Category Archives: United States

Getaway to the Naples Grande Beach Resort

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend at the Waldorf Astoria Collection’s Naples Grande Beach & Golf Resort in Naples, on the Southwest coast of Florida. For us, it’s an easy 2 hour drive to get to Naples, and we like to be able to get away from the routine for a weekend. This time, we found an excellent rate for this resort, and jumped at the opportunity (note that this was not a travel agent rate, but a rate we obtained from one of our suppliers).

Before I get to my impressions of the hotel, I feel like I need to note how impressed I was with the hotels social media presence, specifically on twitter. It’s very common for companies to have a twitter account. Unfortunately, it’s also common for them to use it as a one-way street to post notices, offer, etc., instead of using it as a true media tool. That is not the case with the Naples Grande, whose twitter account is @NaplesGrande. I made my reservation just a couple of days before arriving. I immediately twitted that I was staying there, and was twitted back promptly offering any help I may need. I asked for an early check in, if possible, and was told they were going to try to accommodate me. As I was on my way to Naples a couple of days later, I got a tweet letting me know that my early check in was now confirmed! Kudos to the hotel’s social media department…

View Towards the Coast

The hotel is very well located, directly on the coast, not far from downtown Naples. The only drawback is that it’s not directly on the beach (although you won’t see that mentioned in the hotel’s website). There’s a marsh area between the hotel and the beach. You go down to the pool and take a golf cart to the beach. It takes about 10 minutes, and is really no big deal. That is, unless you’re lucky enough to get a typical Florida afternoon thunderstorm and want to get to back at the same time 100 other people are trying to! The beach itself, however, is beautiful, quiet, the sea is more like a pool, and the facilities and restaurant are adequate.

Room at the Naples Grande Resort

The resort building is nicely decorated, as are the ample rooms. Ours had 2 double beds and an extra large bathtub (no jacuzzi, though). Wifi is provided as part of the inevitable resort fee (that’s a rant for another time). In short, the room and the hotel grounds are comfortable, nice, nothing over the top…

The only negative points, which I wouldn’t have expected in a hotel of this quality, were bed sheets with a hole in one of the corners and a slightly moldy shower curtain. Also surprising was that there was no mini-fridge in the room, although they sent us one when we asked. The other surprising issue was that there is no elevator access to the garage. You either valet (at an additional cost) or take the stairs (luggage, stroller, sleeping child, etc., included).

The pool are is very nice. There are 2 pools, one of which has a sloped entry for children and a waterslide. This is the more popular of the 2 among families, and it was always full.

The Resort's Beach

To me, what makes or breaks a resort, is service. Here, I can’t find fault with the Naples Grande (although I have a good client who may disagree). The 2 requests we had for our room where there in less than 15 minutes. Service at the beach and the pool was always friendly and prompt. The pool staff went out of their way to find chairs for us and find a place for us around the pool where there was enough shadow. Our early check in and late check out requests were happily granted. To me, that is much more meaningful and important than a sheet with a hole in it.

Going back to the location of the hotel, there are plenty of things to do close by. Dining and shopping options can be found 3 minutes from the hotel. Downtown Naples and 5th Ave. is less than 10 minutes away, and we found a very nice park just South of 5th Ave., with the biggest children’s playground we’ve seen!

We definitely enjoyed our time at the Naples Grande and would not hesitate to go back. In fact, we most likely will, and are looking forward to it.

I would love to help you plan your next vacation to Naples or any other place. Please contact us for details or to have us plan your next vacation!

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
kctravel.nexion.net
kctravel@bellsouth.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

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New York New York

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I had the opportunity to spend a few days in New York. We were there for 5 days, and didn’t even come close to doing everything we wanted to do. That’s not a suprise, considering everything that the city offers. And since the primary reason of our visit was a family celebration, our free time to play tourists was reduced.

Rather than give you an account of what we did, I’ll just list some of my impressions of the trip:

  • New York is still the city that doesn’t sleep, still as fascinating as ever, still as vibrant as ever

     

    Rockefeller Center

  • The subway system is a phenomenal form of transportation. The ride from where we were staying in Brooklyn to Times Square was about half an hour.
  • As good as it is, the subway system is most definitely not stroller friendly! Fortunately, there was always someone willing to help me carry it up or down the stairs, or to open the gate for us. Some people went literally out of their way to help us. Cynics said these were probably tourists; they were not.
  • If you plan to ride later than 11:30 or midnight, be aware of lines skipping stops or changing routes. Our half hour to Brooklyn turned into an hour and a half ordeal when we left Grand Central after midnight.
  • Few scenes are as eye-catching as Times Square at night. This is true both for adults, as well as kids, and even our baby.
  • “The Park” is not the only one in the city. Carl Shurz Park, in the Upper East side, on the East River, was a very pleasant surprise.

