Totem Travel (425) 821-4100   (800) 321-7907

$1000 off at Sandals newest resort in Barbados


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Sandals Resorts International will be opening their newest Sandals “Couples Only” All Inclusive property on the island of Barbados sometime early in 2015.  On the heels of opening the stunning Sandals La Source, the grand opening of Sandals Barbados has everyone anxiously awaiting its debut. Now is the time to get some great deals on their newest resort.  Space is already filling up, but as of late summer, there is still availability in February 2015.

To kick things off, Sandals is offering a $1000 Air Credit on early bookings at Sandals Barbados.  In order to qualify for the $1000 Air Credit, you need to book at least 7 nights and your travel dates must be 2/14/15 or later.  This means you can stay 7 nights for as little as $3732 during high season!  For travel dates 2/17 onward, Sandals is also offering for a limited time, the $305 Island Routes Tour credit.  Sandals is also offering a generous $500 Air Credit for 3-6 night reservations, so if you don’t have a full week to travel, you can still take advantage of a nice discount. These deals can change at any time so call or email us now!

Some highlights to look forward to at Sandals Barbados are more luxury suites including club and butler level rooms that open up to a meandering crystal lagoon pool, as well as beachfront club and butler suites with tranquility soaking tubs.  Sandals Barbados looks to be following in the footsteps of Sandals La Source Grenada as far as the look and feel of the accommodations.  Add to the list more quality dining choices including gluten free and other dietary needs, grand swimming pools with swim up bars, and all your water sports activities included, put Sandals Barbados on your list of possibilities.

Other great deals and specials out for late summer/fall are more air credits for all the properties, including up to a $755 Air Credit for both their resorts in the Bahamas (Emerald Bay and Royal Bahamian), as well as Sandals La Source in Grenada.  The $305 Island Routes Credit is a fantastic promo for couples looking to explore the island and resort surroundings.   In addition to seeing and vacationing at all the various Sandals Resorts, we have taken many of the tours and can recommend activities to spend your Island Routes credit on.

Call (1-800-321-7907) or email us linda@totemtravel.com and we can tell you when to travel to take advantage of the best promos.  Happy Travels!  Linda, Patty & Sandi

Cruise Free on Royal Caribbean this fall!!


Oasis resize Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has terrific promo for the fall of 2014. The savings is unbelievable! Book 4 people in a cabin, and the 3rd and 4th go free! Free is good…very good!! If there’s just the 2 of you, no worries. RCCL has a great special for you, too. The second person in the cabin goes for ½ price….Sailing dates available through this promo run from October 15, 2015-through May, 31, 2016. As an example:

  • 3rd & 4th Free Promo: Freedom of the Seas, November 9th , Balcony cabin for 4 people: $3470 including all port charges and taxes! That’s for 4 people, not per person! Without the promo, this fare would be $4465! That’s a thousand bucks, folks!!
  • 2nd Guest ½ price: Freedom of the Seas, November 9th , Balcony cabin for 2 people: $2485 including all port charges and taxes. That’s for 2 people, not per person! Without the promo: Balcony cabin for 2 people: $3285

This particular sailing is a Western Caribbean itinerary, with ports of call in Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Similar savings are available on all Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ships, except Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. There are several different itineraries, including Europe and Hawaii! The savings is available in most cruise cabin categories, too! This is the perfect time to get those BFFs together, or even a bachelor or bachelorette party! A family reunion or even a class reunion! How about a wedding at sea? Royal Caribbean has many beautiful wedding options, and how romantic…getting married at sea! And bring the whole wedding party with you on the honeymoon! A cruise to New England and Canada for the fall colors? So many choices… If you have been waiting until rates went down….now’s the time….bookings must be made by September 15th. Don’t miss out! Please contact sandi@totemtravel.com to get the ball rolling…or should I say get the ship sailing? 425-821-4100

Is Excellence Riviera Cancun “Adult Only” All Inclusive A Good Choice For A Honeymoon?


