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Honeymoon + family travel down + hurricanes = killer deals!


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It may be 90 degrees in Seattle, but summer is over for kids in school and most 2013 brides are posting their pictures on Facebook not planning a honeymoon. Add the threat of hurricanes and thunderstorms in some of the most popular vacation destinations and you have a very predictable slump in travel. But planes are still flying so airlines scramble to fill seats and fall is often the best time to buy an airline ticket and plan a vacation or destination wedding in the Caribbean, Mexico, Tahiti or Fiji.

Take as an example airfares to Jamaica and Punta Cana, both are about as low as they ever go and one airfare search site gives it a 70% probability that fares will rise in the next week. With all due respect, the experts at Totem Travel expect fares to stay low for about the next 60 days and can almost guarantee that if you book after Labor Day and travel by mid December avoiding the holidays you’ll get the lowest price of the year for an adult only all inclusive resort vacation, family getaway, Fiji island package or overwater bungalow on Bora Bora.

So think about your wishlist, check out some of our favorite deals then call or email us. We’ll make sure you get the best deal possible and come home smiling from the best vacation ever!

 

Island Hopping between Anguilla and Antigua in the Caribbean


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Many of our honeymoon clients want to island hop between islands in the Caribbean which isn’t always as logistically and financially easy as it seems. One nice and easy combination is Anguilla and Antigua. Anguilla has unbelievable white sand beaches and has some very luxurious and romantic resorts like Cap Juluca. Cap Juluca is where I sent one couple looking to start their honeymoon off with that “picture postcard” idyllic beach destination. You can either fly into St. Maarten and ferry over to Anguilla or fly straight into AXA.

Then after staying a few nights on the gorgeous island of Anguilla, you can just grab a hopper flight on LIAT to Antigua from Anguilla and then return to the U.S. from Antigua. This particular couple wanted to spend the last nine nights of their honeymoon in a more social all inclusive couples only atmosphere so they picked Sandals Grande Antigua. On Antigua you have lots of “off resort” activities and sites to see like the historical Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour which you can see if you take our favorite tour on Antigua that takes you completely around the island by boat with stops for swimming with rays, snorkeling and more. It is a perfect way to cap off a special anniversary or tropical honeymoon vacation.

Here is a quick look at my client’s feedback on both Cap Juluca and Sandals Grande Antigua:

Thank you, our wedding day was absolutely perfect! And our honeymoon was truly amazing…thank you so very much for all of your help!!

We loved both resorts, but Cap Juluca was definitely our favorite. The beach there was just unreal. I have never seen such crystal clear and calm water and white sand for such a far stretch of beach. It was breathtaking. We were updated to a second-story luxury room (I’m sure thanks to you!) and it was truly amazing. I went to sleep to the sound of the ocean and woke up to bright blue water outside my window/private patio. We ended up renting a car while we were in Anguilla and enjoyed exploring the tiny, beautiful island it is. We are in love – Cap Juluca is now our “special place” – the island is almost like a secret…it’s so gorgeous and not crowded. The only downside was that we couldn’t really eat for under $100, so we felt like we couldn’t order as many drinks as we wanted, since it was expensive.

Sandals Grande Antigua was fun because while we got to rest and relax on quiet Anguilla, we got to have a little more fun on Antigua. We met more couples and had fun eating and drinking way too much since it was all included! While the beach was beautiful as well, it didn’t compare to Cap Juluca.

Thanks again for your advice, work, and help, Patty. Our honeymoon was perfect! Lisa & Ben

Another solid island combination for couples seeking both a romantic and quiet ambiance, combined with an active tropical experience are the islands of St. Lucia and Grenada. Both have “Couples Only” All Inclusive Resorts which include all your water activities and provide a romantic, yet social setting. The beautiful island of St Lucia offers three Sandals Resorts where you have lots of fun active activities like ziplines, ATV, hiking, waterfalls etc. and in December Sandals will be opening a new resort called La Source on the peaceful and tranquil island of Grenada. So if the idea of a quiet peaceful setting for a few days paired with a more active experience is the combination you are looking for, give us a call and we can work through a few island combinations that fit nicely together and meet your expectations.

