Soon to be bride + groom = earlymoon

Planning for a wedding is a busy time for couples. As a travel advisor I love arranging the couple’s honeymoon. This is the time for just the two of them to relax and reminisce on the day they shared with family and friends.

With all the stress involved in the planning process of a wedding it is a great idea for the soon to be bride and groom to take a little time before their big day to reconnect. This is known as the earlymoon. During this getaway a couple can take a break from the wedding planning and focus on some much-needed time together.

Whether it is an active vacation, or a relaxing one, your travel advisor can arrange the perfect pre-wedding vacation. Some couples might even enjoy a stay at a wellness facility where you can take fitness classes, enjoy spa treatments and work on tightening and toning for the big day.

While weddings are landmark life events, they can often be stressful. We are here to help you relax and recharge before AND after the big day.

You already have enough on your plate; let the travel experts at Andavo Travel plan your earlymoon, honeymoon and even bachelor/bachelorette trips.

Luxury Hotel Review: The Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

I lay in the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever slept in and listen to the waves crash outside. I am completely relaxed. My biggest worry when I wake up in the morning is should I go for a plunge in my private pool to watch for whales or take a bath in the inviting en suite tub before joining in yoga at the beach pavilion. Where am I you might ask? A slice of heaven in Mexico.

Located at the base of Pedregal Mountain, in the town of Cabo San Lucas, The Resort at Pedregal can only be accessed via a private tunnel carved through the center of the mountain. Each guestroom features its own private plunge pool, a fireplace, an outdoor terrace and a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean where it meets the Sea of Cortez, near the legendary rock formations known as Land’s End. The combination of sea and desert landscapes allows for an abundance of adventures waiting to be discovered.

At this resort, no detail has been left unattended and the constant surprises for guests just keep coming. Upon arrival each room has a complimentary bottle of premium tequila and a beach bag. Every afternoon you will have guacamole, pico de gallo and homemade chips delivered to your room along with Coronitas. The perfect afternoon snack. And at turn down you will get a Mexican cookie and water to enjoy before your restful night sleep.

The resort has four restaurant options. Don Manuel’s is the perfect spot for contemporary Mexican cuisine throughout the day. In the evening they often have live music for your enjoyment. El Farallon is a very special dining experience serving fresh fish specialties and lighter fare in a dramatic, alfresco setting suspended over the crashing waves of the ocean.

The Luna y Mar Spa is open daily for relaxing massages, body treatments and custom packages. On the day of my arrival the spa was calling me. Every element of the water journey and my full-body massage was complete bliss. Spa guests can also relax by the salt water pool the day of their appointment. In addition, there are 3 other pools on property, with one being adult-only.

Weekly on-site activities include: surf fishing classes, Mexican wine or tequila tastings, cocktail parties, kids movie nights, ceviche demos, cooking classes, Spanish lessons, fitness classes, sunset tours and more. Some of these activities are complimentary, while others incur a fee.

While staying at Pedregal you enter a world apart, but you still have easy access to local attractions. It is a 10-minute walk to Cabo San Lucas for dining, shopping and the marina.

You may also want to consider excursions to beaches for boogie boarding or surf lessons, private sailing tours, camel rides, ATV tours, horseback riding, cooking classes, or trips to swim with whale sharks in La Paz.

The Resort at Pedregal is one of very few properties in which every accommodation offers beautiful ocean views and a private plunge pool. Whether you are traveling as a couple, with a group of friends, or with a large family, there are room options to fit every need with a pool and a view to enjoy.

Since The Resort at Pedregal and Andavo Travel are both Virtuoso Members, we can offer our clients the following complimentary amenities:

Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Breakfast buffet daily in Don Manuel’s, two per bedroom (including all suites)
$100 USD equivalent Spa Services credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
VIP Airport Tickets with all BeachFront Suite bookings
Wi-Fi

Let’s start planning your vacation to experience a slice of heaven in Mexico.
Jamie Jackson: (336) 263-1977 or jamie@wanderunique.com
Luxury Travel Advisor and Virtuoso Wellness Travel community member at Wanderlust Travel Boutique, an Andavo Travel affiliate.

