Apr
04

Sue’s Travel Tips #3

 Call your major credit card company and inform them of the dates and location of your travel plans.  This limits the chance of having any issues when trying to use your credit card when you are on vacation. Have a happy and safe trip.

Mar
21

Sue’s Suitcase Suggestion #6

Tip to easily put your full wet suit on: Take a simple plastic grocery bay and put it on your foot and your leg easily slips through the wet suit.  Use on your arms too!

Mar
17

Sue’s Suitcase Suggestion #5

SAND FLEA BITES: I have not found an effective repellent, BUT I do strongly suggest you take a small bottle of Calamine Lotion with you.  Dab the flea bites with Calamine Lotion to relieve the itchiness, and prevents the bites from blistering.  Re-apply regularly.   It really helps!!


Jun
18

Sue’s Reviews

Location: Roatan, Honduras

Hotel: Paradise Beach Club (run by Henry Morgan)

Date Visited: March 6-20, 2009 (Two week stay)

Price Paid: $1929 + tax (booked 3 months ahead and it did go down in price before March departure)

Room#: 106 Good location; close to pool, restaurant and beach (total hotel rooms – 38 plus villas). No hairdryers or face clothes provided.

Weather Conditions: Weather was incredible. Hot and sunny!

Snorkeling: My rating: 5 star. Excellent just to the left of the resort as well as at the Black Rock, 5 minute walk to the south of the hotel.

Beach: The beach was 5 star as far as swimming went. No swim shoes required. On cruise ship days the beach was very crowded.

Food: Only buffet food is available at this resort. One beach bar only available which closes at 11:00 p.m. Limited drinks provided. Beer excellent.

Opinions/Tips: Staff very friendly. Security was excellent.

Would I return: Yes.

May
13

Lee’s Scuba Reviews

Location: Roatan, Honduras

Dive Shop: Bananarama Dive & Beach Resort

Dive Site: Pablos Place

Dive Date: March 11, 2009

Depths: 15-180 feet

Observations: Water conditions had 3 foot swells with approximately 70 feet of visibility.  Massive schools of large Blue Tang as well as many other types, as far as you could see in both directions!  Plenty of huge Black Groupers … and when their are Groupers there are always Moray eels close by.  These green eels were between 3-4 feet in length.

Would I dive this site again: Yes definitely, this was one of my favourite locations.

Apr
17

Sue’s Reviews – EdenH Real Arena

Sue’s Reviews

(submitted by Sandra and Bruno, Toronto, Ontario)

Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Hotel: EdenH Real Arena

Date Visited: March 20-27, 2009

Room#: Ground Floor – 1143. This room was centrally located with a small walk to pools, beach or restaurants. The room upon entry was clean and spacious with 2 double beds. This room had a terrace that faced a flea market of sorts. Also, the room was facing the service road for deliveries and staff, though this did not occur at most times when you are in the room (after hours). The bathroom had a separate large shower and toilet. Bathtub was a large Jacuzzi. I note that the “Paradise Club” rooms had a bathtub/hot tub out on their balconies or terraces. There is plenty of closet space, safe, mini-fridge, flat-screen TV with cable, coffee maker and table/chairs. Overall – a comfortable room.

Service: This was the only problem, and I am hoping that this was due to it being a new location with new staff. Rooms did not get cleaned until late afternoons/early evenings, service was based on how much you tipped – this at bars and restaurants. Personnel at the front desk, store boutique and casino were rude.

Weather Conditions: It rained for 3 days with high winds blowing on the beach, but once the rains stopped the sun was warm and shone nicely. Average day was 23 degrees with winds at 22 km.

Snorkeling: They had great excursions that took you out into the Atlantic where you can go snorkeling based from platforms.

Beach: Great beach (Bavaro) with plenty of chairs, cabanas and events (yoga, dance lessons, volleyball, etc.)