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With all the great choices for an all inclusive honeymoon or special anniversary trip in Mexico and the Caribbean, I always get asked which one is the best. If Excellence Riviera Maya has caught your eye and you are wondering if it is a good choice for you, I might be able to help you decide.

If you are looking for a medium to large size “adult only” all inclusive property, Excellence Riviera Cancun has approximately 348 suites (they will be adding more two story terrace suites and junior suites in the near future) and the property has a nice variety of room options from their standard junior suites, to swim up suites and the very popular two story terrace suites. All the rooms are nice and feature a whirlpool bath which seems to be on most couple’s wishlist.

If you are looking for a centrally located resort in Riviera Maya, Excellence Riviera Maya is smack in between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, so you are simply approximately 25 minutes from each of these areas. Set on a nice long beach, you can cab to Cancun or Playa Del Carmen quite easily, yet you get the atmosphere like you are far away from the buzz of the city or town.

If you like nice pools, Excellence Riviera Maya has 6 meandering pools that run throughout the property. Another key feature that appeals to many couples travelling to Mexico, authenticity! Excellence has a modern look that is blended with real Mayan charm. From the Palapa style restaurant that anchors the main pool to a charming Mexican courtyard, you definitely know you are in Mexico.

If you want plenty of dining options, Excellence has 8 international dining choices on site, including an Indian restaurant which is growing in popularity. If you are into spas, Excellence has one of the nicest spas in Riviera Maya. On my recent visit, I was again blown away by the 25 foot entry way arches/doorways that lead you into the sanctuary of the spa.

Finally, if you are looking at staying under or at $3k (LAND ONLY, including transfers) for 7 nights and two adults, then you can do this at Excellence Riviera Maya. Depending on which city you are flying from, you can usually do the entire trip for around $4k. And Excellence is an all inclusive property, so all your meals and drinks (including alcohol) are included.

So if you answered yes to a medium size resort on a nice beach, central location with several dining and room options, authentic style property under $3k, then I think you would REALLY enjoy Excellence Riviera Cancun. If you like the looks of Excellence Riviera Maya, but want to travel to the Caribbean, they do have a property in the Dominican Republic called Excellence Punta Cana. We travel to a wide variety of “adult only” all inclusive properties throughout Mexico and the Caribbean regularly, so let us serve as your travel counsel when planning your special trip. We do not charge any fees to use our service and we will do our best to find the best fit for your dream vacation. You can reach us at 1-800-321-7907 or on our website at www.totemtravel.com

Review of Sandals La Source Grenada and tips on island sightseeing


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One of the best perks of being a top Sandals agent is being invited to the grand openings when a new resort opens and I just returned from Sandals newest resort in Grenada, Sandals La Source. Here’s a quick review of the resort and some recommendations of what to see and do on the island of Grenada –

• Food and drink – All I can say is wow! I enjoyed some of the best meals I’ve had at any all-inclusive resort. Don’t miss the incredible crab crusted salmon at Le Jardinière; scrumptious shrimp, spinach and puff pastry appetizer or fiery jerk pork with fresh pineapple at Spices; delectable sushi at Soy; crepes with fresh fruit and specialty coffees at Café de Paris; Mediterranean inspired salad and local seafood at Neptunes; or a great steak at Butch’s Chophouse. Every dish I tried at Sandals La Source was excellent and a distinct step up from Sandals’ prior best. The same could be said of drinks and I had a mean martini, nutmeg infused rum punch, well-made black russian and several varieties of wine. All good and of course all included!

• Rooms – There isn’t a bad room in the house although I have clear favorites at every price point. Entry level rooms at Sandals La Source are lovely with comfy king beds, high end bath fixtures and huge walk in rain showers and you can choose a beachfront room quiet enough to be lulled to sleep by waves lapping at the shore or step up the energy and stay near the South Seas pool. Butler suites with private pools are stunning and come in an array of locations from ground level rondovals tucked amidst tropical gardens to the tippy top floor of the Italian Village with stunning ocean views. Waterfall and swim out river suites offer even more unique accommodation choices. Check out the kazillion room choices or ask for help choosing one of the best rooms at Sandals La Source in your price range!