Luxury Hotel Review: Baccarat Hotel, New York City

I recently stayed at the beautiful Baccarat Hotel in Manhattan for four nights.  The first two nights were just me, and then my wife joined me over the weekend, so I booked a Classic King and then upgraded to a Grand Classic King.

The property opened in March 2015, and is stunning!! For those who don’t like dark lobby areas or having to take an elevator to the second floor to arrive at the actual hotel lobby, this won’t be your cup of tea. I myself actually much prefer contemporary decor and design, but I still really loved this property. It had a great blend of Parisian chic-ness to it, yet still felt modern. I’m not a big fan of carpet, so I loved that the flooring was hardwood. Even though a rug covered much of it, I still liked the contrast. The rooms also smelled fantastic! I felt like I was trapped in a bag of cotton candy.

The bathroom was gorgeous as well. The shower was a deep rectangular hallway, basically… a door on the bedroom side of the shower can be closed or opened, so you can shampoo with a view. Note that some Grand Classic Kings have a tub and some don’t. So if you require a tub, you might want to pro-actively ask to be assigned to a room with one.

We took the house car (an S class) to dinner at Sushi Yasuda, which is about 12 blocks away, and it was really nice to have a house car that’s actually available for use. Usually, we have to fight people for it (I’m 5’10 and 155 lbs, so we always end up taking an uber or walking…). The range limit is up to 15 blocks.

I’m excited to return for future stays and can see why almost all of my clients have loved it. It’s probably my favorite NYC hotel option at the moment.

Since I am affiliated with Andavo Travel, a Virtuoso member, and the Baccarat is also a Virtuoso member, my clients receive the following complimentary amenities when I book their stay:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast for up to 2 guests, in the Grand Salon
  • $100 spa services credit, to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary wi-fi

Luxury Caribbean Cruise Review: Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Brenda McClain during the St Lucia stop.

Last month I had the amazing opportunity to sail with Regent Seven Seas Cruises aboard the Regent Seven Seas Explorer on an 11-day Caribbean cruise. From the moment you step aboard with a welcome glass of champagne to the last morning’s seated breakfast – everything is included. That sounds impossible – but it’s true. Of course the initial investment is more than your typical cruise costs, but think of how much you generally spend after your cruise payment is made. You still have to pay for airfare (included with Regent); shore excursions (included with Regent); gratuities (included with Regent); unlimited WiFi (included with Regent); plus things like beverages/spirits and specialty dining (also included with Regent).

Oh, and I forgot to mention, instead of 2,000 of your best cruise friends, there are only 700 guests onboard, and everyone gets a suite — with a balcony. The suites are very spacious with a sitting area, and the bedding can be a king or two separate beds. The baths include two marble sinks, a tub, and a separate shower large enough for even a pro athlete. And you won’t believe the size of all of the public areas – the grand staircase reminded me of a five-star resort with a chandelier that seemed two stories tall.

Given the complimentary shore excursions, I drove a jetski in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and held a live starfish larger than a dinner plate another day. I surprised even myself!

The “foodies” aboard the ship all shared the same comments – the food was incredible. We tried the specialty restaurants more than once – including Prime 7 Steakhouse, the French Chartreuse, and the inviting Sette Mari at La Veranda with candlelit tables and main courses and desserts from all over Italy. Their wine selection comes from over 10 countries. We enjoyed the Pan Pacific restaurant with friends, but didn’t have a free night for an encore.

The nightly entertainment was excellent and changed every evening, so there was something for everyone.

The ship

After years in the travel industry and many cruises, I found this was an “experience”, not just a cruise. I hope to have a chance to sail again with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, but in the meantime would love to help you plan yours and share some of my knowledge with you. Please reach out to me at Brenda.McClain@AndavoTravel.com or 205-874-8528.

Winter Travel Advice from a Luxury Travel Advisor

The first winter storm of 2018 may have passed, but below normal temperatures and severe weather could cause further travel delays throughout the season.

host agencyHere are some tips to ease travel concerns during the winter months:

Consider Larger Airports
If you suspect there may be severe weather threats during your time of travel, consider flying from a larger airport. Larger international airports will have a greater chance of more alternate flights, and they are also better equipped to clear runways faster.