Food: Average. The buffet restaurant had themes but overall did not change their menu much. The restaurant has a pasta bar in the evening and an omelet station in the AM. There are 4 al la carte restaurants, Asian, Italian, Grill/Steakhouse and French. Good luck in getting the times you would like but once you do they are fairly good. The beach bar/restaurant was my favourite with great food served from 11:00 – 6:00 (ribs, chicken, pizza, salads, desserts – all to go if you like) and great afternoon cappuccinos! The bars did run out of staples like rum, beer and coke a couple of times and we needed to wait for the drinks quite often.

Opinions/Tips: The overall “shell” of the resort is great. The ambiance, grounds, rooms, pools, outlay are all luxury category. This resort has a lot of potential if they work on their service and staff. In so saying this, I am sure it is a matter of time for them to get it running like the 5 star they have stated.

Would I return: Probably not as we were quite disappointed with the service.

Apr
07

Sue’s Reviews

(submitted by Julie and Dave, Ontario, Canada)

Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Hotel: Grand Palladium Palace Resort and Spa

Date Visited: February 12 – 19, 2009

Room#: 8701 first night (moved due to a leaky air conditioning system) close to Casino, garden view then 9607 garden view, very quiet – all rooms at the Palladium Palace are close to the pool and beach. Stay at 1 play at 3, Palladium Punta Cana and Bavaro also included so other pools, area of beach as well as a la cartes. Rooms have jacuzzi’s outside bathroom in the room, bathroom was good and shower was very good (others I have been to lack pressure/temperature), we had perfect showers everyday.

Service: Excellent service! The staff were all very friendly, the grounds were immaculate. There was always someone around to take your drink order. We had issues with our room on the first night and while we did have to ask 3 times to get someone to look at it, they very quickly moved us after.

Weather Conditions: Perfect! We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Although it had been raining for 5 days prior so it’s really hit and miss. We had rain for maybe 5 min one day and then no rain again until we were on the bus on the bus on the way back to the airport.

Snorkeling: We didn’t snorkel at the resort, but we did go on the “Marinarium” excursion which included snorkeling, as well as visiting a natural pool and swimming (in a large cage) with nurse sharks and stingrays.

Beach: Gorgeous! We always seemed to find a chair but sometimes this was challenging. Many put their towels on in the morning to reserve their spot. We also were able to find a palapa half way through the day, but not every day. Also on the beach (and by the lobby) was a spa service. I got a massage right on the beach in a little hut, it was very relaxing and it was one of the best massages I have had.

Food: Very good. Breakfast/lunch buffet was by the front lobby – large and had a different theme each night. Lunch buffet was between the beach and the pool. We didn’t try the buffets at the other resorts, but was the same food etc. You were able to eat at 5 a la cartes, not all at the Palladium, they were spread over the resorts. Mexican (Bavaro resort) – 4/5, you will leave very full! Brazilian (Palace resort) – 3.5/5, they come around with different meats, which we didn’t know so only take a little each time. Steak/seafood (Punta Cana resort) – 3/5, we’ve had better at another resort, but you are also in a different country so don’t expect a great steak! Italian (Palladium resort) – 4/5, nothing special but still very good. Japanese (Bavaro resort) – 4/5 also very good. Many of the a la cartes have small buffets at the beginning. We found the reserved/available signs useful. We could find a seat, turn the card over to red and not have to worry about someone taking the table. They used this idea as well in the a la cartes, so if you didn’t want any more food, you just put the red side up. Very simple but efficient.

Opinions/Tips: This was a great resort, with lots of activities and excellent service. We flew with Air Transat and our agent at the resort was able to recommend a jeweler and cigar store. You just let them know when you wanted to go and a driver comes and picks you up. Also down the beach were some shops but be prepared to be harassed – come to my store, I give you good price! They also had vendors on Thursday nights on the resort. Another great service they had were showers in the lobby. We didn’t leave the resort until 7pm and had to check out of the room by noon, so it was nice to be able to have a shower and get cleaned up before leaving.

I wanted to make mention of the little coffee house in the middle of Bavaro resort called Hemmingways. It didn’t seem like a lot of people knew about it but they had specialty coffees and premium liquor that you couldn’t get at the other bars. We would definitely recommend checking it out.

Would I return: We have always said we would never go back to the same resort so that we could see other resorts etc, but we would definitely consider returning.

