa Blanca, The Sheraton Bijao beach and the Royal Decameron are out there by themselves; 90-120 minutes from the airport. They work if you prefer to stay on resort the duration of your stay. At most you might come into town once and that would be to experience the Panama Canal Visitor Center at the Miraflores Locks. It is fascinating! Listening to the nearby accents, I was the only English-speaker in the restaurant.

The Westin Playa Bonita

Westin Playa Bonita PanamaTwenty years ago, a wealthy Panamanian family by the name of Bern, had a vision that one day, Panama could become a vacation destination.  So they bought a large piece of beach front property, about 20 minutes outside the city. It was there they built their first hotel in 1997. This tells you just how new Panama is to leisure travel. Today that resort is the Westin all-inclusive beach resort, their second entry into the all-inclusive market after the Westin Playa Conchal in Costa Rica. The Playa Bonita was a lovely resort and the sales manager Jose Barrios could not have been more friendly and grateful we came to visit him from Colorado. But we weren’t the only ones having fun, the swimming pools and the lobby bar areas were full of fun, young people having a good time. The resort was full but the feeling was intimate and friendly, not crowded. This is a good resort for Canadians and Americans.

The Westin has 6 restaurants. Guests wear a wrist band and can make all their dinner reservations at the customer service counter when they arrive. The rooms have a well-stocked mini bar with snacks and drinks though this is not included in the all-inclusive plan. Neither is room service, though it is available. Your room has a coffee maker however and this is included along with the safety deposit box. The rooms either face to the green belt behind the resort or to the Ocean overlooking the beach. Not every room has a balcony so keep that in mind when planning your vacation; the building is 20 years old and being well-maintained. The tower next to The Westin are residences. But I asked a couple staying at the resort if they were pitched an ownership presentation and they said no. so my conclusion is that Westin is not obnoxious about it. Nice touch is the carpeting down the hallways to the rooms. This keeps the noise down especially if some clients check-in late after flying all day. The resort has a good size kids club and full Spa and Fitness Center. I did not see any evening entertainment stage but you could just sit there any watch the lights come up from all the ships lining up for their turn through the canal! And I loved being just 20 minutes from downtown!

Steve Lord

 

5 flight booking tips

- by: jeffg

As travel advisors, we find that we spend most of our time searching for the best resort for ourAirport Terminal clients. But when it comes to choosing flights, most travelers want to get away with spending as little as possible. The airlines aren’t doing much to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Consequently, the consumer thinks they’re all the same so why not just pay the least amount? I get it.

It just seems odd that some would choose to stay at a luxury 5-star resort only to suffer through a 2-star flight experience. If you feel the same way, here are five things you can look for.

  1. Choose a non-stop whenever possible. Even if it means you have to be flexible when you fly. You’ll reduce your chances of losing a bag or having weather or mechanical delays by 50%!
  2. If you have to change planes, research and hand-pick your connecting city. Some airports experience fewer delays and crowds.
  3. Don’t cut your layover time too short. No one wants to waste time with a long layover, but giving yourself too little time between flights is a gamble. Don’t rely on the airline’s suggested layover times. Often they are too short.
  4. Try to book flights that depart earlier in the day. It may place your commute to the airport before dawn, but when you leave your home is something you can control. Flights departing later in the day are subject to back-ups that may originate elsewhere and build up as the day wears on.
  5. Cut back on luggage. Learn how to pack: which clothes, shoes and toiletries you’ll really use and carry them on. This will keep you nimble and saves you time at the baggage carousel.

-Steve Lord

Riu Playa Blanca Review

- by: jeffg

Riu Playa Blanca Review

by Steve Lord

From Riu, the popular Spanish chain, comes another all-inclusive, beach hotel. This time it is the country of Panama, on the beach called Playa Blanca (hence the name, Riu Playa Blanca). I stayed at this hotel in February 2016, two years after it first opened in 2014. It is a brand new build, and Riu does not sell Time Share, full ownership or a Vacation Membership Club; a welcome rarity for today’s leisure traveler.

