A Unique Twist on a Destination Wedding … Brunch!

I’ve been booking destination weddings for years and I’m always on the lookout for fresh ideas. Recently I had the pleasure of participating in a wedding brunch at Dreams Los Cabos Suites Golf Resort & Spa. Wow! What a cool idea! It was fantastic. Finally a new and unique experience.

They had a gorgeous set up on the beach adorned with white tents and low resting tables complete with large rugs and over-sized pillows to sit on. For those not wanting to sit on the pillows there were also some high top tables and chairs. Each guest received a sun hat which I thought was a nice gift for a morning at the beach!

There was a mariachi band as we walked up which added to the authentic Mexican feel. The buffet brunch was phenomenal! There were lots of tasty finds like freshly baked muffins and scones, egg bakes, crispy bacon, fresh fruit, and finger sandwiches. Let’s not forget about the refreshing mimosas!

I think the guests enjoyed waking up, getting ready for the wedding, attending a beautiful ceremony on the beach (before it got too crowded!) enjoying a brunch with friends and family. By 1:00 everyone was in their swim suits enjoying a dip in the pool or taking an afternoon siesta under their palapa.

I would definitely consider a wedding brunch to give your guests a unique and memorable experience!

Spring Break Alternatives After Hurricanes Irma and Maria

We all know that the Caribbean has suffered a horrible hurricane season this year with the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Many of the destinations will take months and even worse case scenario, years to recuperate.

All is not lost for winter and Spring Break 2018, though. There are many destinations in the Caribbean that did not get hit by Irma or Maria. Mexico is also a very safe and still wonderful choice too.

As of the beginning of October, probably the worst hit is Puerto Rico where people are without food, supplies, water or electricity. Barbuda, Dominica, St. Maarten and the US. Virgin Islands were not devastated as badly, but it will be some time before they are back on track and functioning as per usual, although cruise ships are already preparing for docking at many ports of call that were hit.

What didn’t get hit is a very nice list. Two of the major destinations, with their non-stop flights out of Minnesota , were not devastated or even suffered one bit of damage are the Dominican Republic or Jamaica. Each of these islands have their own personality and distinctions that are very popular with American tourists looking for culture and gastronomy.

Other more remote Caribbean islands that were passed over were St. Kitts and Nevis, Bahamas, Haiti, Martinique, Antigua, St. Lucia and Aruba. If you are interested in Caribbean islands that are a little less accessible, but gorgeous and relaxing, the Caribbean is still an option.

Lastly, Mexico is still a fantastic choice for sunshine, white sand beaches and teal blue water. There are many activities to experience and the scenery is wonderful. Mexico’s welcoming hospitality is still intact, and the food and beverages are still top notch. Tourist safety is the number one priority for both American Travel Agencies and Mexico. You can have as much nightlife as you wish or as much relaxing as you wish, for safe memories that will last a lifetime.

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.

Puerto Vallarta from Horseback

This excursion was definitely a highlight of our trip.

While vacationing with my family at the Iberostar Playa Mita, I was able to pre-arrange a horseback riding experience to Rancho Montalbena. We were picked up at our resort and whisked away to the ranch (which also offers zip ling and ATV tours). The guide gave very good instructions to everyone on how to control the horses.  We had beginners to advanced riders in our group, along with two guides (one in the front, one in the back) and also a professional photographer to capture all the perfect photo moments.

Thanks Felipe – Iberostar tour desk – for helping us set up this perfect excursion!

