An Adventure Built for Two

Start your lifelong journey together with an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience.

You did it! You said “I do.” As those words are spoken lives are changed, families are joined, and you and your spouse start your adventure together through life.

Not long after the I do’s, the champagne, the dancing, and the tears – you’re off! You’re on your first adventure as a married couple. Before you know it, the plane is descending and you can see the beautiful beaches and ocean all around you. It’s perfect.

You get to your hotel and you’re greeted immediately and shown to your room. The service is better than you ever imagined it could be, and the room makes you feel like royalty. Life is good.

But you didn’t come here for the room service and the beach view windows. You came to make memories, so that’s what you do!

Try everything together! You only get one honeymoon.

Before you know it you’re cruising along in the back seat of a boat, the driver gives you the signal and you’re being lifted into the sky! Parasailing above beautiful blue waters. You look down below you and see the resort, the beaches, all the people; but up there, it’s just the two of you – floating along together while the world carries on around you.

You made it safely out of the sky, and now you’re on to the next adventure! You’re on the catamaran, gliding along to the reef. You wonder what kinds of fish you’ll see! Then it’s time to load up – life jackets and snorkeling gear!

You both jump into the water and your spouse leads you to a school of fish. They’re red, blue, and yellow. There must be thousands of them, you think. It’s beautiful, it’s calming, it’s humbling. You are in their home. You stay still and let them swim all around you – how cool is this?

Soon enough you have to head back, another adventure in the books – one you will never forget. But you leave knowing you’ll have many more experiences like this over the years together.

Treat Your Culinary Desires on your Honeymoon!

Mexico is where it’s at for great culinary experience—thinking Peruvian, Italian and Asian food on your honeymoon!

The Riviera Maya is home to the El Dorado Maroma, Playa Maroma. It is where you will be surrounded by white sand beaches, teal blue water and swaying palm trees in the warm Mexican breezes. The property is gorgeous, lush with green foliage and flowers. The El Dorado Maroma is also home to it’s first of a kind in Mexico, Palifitos, over the water bungalows just like Fiji without the long plane ride.

So if you like diversity with what you eat, the El Dorado has plenty to keep your palate entertained. Lima Limon is a Peruvian style restaurant featuring signature cerveches and Peruvian style prepared meat and seafood dishes, and the presentation is just as beautiful as the white sand beaches … 5-Stars.

Mio Cuccina Italiana specializes in classic fresh fish dishes like Carpaccio and Frutti di mare and homemade pasta, daily in an intimate restaurant setting.

As for Asian, the staff at Kiyoko does a fantastic job with a selection of Sashimi, teppanyaki and other specialties. Chef will even customize a meal for you.

If the Caribbean is what calls you, there is plenty of opportunity for fabulous gastronomy as well.

Sandals is always a wonderful luxury go-to in Jamaica, but the Sandals Royal Plantation raises the bar for French inspired cuisine, Escargot, La Coquille du Pecheur, and of course nightly featured chef-prepared entrees. And of course the red wine will be flowing.

If afternoon tea is the experience you desire, scones, pastries and clotted cream served on fine china is available.

For a little more casual dining with high-end flair, try the Wobbly Peacock Gastro Pub. With traditional mahogany furnishings and an inviting atmosphere, The Wobbly Peacock features Confit Salmon and Lamb Rump as two classic Brittish entrees.

So whatever destination you choose in Mexico and the Caribbean, there are endless options for fantastic gastronomy to go with all of the beautiful beaches.

Honeymoon Hopping

The Hawaiian Islands, how do you pick the right one for your honeymoon? Easy, you don’t have to pick just 1 island, you can hop to multiple islands!! Each island offers something different and I am here to help you find the perfect fit. Let’s explore a few of the islands….

O’ahu

In so many ways, O’ahu is ideal for the first-time visitor to Hawaii. Within a fairly compact area there are many iconic activities and attractions associated with the Hawaiian Islands: Pearl Harbor, Waikiki beach, Diamond Head, pineapple fields, surfing beaches, just to name a few. O’ahu provides a unique town and country experience. The energy and excitement of this city is just a short drive from the true country experience or nature excursions and working ranches. O’ahu appeals to clients who are active and energetic in both body and mind. This area is rich in culture, arts, history and cuisine. (Don’t forget to try Spam- it is very popular in Hawaii!!!) You can take surfing lessons, paddle an outrigger canoe and if you travel north you can go horseback riding.