Riu Playa BlancaRiu is “to the traditional all-inclusive hotel” what McDonalds is to fast-food restaurants; a consistent performer. They have earned an industry-wide reputation for providing a quality vacation at a good price. On that point, the Riu Playa Blanca does not disappoint. But at the same time, it does not excite, either. Let’s break it down to specifics;

  • The predominant client for this hotel is the Canadian and European traveler; a fact that plays a major role in the bland decor, the type of food and drinks they serve and other features and amenities offered at this hotel. Riu offers three brand levels, and the Playa Blanca represents their “entry-level”. US travelers who have already stayed at a Palace-level Riu will find the Playa Blanca…lacking.
  • The hotel has 500 rooms; housed in a 7-story, plain white building. There are Garden View, Ocean View and Ocean Front rooms all with balcony. There are 7 large family suites (that handle a family of five) and there are 3 suites for honeymoon couples. These come with an in-room jetted bathtub. Otherwise, all the rooms offer a generous size, shower only. The hotel takes singles, couples and families (with a Kid’s Club for ages 4-12). The beds are firm and the pillows are small. This was an issue Riu had to address at their Mexico hotels in order to attract travelers from the US market. The air conditioning and hot water were both very good.
  • There is a tiny fitness room (with hours) but no Spa (however you can get a massage with advanced notice). Michael Jackson impersonators perform once a week here on their open-air stage…so request a room as far from the stage as possible (otherwise it will be noisy). There is no town nearby so late night music and dancing entertainment begins at 11pm in the resort’s very own Pacha disco. The hotel has an on-site Wedding and Groups Coordinator, and one small conference room (to be used as a back-up if it rains), which it seldom does on this end of the country. Wedding Ceremonies can be performed on the beach but there is no wedding Gazebo.
  • Guests at the hotel wear a wrist band and must make dinner reservations each morning (by standing in line). Surprising that for a resort this size, there are only three specialty restaurants; Italian, Asian and an open-air steakhouse. There are two servings, one at 6:30 and a second one at 8:30. In addition, the resort has a large buffet that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner for anyone in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. There is no room service and no romantic dinners on the beach.
  • Riu Playa Blanca RoomThe hotel has several pools and a busy swim-up pool bar. Riu has planted several rows of “baby” palm trees that will take a few years to grow tall enough to provide adequate shade on the hot sand. This makes the swimming pools very popular. However, even though this is the Pacific Ocean side of the country, the ocean water in February was clean, warm and very swimmable. (Please pack flip flops. You’ll need them for the hot sand and the tan terra cotta tiles that make up the sidewalks). In fact, Panama is so close to the equator that (like Costa Rica)…the hot, dry season is December to May. The wetter season is from June through November. Panama is too far south to be hit by Hurricanes. One Note: there is a jellyfish season, it is sporadic but falls between Christmas and Easter.
  • Mini refrigerators come in each room (no coffee makers) and they have bottled water and juices that should be re-stocked daily. There is an alcohol dispenser in each room (ice machine down the hall) brands are domestic only; meaning…no Bacardi, Grey Goose, Jim Beam or even Smirnoff. Not anywhere on the property! Apparently Canadians and Europeans are not brand conscious when it comes to liquor. The bartenders don’t even know how to make a Manhattan or a Cosmo.
  • Last but not least, Wifi is only free in the hotel lobby. You have to buy an internet package if you want service in the room. And you’ll need it because there are no news channels on TV that broadcast in English.

Riu developed this Basic All-Inclusive Formula Hotel back in the 1990’s and it works well for some travelers. But for travelers from the US, there are better Riu hotels on nicer beaches for a lower price much closer to home.

Steve’s Perspective on Panama

- by: jeffg

My perspective on Panama…Steve Lord, All-Inclusive Vacations, Inc.

Steve LordPanama is today a democratic, predominantly Catholic country located on the southern end of Central America. Spanish, French and English settlers long ago mixed with Panama’s indigenous Indian tribes to bring her present-day population to four million, half of whom live and work in the capital; Panama City.

HISTORY…the story is told that the country of Panama came to the “international stage” when in 1904 the US government struck a deal with the then dictator, to carve a channel across the country that would join the Caribbean Sea on the north to the Pacific Ocean on the south.

Since its completion in 1914, battle ships, cruise ships and container ships have all contributed to keeping Panama’s population employed in all sorts of support services. And we should add, given the country just enough extra money to begin promoting bio-diverse tourism to Europeans, Canadians and lastly, Americans. It’s that last part that prompted me to make my first trip to Panama with United Vacations in February 2016.

Panama is made up of eight Provinces (what we call States, in the US). There are three geographic locations of interest to vacationers hoping to meet her friendly people and enjoy Panama’s soft-adventure activities.

Panama City and the Canal…top on the list of must-see destination tours (on the Pacific side of the country) is the engineering marvel called the Panama Canal. Combine this with a Colonial downtown tour and a trip to the ultra-modern BioMuseo and you’ll have the perfect 2 night stay in this surprisingly cosmopolitan city. Historically significant!

Island Life…if your vacation to the Tropics means small villages, fewer people and local cuisine, then head to San Blas Islands. Spend two nights there in an over-water bungalow. You’ll be snorkeling so much, you may never get out of your swim suit and flip flops. Totally Relaxing!

