2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Did You Say Gourmet All-Inclusive?

El Dorado Seaside Suites, by Karisma

Chances are that many of you have experienced an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean. You probably know that “All-inclusive” means that in addition to getting all of the common amenities of a resort, you pay one price which includes lodging, unlimited food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, non-motorized sports and water activities, and entertainment. Many resorts also say that tipping is included. I say that if you get good service, tip generously!

The history of all inclusive packages traces back to Club Med in the 1950s. At the first Club Med village on Mallorca, a Spanish Island, travelers had their vacation package covered with a single fee. This included the cost for accommodation, meals, drinks, and the activities. Thus began the journey of all-inclusive vacations which have become some of the most successful and popular vacation products in the marketplace.

Over the years, this concept has evolved exponentially and today has reached the level of “Gourmet All-Inclusive”. This is a very unique, high quality style of all-inclusive that is offered by Karisma Resorts. Karisma operates two very distinctive luxury resort brands in Riviera Maya, Mexico; the adults only, El Dorado Resorts and the family friendly, Azul Resorts.

So, what’s the difference between gourmet all-inclusive and a “regular” all-inclusive? Over the last ten years, I have had the pleasure to stay at a Karisma Resort during 15 of my over 60 visits to the Cancun area. In my experience, the answer boils down to three important things that these resorts do better and makes them special:

(1) The highest food quality and variety of ala carte restaurants included in the price
(2) The memorable and unique experiences they create. Everything from candlelight dinners on the beach to rooftop barbeques to an amazing culinary theatre
(3) Highly attentive, friendly and personalized service by their people. I have had the pleasure to meet everyone from the resort owners, to the VP of food & beverage, to the chefs and waiters. Each and everyone of them wants nothing more than for the customers to feel that they are “home” when they arrive at the resort

Our company has taken the steps to become a Gourmet All-Inclusive Vacation Consultant with Karisma Resorts. Through this exclusive program, we take part in advanced training, annual visits to the properties and gain access to special promotions and offers for our clients. Among these added values are free room upgrades, free beachfront sky massages, and free beachfront candlelight dinners. These extra added values take an already very affordable price and make it just a little bit better!

When it comes time to plan your next trip and an all-inclusive resort is a must have, you could not do better than an El Dorado or Azul Gourmet All-Inclusive Resort. Contact one of our Gourmet All-Inclusive Vacation Consultants for more information or visit http://www.CancunBeachVacations.com. Your taste buds will be glad you did!

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Mexico Safety Concerns-An Interview with Felipe Calderon

Mexico's President

With all of the media coverage related to the violence issues, our clients interested in travel to Mexico occasionally need reassurance or more information on what is really happening there. I thought I would share a recent Travel Weekly article that featured Mexico President Felipe Calderon. He directly addresses issues related to security and several other topics related to travel and tourism in Mexico. This article is more directed at travel agents but I think in doing so, it addresses the consumer’s concerns as well.

Travel Weekly: Some Americans are very focused on questions about their safety and security in Mexico. Is Mexico a safe place to vacation? And if so, what can a travel agent say to potential travelers to Mexico to reassure them it is safe?

President Felipe Calderon: Most of the troubles we have are with gangs fighting other gangs. They are not attacking or disturbing tourists. We are receiving 22 million international visitors a year, not counting the 6 million more visiting on cruise ships or the 49 million visitors who cross the borders. There are very few cases [of violence involving tourists].

One thing [agents can do] is to define exactly what the problem is. Mexico has more than 2,500 municipalities, and 80% of the problems are focused in 80 municipalities. Consider the rate of homicides per 100,000 people. Mexico has about 15 homicides per 100,000 people. Jamaica has about 60. Guatemala and El Salvador are closer to 70.

And even some cities in United States, like Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New Orleans, have more homicides per 100,000 people than Mexico; Atlanta is about the same. And there are states in Mexico — Yucatan, Campeche, Tlaxcala, Queretaro and even Quintana Roo — that are as safe as many regions in Europe.

TW: What steps are you taking to make sure that tourists are safe?
Calderon: In addition to our policy fighting criminals, we are improving the institutional conditions of the police and attorney general offices in the whole country, and we are paying special attention to those areas that people visit the most. Any incidents involving tourists, whether linked to violence or not, are attended to at the federal level.

TW: Are there specific areas in Mexico that you would say tourists should avoid?
Calderon: Frankly speaking, Ciudad Juarez has a problem, and we are dealing with that.

