Champagne and croissants should be office staples

Coffee and doughnuts are overrated. After last week, I say champagne and croissants should be office staples. With production well underway, last week I was asked to jump in and help tackle content for our forthcoming Europe brochure.

Eiffel Tower -  Photo Credit: Apple Vacations

Eiffel Tower – Photo Credit: Apple Vacations

 

Sounds simple enough, right?  Unfortunately, I developed a bit of an affliction along the way; a temporary condition I deemed “Chronic Creative Fixation”.  My symptoms included rapid-fire googling, endless image-scrolling, and gross abuse of adjectives.

I became 100%, head over heels, smitten with Paris.  Some may say obsessed, I say “creatively fixated”.

Oh Paris, you’re so dreamy. You are everything they say you are.

So steeped in history and culture that it would take a lifetime to take it all in. A culinary epicenter that plays host to everything from the renowned Le Cordon Blue, to quaint open-air bistros. A fashion mecca where names like Hermés, Vuitton and Chanel are not just a brand, but a national treasure. Paris is truly a city that exudes style, romance and elegance like no other.

:Le sigh:

With something to see, experience or taste around every corner, planning a Parisian getaway may seem a bit daunting.  Here are some suggestions when touring the City of Lights.

Already been to Paris? What did you think? Do you have any advice? Any must-sees?

We’d love to know what you think.

Merci!

Travel Wishlist

With more than 500 hotels and resorts in our portfolio, Apple Vacations has options for every kind of vacationer – from basic budget to ultra luxe. We canvassed our immense hotel offerings and picked the top outrageous luxury offerings in the Apple family. From private islands to Lamborghinis, these resort options can definitely knock some things off your vacation bucket list!

Grand Velas All Suites Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya Stay and Luxury Drive package

Grand Velas All Suites Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya Stay and Luxury Drive package

 

Cancun Secrets The Vine Taking up more than a third of the 20th floor of Secrets The Vine, the Preferred Club Presidential Suite has dazzling views of Cancun’s modern hotel zone, the Caribbean Sea and Nichupte Lagoon. Featuring two bedrooms, luxurious Italian porcelain bathrooms and a chic, oversized private, furnished terrace, the Presidential Suite also includes all of the resorts Unlimited Luxury amenities and its own personal concierge.

Riviera MayaGrand Velas All Suites Resort & Spa Located on more than 80 acres of protected mangroves, jungle and natural freshwater cenotes, Grand Velas enjoys over 1,000 feet of carefully preserved, pristine white sand beach and is the only family-friendly All Inclusive resort in the Mexican Caribbean to receive AAA’s prestigious Five Diamond rating.Guests who book Grand Velas’ adrenaline fueled “Stay & Luxury Drive” package get the opportunity to race luxury cars and hot rods on the resort’s specialized courses. Guests can drive the car of their dreams, including a Lamborghini Gallardo, Lotus Elise, Ferrari F430, Camaro SS and Corvette Grand Sport. (Travel through Dec. 19, 2013)

Los CabosZoetry Casa Del Mar In addition to deliciously high-thread count sheets and towels, the guest rooms at Zoetry Casa del Mar feature Bvlgari bath amenities, aromatherapy pillows, sparkling wine and fresh fruit daily and a charming souvenir beach bag handcrafted by local artisans. Zoetry Casa del Mar guests receive Endless Privileges® which grant limitless access to almost all the pleasures this intimate jewel has to offer, including daily breakfast, lunch and dinner gourmet dining options with an assortment of organic food and beverage selections

Samana, Dominican RepublicLuxury Grand Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Located on an exclusive island almost a mile long, Luxury Grand Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado is a short ferry ride from the mainland, making it a perfectly romantic, adults-only getaway. On the island, there is only find the resort and a small market, giving you the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. To leave the island, take the free ferry, or go big with helicopter or private boat service.

Punta CanaHard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana With 15 swimming pools, nine restaurants, the area’s biggest casino, exhilarating nightlife and legendary rock & roll memorabilia, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana is a destination in itself. Every spacious guest room features a private balcony, LCD satellite TV and double Jacuzzi, but it’s the ridiculously fun Rock Star Suite that definitely stands out. Featuring three bedrooms, living room and full kitchen, the Rock Star Suite also includes a Baby Grand Piano, a pool table, Paul Stanley and Aerosmith Memorabilia and a digital safe larger than any other room in the resort.

