Earlier this week I answered the phone and was asked by a lady to help her understand if she would be needing a visa for any country she would visit on her upcoming cruise. I thought that was an odd question because that information would have been covered in our booking process. So, I asked her for her name so that I could pull up her reservation.
She quickly explained that her reservation wasn’t made with us. She had booked her cruise directly through the cruise line.
At that point I let her know that she would need, then, to contact the cruise line for the visa information. She said that she already had and the cruise line told her to call a local travel agent to get the information.
1) If the cruise line is going to handle retail business, then they need to be fully equipped to handle all aspects of it. How dare they farm those questions out to the local retail travel agent when the traditional business model is such that the agent would not be compensated in the least for the time it would take to correctly research the answer.
2) This is just another example of why consumers really need to utilize an agent to book vacations. The question about the visa was, I’m sure, one of many questions that she’ll have between booking and traveling. Wouldn’t it be nice for her to have a single source to answer all of those questions? Wouldn’t it be nice for her to have some accountability for the answers she is given? If the cruise line agent did actually answer the question incorrectly and the clients trip was affected by the misinformation, what could the client do? She would likely have no proof of with whom she spoke. No accountability. How could she ever count on the information?
What are your thoughts on this topic?
1) Value: Anyone who has ever compared the price of a Mexico Vacation versus a Caribbean or Hawaii vacation has seen the dramatic value of a Mexico Vacation. Compare it for yourself!
2) Better Beaches: On the Travel Channel’s list of the best beaches in the world, Mexican beaches appear three times…more than any other country.
3) More Friendly – Mexican hospitality is warm and inviting. The Mexican people are truly glad that you are vacationing in their country and will work very hard to make sure you are comfortable and relaxed. There is no hint of them feeling hassled by the presence of tourists like one might experience in some destinations.
4) Better resorts – Did you know that Mexico has more AAA 5 Diamond resorts than all of the Caribbean and Hawaii combined? Its true! Especially when you compare dollar for dollar, you get more luxury in Mexico than anywhere else.
5) Closer – Getting to Hawaii or the Caribbean can take all day. From Dallas it takes 8 hours for a nonstop flight to Honolulu or Maui. Once you factor in connection time, most Caribbean destinations take at least that long in transit as well.
6) All Inclusive – There are many all inclusive resorts in all of the Mexico resort areas. In my opinion, if you’re going to be in a resort area, all inclusive is the way to go. Rather than being assaulted by buying decisions many times per day, an all inclusive vacation allows you to just…enjoy.
8) Safety – Despite what you might have seen in the media, the resort areas remain the safe, wonderful places they’ve been for years. Millions of people from all over the world, including the USA, vacation delightfully and safely in the resort areas of Mexico every year.
This is a blog post where I am asking for your input. I just bought a brand new Nikon d5000 camera and I have a lot to learn. So much to learn.
I do have a few opinions to share, though. So here they are.
1) Practice, practice, practice. If the only time you pick up your camera are recitals and vacations, you won’t be as familiar with the various features of it. Seeing a great shot is a skill, and the more you practice the better you’ll be.
2) Have a camera of a size that you will keep with you. Even though I love my new camera, I still intend to travel with my compact point and shoot as well. I want to be able to throw it in my beach bag to catch snapshots of things I might miss if I’m only equipped with my big camera. Keep this in mind for video as well. Having a Flip Video or a Kodak Zi8 that you can slip in your pocket will catch many more memories.
3) Put people in your pictures. If you just want a picture of the Eiffel Tower by itself, you can buy a postcard. What is special is a picture of people you love along with the Tower. People are what make pictures interesting. Even if you don’t know the people in the picture, it will be more interesting.
4) Take pictures of unusual things. Stacks of great fresh vegetables at an outdoor market, a little boy playing with cars on the steps of a great European landmark, a crab crawling across the sand…don’t just take pictures of amazing vistas…seek out more unusual sights to remember your great vacation.
5) Take pictures of common things in an unusual way. A pair of worn gloves, spices in a kitchen, even a pile of rocks can make an interesting picture depending on the context.
6) Be mindful of those traveling with you. As much as possible, try not to cause a disruption to those around you by stopping the action to take pictures. Especially if you’re like me and still figuring out all of the knobs on your camera, your traveling companions might quickly become weary of stopping and waiting for you all of the time.
