Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ola Senoritas, do you remember me?

If you have been to at least one all inclusive resort you probably are aware of the fact that when you check in, they put a wristband on your arm for the duration of your stay. Not all resorts do this (like Sandals and other very high end resorts) but for the most part, it is common practice.

I was recently in the beautiful resort area of Riviera Maya which is south of Cancun on Mexico's Caribbean coast. It stretches over 100 miles down the beach filled coastline starting about 24 miles south of Cancun airport. It is filled with small towns like Puerto Morelos, Puerto Aventuras, Tulum and of course the main town, Playa Del Carmen.

Playa Del Carmen is the central town for shopping for local goods and souvenirs, small hotels if you want to get away from the big resort feel, the ferry to Cozumel and much more. The main street in the area is called "5th Avenue". Bars, restaurants, silver shops, small 'market' type shops selling ceramics, regional crafts, silver and more. There is one main chain store (like ABC in Hawaii) that seems to be every couple of blocks selling snacks, alcohol and medication. Every kind of prescription medication that you would get from a doctor here, is available there, over the counter.

While recently travelling to a resort in the area, four of us decided to go into Playa for a few hours. We took a taxi from the hotel that dropped us off at the central starting point of the area and off we went.

It is a pedestrian street, so you can just easily walk up and down, going in and out of stores at your leisure. Every few steps the local shop keepers are calling out to come and check out their store, their goods, that they have something for you.

After a couple of hours of walking we are stopped on the street. Here is a paraphrase of the interaction:

Local: Ola senoritas, do you remember me? I served you at the bar last night at the Hard Rock. (could be possible).
One of us: Yes, I remember you, are you on your day off from the resort? (again could be possible).
Local: yes, Ci, I am.
Local: I am here helping my grandfather, he just opened a shop, come and take a look. (that is where I was out of it).
One of us: okay..
and off she went.

One of the people I was with actually lived at worked in Mexico and was very aware of the interaction. It was very funny, because it all seemed very believable until he said the comment about his grandfather. I knew it was just to get us to the shop,which the other girl went into and very quickly realized the same thing.

After this one interaction with the "do you remember me" line, it continued to happen over and over again as we walked down the main street. A few times they actually mentioned the hotel name where we were staying, but other times it was just remember me from the hotel.

It is harmless. Everyone needs to try to make a living, and you can't blame them for trying. It did get more comical as we walked through the streets. It seemed like every local who talked to us worked at our resort. If they all worked at the resort, what were they doing in town - ha ha!

I loved my time in Playa Del Carmen and every time I visit that area, I will probably go into town to spend a few hours. This wouldn't deter me from visiting a local town while on vacation. It shouldn't stop you either. Go and enjoy where you are. There is much more to a destination than the resort you are staying at!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tiptoe through the Tulips

The final day of our cruise felt like the best was saved for last. We arrived back in Amsterdam and our morning excursion was to the Kuekenhof Gardens, the world's largest flower garden. It is over 80 acres and is home to more than 7 million tulip bulbs and other flowers.

The Tulip season is very short, two months to be exact. The Keukenhof is only open during the Tulip season, this year was from March 30 - May 18th. Then the Garden closes and they wait until the fall to plant the bulbs and flowers that will grow for next year. There are over 30 different shows that run throughout the time the garden is open. We were very lucky that they didn't have a bad winter this year in Holland. We were told several times that because of the winter they had in 2013 that the ground was still frozen and the tulips didn't even bloom last year. Each of our guides during the trip said how lucky we were to be seeing such a great tulip season.

Out of the 10 days that we were on our trip, this had to be the day that it rained. We left the ship in the morning and arrived at the gardens in the rain. The tour guide were walking us through the gardens quickly so that we could get to the large indoor exhibits and out of the rain. The indoor gardens did not disappoint. 

The rain stopped and it was time to get outside and explore the beauty of the tulips and all the other amazing floral displays at the garden. 

Every year that have inspirational gardens. I stumbled across one of them called The Love Garden.

The sign at the start of the garden read:

The Love Garden is packed with love and memories. A place to remember what have have and had; a love lock on a fence; a serenade on the most romantic balcony; a hug on the Cupido bench.

Or ask the most important question, "will you marry me?"

By leaving a personal message on the red heart this garden will be filled with warmth and friendship.

You could spend a whole day (or more) at the Garden. I only had about three and a half hours. I saw as much as I could see, took as many pictures as I could to keep that memory alive for a long time to come. 

Please see the next post for more from my visit to Keukenhof

My Keukenhof photo gallery

I just wanted to share a few of the amazing images from the Keukenhof Gardens. The garden is closed now until March 2015. I will remember my visit for a long time to come. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cruisin' on the River

The Rhine, The Danube, The Elbe, Rhone and Saone are just a few of the rivers in Europe. Rivers that transport goods and services to the many countries in Europe and home to what has become over the last few years a very booming industry - River Cruising.