Hawaii’s Big IslandMauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows Amidst mountains and the sea on the sunny Kohala Coast on the tropical Island of Hawaii, the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows is consistently rated one of the “Top Hotels in the World” by Travel +Leisure. Discover true luxury in one of the resorts five stunning Bungalows: Plumeria, Hibiscus, Orchid, Bird of Paradise and Heliconia. The 2,700 sq. ft. of indoor living space features an expansive living area, two spacious bedrooms, wet bar and a private kitchen for the chef at heart. A 1,300 sq. ft. outdoor area offers a private Jacuzzi and heated swimming pool creating a laidback setting for socializing or quiet enjoyment. Each bedroom features a spacious naturally lit bathroom with a soaking tub overlooking an outdoor shower and private garden. A guest bathroom is available off the living area.

Honeymoon Planning – Help!

Aloha Juice Readers!

 Hawaii

It’s been quite some time since my last post, but it’s good to be back.  I haven’t been lounging beachside, I’ve been off planning a wedding.  Thus far things have been pretty easygoing – not too much stress.  That was, until it came time for the honeymoon.

I know, of all things to stress about, the honeymoon?  I work for a travel company.  This should be a cinch right?  Wrong!  The number one question I have been asked this entire time is, “where are you going on your honeymoon”?  This is supposed to be THE trip.  The trip of a LIFETIME. That’s some pretty serious pressure.

So, after some serious back-and-forthing, we’ve made just a few decisions:

Now what?

Maui, Hawaii

Readers, this is where you come in.  Tell us what you think!  Any Honeymooning words of wisdom?  Where did you go? Have you been to Hawaii?  Can you offer a recommended “must see”?

As the trip gets closer, you’ll be able to following along with our planning, and your recommendations will become our reality!  And who knows, maybe we’ll drop you a few postcards along the way.

Mahalo for your help!

Shannon

 

The Big  Island

Secrets The Vine – Best Resort Hands Down in Cancun!

As told by Erin Miller, Apple Vacations Business Development Specialist

My Husband and and I were really excited to get away with some of our close friends. Since we were only going for a short stay we had to be a little picky about where we were going to stay. I mean, who wants to spend their vacation being transferred from airport to hotel and vice versa?!

Here was our criteria:

Adults-Only – Check

Close to Airport – Check

Beautiful Beach – Check

Delicious Gourmet Food – Check

Tropical Libations – Check

Where did we end up?

Secrets The Vine. Here’s my quick review our fabulous trip to Cancun, Mexico.

The overall ambiance is impressive. When we arrived in the main hotel lobby, I looked all the way up at this massive glass building in front of me, and I thought to myself, WOW! The chic atmosphere and upscale décor was so unique, I could tell I was going to like it here.

The infinity pools and the beautiful white sand beach was just what we needed. The super attentive wait service was incredibly welcoming and they were always right there if we needed something. My personal favorite restaurant was the Blue Water Grill. In particular, I recommend the Ahi Tuna, just scrumptious!  All the restaurants were great. In fact we were eating so much we wanted to hit up the gym. I was blown away with the view yet again. The gym is on the 12th floor and has a breathtaking ocean view. What a nice distraction to look out at beautiful blue waves crashing onto the white sand while working out!

The accommodations were pretty fancy too! Our room was very spacious and contemporary. Our room had a great view of the Marina and the Ocean. Two beautiful views in one room!

One night, we ventured downtown to visit Coco Bongo Cancun for some fun and excitement. It was just a little five minute bus ride from the hotel. Super convenient!

I have to admit, we really had an amazing time and we can’t wait to go back!

Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta & Now Amber Puerto Vallarta

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Secrets Vallarta Bay

Everyone wants to tell us about Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta & Now Amber Puerto Vallarta. Both Resorts have so much to offer and are Apple employee favorites!  James Reese, our Philadelphia Regional Sales Manager just returned and here is his review for you!

Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta & Now Amber Puerto Vallarta are both beautiful 6 Golden Apple Resorts.  They are “sister resorts” separated by a lush, landscaped knoll that runs from the main building to the ocean. 