The Rainforest…see indigenous plants and animals…from the comfort of your very own aerial tram. Or whiz past all of that in a pure “adrenaline rush” on the Anton Valley Zipline Adventure! The middle of Panama is a rainforest playground of waterfalls, boating and local handicrafts sold by native tribes-people.

Westin Playa Bonita Panama

all-inclusive Westin Playa Bonita

To visit the country of Panama, you will fly on United, Delta or American from one of our major US cities and you must have a Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your return date. Right now there are a handful of all-inclusive resorts (such as AM Resorts, Decameron and Riu) plus a host of US brands like Marriott, Westin, Hard Rock and Sheraton. Talk to your travel agent. This destination will continue to grow and a travel agent who has been to the destination will help you make the right hotel and activity choices!

Viking Ocean Cruises Viking Star Cruise Experience

- by: jeffg

Viking Ocean Cruises Viking Star – Our Cruise Experience

My journey on the Viking Star. By Stephen Lord, All-Inclusive Vacations, Inc.

During my first 16 years as a travel seller, I took a dozen cruises. So, it’s “natural” that I compareViking Star my first Viking ocean cruise to the other ones I’ve taken. For me, only one might be considered “similar” in that like Viking, it was a smaller ship, taking a mature traveler on what would be called a more authentic, local experience. The line was Azamara. The destination was South America and it was a great trip. However, having just come home from the Mediterranean on the Star, I’ve learned that Viking is planning to roll out itineraries that will pattern after Seabourn. Further, Viking Ocean is positioning itself in the “Premium-Plus” category. Again, just like Seabourn. Viking’s goal is to have six ships sailing by the year 2019. This means she will add 5 siblings to the Star over the next 4 years; an ambitious growth plan indeed. And I have no doubt this will happen.

Now, as it is my character to learn as little as possible from reading and as much as possible from doing, I bring you this information “first-hand”. I am writing this story based on my own Viking cruise experience. And the reason I am writing is to answer the question for you, how are Viking ocean cruises “different” and why should I recommend the Viking Line to my friends and clients and not the others?

To begin with, you must first understand a very important point; the leadership at the top ofViking Star Stateroom this cruise line is itself very different from that of the other cruise lines. Viking is the vision of maverick ship executive, Torstein Hagen. Getting a glimpse of the “man” helps you understand the focus and ambition that drives the “cruise line”. His focus is on the retiring 55-75 yr old American traveler that wants an enriching cultural experience. Next, you must know where the cruise industry is in its life-cycle. Modern vacation cruising is only 40 years old. A mere 22 million people from around the world took a cruise for their vacation in 2014 (that’s as many people as visit NYC every year). Therefore, there is a lot of growth potential yet to come. And with growth comes diversification. Today, you can find a cruise product to meet everyone’s taste; the “family traveling with children” cruise, the “cultural experience” cruise and the “geographic exploring cruise”. Viking is positioning itself to take advantage of the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry; the adult cultural experience. And Viking will achieve this goal because they have made a series of small changes that correct annoying situations that detract from your on- board experience. These corrections include:

  • A more-inclusive cruise vacation. Instead of charging you for every little (or big) thing like other cruise lines, Viking has a one-price policy and on top of that includes more extras than other Premium-Plus cruise lines. For example house beer and wines, bottled water and soft drinks are complimentary…starting with lunch and extending then throughout the evening, whether you’re sitting down for a meal or not. Specialty dining venues are included at no extra cost. Manfredi’s Italian and the Chef’s Table (a set, five-course presentation) were easy to get reservations for and you are guaranteed “X” number of specialty dinners based on the cabin category you purchase. The Wifi reception was great throughout the ship and it was complimentary. Next, each floor of cabins has an included self-serve laundry room that comes included. Viking includes a free port tour at each stop your ship makes. If you want a little deeper experience at the destination, you can also select from a limited number of optional (extra cost) tours. Speaking of “experience” Viking of course has the usual port talks. But, they go beyond that and bring guest speakers on board to talk about topics that are pertinent to the destinations you’re visiting. This is called their “enrichment program” and it does not cost extra either. Neither do the full-length Hollywood movies programmed into the flat screen TV in your cabin.
  • Now here is a laundry-list of little touches that made me rate this cruise my best ever; low-priced cocktails. My Bacardi and Coke was $4.60 (and that’s with tip); good sound-proofing. There was no noise in the hallways at night. The lack of public address announcements! This was wonderful. The only time our Cruise director got on the ship-wide loud speaker was when we were performing the pre-cruise mandatory drill and then not again until the ship cleared Immigrations at each port so we could go ashore. There are no inside cabins on a Viking cruise ship. The ship is 100% verandah and even the lowest category stateroom was larger than what you’ll find on other cruise lines. The cabin has plenty of electrical outlets, USB ports and comes with a solo-cup coffee maker! The mini refrigerator is re-stocked daily with soft drinks, candy and potato chips. And if you buy liquor in port, it is not confiscated from you when you re-board the ship. So you can drink it onboard or simply take it home. Viking even offers a liquor package you can purchase in advance that nets your cost for spirits to less than $3 a drink. What’s more, they don’t hit you over the head to buy any of these extras. There’s no art auctions, no gold jewelry sales and no ship photographer always asking if he can take your picture (so you can buy prints later). But back to the cabin…the Star has the best bathroom at Sea. The shower is large (with a narrow bench gals will love for leg shaving), the floor and mirror are both heated so you’re never chilled when getting out of the shower and the mirror never fogs up! The Star has a large Fitness Center for a ship it’s size. The men’s and women’s changing rooms have a segregated dry sauna and cold water plunge tub. But the steam room, jetted thermal pool and Norwegian ice box were all co-ed. I was not that adventurous but I loved the Techno-gym elliptical and treadmill machines. I also liked the fact that Viking does not offer a dizzying variety of cabin types. Last but not least, the ship had numerous open spaces bathed in natural light. The use of light colored materials, low Scandinavian design furniture and open floor plans made every space feel like you were on a larger ship. But, I could see the heart beyond her hardships.