We have three Caribbean Specialists in the office and all three of us are also Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club Agents. We visit the islands and the resorts every year to keep updated and do not charge any extra fees for our services. You can view some of our packages on our website www.totemtravel.com , but please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-321-7907. We are happy to help!

 

New all inclusive Couples Resort open on Dover Beach In Barbados


Couples Resorts which is a family owned chain that operates four “couples only” all inclusive resorts on the island of Jamaica has opened a Couples Resort on the island of Barbados. Couples is the first “adult only” all inclusive resort on the gorgeous island of Barbados. Couples Resorts International took over the Almond Casuarina Beach Resort located on 10 acres on the white sand Dover Beach late last year. The Almond Resort had been operating as a family all inclusive resort on the island of Barbados and now as of May 31, 2013, it officially COUPLES BARBADOS!

Couples Barbados spent quite a bit of money to transition the resort from kid friendly to “romance” friendly. Changes were made to the pools, rooms, dining areas and spa which combined with the stunning white beach and turquoise water should be a big hit with couples looking to getaway to another romantic destination. Like the Couples Resorts in Jamaica, water activities such as diving and snorkeling will be included and some fun tours like guided hike to see the green monkeys, swimming with sea turtles, a visit to Oisten’s Fish Fry etc. will be offered as well.

Couples Resorts is currently offering a fantastic promotion for those who are travelling between June 15, 2013 and January 1, 2014. If you stay 7 nights, you get an instant $1000 Air Credit which is a straight discount off your room. On this current promo, an oceanfront room during summer 2013 is only $2311 for 7 nights! Or if you can only stay 5 or 6 nights, you still get a $500 Air Credit.

Barbados has always been a hidden gem in the Caribbean and popular with beach and water lovers alike. Air service on American Airlines is fairly affordable from most U.S. cities. With Sandals “Couples Only” All Inclusive Resorts opening a new Sandals in Grenada and Couples Resorts in Barbados, I’m excited to have two new fun and romantic destinations to recommend.

We have three Caribbean, Couples and Sandals Specialists in the office and we are happy to help you choose the best destination for your special trip to a tropical destination. Give us a call at 1-800-321-7907 or you can request a quote form on our website at www.totemtravel.com and we will get in contact with you via email. Happy Travels

 

 

Top 10 Spots for a Honeymoon include Europe, Hawaii & Caribbean


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According to US News Travel Section, the top ten spots for a honeymoon in 2013 are Europe with 5 cities in the top 10 list, the Caribbean with 3 islands on the list and Hawaii with 2 islands in the top 10 honeymoon list.

#1 this year is Santorini, Greece followed closely by Maui, Hawaii. Greece and the Hawaiian islands have always been popular destinations for honeymooners and have consistently been in the top ten honeymoon lists. Crete bursts in on the scene and grabbed the third spot followed by another Hawaiian Island, Kauai. Rounding out the top ten honeymoon spots in 5th and 6th place are two other exciting cities in Italy, Florence and Venice. Both European cities are very romantic and remain popular each year. Florence and Venice are followed by some stunning islands in the Caribbean, Turks & Caicos, Martinique and St. Martin-St. Maarten.

A top ten honeymoon list could not be complete without the always romantic and popular, Paris France. What a way to complete the top ten! If none of these destinations appeal, we have lots of other suggestions including an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, adult only resort in Fiji, all inclusive resort in St. Lucia or a treehouse in  Belize  to name a few. We have specialists and packages available for all these destinations and work with honeymooners every day.

Our destination specialists  can help you find the best spot for your honeymoon at all budget levels, so just give us a call at 1-800-321-7907 or you can fill out a request a quote. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Island hopping in the Caribbean


When guests have a longer time for a Caribbean vacation it’s tempting to combine two or more islands to sample more of this year round tropical destination.  But often, even when islands are physically close in proximity, there is limited air service and island hopping requires time consuming and budget busting travel.  So here are some favorite multi island combinations with decently priced nonstop interisland flights and connections that work well from a number of U.S. gateways without a lot of backtracking.

If island hopping in the Caribbean appeals to the adventurer in you, we generally recommend 4+ nights at each destination so you have enough time to enjoy the different experiences and don’t feel your vacation was spent at airports.