The rooms at each resort are warm and inviting. All have a coffee maker, laptop size safe, in-room Jacuzzi tub, DVD player, iPod docking station, stocked mini fridge, Secrets Box and Incredible Views. Of course, the standard 24-hour room service, no restrictions or reservations for dining and no wrist bands. 

The beach is a little bit rocky but the pools more than make up for that! 

From The Secrets Resorts side, some may expect to hear families from the Now Resorts side – NOT SO!  Both sides are perfectly defined and each offers its own unique pool settings.

Secrets offers Bali Beds throughout the pool area. Both resorts have ample pool side lounge chairs.  Between the two, there are  9 Restaurants and 5 Bars.  Complimentary WiFi  available throughout the resorts.  One thing of note at Now is that there is COMPLETE PRIVACY available for the bathrooms in the suites for families.  Guests staying at Secrets have full exchange privileges at Now while adult guests at Now can use all facilities at Secrets.  Complimentary Greens Fees for Golfers.  Lovely Spa!

I was thoroughly impressed with these resorts!  Be sure to hit either lobby to enjoy the sunset!  Incredible!

In addition to our nationwide scheduled air service, Apple Vacations offers exclusive vacations flights to Puerto Vallarta from Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Lansing, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. And new for Winter 2014 we will add flights from JFK, Philadelphia, Rockford and St. Louis! Getting to Puerto Vallarta just got a lot easier!

 

 

Apple Vacations suggests you Ask An Agent!

A recent article came out. “9 things Travel Agents won’t tell you”. It was not a supportive article for the Travel Agent community and suggests “buyer beware”. I am here to say to the writer, Anne Roderique-Jones, you got it wrong!!!   I’ll address your 9 points.

#1 – They’re making commission. Well, yes this is true. That is how they are compensated for their expertise. Do you expect them to book your trip, provide first-hand experience, check flights, research, put you in the right resort for your wishes, work with your budget, walk you through the details, procure your tickets, and make dining recommendations and reservations for free? A Travel Agency is a business and they do get compensated for their services. I think that is a “no brainer”.  Any reputable agency will NOT sell you a vacation they do not truly think you will enjoy – no matter what the incentive is out there for them. They want you to be happy, so that you and your friends and family use them again and again. They make a living on repeat business. I challenge you to take the commission an agent makes, and divide it by the time they put into planning your vacation. Would you work for that hourly rate?

#2 – They can’t book all Airlines. WRONG. An agent can book anything. They do not get commission on most airlines, but most agents either book that part as a courtesy since you are booking the rest of the trip with them, or charge an up-front service fee to get you the airline you want.

#3 – They lie about their experience? Most agents I know love to travel. That is why they are in fact an agent. FAM trips are an essential part of the business. Agents jump at the chance to go. Apple Vacations runs them all the time, and they always fill up quickly. Good agents have been to the destinations they sell, multiple times. Agents are also a close community, and if one agent in an office has not been to a location or resort, someone in the office or their network most likely has. They share information (good and bad), details, photos and tips. They also take webinars, go to tradeshows, attend seminars and trainings. To question the integrity of “ALL” Travel Agents is unfair when I continually see so many agents continually traveling and educating themselves mostly on their own dime and time.

#4 – I am not sure why you think agents are inflexible. Call an agency … standard protocol is … what can I help you with, location, dates and are you flexible? Yes, an agent may recommend different departures to save you money, or get you better flights. The bottom line is agents present options. If you are flexible, and the best rate is what you want, let them know.  Again, they are a service industry and if they know a day later may give you a better flight time or price, then take advantage of that knowledge.

#5 – Insurance may not be necessary? I find this to be an irresponsible statement. Trip protection is ALWAYS recommended. We never get complaints from Travel Agents or vacationers that took trip protection and had to cancel for an emergency or unforeseen reason, and got their money back or were able to rebook at a later date. Really, we never received one. However, we have heard from vacationers when something unforeseen did occur and they could not travel. We never want to see anyone lose their hard earned money and we certainly don’t like when customers are unhappy when a trip cannot be changed.  Therefore, we always recommend trip protection. Also, trip protection has numerous benefits in addition to cancellation. It covers you in resort, medical, baggage, trip interruption and unforeseen circumstances. The statement you made would better be phrased “What trip protection is right for this vacation?” as there are many plans available. Any good agent WILL and SHOULD recommend trip protection and will walk you through your options. A vacation is an investment, and like any investment it should be protected.