• Beach – With the resort at 100% occupancy I found the beach half empty so there is ample space to spread out and find the perfect chaise lounge in the sun or shade. The sand is soft and white and the water clear and inviting with no seaweed or rocks to interfere with a delightful swim in the ocean. Drink service is available on the beach and there are no vendors hassling guests.

• Pools – There are too many to count! The South Seas signature pool is the largest with a huge swim up pool bar and cabanas dotting the perimeter. The Pink Gin section has a beautiful beachfront pool with sitting area and fire pits integrated into the design for day or nighttime enjoyment. Dozens of butler suites have their own private pool and Jacuzzi and swim up suites have direct access to a beautiful river pool which flows along the ground floor of the Italian Village.

• Watersports – Scuba divers and snorkelers will enjoy a vibrantly alive reef system teeming with brightly colored fish and coral. All dive equipment is free of charge and dive sites on Grenada include an underwater sculpture park, marine reserve and various walls and reefs. Seasoned sailors will find enough breeze on a typical day to challenge their skills and those new to the sport may request a ride with a watersports captain at the helm. Kayaks and trikes are in good supply but were unused during my stay.

• Fitness – There is a brand new fitness center with state of the art equipment, a personal trainer and daily classes including core training, abs blast, yoga, circuit training and aquasize.

• Weddings – Although many will choose a beach wedding with toes in the sand, my favorite spot at Sandals La Source Grenada was a secluded garden bridge amidst tropical foliage and flowers. But whatever setting is chosen Sandals Beautiful Beginnings Wedding package is free and getting married in Grenada is easy.

So where is Grenada and what would you see and do on the island? Grenada is known as the spice island and you’ll find cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, mace, vanilla and other spices growing is casual profusion. If you decide to tour the island stop and see John at the Spice Place for a demonstration of how spices are harvested and processed plus a nice selection of product for purchase. Belmont Estates is another great place to stop where you can learn about cocoa processing and taste the yummy product.

The coastline of Grenada is dotted with 55 beaches including one pink, 9 black sand and 45 white sand beaches. Leatherback turtles lay their eggs April through June on the north end of the island and a few months later baby turtles make their dash to the sea. Grenada’s interior is rainforest and there is dense vegetation, monkeys and numerous waterfalls to enjoy. It takes some hiking to reach 7 Sisters and Mt Carmel but other waterfalls are only steps from the road and easily accessible to all. Other sites include a historic fort, two rum factories and Leaper’s Hill where fleeing Carib’s leapt to their death to escape imprisonment by invadors.

Grenada is at the southern end of the Caribbean chain and escapes most tropical storms and hurricanes. In fact it was 50 years between major storms until Ivan and Emily packed their one two punch in 2004-5 so hopefully another 50 years will go by before the next storm to worry about! So put Grenada and Sandals La Source on your must do list and call or email linda@totemtravel.com for favorite room categories, help figuring out the somewhat challenging  air situation and more info to make your vacation or honeymoon perfect.

Still not sure how to choose the best all inclusive resort? Call us! We’ve been to all the resorts and will make it easy and fun to plan the perfect honeymoon, destination wedding or all inclusive vacation. Plus we guaranteed the lowest prices, can help with tours and special requests and will make sure you don’t miss any of the amazing specials and deals. That’s what we’re here for!

Attention foodies – top 25 list includes all inclusive resort favorites!


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Here at Totem Travel we get a lot of questions about food, especially the food served at Caribbean island resorts since that is our #1 destination and honeymoon clients mention a great dining experience as often as they mention a fabulous beach or romantic ambiance when we ask for a wish list. So when I spotted this list of the best hotels for food I couldn’t wait to share.

Foodies that question if fine dining can ever be synonymous with all inclusive will be happy to note that three of our favorite all inclusive resorts made the list – adult only Sandals Whitehouse on Jamaica, the unique and romantic Zoetry Agua Punta Cana, and Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Other long time faves include Cap Maison and Ladera in the lovely island of St Lucia and Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman.

