Category Archives: Hotels

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

Valuable as Sand

You usually don’t think of sand as a valuable commodity. However, when your livelihood depends on it, things change. Such is the case for beach destinations like Cancun and the Riviera Maya (the area immediately South of Cancun).  The Quintana Roo State Government and Tourism Secretariat has announced plans to restore beach fronts in the Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Cozumel areas. This is needed because the last few hurricanes that hit the area eroded the beach to the point that some hotels no longer have a beach, or it becomes impossible to use in high tide.

Retaining Wall at the Playacar Palace

Retaining Wall at the Playacar Palace

I saw this last year when we visited the area. Our hotel, the Playacar Palace, in Playa del Carmen, was almost perfect in every way, except for the beach. At its biggest point, the beach was maybe 30 ft wide and 6 ft deep. You could certainly take the steps down from the pool area for a dip in the ocean, but lounging was definitely out of the question. Ironically, the same is true for the Beach Palace Cancun. When we visited, you couldn’t even go down to the ocean because of the high tide.

View of the Beach Palace Cancun Pool Area and Beach

View of the Beach Palace Cancun Pool Area and Beach

Not all hotels suffer from this, though. I took the following picture at the beautiful Sun Palace, also in Cancun.

Beach at the Sun Palace in Cancun

To remedy the situation, the government will add sand to widen Cancun’s beach to 44 ft. wide, Playa del Carmen’s to 33 ft. wide, and Cozumel’s to 22 ft. The project meets established environmental protection norms, while the responsible entity has pledged to make sure environmental measures are respected and the local fauna and environment protected. For this reason as well, sand will only be extracted from certain areas and only between six and seven percent of sandbanks will be touched. Work will begin in the Riviera Maya’s Playa del Carmen this month, where 2.5 miles of dunes affecting the beachfronts of local hotels and condominiums will be filled in. Sept. 13 to 15 are when a 875-yard coastal sandbank will be created. Similar work in Cancun will extend from Sept. 30 to November.

The fact that the government is taking hands in the matter is a good thing. The alternative is for hotels to do it on their own, such as the Gran Caribe Real complex was trying to do. They got caught and their beach was cordoned off. Apparently, the hotel was pumping sand from the sea floor onto the beach, and had also built an illegal breakwater to prevent erosion. According to authorities, the hotel owners had refused previous requests to destroy the breakwater. The result was some very angry clients, who went to Cancun and couldn’t use the hotel’s beach, even though reports say they reopened the beach a couple of days later.

Cancun and the Riviera Maya, as well as Cozumel, continue to be some of the most popular beach destinations for American tourists, mainly because they offer beautiful beaches and additional activities for every age group. If you’re considering a beach vacation, please let me know and I’ll help you find the best resort for what you need. Most resorts, including Palace Resorts, have great offers, like free stays for kids 17 and under.

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

Don’t Trash your Hotel Room

I saw this report in the Sun Sentinel this morning and found it interesting. Apparently, there have been incidents across the country where hotel guests have been called by people pretending to be hotel employees, instructing them to intentionally damage their rooms.

What happened to the Kantorski’s at their hotel in Orlando is just an example, apparently. The Kantorski’s got a call, ostensibly from someone at the hotel, telling them there was a gas leak in the hotel, and to break the window with wathever they could find, which according to the paper, was a toilet bowl. He was then told to break the wall to the room next door, throw the mattress out the window, and jump to “safety”. By the time the hotel manager showed up to address a noise complaint in the room, the Kantorski’s had made $5000 worth of damage.

Other similar cases have involved the “testing” of fire alarm systems by breaking windows and the activation of sprinkler systems for fires that didn’t exist.

According to the article, hotel corporate offices are notifying their properties to be alert to these costly pranks. If you’re going to stay at a hotel soon, I’d advice to be alert as well. If you receive one of these calls, or if you suspect there’s something wrong at the hotel, call the front desk to verify . Also remember that in most likelihood, the best escape route on a fire would be using the hotel’s staircases and emergency exits, not the window.

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

Couples Opens Couples Tower Isle

Couples Resorts, one of the premier lodging companies in Jamaica, has announced the reopening of Couples Ocho Rios, now renamed Couples Tower Isle.

Couples Tower Isle

The resort, which was unveiled back in April, and is now officially open, underwent a $30 million renovation, which resulted in enhancements such as:

  • Ocean-view suites with zero edge walk-in showers
  • Renovations to the main lobby, piano bar, and 3 restaurants
  • A new wedding gazebo
  • A new vegetable and juice bar, and a pool grill
  • Upgraded the pool, gym, spa, and game room

Couples, as the name states, is directed to couples and romantic vacations, honeymoons, destination weddings, etc. Each Couples property includes bold design elements and local inspiration to create a laid-back natural setting infused with an authentic Caribbean spirit. For over 30 years, Couples has delighted guests with outstanding service, exceptional dining and unparalleled value-added experiences.

