I recently returned from Punta Cana and can honestly say it's as lovely as ever, SAFE and ready to welcome visitors. I stayed at two different resorts, Hard Rock Punta Cana and Excellence El Carmen. At both resorts the staff was very friendly and accommodating and the beaches were beautiful with very little seaweed. The resorts however would appeal to totally different clientele.
Hard Rock is a very large resort (almost 1800 rooms) and is for the most part a very active resort. There are many pools all with a different type of music featured; most also have a bar and snack bar so all you have to do is relax. There is a very large casino and many shops right at the resort. There are a lot of activities for those who want to keep active. The beach is very large (one of the widest that I've seen in the area). There are several restaurant options, most do require advance reservations. Hard Rock, with so many rooms, does cover a lot of area but they have a golf-cart that can take you throughout the resort. So if you are looking for a large, more active resort with lots to do Hard Rock might be for you.
If your idea of an ideal resort is something more laid back with a bit more of an upscale environment then you definitely want to consider Excellence El Carmen. When you enter the lobby there is a definite "wow" factor. This resort is more intimate so nothing is too far from the beach, restaurants or spa. The rooms are beautifully appointed and all have an outdoor jacuzzi with a relaxing bed to just chill. The fitness room is great if you have the need to workout while away and they have a full-service spa. You can take long walks on the beach and in this area there are actually some waves. The beach does have a lot of thatched huts if you need some shade and they they have wait service so you can just relax and enjoy the view. There are several restaurant options (all are a la carte for dinner) and reservations are not required, but they do have a food truck in the evening if you need a snack and also have a sports bar for light food. This resort has soothing music throughout so you definitely feel relaxed as you walk around. If this atmosphere appeals to you then Excellence is a resort you will want to consider.
Unfortunately, this past summer the media reported on the passing away of several Americans in the past year. It was assumed that this was caused by something that was consumed at the resorts. Many Americans believing the media reports opted to go to other destinations before finding out the real truth. While I was there the FBI toxicology reports came out and it was confirmed that although the deaths were tragic, they were from natural causes and had nothing to do with the resorts. The Punta Cana area has suffered great losses from these overblown reports. It is sad as so many people's livelihood has been unnecessarily been effected. Now that the truth has come out I hope that travelers will once again return to this beautiful destination. There are some great rates available so it the perfect time to plan a visit.
If you like to travel then you probably have a bucket list of places you haven't yet visited. I decided it was time to look at my own bucket list. I just returned from the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena. I had admired the floats while watching the parade on TV and the opportunity came for me to experience it myself, so I jumped on it. I actually took a mini-tour which included the parade, but also visited some of the other special attractions in the Los Angeles area.
If you want to see this parade a package really is the best way to go. You don't have to worry about driving (the traffic in LA is crazy), parking, etc. We only had to walk two blocks to get to our reserved seats at the parade. We had a great view of the floats, bands and many equestrian groups and didn't have to camp-out the night before to reserve a seat location. The floats are even more beautiful in person than they are on TV.
One of the other highlights was viewing the floats up close and personal the day after the parade. All of the floats are displayed in one area. It is amazing how they are constructed and to see how seeds, flowers and fruit are used to decorate; every inch of the float has to be covered. What was special for me is one of our clients had volunteered to decorate one of the floats so I was really anxious to see their work (their float did win one of the top prizes)
Some of the other things included with my tour were visits to the Reagan Library and the Getty Museum, a Gala New Year's Eve party and a farewell dinner on the Queen Mary (very neat experience).
If a visit to the Rose Bowl is on your bucket list, we can make that become a reality. If you would like to see a few of my photos from the parade, please visit our Facebook page (Port of Call Travel)
Aruba is a popular destination even though there aren't non-stop flights from Pittsburgh. It was over 20 years since I was last year so I was far overdue for a visit. It is a beautiful island with turquoise water and white, sandy beaches. There is a mix of all-inclusive properties as well as those that are not. It of course had changed a lot since my last visit. It feels very Americanized as there are so many restaurants and shops that can be found in the USA.
There are two main areas of the hotels - the low-rise & high-rise area. There is much more activity in the high-rise area. There is a walkway by the beach between the hotels, which is nice for those who want to walk, but not necessarily in the sand. There are many shops and restaurants in this area within walking distance of the hotels so there are many dining options for those that don't have meals included with their package. One thing I liked is the stores opened in the afternoon and stayed open later in the evening. Often when you go to an island after a day on the beach there is not much to do outside of the resort in the evening. In Aruba there were a lot of people out and about.
I did stay in an all-inclusive property which had everything included - meals, drinks and non-motorized watersports with lots of other activities throughout the day. I did look at other hotels that weren't all-inclusive and there were some very nice ones. All-inclusive is not for everyone so it's nice to have the option to dine at some of the local restaurants.
As I mentioned, there is so much shopping available. This ranges from up-scale stores to local crafts, so those who like to shop will be delighted with all the options!
Due to the fact that there aren't a lot of all-inclusives, Aruba does tend to be a higher in price than some other popular destinations. If you want a tropical vacation, but want to feel that you are still in the USA with all the shopping & dining options then Aruba may be the perfect choice for you.
Celebrating 30 Years!!!!
Port of Call Travel is celebrating 30 years in business today! We opened our agency on February 1st, 1988. Thanks to our loyal clients/friends for helping us attain our success. There have been many changes in travel in the past 30 years, but one thing that hasn't changed is Port of Call Travel's level of service. We strive to make sure that each guest that travels with Port of Call has a memorable experience, free of stress that they may have in their everyday lives. Guests have come to rely on us to handle all phases of their trip so all they have to do is relax and enjoy!
Throughout this year of celebration, our clients will be the ones to receive the gifts. Various prizes will be given away, so stay tuned for more details!
For those who have supported us through the years we say a big THANK YOU! For those of you who haven't experienced our services yet, we hope to have the opportunity to work with you soon!!
New Destinations & Special Offers Just Announced!
With the start of the new year there are some exciting new destinations that can now be reached by non-stop service. One of these is Cozumel, Mexico; there will be 4-night charter (non-stop) flights departing May 27 - June 26, 2018. We will not have the 4-night charter to Cancun this year so this will be a new option. Reservations can be booked now!
We will also have 4-night charters to Freeport, Grand Bahamas in the month of June.
Disney has also announced a few spring and summer offers. For those traveling in late spring, savings of up to 20% are available on rooms at select resorts. If you are traveling on 5-night or more package with park hopper passes the sixth day is FREE.
The other Disney World offer is applicable at select Value Resorts for travel May 29 - August 25, 2018. If you are traveling on a non-discounted package you can receive one quick-service meal (per person) for each night of your stay. This must be booked by February 11th. There are limited rooms available so don't delay!
As a new year begins, many will make resolutions. Hopefully one of your resolutions it to travel more in 2018. There is a new Caribbean destination that will have non-stop flights - Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. This flight will depart on Fridays for 7-nights beginning March 2, 2018. This is another option in addition to Punta Cana on this island. There are some great rates available if you want to try something new.
This summer, we once again will have a non-stop flight for 7-nights to Jamaica. This will begin departures July 7th, but will only be for a limited time (ends on August 4th.
We will continue to have non-stop service to Cancun/Riviera Maya, Mexico. This service is year-round.
I just returned from Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. It is a resort area near Punta Cana. They have beautiful powdery, white-sand beaches. I stayed at Secrets Cap Cana, which was a wonderful resort. The service was excellent - the staff made everyone feel welcome. There were many dining options available and those that I tried were all great. There are several golf courses nearby for those who want to get a round of golf in while they are vacationing. It is an excellent resort that I would highly recommend!