     

    Charles Shurz Park

  • Be prepared to walk a lot. Wear comfortable shoes. One night, we walked from Times Square, down Broadway, all around Midtown, up 5th Ave, through Rockefeller Center, back to Times Square. The next one, from Grand Central, up Lexington, to central Park, ending around 90th St. Our final afternoon, we walked for a couple of hours in the Museum of Natural History (in the Upper West Side), and then all the way down to Lexington and 39th on the East Side.
  • During those long walks, absorb every sight you can. There may be something familiar, something unexpected, something beautiful, in every street, every corner.

     

    Chrysler Building

  • Be prepared to make alternate plans. Our rainy days derailed our plans to visit Ground Zero, Chinatown, Little Italy, and surrounding areas. We ended up spending more time inside and around Grand Central Station, and visiting the museum. Fortunately, there are plenty of attractions to consider away from the weather.
  • Time permitting, visit some of the other boroughs. Each one has a different personality. We had the opportunity to stay in Brooklyn (Crown Heights, to be exact), and to visit several neighborhoods in that borough.
  • As in every trip, engage the people you meet, be it locals or other tourists. We spent an hour with great conversation sharing a table at a Starbucks with a Mexican biochemist in town for a conference.
  • Enjoy the food and the atmosphere! If there’s one city that has everything type of cuisine available, any type of activity you may want, this is it.

Also, let me point out some useful tools:

  • Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s website give’s you information on the Metro, the different lines and schedules. It even has a trip planner where you can enter your current location, destinations, and it will tell you the best way to get there.
  • http://www.nycgo.com is the city’s official marketing and tourism organization.
  • The NYC Subway Map app for the iPhone comes in very handy when you’re need a quick look at the extensive map. It’s not interactive, though, so you need to have an idea of where you are and where you’re going.
  • Another app, The New York at a Glance City Guide, by Bee Loop, has a long list of attractions, points of interest, shopping venues, restaurants, etc. It also gives you the cost of an attraction’s entrance, and sorts locales by distance from your current location.

There’s always something to do in New York. Perhaps no other city in the US is as vibrant, as electric, as “must see”, than New York. There’s also no wrong time to visit. Each season has its own appeal.

If you’ve visited the city, you know what I’m talking about. Feel free to comment below; I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Eating for Free at Disney World

Back in February, I wrote about the best offer I’ve seen from Disney in a long time. Although not as good, their new offer still provides great value, especially for families. Now, when you stay at some of the Disney hotel for 5 nights or more, you get the Disney Dining plan for free.  Of course, you also get:

  • The convenience of staying at a Disney hotel, with transportation to and from the parks
  • The use of Disney Express transportation to and from the Orlando airport
  • Tickets for the parks (Magic Your Way base tickets, that can be upgraded to Park Hoppers and No Expiration tickets)

The dining plan includes (for each night staying at the hotel):

  • 1 Table Service Meal (buffet or entree and dessert plus a non-alcoholic drink)
  • 1 Quick Service Meal (an entree or combo, plus dessert, plus a non-alcoholic drink)
  • 1 snack

A typical price for a family of 4 for 5 nights is $1390. That’s less than $70 per person per night, which is really a bargain, considering just the cost of the tickets. The tickets included are the standard ones that allow guests to visit one park per day. I would recommend upgrading to the Park Hopper tickets, which allow you to move between parks in the same day.

Disney Free Dining Offer

This offer is valid for travel most nights between August 16th and October 3rd and must be booked by June 31st. There’s a limited number of rooms available for this package every day, so book early! If you’d like more information, or would like us to help you book, please contact us.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Pay 4, Stay 7 Nights at Walt Disney World

There’s no doubt Walt Disney World and the other Disney parks in Orlando are one of the country’s most popular attractions.  Those of us who live in Florida are lucky to be able to drive to Orlando and take a weekend vacation to Disney. For those coming from farther away, it’s more practical to make it a week’s vacation.

Disney is now making it easier than ever to do just that. They have extended their Buy 4, Get 3 Free package for travel until mid-August. The way it works is that by buying a 4-night, 4-day non-discounted Magic Your Way Package, you get an additional 3 days for free! The Magic Your Way Package includes Disney tickets, and so your tickets for the 3 extra days are also free.