This past April I had the opportunity to experience first hand, what I have been selling to my clients for several years. I went on a ten day round trip journey on the Rhine from Amsterdam on the Viking Magni, one of Viking's longships

River cruising is different than the ocean liners you are already familiar with. First of all, they have a capacity of approximately 190 guests. All cabins have either a window, a french balcony or a full balcony. There is one main restaurant for your meals, and then a smaller terrace for lighter continental style fare for breakfast and lunch. Wine and beer is included with lunch and dinner.

Because you are on the rivers of Europe which served in the past (and present) and the many mode for the transporting of goods and services, you dock close to the centre of most of the towns. In Amsterdam, for the first two days we were five minutes walk from the Central Station. We were a fifteen minute walk to the centre of Antwerp, and five minutes walk to the centre of Ghent. It allows the freedom during your port time to really explore and enjoy what each city has to offer.

River cruise life is very enriching for the guests. Shore excursions are included in each port of call, and in some there are also optional excursions that can be purchased on board. There are on board lectures about the ports visited, as well as local craftsmen, food and culture as well. My cruise was through the Netherlands and Belgium, and we had a Dutch folklore dancing group, a Dutch shoe carver, Belgium waffle demonstration, cheese and Dutch Gin (Jenever).

As with ocean cruising, food is a very important part of the river cruise experience. My experience on Viking did not disappoint. Breakfast and lunch had buffet options as well as a la carte menu items, and there were always many different options to choose from. I can honestly say that I never left the dining room hungry or feeling like I needed more. There were always so many wonderfully tasting options to choose from. Being in the Netherlands, our table usually opted to end our meal with a cheese plate, filled with local cheeses, dried fruits and compotes. It was a wonderful way to end the meal.

My cruise was called Tulips and Windmills. It started and ended in Amsterdam and during the cruise a few of the highlights were Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, the UNESCO heritage site of the windmills called Kinderdijk and the finale of the cruise Keukenhof Gardens to view the tulips in full bloom.

One of the best parts about river cruising, is simply cruising along the rivers. Imagine sitting up on the sun deck, looking at the scenery on both sides of the river. On our cruise we saw many windmills, as well as many homes and small towns, and industries that rely on the river to move their products.

While I was one of the youngest passengers on this cruise, there is a wide range of clients that this type of trip would appeal to. Many of the guests (70 out of 190) were repeat guests of Viking River Cruises. Many of the people I spoke to had been on several river cruises, and not just with Viking. Many of them were already booked on their next cruise. These cruises can book up to 18 months in advance. Some of the itineraries, like the one I was on, only operate at a certain time of the year and for only a few sailing dates.

I may not get the chance to take another river cruise for many years to come, but I would cruise again, in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New Resort: Royalton Riviera Cancun - opening fall 2014

Sunwing Vacations is pleased to announce that the new Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort in Mexico will open its doors in late fall, inviting vacationers to experience All-In Luxury™ with outstanding service and exceptional attention to detail.  Situated on the white sands of Riviera Cancun only 15 minutes from the Cancun International Airport, the Royalton Riviera Cancun has something for everyone.  

This brand new resort boasts over 1,100 luxurious suites with amenities including rain showers and the Dreambed™ designed exclusively for Royalton Resorts, unlimited reservation-free luxury dining in first-class venues, 24-hour room service, and the unique ‘All-In Connectivity’ features including Free WiFi throughout the resort, unlimited in-room calling to North America and most of Europe, as well as convenient USB recharge and Bluetooth audio stations in the room. Guests can also download a Royalton mobile app and receive the convenience of the unlimited free calling plan from their mobile device while on the resort property, as well as unlimited app-to-app texting.

Part of Sunwing’s exclusive Luxury Collection, Royalton Riviera Cancun offers an impressive array of facilities and services including Royal Spa with a hydrotherapy circuit, comprehensive spa packages, beauty and fitness center, Score Sports Bar featuring a “Sports Event Guarantee” on major games, a splash park, an innovative Kids Club for ages 4-12 and teens lounge for ages 13-17, and a convention centre for weddings, meetings, and events.​

The resort offers reservation-free dining in 10 restaurants and has 16 bars with a selection of international drinks. For casual fare and treats, guests can enjoy fresh oven baked breads, pastries, cakes, cappuccinos and espressos at the café or choose from an assortment of flavours at Scoops ice cream bar.

Guests can upgrade to Diamond Club and enhance their vacation with access to a private lounge with a premium drink menu, butler service, an exclusive beach area with dedicated bar and waiter service, pillow menu, complimentary early check-in and late checkout (subject to availability), and  more.
For those wishing to indulge in the resort’s extraordinary facilities and services while enjoying a tranquil adults-only oasis, Sunwing also offers The Hideaway at Royalton, a unique boutique ‘resort within a resort’ catering to adults aged 18 and over.  Guests of the Hideaway at Royalton have access to an exclusive à la carte restaurant, bar, and pool, while enjoying full use of the facilities at Royalton Riviera Cancun.

For more information or to book your All-In Luxury™ vacation today, visit or contact your travel agent.