From the U.S. there are many airlines serving the Caribbean but depending on your itinerary, island hopping may involve travel on smaller regional airlines with international arrivals into one airport and departures from another. But it can be done and it can be fun, so contact one of our Caribbean travel specialists  Linda, Sandi or Patty for help planning your multi island vacation or tropical honeymoon.

New village & holiday space at Beaches Turks & Caicos


Hot off the press! Sandals and Beaches all inclusive resort chain just acquired the Verandah Resort which will operate as the 4th and newest village at Beaches Turks and Caicos. We have long considered Beaches Turks and Caicos  the world’s best family friendly all inclusive resort so this is very exciting news for all!

Even better, there is space available for arrivals starting December 15 including Christmas and spring break so you can be one of the first to experience Key West at Beaches Turks and Caicos located on 12 mile Grace Bay Beach, recently named the best beach in the world.

The new addition includes 1-4 bedroom suites and villas some with private plunge pool, washer and dryer and kitchen. All with enjoy every feature and amenity offered by Beaches Resorts with 20+ restaurants, water parks, water sports, fabulous pools and more. All included.

I will be visiting Key West Luxury Village in 2 days and will be back with photos and a more complete report. Untill then you can browse and book online

 

Best day tours, sightseeing and activities on Antigua


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Antigua is known for year round tropical weather, 365 beautiful beaches, turquoise water and some of the best adult only and family friendly resorts in the Caribbean. But even the most devoted beach bum likes to get out and explore on occasion so I’ve sampled some of Antigua’s best day tours and activities as well as resorts and beaches.

My top 5 things to see and do on Antigua would be

  1. Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour
  2. Shirley Heights
  3. Snorkeling at Cades Reef, Pillars of Hercules, Paradise Reef or Half Moon Bay
  4. Stingray City
  5. St Johns Saturday Market

Although a map and Google directions will make it look easy to get about with a rental car, my advice is to book excursions through a tour company. Despite having only a few main roads on the island, many streets are unmarked, fewer are on the map, road signs at intersections are unreadable and the town of St John is a maze of one way streets.  Even stopping for directions is fruitless as locals walk so stay close to home.  Did I mention you’d be driving on the left side of the road in a car with steering wheel on the right?  Enough said!

The top sightseeing attractions on Antigua are scattered about the island and may be minutes or an hour from your resort but if you’re staying near Dickenson Bay, one of the best beaches on Antigua, my vote for best day tour would be the Xtreme Circumnavigation. This tour combines 4 of the 5 top experiences in a single action packed day and adds the thrill of high speed boating as you race literally around the island.

The tour departs at 9:40a from the white sand beach in front of adult only Sandals Grande Antigua.  Plan to wear your bathing suit and carry towels, flip flops and camera above your head as you wade toward the 45 foot racing boat and climb aboard. The boat comfortably accommodates 20 adventurers plus a talented and personable 3 man crew but is not appropriate for the physically challenged or those prone to motion sickness. There is also limited shade onboard so sun screen is important.

After a brief safety lecture we headed north toward the Atlantic side of Antigua and a cluster of low lying islands and cays. After a ½ hour speeding across open ocean we stopped at Stingray City, a smaller and less commercialized version of the famous Cayman Island attraction. All but a few onboard donned snorkel masks to swim with dozens of huge stingrays above a shallow sand bar while others watched from a floating platform and the most adventurous held a ray and captured the experience with an optional photo for $15.

A bit more high speed, bouncy cruising took us past Devils’ Bridge to our 2nd stop on Green Island with an opportunity to swim and enjoy a lovely picnic lunch and refreshments on a deserted island beach.

Next we cruised past Shirley Heights into the bustling seaport of English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard with an interesting and informative narrative on its rich maritime history.  As we exited the harbor we anchored for a lovely long snorkel near the Pillars of Hercules where the visibility was excellent and we enjoyed hundreds of brightly colored fish and healthy corals.  One of our guides Trevor was an accomplished skindiver and easily touched a large anchor left 35 feet below from a long ago shipwreck and later swam through a rock formation on the ocean bottom.

Rounding the southern tip of Antigua we headed back into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean  and our last stop at Rendezvous Bay.  This is a picture perfect beach accessible only by boat or foot so we were able to float and swim in gently rolling waves, walk on the deserted beach and celebrate our wonderful day with a glass of traditional rum punch before heading back to Sandals and Dickenson’s Bay around 4p.

