Tag Archives: honeymoon

Indian destination weddings now being offered

Great news!  AMResorts (Secrets, Dreams, Now, and Zoetry) and Palace Resorts now offer Indian destination weddings at their all-inclusive resorts, located in the Cancun/Riviera Maya in Mexico.  Onsite wedding staff are onhand to make sure your wedding fits your exact wishes perfectly.  AMResorts and Palace Resorts continue to offer symbolic, religious, interfaith, and legal wedding ceremonies as well as vow renewals.

Expert Family Travel can arrange your destination wedding in your choice of several locations, whether you are a party of 2 or a group of 1,000.  We can coordinate your guests’ flights and travel dates smoothly and professionally, making your dream wedding a reality.  Contact us today to get things started.  Expert Family Travel is located in Frisco/The Colony Texas in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  We have clients located across the US and Canada.  Contact us at 972-625-6200 or email at cindy@expertfamilytravel.com

Puerto Vallarta: Bigger & better

Last month I had the great fortune of enjoying a trip to Puerto Vallarta hosted by Travel Weekly magazine and Mexico Tourism.  Honestly, it has been a couple of years for me, and in the past I had been so busy with hotel site inspections I hadn’t had time to fully experience the destinations’ local offerings.

But on this trip I was in for a treat.  The first day we were whisked away to Las Caletas Beach Hideaway, which included a 45 minute scenic catamaran ride en route.  The beach here is gorgeous and unspoiled, and you can pick your pleasure, whether it is snorkeling, exploring the jungle nature walks or just vegging out in a hammock.  And the food was tasty, mmm!

We also enjoyed a late afternoon stroll along the city’s Malecon, which is a picturesque boardwalk among fun art sculptures and eclectic shops.  This is a great place to watch a sunset, and the dining venues are sophisticated and varied.

 

On day 3 we explored the northern end of Banderas Bay, going into the quirky surfing village of Sayulita.  I skipped the surfing lesson (because I value my life) and opted instead for the zipline, horseback riding, and ATV adventure.  The zipline course was safe and expertly run (two important elements in any zipline operation) and we were all wet and muddy and exhilarated in the end. Fun!

December marks the start of the humpback whale watching season (which ends mid-March), and is a great experience if you happen to be traveling during this time period.

All-inclusive is the way to go here if you are looking for the best bang for the buck, even if you decide to dine downtown on one of your evenings out.  Luxury clients will love the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit and the adults-only Secrets Vallarta Bay, both of which are all-inclusive.  Or, for true luxury there’s the Four Seasons and St. Regis in trendy Punta Mita (meals not included).  For my upscale clients, Now Larimar is all-inclusive, family friendly, and with easy access to the downtown area.  Or, in the Riviera Nayarit area there are the Riu and Marival Resorts.  And, the brand new Iberostar Playa Mita opens this week, promising to be a great resort option for those looking to stay on the northern edge of Banderas Bay.

Secrets Vallarta Bay

Something new in the area (since I’ve been there) are casinos. I didn’t visit, but I’m curious to hear reports, since Mexico has traditionally been a “no casino” sort of country.

Flights are offered to Puerto Vallarta year round.  For my Dallas area clients, we have charter service in the summer season, which equals the best pricing out of our market.

Riviera Maya for a stress free escape

No wonder Cancun and Playa del Carmen have become Texas’ favorite beach destinations.  A nonstop flight less than 3 hours will wisk you away to a tropical location set on the Caribbean.  The all-inclusive resorts here range from economy to luxury but for a honeymoon you’ll want to stick with the upscale and luxury resorts.  Resorts also range from small & boutique to large and sprawling to fit your travel style and preferences.

What is an all-inclusive resort?  Your meals, alcoholic drinks, non-alcoholic drinks, snacks, onsite entertainment, and non-motorized watersports are included in your stay.  And with most upscale-luxury and luxury resorts 24 hour room service and beach butlers are included as well.  Airport transfers are provided in your package with Expert Family Travel, and offsite day activities can be arranged prior to your departure.

