New Desire Resort (Clothing Optional) in Riviera Maya

For those of you that are interested in this type of resort…

Original Resorts is expanding with the opening of a new clothing optional resort in Riviera Maya, the beachfront Desire Pearl Resort & Spa.

This new resort will open on March 30th, 2012.  Following after the first clothing optional hotel of the group, the Desire Resort & Spa Riviera Maya, this five-star hotel complex, located on a beautiful beach of Puerto Morelos, will be named Desire Pearl Resort & Spa Riviera Maya and become an exclusive couples only hotel, marking the brand’s fifth concept resort in Mexico.

The hotel, formerly known as Ceiba del Mar, will be operated by the Original Resorts Group to offer a second clothing optional lodging option in the Riviera Maya.

Ceiba del Mar

  • location: Puerto Morelos
  • couples only
  • all-inclusive
  • beachfront
  • 32 Ocean Front Rooms, 13 Junior Suites, 36 Master Suites, and 7 Penthouse Passion Suites
  • balcony or terrace
  • 80 person private Jacuzzi
  • beach beds and beach/pool concierge
  • two restaurants

Source: Original Resorts

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The Next Hot Caribbean Travel Destination: Cartagena

Royal Decameron Barú

Remember, you heard it here first.  Well, maybe, unless you caught this recent article by CNN Travel.  Even before reading the CNN article, I had the opportunity to attend an Apple Vacations training seminar here in Columbus, and I learned about their newest Caribbean beach destination: Cartagena, Columbia.

Columbia is located on the northwestern tip of South America, sharing borders with Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Equador.  Columbia boasts a pleasant, tropical climate with an average temperature of 81 degrees.   The city of Cartagena lies on the Caribbean coastline, less than a three-hour flight from Miami.  The government has made dramatic changes to its socio-economic landscape and as a result, tourism has thrived in the past decade.

Apple Vacations is currently offering only a few resorts, and the highest rated one in the brochure (using Apple Vacations “apple” rating system) is the Royal Decameron Barú Beach Resort.  This 330-room resort is located in the Rosario Islands (specifically Barú) only 90 minutes (including ferry ride) from the Cartagena City International Airport.  An all-inclusive resort,  it features five restaurants, five bars, and three swimming pools.

Some points about Columbia from the CNN article:

  • Between January and August 2010, more than 111,000 international visitors came to Colombia, up 9% from the year before, according to Colombian immigration authorities.
  • Historically, Colombia’s struggles with crime have scared away tourists.  But violence associated with Colombia’s infamous drug trafficking is steadily declining, and Cartagena continues to be one of the safest cities in Colombia.

Sources: CNN and Apple Vacations

Related: The Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the United States also benefits Tourism
Also see: A Cartagena Quarter Emerges (NY Times)

River Cruising in the Heartland of America

Many thanks to the Great American Steamboat Company for hosting a very nice training breakfast for local travel agents this morning here in Columbus, Ohio.   I got a chance to hear again about this great new “homegrown” cruise product.  Cruises begin in April.  With the recent surge in popularity of river cruising in Europe, it will be really nice to have a USA river cruise option, visiting such historic ports as New Orleans, Natchez, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, Louisville, Memphis, and even a sailing featuring the Kentucky Derby .

The Great American Queen is the only authentic overnight paddlewheel steamboat in America and the largest steamboat ever built.

I can see this is going to be a first-class product all the way:

  • Multiple specialty dining options, all at no additional charge
  • Complimentary bottled water and soft drinks
  • Complimentary wine and beer at dinner
  • Complimentary shore excursions
  • Complimentary overnight pre-cruise stay in a select luxury hotel, including breakfast, taxes, and transfers to the ship
  • Complimentary hot and cold canapes at cocktail hour every evening
  • In-room coffee brewers with Starbucks coffee
  • Gracious, friendly service from professionally-trained all-American staff
  • Daily lectures by the Riverlorian, the onboard river historian
  • Professional showboat-style entertainment and dancing nightly (groups scheduled to appear include the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Harry James Orchestra, B.J. Thomas, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Platters, Bill Haley’s Comets, Annie Moses Band, the Rat Pack Show, and more

Great American Steamboat Company

For more information on cruise fares, itineraries, and sailing dates contact Island Time Travel.  View a brochure here.

Related: Steamboating Through America’s Heartland is Back on the American Queen
Related: Love to cruise but hate to fly?
Also see: American Cruise Lines to Build Third New Riverboat
Also see: Riverboats make a comeback, especially on the Mississippi

Beaches Boscobel $14 Million Upgrades, Jamaica All-Inclusive Family Resort

Beaches Boscobel Jamaica

Beaches Boscobel recently invested $14 million in upgrades at this 223-room all-inclusive family resort, including expanded restaurants, brand-new entertainment areas, and updated guest rooms and suites. Additionally, Beaches Boscobel’s main pool area welcomes extensive developments including expanded pool decks, additional pool-side lounge areas, and an upgraded observation deck ideal for wedding ceremonies and private dining. The resort’s main stage has also been updated with the latest technology equipment, making an even bigger splash during the popular Sesame Street shows and interactive stage productions.

