We have all heard the term bucket list. But what does that really mean? People say it is a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. But that seems a little morbid to me. I prefer to think of it more as a bucket full of goals and dreams for your life. As a travel advisor the term usually refers to the list of places you want to visit. It should not just be a checklist of things before you die, but places you truly want to experience and learn about in life. It should contain your dreams, desires and goals. It is not enough to just list places you want to go, but you have to plan for how to get there and when. A good bucket list has dreams but also details how you will achieve those dreams. If you say you want to go on a safari, you are more likely to actually go if you list a date and plans to save for it. Much like a financial planner creates a lifetime investment plan, a travel advisor helps map out your lifetime bucket list and makes those travel dreams a reality.
I just returned from a stay at El Convento in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The property served as a Carmelite convent for over 250 years before being purchased by a member of the Woolworth family in 1959 with plans for converting it to a hotel. After renovations, it opened it’s doors as a hotel in 1962. Over the next 35 years, the property changed ownership and went through many changes. In January 1997, the new El Convento opened and immediately received awards and acclaim. The hotel is new and modern while retaining its long rich history and charm. It offers luxury in an intimate hotel with exceptional service.
The hotel has 5 stories, where the lower three are original to the building. The open courtyard design features a 300+ year old nispero tree in the center. The courtyard restaurant, Patio del Nispero, is named for the tree. There are two other restaurants, a small fitness center, a rooftop plunge pool and jacuzzi, and many salons for social and business gatherings. The original chapel of the convent is a favorite for weddings.
The hotel is located right in the heart of Old San Juan. It is walking distance to shops, restaurants, bars, galleries, and more. It is across the street from one of the oldest cathedrals in the Western Hemisphere and is a few blocks from El Morro , a 400+ year old fortress.
My visit was incredible. My room was lovely with comfy double beds. We had a Juliet balcony and french doors that we kept open for sunlight and at night there was a musician playing guitar and singing in the adjacent plaza. There was a wine and cheese reception each night that was so nice to just relax on the rooftop patio for a bit before venturing out for dinner. The kids loved the pool option after a hot day of walking around town. We ate breakfast at Patio del Nispero and the food was great. The service throughout the hotel was top notch- including the nicest bellman George. I fell in love with this property!
As a member of Virtuoso, I can offer amenities when booking a stay here. These include
- Daily continental breakfast for two at Patio Del Níspero Restaurant
- Early arrival / Late check-out upon availability
- Upgrade to next category upon availability
- US $75 Food & Beverage credit at Patio del Nispero Restaurant, once per stay.
- Guests staying three or more nights also receive a additional US$50 Food & Beverage credit at Patio del Nispero Restaurant, once per stay
I just returned from 4 days at Amanyara in Turks and Caicos. This was the most peaceful and relaxing vacation I think I have ever had- at least since having kids! The property is secluded, private, absolutely gorgeous and has impeccable service. And the water on this island is brilliant turquoise and so still that it almost looks like glass. Stunning! The villas are designed with a central living area surrounded by infinity and reflecting pools with individual rooms scattered around for privacy. The bedrooms have 3 full glass walls for seamless views of the outside. The villas also come with your own chef and host and the level of service is just outstanding. I have simply never felt so pampered in my life. Homemade guacamole for a snack, mojitos by the pool, my laundry done while I am at the beach. I could get used to this!
So now that I am spoiled for life, I simply have to visit other Aman properties. Next on my list is the spectacular Amangiri. I discovered they have a die hard fan base known as Aman Junkies. There is no set number of properties to visit to become an official junkie, but word has it that after 5 (and some say 7) visits, that you are gifted with an Aman Junkie tshirt. This tshirt is now on my bucket list! Are you an Aman Junkie too??
I recently spent 3 days with my family at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, SC. After arriving and being shown to our Cottage Suite with a view of the May River , my daughter simply asked “Mom, Is this Paradise?” After less than thirty minutes, the resort made a huge impression on her, and it continued to wow us for the rest of our stay. The staff was undeniably the nicest I have encountered in quite a while. The entire property was picture perfect and the rooms were stunning. There were so many things to do without ever leaving the property that we simply could not do them all in our three short days.
Just a sample of the activities available include complimentary bicycles which we rode everywhere, tennis courts, 2 pools, fitness classes and workout room, an amazing spa, boat trips to see dolphins or visit Hilton Head Island, four restaurants, and a golf course. There is also a three mile lagoon that runs through the property where you can kayak or paddle board. We did a scavenger hunt around the property and every night we visited the main house and made s’mores around a fire pit. One of my kids’ favorites was the tree house and zip line.
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff has all the modern comforts you could ever want but it feels like a simpler time when you are there. It is laid back and easy going and was the perfect place for us to relax and get away. We have only been back home a week and already my daughters have asked when we can go again.
If you are interested in visiting this Virtuoso property, I can offer special amenities when you book through Kiel Travel:
Full daily breakfast for two, a complimentary one way transfer to the airport, and an upgrade at check-in if available.
I recently returned from a quick trip to Miami South Beach and Palm Beach. I was on business and did not have much time to venture out from the hotels. That does not mean I did not have some fabulous food INSIDE the hotels. Here is a picture diary of my yummy meals.
First stop was The Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key for lunch at Azul.
Next stop was Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. We had frozen mojitos with the famous bartender Geno at Dune. Followed by shrimp nachos and the most fabulous guacamole made table side at La Cantina.
We retired for the night at Turnberry Isle in Aventura and treated ourselves to a late night snack in The Lobby Lounge.
