Sunday, September 29, 2013

Let Me Tell You About.....Antigua

Looking for a place in the Caribbean with beautiful soft sand beaches and great year round weather? The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are the answer. Non stop flights from New York City are about 4 hours and you'll be sunning and relaxing on this beautiful island.

Antigua (pronounced An-tee'ga) and it's sister island  Barbuda are located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, about 17 degrees north of the equator. To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadaloupe, and to the north and west are Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Barts, and St. Martin. Antigua is 14 miles long and 11 miles wide and Barbuda, a 68 square miles flat coral island lies 30 miles north of Antigua.

It has nearly perfect year round weather. Temperatures are usually in the mid-seventies in the winter and the mid-eighties in the summer. Annual rainfall averages only 45 inches, making it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands with very low humidity.

There are more than enough activities available on the island to keep every vacationer busy. From snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, golf to sailing, eco tours and zip lines there is something for everyone. Due to the trade winds, sailing is one of the most popular activities in Antigua. There are sailing event throughout the year. An Ocean Racing Club starts on Feb. 14, 2014, a Classic Yacht Regatta April 17 -22 and Antigua Sailing Week April 26 - My 2.

There are 365 beaches on Antigua and all are open to the public. Among the most popular are Dickenson and Runaway Bay's, both located on the northwest coat, which is the most developed of the beach areas on Antigua. Hawksbill has several beaches and one is reserved for nudists. The beaches on the southwest part of the island are less developed and much quieter because it is difficult to get to them.

On Barbuda, the beautiful ink sand beaches on the south shore are protected by a barrier reef. The beaches on the eastern shore that face the Atlantic Ocean are rougher than those facing south.

Visitors to Antigua can visit Barbuda by taking a 90 minute ferry to the island that run five days a week. It's a nice day trip.

Because Antigua is so small, it is easy to get around by rental car. A rental car runs about $50 per day and you'll need your drivers license and you will have to obtain an permit to drive in Antigua. Your car rental agency can help with that and the cost is approximately $20. Driving is on the left hand side of the road.

There are many beautiful resorts on Antigua. Sandals has one of my very favorite of their resorts, Sandals Grande Antigua, on this island.  From three star resorts such as Jolly Beach Resort and Spa, Grand Pineapple and Halcyon Cove to four and five star resorts such as Sandals, The Verandah, Galley Bay and Jumby Bay, there is something for everyone.

Many cruise ships also make a stop in Antigua at St. John. Our first introduction to Antigua was on a cruise ship and we've been back to enjoy Sandals and see Grand Pineapple and the famous Miss Mary, who is an Antigua fixture with her outdoor restaurant just outside of the Grand Pineapple resort.  Her ramshackle place with a gorgeous view, called the Outhouse, had some truly delicious chicken and ribs and Miss Mary is the lady who runs it. (Read an article about her here).

If you are looking for an new island to visit, take a look at Antigua and give us a call to book it at 516-608-0568.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How About A Virtual Balcony In That Inside Stateroom?

Just when you think cruise ships have every amenity you can think of, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has come up with another amazing innovation - the Virtual Balcony.

What is a Virtual Balcony? It is an inside cabin with an 80 inch high definition screen on a wall showing the actual view a balcony stateroom has. The picture will be real time to give guests the feel of a balcony at a greatly discounted price. You'll also be able to hear the sounds of a balcony but have the pleasure of an on/off switch and volume control.

The first ship to feature this new technology will be Navigator of the Seas out of Galveston after it undergoes refurbishment in February, 2014 and then the brand new Quantum of the Seas out of New Jersey when she begins sailing in Fall 2014.

Not every interior cabin on these ships will offer these - Navigator will have 98 cabins with the feature, some of them quad cabins that can hold up to four passengers but the Quantum will offer it in all interior cabins, as reported at press time. (We have a group sailing the Quantum February 13, 2015 -call us for information - 516-608-0568)

We've sailed in interior cabins and for people who like peace and  quiet and sleeping  in a dark room, interior cabins are perfect. My only issue with an interior cabin is not being able to determine what the weather is like in the morning. Is the sun up, is it raining, is it sunny? A Virtual Cabin will certainly end those questions. I can wake up and flip a switch to see what the weather is in real time. Cameras will be mounted on decks of the ship and if the location of the screen in your cabin is on the port side, you'll see the port side view, if the screen is located on the starboard side, you'll have a starboard view.