Couples Resorts

Their resorts are on the smaller side of the scale, and are more boutique-style unique resorts than the usual cookie cutter hotels you may have seen.

Couples offers not only some of the best All Inclusive resorts in Jamaica, but is also at the forefront of ecological responsibility. The resorts use eco-friendly paint and encourage guests to conserve energy. Among their achievements are:

  • 100% environment friendly cleaning products
  • Freon-free air conditioning units
  • Use of low energy light bulbs (90%)
  • 85% of the products used to prepare the food is obtained from local growers and farmers

The best thing is they achieve all this without sacrificing on customer experience and on the quality of the product they offer. All the clients I’ve sent to their resorts have come back happy, wanting to go back.

Couples Fall in Love

If you’re thinking about an intimate Caribbean vacation, I encourage you to look at what Couples has to offer. Through the end of the month, they are offering a very special “Fall in Love” promotion, with up to 50% savings and $500 credits. If you’d like to get more details, 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

Time to Go Back to Mexico?

It seems that the swine flu scare is subsuding, just a few weeks after it made the front pages.  On May 15th, the CDC removed its recommendation to avoid traveling to Mexico.

On the cruise front, Royal Caribbean is resuming visits to Mexican ports of call on sailings starting on May 24th. Carnival has also announced that it will resume its stops in Mexico once their already modified itineraries run their course. In fact, I’ve already started to receive requests for short cruises to the Western Caribbean, which stop in Cozumel, such as this one. Mexican Riviera sailings will also be restored.

Even if cruise lines were affected economically by the epidemic, they were still able to operate and most guests elected to sail the modified itinerary. Hotels and resorts didn’t fare as well. Some chains, like Iberostar and Occidental, were forced to close some of their hotels, with the effect that has on the company and its employees.  Guests in the affected hotels were upgraded to the more upscale resorts that remained open.

Guests may not return as quickly as people would hope, so companies are enticing tourists to come back with discount and even assurances. Occidental Resorts is offering free nights, starting with every second night free at the Occidental Grand Xcaret and  the Grand Cozumel, all the way to every 4th night free at the luxurious Royal Hideaway.

Free Nights from Occidental Resorts

Free Nights from Occidental Resorts

AMResorts' Flu Free Vacations

AMResorts, owner of the Dreams, Secrets, and Zoetry brands, announced a Flu Free Guarantee. If a guest contracts Influenza A – H1N1 while staying at one of their resorts, their next three vacations will be free of charge. In order to qualify, the guest must have reserved their stay between May 8, 2009 and June 30, 2009 for travel taking place between May 8, 2009 and December 20, 2009 (see the website for more details).
More offers are available from other companies, so if you want to hear about them and plan your next trip, let us know.

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

Starwood Hotels to Celebrate Earth Hour

Starwood Hotels, the company that represents such brands as Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, and the new Element and Aloft, has announced that their properties will participate in this weekend’s Earth Hour. For one hour, the hotels will turn off their signs, dimming or turning off non-essential interior lighting, using candlelight in public areas such as restaurants and bars, and informing guests about the hotel’s observation of Earth Hour through in-room voicemail messages and guest room television messages to encourage them to do the same.

In addition, hotels are coordinating additional events to highlight awareness, such as walk-a-thons in their local communities, public candlelight unplugged concerts, and guest receptions featuring signature green cocktails.

According to their press release, Starwood is rolling out initiatives to conserve energy and water, reduce waste, and improve environmental quality at their properties. I couldn’t find specific details on these initiatives, but their corporate environmental policy, which reads:

We, at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., believe that economic growth and the well-being of society are inextricably tied to the health of the environment. Accordingly, we embrace our responsibility for environmental stewardship and are committed to integrating leading environmental practices and sustainability principles into our core business strategy.

Through collaboration with our hotel owners, franchisees, suppliers and business partners, we will actively work to reduce the environmental impact of our business activities and to continually improve and innovate on practices aimed at:

  • conserving natural resources,
  • minimizing waste and pollution,
  • enhancing indoor environmental quality,
  • establishing and reporting on key environmental performance indicators, and
  • raising environmental awareness among our associates, guests and communities.

We acknowledge that, in many ways, we, like the global community we serve, are only in the early stages of developing and implementing the many changes that will be necessary to achieve these vital goals. Nonetheless, we strongly believe that our efforts to support a healthy environment serve the interests of both current and future generations and constitute the foundation for enduring success.

As part of that corporate policy, Starwood is proud that have launched Element, the first major hotel brand to mandate that all hotels in the US (there’s currently 4 of them) pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification.
I think what Starwood is doing is commendable, and I hope the Earth Hour initiative is just a sign of their efforts to become more environmentally friendly.

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