TW: Are visitors from other parts of the world as nervous as Americans seem to be about visiting Mexico?
Calderon: In general, tourist arrivals from other countries grew more than America, on average, with the exception of some European countries, though that is probably more related to their economic situation than anything else. Canadians increased about 25% from 2009 to 2010, and Brazil grew about 94%. But even tourism from America grew about 15%.

TW: Do you feel you are making progress in getting your message across?
Calderon: We are trying. It’s not easy. The media is so focused on the [drug gang-related] troubles. Any single incident has a lot of appeal for a newspaper. I understand that.

TW: One of the problems you face in overcoming the image that Mexico is unsafe is that the stories of drug-related gang violence continue to recur. When things die down, there’s a new incident, then after things die down again, there’s another new incident. Do you have any idea when the drug war will finally get off the front pages of newspapers?
Calderon: No, I have no idea. But let me tell you, the government’s effort is not exactly a war on drugs in the old sense, like the American war on drugs coming from President Reagan. We are fighting any kind of expression of organized crime in Mexico, not only those related to drugs.

I understand that it’s impossible to erase the drugs themselves. As long as there are people consuming or using drugs, there will be a problem.

But our purpose is to restore the authority and to re-establish in Mexico strong institutional frameworks in order to enforce the laws. Our main goal is to make Mexico a rule-of-law state, where the law is enforced and anyone — visitors or citizens — will live in order, following the law, with a strong government supporting and defending the rights for everyone.

TW: Mexico’s new tourism slogan is “The place you thought you knew.” What is the one place you know about that most people don’t know but that you think tourists might enjoy?
Calderon: Well, I must say my own city, Morelia, and Michoacan, my own state. Most people know about Mexico’s beaches, Cancun, Riviera Maya and maybe [the Mayan ruins in] Chichen Itza, but a colonial city with vitality and a lot of history and a state with indigenous people, handicrafts, landscapes — it’s something the people should know.

And in addition to that, probably you could see the Huasteca places [in northeastern Mexico], the Sotano de las Golondrinas [“Cave of the Swallows”, a very large pit cave in San Luis Potosi] or, as we have seen, Tequila and the landscape of the agave plantations. So there are several places that people can still get to know in Mexico.

TW: Where do you take your family when you go on vacation?
Calderon: I’m trying to bring my kids to all those places unique to Mexico. For me, that includes the amazing phenomenon of migration of animals: the monarch butterflies in Michoacan and Estado de Mexico or the whales in Baja California Sur.

Actually, during the first 10 years of marriage, [my wife] Margarita and I tried to go at least once a year to Cancun. We like it so much. I know that it’s a very common place, but to visit the Riviera Maya or Cancun is often the right decision. And now, as president, when I have a long weekend, I bring my kids and wife to Acapulco, which is close to Mexico City. It’s easy for me.

There are a lot of other places. Most people like Oaxaca; it’s so different from the beaches. And there are those places under development, like Zacatecas. The new thing for me, and I think for a lot of tourists around the world, is ecotourism, places related to the environment. To me, the best [ecotourism] place I’ve seen is Montes Azules in Chiapas. Why? Because it’s a very well-preserved reserve, and you can experience an amazing state of nature.

If you have further questions about the content of this article or any other topic related to travel to Cancun, Mexico, or the Caribbean, by all means give a Vacation Specialist at http://www.CancunBeachVacations.com a call or e-mail info@CancunBeachVacations.com.

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“Is This The Cancun You Know?”-Life Enhancing Experiences

Chichen Itza

In this last segment of “Is This The Cancun You Know?, we are going to identify many of the amazing tours, excursions, and activities to enjoy during your next Cancun, Riviera Maya, or Cozumel vacation. I truly believe this destination offers more outside of the resort than any other. We are talking about adventure, education, exhilaration, and new experiences.

In Your Cancun Man’s most humblest opinion, the unique experiences you have with your family and friends while on your trip are the parts of it that you will most cherish and that give rise to the stories you can’t wait to tell when you get home. Yes the room, the resort, the food, and flight were great, (ok, probably not the flight) BUT a zip line canopy tour, swimming with the dolphins, touring ancient Mayan Ruins…now these are life enhancing experiences!

So…where to start when the list is so long? How about if I give you my favorites and then you give me yours?

Here we go:

1. Xcaret Ecological Park

Love the park, the underwater cave swimming, and the animals. Perfect for the entire family. You have to stay through the evening for the show!

2. Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins
This is the preeminent Mayan Ruins to visit. It is a full day trek, but well worth it.

3. Scuba Diving
Cozumel and Akumal = Amazing diving. We work with Scuba Cancun. Expert or novice, there is nothing like the thrill of the dive.

