Punta Cana & La Romana – Closer than you think!

 

Amstar dmc greeting us upon arrival in Punta Cana

Recently, I was able to enjoy firsthand the Dominican Republic’s stunning new Coral Highway (a.k.a the Autopista Del Coral) via Amstar DMC.  The highly anticipated Coral Highway just opened this past summer and more importantly connects the famous resorts of eco-rich La Romana to the lux beaches and resorts in Punta Cana.

It’s sort of random, because to me highways = traffic, but in the Dominican Republic, this four-lane highway brings the country so much closer together, culturally & economically.

Travel Tip: One of the best features of the new highway is that it cuts the drive from Punta Cana International Airport to La Romana down to about 40 minutes. This alone crushes the previous 2 hour drive and gives travelers more options when choosing a destination or airport in the Dominican Republic. I myself chose the Punta Cana airport and a La Romana resort … stay tuned for my next blog about Dreams La Romana.

 

Autopista del Coral

 

Coral Highway Facts:

  • The “Autopista Del Coral” highway has 3 bridges, which cross over the Chavón, Santa Clara and Duey rivers.
  • The highway begins just outside of La Romana, after the main entrance to Casa de Campo, but before the La Romana – Casa de Campo airport and ends at the Punta Cana International Airport.
  • Exits on and off of the new highway are located at La Romana, the La Romana – Casa de Campo airport, the entrance to Bayahibe – Dominicus, near to Higuey and at the Punta Cana International Airport.
  • 2 tolls along the road; the first at KM 18, just after Bayahibe and the second at KM 58, close to the Punta Cana International airport.
  • The “Autopista Del Coral” highway will have 4 lanes of traffic and is designed for cars travelling at a maximum speed of 110km/h or 70 mph.

 

My case in point – Getting from Punta Cana to La Romana Has Never Been Easier!

For more information about transfers while you’re in the Dominican Republic check out AmstarDMC

Top 5 Travel Tips for traveling to Panama

As told by Ruth Daniels

I would consider myself a little bit of a “seasoned” traveler. I’ve been throughout the Caribbean Islands, to several vacation spots in Mexico, and the all over the U.S. So when I was thinking about going away, I definitely wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere a little more adventurous. My friends and I decided to go to Panama! I found that this booming Central American hotspot has much more going on than its namesake canal.

 

Photo Credit: Apple Vacations – The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

 

Here are my top 5 travel tips for going to this destination:

1.      Fly Non-Stop!

We left from DC where we flew out on Copa Airlines. It was a non-stop flight, which was really nice. They even had blankets and pillows and served meals on the plane! I can’t remember the last time I was on a flight that did that. It definitely added an unexpected touch of luxury.

2.      Private Transfers

For the convenience of Apple Vacations customers, all hotel bookings have private transfers included. Whether you are arriving at the airport or transferring between different hotels in our program, our local ground handler, Gamboa Tours, will provide a private air-conditioned transfer at a time requested by you. This makes booking a double (City & Beach) or triple center vacation (City, Rainforest & Beach) simpler and will ensure you get the most out of your vacation experience in Panama. It’s a really nice added touch, and one less thing to worry about while traveling.

 

Photo Credit: Apple Vacations – Trump Ocean Club Panama

3.      See everything! – Beach & City

We had heard through various contacts that the best way to experience Panama was to stay for a couple nights in the city, and then, spend a few nights at a beach hotel. The first 2 nights we spent at the Riu Panama Plaza. It’s in the financial district close to a lot of boutiques and shopping malls. I definitely came back with my bags a few pounds heavier! Our rooms were on the 17th floor and we had a breathtaking view of the city. From our hotel in Panama City we were less than 20 minutes from the Panama Canal and the Old City ruins. We went to Miraflores Locks and actually got to see a huge boat go through! It was neat to see the water levels change in the locks to get the boat through. The ruins were great too, because we got to see another historic side to Panama. Our last 2 nights were spent at the Sheraton Bijao where we spent some time on the gorgeous white sand beach and enjoyed the spa, bars and sun!