Maui

This island is ideal for travelers seeking variety and spontaneous adventure and offers countless experiences that reflect its diversity of landscape and culture. Get up early and bike down Haleakala Crater, the sunrise is amazing and you won’t be disappointed. Take a drive along the road to Hana—this is about a 50 mile drive, but it takes you about 2 1/2 hours and the views are amazing! You have to share the road with fellow travelers so make sure one of you keeps their eyes on the road! Whale watching is a popular excursion on this island and if you go between mid-November to mid-May there are amazing opportunities to see the humpback whales. If  you visit during the summer months the whales will be up in Alaska so keep this in mind if whale watching is on your list.

Kauai

If you have not been to Hawaii before I’m certain that the Hawaii you envision looks and feels like Kauai. This island personifies the ideal of tropical paradise and countless movies and TV shows have been filmed here. On Kauai you will find white sand beaches, lush rain forests and groves of coconut palms. If you are seeking the ultimate romantic destination, whether it’s for a wedding, vow renewal or honeymoon, or are seeking a respite from your busy, over-scheduled life then Kauai is the island for you. For the more adventurous  you can hike through Waimea Canyon, kayak down one of the many rivers, zip line over a rain forest or explore the Napali Coast on a Zodiac raft.

Hawaii Island

Better known as the Big Island- This island offers just about every type of landscape associated with Hawaii. On the Kona-Kohala coast you will find black lava fields spreading out below as your plane lands.  Surely you don’t think of this when you think Hawaii. You will also find snow, yes snow, on this island in the mountains of Maunakea and Maunaloa. Typically when clients first visit this island they will visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with a stop at the Kilauea Visitors Center and Thomas A Jagger Museum, and then ending with a drive along Chain of Craters Road. Taking a helicopter ride over the Big Island would be a great way for you to see the contrasting landscape, fiery lava flows, volcanic steam, lush rainforest, rock lava plans, black and white sand beaches and stunning valleys, waterfalls and coastlines only visible by air.

When you are ready to honeymoon island hop let me know!

Earlymoons – What is that?

Why wait?

Today’s young couples are in a live-for-the-moment kind of mood, studies say, so it should come as no surprise that they are not waiting for the wedding to plan a vacation. Enter the new travel term: “earlymoon.”

You can probably thank Pippa Middleton and her new husband, James Matthews, who apparently introduced the trend to the world when they took a break from the stress of planning their lavish May wedding with a vacation in St. Barts.

And suddenly this month it is everywhere – on ABC news, on Good Morning America, in Conde Nast Traveler.
For most earlymooners, the new “experts” say, the point is to keep it simple and just relax.

Noting that 71% of engaged and newlywed couples say planning their wedding was more stressful than buying a home or finding a job, an ABC News story yesterday said “while honeymoons give newlyweds a chance to relax after their wedding, more and more engaged couples are taking a vacation even before their wedding festivities begin. Couples say the pre-wedding vacation, dubbed an ‘earlymoon,’ gives them a chance to de-stress and reconnect before tying the knot.”

“We were met with champagne and macaroons at the hotel [and] enjoyed some really nice dinners,” the story quotes one earlymoon couple as saying. “It was just us being able to enjoy each other’s company and just relax with no burden of kind of anything else weighing us down, especially all the pre-wedding planning.”

In a June story on earlymooning in Conde Nast Traveler, How To Be Married author Jo Piazza suggested the goal should be to “get out of the pre-wedding madness and remember why you are marrying this person in the first place.”

Go away “before the invites go out,” Piazza suggested, as many of the big decisions and stressful moments happen at the two-month-out mark. “Take a pause on planning before this time. You’ll be recharged and ready to tackle the big decisions when you return.”

Honeymoon, Hot Springs and Hikes in Costa Rica

Honeymoon, Hot Springs and Hikes in Costa Rica

While honeymooning in Costa Rica, Matt and Jessica stayed at the beautiful Secrets Papagayo.  They drove through the countryside and enjoyed the stunning views. As an added adventure, they hiked through the rainforest which ended with a romantic swim underneath the waterfalls. The butterfly gardens were exceptional … a must see. Matt and Jessica also swam  in the natural hot springs which was absolutely amazing, an unforgettable experience!