Now we want YOUR view. Would you book a Virtual Balcony on one of these ships? Talk to us on

Monday, September 23, 2013

How To Save Money On A Disney World Vacation

Let's face it - family travel isn't cheap. I've gasped when pricing park tickets for a day out with the kids and grandkids. I've purchased tickets online, saved soda cans and taken coupons from McDonalds and Burger King for amusement park savings.

If you've been to Disney World, you know that even Disney can be expensive for families, but we have some tricks to help you save money on your next Disney World Vacation.

#1 - Stay on property. You'll save a lot of time getting from park to park as well as money on parking fees at the parks by staying on property. Even if you stay at a hotel that offers free shuttles, the shuttle hours may not be convenient  when you want to leave and go back to the hotel.  If you have to wait an hour for a hotel shuttle with over tired crying kids, you'll realize that staying on property would have been a better idea.

Disney's new Art of Animation offers great value for families with their larger themed suites which can often cost less than booking adjoining rooms for the kids at a value resort.

Another huge advantage of staying on property is when the kids have their afternoon meltdowns from being over-tired, jump on the bus, tram or boat back to your resort, let everyone nap or chill out and then go back at night.

#2 - Consider how many days you will actually be going to the parks. If you book a 5 night Disney package, Disney automatically sells 6 day park tickets. If you will be leaving the last day, you don't need that sixth day ticket. If you want to go to another park, such as Universal or Sea World, you won't need Disney tickets for those days. And you may have a day when everyone just wants to hand at the pool.  So think hard about the number of days or even if you need a park hopper. You can save a little money with the one day one park pass in stead of the park hopper, where you'll feel like you have to park hop to take advantage of the ticket.

#3 - When staying on property, take advantage of the Extra Hours program. Find out which park will have the extended hours each day and use them - it is especially nice first thing in the morning to hit the most popular rides.

#4 - When you are traveling with kids, consider purchasing the Quick Service dining plan vs. eating in sit down restaurants. Most of the time the kids are so excited they don't want to take time for long meals. Quick service usually is fine for most kids. Splurge on a Character Breakfast one day. It's less expensive than dinner and you can often skip lunch because you'll still be full from the breakfast.

#5 - Hit the toy store before you leave for your vacation and pack gifts Disney themed gifts for the kids.Buying the same things on property is more expensive.

#6 - Bring your own snacks from home and pack them in snack bags and take them to the park. You'll save a ton of money vs. buying them in the park.

#7 - Fastpasses are great for the most popular rides but don't bother using them for rides that have less than a 20 minute wait or for shows that seats large crowds. Download the free app "My Disney Experience Walt Disney World" on your cell phone and you will be able to have information on current wait times at rides.

# 8 - Check out the website Not only will you find a list of future events, you'll also find hints on where to find characters in the park and overlooked attractions at each park. It is a great resource for Disney travel.

Call us to book your next Disney vacation. We have experience with determining the best resort for your family and you have us if things go wrong - 516- 608-0568.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The NEW Beaches Ocho Rios

Beaches Ocho Rios (formerly Beaches Boscobel) recently completed a $30 million renovation of it's property, adding four villages and new restaurants.

On a hill with a view of the beach, the Greek Village has 59 rooms on three levels, each level named after a Greek Island. In this area you will also find two bars - the Calypso Bar and OPA Sunset Bar.

The French Village overlooks the beach offers upgraded suites. In this area is the Red Lane Spa, a piano bar, Neptune"s Restaurant and the gym. It also has the French Terrace with fantastic views of the ocean and a new quiet pool. There is also a Smoothie Bar and Creperie here.

The Italian Village is located in the Lobby area and the Italian Restaurant is located here. The Caribbean Village encompasses two wings on either side of the lobby. This area is closest to the main pool and the new Pirate Island Waterpark.

