WHO ARE WE? 

We are Steve & Pat, the Travelin’ Tanenbaums.  We are the authors of The  Cheapskate’s Guide to Vacations and The Cheapskate’s Guide to Cruises (Citadel-Kensington Press). Pictured here is a panoramic photo we took of the magnificent Irish farmlands near Dingle on the west coast.

Our CTN newsletter has published continuously since 1999 and is proudly celebrating its 11th Anniversary. Steve is currently a ‘Budget & FREE Travel’ expert with AllExperts.com. In addition to our books we have written national magazine articles and have made numerous radio & TV appearances. We early retired from our day jobs in 1999 and embarked on a seven year travel odyssey, globe-trotting six months per year. Currently, we average about 2-3 months of exotic travel yearly.  Most recently we have rented apartments for 4-6 weeks in Barcelona, Paris and Florence with many side-trips, our first two weeks visit to Ireland and our April 2012 Caribbean Odyssey!

Pure and simple, we enjoy a love of travel and do our best to share travel
related comfort, convenience and money saving TIPS with our loyal
readership. We always encourage and appreciate reader input. Our travel
‘motto’ these many years remains: NOTHING BEATS FREETRAVEL!      

It came as no surprise that subscriptions sky rocketed with the advent of our FREE online CTN. This is the  best way to share our savvy TIPS n’ TALES with the traveling public. As we have always said…..nothing beats FREE travel! HOW TO GET YOUR FUTURE FREE CTN EDITIONS: It is always best to receive the newsletter on the day it is published. To do this send us your email address and we shall add you to our subscription list. Rest assured, e-mail addresses are kept strictly private. Send your free subscription request to: stevepatctn@yahoo.com                                                             NEW BLOG LOOK & LOCATION: Due to a serious publishing glitch with Blogger.com we are, at least for the time being, using a new major blog web site…. wordpress.com.  This change permits publication of our late Summer 2012 CTN.                                                                                                  New Blog changes: Our personal slide show,  which previously ran as a column on the right side of our newsletter is now found at the bottom of the CTN. For this issue we shall be using YouTube LINKS instead of embedded videos.  Simply click on the LINKS and you will be connected to the YouTube video. Sadly we now have limited fonts and no access to color text. We shall try to remedy that in the next Fall CTN edition.                                              3D FUN: Grab of pair of those old red/blue 3D glasses. Some of our videos and personal photos are in very cool to view 3D. ALSO, most photos are still clickable for larger size viewing.                                          MISCHIEVOUS LINKS:  There may be occasional glitches with some LINKS.  If any LINK, when double clicked, indicates the link is broken or otherwise not working try copying and pasting the link to your browser’s address line.  If that does not help drop us  an email and we shall send you a workable LINK.

FIRST EVER GUEST CTN COLUMNIST:  Joyce Gleeson-Adamidis is a long time friend and author of:  If I Were Not Upon the Sea (Under the Captain’s Table) which is available at Amazon.com. We met Joyce some years ago during our incredible 32 days Celebrity cruise from Rio to San Diego, California.  Joyce, herself a California native, was a former cruise director who happened to marry the  Greek Captain of her Celebrity cruise ship. Before their recent retirement to Greece the couple spent many years together at sea raising their son aboard ship. We thank and applaud Joyce for offering her very special Greek insights to our CTN readers. Welcome aboard Joyce!

THIS ISSUE’S HIGHLIGHTS

* OUR SPECIAL COLLECTION OF FAMILY & KIDS VIDEOS

* CAPITOL ONE – $100 FREE TICKETS – 2  INTERESTING BONUS CARDS

* PART TWO – STEVE & PAT’S 8 ISLANDS 8 LUXURY RESORTS CARIBBEAN ODYSSEY

* STEVE’S GIZMO COLUMN

* NASSAU BEACH HOTEL PASSES FOR CRUISE PASSENGERS

OUR SPECIAL COLLECTION OF FAMILY & KIDS VIDEOS

Loyal CTN readers know that many of our 300+ YouTube videos are not only
informative but are very entertaining for kids and their parents. With this in
mind we have put together a collection of 27 ‘Best of’ videos.
Example: This calendar page shows actual photos from our Alaskan black
and grizzly bears ‘in the wild’ YouTube video:
Our special video collection is comprised of twenty-seven videos we filmed over the
years. It includes such as:
* Steve’s Panda bear day           
* Grizzly bear cubs in the wild
* Raptors
* Bald Eagle
* Spanish kids at play
* Disney musical on the Seine
* Maui’s underwater sea turtles
* Puppet show on the Paris Metro 
* Little Red Riding Hood performed in Siberia by 8-12 yo kids
* African lion cubs playing
* Paris pet market
* London kittens
* Museum naturalist snake handling
* Baby seagulls in the wild
* Wild Geese and Geeslings
The collection was also created for our grand kids Justin and Jayden.
How to VIEW our video collection:
(1) Use this LINK to go to YouTube:
(2) In the YouTube blank Search Window type these two words (just as written
with a space) or even better simply copy & paste them to the search
window. The words are:       
worldromer  justinandjayden

(3) The video collection should  appear on the screen for easy viewing.   We hope you have as much fun viewing the videos as we had filming them!