Day trips from Auckland New Zealand when stopping over

In August 2015 I had a 2 day stopover in Auckland and I found many opportunities for day trips and excursions from the city of Auckland. If you find yourself with the chance to stop over, I highly recommend it. Even better plan an entire trip just to visit New Zealand.

Hobbiton

Experience the Lord of the Rings movie set to take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Middle Earth. Hobbiton is a must see for travelers to New Zealand where they are given an opportunity to see the living movie set and immerse themselves in the wonders of the Trilogies.

Wonder the paths of the Shire, escape into a Hobbit hole and attempt to recreate your favorite scenes. The land Sir Peter Jackson loves so much comes to life as your guide shares details of moving making and famous movie sites.

They even have a banquet room on site and opportunities for dining after your tour.

I had never even seen the movies before experiencing Hobbiton but I still found the tour the be very interesting and a great introduction to the countryside of New Zealand. This is only a 2 hour drive from Auckland.

My time as a Hobbit

My time as a Hobbit.

Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are another must see when visiting New Zealand. The glowworms radiate luminescent light that illuminate the caves with historical and geographical interests.

Enjoy the tour by boat ride under thousands of magical glowworms and become a part of over 120 years of cultural and natural history. While on the boat ride you cannot have any light and must stay extremely quiet or you will scare the light out of them. You are guided through the caves by a pulling system lead by a professional glowworm dude.

I wish I had more opportunity to explore here but it was pouring rain and the caves had flooded. It is very rare that this happens so I will plan it to go back because what I did see was worth every minute. This is only 2.5 hours from Auckland.

America’s Cup Sailing Adventure 

Enjoy the thrill of sailing on the America’s Cup sailing ships. With no sailing experience necessary, you can still be involved in all things sailing. It takes more than you think to get these ships race ready. As the wind hits the sails, the professional crew shares their experience with you while letting you feel the exhilaration and power of a sailing regatta.

Not only did I enjoy the race I also enjoyed seeing the contrast of natural landscapes and city skyscrapers that line the harbour from the best view in town. I was given the opportunity to steer, use the grinders to raise and trim the sails and try not to fall off the ship. Located in Waitemata Harbour in Auckland.

I specialize in travel to Australia and New Zealand. Use my insider knowledge and experience to help you plan your bucket list vacation.

Choosing the Right Destination

When you are planning a destination wedding choosing the right destination is the biggest decision in the whole planning process along with the budget. These two go hand-in-hand but cost should go to the top of the list. Figure out what you can realistically afford and don’t forget to factor in gratuities, dress alternations and the bridal emergency fix-it-kit.

  1. Take out a piece of paper and write down the top three requirements for your wedding experience. Have your partner do this as well and compare your lists. Do you want beach? Or would you prefer a grand ballroom? Is a formal dinner a priority or do you want to experience the local cuisine?
  2. Next outline your ideal destination. When you picture your wedding do you picture barefoot on the beach, an underwater ceremony or in a jungle locale? Much like couples, countries, islands, states and resorts have distinct personalities. Take into account travel time and accessibility for you as well as your guests. Also make sure you know the legal requirements for getting married in another country. Some may mandate waiting periods and on-site medical tests so these should be factored in to your budget.
  3. Choose a resort that speaks to your wedding vision as a couple. Send out e-mails to the wedding coordinators and ask basic questions. Find out if your date and wedding location are available. What is the cost of the wedding? Does the resort offer a free wedding package? What is the weather plan if your beach wedding gets rained out? Some resorts even offer a site inspection trip where you and your partner can visit the resort and see if it is the right fit.

Sandy toes and salty kisses, whatever destination you choose I can help you plan your perfect destination wedding.

Get Your Honeymoon Right

If there’s one trip you *must* get right, it’s your Honeymoon. For fifty percent or so of us, this is the only one we’ll ever get. For the rest of us, well that’s another story. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty darn important trip.