Many folks are overwhelmed at the choices, and information on the Internet is contradictory and causes more confusion.  Your best bet is to work with a travel agent who knows these resorts first-hand, travels frequently to inspect the resorts, and can recommend the right resort to fit your personal taste and budget. Plus I don’t charge a fee (except for destination weddings).

Riviera Maya and Cancun are popular for friend or family group get-togethers.  All-inclusive resorts provide meals and drinks for everyone during their stay and makes it easy planning.  Flight options from most US airports into Cancun makes travel easy, too for multiple departure cities.

What is there to do in the area?  Zip lines, swim with the dolphins, golfing, nightlife, shopping, scuba, snorkeling, and even camel back riding for starters!  Enjoy some of your days at the resort, where your biggest decision that day is what tropical drink to order from the swim-up bar.

Happy travels!  Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel (located in Frisco/The Colony in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, Texas).  Contact at 972-625-6200 or cindy@expertfamilytravel.com.

Where to go next!

This month I thought I’d give you a nice, glossy overview of my top vacation destinations.

 

Dive Fiji for your next vacation

Mexico

For the best bang for the buck, Mexico reigns supreme.  You can opt for an all-inclusive resort, with your meals and drinks included.  Great pools, beach, and onsite activities to keep you well entertained, along with off-site day excursions.  On the go or relaxed, it’s your choice!

  • Cancun – Hotel Zone is lively and active.  This is a great choice for adult friend trips and for couples who love night life.
  • Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen).  A great mix of adult only and family friendly all-inclusives.  And the range of moderate to luxury resorts means a resort that fits your style and budget.
  • Los Cabos.  Set on the tip of the Baja Peninsula on the Pacific side, where the desert meets the sea.  Great for couples, families, and friend getaways.
  • Puerto Vallarta.  On beautiful Banderas Bay.  Combine some resort time with exploring downtown and some excursions such as zip line and you’ve got yourself a great vacation.​

Caribbean

A wide range of island experiences with gorgeous beaches and fun cultural explorations​.

  • Jamaica.  Home of the popular all-inclusive Sandals, Couples, and Beaches Resorts.  You’ll also find other all-inclusive resorts here as well as some boutique resorts.
  • Punta Cana.  This growing resort destination is located on Dominican Republic, and has become a primary player in the all-inclusive market.  Family friendly and adults only options, in a wide range of style and budgets
  • Other islands.  Not everyone is looking for the mega resort.  If you prefer a quiet, small resort maybe Barbados or Turks and Caicos is your style.

Tahiti

Okay, so who doesn’t have Bora Bora on their bucket list?  This can be your once-in-a-lifetime milestone trip.  I do have clients who make Tahiti a regular vacation destination.  It is such a treat!  Imagine an overwater bungalow with pristine blue waters.  The epitome of relaxation.  Suited best for couples, but families enjoy this destination too.

Fiji

Beautiful.  Exotic.  Friendly.  If you’ve got at least a week, Fiji might just be the fit for you.  This is a great location for scuba and snorkeling.

 

Hawaii

I recommend a minimum stay of 5 nights in Hawaii, though 7 nights is better.  Pick from Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.  Or, if you have more time for your vacation, a two island combination might work best for you.  Polynesian paradise without the need for a passport.  On Oahu you don’t need a rental car.  On the other islands, renting a car is recommended, but driving on the islands is very easy and stress free.  Hotels range from economy to luxury.  And it is easy to explore on your own.

 

Walt Disney World (Orlando)

A “must see” for families, but Walt Disney World can also be a great vacation for adults.  A few days in a Disney Deluxe Resort, top notch dining reservations, and some awesome park time can make for a fun, romantic getaway. I recommend staying in one of Disney’s Resorts, and these range from the Value to Moderate to Deluxe properties.  Or, opt for a cabin for your family, complete with kitchens.

