Secrets Resorts — There’s an app for that!

Secrets St. James and Secrets Wild Orchid

AMResorts (Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, and Secrets, Dreams, Now, and Sunscape Resorts & Spas) announced today the launch of its new, interactive Unlimited-Connectivity® app. Now available for the company’s most recently opened properties, Secrets Vallarta Bay and Now Amber Puerto Vallarta, the innovative app will be rolled out to all AMResorts brands and resorts by the end of 2012. The free digital application developed by AMResorts and Telmex, a world leader in communications, is accessible for mobile download to iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Blackberry phones.

The app allows guests to stay connected and communicate with family and friends back home using the app-to-app calls feature to call local and international (U.S. and Canada) phones and send messages over the hotel’s Wi-Fi network without incurring any international cell phone roaming charges. Guests also can create user profiles using their email, Facebook or Twitter accounts to contact staff directly, tailor personal deal preferences, book spa appointments, reserve excursions and be just a click away from information about dining, amenities, resort activities, local attractions and much more. Users can register the app with their room number, allowing them to instantly view their folio and request hotel services.

The easy-to use, cost-saving app registers as a room extension so guests can send and receive calls throughout the property as if they were in their room.

AMResorts also is introducing a new AMResorts Collection iPad app, an interactive information resource and travel planning tool. A Secrets Brand Collection will be available for download on iTunes. Apps for the company’s other four brands will be accessible by the end of 2012. The iPad app will allow users to input their travel needs and interests and access specific resort recommendations based on their preferences. It is designed to help couples, families and adults plan and book their future vacations with AMResorts, as well as enable agents and planners to quickly identify the property that best fits their client or group function.

2011 in Review

AMResorts enjoyed an exciting 2011 with the celebration of its 10th anniversary milestone, a new brand introduction, entry into new destinations, five resort openings and the continued growth of its diverse portfolio. The company closed the year with 26 resorts and almost 10,000 rooms in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

In November 2011, AMResorts re-launched the Sunscape Resorts & Spas brand with the opening of Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa – its first resort in this popular Mexico destination. Ixtapa is the seventh Mexico destination to have an AMResorts property, demonstrating its success and confidence in this market.

Also last November, AMResorts celebrated the official opening of the adults-only Secrets Marquis Los Cabos. The opening marked the brand’s entry into the popular vacation destination of Los Cabos, Mexico.

The December 2011 debut of the adults-only, 399-suite Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa became Secrets’ first foray into the growing vacation destination of Huatulco in Mexico’s Pacific region and is AMResorts’ second resort in the area, following Dreams Huatulco.

AMResorts continued growth in the Dominican Republic with the debut of two new Punta Cana properties in May 2011: Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana and Now Larimar Punta Cana. These properties are joining the company’s four additional resorts in the destination: Dreams Punta Cana, Dreams Palm Beach, Dreams La Romana, and Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana. The 2013 debut of the Gems at Cap Cana complex, a $400 million development and the company’s largest project to-date, will continue AMResorts’ expansion in the Caribbean.

Looking Forward

AMResorts has two developments underway in Puerto Vallarta, Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta and Now Amber Puerto Vallarta, set to open in April 2012. The $175 million USD project introduces the first Secrets and Now Resorts & Spas properties to the popular destination and is responsible for creating 902 direct jobs. The 602-room, two-resort complex represents Puerto Vallarta’s first new construction hotels in almost a decade.

Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta will offer adults an extra measure of romance and sensuality in a beautiful beachfront setting. Guests will be welcomed by 271 elegantly-appointed rooms and suites with 24-hour concierge and room services; multiple gourmet, a la carte restaurants and lounges serving premium beverages; endless day and evening activities; and full-service spa and fitness facilities.
With 331 oversized guest rooms and suites with ocean views and private terraces, Now Amber Puerto Vallarta will cater to couples, friends and families. The resort offers amenities such as wireless internet access, flat screen TVs with surround sound systems, daily refreshed mini bars, 24-hour room and concierge services, multiple gourmet dining offerings and full-service spa and fitness facilities. The resort will foster a sense of understated luxury and comfort, and has received the Amber gemstone symbol as a reflection of the inviting rich sands along Banderas Bay.