1. Ritz Carlton – Grand Cayman

2. Graycliff – Bahamas

3. Cap Maison – St Lucia

4. Belmond La Samanna – St Martin

5. Sugar Mill – British Virgin Islands

6. CuisinArt – Anguilla

7. Eden Rock – St Barth

8. Cap Est Lagoon – Martinque

9. Grand Velas Riviera Maya – Mexico

10. Four Seasons – Nevis

11. One & Only Ocean Club – Bahamas

12. Young Island – St Vincent

13. Boucan by Hotel Chocolat

14. Frangipani Beach Hotel – Anguilla

15. Regent Palms – Turks and Caicos

16. Zoetry Agua – Punta Cana

17. Half Moon – Jamaica

18. Ladera – St Lucia

19. Montpelier – Nevis

20. La Toubana – Guadeloupe

21. Sandals Whitehouse – Jamaica

22. St Regis Bahia – Puerto Rico

23. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club – Nevis

24. Cobblers Cove – Barbados

25. Avial – Curacao

But even the best food is only one feature of a great getaway so we hope you’ll call, email or request a quote from the tropical island experts at Totem Travel and we’ll make sure every aspect of your honeymoon or vacation is the best it can possibly be!

Will my credit card be accepted in Europe, Australia, Fiji…


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Totem Travel specializes in international travel so we get a lot of questions about foreign currency, cash and credit cards while traveling abroad. Here’s my recommendation for all but a handful of destinations including most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific Islands of Fiji and Tahiti, the Caribbean, Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica

Travel with $2-300 in cash, an ATM card and two major credit cards. Call the customer service number on the back of each card before you leave to advise that you’ll be out of the country. The bank will note your travel dates and destinations and this will forestall a security hold for “unusual activity”. You should also verify your daily limit for ATM transactions and check on any credit/debit card fees for international purchases.

ATM machines are located in all major airports, near major tourist attractions and throughout the cities and towns just as there are here. Plus most hotels, restaurants and stores accept major credit cards. The ATM is normally the least expensive and most convenient way to get cash and the only trick is to convert your daily limit in U.S. dollars to the local currency then take out that amount. That way you get the bank rate of exchange with the lowest possible fee.

The worst place to get cash is a currency exchange counter! They either charge astronomical fees or have a terrible exchange rate and they are masters at advertising only one aspect of the transaction… We also do not recommend travelers check unless you don’t have credit/debit cards. Travelers checks are not widely accepted and they are a hassle to use.

One more suggestion – if you are buying something expensive (e.g. jewelry, original art) use a credit card and make sure your receipt states specifics for the purchase. Fraud is not a common problem but if your emeralds turn out to be green glass most major credit cards have fraud protection and will reverse the charge if challenged and documented.

I hope you find this information helpful and call or email if you need help planning the perfect vacation in Europe or Australia. My passion is helping clients get the most of every travel experience and I love designing customized itineraries to meet your special wish list whether that is wine tasting in Florence Italy or scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef!

Is a cruise or all inclusive resort a better vacation value?


I love cruising and I love all inclusive resorts so I’ve been asked many times which is the better value. Well there is no one answer but let’s take an example and compare an oceanview room at an adult only all inclusive resort with an oceanview cabin on a 7 day Caribbean Cruise.

All major cruise lines include meals and entertainment in the basic cruise fare but except for a few luxury lines there are lots of extras you must add to your vacation budget. Coffee, tea and fruit juice are usually complimentary but you’ll pay for most other beverages whether you order a soft drink, bottled water, beer, wine or cocktail and a 15-20% tip will be added to your drink cost.

Specialty restaurants requiring a reservation charge a fee. Coffee drinks and gourmet ice cream are not included. Exercise equipment is free but classes often carry a charge. Transportation from the airport to the cruise ship and back are extra. Gratuities for your cabin steward, dining staff and other services will be added to your bill at the end of the cruise and shore excursions such as a snorkeling trip will be extra.

