If you have been to Sunset Jamaica Grande or a Palace resort in the past, this is for you! Palace resorts have just released the following release:

Luxury All-Inclusive Palace Resorts Set to Acquire Ocho Rios Landmark Resort, The Sunset Jamaica Grande

Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Opening Early 2015

Sunset Resorts Jamaica, a charming collection of all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, announces it has reached an agreement with Palace Resorts, the company that sets the standard in five-star, all-inclusive resort accommodations. Starting July 7, 2014, Palace Resorts will assume ownership of Ocho Rios’ landmark property, the Sunset Jamaica Grande, and will close it on Sept. 1, 2014 for extensive renovations and upgrades before opening its doors again as the new Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in early 2015. This substantial investment will mark Palace Resorts’ latest step outside of Mexico, expanding their signature awe-inclusive brand standards to the Jamaican market.

“When we designed our strategic five-year growth plan, we listed several destinations as priorities, and Jamaica was at the top of that list,” said Gibran Chapur, Executive Vice President for Palace Resorts, responsible for the overall growth and strategic direction of the company. “We believe Jamaica is the most important tourism destination in the Caribbean, and we found Sunset Jamaica Grande to be the perfect opportunity for us to enter this market.”

“Sunset Resorts had several options for the future of this iconic resort, but ultimately put their trust in Palace Resorts because of its solid hospitality expertise and proven track record,” said Ian Kerr, Managing Director of Sunset Resorts Jamaica. “We felt confident Palace Resorts would respect the hotel’s rich history, its employee culture, and would have the ability to bring a new and exciting brand to Jamaica.”

Palace Resorts currently owns and operates seven oceanfront properties in Mexico, including Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Cancun’s largest entertainment resort destination. When the brand finalizes its multi-million dollar investment, the new Moon Palace Jamaica Grande will be Palace Resorts’ second Moon Palace-branded property, bringing to Ocho Rios the sort of unmatched resort facilities, world-class entertainment, top-notch amenities, unique inclusions and high-energy design that have made Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort one of the most successful resorts in Cancun.

“Sunset Resorts Jamaica is a family-owned company that prides itself on its dedication to its guests and staff while continually maintaining its stellar and uniquely Jamaican reputation. This opportunity presented a perfect fit as Palace Resorts is also a family-owned company that has been striving for excellence since it was founded by the Chapur family,” said Sandor Winkler, Chief Development Officer for Palace Resorts.

Sunset Resorts executives believe that Palace Resorts understands its best asset is its employees, and have shown a commitment to supporting the communities in which they operate. Palace Resorts’ dedication to the destinations it serves, as well as to its staff and guests, mirrors many of Sunset Resorts’ own core values.

Located on the north coast of Jamaica, less than 90 minutes from the Montego Bay airport, this property boasts 730 guestrooms and suites on a superb 17-acre beachfront featuring the longest stretch of private beach in Ocho Rios. With a beautiful white-sand beach fringing the resort while five lavish pools meander through this beachside complex, featuring waterfalls, plunge pools, swaying rope bridge and swim-up bars, this was exactly what Palace Resorts was looking for when envisioning a new Moon Palace resort. The resort also features more meeting space than any other hotel in Jamaica.


Ola Senoritas, do you remember me?

If you have been to at least one all inclusive resort you probably are aware of the fact that when you check in, they put a wristband on your arm for the duration of your stay. Not all resorts do this (like Sandals and other very high end resorts) but for the most part, it is common practice.

I was recently in the beautiful resort area of Riviera Maya which is south of Cancun on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. It stretches over 100 miles down the beach filled coastline starting about 24 miles south of Cancun airport. It is filled with small towns like Puerto Morelos, Puerto Aventuras, Tulum and of course the main town, Playa Del Carmen.

Playa Del Carmen is the central town for shopping for local goods and souvenirs, small hotels if you want to get away from the big resort feel, the ferry to Cozumel and much more. The main street in the area is called “5th Avenue”. Bars, restaurants, silver shops, small ‘market’ type shops selling ceramics, regional crafts, silver and more. There is one main chain store (like ABC in Hawaii) that seems to be every couple of blocks selling snacks, alcohol and medication. Every kind of prescription medication that you would get from a doctor here, is available there, over the counter.

While recently travelling to a resort in the area, four of us decided to go into Playa for a few hours. We took a taxi from the hotel that dropped us off at the central starting point of the area and off we went.

It is a pedestrian street, so you can just easily walk up and down, going in and out of stores at your leisure. Every few steps the local shop keepers are calling out to come and check out their store, their goods, that they have something for you.

After a couple of hours of walking we are stopped on the street. Here is a paraphrase of the interaction:

Local: Ola senoritas, do you remember me? I served you at the bar last night at the Hard Rock. (could be possible).
One of us: Yes, I remember you, are you on your day off from the resort? (again could be possible).
Local: yes, Ci, I am.
Local: I am here helping my grandfather, he just opened a shop, come and take a look. (that is where I was out of it).
One of us: okay..
and off she went.

One of the people I was with actually lived at worked in Mexico and was very aware of the interaction. It was very funny, because it all seemed very believable until he said the comment about his grandfather. I knew it was just to get us to the shop,which the other girl went into and very quickly realized the same thing.