4. Swimming with the Dolphins
A must do, especially for the kids. The look of amazement and joy in their faces is priceless. There are several good companies here to choose from.

5. Maroma Beach Recreational Area-Private
Catamaran, snorkeling, jet boats, ATVs or just chill on one of the Travel Channel’s “Most beautiful beaches”! Keep an eye out because you just might see Indiana Joe!

6. Golf-Many Great Choices Here
The courses here have really improved in the last ten years…Moon Palace, Iberostar, El Camaleon Mayakoba and many more.

7. Xel-Ha, Xplor, and Rio Secreto Eco and Adventure Parks
Three excellent choices for a fun day of activities with the kids. Cenote swimming snorkeling, zipline, and much more.

8. Swimming with Whale Sharks
Experience this phenomenon! Whale sharks are usually found around the islands of Holbox and Contoy from May until September, although July and August are the best times.

9. Day trip to Cozumel
Take the 45 ferry ride across and enjoy shopping, restaurants and snorkeling at Chankanaab Park.

10. Day trip to Isla Mujeres
At a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, this charming island is the ideal spot for spending a day away from the resort. Rent a moped and explore on your own!

Now I am sure I have left many unique and amazing things off my list. For example, what about the Coco Bongo, Jungle Tours, or even the Jungle Spa? Deep sea fishing, Sian Ka’an or Crococun?

One thing I know for sure is that you could visit Cancun, Rivera Maya, and Cozumel five times and still not experience everything this destination has to offer.

So, this is where we come in. It is our job at http://www.CancunBeachVacations to help you do that, so by all means give us a call or shoot us an e-mail and let us help you create memories and a vacation story that will last a lifetime! We work directly with the best ground operators, Lomas Travel and AmStar, to deliver these experiences to you.

Also, watch for more details about all of these activities in our future blog posts.

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Hard Rock Punta Cana…Rocked!

As I mentioned in a recent Facebook post, Your Cancun Man wandered off the trail and somehow ended up in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. The attraction was the Grand Opening festivities for the all-inclusive Hard Rock Resort & Casino Punta Cana. This is formally the Moon Palace which was completely redone to bring the Hard Rock vibe to life. And they did accomplish that quite well!

I arrived on a non-stop Funjet Vacations charter flight from Milwaukee. The resort was an easy 30 minute drive from the airport. The resort definitely has the Hard Rock feel with the décor and the rock music throughout setting the mood.
Among the resort's many offerings are luxury accommodations featuring the Hard Rock's branded "Rock Star Suite," the signature Rock Spa®, iconic music memorabilia and a 45,000 sq ft. Vegas-style casino. Also, coming early 2011, the resort will feature the see-and-be-seen Oro nightclub. There are 11 different restaurants and 15 different bars to choose from. There is also an 18 hole championship golf course on property.

The rooms here are extremely large and have all the amenities including Jacuzzi, flat screen TV, iPod docking, and 24 hour room service. Guests also may take advantage of up to $1500 in resort credits. The beach here is huge and the sand is as fine and soft as you will find.

Dinner was at Pizzeto featuring Brick Oven style Pizza, which was excellent. From there, the concert with Blue Oyster Cult rocked until about midnight. The band was really very good given they fact that none of us there could name more than three songs we knew.

For breakfast, there are several good choices with Ciao and The Market serving buffet style and Cafetto featuring ala carte choices. Note again that everything here is all-inclusive.

Saturday night was the big event with the Grand Opening celebration and the Red Carpet walk for the many celebrities who flew in for the event. Among the many celebs were NFLers Terrell Owens and Brandon Marshall, Cheryl Burke from Dancing with the Stars and Joe Manganiello from the HBO show, True Blood. Oh yes, let’s not forget former Bachelor and current ESPN analyst, Jesse Palmer.

Following the Red Carpet arrivals and the “Guitar Smashing” event, the Gipsy Kings performed for a huge crowd in the main ballroom. Check out the Gipsy Kings on Youtube:

Our friends from Palace Resorts were awesome and snuck a few of us into the roped off Celebrity/Vip section at the concert which was very cool. After standing next to Terrell Owens, I can’t imagine the size, speed and athleticism it would take to stop him from catching a pass if he really wanted to. From the concert, we headed over to the Hive Nightclub which was very hot…amazing how tequila makes you think you are a good dancer!

In all, this was a fantastic weekend and I highly recommend this resort. With everything this resort has to offer, it can accommodate couples, families, destination weddings, incentive and corporate groups…all quite easily!