Overall Xtreme Circumnavigation is an outstanding value and the best bang for the buck on Antigua with 4 of the 5 top island attractions and lunch on a single day tour. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much I did!

Check back for my review of the Millionaire’s Suite at Sandals La Toc  and guideline for tipping a butler at a Sandals Resort.

Review Of Couples Tower Isle in Jamaica



Click here for a slideshow of Couples Tower Isle in Jamaica

Couples Tower Isle is a popular choice for couples looking for an All Inclusive getaway at an affordable price. The resort is a Traveller’s Choice Award Winner for 2012 and is one of four Couples Resorts  in Jamaica.

If you are looking for a no frills “couples only” all inclusive with good food quality, more than two dining choices and are willing to give up the luxuries like a Jacuzzi tub in your room, butler service etc., then this resort might be for you. The main difference I noticed between the rooms at Couples Tower Isle and a resort like a Sandals Resort, is you have fewer room categories at Couples and each room is decorated in a more basic chic/modern way in terms of furnishings. The walls have less artwork and there is a minimal amount of furniture etc., so the rooms are just more simple versus the traditional dark wood furniture you find at Sandals Resorts. You won’t find any four posted king size beds at Couples, but this becomes a “taste” issue and it is nice to have this more modern style as an option because some people might find it more appealing.

The other nice thing about Couples Tower Isle is the resort’s location in the Ocho Rios area. Most couples who choose Jamaica for their honeymoon or vacation travel do so because they want both beach time and a destination with lots of activities to do off the resort. Couples Tower Isle’s beach is smaller, but still very nice and you are only 10-20 minutes from a good portion of the most popular activities in Jamaica. Couples Tower Isle even includes many of these fun things to do such as, Dunns River Falls Tour, glass bottom boat tour, shopping excursion to Ocho Rios etc. Activities are scheduled each day of the week. If you want a resort with a long and gorgeous beach, you are far better off picking Couples Swept Away or Couples Negril which are both in the Negril area where it is all about the beach.

As far as dining options at Couples Tower Isle, you have several nice choices and the food is excellent. While there are no a la carte dining choices for breakfast, you have several nice options for dining in the evening. Eight Rivers, Bayside, The Patio and The Verandah are all good. Eight Rivers is the most formal and requires reservations as well as Bayside.

Another unique feature that Couples Tower Isle has is their private island which is for Au Naturel sunbathing. No gawkers allowed, as everyone who steps foot on the island must be au naturel. So if you are looking for this type of experience, Tower Isle is a great choice and one of a kind.

We always get calls asking which is the best Couples Resort? Which is the best Sandals Resort? Or which is better Secrets, Couples or Sandals and the answer is always, “that depends on what you are looking for” as they each have their unique qualities and there is always one resort that suits each couple best. We can help you find the best resort fits you as a couple and your special trip. Just give us a call at 1-800-321-7907. We know the resorts well and are happy to helpJ

Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Golf Club, a new name and a new look for the affordable all-inclusive family resort



Click here for a slideshow of Beaches Boscobel

A few years ago I enjoyed a 3 night stay at Beaches Boscobel, on the northeast coast of Jamaica. During the drive to the resort, I kept wondering where is the town of Boscobel?! Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one!! The decision was made to rename Beaches Boscobel. The new name best describes the location of the resort: Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Golf Club. Same resort, new name!!

Back in 2005, when I stayed at the resort, it was ok, it didn’t knock my socks off! In December of 2011, I had the pleasure of visiting Beaches Ocho Rios again! What a difference a few years (and many $$$) make!!

Rooms have been completely refurbished and updated! Many of the rooms accommodate 5 people, which is a huge plus for those families with 3 children! All rooms are outfitted with top of the line plasma televisions and in-room refrigerator stocked (and re-stocked daily) with juices, water and soda. Concierge level rooms include wine, beer and liquor as well.

Kids (and adults) love the X Box Game Garage with all the video games……..and no quarters needed! It’s included!