CAPITAL ONE – $100 FREE TICKET & 2 INTERESTING BONUS CARDS

Just as we continue to extol the virtues of our favorite American AAdvantage free travel program, tied into Citi AAdvantage cards, we have never favored Capital One cards. With that said, you as we likely receive onslaughts of Capital One mail solicitations. With that in mind we shall discuss two of Capital One’s current offerings which some may find to their liking.

The below rather long LINK takes you to the Capital One card comparison page. We suggest you click on two cards, their Venture Visa card (also called Venture visa One) and their Sparks Miles Select for Business Visa card. Then click on the bottom of the page ‘Comparison’ box and compare the two cards.

Comparison page link:

http://www.capitalone.com/creditcards/products/browse-all/rewards/?external_id=WWW_SB294_ZZZ_ONL-SE_ZZZGO_ZZ_ZZ_T_SEM2_ZZVC_Z18_478443656_12546835992

Here are card highlights:

VENTURE VISA: Named MONEY® Magazine’s “Most Rewarding

Card if you crave free airline flights”This is a NO annual fee card that offers a 10,000 miles bonus after you spend $1,000 using the card during the first three months of card ownership. This card earns TWO miles per dollar spent. There are also no foreign transaction fees.

Here is the LINK for the Venture Visa Card:

http://www.capitalone.com/creditcards/venture-rewards-credit-card/?linkid=WWW_1010_CARD_TGSEM01_Z_Z_01_T_CP41608EW

SPARKS MILES SELECT BUSINESS VISA: This business card works for those who may have a small or even home based business as sole proprietors. In addition to being a NO ANNUAL FEE card this card also offers a 50% annual bonus on all miles earned every year but no sign-up bonus miles.  Worried about minimum income? Not to worry, their card application asks only if your business income is “less then $50,000.” Both cards require excellent credit.

How Capital miles and bonus miles are redeemed: According to Capital One’s web site you simply take the cost of your airline ticket and add two zeros.                                                                                                  Example: We wish to fly from San Francisco to San Diego.  Southwest lowest ticket price is about $90 one way. Add two zeros and   we need 9000 Capital Miles to buy the ticket. You will note that the $10,000 miles sign on bonus for the Venture Visa Card would cover ‘only’ such a low priced ticket or any ticket up to $100. This, of course, does not come any where close the 20,000 – 30,000 bonus miles often offered by major airlines. The 50% bonus miles Sparks card sounds to be interesting.  It requires that you use the card as your primary credit card. Spend $25,000 over the year and receive 37,500 miles.                                                                                                  Example: An $800 round trip ticket to Paris would ‘cost’ 80,000 Capital One miles. The same ticket using American AAdvantage low season, from mid-October to mid-May would cost only 40,000 miles.                      Example: A typical U.S. domestic ticket for say New York to San Francisco may cost

$400 to $700.  American still offers free domestic tickets for 25,000 miles whereas Capital One would ask you to use 40,000 minimum up to 70,000 miles for the same

tickets.                                                                                                   Example: Assuming the Sparks card does not change its 50% bonus miles offer and you spend $40,000 over the year you would collect 60,000 miles. As noted 40,000 miles will qualify you for a round trip ticket to any western European city using American AAdvantage. On the other hand such a ticket would likely cost 80,000 to 100,000 or more using Capital One’s redemption plan. Even factoring in the annual yearly fee for a Citibank AAdvantage card would not make up the difference.

Capital One touts the fact that there are no seat restrictions or black-out dates as found in airline free travel programs and that seems to be a big ‘plus.’  This may be especially true for those who have no flexibility on dates and may need to travel on common black-out dates.  Since we are always very flexible with ‘fly dates’  American AAdvantage has and continues to book all our free travel at significantly lower miles. No other airline free travel program offers round trip tickets to western Europe for only 40,000 miles.

NOTE: Our mail solicitation for the Venture Visa card mentioned the 10,000 bonus miles and only 1.25 miles per dollar. However their web site, per the above LINK, lists the same card as offering TWO miles per dollar???

Recommendation: Although we have never favored Capital One cards they seem to be very popular in some large part, no doubt,  due to their constant TV advertising campaigns. The fact that the above cards are both NO FEE and no foreign transaction fee cards is their biggest ‘plus.’  The fact that you almost always need to spend more miles for the same flights offered by major Airline free travel programs is a big negative. While we continue to favor American AAdvantage’s free travel program over Capital One we may just apply for the Capital One Venture card for its bonus miles good for a $100 flight and for its waiver of foreign transaction fees.

PART TWO – STEVE & PAT’S 8 ISLANDS 8 LUXURY RESORTS CARIBBEAN ODYSSEY

A word about ‘ALL-INCLUSIVE’ luxury resort prices:

When we quote prices as high as $500-$600 per day per couple we realize this is far beyond our usual touted bargain vacations. On the other hand such prices for a

splurge all-inclusive tropical vacation sometimes make sense. There comes a time when most of us look forward to a pampered, splurge vacation. When that time comes and you want a departure from cruising these resorts are waiting for you.Consider that most of us pay $300/day per couple on traditional cruises. That price almost always excludes drinks, tips and shore excursions. Here is what you may save at the all-inclusive resorts we visited when compared to the average cruise

* ALL-INCLUSIVE DRINKS: Depending on how many tropical cocktails,

beers, soft drinks and mealtime glasses of wine one enjoys each day guests can easily save $100 or more per person.