 

Photo Credit: Apple Vacations – Capuchin Monkey, Monkey Island Boat Tour

 4.      Monkeys!  (Technically, it’s the Monkey Island Boat Tour)

You can take a boat tour through secret waterways to find hidden islands where Capuchin monkeys and Howler monkeys can be seen leaping in the trees above! Occasionally, they become curious of visitors and venture down to take a closer look. This tour is roughly a ½ day and includes transportation, English-speaking guide and boat ride around the Gatun Lake.

 Last but not least…

 5.      The Panama Canal Tour

This tour begins at the Flamenco Resort and Marina. After a 45 minute motor coach ride to Gamboa, you will board a boat and enter the canal at Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. While traveling the Cut’s 8.5 miles, you will view the new Centennial Bridge. Next, enter Pedro Miguel Locks and then Miraflores Lake. Once in the Pacific Ocean, sail to the Flamenco Marina and disembark. On the way, pass under the Bridge of the Americas. Admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City’s splendorous skyline. The ½ day tour includes round-trip transportation, bilingual guide, Panama Canal transit with all fees, lunch on board, soft drinks and water. The full day tour includes in addition to the partial transit, you will enjoy a trip through Gatun Lake, which was formed by erecting the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River.

Now you can see why Panama is a top destination for adventurists, eco-tourists, history buffs, beach lovers, families and romantics.  What are you waiting for?!? Go find your paradise in Panama!

 

*Apple Vacations Representatives are provided by Gamboa Tours DMC, an independent destination management company operating in Panama and providing services to Apple Vacationers. All prices are per person in U.S. dollars. Prices and excursions subject to change without notice. Excursions operated by local independent suppliers. Some require physical activity. Please consider the nature of the excursion to ensure it is appropriate for your age and physical condition.

 

 

Living the Life at Secrets Silversands

My husband and I needed a vacation, badly. Choosing to go to Mexico was a no brainer, mostly because last year we went to Punta Cana. But if you haven’t noticed, Mexico’s a big place and there are a lot of destinations to choose from! There’s Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, Cozumel, and Cancun to name a few.  So, we live on the east coast, and wanted a direct, non-stop flight, something close (only a 3 day, 4 night jaunt) so we chose the beautiful beaches of Cancun, specifically Riviera Maya. The next few decisions were easier. We wanted adults-only, gorgeous beach/pools, and spa. ONE word – Secrets. Plus there are 3 of them in the Cancun vicinity. We went with Secrets Silversands, and it was the perfect choice!

Secrets Silversands brings a brilliantly contemporary atmosphere to Cancun's famed Riviera Maya. Surrounded by warm crystal waters, this all-suite Unlimited Luxury ® resort features 433 sumptuous suites, everyone is a showcase of modern luxury and elegant appointments.

Preferred Perks PLUS - Frontier Airlines Introductory Rate $39

Let me jump to the vacation…

We packed our bags, and were ready to go! It was a little exciting for our first Frontier plane ride. I’d like to add that we opted for the Preferred Perks, and in my opinion it’s totally worth it. I watched a couple shows on Bravo, (YES – Frontier has direct TV) and bam, we were there, in gorgeous, sunny, Cancun Mexico. We hopped in our non-stop transfer, arrived at Secrets Silversands in 20 minutes, stepped out of the car and were greeted “Welcome, home”.

The next few days were nothing less than lying by the pool, (there are 8 to choose from, I might mention), relaxing under a palapa on the

Savor Mexican a la caret cuisine in a traditional authentic ambience.

beach, eating fresh avocados or guacamole with every meal, and sipping delicious tropical libations. I have to say that the food at Secrets Silversands is better than you can imagine. They have 9 restaurants, which are beautifully styled, have excellent customer service, and extremely scrumptious fare. Secrets Silversands has an extremely active entertainment program. You can do Yoga on the beach in the morning, join a game of beach or pool volleyball during the day, and there’s always something fun going on at night like a band playing or dance show.

My husband and I decided to go for a couples massage at their elegant SPA by Pevonia. WOW! We had access to the spa’s private pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna for the entire day and couldn’t wait for our late afternoon Swedish Massages. We had the most relaxing time, and afterwards we lay in the meditation room to continue the relaxation. It was completely dreamy and all my stresses easily drifted away.