What comes to mind when you envision your perfect honeymoon? Adventuring in New Zealand? Relaxing at a luxurious, couples-only beach resort? Sampling culinary delights throughout Europe? Although we all may picture our once-in-a-lifetime journeys differently, we can all agree that if not planned carefully, things can look very different than that romantic getaway playing in your head. Think lost hotel reservations, hours spent in car, waiting around wondering what to do next, or being confined to your hotel because it’s storming. Every. Day.

Long ago, before I entered the fabulous industry of travel, I was married in October. When selecting a honeymoon destination, my then husband and I both agreed that we wanted something exotic in the Caribbean. The BVIs? St. Lucia? We were both very busy with wedding planning so we contacted a Travel Agent. She informed us right away that we were traveling in the peak of hurricane season and advised that we go instead to Aruba, which is out of the hurricane belt. Her expertise saved us from a humid, wet, rainy honeymoon. Her recommendation was spot-on and we had a great time.

I guess the moral of this story is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Your honeymoon is such a special trip and most of us want every detail considered and an overall seamless experience! Take the stress and guess-work out of planning and contact a Travel Agent. We’re here to make sure every base is covered – from planning through post-trip follow-up.

My kind of honeymoon includes adventure!

Romance in Tahiti

Tahiti is simply one of the most romantic destinations on earth, who wouldn’t want to get married here? It was only a few years ago that laws changed in Tahiti and now weddings on these beautiful islands are now legally binding for Americans and Canadians.

A Tahitian ceremony has a Polynesian influence, which makes for an unforgettable ceremony. You can even have a Tahitian Priest perform your ceremony. Exchange your vows in the sugary white sands with beautiful tropical petals surrounding you amongst the palm trees. If you’d rather wear heals instead of flip flops or bare feet you may consider the over water glass-bottomed chapel, located in front of Mount Otemanu. 

Best yet, if you want to go on your honeymoon immediately following your nuptials French Polynesia has multiple islands you can visit. You can easily escape your guests and experience the beauty and romance of Tahiti. If you’re looking for adventure there are great experiences such as feeding rays & sharks, snorkeling with tropical fish in crystal clear waters unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! There are plenty of hiking trails, jet skiing or 4WD adventures. If you’re looking for romance, adventure and culture … Tahiti has it all!

I would love to help you plan the dream wedding for you!

Benefits of Postponing the Honeymoon

Many romantic comedies portray a Newlywed Couple exiting their wedding, and then being whisked away on the most romantic, tropical honeymoon you could ever imagine – that’s how it always works, right?

Not Always – As a newlywed myself, I had no intention of catching a 7 am flight the morning after my wedding. After twelve months of stressful planning, my husband and I decided the best way to celebrate our nuptials was to take a five day mini-moon up to the Minnesotan North Shore, and save the tropical trip to the Riviera Maya for a few months later. Here is why it worked for us, and why you may want to consider it as well.

There is less stress bundled into one weekend.

Have you been to an airport on the weekend? Chances are, it will be a rush. After an emotional couple of days, the stress of security lines, TSA, and catching a flight may be a little too much for your agenda right after the happiest day of your life. My husband and I avoided the rush of the airport and opted for a scenic drive to Lake Superior the day after. We were in charge of our own time, and had no obligations to be anywhere. This was the most relaxing thing we could have done for ourselves, and we had total freedom to do so.

You have more time to save for your dream trip.

Our mini-moon cost us less than $1,000 – Much less than a tropical “vacay” would have cost us. Delaying our “real” honeymoon by at least a couple months gave us the opportunity to save up for the must-haves in our dream getaway. Since we waited six months, we had the money to make this happen, and even had a surplus for some awesome excursions!

It gives you something to look forward to.

There was a lot of let down after our wedding – After a year of planning, our beautiful dream day was over. Although you will have letdown from your wedding whether or not you delay your honeymoon, saving the dream trip for later will give you something to look forward to in the future. Six months after our wedding, my husband and I hopped on a plane to the Riviera Maya, and spent seven days just enjoying each other, the scenery, and the sun. The anticipation for our warm getaway was well worth the wait!

Looking back on our choices, I wouldn’t change one thing –  saving the tropical, romantic honeymoon for later gave my husband and I something to look forward to down the road, after taking plenty of time to establish our married routine together. Weddings are exhausting, so give yourself time to recuperate! Sun and sand will always be there, waiting for you. No matter when you decide to answer the calls of the ocean, make sure you go into your trip relaxed. You’ll both be ready for it that way.