Apr
04

Holiday Village White Sands – Sue’s Reviews

(Submitted by Cheryl and friends, Maple, Ontario)

Location: Cozumel, Mexico

Hotel: Holiday Village White Sands

Date Visited: Feb 21-28, 2009  (Cozumel Carnival week.  Carnival is generally a 7 day celebration that starts the week before Fat Tuesday or Mardi-Gras.  Dates change every year.)

Price Paid: $1,314.50 per person including all taxes (booked on January 26, 2009)

Hotel in General: Absolutely ideal for families. The entire property is beautifully. It is well landscaped, and is maintained daily by literally dozens of groundskeepers. Everything was well spread out; not too far and yet not too close.

There are 3 pools: a large kiddie pool/splash pad with all kinds of water features. In the middle of the 3 pools, behind the Mexican-specialty restaurant, there is a relaxation pool in the shape of two conjoined circles offering quieter space. The third pool near the beach serves as the center of daylong activities. Sundecks around both pools are furnished with lounge chairs and thatched-roof palapas for shade. The lawn on either side of the pool closest to the beach has hammocks and an oversized black-and-white chess set. A hot tub is situated right at the entrance to the beach with an incredible view of the ocean.

There are a number of bars located around the resort. Of course the busiest is the bar closest to the beach. The bars and restaurants do not use disposable cups or mugs. They use hard plastic, picnic type reusable glasses.

There is a small souvenir/tuck shop in the main lobby, but is very expensive. Instead walk across the main road to the San Miguel market.

There are many iguanas on the grounds to see but they are more afraid of you so no need to worry.

There is a place to work out and there is Internet access (for a price) in the main lobby.

San Miguel
Is a busy cruise ship port with sometimes up to four of these monsters at the dock at any given time, and downtown prices reflect that. There is no public transit on
Cozumel, the result of a very strong taxi union. There are taxis everywhere and most tourist establishments have a sign showing taxi fares to most major destinations. The taxi drivers have them in their cars too, but not always visible. Confirm your fare before shutting the door.

Rooms: There were a number of two-story, Polynesian-style villas (8 rooms in each). We stayed in the Family Room therefore we had two room numbers: 4212 & 4224. We had a king bed in one room and two doubles in the other room. Other than that, the rooms were identical. We even had our own door to go out onto our own balcony. The rooms were connected by an adjoining door so we could have our own privacy if needed. The rooms weren’t large but they were sufficient. After all, you don’t go to Cozumel to spend time in your room other than to sleep and get dressed!!! We were on the second floor which had a thatched roof. It was quite high so it made the room feel a bit bigger. It was even fun to return to our room after the maids were done to see what towel animal was waiting on our bed to greet us.

Service: The staff were great! Very friendly and professional. In fact, almost too professional as I felt that when I tried to joke around a little, as much as they seemed to want to joke around too, I felt that they were holding back in the sense that they were almost looking over their shoulder to see if anyone was watching in fear that they might get fired.

Weather Conditions: Not sure of the exact temperature but the weather in the day was beautiful. Not too hot or humid but definitely bathing suit weather. The evenings were a little cool where wearing a long sleeve top or light sweater was comfortable. Didn’t use the a/c in our rooms at all (turned it off) and the temperature was just right.

Snorkeling: Just off-shore, Cozumel features the second largest barrier reef in the world. The St. Anthony reef is over 300 km long and stretches all the way down to Belize. The scuba diving is incredible, the water is amazingly clear with over 30 meters of visibility. You need to book the snorkeling equipment for use (free) as there is not enough for everyone.

Watersports:
There is a PADI dive organization on the property, and a large pier that sees dive, sport fishing and glass bottom tour boats coming and going all day. There are kayaks, and sail boats, etc.

Beach: The beach is beautiful! The water had various shades of blue and a gentle surf rolled onto the white sandy beach. You can sometimes find fish swimming nearby as you make your way knee-deep into the water. The water is very clear. There are no properties immediately next door, so you are able to take a nice long quiet walk before coming upon the next resort. Numerous palapas entice in one direction, and the Caribbean‘s warm, turquoise water attracts in the other. There is a volleyball net set-up on the beach right in front of the hotel that was often used for a friendly game of volleyball by all ages which was really nice to see.