 

 

 

 

Western Europe

Trade in your flip flops for some good walking shoes for your next vacation to Europe.  These vacations are divided into two categories:

  • Escorted Tours.  The easiest way to see your favorite country, or multiple countries.  You are traveling in a group with a guide, and all the driving and planning is taken care of for you.
  • Independent Tours.  For the free spirited who prefer to go on their own.  We can put together a single city package, a rail package, or a self drive — all depending on your itinerary and personal preferences

Costa Rica

Recent resort growth in Costa Rica has been in the all-inclusive market, along the Guanacaste area on the Pacific coast.  There are now several moderate, upscale, and luxury options for families and couples.  Or, if you prefer a more adventurous itinerary, we can set up a multiple itinerary tour (either with a group or independent) for some volcano, rainforest, and beach time.

 

Cruises

We offer cruises in many regions across the globe in categories from moderate to luxury.  Cruising can offer an easy itinerary option if you want to see multiple countries without having to move from hotel room to hotel room.  Plus the ship is sometimes a destination in itself.  Cruising is also a great option for family reunions and large friend groups.

Trip to Punta Cana anyone?

Perfectly Punta Cana

I just returned from a short trip to Punta Cana to visit the AMResorts (Secrets, Dreams, Now, Zoetry).  I’m happy to report that Punta Cana’s better than ever, and is a great destination to consider for your next family vacation, romantic getaway, or family reunion trip.

 

Secrets Royal Beach is wonderful, as always.  This adults only property sits on gorgeous Bavaro Beach, and next to sister property Now Larimar.  Recent updates include an expansion of their Preferred Club Rooms.  Secrets Royal Beach guests continue to enjoy exchange priviledges next door at Now Larimar (though Now Larimar guests do NOT have exchange priviledges at Secrets).

Zoetry Aqua Resort is expanding their room capacity, roughly doubling to about 100 guest suites.  This property is so serene and inviting — a true haven for those looking for luxury and a relaxing escape.  I can’t wait to come back with some of my own free time.

 

 

 

 

Opening in November 2013 is the brand new Breathless Resort.  This adults only property is geared towards adult friends and adult family traveling together, along with honeymoon and anniversary couples who might prefer a bit livelier adults only setting.  Stay tuned for more information on this property.  And it’s available now for advance reservations, if you just can’t wait yourself!

 

Dreams Punta Cana, Dreams Palm Beach, and Dreams La Romanna continue to excel in offering all-inclusive vacations for families, couples, and small groups.  Kids and Teens Clubs looked to be popular on my visits, and smiles abound on the faces of staff and guests alike.

 

Last but not least, Now Larimar was fun and vibrant, with great food and delightful evening entertainment.  Now Larimar is a wonderful choice for small groups, weddings, and families with teens.

For my Texas clients, Dallas has direct flights to Punta Cana, but in the summer season only!

Resort Review: Hotel Kia Ora, French Polynesia (Tahiti)

On a remote island in the South Pacific’s Tuamotu Archipelago sits a gem of a resort, the Hotel Kia Ora.  This island – Rangiroa – is a coral-sand strand of pearls that makes up the largest lagoon in the South Pacific.  Rangiroa is known by diving enthusiasts, but is otherwise still a well kept secret for most American tourists.

This resort enjoyed a complete facelift in 2011, knocking this property up to the level of a luxury resort. General Manager Jerry Garcia brings charm and laid-back sophistication to this pleasant retreat.  He has expert knowledge of what it takes to keep American and European tourists happy in the middle of nowhere.  It is no fluke that the fruit and seafood are remarkably fresh, the activity board is filled with interesting excursions, and the resort grounds are pristine.

From the deck of your beach bungalow the surf is just  steps away, and a hammock strewn between two palm trees beckoned for a midday nap.  Tahitian neighbors border both sides of the property, and lazy entertainment could be had watching the locals in their fishing boats.

Hotel Kia Ora is recommended for divers and for beach lovers who are looking for the ultimate in South Pacific getaways.  Families are welcome, but anticipate there being no kids’ clubs or lively diversions for your little ones.  Clientele consists of seasoned travelers and a healthy return client base.  This is an excellent choice for anniversary and honeymoon couples, as well as the executive who needs to sink his feet in the sand for a few days to recharge batteries.  Bring along a good book or two and prepare to relax.

The 60 accommodation units include beach and garden bungalows, overwater bungalows, beach and garden bungalow suites, and deluxe beach bungalows.