* ALL- INCLUSIVE EXCURSION TYPE ACTIVITIES: Sandals for example includes scuba diving and snorkeling off nearby reefs via their scuba/snorkel boats. The savings here ranges from $50 (snorkel trip) to $200/day for scuba divers.                                                                                                      NOTE: All-inclusive resorts usually offer such as kayaks, banana boat rides, hobie cat sailing, tubing, tennis, beach snorkel gear rentals, windsurfing, golf

and more. Cruise excursions to resorts offering just some the above activities would cost about $150 per person. After all NCL charged passengers $150 each to visit Atlantis (Nassau) for the day. That included its water theme park but NOT any water sports.                                                                       NOTE:  Sandals has the highest prices BUT are the only all-inclusive Caribbean resorts that include motorized water sports i.e. their dive/snorkel boats and water skiing.

div>                                                                               * ALL-INCLUSIVE TIPPING: Tipping .is usually included in the all-inclusive prices saving hundreds of more dollars compared to the cost of cruises.You can do the above math. In the end the daily rates for most of the luxury all-inclusive resorts we visited are reasonable and well worth considering. TIP: Use all our best ‘free’ travel strategies to reach your Caribbean all-inclusive resort and the final vacation price gets even lower.

TIP: All-inclusive resorts are not the same. As noted, Sandals excels by including most motorized water sports. LaSource (Grenada) offers eachguest a daily one hour spa massage or body wrap session (any one of fifteen types offered).  Select a resort that best matches your tropical vacation criteria including the fun-in-the-sun activities you will be using.

SANDALS GRANDE ST. LUCIAN SPA & BEACH RESORT                              

BEST WAY TO ENJOY OUR ARTICLES REMINDER TIP:                                            Click on any and all interesting photos in our articles. Most of them will then be viewable in full or nearly full page size.                                           

 

Five of the eight luxury resorts we visited were all-inclusive. Of those both Sandals resorts on St. Lucia and Antigua were outstanding. Before we discuss Sandals St. Grande Lucian we must share Sandals unique all-inclusive water sports policy that applies to all Caribbean Sandals resorts: *Sandals offers the largest all-inclusive water sports operation in the Caribbean with a fleet of 270 boats (both motorized and non-motorized). *Complimentary lessons available for all water sports activities
*Unlimited scuba diving including snorkel/dive boat trips every day using Newton Dive Boats with custom dive tank holders, water entry platforms, camera tables, fresh water rinse-downs, bathrooms and more.
*Water skiing using purpose-built Mastercraft boats.
*Glass bottom boats
                                                                                                                  Here are Sandals Grande Lucian Resort’s highlights as found on the Sandal’s web site: *Sheltered mile-long beach cradled on both sides by the Caribbean Sea.
*The grande three-story lobby of this St. Lucia resort is reminiscent of a British palace.
* All-inclusive meals and drinks.
* All-inclusive unlimited scuba diving and every other water sport under the sun.
* Included daily 11am dive/snorkel boat to nearby reef.

* Five fresh water pools, 4 whirlpools and Sandals famous swim-up bars.

* Dine around the world in eight international restaurants.

* Access to twelve additional restaurants at the two other Sandals resorts in St. Lucia.

* Entertainment abounds with enthralling fire dancers, on-premise village festivals, saxophone serenades from atop the pool tower, and ongoing entertainment nightly.

* Plus these additional all-inclusive activities:

Canoes/Kayaks

Sailboats – Hobie Cats                                                                                  Here is Patty in our Hobie Cat moments before Steve got on board for a pleasant afternoon sail:

Snorkeling

Windsurfing

Hydrobikes

Water-skiing

Knee boarding

Pool & land volleyball

Day/night tennis

Fitness center

* Optional Red Lane Spa                                                                      ARRIVAL – GETTING THERE

Sandals Grande is located just six miles from the capital town of Castries. Our taxi fare, from the cruise ship dock, was a flat-rate of $30 USD for the taxi.

OUR   SANDALS GRANDE ST. LUCIAN REPORT:

Prior to our arrival we had visited the web sites for both Sandals St. Lucia and Sandals Antigua. We had also seen numerous Sandals TV commercials beckoning all to experience Sandals incredible all-inclusive tropical paradise vacations. Could all the hype be true? We were eager and ready to find out.                                                                                                             Upon arriving at 9:30am we were greeted by Sandals charming representative Krista Tango. After a short tour of the property we knew this was indeed a very special

tropical destination. During our all too short day (our ship departed at 5pm) we  experienced as much of Sandals St. Lucia as possible and we had a BLAST!                                                                                                            In a nutshell we did the following:

* Toured the lush, landscaped gardens.

* Walked the lovely white sand beach.

* Savored Sandals unlimited drinks i.e. our favorite BBC (Baileys Banana Colada) and their Chocolate Monkey.

* Chowed down a yummy beach-side lunch at the Mariner Restaurant, one of many

found on the property.

* Enjoyed the signature, massive and totally fun main fresh water pool with huge swim-up bar.