After this one interaction with the “do you remember me” line, it continued to happen over and over again as we walked down the main street. A few times they actually mentioned the hotel name where we were staying, but other times it was just remember me from the hotel.

It is harmless. Everyone needs to try to make a living, and you can’t blame them for trying. It did get more comical as we walked through the streets. It seemed like every local who talked to us worked at our resort. If they all worked at the resort, what were they doing in town – ha ha!

I loved my time in Playa Del Carmen and every time I visit that area, I will probably go into town to spend a few hours. This wouldn’t deter me from visiting a local town while on vacation. It shouldn’t stop you either. Go and enjoy where you are. There is much more to a destination than the resort you are staying at!

Tiptoe through the Tulips

The final day of our cruise felt like the best was saved for last. We arrived back in Amsterdam and our morning excursion was to the Kuekenhof Gardens, the world’s largest flower garden. It is over 80 acres and is home to more than 7 million tulip bulbs and other flowers.

The Tulip season is very short, two months to be exact. The Keukenhof is only open during the Tulip season, this year was from March 30 – May 18th. Then the Garden closes and they wait until the fall to plant the bulbs and flowers that will grow for next year. There are over 30 different shows that run throughout the time the garden is open. We were very lucky that they didn’t have a bad winter this year in Holland. We were told several times that because of the winter they had in 2013 that the ground was still frozen and the tulips didn’t even bloom last year. Each of our guides during the trip said how lucky we were to be seeing such a great tulip season.
Out of the 10 days that we were on our trip, this had to be the day that it rained. We left the ship in the morning and arrived at the gardens in the rain. The tour guide were walking us through the gardens quickly so that we could get to the large indoor exhibits and out of the rain. The indoor gardens did not disappoint. 

The rain stopped and it was time to get outside and explore the beauty of the tulips and all the other amazing floral displays at the garden. 
Every year that have inspirational gardens. I stumbled across one of them called The Love Garden.

The sign at the start of the garden read:

The Love Garden is packed with love and memories. A place to remember what have have and had; a love lock on a fence; a serenade on the most romantic balcony; a hug on the Cupido bench.

Or ask the most important question, “will you marry me?”

By leaving a personal message on the red heart this garden will be filled with warmth and friendship.
You could spend a whole day (or more) at the Garden. I only had about three and a half hours. I saw as much as I could see, took as many pictures as I could to keep that memory alive for a long time to come. 

Please see the next post for more from my visit to Keukenhof

Cruisin’ on the River

The Rhine, The Danube, The Elbe, Rhone and Saone are just a few of the rivers in Europe. Rivers that transport goods and services to the many countries in Europe and home to what has become over the last few years a very booming industry – River Cruising.

This past April I had the opportunity to experience first hand, what I have been selling to my clients for several years. I went on a ten day round trip journey on the Rhine from Amsterdam on the Viking Magni, one of Viking’s longships

River cruising is different than the ocean liners you are already familiar with. First of all, they have a capacity of approximately 190 guests. All cabins have either a window, a french balcony or a full balcony. There is one main restaurant for your meals, and then a smaller terrace for lighter continental style fare for breakfast and lunch. Wine and beer is included with lunch and dinner.

Because you are on the rivers of Europe which served in the past (and present) and the many mode for the transporting of goods and services, you dock close to the centre of most of the towns. In Amsterdam, for the first two days we were five minutes walk from the Central Station. We were a fifteen minute walk to the centre of Antwerp, and five minutes walk to the centre of Ghent. It allows the freedom during your port time to really explore and enjoy what each city has to offer.

River cruise life is very enriching for the guests. Shore excursions are included in each port of call, and in some there are also optional excursions that can be purchased on board. There are on board lectures about the ports visited, as well as local craftsmen, food and culture as well. My cruise was through the Netherlands and Belgium, and we had a Dutch folklore dancing group, a Dutch shoe carver, Belgium waffle demonstration, cheese and Dutch Gin (Jenever).

As with ocean cruising, food is a very important part of the river cruise experience. My experience on Viking did not disappoint. Breakfast and lunch had buffet options as well as a la carte menu items, and there were always many different options to choose from. I can honestly say that I never left the dining room hungry or feeling like I needed more. There were always so many wonderfully tasting options to choose from. Being in the Netherlands, our table usually opted to end our meal with a cheese plate, filled with local cheeses, dried fruits and compotes. It was a wonderful way to end the meal.

My cruise was called Tulips and Windmills. It started and ended in Amsterdam and during the cruise a few of the highlights were Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, the UNESCO heritage site of the windmills called Kinderdijk and the finale of the cruise Keukenhof Gardens to view the tulips in full bloom.

One of the best parts about river cruising, is simply cruising along the rivers. Imagine sitting up on the sun deck, looking at the scenery on both sides of the river. On our cruise we saw many windmills, as well as many homes and small towns, and industries that rely on the river to move their products.

While I was one of the youngest passengers on this cruise, there is a wide range of clients that this type of trip would appeal to. Many of the guests (70 out of 190) were repeat guests of Viking River Cruises. Many of the people I spoke to had been on several river cruises, and not just with Viking. Many of them were already booked on their next cruise. These cruises can book up to 18 months in advance. Some of the itineraries, like the one I was on, only operate at a certain time of the year and for only a few sailing dates.

I may not get the chance to take another river cruise for many years to come, but I would cruise again, in a heartbeat.