7) Beware the backlight. Remember that if you are facing the sun and you take a picture, the person in the foreground will be dark. So, if you must take that picture use the flash.
8 ) Batteries and Memory Cards: Nothing will stop your vacation photography faster than running out of space on your memory card or the batteries in your camera dying. One of my favorite recent purchases was an extra battery for my video camera. When I have both charged up I’m good to go for hours and hours.
So, what about you? What are your tips and suggestions for taking great vacation photos? I’d love to see them in the comments.
Getting sick on vacation. What could be worse? You’ve been waiting all year to go on your adventure and now you’re miserable. Or even worse, you need emergency medical attention.
What do you do?
As with many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Staying healthy while traveling is a matter of making smart choices. Get good rest, stay hydrated, be careful about what and how much you eat and drink. All of the things you know to do at home but somehow forget when you’re living it up on vacation. Here are some more tips to help keep you healthy.
Hand washing is more important on vacation than ever. Experts tell us that a very high percentage of travel illnesses can be prevented by mere handwashing.
Stock and bring a travel first aid/medicine kit. In mine I stock:
Bandaids of various sizes (including blister bandaids)
Moleskin for blisters
Sting Relief Wipes
All of this fits in a hard sided plastic container about 6x5x4 inches.
Buy travel insurance. Most travel insurance features a telephone number you can call collect or toll free from anywhere in the world. They are staffed with doctors and nurses who know about the medical facilities where you are and can direct and supervise your care. They can also make arrangements for your transport home if need be. Besides the relief that the insurance will cover things financially, I also appreciate the oversight provided by their medical team.
Make safe choices. Don’t be boring on your trip, but do be prudent. Wear your seatbelt. Don’t run on the pool deck (and don’t let your kids run on it either). Be careful when you walk on wet marble floors.
So, basically, try to stay healthy and be prepared for if you’re not.
Here are some more resources for you to check out on the subject:
Rick Steves Podcast that includes a travel medicine expert.
1) A Good travel agent provides prices from more than one source.
When you go it alone, if you want to get prices from more than one source you have to contact each source individually. That either means more hold time or more navigating through confusing websites. Also, the more you price things, the more chance that you’ll make a mistake somewhere along the way. Especially when you’re not familiar with each booking system (and, how could you be?).
2) A Good travel agent has either been where you’re going or knows someone who has.
Familiarization trips allow travel agents to personally experience resorts and destinations. Yes, it’s hard work..and someone has to do it. No, we’re not looking for someone to come with us.
3) A good travel agent will save you time.
Sitting on hold, pricing various versions of your trip, dealing with airlines for seat assignments and schedule changes, getting answers to questions…all of these things take time. Do you have extra time on your hands?
4) A good travel agent provides post travel assistance.
Something didn’t go quite right on your trip? Your room didn’t have the view you were expecting? Your transfer was late? What else? A good travel agent will help resolve post travel issues.
5) A good travel agent will help you avoid scams.
The whole travel industry seems rife with various scams. We know what is legitimate and what to avoid. Why learn a hard lesson on your own?
6) A good travel agent knows you.
Find a good travel agent and use them for all of your trips. They will grow to know you and what you like.
7) A good travel agent suggests alternate dates to save money.
Dates can have a big impact on price. Rather than spend untold hours pricing every single date for your vacation, let a professional suggest dates that may price lower.
8) A good travel agent has connections.
An actual, legitimate, full time, retail travel agent invests time and money in developing relationships with suppliers including hoteliers and other representatives in the destinations. A good travel agent can pull strings and make things happen that you never could.
9) A good travel agent suggests destinations you haven’t thought of.
So your buddy went somewhere and enjoyed it. Are you his clone? Do you enjoy the same things? There are destinations out there that your buddy hasn’t visited or even thought of. Consult a professional.
The Barcelo Maya Beach and Caribe are the original resorts in the Barcelo Maya Complex. They are actually one resort with two lobbies. They are the most moderate of the resorts in the complex.
Guests of Barcelo Maya Beach or Caribe do not have privileges at the other resorts in the complex. The liquor is limited to Mexican domestic brands. There is snorkeling right off the shore off the long beach.