* Easily met new friends such as Jay the Sandals photographer and Playmaker Neville the ‘devil’

* Watersports coordinator ‘Chubby’ was super friendly and fantastic at her job. She pre-booked us on their 11am Scuba/Snorkel boat. Here is a shot from our snorkeling:

Cubby also arranged, on the spot, for our Hobie Cat ride. Guests can pilot their own Hobie Cat or, as we did, have a staff person

take us out for a pleasant, scenic sail.

* We found sun and shade lounge chairs and delightful large hammocks.

* The 3-story lobby with its 1930’s ceiling fans is remarkable.

PRICES:

Orbitz offers a one week stay, arriving in late August, at the daily rate of $539 per couple. Sandals web site offers an air credit special which includes a $325 air credit for those booking at least six nights. This offer runs through December, 2012.

OUR RECOMMENDATION:

Both of our thumbs are way up for Sandals St. Lucian. The resort, its                                                        amenities, staff, all-inclusive drinks, meals and activities (including water sports) is spot on fabulous. We hope that our Sandals St. Lucian HD YouTube video conveys some of our enthusiasm during our marvelous all too short one-day visit.

HOW TO BEST VIEW OUR EXCITING CARIBBEAN HD YOUTUBE VIDEOS:                                                                                                                                    Just beneath the YouTube videos, on the right, find a star shaped icon. Hold your cursor over the icon and click on  it. When the pop-up menu appears                                              choose the highest number that will play on your computer.  Most computers will play the video at the lower quality of 360p and 480p. 720p is DVD quality and 1080p is blu-ray quality. Use the highest number that works.            Here is our HD Sandals St. Lucia YouTube video. Simply click on the center icon to instantly view the video.                                                                 VIDEO TIP: If the video does not play smoothly click on PAUSE and wait for the video to fully load. See the bottom ‘loading’ line under the video. When the line has moved fully to the right the video is loaded and should play smoothly. ENJOY!                                                                                   

If, for any reason, the above video does not play here is an alternate LINK to our YouTube video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YavEtMXoz

Here is the LINK to the resort’s web site: http://www.sandals.com/destinations/stlucia.cfm?WT.mc_id=PPC&utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_campaign=US_Sandals_Brand+-+St.+Lucia&utm_term=sandals%20st%20lucia&utm_content=0

SANDALS GRANDE ANTIGUA RESORT & SPA                                          

We were blown away by this Sandals. It truly offers one of the world’s most unique settings comprised of two resorts in one! Here is Sandals totally accurate description:

Voted “World’s Most Romantic Resort” 14 years in a row, Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa beckons with two extraordinary vacations in one on Antigua’s best and most famous beach, Dickenson Bay. Immerse yourself in a seaside garden oasis graced by majestic palms at the authentic Caribbean Grove. Then savor the sophistication of a fine European hotel in the Six-Star, all-suite Mediterranean Village.

Here are more resort highlights found on Sandal’s web site:

* Located on one on Antigua’s best and most famous beaches, Dickenson Bay.

* Caribbean Village: The grove surrounding these (village) rooms spills over with palm trees, pink plumeria and red ixora flowers.

* Mediterranean Village boasts:  Italian floor tiles, custom-designed mahogany furniture with leather trunks, drapery from Turkey, bedding from Egypt, upholstery from Italy and handmade rugs from India.

* Eleven world-class restaurants, a global team of master chefs caters to your endless culinary cravings

* All-inclusive land based activities such as day/night tennis, volleyball, outdoor chess and shuffle board, billiards, fitness center, croquet and every board game imaginable.

* All-inclusive water sports such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, canoes/kayaking, Hobie Cats, Paddle Boards and more.

* Daily 11am dive/snorkel boat trips.

* Six pools, six whirlpools and swim-up pool bars.

* Entertainment: At night, the energy level kicks up a notch with stage shows, live performances, opulent beach parties and the lively piano bar.

* Idyllic Spa Services at the optional Red Lane Spa

ARRIVAL – GETTING THERE: We took a taxi from the cruise dock. Taxis charge a flat rate between $12 and $15 USD.  We arrived at Sandals on schedule at about 9:30am.

OUR SANDALS GRANDE ANTIGUA RESORT & SPA REPORT

Sandals Grande Antigua left us not only breathless but giddy as well. Where Sandals Whereas Sandals Grande St. Lucian was fabulous Sandals Grande Antigua was ultra-fabulous.

When we talk about luxury resorts their location and their physical properties are key components.  Here, the huge Antigua property which comprises the Mediterranean and Caribbean resort villages is outstanding.  Sandals rightly advertises its two-villages concept as 2 vacations for the price of one. The size of the Sandals resort, with its two villages, made this Sandals our hands-down favorite. This aerial shot shows the resort’s two villages:

The original Sandals Antigua property consisted of what is now called their Caribbean Village. More recently Sandals built a second new Mediterranean Village resort complex  that adjoins the Caribbean Village. The two ‘villages’ are separated by the very lovely Sandals Shops. Our exclusive HD YouTube video tours both the lush garden landscaped Caribbean Village and fabulous new Mediterranean Village.