#6 – Only use an agent for a special occasion trip? Isn’t every vacation a special occasion? If you are spending your hard earned money and taking the time away from work or responsibilities, don’t you deserve the best your money can buy? Please, don’t lower expectations before you even book. A vacation is an event, an experience, and we hope to always not only meet but exceed all of your expectations on every vacation.

#7 – On – Line sites now offer refunds and cancellation policies. This is correct, new DOT rules that came out last year, allow all customers to cancel any flight booked within 24 hours of booking (if the flight was booked more than 7 days prior to departure date). This is a new industry standard no matter where – or how – you book. I also think this is one of the #1 reasons to USE a Travel Agent. They have relationships with airlines, resorts and wholesale companies such as Apple Vacations.  Because of this, they understand the fare classes, room categories and terms & conditions when booking. They are EXPERTS. Lean on their expertise, don’t criticize it.

#8 – They won’t find the best price? Go ahead, challenge them! What do you have to lose?

#9 – Sign up and use a travel rewards club. It’s a good idea to use credit card points, Apple Vacations has a card. But one club or card most likely can’t take care of all your travel needs. I suggest you find a travel agent you like. Get to know them, and let them know you. They will learn your preferences and expectations. If an agent knows what you like, what you don’t, who you typically travel with, when you like to go and what is important to you; they will know what you are looking for in a vacation. When you are ready to travel, they will know what vacation is just right for you!

There are also so many key reasons you SHOULD book with an agency.

There are sometimes unforeseen circumstances that affect your trip. Let’s say you book your trip yourself. You are enjoying this amazing vacation, but in the days before you are about to come home, you find out your home airport is closed due to weather (snow, bad winds, tropical storms) and your flight is cancelled, do you want to enjoy your last days of vacation or do you want to be on hold with an airline for hours and negotiating a last minute rate with the hotel? Travel Agents don’t get a rain or snow day! They are working long into the night, placing calls, researching flights, waiting on hold to assist their clients and get their travel plans back on track.

Do you want to be the first to know about a sale or promo code? Many times Travel Agents get a “sneak peak” to these. Do you want inside tips and personal reviews? Do you want a professional looking out for you and taking care of you? Using their “pull” to get you free upgrades and perks. Making sure you don’t get bumped from a reservation due to a hotel or airline or car overbooking. Making sure you don’t book an impossible connection. Making sure you get proper compensation when vacations do not go as planned. I could go on and on. The bottom line is Anne; I think you placed an unfair stereotype on an industry that does not warrant it. I am sorry if you had a bad experience. I personally know many, many, many, many, many agents who are all hard working, ethical, knowledgeable and professional. They are a true resource when booking your vacation. I’d be happy to recommend one for your next vacation. I am proud to know them, be in the industry with them, and call many of them both colleagues and friends. Go ahead and Ask An Agent when booking your next trip. I know I will!

 

Ask An Agent

Finding a Unique Resort in Puerto Vallarta

Marival Residences & World Spa is an All-Inclusive 6 Golden Apple Resort. After visiting, the first impression from our staff was – WOW! The luxurious resort is not directly on the beach, but it is close enough to offer ocean-view suites. The resort has a private beach club, and it is only a short walk or shuttle ride away.

The resort is perfect if you are looking for a very luxurious and unique resort, for a longer stay, and also is also perfect for a smaller Destination Wedding. Marival Residences & World Spa is so much more than a hotel, it has everything to be your “home-away-from-home”.

Marival Residences offers penthouse suites which have roof-top private pools.  They also have a 3-bedroom villa with a private gazebo, full kitchen and private pool.  All suites and villas have washer and dryer.

Any Destination Wedding Bride will love the idea of a very intimate and lovely wedding in the backyard of a villa. And, Weddings are free (including judge fee) with no minimum room requirement.

The resort also offers many additional unique value added features including:

Unlimited Golf Greens Fees, 1 complimentary hotel offered excursion per person per stay (with additional excursions at only $30 per person)

6 of the area’s most popular excursions, including dolphin encounters, canopy zip lining and sunset sails are all part of the all-inclusive package.

8 complimentary hours of Nanny service per 5 night stay!

The average tenure of the employees at this property and the sister Marival resort is around 10 years. That is pretty impressive. This is an Apple staff favorite from the recent hotel visits. They all love, love, love this resort!

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