One of the best additions to Beaches Ocho Rios is the Pirates Island Water Park! There are actually 11 water slides available for all ages, six of them for small children. For the older kids (and adults) there is a tube slide, a body slide and a speed slide! The littlest guests will love the kid’s zone and zero entry kiddie pools with a misting crab a squirting sea turtle and a splashing seahorse!

Another great addition is Liquid at Beaches, a cool place for tweens and teens to visit when the sun goes down! And the best part—no parents allowed between 10pm and 11pm!

Kids’ Kamp, for kids from 0-17 years old, is manned from 9am-9pm daily to ensure that every child who visits Beaches has a fun-filled and memorable vacation. And, since the kids are happy, mom and dad are happy too!! Children are divided into age specific groups so that they can participate in age appropriate activities. I almost forgot to mention Elmo and friends in the Sesame Street Caribbean Adventure…..lots of fun and games.

Of course, watersports are a big part of Beaches Ocho Rios. It’s all included! Kayaks, sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing, banana boats, paddle boats, aqua-trikes and a glass bottom boat are available to everyone. If you don’t know how to sail or kayak or windsurf, don’t worry. The Watersports Staff is more than happy to help you master any of the equipment.

Scuba diving is also included for those that are certified. All of your equipment is included. If you are not certified but want to learn, PADI Discover SCUBA course if offered at a minimal fee.

Land sports are also available: Basketball, shuffle board, pool, table tennis, and tennis are all included. And Golf! Sandals Golf and Country Club is a challenging 18 hole, par 71 course. A free one hour golf clinic is available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Transportation to and from the golf course, and green fees are included.

Activities are presented by the Playmakers at Beaches. They will keep everyone busy and provide entertainment in the evening. The Playmakers love to involve everyone in the fun, so be prepared to have a great time!!

There are plenty of off-resort activities, too. These do have an additional fee but if you are dying to swim with dolphins, or ride horseback through the surf, or maybe zip line, Island Routes at Beaches Ocho Rios can fix you right up!!

If Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club or one of the other Beaches Resorts sound like the ideal family vacation, BFF get-a-way, family reunion, please contact one of our Certified Beaches Agents or book online.

Iberostar Grand Bavaro Punta Cana all inclusive paradise for adults


 

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I’ve been a huge fan of Iberostar Resorts for years and it’s one of my favorite all inclusive resort groups for families.  But the adult only brand definitely deserves its place in the sun (pun intended) so it’s time to review the gorgeous Iberostar Grand Bavaro Resort in Punta Cana!

Start with a spectacular entrance lobby and multi acre lagoon complete with fountains, waterfalls and pink flamingos.  Add miles of white sand beach and warm turquoise water.  Throw in a beautiful and expansive pool area with shaded beach beds, sunken chaise lounges and swim up bar.  Blend in luxurious guest rooms with butler service, comfy king or double beds, jetted soaking tubs, walk in rain showers, generous furnished balconies and stocked minibars.  Then top with great food, friendly service and tons of activities and you’ve got the recipe for an indulgent but active all inclusive vacation for adults.

There are 6 restaurants and 5 bars at the adult only Iberostar Grand Bavaro and guests also have the option of dining at family friendly restaurants at all adjoining Iberostar Resorts including Iberostar Bavaro and Iberostar Punta Cana.  At the adult only Grand Bavaro, restaurant choices range from French to  Asian, Italian, Surf and turf, Dominican and seafood with furnishings and decor to match.  The quality and presentation is excellent by all inclusive standards but you should plan to dine early, late or at the buffet your first night as reservations are required at all ala carte restaurants and cannot be made prior to arrival.   24 hour room service is also available and included.

The Iberostar Resorts are known for a wide selection of organized and independent activities so during the day you’ll find guests playing beach or water volleyball, shooting hoops in the pool, trying their hand at boce ball or ping pong, practicing yoga with an instructor, sailing, kayaking or taking a salsa class. Indoors you’ll find a huge state of the art air conditioned exercise facility, a billiards room, shops and theater where evening shows are staged nightly.

As they say a picture is worth a thousand words so enjoy the slide show (the beach is unbelievable!) and start planning your next all inclusive vacation.  The Dominican Republic offers tropical temperatures year round and many U.S. gateways offer affordable non stop flights.  So please call or email if I can help you experience this wonderful resort and the adult vacation or all inclusive honeymoon of your dreams!

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