Here are the highlights of our fabulous day at Sandals Grande Antigua:                                                                                                            * We arrive by taxi at 9:30am and were greeted by Sandals Public Relations Manager Anne Harewood George.  Anne has a special message for YOU  on our YouTube video. We thank Anne for the wonderful brief tour of both Sandals Villages

* Safety comes first for all the resorts we visited. As happens at all tropical destinations there are sometimes less-then-safe sea days. Sadly the red flag was up during our visit so that our 11am snorkel boat ride was cancelled.

* We strolled through the lush, tropical gardens and of the Caribbean Village

and main resort lobby.  We strolled along its section of beach on marvelous Dickenson Bay.

* We enjoyed a nice swim in the Caribbean pool, drinks at its swim-up bar and and a relaxing plunge in the pool-side Jacuzzi.

* Upon leaving the Caribbean Village we check out the lovely Sandals Shops and in particular the Paris Café which serves up scrumptious Parisian pastries, ice-cream and deserts.

* We spent the remainder of the day at the newer, plush Mediterranean Village. The below photo shows the Mediterranean village resort and pool. We enjoyed its huge pool, deluxe swim-up bar, nearby beach restaurant and sacking out on covered lounge chairs on its Dickenson Bay beach.

* We then had  lunch with Anne Harewood at Barefoot-On-The-Beach serving chicken, ribs, sandwiches etc. all of which were spot-on yummy.                      * Tired of fun in the sun. One great option is the resort’s fabulous Spa which offers a great selection of optional services:

This guest found another fun pool-side option where she made this cool batik shirt.

* At every turn we ran into friendly, upbeat, helpful staff some of whom you will meet in our video.                                                                                     PRICES:

We found rates as low as $512 per night for two. Sandals web site offers an air credit special which includes a $325 air credit for those booking at least six nights. This offer runs through December, 2012. As always the best deal will likely include use of free flights (using airline miles) combined with the best internet deal on the per day rate.

TIP: This very day Sandals web site was offering 65% off their rates for trips booked by August 24th.  We mention this since such specials are common.  Do vigilant web searches of the resorts web sites and major discount hotel vendors for the best deals for your dates.

OUR RECOMMENDATION:

In addition to our enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation for  Sandals              

Grande St. Lucia we again have our thumbs even further up for Sandals Grande Antigua. In fact, we now offer our standing ovation for Sandals Antigua.  Two villages, fantastic tropical location, marvelous beach, unbeatable amenities and everything else all-inclusive Sandals has to offer makes Sandals Grande Antigua quite possibly the very best luxury, all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. See you at the (awesome) pool!!!

OUR EXCITING YOUTUBE RESORT VIDEOS – HOW TO BEST VIEW OUR HD VIDEOS: See our above Sandals St. Lucia article for viewing tips

Here is our HD Sandals Antigua YouTube video. Simply click on the center icon to instantly view this YouTube video.

VIDEO TIP: If the video does not play smoothly click on PAUSE and wait for the video to fully load. See the bottom ‘loading’ line under the video. When the line has moved fully to the right the video is loaded and should play smoothly. ENJOY!                                                                                       Here is the LINK to our Sandals Antigua YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlllokcHqcE

ST. MAARTIN – THE WESTIN DAWN BEACH RESORT & SPA                  We viewed this stunning photo of the resort’s infinity pool we knew that the Westin Dawn Beach Resort was a top choice on the island of St. Maartin. Here are the resorts highlights as found on its web site and provided by the resort :                                                                                                               * Voted Best Resort on St. Maartin in 2012

* 310 luxuriously appointed guest rooms and 15 suites, each with french doors leading to a balcony with an ocean or island view

* Located on one of St. Maarten’s most beautiful beaches

* Fabulous Hibiscus Spa (optional) as seen in this photo we took during our tour of the resort

* Fabulous infinity pool and giant Jacuzzi whirlpool                                           * Sauna – Fitness Center – Steam Bath/Room                                                    * Casino

* Set on a hillside on Dawn Beach

* Nearby off-the-beach snorkeling

* Private pool-side cabanas (optional

* Liquid (Pool Bar / Pool side Café)

* Multiple award winning fine dining choices including Oceans incredible Caribbean Sea view

ARRIVAL – GETTING THERE  – From the cruise dock we took a flat-rate taxi for $18                                                                                                        OUR WESTIN DAWN BEACH RESORT & SPA REPORT                              The Westin Dawn Beach Resort is a luxury island hotel with its excellent Dawn Beach location. It is one of the three resorts we visited that are not all-inclusive. While meals and drinks are not included most of the above activities, other then those marked ‘optional’ are included.  These include sacking out at the pool, strolling and otherwise enjoying lovely Dawn Beach, off-the-beach reef snorkeling and the wonderful infinity pool and Jacuzzi.

Highlights of our visit:                                                                                   * Upon arrival we met resort representative Jacqueline Pham who kindly gave us a tour of the resort & spa.                                                                            * Sadly, the sea was not cooperating and was too rough for snorkeling. This was an exception to the norm.                                                                          * We did a few minutes on the convenient off the lobby Casino slots and then quickly headed to the pool.                                                                                * The pool is as beautiful as pictured. While a bit stark for lack of palm trees the infinity pool has a smashing view to the ocean.                                          * Chaise lounges were plentiful and we enjoyed them. We then strolled on Dawn Beach and also relaxed in the giant pool-side Jacuzzi.                            * At our request we met Jacqueline and Barbara (see video) for lunch at the below pictured Oceans restaurant. We did not want to miss dining to such a memorable view of the pool as it  seems to spill into the ocean.