Disney Buy 4 Get 3 Free Flyer

Disney Buy 4 Get 3 Free Flyer

Not only that, but if you stay at the Disney’s Old Key West Resort or Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, you will receive a $100 Disney Gift Card** (available for arrivals beginning March 30 – April 1 and April 19 – Aug. 15, 2009).

If that’s not enough, you can also stay at one of 24 off-Disney participating hotels and take advantage of the same promotion. Participating hotels range from a Holiday Inn Express and the Lake Buena Vista Comfort Inn, to the luxurious Disney Swan and Disney Dolphin Resorts.  Off-Disney hotel stays are only available until June 27th.

These packages have to be booked by March 29th, and are subject to limited availability and black out dates.  Also, there are several options for Disney tickets. I can help you figure what the best option for you and your family is.
Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171

Valentine’s at the Regent Bal Harbor

The Regent Bal Harbor is a luxury oceanfront hotel, 15 minutes away from South Beach and less than half an hour from Fort Lauderdale. If you still don’t have a plan for Valentine’s Day, they are offering a 2-night package (that can be extended) for the nights of the 13th to the 15th of February. The package includes:

  • Two nights luxury accommodations, in a room or suite overlooking Biscayne Bay or the Atlantic Ocean
  • Four course dinner for two at 1 Bleu, the hotel’s restaurant, led by chef Mark Militello. The dinner includes wine pairings
  • Special “Bath Turndown” by the hotel’s Bath Butler, featuring Guerlain Spa products
  • A bottle of champagne and chocolates to enjoy in your room
  • Breakfast both mornings

If you’re not familiar with Bal Harbor, it is renowned for the exclusive Bal Harbor Shops, and for the many excellent restaurants in the area. I can personally recommend Cafe Ragazzi (Italian) and Adriana (Peruvian), which are less than a 5 minute drive away.

The package starts at $600 per night. It’s not cheap, but if you want to plan something very special for that day, this may fit the bill. If you don’t want to spend quite that much, I can help you find other alternatives as well.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171


The 49th’s 50th

This month, Alaska celebrated its 50th year as a State. It was admitted to the Union on January 3rd, 1959, and was followed by Hawaii a few months later.  Fifty years later, Alaska remains one of the country’s distant frontiers and an exotic destination.

There are 3 popular ways of exploring this largest of the States: By cruise, by tour, and by combination tour/cruise.

Alaska cruises are offered by most major cruise lines, and offer the opportunity to visit several ports, get up close  and personal with glaciers, and see spectacular scenery. As can be expected, demand for these cruises increases as the weather gets milder in July and August. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Statehood, Princess Cruises is offering 2-for-1 fares on many of its Alaska sailings. Most Alaska cruises are either 7-day round trip sailings from Seattle or Vancouver, or one-way cruises between one of these ports and Seward or Whittier. The following is a typical round-trip itinerary:

Alaska itinerary

Other cruise lines, which use smaller ships, like Cruise West, also have sailings in Alaska, and offer the opportunity to get to places where the bigger ships can’t.

The second popular way to visit Alaska is by land. Companies like Tauck, Globus, Abercrombie&Kent, Trafalgar, and others, offer tours from 6 to more than 15 days. Some like Tauck, offer tours geared to multigenerational families, so everyone from kids to grandparents can enjoy the State’s attractions, from watching varied fauna that includes bald eagles, moose, beavers, and perhaps even bears, to experiencing true Alaskan traditions like dogsledding, hiking, fishing, etc. A detailed itinerary can be seen here.

The third way to visit Alaska is by combining a tour and a cruise. In my opinion, this is the best option because it combines the opportunity to see glaciers and navigate through the majestic Alaskan waterways with the unique experiences that only an inland tour can provide. You can combine any cruise with any tour, even if they are offered by different companies, provided that the dates match. Cruise lines, however, offer extensions to their cruises that allow travelers to stay in Alaska in combination with sailings starting or ending in the State. Right now, there are very good offers from several cruise lines on cruisetours. For example, Princess is helping passengers save money by allowing them to fly into Seattle instead of Vancouver, and is including a motorcoach transfer to the port, the cruise, tour, flight back to Seattle, and a night’s hotel in  Seattle before the flight back home.  Celebrity is offering $200 shipboard credit per stateroom:

Celebrity alaska

There are many other offers from most suppliers, so feel free to contact us to find the best deal and the best fit for you and your family.

Regards,

Enrique Brener
KC Travel
N. Miami Beach, FL
www.kctravel.jurni.net
info@kctravel.jurni.net
305-792-0618
FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171