The opening of the newly built, 495-room Secrets The Vine Cancun is scheduled for August 2012 in Cancun’s popular Zona Hotelera. The newly built Secrets The Vine is located on the golden Yucatan Peninsula coastline. The resort features 495 luxurious guest rooms, all with ocean views, private balconies, Italian porcelain floors, and teak wood furnishings. Its lobby celebrates fine wine in both its design and menu offerings with a designated wine tasting area for guests, the Enoteca (wine cellar). Featuring a Mexican handcrafted wood table with seating for up to 30 guests, a unique wine wall housing as many as 3000 varieties of wine, and sommelier-lead tastings of some of the world’s finest wine collections, the Enoteca promises guests a rich and relaxing wine tasting experience.

By 2013, AMResorts is anticipating a portfolio of 35 resorts, more than 13,500 rooms and entry into new destinations including Costa Rica.

Source/credit: AMResorts

Related: The New Secrets Marquis Los Cabos adults only resort
Related: Secrets St. James Montego Bay Trip Report
Related: Two Secrets Resorts in Jamaica Earn Coveted AAA Four Diamond Award
Related: Secrets Resorts & Spas
Related: Secrets St. James and Wild Orchid Montego Bay
Related: New Secrets Adults Only All Inclusive Resort in Cancun
Related: Secrets Resorts & Spas Celebrates Opening of Adults Only Secrets Huatulco
Also see: Sandals Launches Interactive iPad App

River Cruising is Booming

Viking Odin

Viking Odin (Photo source: TravelMarketReport.com)

The hottest thing in cruising right now seems to be river cruising, both in Europe and the USA.

The river ship building boom continues, with Avalon Waterways announcing it has ordered two more “suite ships” to debut in spring 2013.  The 166-passenger Avalon Expression and 128-passenger Avalon Artistry II will join two other similar Avalon ships already on order for delivery in the coming months in sailing on Europe’s waterways.

The first Avalon suite ship, the 166-passenger Avalon Panorama, debuted last May in Germany.  This May, Avalon will unveil two new suite ships, the Vista and the Visionary.

Full article from USA Today: Avalon Waterways orders two more river ships

Viking

Viking River Cruises has ordered two more ships in the Viking Longships class for delivery in 2012, bringing the total of new vessels to six.  This will mark an unprecedented number of ships launching in a single season, an accomplishment that eclipses Viking’s own record of four ships christened into the fleet in 2001.  Six more ships are scheduled to launch in 2013!

Viking River Cruises launched two of its new longships, the Viking Odin and Viking Idun, in Amsterdam last week.  Two other new longships, Viking Njord and Viking Freya, were receiving final touches at a German shipyard, so their christenings were shown via video.  Named for Viking gods and heroes, the ships have the largest suites (at 445 square feet) on any river ships in Europe, cabins with full and French balconies, indoor/outdoor al fresco dining spots and eco-friendly features.

Viking also has an option for six more of the longships for delivery in 2014.  By the end of 2013, the Neptun Werft shipyard in Rostock, Germany, will have built at least 13 river cruise ships for Viking.

Also see: Insider Intelligence: Agents Weigh in on Viking’s New River Ships

Uniworld

In 2011, Uniworld launched three new ships, their new Super Ship, the S.S. Antoinette; the River Saigon; and the Douro Spirit.  Two more ships are coming in 2013, the River Orchid and the Queen Isabel.

Sources/credit: USA Today, Viking, Uniworld, TravelMarketReport.com, Travel Weekly

Related: American Cruise Lines Building Third New Riverboat
Related: River Cruising in the Heartland of America

The Importance of Travel Insurance

You love to travel, or you would probably not be reading our travel blog.  When you book a vacation, you’re not just buying travel, you’re buying memories.  But even the best-planned trip can incur unforeseen issues.  I would never travel without travel insurance.  Travel insurance should really be thought of more as travel protection, because it includes so much more than just trip cancellation insurance.