And here is the fabulous view  of the pool and the sea we enjoyed as we savored our Ocean’s restaurant lunch!

PRICES:  We found rates ranging from $161 (no ocean view) to $209 (ocean view) for two. Greater discounts may be available via diligent web searching. The rates immediately reflect the fact that you are not paying an ‘all-inclusive’ rate.

OUR RECOMMENDATION                                                                           The Westin Dawn, with its deluxe Hibiscus Spa, and many business related amenities seems best suited for (1) business guests and (2) others not willing to pay the much higher all-inclusive resort rates and (3) those who wish to enjoy a marvelous tropical vacation utilizing included sun and fun pool, Jacuzzi, beach, swimming and off-the-beach snorkeling. Then, pay a la carte for the dining of your choice from Sushi to  fine dining from top chefs.

Here is our HD Dawn Beach Resort YouTube video. Simply click on the center icon to instantly view our Westin Dawn Beach Resort YouTube video.    VIDEO TIP: If the video does not play smoothly click on PAUSE and wait for the video to fully load. See the bottom ‘loading’ line under the video. When the line has moved fully to the right the video is loaded and should play smoothly. ENJOY!

If, for any reason, the above video does not play here is an alternate direct LINK to our YouTube video:                                               http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m1prkK3o6A                                  Here is the LINK to the resort’s web site:                      http://www.westinstmaarten.com/

ST THOMAS-SUGAR BAY RESORT AND SPA

Sugar Bay Resort’s fabulous two-tier lobby

It has often been said that the best is saved for last.  We thought of those words when we experienced Sugar Bay Resort. From the moment we arrived at the resort’s hilltop perch we immersed ourselves in Sugar Bay Resort’s very special non-stop fun, excitement, killer location and world class scenic views. Among the five all-inclusive resorts we visited Sandals and Sugar Bay were our absolute favorites. The above shot of Sugar Bay’s fantastic two-tier lobby set the mood for our splendid visit.

From its hilltop location overlooking the bay to its ‘below’ sun and fun amenities, beach and the bay Sugar Bay delivered one of our most memorable Caribbean experiences. On top of that there was that ‘extra’ surprise…..wildlife!

Here are some of the highlights gleaned from the Sugar Bay Resort web site as well as our personal experiences:                                          * Most popular is the resorts all-inclusive plan which includes drinks, meals and water sports (non-motorized). Sugar Bay is also the only true all-inclusive resort in St. Thomas,

* Hilltop location with some of the most breathtaking views in St. Thomas.

* Renovated in 2006, this three-and-a-half star resort, formerly a Wyndham property, includes 294 spacious and elegantly decorated guestrooms, over 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting and special event facilities.

* One of the most photographed wedding locations in the Caribbean.

* We totally agree that the decor and facility layout is designed to provide a genuine island experience.

* Most beautiful lobby of any Caribbean resort.                                                 * Secluded stretch of Sugar Bay beach as seen here.

* Tranquil views of the Caribbean, care-free relaxation on the beach or at our pools as seen above.

* The adventurous spirit of non-motorized water sports and island recreation – Included are: Snorkeling equipment

Beach and pool volleyball

Miniature golf

Daily activity programs

Tennis and basketball courts

Free introduction to SCUBA lessons

* This one is awesome: The resort houses three interconnecting freshwater pools and a hot tub.

* We enjoyed their off-the-beach snorkeling.  Only a very few resorts have instant fun ‘chasing fish’ at an off-the-beach reef. See our HD snorkel video.

* Enjoy the best fine and casual dining without leaving the Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas Island. You’ll love our diverse, delectable restaurant selections, whether you just want a snack by the pool or romantic formal dinner. Dining options include:

2 Breakfast Restaurants – Manor House & Mangrove

4 Lunch Restaurants – Mangrove, Pimentos, Turtle Rock & Ocean Club

6 Dinner Restaurants – Manor House, Mangrove, Ristorante Baci*, Pimentos, Turtle Rock Sports Bay & Grill and Ocean Club Lounge

* Deluxe Journey Spa services (optional)

* Wildlife! Daily nature walk Iguana feeding – Kids and adults love this unique wildlife experience. Be sure to see our HD Iguana feeding video.

ARRIVAL – GETTING THERE:

We arrived at the main Havensight dock and walked a bit to locate the ‘taxi.’ In this case, as you can see, the local taxi was mini- ruck that carried about 20-30 passengers at the flat rate of $10 per person. We worried that many stops would eat into our all too short day. However, the taxi-truck made good time and we were the third stop so that we arrived on time at about 9:30am.

OUR SUGAR BAY RESORT & SPA REPORT:

Have we mentioned that Sugar Bay Resort was one of the top all-inclusive resorts we visited during our 8 Days 8 Luxury Resorts Odyssey.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by Sugar Bay’s Manager Franklyn Eaton who kindly gave us free reign to explore and enjoy all that Sugar Bay offers. We agreed to meet Mr. Eaton for lunch at the ‘below’ Turtle Rock Café.  Here are some reasons we found Sugar Bay to be such an exceptional, fabulous experience:

* The main lodging buildings are perched atop a hill overlooking Sugar Bay and the Caribbean Sea. The views from the lobby’s mezzanine restaurant’s veranda are spectacular.