Travel Insurance
Often airlines will issue travel waivers that allow you to rebook your ticket away from the affected dates at no additional charge. You should take advantages of these when they are available. For those instances where your flight is canceled or delayed without a waiver travel insurance can be your saving grace to recoup all or part of your travel investment.

Travel Advisories
Get travel advisories or weather alerts delivered to your phone. There are several apps that allow you to receive email or text message notifications from your airline about your flight’s status. A weather app can also keep you updated about changing conditions.

Pack Smart
Make sure you have enough clothes and essentials in case you are kept longer at your destination due to flight delays or cancellations.

Travel Light
Even though I mentioned be prepared for an extended trip if you travel with only a carry-on you’ll be in a better position to change flights quickly in the event of a cancellation or quick layover.

Use a Travel Advisor
A travel advisor will be your advocate before, during and after you return to answer any questions that might come up and alter your itinerary if needed.

I am not telling you to avoid traveling during the winter, because we all know a warm weather getaway is just the cure for the winter blues. But, by working with a travel advisor to plan your vacation and keeping these things in mind it will help you have a more stress-free travel experience.

Hermitage Bay – Antigua’s Natural Paradise

Located in a hidden cove on the southwest coast of Antigua you will find Hermitage Bay. This 5-star truly boutique, adult-only, all-inclusive property only has 30 suites (17 built into the hillside and 13 on the beach). The privacy level and breathtaking views increase (along with the price of the suites) as you go up the hillside. I have never seen a property set up like this and fell in love with it immediately.

Hermitage Bay hillside

If you and your partner are looking for a very quiet, calm and tranquil Caribbean vacation experience then Hermitage Bay is the place for you.

The entire property closes for 2 months from the end of August to early October for yearly maintenance during the off-peak travel time. This makes sense since there is only one restaurant, a single bar lounge and a main infinity pool. During my tour of the property, we had lunch in the restaurant and I must say it was one of the most delicious lunches I have ever had. It would not bother me to eat three meals a day here as they make sure to keep the menu rotating with fresh and healthy selections.

When deciding between a beachfront suite and a hillside suite keep in mind that the beachfront suites have more living space and are closer to the main area. If you stay in one of the hillside suites you have a private plunge pool and beautiful views of the area. Hillside guests can either walk up the path to their suites or arrange for a golf cart to take you to and from your suite to the main area. Guests are not allowed to drive the carts themselves on the steep and windy road. All 30 rooms have surround sound, a soaking tub, an outdoor shower and independent Wi-Fi.

I’m not sure why you’d want to leave your room, but if you decide to relax on the beach, you can put a flag in the sand next to your beach chair to call over an attendant for service of drinks or any other need you may have. Unmotorized water sport options include snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking and more. There is a fitness center with yoga, Pilates and water fitness classes offered on alternating days. The spa is built into the hillside and is a must-visit during your stay.

Hermitage Bay private plunge pool

If you are celebrating a special occasion with your loved one and are looking for a luxurious, peaceful and natural boutique resort, Hermitage Bay will fulfill your every need.

Because Hermitage Bay and Andavo Travel are both Virtuoso Members, we can offer our clients the following complimentary amenities during their stay:
– Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
– Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests, served in restaurant
– $100 resort credit to be utilized during stay
– Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
– Complimentary Wi-Fi
– For stays of 3 nights or more, guests also receive roundtrip airport transfers

Luxury Resort Review: Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, California

I recently returned from a weekend stay at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, California. We left our three young kids at home and spent the weekend celebrating my husband’s 40th birthday. I cannot recommend this property enough; it was absolutely incredible! The decor of the hotel features the monarch butterfly throughout (as their name suggests) and everything felt very new, updated, fresh, and impeccably clean.

The view from the lobby balcony overlooking the grounds, pools, golf course, and ocean is a spectacular welcome after your arrival.