Over the course of the 4 days we swam, we slept, we ate, we drank, and we relaxed. The vacation went by quickly, as they always do. But it was really a great time and I highly recommend it!

Secrets Silversands is nestled on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and lies a mere 15 miles south Cancun and about 20 minutes from the Cancun Inernational Airport. This all-suite haven is surrounded by coral reefs and adventurous attractions

Oceana Seafood Grille Situated directly under a giant palapa with a beautiful view of the ocean, serving a la carte seafood specialties in a quiet romantic and seaside setting.

 

Here are a few tips

  • If you like seafood try Oceana, delicious shrimp tacos and ceviche. There are 9 Restaurants, 8 bars and 24/7 room service.
  • The expansive 12,000 square foot Secrets Spa by Pevonia is Amazing! I highly recommend it!
  • Rooms are spotless and ultra-chic - amenities in each room include Sitting area with sofa, Bathroom with jacuzzi for 2, satellite TV, CD/DVD player, MP3 docking station, Internet dataport ($), Minibar, hair dryer, iron, telephone, room safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

London – Why now is the time to go!

There has never been a more exciting time to travel to London. If you watched the news this weekend, you were sure to hear about Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee which is a celebration of epic proportions currently going on all across Britain. From horseracing, to concerts, to fireworks, to a flotilla down the River Thames, numerous festivities are planned to celebrate The Queen’s 60 years on the throne.

 In addition to the excitement of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, London is preparing to host the 2012 Olympic summer Games. Opening ceremonies are just over a month away and the anticipation is building. Final touches are being put on new stadiums, public spaces and shopping centers on the city’s eastern edge. Even if you don’t have tickets to a game, there are still many new Olympic themed

 numerous festivities are planned to celebrate The Queen’s 60 years on the throne.

places to visit. Just being in the city, you will feel like you are part of the excitement. You don’t need to visit exactly during The Olympics or Diamond Jubilee celebration, to be part of the fun. London will be festive all summer long. And it’s no secret that the best weather in London, is typically in the summer – although you’d be remiss to forget an umbrella. 

Of course when visiting London, you should still visit great historical landmarks, including Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Tower Bridge.

 

Stay tuned for my next blog on some of my personal favorite places to visit and things to do in London. And here is a photo of my cousin who visited London recently and snapped a photo of the The Olympic countdown for us!

 

Recommendation for RIU Palace Mexico

As a seasoned traveler, when I go abroad, I always try to keep an open mind. Recently, I took a week-long vacation with my husband to RIU Palace Mexico. I wasn’t expecting what RIU had in store for us.

First off, I completely fell in love with the charming, picturesque town of Playa del Carmen.  When we arrived at the resort, RIU Palace Mexico, I was pleasantly surprised with the upscale accommodations and friendly staff.  The décor of this hotel, both exterior and interior, is beautiful with Spanish type architecture/frescoes, which carries throughout the hotel and an immense lobby full of brilliant chandeliers.   The grounds are perfectly landscaped and their cascading waterfalls made a peaceful setting.  The junior-suite rooms were spacious with turn down service and flower petals in the bed/bathroom every night. Other top amenities include 24-hour all-inclusive and exchange privileges with the other RIU Resorts in Riviera Maya, which we took advantage of for breakfast and lunch.   They have a large court yard and every night there was entertainment with bands, singers and dancers, whom were awesome I might add. I truly felt like I was in a king’s palace because the scenery is breathtaking.   Everything was close and not a lot of walking to get from one area to another. The Theater across from the courtyard had different shows every night from Las Vegas type shows to Magic acts.   The staff was friendly, always cheerful, and there to accommodate you.  I loved their buffet restaurant for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  They had such a display of foods from seafood dishes to roasts of all kinds (such as duck, which is one of my favorites and cooked to perfection).  The chefs can cook your steak/poultry to your liking, which is a nice touch.   Their gourmet restaurants, an Asian, Brazilian, Krystal Fusion, El Patio, were all very good. My favorite was El Patio, serving steaks and seafood specialties, and located on the beach.  The lobby bar with the pianist was exceptional – playing various types of classical music to rock n roll pieces.  Top shelf liquor served throughout, mini-bar stocked daily, and with liquor dispensers on the wall, no one should go thirsty.  2 Pools, 1 with a swim-up bar and daily activities, and the other pool for a less active, quiet setting.  And they have a pool bar too!