  

 

 

 

 

 

Client Review of Grand Velas Vallarta (Riviera Nayarit)

 

I meant to email you earlier this week. It was FABULOUS! We loved it. The beach was amazing, the food was fantastic and the service was totally awesome. It will be hard for us to go anywhere else. It was a bit smaller which was a nice change. Grounds and rooms were very nice as well. Even the transportation was seamless this time! We loved the adjoining rooms as well – that worked out perfect. They had a really cool fire show one night and live music on other nights. Really hard to pick on anything. I can’t say enough about the food. Wow – for all inclusive, blew every other place away by far – Chateau briand, sea bass, steak – all fabulous. Poolside fajitas – amazing. Even the “non-reservation” restaurant changed it’s menu and options in the buffet. They had a bbq night one night which was really nice too. We can name at least 4-5 staff members by name who were exceptional but everyone was so friendly and helpful. Just awesome. We had a fabulous time. Thank you!!!

Sherri B.
Plymouth, MN

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.

 

 

 

Xplor and Xcaret: Riviera Maya Adventures Xposed

In my last two trips to the Riviera Maya region, I had the amazing opportunity to experience both Xplor and Xcaret. These two parks are both owned by the same company, but are worlds apart. Let me explain to you why!

Xplor Fuego:

My first experience at Xplor Fuego was in November of 2016, with several other coworkers. Our time there was thrilling, and for some of us, scream-worthy.  Once you are strapped into a helmet after you check in, you are free to “Xplor” the park at your own speed. We ran up to the zip lining towers right away, and we were able to complete the zip line course during sunset, so the view was absolutely glorious. The zip lines are lengthy, the workers have fun pushing you off the ledge until you are air born, and there are even a couple of them that carry you through fire and waterfalls. Absolutely thrilling!

Every attraction here screams “Extreme Adventure”, and that is exactly what you get. From ATV rides through the jungle, to river rafting through beautiful caves, this park provides attractions that are definitely fit for the thrill seeking, active adventurer. Even walking to each attraction, you feel like you are on an expedition through the jungle!

Fun Travel Tip for Xplor: Invest in a water proof camera case that will hold your phone around your neck. This will allow you to capture many of your activities on video and in pictures, as many of the activities involve water. It was a great investment for me!

Experience Xcaret:

I had already visited Xplor twice before I made it to Xcaret, and I was completely blown away by how different they were. Xcaret prides itself by being located on a Maya Civilization Archeological site. This park goes above and beyond when they share about the Mayan Heritage and traditions. Throughout the day they have cultural dancing, shows, and opportunities to meet and greet the characters in their traditional dress. I felt like I was in a completely different world!

Xcaret also holds animal sanctuaries with many forms of wildlife – they have Panthers to Macaws, Manatees to sea turtles, you will not be disappointed by what you see. If you participate in the cave swimming, you will get to swim next to a tank full of Manatees – exciting, but slightly terrifying for me, as they are so much larger. But oh so gentle!

From 7:00pm-9:00pm, they hold their evening show in the arena close to the entrance of the park. This show has 19 parts, each one covering a important part of their heritage. It covers Mayan Traditions, such as Fire Hockey, Mayan Ball Games, and beautiful representations of the dress and talents of each region of Mexico. The performances were extraordinary, and I left with a new understanding of Mayan Culture, and had an even bigger appreciation for Mariachi.

If you find yourself in the Riviera Maya, make sure to make your way over to one or both of these parks. Each one offers a unique experience, but both will give you memories of a lifetime.

Back Home Again … in Mexico

I have been sending Steve & Joanne to Mexico since 2009 and their last 12 trips have taken them to Be Tulum, a small beachside resort in Tulum.  This has become their home away from home and they go back several times each year.  Be Tulum provides a low-key atmosphere where they are treated as returning family.  The attention to service and detail has earned Be Tulum a place in their hearts forever.

 

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.

Mountains or Beach … Puerto Vallarta is the place to be!

13709979_1232022230150193_4714941814747452933_nI had the opportunity to join Funjet Vacations to experience Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.   This picturesque town located between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Mountains is a popular travel destination. It offers beautiful beaches, cultural activities, water sports, and more. The Grand Fiesta Americana is a stunning property perched on the golden shores of the Pacific Ocean and just east are the tropical rainforests of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Located just six minutes from the Historic Downtown District.