Finally, a note on the people at Palace Resorts and the staff. They could not have been more friendly and more hospitable. I had to the honor to spend some quality time with the Business Development team who were outstanding and also meet two executives and members of the family who own the resorts. They were both extremely cordial and genuinely nice. I want to thank them for the privilege of attending this event.

If you would like more information Hard Rock Punta Cana or a Palace Resort, please visit http://www.CancunBeachVacations.com or give us a call at 877-404-4228.

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Where Would You Stay, Cancun Man?

For our next chapter of, “Is this the Cancun You Know?”, we are going to talk about the top resorts in the area. Often times, clients contact me and ask, “If you were me, where would you stay?”

My answer depends on a couple important factors. Are the kids coming along? What kind of experience are you looking for? Finally, how much would you like to spend? So, when we talk about the top resorts in Cancun & Riviera Maya, we have to select them with our specific customer needs & wants in mind. I will say, however, that it’s that not easy to do, as there are so many awesome places to choose from.

So here is my best attempt and perspective having stayed at over 20 different resorts in my 60 or visits to the area:

First, in the “Kids are Staying Home” category:

 

 

El Dorado Royale Resort

El Dorado Royale, By Karisma     Five Star  Adults Only Resort

Why? Gourmet all-inclusive so the food is great. Very cool vibe at the hotel.  Also offer Casita style and swim-up rooms. Awesome beach and friendly staff.

Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso   Five Star Adults Only Resort

Why? The place in one big WOW! Think Bellagio in Mexico. Everything is beautiful from the fresco painted ceilings to the restaurants to the rooms. Very large salt water pool. Includes Free Golf at 18 Hole Pete Dye course on the property.

The ROYAL in Playa del Carmen    Five Star  Adults Only Resort

Why? Very cool resort in the heart of Playa del Carmen. Walk out the door to shopping, clubs, and restaurants. Rooms have every amenity you can imagine…Royal bedding, Royal concierge at your service. Beach is very nice!

In the “Honey, Let’s Take the Kids” category:

 

 

Now Jade Riviera Maya Resort

NOW Jade Riviera Maya    Five Star Family Resort

Why? Very large rooms (700 sq ft). Very nice grounds and pool area. Several ala-carte restaurants to choose from. Luxury place at moderate price. Free Golf. $200 Resort Credit.

Dreams Riviera Cancun    Five Star Family Resort

Why? Simply a great place for families and kids. Upscale and New!  Large rooms (523 sq ft.). State of the art fitness center. Includes Free Golf. Nine restaurants to choose from. Great location 20 minutes from the Cancun airport.

Azul Sensatori, by Karisma    Five Star Family Resort

Why? One of the best kid’s clubs I have seen. Also teen club activities. Gourmet quality food for the adults. Beach butlers. Nice family rooms that accommodate five guests nicely. Jacuzzi in all rooms.

In the  “Unplug and Recharge” category:

Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita Wellness & Spa    Five Star – Five Star Adults Only Resort

Why? The name says it all. Life is too short for stress. This place puts the Z in Zen. Super upscale with phenomenal 22,000 sq ft spa. boutique resort with only 90 rooms. AAA Five Diamond Award winner. Includes Free golf at Pete Dye course.

 

 

Aventura Spa Palace

 

Adventura Spa Palace Five Star 4.5 Star Adults Only

Why? So if you had a week and $1500 in resort credits, what would you do? This is a good place to find out. Spa treatments, fine wine, tours? You can decide. The pool area is fantastic.

El Dorado Seaside Suites, by Karisma    Five Star  Adults Only

Why? Bring five books and grab a beach bed! Is that heaven for you? Food is fantastic. Staff is second to none. Take a spot at the swing bar. Everything here is laid back. I will bet that the vast majority of the people you meet here have been here before.

Le Blanc     Five Star Luxury Resort

Why? All-suites. World class spa. Luxury class pampering and service. Again, take your $1500 in resort credits and enjoy!

And in the “Get Me a Great Deal Close to the Action” category:

Sun Palace      Five Star – Adults Only

Why?  Cancun hotel zone Couples-Only resort. There aren’t that many like this in the hotel zone. All-suite resort features mostly ocean view rooms. Up to $1500 resort credit.

RIU Palace Las Americas  Five Star Fun Resort

Why? Very nice quality and agressively priced resort. Lot’s of ocean front rooms. 5 minute walk to Cancun shopping and restaurants. Exchange privileges with nearby RIU Caribe and RIU Cancun.

Gran Caribe Real  4.5 Star Fun Resort

Why? A very fun and active place at a good price. Right across the street from popular dining, shopping, entertainment and nightlife spots. Lot’s of room amenities and family suites that accommodate five guests.