Did you know that when you travel out of the country, your medical insurance may not cover you?  Did you know that if you obtain your travel insurance from the provider (i.e., buying the cruise line’s insurance protection plan) you will not have financial default coverage if that provider goes out of business before your trip?

Some common misconceptions about travel insurance:

Misconception 1: 78% don’t buy travel insurance because they think they do not need it.   However, the US State Department reports that 310,000 passports were lost and stolen abroad last year and the Air Transport Industry Baggage Report indicated that 25 million bags are mishandled every year.  Travel insurance and travel assistance can help consumers with these common mishaps.

Misconception 2: Many travelers think travel insurance coverage is mainly for overseas medical emergencies only.   However, nearly half of travel insurance purchasers (48%) bought travel insurance for travel inside the Continental U.S.  More than half of purchasers (55%) buy travel insurance for all or most trips and nearly a third (31%) buy for some trips.

Most good travel insurance policies provide:

  • Coverage for trip cancellation/interruption due to sickness, injury, or death
  • Coverage for trip cancellation/interruption due to per-existing medical conditions, if policy purchased within 15 days (time period depends on provider)
  • Coverage for trip cancellation/interruption due to cessation of services of a common carrier due to an unannounced strike, mechanical breakdown, or bad weather
  • Trip cancellation for involuntary termination of your employment, if been with employer for 1 year  (time period depends on provider)
  • Coverage for trip cancellation due to residence, workplace, or destination made uninhabitable by fire, flood, or natural disaster
  • Protection against default, bankruptcy, or financial insolvency of your travel supplier, cruise line, or tour operator
  • Coverage for baggage delay beginning at 12 hours  (time period depends on provider)
  • Coverage for travel delay due to sickness, injury, common carrier delay, quarantine, hijacking, strike, natural disaster, terrorism, riot, lost/stolen passports or travel documents
  • Optional “cancel for any reason” that pays up to 100% cash back depending on what cancellation penalty level you would be facing from the travel provider
  • Coverage for hurricane warning coverage for trip cancellation
  • Coverage for pandemics and epidemics (e.g. H1N1)
  • Coverage for trip cancellation due to revocation of previously approved time off work
  • Coverage for revocation of previously approved military leave due to war
  • Coverage for missed connections
  • Coverage for non-medical emergency evacuations due to political unrest, natural disasters (e.g, recent incidents in Egypt, New Zealand)
  • Coverage for terrorism, hijackings, quarantines, jury duty
  • No deductibles
  • Coverage for airline cancellation fees
  • 24/7 Worldwide customer service help line for medical, legal, or other emergency assistance
  • Some policies include (or available as an add-on) business-related coverage, which enhances your trip cancellation coverage by adding work-related covered reasons including Required to Work.
  • Many travel insurance providers offer a free “10 day look” which allows you to obtain a refund of your insurance premium if you have not filed a claim or departed on your trip

Contact Island Time Travel or click here to discuss your insurance needs and to get a quote.

Related: REDjet Airlines Grounded Due to Financial Problems
Related: Cruise Lines Imposing Stiffer Cancellation Penalties
Related: Police investigate two separate deaths on cruise ship
Also see: The Value of Travel Insurance–It’s a Must Have

Jamaica Travel Specialist

Jamaica Travel Specialist Certificate
Today I completed the Jamaica Travel Specialist program, A One Love Rewards Program.  I’ve been to Jamaica several times: JamaicaJamaica twice (now called Breezes Runaway Bay), Hedonism III (now called Royal Decameron Fun Caribbean), Couples Sans Souci, Couples Tower Isle, and Couples Negril.

REDjet Airlines Grounded Due to Financial Problems

Yet another example of why you must never travel without travel insurance

Barbados, Monday March 19, 2012 – After just 10  months in the skies, low-cost carrier REDjet is grounded due to financial  problems.  The Barbados-based airline needs an $8 million injection, and  government support so it can take to the skies once again.  Without such help,  the future of the airline is uncertain.  The airline suspended all flights to its nine destinations on Friday night until  further notice.

The grounding of the airline has not gone down well with passengers, some of whom purchased tickets within minutes of the airline’s announcement that  all flights were being suspended.  Passengers flooded the airline’s  Facebook page expressing their frustration over the airline’s lack of  communication with them about what was happening to allow them to better plan  for their travel.  Some passengers are also demanding their money back.