At Grand Fiesta Americana you can enjoy 14 restaurants and bars with all types of cuisines, from Asian to your traditional Mexican meal.  If you are a seafood lover you must check out La Cevicheria. I highly recommend their ceviche …it  is out of this WORLD!

Their accommodations are top notch. You’re not lacking space, that’s for sure, and be sure to indulge the beautiful ocean views. You can also admire the simply breathtaking red sunsets from your balcony. There’s nothing better then enjoying a cocktail with an ocean breeze in Grand Fiesta Americana open air Mojito bar. Imagine listening to the crashing waves getting ready to start your day or the sound will slowly put you to sleep at night.

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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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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.

 

Mandy Visits Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach

The Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort in Cabo San Lucas is gorgeous. It is a very large property and very spread out but there are golf carts running nonstop to take you where you want to go. This hotel has more of a Mexican feel to it, different from the contemporary resorts that are becoming more common. The Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort is not within walking distance of town so you would need to take a taxi if you wanted to check out exciting Cabo. There is a sky pool at this resort with absolutely amazing views and it would be perfect for a private party. There is also a chapel where you could have a legal wedding ceremony.

Rooms- very spacious with full kitchens

Beach- located on a private beach but it is not swimmable. However, you can take a courtesy shuttle to nearby Medano beach which is one of the best swimmable beaches in Los Cabos.

Overall impression- beautiful, large property, amazing views

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Mandy Visits Breathless Cabo San Lucas

Breathless is new to Cabo San Lucas and is located on Medano beach which is the safest swimmable beach in Cabo. You are also just steps away from the infamous Cabo San Lucas nightlife, restaurants and shops. All suites have private balconies with ocean or marina views. Breathless is more of a “party” hotel and what I like about it is that it is two separate buildings, one for the active nightlife and the other, quieter one, for sleeping. There is no swim up bar at this hotel but the infinity pool overlooking the ocean is gorgeous.

Rooms- if you have a room with a king bed it is positioned towards the balcony so the first thing you see when you wake up is the water. The rooms also have tablets that allow you to order room service and watch Netflix if you have an account but the tablets must stay in the room. All rooms also offer free Wi-Fi.

I was not able to check out any of the restaurants but there are 8 of them along with 4 bars/loungers.

Overall impression- clean, great location, friendly staff.

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Mandy Visits Secrets Puerto Los Cabos

Cabo San Lucas…the first word that comes to mind is Wow! This destination is amazing and I cannot wait to go back. Where else can you find the desert, the mountains and the ocean? I wasn’t sure what to expect being there was a hurricane not so long ago but I saw no signs of any damage. All of the hotels I toured were up and running as if nothing happened. What did I love most about this destination? The weather for starters- Cabo has 350 days of sunshine and very little humidity. Very little bugs- because it is a desert there are very few bugs. I saw no mosquitos the whole 4 days I was there. The water- it is such a pretty teal color and I wasn’t expecting that so it was a pleasant surprise.

While I was in Cabo I stayed at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos. This resort is amazing! It is adults only so if you are looking to get away for some “grown up” time I would highly recommend this resort. The beach is not swimmable due to the undertow but I loved sitting on my balcony and listening to the waves crash while sipping my morning coffee. Because I had small children at home I loved the unlimited connectivity feature of this hotel. All of my calls home were free of charge as was the Wi-Fi in my hotel room.  The resort is not within walking distance to town so if you wanted to check out Cabo Wabo you would need to take a taxi.

My room was amazing with a spectacular view from my balcony. Full ocean view and I could hear the waves crashing against the shore.

Because I toured many different hotels while in Cabo I wasn’t able to try out all of the restaurants at the resort but I did eat at Himitsu. This is an Asian restaurant with Teppanyaki tables available upon request and the food was great. The chef puts on a nice little show while preparing your dinner, all with a smile on their face.

Overall impression of this resort- clean, comfortable, very friendly staff.

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