I am positive I left out some amazing resorts (for example, the Barcelo Maya Palace comes to mind) where you may have stayed in your travels. Please give me your feedback. What is your favorite place to stay? I’ll make another post with everybody’s suggestions.

By all means call us or visit www.CancunBeachVacations.com to preview these and the over 100 other resorts there are to choose from. Also watch for our next segment on The Top Activities & Excursions in Cancun and Riviera Maya.

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Is This The Cancun You Know?

What is your perception of Cancun or what do you remember from that last visit ten or fifteen years ago? Spring breakers running wild? When “all-inclusive” meant buffet lines? The gravel road to Riviera Maya? All of that is pretty much gone and an amazing amount has changed.

Map of the Yucatan Peninsula

In my next three blog posts, I am going to help you get to know the “real” Cancun and Riviera Maya. First, we’ll explore the geography. Then, the top ten resorts and finally all the things there are to do and experience here.

Ok first, let’s talk about what really constitutes Cancun?

When you book a trip to Cancun, you will have an amazing number of choices of where to stay in the Yucatan Peninsula. As you leave the airport, your transfer could take you to one of over eight different regions of the destination, including two different islands.

Arial View of the Cancun Hotel Zone

First, there is the Cancun Hotel Zone. This is the original 27 mile strip of resorts, shopping, restaurants, and nightclubs that most people most closely associate with the destination. There are over 27,000 hotel rooms at your disposal. A few of the top resorts include the La Blanc, the RIU Palace Las Americas, and the JW Marriott.

Also in Cancun at Puerto Juarez is the ferry to Isla Mujeres. This small 5 mile long island is only 20 mins away by ferry and a very unique vacation experience. On the island there are a number of areas to visit in Garrafon National Park and archaeological ruins.

If the transfer heads south from the airport, you are going to the 70 mile long coastline known as the Riviera Maya. As you do, the first area you will come to is Puerto Morales.

Puerto Morales is the gateway to the Riviera Maya and home to a number of excellent resorts including the NOW Jade Rivera Maya, El Dorado Royale, and the Dreams Riviera Cancun.  Located here is a small Mexican town where you can shop and meet the friendly local residents. Also here are the “Reefs of Puerto Morales” which boast a wide variety of tropical fish, dolphins, and turtles.

Keep driving about 25 more minutes and you will reach the town Playa del Carmen, located 30 miles from the airport. This a bustling town with lot’s of restaurants and nightlife. And shopping! La Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is the place to go to have a friendly negotiation on some great souvenirs. There are also many excellent resorts here including The ROYAL, The Gran Porto Real, and PlayaCar Palace.

Playa del Carmen is also the place to catch the ferry over to the Island of Cozumel. In a brisk 45 minute ride you will transport yourself to another great part of the area known for diving and shopping. Two great spots to stay here include the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort and the Cozumel Palace.

Ok, what’s next? Xcaret! Pronounced Esh-car-et. Home to the Xcaret eco-park, visitors learn about the area’s ecology, Mayan history, and can float down two different underground rivers. Here you will also find a great adventure attraction called Xplor.

Continue down the coast and you will come to Puerto Aventuras. In this area, you will find the Aventura Spa Resort, Dreams Puerto Aventuras, and the Barcelo Maya Palace. This is a great place for diving and also a main area if you are interested in sport fishing.

Akumal Sea Turtle

As we continue on the journey south, we reach Akumal and are now 60 miles from the airport. Akumal means “the place of the turtles” as it is a favorite Sea Turtle nesting ground. What also brings tourists to Akumal is a pristine bay and the crystal blue waters which provide a prime spot for scuba divers. A few of the resorts here include El Dorado Seaside Suites and the Grand Palladium.

On the road to Tulum, we come to Xel-Ha (pronounced shell-ha). This is home to the most amazing natural aquarium where the ocean combines with freshwater.  Xel-ha Park is one of the top attractions in the Riviera Maya.

Our last spot is Tulum, the archaeological zone of the Riviera Maya is about 70 miles from the Cancun Airport. Over 60 well-preserved ancient structures left by the Mayans can be observed here. Near Tulum, there are a number of “eco-friendly” resorts including the Dreams Tulum.

So this is the Cancun I know. A world-class destination with the finest resorts, gourmet cuisine, and one-of-a-kind things to do and see.  I hope that this information is helpful and that when you think about your next trip, you will strongly consider Cancun and the Riviera Maya. It is, as you now know, much more than you may have ever thought it to be.

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