Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hints for Using Your Cell Phone When Traveling

With today's new 4G phones and the love people have for posting their vacation pictures on Facebook and Twitter, people can return to a cell phone bill in the thousands of dollars - if no one tells them about roaming charges when transmitting data and pictures.

Case in point - a travel agent recently posted a situation on an agent board where one of her clients returned from an Alaskan cruise to a $600 cell phone bill.  She never used the phone on the cruise, but took many pictures and did not turn off her data plan on the phone. In not turning off the data plan, her phone was still hooked up to the cruise ships satellite system for receiving e-mails and texts - even though she did not look at or answer them, and she was charged a roaming fee for each of these items that came through on her phone.

At the very least, when traveling, especially out of the U.S., if you plan on bringing your cell phone with you, you must call your cell phone provider and speak to them about what your options are when traveling with your cell phone.  They will tell you what your fees will be to wherever you are traveling to and how to turn off features on your phone so that you do not incur huge fees.

For example, when we travel by cruise, air or car, I call my carrier, A T & T and add an international calling plans (if traveling outside the U.S.)  They will tell me how much per minute I will pay for incoming or outgoing phone calls.  A T & T always had advised me to turn off the wi-fi and cellular service or put the phone in "airplane" mode so that I am not charged for unnecessary usage.  I usually will  leave my phone off unless I am expecting an important call, or I need to make a call.
This is especially true when cruising and traveling through multiple countries. 

If I know I will be checking e-mails or texts or possible posting photos on line, I will call A T & T and add a Data Plan. This plan costs $30 and gives me more megabytes of data than I will use.
The first time I traveled out of the country and did not add the data plan, I came home to an additional $90 on my cell phone bill for checking e-mail, sending e-mails and putting photos on line  One bill was all it took for me to call A T & T and ask them what I could do to reduce my costs the next time I traveled. The international data plan was all I needed to add as well as the international calling plan.

The next time you plan to travel - before you leave,  call your cell phone carrier and ask how to keep your bill down.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Resort Review - LeBlanc Spa Resort - Adults Only

The minute I stepped into the lobby, I knew this was going to be a special vacation. 

I took in the fresh scent of lemongrass as I eyed the beautiful surroundings – check in desks to the left, softly curtained sitting areas to the right and the bright blue water of an infinity pool in the back. On the beautiful white sand beaches of Cancun this 260 room Palace resort  is 25 minutes from the  airport in the  hotel zone within walking distance to a Flea Market, Mall and restaurants. But you will have no need to leave the resort because the food is fabulous. The resort is rated Five Diamonds by AAA and is the #1 rated resort in Cancun by Trip Advisor.

A porter met us as we arrived in our car, took our luggage and gave us a tag to take to the check in area of the lobby.

As we entered the lobby we were greeted with a delightful cooled drink of coconut milk, so refreshing. We were invited to be seated at one of the check in desks and had a warm aromatherapy neck wrap put on our neck to start our vacation before we even signed in.

We were warmly greeting at check in, which took less than five minutes before we were on our way to our room. Our room was number 418 with a partial ocean view. The halls in the hotel remind me very much of the Hyatt Grand in Cancun - the building is shaped like a triangle with open hallways. If you look down you can see and hear the murmur of a waterfall in the lobby below.

The rooms are lovely. Upon entering is a hallway with two closets on the left and a table in between them. To the right is the bathroom with a double Jacuzzi tub that is open to the room. In the center is the sink, to the right is the glass enclosed toilet and shower. The shower has double walls of showerheads. One wall has a high head and six jets going down the wall. The wall on the right had one rain showerhead. It took a few minutes for me to figure out how to turn them on but what a luxury of multiple shower jets relaxing you after a long flight.

Inside the bedroom was a king sized bed with four pillows, two of them goose feather. Across from that were a credenza with four drawers, a refrigerator and liquor dispenser. To the right of that was a desk with lamp.

Near the Juliet balcony was a table and two chairs. On either side of the bed were nightstands built into the wall that had great lighting within the stone top. There was also a drawer in each of these.

The bath amenities consisted of Bulgari items - shampoo and shower gel, conditioner, soap. Also included were LeBlanc items - shower cap, shave kit, toothbrush set, vanity kit, shoe polisher and a sewing kit. There was also a hair dryer in the closet.

Every room has a bottle of wine waiting for you. There is nightly turn down service with petit fours,  upgraded liquor cabinet, a mini-bar with snacks, soda, juices, bottled water and domestic beer, flat screen TV., DVD and CD player, bathrobes and slippers, a safe, coffee maker and iron and ironing board. Another luxury is a comfort menu which includes a choice of specialty pillows and aromatherapy. Free phone calls to the U.S. are available from your room, a great way for parents with kids to keep in touch with home to make sure the kids are alright.

All rooms at this resort have a floor butler. I did not meet my butler at check in but he did stop me when I was returning from the pool to introduce himself and find out if I needed anything. I did ask him to change my aromatherapy scent nightly and one night he drew me a surprise bath. It was a wonderful luxury, and he kept the water hot until I got to the room (we were over an hour later than we thought we would be). I also asked to have the regular soda in my mini-bar changed to diet and that was done promptly. I didn't think I would need a butler, but found it was a luxury I could quickly get used to!