Our experience has been that clients do typically enjoy this resort. It also usually goes for a pretty attractive price.
One thing to be aware of is that the Barcelo Maya Complex is a drive of about 60-90 minutes from the airport depending on traffic. You might consider upgrading your transfers to the nonstop to shorten up your journey a little.
Nicki and I went to Jamaica Sept 30-Oct 3. We had a fantastic time! We had an opportunity to enjoy the Meet the People Program that the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) offers. It was amazing! I learned so much about Jamaica and Nicki and I absolutely fell in love with island all over again.
When they say, “once you go…you know,” they aren’t kidding! There is something for everyone in Jamaica. The rich history and the beauty of the island….well, it’s just the beginning.
Meet Alisha! She was our host for our Meet the People outing. And she just might be yours too!
If you’re a regular reader, you already know that we were quite thrilled with our visit to the Park Royal Cancun. The same day we went and toured the Park Royal Grand Cancun Caribe as well.
The Park Royal Grand Cancun Caribe is the same facility that used to fly the Hyatt flag. Formerly operating as the Hyatt Cancun Caribe as an EP property. (No meals included.) The same owner who used to allow Hyatt to operate the facility, now operates it as a Park Royal. It is also now exclusively an all inclusive property.
This hotel has always boasted a great position on the most beautiful section of beach in Cancun. You will love the beach.
Also, the same amazing food we experienced at the Park Royal Cancun is featured at the Park Royal Grand.
As you can see in the video, the rooms are beautiful. There are some amazing suites for large parties or for people who want an extra measure of luxury.
Our favorite part of the day when we were there was releasing baby sea turtles into the Caribbean Sea. During the fall, they protect the nests where the eggs are laid by the momma turtles. When the babies have matured a couple of days to give them more a fighting chance at survival, they allow guests to send the babies off in style. We actually got to pick up the turtles and place them so that they crawled into the sea and off to a life of greatness. (Well, statistically speaking…I suppose we’re really releasing them to be food for various predators..but some of them survive…right?).
I am of the opinion that the management of this hotel (and the Park Royal Cancun) is excellent. The people are friendly, the food is great…the hotel is clean and beautiful. You can book this hotel with confidence.
Leah and Nicki just returned from the Iberostar Rose Hall in Jamaica. This video is a little taste of their adventure.
Barcelo Maya Palace is a beautiful resort. When you enter, you’ll see that the huge lobby has a beautiful 3D tile mosaic behind the front desk. The lobby is filled with lots of comfortable places to sit and visit.
The Barcelo Maya Palace is the crown jewel of the Barcelo Maya complex which consists also of the Barcelo Maya Colonial and Tropical and the Barcelo Maya Beach. When staying at the Palace, you have access to international brands of liquor not available to guests of the other resorts in the complex. (But only at bars located at the Palace.) You also have complete access to all pools, bars and restaurants in the whole complex whereas guests of the other resorts to do not have access to the Palace.
The pool is large and beautiful. There are many of the tile pool lounger areas built into the pool. There are also lots of hammocks all around. There is also a section that is a pretty elaborate kids water park.
Room service is not included at any of the Barcelo resorts. There is a limited menu available and it costs $7.00 per plate. So, if there are two people and you each order an entree and a desert, you’ll pay $28.00.
There is a kids club (as with all Barcelos it’s called “Barcy Club”). It is open from 9am until 5pm and from 7pm until 830pm. Children ages 4-11 are welcome.
Something you want to be very aware of is the Premium Club. When you stay in a Premium Club room your room will be closer to the beach. Also you will have access to unlimited a’la carte restaurant reservations as opposed to being limited to one or two during your stay. There is also a really great Premium Club lounge where you can always find snacks, a very upscale seating area filled with newspapers from around the US, and helpful concierge to help with your restaurant reservations. Also, you have beach towels provided right in your room as opposed to traipsing down to the towel hut to exchange your towel card. In room free wired internet is also provided. I personally love having Internet right in my room and not having to hang out in the lobby to do what I need to do.
Have you stayed at Barcelo Maya Palace? What did you think?
If you haven’t, what questions do you have about the resort?
Here is the video we filmed while at the resort: