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Featuring – Unique Properties and Destinations- Part 1

What I love about my job as a master travel specialist? Presenting unique properties and destinations that my customers may not have thought of or never even knew existed. It opens their eyes to the world in so many new ways.

Check-out just a few my recommendations in Part 1 of Unique Properties & Destinations

1.  Vila Monte – A Farmhouse Chic Retreat in Portugal’s sunny Algarve region

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2.  Continentale Florence, Italy – Designer Michele Bönan has turned this member of the Ferragamo family’s small range of hotels into a retro jewel.

905768_97_z continentale-prestige-river-view-R-r

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Hotel San Jose – 40 room urban bungalow-style hotel tucked behind stucco walls and set amidst lush garden courtyards in Austin, Texas. The San Jose is located on South Congress Avenue, a few blocks from downtown and Lady Bird Johnson Lake in the heart of one of Austin’s favorite neighborhoods.

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All Aboard! Our Amazing Summer Group River Cruise Review!

Vacationista Travel Viking River Cruise Group 2015

The rivers of the world are fast becoming hotspots for travelers and is currently the fastest growing tourism segment. European river cruising has boomed in the last decade (the river cruise lines can’t build the vessels fast enough!), and cruise lines are expanding to more exotic and interesting parts of the globe every year.  For many years river cruising was frequented by retirees.  However,  based on the below highlights of a river cruise, river cruising now attracts young professionals, honeymooners, generation x & y travelers as well as baby boomers.

  • Smaller intimate vessels
  • An all-inclusive offering
  • Desire for travelers to have a more authentic travel experience
  • Opportunity to visit cities throughout Europe not located on a coastal waterway accessed by larger ocean liners but rather more inland (think Budapest, Paris, and Vienna)  where guests can immerse themselves with the local cultures

We had the pleasure to experience a river cruise this summer when we hosted a group of all ages via a Viking River Cruise on the Rhine Getaway.  One word to describe this incredible trip – AMAZING! Below are a few highlights from our trip followed by a video of the Viking River Cruise we sailed:

  • We started in Amsterdam- highly recommend an extra night or two stay prior to the cruise.  The entire group agreed that Amsterdam exceeded all our expectation.  What a great walkable city but we so enjoyed the hop-hop off canal boat cruise.  I cannot say enough about how much we loved this city and I will definitely be back to spend much longer!  Did I mention the bicycles!! I never saw so many- there were parking lots of bicycles- 10,000 bicycles in one parking lot alone! And the fresh flowers- anyone would revel over the Peonies but wow, what a florist’s dream!
  • Our itinerary featured mostly ports in Germany (along with 1 port in France, Holland, and Switzerland).  One day, after a morning tour of a castle, we sat on the top sun deck, shoes kicked off, relaxing in the lounge chairs, being served drinks and desserts, listening to the tour director narrate while we viewed 16 castles along the Rhine!
  • We sailed the Viking Mani- a new vessel built this year.  It was stunning but more so, the staff was just perfect! I can’t think of anything I would improve.
  • We met most of the travelers on the cruise because of its smaller, more intimate size.  Although we were traveling in a group, we all made new instant friends.
  • Loved that the cruise docked right in the towns – we could walk on & off to visit each charming town.
  • All daily tours were included along with impressive tour guides.

Call us at Vacationista Travel to begin planning your next River Cruise!!!

318-469-2664  or sherri@vacationistatravel.com

SherriPic copy

 

 

Aboard the new Norwegian Getaway! What it’s like? And Tips You Need!

This month Vacationista Travel had the opportunity to sail the newest and greatest ship by Norwegian Cruise Line.  But enough about what we did and more about how can our experience help you have a great cruise! Below is our review but also we provide tips below which can apply to any cruise you choose….

NCL Getaway:

Overall we had a fantastic cruise! Before the cruise, I have to say I am love  with the customer online portal they offer.  I think it is the best in the industry.  Very simple to add restaurant, show, shore excursions etc. reservations to your itinerary prior to the cruise– a great to build your itinerary!  The highlight of our cruise was dining in the evening.  The food was exceptional and the ambiance of most speciality restaurants was 5 star.  Our favorite restaurants onboard were Cagney’s Steakhouse and Moderno (the Brazilian steakhouse).  Back home you could easily spend over $200 for two for meals and drinks at a similar 5 star steakhouse.  AND the big plus! NO crowds in these restaurants! Worth every penny of the specialty dining package (which purchased is only just over $100 for the week).

The ship’s decor was also a differentiator among other cruise ships.  A decor snob (yes, I admit!), I was very impressed!  No more cheesy cruise ship colors, carpets, fabric patterns, NOT on this ship! Kudos to their designers! And the Entertainment – a blast, we especially loved Howling at the Moon aboard the Getaway!

Where I think they miss the mark, however, not greatly but slightly, is the service.  It was not terrible, it was good, but not great.  I don’t think I ever met our cabin attendant.  Not a big deal but I do like to know who they are and they are available to me.  The bartenders in the outside adult sun area, Spice H2O, were not friendly.  The attitude overall was sell, sell, sell, more services not provide great service. We also felt the activities, shows, events they hosted in the atrium (which is small) should have been hosted in the Theatre.  It was very difficult to see the shows when everyone is on the same small level with very limited seating.  Lastly, I was most disappointed in the Spa.  It was beautiful but #1 the services were not good, especially for the price #2 very disappointed in the pricing for the Spa Thermal Suite.  The Spa Thermal Suite offered an area of relaxing lounge chairs, sauna, steam room, salt room, indoor pool, heated tiled beds, A GREAT ESCAPE towards the end of the cruise to get out of the sun or a great place to unwind after working out.  However, a week long pass per person was $200!  So be prepared for this expense if this is important to you.

Tips:

Water– I would very much recommend bring a case of bottled water on board. NCL allows you to do this. You can store a bottle or two in the mini-fridge. Of course, the mini-fridge has items in it for purchase. You can keep them in the fridge or ask your room attendant to remove. We forgot to pick up a case of water which I knew to do so we had to buy the water package on board which of course is pricey. Other recommendations regarding water is to bring your own re-usable water bottles, then you can fill up at the cafeteria anytime.
Wine– NCL does let you bring on wine (not liquor). There is no limit. However, they do charge a $15 corkage fee per bottle as soon as you board, so regardless if you will drink in your room, you still pay the corkage fee. We are red wine drinkers so just fyi, the best priced wine for Cabernet was a Beringer Estates for $28 a bottle or $7.75 a glass.
Room card holders– These are the lanyards that go around your neck. I had some and wasn’t sure if we would use but definitely did and it makes is keeping up with your room card so much easier – most cruisers used them as well. They sell on the ship for $6.95 for a basic one or I heard Walmart sells a pack of them for a few dollars.
Spa– Typically I try to make spa appointments as soon as I get onboard and I still recommend if you this is still true if you are set on a certain date & time BUT, we found on NCL everyday after the first day, the spa ran much better specials – MUCH BETTER! Everyday after the first day they ran specials which would include a massage and multiple other services for $99-129, whereas on the first day of the cruise the best deal was just a massage for no less than $149. We had no problems getting appointments either on any day whether at sea or not– & even last minute.
Gratuities– we did not pre-pay our gratuities, which usually I do BUT we ate at the specialty restaurants every night and we provided a gratuity then. Each day on your bill, they will add a per person service charge, which is the gratuity of $12 per person per day. The next to last day, I just went to the service desk and adjusted since we were paying gratuities to everyone separately – bartenders, specialty restaurants, spa, etc. Therefore, basically I reduced our gratuities to cover our room attendant.
Backpack-– Recommend in place of a bag, Just makes it much easier in port and on the ship.
Specialty restaurants– again, this was our highlight, they were amazing every night!! With NCL you can purchase the specialty dining package and now that I have experienced their ship with over 29 dining options, I highly recommend!

Shore Excursion– Recommend everyone of the excursions we took– St. Maarten: ATV Island Tour with Beach Break, new ATVs, beautiful views throughout the entire island with stops for pics along the ways (we even got stopped by the goats in the streets), St. Thomas: Castaway Girl – wonderful crew, beautiful catamaran, guides were wonderful in the water when we snorkeled by educating us on the different fish, coral, etc..  Bahamas:  two excursions – Blue Lagoon Beach Break – such a better excursion than going with the masses to Atlantis, trust me! And Scuba, enjoy diving up to 90 feet to ship wrecks featured in James Bond movies.

 

Until the next Getaway!

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine

Four Budget Friendly Travel Tips

Four Travel Tips

  • Take Advantage of Off-Season:  Europe can be very affordable January thru mid-March, pack a coat and scarf and you could be experience more for less (sometimes half the price!)
  • Choose Cost Effective Destinations:  think Costa Rica or even Thailand, where you money goes far (even in the spa!)
  • Eat Street Food:  Offers great local cuisine and cheaper than the tourist trap delis
  • OR Consider an All-Inclusive Resort Vacation: Yes, they do offer 5 star luxury all-inclusives nowadays, which are an incredible bargain!

Contact us today for more creative ways to make your vacation dreams a reality!

 

Top Punta Cana, D.R. Resorts for Couples & Families

Punta Cana is a top Caribbean vacation destination in the Dominican Republic for families and couples, due to its affordability with an amazing choice of all-inclusives, beach resorts and hotels.Here’s Vacationista Travel’s top picks!

For Families

Now Larimar Punta Cana

Located on over 700 yards picturesque palm-studded white sand beach on the majestic turquoise Caribbean Sea, Now Larimar Punta Cana offers all the privileges of an Unlimited-Luxury® escape in exquisite seaside settings.

 

Now Larimar Punta Cana

Now Larimar Punta Cana

For Couples

Excellence Punta Cana

The resort is a romantic getaway for couples that want a different kind of vacation. The resort is far from the crowds, nestled in a forest of seven thousand coconut palms on a remote stretch of Punta Cana’s crystalline Caribbean shoreline.

Excellence Punta Cana

Excellence Punta Cana

Secrets Royal Beach

Perfectly situated on a palm-studded, sugar white beach in Playa Bavaro, Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana offers adults a seaside escape to paradise. Reflecting a modern twist on the traditional Caribbean décor with touches of vivid colors, this Unlimited-Luxury® resort boasts a wealth of amenities, elite services and contemporary accommodations.

Secrets Royal Beach

Secrets Royal Beach

 

Swimsuit Preview 2013

Spring is almost here – so what better time to start shopping for a new swimsuit while the new looks are still available.  What better place to get ideas and inspiration than the runaways of Rio! Whether you choose a one-piece, monokini or a two-piece, Rio has you covered. Below is a collection of our favorite colors and styles from Rio 2013!

Swimsuit Fashion 2013Summer Swimsuit Fasion

Luggage Packing Made Easy!

Who hates packing? Alot of us!! I am not good at it, and I always seem to have too much stuff and not enough room for it. How is it that you can pack everything and it will fit but when returning from the trip, it won’t?? Below is such a great graphic to illustrate proper packing technique, so you can stop stressing about where to put that extra sweater.

Luggage packing technique

 

 

Weekly Can’t Miss Specials!

Don’t let these pass you by in 2013! Make your travel bucket list and a New Year’s resolution to enrich and fulfill your life by seeing the world!   All prices valid as of December 5, 2013 @ 4pm – subject to change, don’t wait!

South Africa

#1 South Africa from $1099: Tracking the Big Five in Kruger National Park

9 days from Johannesburg to Durban:  $1099 per person + airfare (same price whether traveling solo or with a companion!)

What’s Included

  • Kruger National Park entrance with game drive in overland vehicle, Traditional Shaagan dinner and dance.
  • 8 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 5 dinners.
  • Simple hotels (3 nts), participation camping (4 nts), backpacker style dormitory (1 nt).
  • 16-seat touring vehicle, walking.
  • Chief Experience Officer (CEO)/cook and driver throughout, local guides.
  • Small group experience; Max 16, avg 12.
  • A donation to Planterra Foundation from Vacationista on your behalf – helping to make a difference in the lifes and communities around the world

NCL Alaska Cruise

#2 Alaska Cruise from $699:  7 night Glacier Bay Cruise from Vancouver, May 13, 2013

7 nights visiting Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and cruise the majestic Glacier Bay from $699 per person INCLUDES port charges & taxes – THIS IS $240 Less Than Buying from Cruise Line Direct!

Bonus!!!  Compliments of Vacationista $75 On Board Credit

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Real Honeymoon: Where Does A Master Travel Specialist Honeymoon?

Where does a Master Travel Specialist choose to honeymoon? When planning honeymoons and vacation experiences is your career, this can be a daunting decision! Just ask Master Travel Specialist and Founder of Vacationista Travel, Sherri Miller.  Married this summer, she and her husband knew of the endless possibilties.  We were able to grab Sherri for a quick interview for a peek into her romantic honeymoon at the Viceroy Sugar Beach St. Lucia in a Beach Bungalow and find out where she will be traveling next!

Viceroy Sugar Beach

Our Bungalow was nestled at the base of the mountains, on the strip of sand you see in the picture!

Where did you get married?

We were married this summer in McKinney, TX at the Bingham House.

Matt & Sherri's Wedding

Why did you and your husband choose St. Lucia and the Viceroy Sugar Beach?

Like many newly weds, we had taken several days off work prior to the wedding for preparation and to share time with our family and friends, most of which traveled from all across the US.  Therefore, we had to limit our honeymoon to one week.  This eliminated destinations on our list such as Tahiti and Africa.  We also knew we wanted the majority of our trip to be all about relaxing and being pampered! And of course, I wanted to choose a luxury resort I had not visited yet and had been on my dream list for many years.

Viceroy Sugar Beach Honeymoon
What did you most enjoy during your honeymoon?

The scenery and the peacefulness.  The Viceroy Sugar Beach (formerly the Jalousie Plantation) is nestled between the Piton Mountains and provides a breathtaking 360 degree view of the mountains, rain forest, and the ocean.  Oprah Winfrey was quoted as saying the Piton Mountains were one of 5 places you must see before you die.

Viceroy Sugar Beach

Our Bungalow was just behind the beach loungers

Can you share any recommendations or travel tips? (activities, best room types, etc.)