Their Miraval Spa is similarly gorgeous.  We treated ourselves to a couples massage (in a treatment room with a huge private bathtub lit by firelight!), and enjoyed the cozy relaxation rooms throughout the spa, as well as the steam room, sauna, and private whirlpools in each genders’ locker room.  Let me also just compliment them on their range of snacks in the relaxation rooms.  Most spas I go to have green apples and some sort of trail mix or granola.  The Miraval Spa did indeed have those staples, but also had a salty nut mix, dried fruit, and some chocolate covered pretzels.  Yes!! As someone with a sweet tooth, I like a little sugar while I relax at a spa!  It completes my zen.

We were upgraded from a pool-view room to an ocean-view room with a large balcony, much to our enjoyment.  Our room was gorgeous and well-appointed.

My husband golfed on Saturday morning and loved the course, particularly the holes set along the ocean. The course was well-designed by legendary golf architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and we found it easy to see why it currently ranks “Best Places To Play” with 4.5 Stars (out of 5) by Golf Digest and #1 Best Golf Course in OC by Orange County Register for 2017.

While he golfed, I took the cute beach tram down to the beach for a walk in the sand. We didn’t get a chance to eat at the Monarch Bay Club, but the setting couldn’t possibly be beat. I watched three dolphins frolic while I wandered to the trail that would wind me back up to the resort along the golf course, over picturesque bridges, turning back to pause and enjoy the ocean views when I felt lazy.

We ate lunch on their AVEO restaurant’s balcony to further enjoy the views, and while they had many lovely healthy options, we were all about celebrating a birthday and having a decadent weekend. Guess what I had for lunch? “Nutella crunch french toast and rum flambeed caramelized bananas with maple butter and toasted hazelnuts.” I’m still daydreaming about it.

We enjoyed a lot of time at the pool over the weekend, particularly the infinity edge hot tubs that overlook the stunning golf course and ocean view. (Will I ever stop talking about the view??) At one point, all of us whirlpool loungers even had a birds-eye-view of an intimate wedding going on in the botanical garden beneath us.

Monarch Beach Resort is a member of the Virtuoso luxury travel consortium, and so is Andavo Travel. This means that if you book your stay at Monarch Beach Resort through us, you’ll receive the following Virtuoso amenities – all complimentary:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests in AVEO Table + Bar or via room service
  • $100 resort credit, to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Plus, from now until March 31, 2018, you’ll also receive 10% off the resort’s best available rates.

Clearly, I’d suggest a visit.

The resort’s private beach tram.

A view of the resort from below, near the main pool.

Sunset from our room’s balcony.

A treatment room at the Miraval Spa

A cozy alcove in the entrance to the resort.

Monarch Beach Resort

Get ready to relax at Monarch Beach

Luxury Resort Review: Family Fun at Nick Punta Cana

I just returned from a stay with my family at the Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana (which is part of the Dominican Republic). As a travel advisor I have visited 6 Karisma properties and have always been impressed with their ability to have a high standard of quality service, amenities, and dining. The hotel brand’s first ever Nickelodeon resort has continued in this path and did not disappoint.

 

 

In June 2016, the property opened just 25 miles north of the Punta Cana airport. There are 208 rooms and a variety of categories to fit each family’s needs. There are room options with a partition for those that like to have separate sleeping areas. Some rooms can hold a family of 5 (which is hard to come by). Other options are swim-up suites, and for the ultimate luxury you can get a villa with a private pool and butler service that sleeps up to 6 guests.

 

 

The Nick Place water park is the place to be during the day if you want to enjoy the water features, lazy river, and fun activities organized by their vibrant staff. Whether it’s a sliming, foam party, character meet and greet, or games, feel free to take part in as many or as few activities as you like.

 

 

 

 

Just Kiddin’ is a favorite spot of children from ages 3-12. This is the kids club where parents can sign their kids in (with no charge) anytime from 9am-5pm and 7pm-9pm. If your children are under the age of 3 a private babysitting service can be arranged for an additional fee if the adults would like some alone time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t think this property only caters to children’s fun. Adults have a big beautiful spa to enjoy a variety of relaxing services. There is also a large fitness center and adult-themed activities scheduled throughout the day, such as yoga on the beach, water fitness classes, volleyball and more. The massive infinity pool overlooking the beach is not adult-only, but you will find this area has less children and is more adult oriented. There are also beautiful cabanas on the beach that are available at no additional charge. In the evening there is always live music in the gourmet village, an evening show, and an adult-only bar to enjoy drinks either before or after your evening gourmet meal.