 

 

 

OverWater Bungalow – Closer than you think!

I had the pleasure of seeing overwater bungalows in person is so much more awe-inspiring than in a picture. We visited Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma, and it was stunning. If this is on your bucket list, I highly recommend saving a little bit on airfare, by flying into Cancun, and staying in one of these amazing overwater bungalows at El Dorado Maroma.

Now is the time!!!


The bathrooms are beautiful, with the Jacuzzi soaking tub indoors and out on the balcony!


With the full seclusion here, you can relax and truly escape the crowds and enjoy each others company!


There is something about being able to see the water from the inside of your room.  Absolutely beautiful.  (yes, you can put the rug over the top to cover it up if you prefer.


Beds face the sliding glass doors so you can see outside at all times.
 

Everything about the bungalows makes you want to just kick your feet back and relax.

Honeymoon at Barcelo Maya Grand Resort

My clients recently returned from the beautiful Riviera Maya, Mexico.  They stayed at the Barcelo Maya Grand Resort, and upgraded their room to the Junior Suite Ocean Front Club Premium.  They also upgraded their airport transfers to ‘private’ which for this resort is well worth the upgrade!!  Here is what they had to say:

Hey Melissa!!

Thank you so much for planning out all the details for our honeymoon! We had such a great time and will be planning on returning again in a few years! The flight was good we had enough time to make it to  our transfers on the way there and home. Having the private transfer to the hotel from the airport and then back on the last day was so great! The driver when we first got to Cancun was so nice and talked to us all the way to the hotel! It really made us feel comfortable and welcomed to have that great initial experience! We already decided we would have a private transfer when we travel next time. The hotel was very nice and our room was perfect! We would do Premium room again they were updated and really modern. You could see the ocean and the pool from our balcony! They did a great job with cleaning and restocking our fridge each night. We liked how everything was at the hotel. You could go snorkeling, they had dolphins, the spa, and of course all of the swimming pools and swim up bars! We really like the restaurants which was a nice break to eat at instead of the buffets for every meal.  They had entertainment every night as well and stuff going on during that day you could do or just watch while your in the pool:)

We had a lot of fun and thank you for all your help again!

Mandy Visits Puerto Vallarta

In June 2016 my husband and I took our first trip to Puerto Vallarta and we had a blast! On our flight down we upgraded ourselves to first class and this is the way to go. If you have never done it I highly suggest you try it. All you can eat and drink, bigger seats and more leg room. We stayed at the RIU Jalisco and were told we had the best view in the hotel- full ocean view! It is such a treat when you come from a cold weather state to open your shades in the morning and see the ocean and hear the waves. The hotel is very large so there could be a lot of walking depending on where your room is located. The food is yummy, the hotel is clean and the staff is friendly.

When I am in a new location I like to take a tour to really get to know the destination so one day during our vacation we did this. Puerto Vallarta is not as Americanized as other Mexican destinations which allows you to have a more cultural experience. We visited a church that was built by the local residents who donated whatever material they had at home to build it. It was gorgeous! We also visited a flea market where we did a little bartering for our souvenirs and then visited a fourth generation home where organic tequila is made. I am not one to drink tequila but this tequila is yummy! Nice and smooth:-)

During one of the evenings we did an excursion called “Rhythms of the Night” and I highly recommend this tour.  I would describe it as Mexico’s version of a luau- you take about an hour long boat ride, where you are served unlimited snacks and drinks,  to the cove of Las Caletas. You dine under the stars at your own private beachside table bathed in the soft glow of candles. After dinner you walk over to the theater and the show begins. The dancers tell the story of ancient civilization through movement and music. Take my word for it, you don’t want to miss this show!

When you are ready to plan your adventure to Puerto Vallarta let me know, I am happy to help!

 

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Mandy goes to Disney World

In May 2016 I was fortunate enough to travel to one of my most favorite places…Disney World!! I am that girl who walks through the parks with a big smile on her face just happy as can be. I stayed at the Grand Floridian and wow, this hotel is nice! From the fragrant flower bouquets, friendly staff and being right on the monorail, this place has it all. Just a quick ride on the monorail and you are at Magic Kingdom, the happiest place on earth. While at Magic Kingdom I went on 2 of my most favorite rides- Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World.