There is not an undesirable room type within this property! There are three room types – the luxury cottages, the luxury villas, and the luxury beachfront bungalows. We honeymooned in a beachfront bungalow.  All room types are incredibly spacious and all feature a private plunge pool.  The cottages are quite quaint and are dispersed throughout the rainforest area of the mountains.  Each accommodation provides the upmost privacy and a reason why many celebrities such as Denzel Washington and Martha Stewart choose to vacation here. Our bungalow, literally sat on the sand of the beach! One plus for reserving a bungalow – the BUTLER! Yes, he unpacked & packed for me! It truly was a dream honeymoon.

One day we rented a driver and boat for the day and I highly recommend. We were able to visit other resorts (a travel specialist is always working), snorkel anywhere, stopped for lunch in Marigot Bay—all at our own pace.

Only negative, was the food portions. As my husband states, I eat like a bird (I beg to differ) but even for me the portions were small.  We would have liked to have more of a variety as well, especially at lunch when we would order each day at the beach.

St Lucia HoneymoonCan you provide any reviews from the resorts you visited?

Of course! For dinner one evening, we visited the famed Ladera Resort for dinner at Dasheene.  I have always wanted to stay at this resort – so I thought.  It does have a mystic to it. It sits on atop the mountain overlooking The Viceroy Sugar Beach.  The resort accommodations are villas featuring only 3 walls, so there is an open-air wall.  They are private due to how they are situated in the hillside.  The dinner was fantastic.  However, we did speak to two honeymoon couples, which were staying at Ladera.  They provided some insight in which I had discovered on the beach earlier that day.  Since Ladera is not on the beach, it shares the beach with the Viceroy Sugar Beach.  However, unlike the guest staying at Sugar Beach, the guest at Ladera had a very small patch of sand on the beach they must stay within and the beach chairs were plastic chairs (something from the 1980s). This was disappointing to the honeymooners considering the rate they were paying at Ladera. In addition, beyond the bar at Dasheene, Ladera offered no other bar or lounge and therefore, we ran into couples often at the Sugar Beach bars & lounges.  Needless to say, they wish they had stayed at Sugar Beach.

One more review I will provide – yes, Jade Mountain Resort is absolutely beautiful. However, I was very surprised to find, Jade Mountain shares the beach and beach restaurant with Anse Chastanet Resort. The beach and restaurant were undesirable (small, black sand, restaurant in need of refurb). Also, this beach is shared with hundreds of cruise passengers, which have booked a shore excursion to this beach.

Dasheene Ladera St Lucia

Dasheene Restaurant @ Ladera Resort St Lucia – Beautiful View for Dinner!

What trip experience is next on your list?

In December, we will be heading north and visiting Winter Park, Colorado for ski season! Winter Park is continuing to grow and feature new resorts and attractions.  Just before our arrival, the new Coca Cola Tubing Park will be opening and I love to snow tube! I will post a full review upon our return! Winter Park Resort

Call us today to plan your amazing honeymoon or your vacation getaway! Our attention to each detail, will transcend your trip into an incredible vacation experience!

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Applause to the New TI Cancun Ambassador!

Sherri Miller of Vacationista Travel is one of just 96 Agents nationwide selected for the Inaugural Travel Impressions Ambassador program in which she will be the TI Ambassador to Cancun for the next 12 months. A seasoned travel specialist and a travel career dating back to 1995, Sherri has been to Cancun multiple times, touring most hotel and resort properties on the island. Travel Impressions is a major U.S. leisure travel company that works with strategic hotel and resort properties. TI selected 96 Ambassadors from over 800 applicants to each represent a different participating resort or destination.

 

Sherri Miller

Sherri Receiving the News of Being Selected a Cancun Ambassador!

Sherri will be a year long brand ambassador for Cancun and Travel Impressions and Cancun will collaborate with her throughout the year for innovative promotions.  For her clients, select resorts will offer her clients additional discounts and future return travel discounts. Those resorts include:

AMResorts
Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa
Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa
Now Jade Riviera Cancun
Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun
Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun
Secrets The Vine Cancun

Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts
Excellence Playa Mujeres
Excellence Riviera Cancun
Excellence Playa Mujeres

Excellence Playa Mujures Two-Story Rooftop Terrace Suite (including exterior HydroSpa Pool heated in Winter)

Le Blanc Spa Resort    
LeBlanc Spa Resort
LeBlanc Spa Lobby

LeBlanc Spa Resort Lobby- AAA Five Diamond Receipent

Palace Resorts
Beach Palace
Moon Palace Golf Resort & Spa
Sun Palace
Isla Mujeres Palace
Sun Palace Cancun

Sun Palace Cancun

All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels
All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Cancun
Hard Rock Hotel Cancun

Hark Rock Hotel Cancun

 

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