 

 

 

When I mention Nick Punta Cana to a lot of people, their first words often are “my family is not into Nickelodeon”. You don’t have to be into Nickelodeon to enjoy this property. There are some themes of the network, but it is subtle and not overdone or tacky. It is a wonderful property for families to get away and enjoy some much-needed family time.

With my extensive knowledge of the resort and on-property training experience I am able to match your family with the perfect room category and guide you through the travel experience to have an enjoyable vacation.

Endless exploration opportunities on Oahu, Hawaii

While visiting Oahu, Hawaii in June with Delta Vacations, I had the opportunity to visit numerous hotels along Waikiki Beach and I was reminded what an international destination Hawaii is. And yet, no passports are needed for U.S. citizens — making the perfect vacation that much easier!

luxury travel agency

A view of Diamond Head from inside a Waikiki hotel.

From our home-base in Waikiki, restaurants, activities, shopping, history, and sightseeing of the island were all within easy access. I still get goosebumps at the Pearl Harbor memorial with the recounting of the December 7, 1941 events. The park gives you a wonderful presentation of the USS Missouri, USS Bowfin submarine, the Aviation Museum, and of course the restored USS Arizona memorial.

After all the excitement of Waikiki, take a trip up the Windward Coast to experience a family-owned cattle ranch operating since 1850, dramatic sea cliffs, botanical gardens, along with many miles of beautiful public beach areas.

 

 

 

Brenda McClain with Susan Jones, Andavo’s Delta Vacations Sales Manager, on one of the North Shore stops.

At the North Shore, make time to enjoy the shrimp trucks, epic waves, 650-acre Turtle Bay Resort, and the laid-back atmosphere of some small ocean towns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brenda McClain, in an Oahu hotel lobby full of beautiful orchids.

Disney has a resort on the island, as well as the new Four Seasons – so the hotel and resort selections are almost endless.

Being a Hawaii Specialist, I would be delighted to help you plan the perfect trip!

AmaWaterways Danube River Cruise Review

I’ve just returned from a wonderful 7-night Danube river cruise on the AmaWaterways AmaCerto ship. This was my third river cruise, second on AmaWaterways, but my first time down the Danube.

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AmaWaterways AmaCerto river cruise ship

We started in the charming German city of Vilshofen, a few hours outside of Munich. The ship docks near the center of town along a flowery river walking path and only a two minute walk to town. The festivities started right away with a German band and an Oktoberfest-type send-off with beer and pretzels.

AmaWaterways makes river cruising so easy and relaxing by offering a variety of city tours (included with your cruise in every city), so the gentle walkers can move at their own pace, while the regular walking tours and even bike tours can move a bit faster and get the chance to see more of the sights.

This itinerary is fantastic for those who have never made a Eastern European visit. AmaWaterways makes it possible to visit Prague for a three night pre- or post-cruise visit, or at the other end, a two night Budapest add on.

We visited Passau, Germany, Linz, Austria, Wachau Valley (Weissenkichen / Durnstein ) wine country, Vienna, Bratislava, Slovakia and finally Budapest, Hungary. With so much to see and do in Vienna and Budapest, the ship stays docked overnight. Linz has many included options to visit either Salzburg, Austria or Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic.

River cruise ships generally sail at night while spending most of the day docked in the cities. However, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy sailing along the swift-moving Danube during the day. I was impressed with the scenery and the cleanliness of the Danube river, beautiful forest, tidy cities, and the occasional castle or abbey ruin.

The food and selection with the chefs that are Chaîne des Rôtisseures appointed is always fabulous and they always bring a choice of local wines from the area on board to try with your dinners, which in my opinion, sets them apart from other river cruise lines.

Because all of this is included in your river cruise, the value is astounding. Call me if you’re thinking of a river cruise and I can find an itinerary that fits your style.