While at Disney I also did site inspections at a few other hotels and one of the hotels was the Caribbean Beach. At this hotel they have pirate rooms and they are cool! If you have any little “pirates” in your family they would love to stay in one of these rooms. Something to keep in mind though is that if you are tall, this room type is not for you. There is no room for your feet to hang off the end of the bed and therefore you might not get the best night sleep. These rooms are also located in the last buildings at the hotel so it is about a 10-15 minute walk to the lobby.

Another hotel we visited was the Wilderness Lodge. If you like the rustic, outdoor feeling then this hotel is the perfect fit. We ate at the Whispering Canyon restaurant where they serve western fare. Be ready for a rowdy crowd and the foolish, outrageous and amusing behaviors from the wait staff.

When you are ready to plan your next Disney World vacation I would be happy to help and share of my hints and tricks with you!

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Client Review: Iberostar Paraiso Maya in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

It was great and we wouldn’t think twice about returning.

As a reminder, we were a group of 6 that ranged in age from 5 to 77.  Everyone was thrilled with the vacation.  Here is a quick summary:

  • We emailed in advance and were able to make room requests (ground floor) and secure dinner reservations for the first two nights prior to arriving (our room request was also honored)
  • The rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable.  This is the only AI I have been to where the beds aren’t hard and generally miserable.
  • When we arrived we had fresh flowers in our rooms, a fruit tray, and (as returning guests) a bottle of tequila.  A few days in t-shirts we delivered to our room with the Iberostar brand and “We’re Back” imprinted on them.
  • We ate at the a la carte restaurants all seven nights.  When we arrived, the front desk concierge made our reservations for the five nights we weren’t able to make in advance.  Some or all of us dined at the Japanese, Steak House, Mexican, Seafood, Italian, French, and Gourmet restaurants. The French restaurant was the least favorite because of slow serve and too much air conditioning.  We ate at the seafood restaurant twice.  The first time the food tasted good but was served cold.  Only when prompted by the restaurant manager the next day did we mention this.  We didn’t complain.  The next time we were there he met us and bent over backwards to ensure we had great service and hot food.  In the morning we ate all of our breakfasts at La Marina.  The staff were great and brought me a piping hot cappuccino as soon as they saw me coming.
  • All the bartenders were great.  We enjoyed before and after dinner drinks and the bartenders quickly learned what we liked and mixed great drinks using premium brands (Bombay sapphire, Absolut, Remy Martin, Courvoisier, etc.).  Service around the pool and on the beach was great.  We brought insulated cups and never got attitude about filling them.
  • Housekeeping was fantastic.  They cleaned the rooms and refreshed towels twice a day.  This is the only AI I have ever been to where I don’t mind walking barefoot on the floor in my room.  There is never sand, grit or dirt.
  • We enjoyed the nightly shows and recommend them
  • Paige participated in Lucy’s Club (the kid’s program) on multiple occasions.  They seemed to be having so much fun that she asked to go.  She loved it!  One day she made tie-dyed t-shirts and one day dressed as a pirate and when on a treasure hunt.  At night Paige participated (and performed) in the 8:00 p.m. kids programs.
  • We never had trouble finding chairs by the pool or on the beach.  Also, while we had read that there was a lot of seaweed on the beach, that was not the case while we were there.
  • Dan and I got massages and enjoyed the spa services.  They are spendy … but a great way to relax on vacation.
  • I had read in advance that the hotel was pretty aggressive in marketing their new preferred guest program.  On our first day the main desk concierge tried to rope me in to the “presentation”.  She offered us a meal at The Grand and free massages.  I politely declined and made it clear that none of us wanted to spend 90 minutes of our vacation on the pitch.  That was the one and only time it was brought up.  No one else in our party was even approached.

We love this resort and hope to return soon.  This was the experience of all six in our party.  I will say that we tried to tip all staff generously.  However, I do not think this determined the level or quality of service we received.  There were others who tipped nothing and they appeared to be treated equally well.

The favorite thing about the trip was definitely the resort.  It is a 9 or 10 out of 10 in our book.

Thanks so much for your patience in helping us book this trip.  You are definitely my go to person.