Beaches Sesame Street

The resort’s restaurants including Bayside, Arizona’s and Eleanor’s adopted new soft furnishings and expansions, including the addition of new bars and al fresco dining terraces overlooking the resort. Following a day filled with exciting activities, gourmet food and fun-filled memories, guests can now retreat back to their upgraded rooms and suites, which all feature new mahogany furniture, updated soft goods and in-room décor and top-of-the-line plasma TVs. Popular iPod docking stations are also available in all concierge-level rooms and higher.

Beaches Resorts include gourmet specialty dining, premium brand beverages, including wines from Beringer Vineyards, luxurious accommodations, a wide array of land and watersports, including snorkeling and scuba for certified divers, airport transfers, and even gratuities. For more information or a price quote, contact Island Time Travel.

Source/Credit: Go! Destination Marketing Caribbean Connection

Related: Beaches Boscobel Resort & Golf Club
Related: Updates from Sandals Resorts

All inclusive alcohol on cruises?

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This post updated February 27, 2015.

An “all-inclusive” trend for alcoholic beverages is underway in the cruise industry.  Here is a summary of which cruise lines include beverages or offer all-you-can-drink alcohol packages.  This post will be a “work-in-progress”–check back often.

A-Rosa: all inclusive–cruise fare includes complimentary air, transfers, taxes, gratuities, open dining & bar, free wi-fi

Azamara: cruise fare includes house beer and wine, but no additional packages are offered.

Carnival:  offers an unlimited soda program for $4.50 per day for children 17 years of age and younger or $6.00 for adults; they also offer “Cruise the Vineyards” wine packages which allow you to drink your favorite wine at a discounted price or to explore new wines from the wide assortment of wines offered in these packages.  UPDATE: August 2012: Carnival is testing a drinks package on the Victory and the Splendor.  The “My Awesome Bar Program” package lets guests drink wine, beer, spirits, sodas, and non-alcoholic frozen cocktails during the cruise at a flat rate of $42.95 per person per day, plus a 15% gratuity.  All wines by the glass, beer and individual cocktails priced $10 and lower are available in the program. Full bottles of wine and champagne, as well as wines by the glass, beers and individual cocktails priced above $10, are available at a 25 percent discount.

Celebrity: offers a wide variety of optional beverage packages; Soda Package, Classic Non-Alcoholic Package, Premium Non-Alcoholic Package, Classic Package, Premium Package, and Wine Packages, ranging from $7 –$54 per night.  Celebrity’s soda package even includes canned soda if you prefer canned over fountain.

Compagnie du Ponant:  all-inclusive; all meals, open bar, stocked mini-bars in all staterooms and suites, and a welcome-aboard cocktail party.  Gratuities and port charges – even taxes and fees, are now included in the pricing.

Crystal: all-inclusive; cruise fare includes bottled water, soft drinks, fine wines, and premium spirits.

Great American Steamboat Company: cruise fare includes soft drinks, bottled water, beer and wine with dinner.

Oceania: cruise fare includes soft drinks, bottled water, and specialty coffees and teas; will offer “all-you-can-drink” cocktail packages beginning on January 3 (Insignia and Marina), January 6 (Regatta), and January 26 (Nautica); two options: 1) $29.95 per person, per day, includes house wine and beer with dinner and lunch, 2) $49.95 per person, per day, includes beer and premium house wine (from a selection of red and white vintages that change daily), all beverages on the bar menu (except Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac) and room service beverages (but not mini-bar selections).

MSC: MSC offers 5 optional drink packages ranging in price from $13 – $61 per day, depending on the passenger’s age and other factors, e.g., unlimited drinks anytime or drinks only included during meals.

Paul Gauguin: All shipboard meals in your choice of venues, complimentary 24-hour room service, complimentary beverages, including select wines and spirits, drinks, bottled water, and hot beverages served throughout the ship, refrigerator replenished daily with soft drinks, beer, and bottled water, all shipboard entertainment, all onboard gratuities included for room stewards and dining staff, complimentary kayaking, windsurfing, and paddleboarding

Royal Caribbean:  Update December 14, 2012 (source/credit: Gene Sloan, USA Today) RCCL is adding “all-you-can-drink” alcohol plans across its fleet.  They will offer two new drinks packages that give buyers access to nearly unlimited wine, beer, and in some cases alcohol-containing cocktails while on board ships, as well as sodas and non-alcoholic cocktails: 1) The Classic Beverage Package includes beer and house wines by the glass, as well as all non-alcoholic cocktails, fountain soda, and juices. It costs $45 per person, per day, including gratuities. 2)  The Premium Beverage Package includes beer, house wines by the glass, frozen alcoholic drinks, and all alcoholic cocktails including premium brands, as well as all non-alcoholic cocktails, fountain soda and juices. It costs $55 per person, per day, including gratuities.  The packages will be available on all Royal Caribbean sailings of seven nights or longer by early 2013. Passengers must be 21 years old or older to buy one of the packages and must make the purchase on the first day of a sailing.  A caveat: If one passenger in a cabin buys one of the packages, each additional passenger age 21 years and over in the same cabin also must buy the package — a rule presumably enacted to prevent cabin mates from sharing a package.  Thanks again to USA Today for this info.  Read their full article here.