 

Aaah….then there’s the beach, and a very large beach with lots of palm trees, waiter service, barbeque/snack area, massage area and plenty of watersports available.  Shopping right across the street on Caribbean Street and Playa del Carmen’s famed 5th Ave just minutes away.  The hotel is not far from the Tulum ruins with their displays of temples facing the beautiful blue sea is a great ½ day excursion.  If you have time, visit Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world,  is about 2 hours travel time from the hotel and absolutely a must see with so much Mayan history/culture. The famous pyramid, Temple of Kulkulkan, depicts a calendar which the Mayans incredibly designed and is spectacular.  All in all, there is much to do around the Riu Palace Mexico Resort. I definitely was pleased with this hotel and highly recommend it.  In my opinion, and having stayed at several hotels, maybe this hotel should have a higher rating?

Share your comments!

 

A Friendly Face in a Faraway Place

Apple Vacations has perfected the art of the “complete” vacation experience. We have taken care of every step of the vacation experience, so you don’t have to! We call it the Apple Advantage! 

There are other operators, that once you book your vacation with them, they are done.  Rest assured, when you book with Apple Vacations, we provide service beyond the booking. We are there every step of the way to ensure your vacation is the one you planned. How do we do it?

Apple Vacations has representatives (either airline staff at check-in, or Apple Reps in resort) at each of the airports where our exclusive leisure flights depart. Upon arrival, you’ll be met by our friends at Amstar, a division of Apple Vacations serving as our resort representatives, who will transport you to your hotel. These Apple Reps can recommend excursions to take, places to visit, or help with most any other need you may have while in resort.  Most importantly, the reps are there when you need them for any unforeseen circumstances as well.  

I’ve told this story before, but it is worth repeating. When Hurricane Wilma hit a few years back, I was worried because I had a TOP radio station executive in Riviera Maya, where the eye of the storm had stalled. We were in communication with our Apple Reps to ensure all Apple Vacations passengers were taken care of. But I could not reach him directly. Upon his return, I received an enormous thank you from him stating that he will never travel with anyone but Apple Vacations ever again. The Apple passengers were personally taken care of during the storm, and were the first to be evacuated from Cancun, several days ahead of other passengers who booked online or with other tour operators. He said he felt like a “Rock Star” traveling with Apple because of the priority service the Apple passengers received.

Another example is from a passenger who had to unexpectedly cut his trip short. “…during our vacation, we booked our excursions with Gabbie.  After we made our plans, we got a call to come home for an emergency. The Apple Rep, Benjamin, was early and talked to us until Gabbie arrived. He advised her of our problem.  Gabbie was on the phone unwinding our plans and calling to make arrangements for a return flight home. In less than an hour, our vacation plans were unwound, our flight home and transportation to the airport was booked, and she even contacted AVOK “trip protection” to start the ball rolling on our claim. We cannot say enough of how professional she was, and everything she did was so greatly appreciated. Thanks to your Reps at the resorts and the jobs they do.”

Apple Vacations has been in business for 40 years. When you travel with Apple Vacations, rest assured you are traveling with an experienced vacation company who is there for you every step of the way! It’s the Apple Advantage!

Non-Stop Transfers – a way to start your Apple Vacation right away!

As soon as I get to my vacation destination, I like to hit the ground running! The best way to start my vacation, as soon as possible, is to get to the resort right away. I ALWAYS choose non-stop transfers. It’s part of the Apple Advantage!   You can advise your travel agent you want this option, or select it at the time of booking.

Another option, to receive non-stop transfers, is to book a resort that automatically offers them. On my last vacation to Riviera Maya, I stayed at Now Jade Riviera Cancun. When you book Now Resorts & Spas with Apple Vacations, non-stop transfers are included! We were out of the terminal and on the road in no time and at the hotel in less than 30 minutes.

When booking your next vacation, look for Now Resorts & Spas, Dreams Resorts & Spas, Secrets Resorts & Spas or Zoetry Wellness & Spa Resort, as they offer non-stop transfers!