The next morning we met at The Setai for the breakfast buffet at The Restaurant. The food was wonderful but my favorite part was sitting in the outside courtyard to eat it all.
Later in the day we toured the Ritz-Carlton South Beach and had lunch at Bistro One LR. Probably some of the best shrimp or fish tacos I have ever had!
Next stop was The Breakers in Palm Beach. We had drinks and tapas at HMF. Did not get a picture of the fabulous fennel sausage and wild mushroom pizzette since we were starving and it looked too good to resist.
We spent the night and I have to mention the amazing chocolate creation we found waiting in our room!
Our buffet breakfast the next day was at The Circle in The Breakers. My favorite were the muffin tops.
Our last meal in the area before boarding the plane was at Four Seasons Palm Beach sitting right along the beach at Atlantic Bar and Grill.
I recently returned form the Mandarin Oriental Miami on Brickell Key. I was greeted with floor to ceiling windows and a great view of the bay. They are currently adding a bar in this lobby which should be completed by the end of the month.
Pictured here is a lovely Deluxe Room with a four piece bath and pass through window above the soaker tub.
Pictured now is a view of a junior suite with over 500 sq. feet of space.
Below is one of their beautiful Brickell Suites with a gorgeous freestanding tub. These are all located in the middle of the building so they have amazing views.
My gorgeous view from the Mandarin Oriental Miami.
Mandarin Oriental Miami offers rooms that are beautiful and have amazing views of the bay or city. They offer 2 restaurants and a bar. They have a fabulous spa. They also have an expanded pool deck and a beach area with cabanas. The location is perfect for taking the water trolley around the area to shops and restaurants too. The hotel is only about ten minutes away from the Miami cruise terminal. It is an ideal location for pre or post cruise vacations.
Miami is also an ideal warm weather getaway for a girls’ trip. Right now they are offering a day of pampering that can be booked with or without a stay at the hotel. The package is for 4-5 girls and includes access to Oasis Beach Club, one 50-minute Hot Stone Massage each, one Mandarin Oriental Manicure each, half day in a luxurious Beach Cabana and lychee martinis for the group. Price is $250 per person.
If you would like to book a stay , my company is a preferred partner with Mandarin Oriental Miami and has access to extra amenities that include breakfast for two, upgrade at check-in if available, and $100 credit for spa of food.
Today’s travelers are choosing vacations that offer just a little bit more- more experiences, more service, more wine and food, more postcard memories. But there is a growing trend that the more fulfillment they are looking for is found by giving back to others. Volunteering to help others is not new, but doing it while on vacation is somewhat. It is a great way to help out a country or people in need and maybe leave the place a little better than when you arrived. It is also a great way to get to know the people and what their day to day lives are like. And it is a fantastic experience for families to bond, learn, and share with others.
The opportunities to volunteer are endless. There are many schools, orphanages, and shelters that can use help in South Africa. You can even help just by taking a safari with Micato Safaris who sends a child to school for each safari they sell. Greaves Tours can take you to visit a school for blind children in Mumbai. Crystal Cruises program ” You Care. We Care” offers free volunteer shore excursions at many ports such as rescuing marine animals in Spain and planting trees in Iceland. Shoretrips GIVE program allows you to help at ports while sailing on any cruise line. You can read to preschoolers in Antigua or Aruba, feed the hungry in Barbados or St. Lucia, and help with animals in Mexico or St. Thomas. These are just a few of the chances you have to help.
The next time you plan a vacation, think about giving a little of your time and service to help others.
The Panama Canal officially opened August 14, 1914. This year will be a series of special events leading up to a big 100th Anniversary celebration in August. The city is gearing up with a gorgeous new Panama Convention Center, new hotels, murals depicting Panama City’s rich history, and a coastal green space with pedestrian walkways. The canal itself is undergoing a $5 billion facelift that will enlarge the ports, widen shipping lanes, and build new locks. Many of the cruise lines are offering special sailings through the canal too. If you have been thinking about visiting Panama, this is the year to be there!!
The Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island is offering a chance to celebrate the Gatsby era of the Roaring Twenties with their New Year’s Eve Black and White Gala. From 9pm- 2am you will experience fabulous food buffets, live music and dancing, an open bar, and fireworks. They strongly encourage black and white attire for the event. It is $195 per adult.
Packages for the event are valid December 29, 2013 to January 1, 2014
You will receive a coastal view or ocean view room, champagne and chocolate strawberries on arrival, admission for two to the New Year’s Eve Gala, buffet breakfast for two each morning in Café 4750, and daily valet service.
And they are offering special parties for the kids too. “Glow in the New Year” is an evening of glowing adventures with dinner buffet, disco dance floor, photo booths and neon bubbles. Party is 8pm to 1 am. Supervised children 5-12 are $90 each. Teens 13-17 are $45 each.
Princess Cruises is offering a special sailing February 10-15, 2014 that will benefit The American Heart Association. The Ruby Princess sails February 10, 2014 out of Fort Lauderdale and includes the ports of Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The cruise will feature unique activities centered around heart healthy living with cooking demonstrations from a celebrity chef and information on heart disease and stress. There will also be special Valentine Day programming that includes a renewal of vows ceremony. To support the American Heart Association all you have to do is take the cruise. A tax-deductible portion of every cruise fare, up to $300 per person, will be matched by Princess Cruises and donated on your behalf. Princess offers the perfect Valentine’s Day gift and a chance to help others at the same time!