* The view looking down at the resorts sun and fun facilities i.e. beach, pools, restaurant, Spa etc. is a tropical vision to behold.

* The resorts lobby is two tiered and strikingly beautiful. It is hands down the most memorable lobby of all the resorts we visited.

* The 200 or so stairs down to the pool/beach is ‘wow’ dramatic BUT rest assured…. a reliable mini-shuttle leaves the lobby and the beach/pool area every ten minutes for the quick several minutes ride.

* Physical layout: Other resorts, like Sandals Antigua with its two villages,have sprawling gardens on a very large property. Sugar Bay Resort’s ‘below’ recreational area has a smaller footprint that is, none-the-less incredible in its design, layout, location and amenities.The above photo is a great example. It shows part of one pool, lounge chairs and umbrellas and in the distance the oh so beautiful and very large Turtle Rock Cafe. Without any need to ‘hike’ from one side of the resort property to another we enjoyed an unforgettable day of fun in the sun.

* Location on protected Sugar Bay (see below photo).  When we visited Moorea (French Polynesia) on four occasions we stayed on Cooks Bay which was called the most magnificent bay in the South Pacific by none other then Arthur Frommer.  This resort was reminiscent with its location on beautiful Sugar Bay.  It was the only resort we visited that had such a prime location. Such bays offer not only beauty to behold but protection for swimming and snorkeling.

HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR DAY AT SUGAR BAY:

* First we explored the Sugar Bay’s fabulous double tier lobby and shops.

* We climbed the winding staircase, walked through the mezzanine bar restaurant are and out on the veranda took in majestic views of the bay & Caribbean Sea.

* The shuttle ride to the below pools/beach was fun and fast.

* After shooting our HD video we easily found great lounge chairs in both sun and shade areas.  From lounges we enjoyed great views of the pool/restaurant area in one direction and the beach and stunning Sugar Bay in the other.

* We love the ‘above the pools’ picturesque foot bridge and several waterfalls.

* At 10:30am we headed to the nature trail for the best ‘wildlife’ experience of our Caribbean journey…. the IGUANA FEEDING.  There are 47 resident iguanas on the resort property and they all seem to have the 10:30am time slot imbedded in there little heads.

The above kind invitation was the start of an incredible iguana experience. here is a shot of Patty or should we say Patty’s feet surrounded by friendly iguanas as we were busy feeding them lettuce leaves.

* Lunch at the pool side Turtle Rock Café, with Mr. Eaton, was informative, FUN and delicious. The café (as seen in our video) serves both buffet and cooked to order dishes.  A café bar serves all the drinks one desires.

* An after lunch snorkel off-the-beach was fun. No, we neither expected nor found an exotic coral reed but found plenty of local ‘residents’ waiting for us. See our HD snorkel video clips. Here is one of the local ‘residents’ we found just a  short swim off Sugar Bay’s beach.

* Unlike Sandals which includes scuba diving and snorkel/scuba boat daily boat trips Sugar Bay offers an optional $50 half day sail on a lovely Catamaran which is seen in our video moored just off the beach.  If we only had more time……urrgghh.

Considering our all too short day (our ship departed at 5pm at 7 of the 8 ports of call) we enjoyed one of the very best Caribbean resort experiences of our trip. PRICES:

     Expedia rates for mid-October are $317 (hotel view) to $389 (ocean view) for TWO. One can immediately see the lower rate as compared to Sandals. Sandals higher rate reflects the addition of all-inclusive motorized water sports such as scuba/snorkel boats, water skiing and glass bottom boats.

OUR RECOMMENDATION

We rate Sugar Bay Resort #1 in the Caribbean for those who are not inclined                                                            to use the extensive motorized water sports offered by Sandals. Sugar Bay Resort delivers most all other fun-in-the-sun amenities in a majestic, luxury, tropical setting.                                                                                              TIP: One option would be to enjoy Sugar Bay’s off-the-beach snorkeling combined with 2-3 catamaran snorkel cruises (optional $50 per half day trip) and you will still save big $$$ over Sandals.                                                    Here is our HD Sugar Bay Resort YouTube video. Simply click on the center icon to instantly view our Sugar Bay Resort YouTube video.        VIDEO TIP: If the video does not play smoothly click on PAUSE and wait for the video to fully load. See the bottom ‘loading’ line under the video. When the line has moved fully to the right the video is loaded and should play smoothly. ENJOY!

If, for any reason, the above YouTube video does not play you may use this alternate LINK to our Sugar Bay YouTube video:            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1adQ4DdPevc                               Here is the LINK to the resort’s web site: http://www.sugarbayresortandspa.com/

STEVE’S GIZMO COLUMN                                                                         GREAT QUALITY, GREAT UV PROTECTION – CWEAR DELIVERS    

CWEAR Company makes ‘safe’ fun-in-the-sun clothes that work!  CWEAR’s SUN PROTECTION mission is plainly stated as….