Source/credit: Caribbean360.com News.  Read their full article here.

One of our preferred suppliers here at Island Time Travel is Travel Safe Insurance.

Sandals Royal Bahamian $17 Million Upgrade (Photos)

Sandals has announced the reopening of the newly-renamed Balmoral Tower at the Sandals Royal Bahamian.  After undergoing recent renovations, the Balmoral Tower now features a lighter, contemporary look and even more luxury.  This $17 million upgrade helps maintain Sandals Resorts’ high end Luxury Included® standard, providing guests with the highest-quality amenities and ensuring that they have the best possible experience.

The rooms and suites in the Balmoral Tower now boast travertine-style oversized rectangle tiling instead of carpet, mahogany entertainment units with a 42 inch plasma television, a bar area and refrigerator, neutral draperies with open-weave sheers, and gorgeous large-scale area rugs featuring teal, charcoal and amber accents.  The renovated bathrooms include contemporary stained mahogany his and her vanities with Carrera marble tops, backlit mirrors, and showers that feature white beveled subway tiles with blue, cream and amber glass accent tiles.  The most exciting feature is sure to be the large balconies that were added to 35 of the ocean view rooms.  An additional 11 ground-floor rooms have now become walk-out rooms, providing direct access onto the newly-finished white concrete pool deck.  Beachfront fire pits and an expanded lounge area complete the Balmoral Tower’s new look.

Contact Island Time Travel for a quote!

Source/Credit: Sandals Resorts

American Cruise Lines Building Third New Riverboat

American Cruise Lines Queen of the MississipiAmerican Cruise Lines, the leader in small ship cruising, recently announced that it will be building another brand new riverboat due to the high demand for its U.S. river cruises.  A contract has been signed and construction has already begun.  The new riverboat will be slightly larger but similar in many respects to the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi, which is nearing completion at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, MD.

“We recognize a considerable strength in river cruising and have observed an increased interest in our U.S. river cruises over the last several years,” said Charles A. Robertson, CEO of American Cruise Lines.  “We look forward to introducing yet another new authentic paddlewheel riverboat to meet this demand.”  Robertson attributes the success of the company’s river cruise business to its “newer, low-density vessels, each built to meet the highest industry standards in comfort, safety and technology.”

American Cruise Lines’ third new riverboat will feature a similar capacity to that of the Queen of the Mississippi and will also boast the most spacious staterooms in the industry, entirely private balconies – all with sliding glass doors, a center atrium with a grand staircase, various lounges and numerous amenities including:

  • Fully-functioning authentic paddlewheel
  • 300+ square foot staterooms
  • Private balconies with sliding glass doors
  • Various unique lounges, libraries, and cafés
  • Fine hotel-style bathrooms
  • Room Service
  • Wi-Fi in all staterooms
  • Satellite TV and DVD player in all staterooms
  • Single sitting, open seating dining
  • Complimentary cocktail hour

As of yet, no decision has been made as to where the new riverboat will operate other than on U.S. rivers.  Additional details and information will be announced in the coming months.

American Cruise Lines offers more than 35 unique itineraries on inland waterways and rivers across the United States.  Over the last several years, American Cruise Lines has continued to add new itineraries and ships to accommodate demand.  Its newest river itineraries are offered on two authentic paddlewheelers – the 120-passenger Queen of the West operating on the Columbia and Snake Rivers of the Pacific Northwest, and Queen of the Mississippi, American Cruise Lines’ brand new authentic paddlewheeler.  With a capacity of 150 guests and offering numerous never-before-available amenities, the authentic paddlewheeler is set to debut on the Mississippi River this coming August and is the first new riverboat built for the Mississippi River in nearly 20 years.

Source/Credit: American Cruise Lines, Britt Rabinovici

Contact Island Time Travel for more information.  Send us an email and we’ll send you a quote.

Related: Love to cruise but hate to fly?
Also see: River Cruising in the Heartland of America
Also see: Steamboating Through America’s Heartland is Back on the American Queen