SeaDream Yacht Club:  all-inclusive; open bar with selected premium brands, daily selection of wines to accompany lunch and dinner, mini bar in your stateroom, 24 hour room service from the “Small Bites” menu

Seabourn: all-inclusive; fine wines poured at lunch and dinner, and open bars throughout the ship, a range of dining venues that are all complimentary.  Complimentary welcome champagne and in-suite bar stocked with your preferences of soft drinks, beer, and mineral water, complete glassware, and your favorite wines or spirits.

Scenic Cruises: all-inclusive all the time, not just at meals; all shore excursions and sightseeing with expert local guides, along with gratuities onboard and on land.

Silversea: all-inclusive; fine wines and spirits are served not only with meals, but also throughout the ship.  Even champagne flows freely.  Silversea cruise fares also include a butler, onboard gratuities, in-room bar and refrigerator stocked with your preferred beverage selections, complimentary 24-hour room service and in-suite dining, complimentary shoreside events on select voyages, complimentary guided excursions ashore on Silversea Expeditions aboard the Silver Explorer, and complimentary transportation into town in most ports of call. Silversea is the only cruise line to offer butler service in every suite fleetwide.

Uniworld: all meals onboard include complimentary European wines, draft beer, and soft drinks during dinner; also included are shore excursions hosted by the best local guides in the industry, airport transfers on arrival and departure days.  Beginning with their 2014 Europe sailings, Uniworld will become more all-inclusive and will include unlimited wine, beer, and spirits (not just at lunch and dinner) as well as gratuities.

Related: River Cruising is Booming
Related: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Related: Cruising to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Bahamas, St. Maarten, or Cozumel? Get a Day Pass to an All Inclusive Resort

Secrets Resorts & Spas Celebrates Opening of Adults Only Secrets Huatulco


Angélica Angón, Secrets Huatulco’s General Manager, Eric Freudenthaler, AMResorts’ Regional Director of Operations Mexico Pacific and their staff welcome the resort’s first guests, the Zamora family.

AMResorts (Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, Secrets, Dreams, Now, and Sunscape Resorts & Spas) celebrated the official opening of the adults-only Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa on December 2, 2011.  The introduction of Secrets Huatulco represents the brand’s entry into the growing vacation destination of Huatulco in Mexico’s Pacific region, and is AMResorts’ second resort in the area, following Dreams Huatulco.

Secrets Huatulco’s General Manager Angélica Angón and her staff welcomed the resort’s first guests, Mr. Pedro Zamora and his wife Maria de la Luz Martinez Carballido, who were celebrating their family reunion.  The guests participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony and joined the resort’s employees for a champagne toast.  To commemorate the occasion, the couple received a five-night return stay certificate to the Unlimited-Luxury® resort.

Guests of Secrets Huatulco will enjoy the benefits of Secrets Resorts & Spas’ signature Unlimited-Luxury® vacation concept which offers limitless access to gourmet à la carte dining and premium beverage brands, 24-hour room and concierge services, countless daytime activities, live evening entertainment, fitness facilities and more.

Located just 25 minutes from the Huatulco International Airport, the adults-only resort is situated along the golden sand and sapphire waters of Huatulco’s Conejos Bay.  All 399 oceanfront suites offer a perfect view of the Bay from the furnished balcony or patio.  Select suites offer a terrace jacuzzi or swim-out pool access option.  Guests also have close access to the world-class Tangolunda Golf Course, a par 72, 18-hole championship-caliber course, considered to be Huatulco’s most popular, as well as the recently discovered archaeological site, Copalita Eco-Archeological Park.

The resort features eight reservation-free, gourmet restaurants, and six stylish bars and lounges, as well as access to a range of activities including land and water sports, daily special events such as movies on the beach, dance classes, nightly shows, evening entertainment and more.  Guests staying at Secrets Huatulco receive complimentary access to facilities, restaurants, and bars at nearby Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa.

Secrets Huatulco also provides the perfect romantic setting for couples with many special amenities, a wedding gazebo and wedding, honeymoon and anniversary packages available.

Source: Secrets Resorts

Related: The New Secrets Marquis Los Cabos adults only resort
Related: Resort Review: Secrets Capri Riviera Maya
Related: Cruises Are Wonderful, but All-Inclusive Resorts Provide Stress Free Vacations