We want you to enjoy being in the sun without having to worry about harmful UV rays damaging your skin and health. That is why our products are designed for maximum sun protection for you and your family….. Our superior fabric is compliant with the Australia/NZ and USA Standards, our products    offer 50+ U PF Protection.  Also, C WEAR & SUN CULTURE AUSTRALIA uses only exclusive AUSTRALIAN MADE Chlorine Resistant FABRIC. This durable fabric is of the highest quality that ensures it will not fade or stretch out of shape and is manufactured to resist the harshest UVA and UVB rays. Our UV 50+ rated fabrics offer Excellent Protection that blocks at least 97.5% of damaging UV rays.                                                                                                             How serious and what quality control:

  Our Australian fabric supplier has testing equipment in-house and is accredited by http://www.arpansa.gov.au to provide a certificate as to a fabric’s UPF rating, with Stretch-Tex UPF test reports accepted by ARPANSA. Each batch of fabric is tested and we take delivery of each roll of fabric in the knowledge that each batch is tested and that there is a test certificate available.

THIS PHOTO ‘PROVES’ THAT WE STILL SWEAR BY CWEAR:              About five years ago we purchased his and hers blue, short sleeve swim shirts priced at about $49 each. We had done much web research and decided on CWEAR for its quality, UV protection and the fact that one can buy their shirts ‘loose fitting.’ Most all other companies were selling skin tight fitting neoprene or spandex shirts. Sadly, at this point in our lives ‘skin tight’ was not in the cards. Above Steve wearing his CWEAR swim shirt  at the Marriott Aruba Resort’s pool (April 2012). After five years it still wears like new!                                                                                                        TODAYS DEALS:

                                            CWEAR has a colorful web site with all types of mens, womens and kids clothes. They have Sale and Clearance items as well. Today, their sale   section had a shirt very similar to our all time favorite swim shirts. The shirt, available In most sizes is chocolate colored (many other sale colors/styles are available) is described as:

etails

*    50+ UV Protection

*    Chlorine Resistant

*    Loose Fit

*    100% Polyester

*    Australian Made                                                                                      The regular price is $52 (USD) and their sale price is $26 (USD)

Shipping is $15.58. We checked the price for two shirts and the postage is the same $15.58 so your best deal is a multiple purchase just as we did for our two shirts.                                                                                                 We can not heap enough praise on these shirts. Here is a LINK to the CWEAR web site:               http://www.cwear.com.au/

NASSAU RESORT DAY PASSES

NASSAU BEACH HOTEL PASSES FOR CRUISE PASSENGERS
      by Joyce Gleeson-Adamidis & Grant Holmes – June 20, 2012

Note: Our good friend Joyce resides in Athens Greece and thankfully contributes articles to our CTN.  We congratulate Joyce on becoming the editor of a professional travel blog called: Off Radar Cruise News http://www.offradarcruisenews.com.                                                 For those wanting to get off the ship when visiting Nassau, Bahamas, major hotels are offering special day passes so you can enjoy their facilities and activities. The most popular (and most costly)  is the Atlantis filled with unlimited opportunities; however, if you want to go to a more private and quieter area, the Sheraton Beach Resort and British Colonial Hilton offers their own options to cruise passengers.

The above pictured lavish  Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino is offerings cruise passengers a $99 rate (for its deluxe day pass) for a standard size day room, from 7am to 7pm, that has high-speed internet, LCD flat screen TV and Sheraton’s Sweet Sleeper Bed. Included facilities are: their beach, three freshwater pools, non-motorized water sports, towels and on-site restaurants (food is extra) and lounges. If you are bringing other guests, there is a $35 charge additional charge. We emphasize that the day pass does not include motorized water sports*. Also, food and beverages are not included for either day pass but can be purchased separately.  For just a standard day pass, the price is $25 per person that gives you access to the beach, pools, restaurants (food is extra), towels and non-motorized water sports.                                                                                                               * While motorized water sports are excluded all day passes DO include: snorkeling equipment, rafts, kayaks and water bikes.

The British Colonial Hilton

The above pictured British Colonial Hilton’s Day Pass provides beach towels, pool and beach chairs, and a special voucher to enjoy some tasty tropical drinks or some local or international dishes at their Patio Bar and Grille.   To enhance your Day Passes, you can combine the day pass with a Coral Reef Snorkeling Tour that have convenient departure times at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm.

COST:  A bargain at just $50 for all the following:                                 -Use of beach chairs/pool chairs/ umbrellas

-One beach towel per customer

-Use of Kayaks and Floats

-$30 USD Voucher for Food and Beverage                                                – – Kids 6-12 $25  & kids under 6 are free       

For the most current prices and details you need to fill out and then email a questionnaire to the resort. To do this go to:

http://bahamascruiseexcursions.com/NassauHiltonResortPass.htm

STEVE & PAT’S TIP: Here are more reasons to consider the British Colonial Hilton’s Day Pas:

* Resort is recommended for families and couples

* The resort is walking distance of the cruise ship terminal

* Walking distance of downtown and all the great shopping and historical sites

STEVE & PATTY SAY: THANK YOU FOR READING OUR SUMMER CTN NEWSLETTER ……and…….ENJOY HAPPY, SAFE, FUN TRAVELS!

THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE SOME OF OUR MOST MEMORABLE GLOBAL TRAVEL MEMORIES……ENJOY!

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