By contrast, at an adult only all inclusive resort like Sandals all of your meals, beverages, gratuities, airport transfers, entertainment, land and watersports are free. Snorkeling, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, water trikes, Hobie Cats, windsurfing, waterskiing and SCUBA , is all included and you can enjoy fitness classes and equipment at no charge.

Specialty restaurants such as Italian, Japanese Teppanyaki and French are all included at no extra charge and you’ll find ice cream shops, swim up pool bar, English pub and nightclub all complimentary. Golf is included at many of the Sandals Resorts and even destination weddings are free!

To give a price comparison, I have compared apples to apples: balcony rooms, oceanview, 7 nights, 2 people:

Cruise:

• Oceanview stateroom with balcony: $2725 for 2 people

• Gratuities @ $80 per person = $160

• Alcoholic beverages, 2 drinks per person per day @ $7.50 each = $105

• Diet Coke, or other soft drink, 2 per day per person @2.50 each = $35

• 2 bottles of water per day per person@ $3.00 each = $42 for the week

• Snorkeling excursion for @ $60 per person = $120

• SCUBA, 2 tank dive @ $105 per person = $210

• Kayaking excursion @ $59 per person = $118

• Airport/port transfers $35 per person each way: $140

TOTAL: $3655.00

 

Sandals Resorts:

• Oceanview room with balcony: $2400 for 2 people

• Gratuities: $0.00

• Alcoholic Beverages: $0.00 unlimited

• Soft drinks: $0.00 unlimited

• Bottle Water: $0.00 unlimited

• Snorkeling: $0.00

• SCUBA: $0.00

• Kayaking: $0.00

• Airport/resort transfers: $0.00

TOTAL: $2400.00

So if you’d like to visit several tropical islands in a single week cruising may be your best choice,  but dollar for dollar your money may go further on an adult only or family friendly all inclusive vacation. Whichever vacation experience is right for you I am happy to help so please call or email sandi@totemtravel.com or contact one of the Certified Sandals Specialists at Totem Travel.

Breakfast and drinks included at Embassy Suites in Honolulu Hawaii


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During my last visit to Honolulu, I had the pleasure of staying at Embassy Suites Hotel, on the Waikiki Beach Walk. Embassy Suites Hotel is a moderately sized all-suite hotel in the heart of Waikik on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Although not located on the beach, it is just about ½ block to the beach!

Embassy Suites offers 1 and 2 bedroom suites, with a separate living room (with sofa bed), wet bar, mini-frig, microwave and coffee maker so a great choice for a family vacation. Each room has a telephone and television. The two bedroom suites offer 2 full bathrooms, as well. Traveling with another couple? No problem. The bedrooms can be furnished with either a king or 2 queen beds.

One of the best features of the hotel is the complimentary, cooked-to-order breakfast, served daily. Omelets are not problem for the chef, and there are lots of different options: mushrooms, bacon, sausage, ham, cheese, etc! Prefer waffles, or French Toast? You’ll find it here! Lots of fresh fruits and veggies, too. The kids love all the choices! Me too! With breakfast included, the hotel value increases!

In the evening, from 5pm-7pm, a Manager’s Reception is held. Snacks and beverages are served, again they are complimentary. Here’s your chance to try those fancy umbrella drinks! More value!

Location! Location! Location! Embassy Suites is very conveniently located near lots of restaurants, clubs, and shopping! International Market Place is just about a block away; Coach, Prada, Louis Viton and other high end shops are close too! There are 2 Starbucks less than a 2 minute walk, and great restaurants right on the Beach Walk, such as Yard House, Cheeseburger Beachwalk, Roys, and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

Oahu has so many activities to offer for singles, families, honeymooners, couples! Something for everyone! So if this sounds like the right place to stay for your Hawaiian vacation, please email me, sandi@totemtravel.com, give me a call, 425-821-4100, or book on line.