For divers and snorkelers, Tiputa Pass offers a pass/drift dive toward the ocean with a variety of fish, eels, turtles, and sharks.  Other diving and snorkeling opportunities abound, and the Hotel Kia Ora has reasonably priced off-site activities available during the course of your stay.

Dive center offers PADI instruction. Spa onsite. Snorkel gear and canoes are available for use.

If you ARE looking to cut yourself off from civilization, then you may want to consider as well the remote sister property, the Kia Ora Sauvage.  Just ask GM Garcia about the Sauvage and his eyes will twinkle as he tells of the special magic of this place.  The Sauvage is an hour’s boat ride from the Kia Ora, and has only 5 bungalows.  The property has no electricity, and guests are given lanterns in the evening.  While the Polynesian style accommodations are rustic and not luxurious, guests are still pampered in their own right.  Delicious meals are prepared by the hotel staff, and there are activities planned to keep guests busy if they so desire.  Bungalows have private bathrooms with heated water (hurray!).  Plan on at least two nights at the Sauvage, though it is not uncommon for guests to stay a week or longer.  The Kia Ora Sauvage and Hotel Kia Ora combine well for a varied itinerary.

To reach Rangiroa, you will need to first fly into Papeete, on the island of Tahiti.  From there, you will take an interisland flight.  Because of the flight schedules, anticipate that your itinerary may require a minimum of one night in Papeete upon arrival, and possibly one night returning.  You can also combine Rangiroa with other Tahitian islands  such as Moorea or Bora Bora.

To put your Tahiti package together, contact Cindy Grant, Tahiti Specialist, at Expert Family Travel. 972-625-6200.

Month of Romance: Plan a special vow renewal trip with your spouse

February is Romance Month, with Valentine’s Day sitting prominently in the middle! of the calendar!  This year, consider planning a special vow renewal vacation for you and your spouse.  Make the trip for just the two of you, or extend the love by inviting friends and family.

My favorite locations for vow renewals are

  • Bora Bora (Tahiti) at Bora Bora Pearl Resort or Hilton Bora Bora Nui
  • Riviera Maya at the Dreams, Now, Secrets, and El Dorado Resorts
  • Cabo at Secrets Marquis and Riu Palace Resorts
  • Jamaica at one of the four Couples Resorts
  • Moorea (Tahiti) at the Moorea Pearl Resort
  • Maui at one of the gorgeous beach locations
  • Cancun at the vibrant, luxurious Live Aqua Cancun Resort

If you are interested in planning your own vow renewal vacation, or even have plans in the near future for your own destination wedding, just let me know and we can look at the options that will best fit you.

Happy travels!  Cindy Grant, CTA Expert Family Travel.  Located in The Colony/Frisco Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth metro area)  972.625.6200

 

 

Hotel Review: Blue Diamond Riviera Maya Resort (Mexico)

If you are looking for an adults only escape from the world, where you are pampered and spoiled, and travel time is short and sweet, let me recommend Blue Diamond Riviera Maya, located just south of the Cancun airport in Mexico.

This 5 star luxury, all-inclusive resort treats guests to excellent food and drinks with unrivaled service levels not typically found in the all-inclusive market.  There are 128 suites total spread out over 36 total acres, set along the coast in a tropical jungle, complete with a cenote and mangroves.

If you are looking for a party scene, this is NOT the place.  Also, you’ll need to be in the mood for some walking (though you can call the front desk and they’ll send a golf cart to shuttle you around).  There are also bicycles for your use to get around the resort, if you are so inclined.

The suites are simply stunning, with views of the cenote, jungle, mangroves, or beach.  And the beach is worth the walk — white powdery sand, great service, and relatively private.  No trip here is complete without a relaxing couples massage, and the spa (at additional cost) is a huge 25,000 square feet.  Room service itself is free, but has a $20 service fee along with a waiter who sets up your en-suite dining table, and stands outside your suite ready to serve your next course at the ring of a bell.  How often do you see that!

Prices here start at about $480 per night per couple all-inclusive, so it’s definitely in the luxury price category.  However, considering the quality of the rooms, service, and food it’s definitely a treat well worth the price tag.  For an escape from the crowds and to replenish the mind, this is my new favorite resort in the Riviera Maya area.