All Sunwing Vacations packages to Mexico include “Sunwing Airlines’ Award Winning Champagne Service”, which features a complimentary glass of champagne, hot towel service, Hot & Fresh Bistro meals served with a choice of wine at lunch and dinner, and complimentary inflight entertainment, including first-run movies and a generous free 20kg baggage allowance. For just $40 more per flight segment, travellers can upgrade to Sunwing’s Elite Plus service, which features advance seat selection, separate check-in at a majority of airports, advance boarding, 30 kg baggage allowance, priority baggage handling and extra legroom seats.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sunwing Memories resorts - added features for family travel

If you have children and travel (or like to dream of travelling) you are probably very familiar with different resorts and their brand partnerships with children's products, shows and more.

Beaches resorts have brand partners like Sesame Street, Xbox and more. 
Hard Rock resorts have Little Big club, which include Thomas the train, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder, Barney and more. 

And now, there is a new family friendly chain of resorts - Memories, that has joined the party with new brand partnerships. 

here is a press release about the new exciting things happening at Memories resorts. 

TORONTO – March 25, 2014

Sunwing’s Exclusive Hotel Partner, Memories Resorts, Welcomes Popular Kids Characters The Berenstain Bears & Toopy and Binoo to its Properties

Sunwing Vacations is proud to announce that its exclusive hotel partner, Memories Resorts, welcomes beloved children’s characters to all of its Caribbean properties exclusively.

Families who book a vacation at Memories Resorts through Sunwing can enjoy an adventure with the beloved characters from the hit animated television series Toopy and Binoo. The playful and spontaneous pair, along with Patchy Patch, will entertain the whole family with interactive appearances, activities, games and a live show. In addition, The Berenstain Bears, who have touched the hearts of families for over 50 years, get the crowd going with a Country Bear Jamboree, games and activities led by the series’ popular sibling duo, Brother Bear and Sister Bear.

The characters are special guests at six all inclusive Memories Resorts in the Caribbean, which are situated on pristine beaches in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Bahamas. Part of Sunwing’s exclusive Family Collection, the deluxe properties feature a supervised kids club for ages 4-12 with innovative activities and games, as well as a lounge for teens with video games, ping pong, and more.  Parents will also appreciate family-friendly room options, early evening family entertainment, and menus catering to all ages. 

The popular Memories Splash Punta Cana, a Sunwing SplashWorld Resort, also offers guests free access to one of the largest water parks in the Caribbean, conveniently located right on the resort.
For more information or to book your vacation at Memories Resorts, visit 

All Sunwing Vacations packages include “Sunwing Airlines’ Award Winning Champagne Service”, which features a complimentary glass of champagne, hot towel service, Hot & Fresh Bistro meals served with a choice of wine at lunch and dinner, and complimentary inflight entertainment, including first-run movies and a generous free 20kg baggage allowance. For just $40 more per flight segment, travellers can upgrade to Sunwing’s Elite Plus service, which features advance seat selection, separate check-in at a majority of airports, advance boarding, 30 kg baggage allowance, priority baggage handling and extra legroom seats.

About The Berenstain Bears:
Celebrating furry family values and good old-fashioned Bear Country living, The Berenstain Bears have entertained children around the world for over 50 years. Based on the best-selling books by Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Berenstain Bears has been adapted into an award-winning, animated television series. Nelvana is one of the world's leading international producers and distributors of children’s animated and live-action content. Nelvana is comprised of Nelvana Studio and its distribution arm Nelvana Enterprises and is owned by Corus Entertainment Inc. Nelvana Studio is a globally recognized studio that produces a stable of award-winning and globally renowned brands that focuses on comedies, preschool, boys action and live action. Nelvana’s content airs on Corus Entertainment’s kids channels in Canada and in over 160 countries around the world. The Nelvana library has well over 4,000 episodes of programming and has received over 70 major international program awards including Emmys® and Geminis. Visit the Nelvana website at

About Toopy and Binoo:
Toopy and Binoo™ is an animated series that follows the adventures of Toopy, a tall, funny and friendly mouse, and his best friend Binoo, a tiny, clever and lovable white cat. Little ones and their families laugh out loud as the charming and endearing friends explore their colourful, whimsical world. Binoo, always logical and perceptive, is the perfect sidekick for Toopy and his vivid imagination and spontaneous zest for life.  Toopy loves to chat about the duo’s adventures while Binoo expresses himself with playful gestures and actions.  The series inspires preschoolers to expand their creativity while reinforcing positive values such as friendship, good manners, creative thinking, and humor. Funny in an age-appropriate way, Toopy and Binoo teaches children daily skills and encourages them to use their imaginations.  Toopy and Binoo is a licensed trademark of Echo Media.  Based on the popular books created by Dominique Jolin, the Toopy and Binoo franchise also includes a live theatrical show, home movies, mobile applications, toys, games and apparel. 

If you would like more details on Memories or any other travel plans you may have here are my contact details: 
Phone: 1-866-575-1115 or 905-471-0056 ext 5844
Tweet me: @yyztravelgal