It is my belief that Torstein Hagen set out to correct numerous, annoying aspects of ocean cruising and in so doing, he has given us all an opportunity to enjoy a more pleasant vacation experience. Good on you!

The Tahiti Tease

- by: stevel

FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions about Tahiti

Most of us only dream about visiting this idyllic destination. But here are a few facts about the South Pacific that may surprise you!

  1. How long does it take to get to Tahiti and do I have to cross the International Date Line?

All departures from the US take place out of LAX and the flight takes 8.5 hours. There are two flights you can take from LAX…if your flight leaves at 10pm, you will land in Papeete Tahiti at 5am the next morning. You will collect your bags and proceed to your island-destination transfer which is either a ferry to Moorea or a flight to Bora Bora.

No, to Tahiti you do not cross the International Date Line. That is Fiji and Australia.

  1. Are Passports required for travel to Tahiti?

Yes, US citizens must have a valid Passport and it must be current for 6 months following your scheduled return home. For travel in August 2016 your Passport may not be allowed to expire before March 2017.

  1. Is it expensive to eat and drink in Tahiti? And can one buy a meal plan in advance?

Yes to both questions. It costs $60 for lunch and $100 for dinner. The Resort style hotels include breakfast each morning. But we recommend purchasing a “Dinner” or “Lunch and Dinner” plan in advance. Sometimes the hotels offer this option at an attractive discounted price and this is one of the ways to save a little money on the overall cost of your Tahiti vacation.

  1. Do the hotels offer Romance or Honeymoon packages?

Recognizing that Tahiti is one of the top 3 Romance destinations of the world, all resort hotels offer varying Romance and Honeymoon packages. Some are free and some are more elaborate and come with an extra charge.

  1. When is the best time to travel to Tahiti?

The mild dry season is from June through October. It is hotter and more humid November through May.

  1. Should we buy some of the local currency?

Yes, it is the French Polynesia (Pacific) Franc. However, there is no tipping in Tahiti.

  1. What is the electrical current and will I need adaptors?

110 V and 240 V are available in each hotel room.

  1. Is it safe to drink tap water in Tahiti?

Yes, however we recommend drinking bottled water.

  1. What kind of activities are there to do on the islands of Tahiti/

Common water activities include snorkeling, swimming with the sharks and taking out a jet ski. Common land activities include bicycling, 4X4 jeep tours and village shopping.

  1. I’m most interested in the over-water bungalow accommodations. How long do people usually stay in Tahiti and how can we make our vacation more affordable?

Most first time travelers to Tahiti will stay a week and split their stay on two of the most popular islands, Moorea and Bora Bora. The over-water bungalow is a hallmark of the Tahitian vacation. And they are the most expensive of all the accommodations. However, it is possible to get the most for your money by taking advantage of pricing promotions offered by various hotel companies. For example: the Intercontinental Island Combo. Because Intercontinental has hotels on all the islands, if you stay at Intercontinental Hotels on both Moorea and Bora Bora, you get a discount on your trip. Next, at various times, the hotel may offer a “stay 3 pay for 2” promotion. Or a stay for 5 pay for 4 promotion. This is like getting 1 night free! Lastly, if you book a certain room category, you can qualify for a reduced price meal plan.  Ask your travel agent for details

By Steve Lord, Travel Advisor. All-Inclusive Vacations. (303) 980-6483 Steve@all-inclusivevacations.com