~Happy Travels!  Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant, Expert Family Travel.  972.625.6200 DFW metro area (Texas) serving clients nationwide.

 

Whale watching in Maui

As they do every year, the humpbacks are back in Maui.  These beautiful creatures make their way to the warm waters of Maui from mid October through the end of May for their mating and calving season.

Maui is a great place for you to enjoy a week or so over the winter months.  Add a whale watching day excursion out of Lahaina (the ort city in Maui) for your chance to get up close and personal to these gentle giants.

In Maui, boats are allowed to come up to within 100 yards of the whales.  And oftentimes the curious whales will approach the boats, getting even closer than the 100 yards.  The peak of the whale season is in January, though you have a good chance of seeing them any time during the season.

And of course, Maui is a year-round tropical destination.  So, if you head to Hawaii in winter, you’ll still be able to enjoy bathing-suit-friendly weather, sun, and gorgeous beaches!  All I can say to that is ALOHA!

Interested in planning your next whale watching trip to Maui?  Contact me by phone or email to get the planning process started.

~Happy travels, Cindy Grant Travel Consultant at Reconnect Travel/Expert Family Travel.  972.625.6200.  Located in The Colony Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area (near Frisco, Plano, Carrollton, Lewisville).  cindy@expertfamilytravel.com

Hotel Review: Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso (Riviera Maya Mexico)

I recently returned from a relaxing 3 night stay at the luxury, adults only all-inclusive resort Iberostar Gran Hotel Paraiso, which is located in the Riviera Maya area, just north of downtown Playa del Carmen.

The Iberostar Paraiso complex is a series of 5 resorts that share a shopping center, golf course, and conference facility (all located on the side of the complex that is interior/away from the beach).  Iberostar Grand Paraiso is the top of the five, and is the only resort that is adults only.  And while guests of the Grand can use the facilities at the other resorts, why would you?  Just about everything you want is right here.  And, in case you are wondering, the guests of the other Iberostar Resorts cannot use the facilities of the Iberostar Grand.

The property is made up of creme colored buildings, with muted sherbet tones and an occasional shock of color.  It is a classy version of “Art Deco Meets Sistene Chapel,” eclectic yet tasteful.  The first thing you’ll notice when you check in is the service level.  You’ll be escorted to your room with a tour, and shortly thereafter the butler will introduce himself and go over the features of your room and the services that the concierge desk (in conjunction with your butler staff) will provide for you.  The rooms are oversized and well equipped, and the beds comfortable.  Room service, pillow menus, shoe shine service (complimentary), and easy dining reservations make this property stand out above most others.

The food here ranges from very good to excellent.  Tony’s Turf and Surf for dinner is a gem.  Order ribeye and lobster, yum!  You can also find lobster on the breakfast and lunch menus.  The buffet restaurants have an a la carte menu, which I found to be better quality than the food on the buffet line.  Room service menu is 24 hours and takes about 30 minutes to be delivered (longer during peak times).

There are two outdoor pools.  The Main Pool is salt water with several warm tubs (not hot), and has a swim up bar and activities during the afternoon.  The activities serve to pull the guests together, and aren’t overbearing or obnoxious.  The guests were typically couples in their mid 30′s to mid 60′s, and everyone was relaxed and having a great time (always a good sign).  Friendly staff and friendly clients.

There is also a Tranquility Pool and does not have a swim up bar and no staff or activities.  The individuals and couples here were enjoying the solitude with a good book or sun nap, and it was very peaceful in this area.  The spa has an indoor pool, which also had a peaceful, introspective atmosphere.

The resort had a show or entertainment every night, and the place comes alive in the evening without any noise trickling into the guest room areas.  So, you can go to bed early or stay up late as you like.

I especially liked that the minibar could be restocked as you requested, instead of waiting the requisite alternate day (like you’ll find in many 4 star all-inclusives).  Service levels were focused on making the guest happy, which is refreshing.

And while this resort is a great choice for the honeymoon or anniversary couple, it’s equally suited for the couple (or several couples traveling together) looking for a  top quality vacation for the grown ups.