 

Seattle Wedding Show and Honeymoon Travel Events


Victoria House Wedding

This weekend starts the official honeymoon planning season in Seattle with the Pacific Northwest’s largest wedding show held at the Washington State Convention Center. Totem Travel will be there with up to 65% off Sandals all inclusive honeymoons, free nights and complimentary spa treatments plus up to $250 off Fiji honeymoons. We will have giveaways for all so we hope you’ll stop by and see us Saturday 10:00-5:30p or Sunday 10:30-5:00p.

Following the Seattle Wedding Show we are hosting a series of honeymoon planning events and travel seminars at Totem Travel’s Kirkland office, at Savvy Traveler in Edmonds and via Meet Me Conference Call. These are relaxed low key, information events with no cost to attend and no obligation to buy. Destinations and resorts include

Click for dates, times and details then call or email to RSVP. Our travel agents are fortunate to have seen much of this wonderful world first hand and we enjoy sharing the magic and excitement of travel. So when it’s time for you to find the perfect honeymoon, plan your next adventure or choose the best family vacation we are here to help. Call us!

Best Sandals Agency, top butler agency & 3 top travel agents bring home awards


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This month I represented Totem Travel at Sandals Travel Agency Recognition Awards. This event acknowledges top travel agencies and individual travel agents and Totem Travel has been honored to receive awards every year since becoming a Preferred Sandals Agency. 2013 was no exception with Totem Travel awards for top butler agency, Best of the Best travel agency and 3 Chairman’s Royal Club members, the top individual travel agent award.

The Sandals recognition event lasts from Thursday-Saturday and was held at Beaches Turks and Caicos a fabulous all inclusive resort for families. This year was unique in that agents were also given the chance to visit 2 Sandals Resorts: Sandals Emerald Bay in the Bahamas, and Sandals Grande Antigua. Jets were chartered for the occasion, and we were accompanied by many of the Sandals Management Staff. What other company will charter a jet to whisk you off to a Caribbean Island for lunch? Not many, I would say!

Travel agents had the opportunity to enjoy the host resort, Beaches Turks and Caicos, with nineteen restaurants, fantastic water activities for every age like water slides and fountains for toddlers, a lazy river that is fun for all, and an incredible surf simulator for more adventuresome. Hobie Cat sailboats, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, snorkeling and scuba are very popular at Beaches Turks and Caicos as well.

Friday evening, after traveling to Antigua, we dined at Neptune’s, a Mediterranean restaurant in the new Key West Village. In addition to the wonderful meal, awards were also presented and Totem Travel was recognized as the top butler agency for the 3rd year in a row! WooHoo!!

Saturday morning, another beautiful day in paradise, presented agents with the occasion to hear Sandals CEO, Adam Stewart, and the Chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart and both Mr. Stewarts were excited about the newest Sandals Resorts – Sandals Barbados and Sandals La Source in Grenada.  We also learned that Beaches is adding two new resorts  , one in Barbados and one in Antigua! Beaches Turks and Caicos will also be adding a Conference Center to the property offering an excellent opportunity to combine business and pleasure.

We also discovered some rather interesting insights into Sandals and Beaches philanthropic efforts in the Caribbean. Sandals Foundation, established 4 years ago, has directed more than $12 million into the Caribbean community. This ranges from building schools, paying teachers, supplying hospitals with linens and bringing healthcare to those who cannot afford it. Although many charities use much of their donated funds to support the charities administrative staff, Sandals Foundation does not retain any of the donations for managing the Foundation! 100% of the funds are put to work supporting more than 150 major projects in Sandals & Beaches host communities. Sandals Resorts International covers all operating costs!

Saturday evening brought another lovely dinner with wine to complement each course, fantastic entertainment and more awards for Totem Travel including Best of the Best Travel Agency and three Chairman’s Royal Club members, Sandals top award for individual agents. With over 700 agents in attendance from all over the world,  Totem Travel was proud to be recognized as a top Sandals agency and it was my pleasure to bring home awards for Linda, Patty and myself as top Sandals travel agents.

So check out the best deals for Sandals Resorts, request a quote, call (425) 821-4100 or email if we can help you choose the best Sandals Resort for a romantic, all-inclusive honeymoon or find the right Beaches Resort for a fantastic all inclusive family vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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