The new water park is 27,000 square feet with nine waterslides, a Kids Zone and an Aqua Play area.
If you are a golfer, Beaches offers unlimited rounds of golf with greens fees and round trip transfers included. Caddies are mandatory and you can optionally rent a golf cart, golf shoes and clubs.

There are also five restaurant choices. Call us to book your next Beaches vacation. 516-608-0568.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Let Me Tell You About......Peru

Machu Picchu, often called the "Lost City of the Incas" is located on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.  It was built about 1450 and abandoned a century later and not discovered until 1911 by an American historian,Hiram Bingham.

While Macho Picchu is well known, the country of Peru and the surrounding area on the way to see Machu Picchu are not often spoken about but are filled with amazing sites that should be seen along with visiting the amazing site of Machu Picchu.  How much do you know about Peru and this area?

In almost every case, you will fly into Lima, Peru from the United States and you should take a day or two to discover Lima. The Miraflores neighborhood is a tourist friendly part of the city and much like any urban city - beaches, hotels and nice restaurants. Miraflores has a boardwalk that runs round Pacific cliffs and a stone staircase that goes down to the beach. There is a shopping mall and the Parque del Amor was inspired by the creations of one of my favorite Barcelona architects, Anton Gaudi.

One thing to mention is that you must be in fairly good physical condition to visit this area of the world.  The towns are at extremely high altitudes and many people get altitude sickness. You should make sure you exercise and are in good physical shape before attempting to visit this part of the world.  Machu Picchu is almost 8,000 feet above sea level and Cusco is even higher, at over 11,000 feet.  This is not a trip to rush - you will need to spend several days in towns getting used to the altitude before you'll feel well enough to trek to Macchu Picchu. A tour is your best bet to get the most of out traveling here.

After Lima, your next stop will probably be Cusco, where you'll fly to. Plan to spend at least two days here so your body has time to get adjusted to the altitude. You may feel out of breath - all hotels have oxygen tanks but the best way to handle it is to give your body time to adjust. There is a local remedy called Coco Tea that if offered at many hotels - there are mixed reviews on whether this helps.

Another thing to remember is that due to it's altitude, Cusco is cold. It hardly ever gets warmer than the 60's. A good location for a hotel is the Plaza de Armas which has the main attraction of Cusco, The Cusco Cathedral. Saqsayhuaman is an Incan site just outside of town that you can visit with 200 ton rocks similar to Stonehenge.

The next stop on your trip will likely be Aguas Calientes, the tourist town right outside of Macchu Picchu. It is "only" 6700 feet feet above sea level and a bit warmer than Cusco. This is where you will go to Macchu Picchu from. You must buy entrance tickets to Macchu Picchu at least a month before you are traveling, so make sure that you keep this in mind - and another reason why a tour booked before you leave is a good idea as all this will be waiting for you.

Macchu Picchu was supposed to be a royal residence but was abandoned by the Incas when the Spanish invaded Peru and the Spanish never found it. Buildings have been reconstructed so tourists have a better idea of how it actually looked when it was built. There are gates, chambers, towers, plazas, tombs and temples to see and photograph. A good guide is a must here and can make the visit extremely interesting.

Before you return home, take a tour of the Sacred Valley which was the heart of the Incan empire. Salt was mined in terraced holding ponds. Weavers work at a collective here and you can learn how chica is made.

What do you need to travel here? U.S. citizens need a valid passport for entry and to depart that expires more than six months after their departure date. The government of Peru prohibits removing any type of archaeological artifacts, colonial art and some natural artifacts such as fossils. You should exercise caution when purchasing art to ensure you are not being sold something that you are prohibited from bringing home.

June to August is the dry season, December to March are the wettest months as well as being the hottest and most humid time of year. The currency is the nuevo sol, which has traded at S3.00 to S5.50 per US dollar (US$). U.S.$ are widely accepted but make sure to ask for change (which will be given in local currency) in small bills.

Call us to book your tour to Peru! 516-608-0568