You can get a massage (for a price) right on the beach surrounded by white curtains and canopy for a bit of privacy and to keep the sun out of your eyes.

Food: The main restaurant is of course a buffet, located on the 2nd floor of the main reception building. The buffet is open for breakfast and dinner, and the hours are quite good. The food is fine – lots of variety. The sitting area was large enough that there were always tables available. Lunch is available at the beach bar/mexican restaurant, and offers both hot and cold buffets plus a fast food bar with fries burgers etc. Most days at lunch there was also an outdoor BBQ next to the main pool, with ribs, tacos and all sorts of stuff. There is an a-la-carte Oriental and Mexican restaurant. These require reservations and have some degree of dress code. The Mexican restaurant has its own kitchen and chefs so you aren’t getting served buffet fare. The Mexican and Oriental restaurants were both worth visiting.

There are several bars, all seemingly with different operating hours. The beach bar is open from 10am to 6pm, and is between the main pool and the beach. The pool bar is part of the lunch restaurant, and I think has the same hours. There is an evening bar just outside the main building, and also adjacent to the buffet restaurant upstairs. There is also an adults only bar next to the theatre, which is open until the wee hours of the morning, and also has late night snacks. There is food ALL THE TIME and drinks ALL THE TIME, hotdogs and popcorn at the kids area all day so you cannot go hungry!

Note: We did not take any special shots (ie. Twinrix) before our vacation and no one was sick from the food or drinks. We did not take any special precautions other than used the bottled water provided in our rooms when brushing teeth and rinsing our toothbrushes.

Opinions/Tips: The Information Desk (you’ll see right after you walk into the resort) tries to get you to visit to their sister resort which is called Occidental Grand Cozumel, located next to this resort in exchange for breakfast or lunch and coupon vouchers which allows you to rent a jeep for only $20 U.S. for 24 hrs. In return you must spend 2 hours there talking to a rep. over breakfast and then touring the grounds. They then try to get you to buy a membership there which is a RIP OFF! Be firm and don’t let them pressure you! We did it and felt it was worth the 2 hrs for a good breakfast and a $20 jeep rental. Our opinion is that Occidental Grand Cozumel didn’t seem to be as family friendly as Holiday Village W.S. We saw very few families with kids there.

It is my understanding that Signature Vacations took over a long-term lease. They got rid of the old staff and hired all new Mexican staff. They brought in “Signature people” (young British adults) to run the entertainment including kid’s activities during the day and the shows in the evening. I must say it was disappointing that they didn’t have decent entertainment in the evening for adults. I am in Mexico and would have loved to see some cultural entertainment and even some dancing in the evening – it doesn’t have to be all night – until 11pm or midnight.

Even in the day when we were laying next to the pool, some nice Latin music in the background would have been great, instead they played 80s and 90s pop and rock! I don’t get it. Certainly not what I wanted to hear in Mexico! But it was very pretty….

Would I return: Yes. I would especially recommend it to families.

Mar
29

Lee’s Scuba Reviews

Location: Roatan, Honduras

Dive Shop: Bananarama   Dive boats tied off to floats instead of using anchors to avoid damage to ocean reefs.  This dive shop pays a fee to the National Marine Park to utilize the dive sites.Dive Site: The Lighthouse Reef, located in West End

Dive Date: March 9, 2009

Depths: 30-50 feet

Observations: Smooth surface with great visibility down to 50 plus feet.  Witnessed lobsters, large schools of various fish, plus a sea turtle.  Coral was colourful and in good shape.

Would I dive this site again: YES

Night Dive at Lighthouse Reef

Mar
25

Roatan, 2009

Caribbean Creamery

 

A real treat to visit this delightful establishment that specializes in homemade ice cream and baked goods.  They offer superb local coffee and a free refill is available with each cup purchased!

 

Located just off the beach at the Banarama Resort and Dive Centre in West Bay.

 

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