There is 24 hour room service, five bars and five restaurants. Blacaitalia is an Italian restaurant, Blancorient an Oriental restaurant, Lumiere is French fusion a la carte or an eight course tasting menu. (This is the only restaurant that requires reservations.) More casual eating venues are Blaninternational in the Central Lobby next to the main pool. For breakfast and lunch an international buffet is served and at dinner it becomes a steakhouse and Mexican a la carte. Food was very good and one treat I love was their home made popsicles. They were fruit, dessert and "flower" flavored with tastes such as cantaloupe, hibiscus, rice pudding, sweet and salty, watermelon, and more. These were my indulgence since the flavors changed at each meal.

Your meats were cooked to order; there was not a lot of pre-made food at this buffet. For instance, for lunch you could take a piece of raw meat (steaks pork, etc.), chicken or fish and shrimp from the iced platters that were out, bring it to the chef and have it cooked exactly as you wished.   

Blancterrace is located on the 3rdfloor near the pool. For breakfast there is an international a la carte menu, for lunch the most amazing brick oven pizzas are made and for dinner, brick oven pizzas and specialties are served.  Sample the white pizza with pear pizza – fabulous!

The bar in the lobby is Blanclobby where in the afternoon, tea and coffee was put out with cookies and pastries. Later on, sushi is added. Other bars were Blancstage, on the 3rdfloor where nightly entertainment is available along with pool tables and darts. Blancsol is a swim up bar with snack service in one pool, Blancluna is another swim up bar with snack service from 8 AM – 10 PM. Blanceclipse is located next to Blancsol and specializes in Daiquiri beverages.

24 hour room service includes salads, beef and broccoli fajitas, chicken wraps, mahi-mahi, Chicken Pita, Grilled Veggie Panini, Surf & Turf burger, grouper sandwich, smoked turkey sandwich, burrito, gazpacho, onion soup, tomato consommé, chilpachole seafood soup, linguine, lasagna, penne, cannelloni, steak, chicken breast, desserts such as stuffed dates, crème Brule, apple cake, chocolate mousse, coffee cream. Full breakfast is available as well.

One of the pluses of staying at LeBlanc is that you may dine at some of the nearby Palace resorts – Moon Palace, Sun Palace or Beach Palace. We tried dinner at the other resorts every night except one, where we ate at Blancitalian. I was sorry we didn’t eat here every night. The service was spectacular and the food – bellissimo! We ordered an appetizer, soup, salad and a main dish and in between these courses, outstanding small plates to share were brought out.  The wine sommelier listened to the types of wines that people in our party were looking for and brought out exactly what they wanted.  Shared plates of each dessert were also brought out.  This dinner was one of the best meals I’ve enjoyed at a resort.

There are three pools. One is an activity pool on the lower level outside the gym and spa. There is a swim up bar and water aerobics and pool volleyball and table tennis are offered.
Off the main lobby is what is called the "quiet" pool. This is the largest pool and also has a swim up bar. On the third floor is the rooftop pool. This pool does not have a bar at all but you can order food and drink and it will be delivered to you. While many resorts have drink service around the pool, this is one of the few that offers food service as well as drink service. There is a menu you can order a small selection of food and desserts from that will be brought to your chair as you are lazing in the sun.

This hotel has a lovely beach. There are a few palapas on the beach and some lounge chairs. The beach sand is nice and the water warm although there are some waves.

The gym at LeBlanc is excellent. There are plenty of machines and classes that are free, including Pilates, yoga etc.

The spa is wonderful here. There are 19 treatment rooms and a multitude of treatments you can have here, including a "fish spa", where you can soak your feet with tiny fish eat the
outer layer of skin off your feet.

One of the best free amenities here is the hydrotherapy circuit. Your attendant will take you to a room to change into your robe and slippers, and then direct you to the sauna, where she will ask how long you want to stay in the room and come back and get you when your time is up. The next step is a cool shower, then a trip to the sauna room after you are sprayed with your choice of herbal water which leaves you smelling fresh and relaxed.

After the steam room, another short shower and you are led to the Jacuzzi. You are invited to have a drink of some herbal water - chlorophyll, cucumber or fruit flavored water.
On to the Jacuzzi for a few minutes then it is time for the cool water pool for a few minutes to close your pores. Finally, a warm pool.

To finish your treatment, you can sit in the foot spa, where a flip of a switch starts the Jacuzzi and your feet are given a relaxing treatment. All at no charge.

The staff treats all guests as royalty. There is almost nothing you can ask for that they can’t get for you. The pool butlers were the best – you can’t simply walk up and get a towel. When you go to the towel bar, a concierge will take your towel and help find a seat where you want. Need shade? They’ll move an umbrella for you. Want to overlook the beach? They’ll move your chairs to face the beach. This was luxury and spoiling all rolled into one.

On our last day we were certainly reluctant to leave. Our butler arranged to pick up our bags and they were brought downstairs.  Check out was quick and I was sad when the bracelet was cut off my wrist – it meant this stay was truly over.

Who is LeBlanc for? Adults who want relaxation and pampering, great food in a luxury setting. Call us for more information or to book - 516-608-0568