As if flying economy was not uncomfortable enough , check the link below….Avoid flying on these aircrafts at all cost, you won’t regret

British Airways to add seats in economy , would you book an economy seat on this aircraft?

http://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/british-airways-adding-seats-in-economy

Advertisements
Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

First Class dreaming

Check out the 10 best First Class Cabins for Holiday (or any time) travel , via robbreport.com

http://robbreport.com/aviation/slideshow/10-best-first-class-airline-cabins-holiday-travel-slideshow?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=Aviation-US-Desktop-Slideshows

Already on my Santa List ….

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Punta Cana,unexpected tranquility @ Zoetry Agua in Uvero Alto

Recently I traveled to  Punta Cana , Dominican Republic, I choose an all-inclusive resort because unlike a lot of my travels, this time I wanted to just relax and enjoy being in one place without having a schedule and 10 things to do in a day back to back to back.  I choose Zoetry Agua Punta Cana for this trip and here is my report.

This resort is far away from all the hustle and bustle of Punta Cana and Bavaro beach (Its technically not even Punta Cana, it’s called Uvero Alto); private transportation is at least 45 minutes from the airport (more if your ride makes stops). Consider this when it comes to making plans off site, excursions, day trips etc., you need to account for the time spent traveling to and from.

If you want to party all day, this is not the resort for you.  Zoetry Agua Punta Cana is a resort that is great if you want to relax and do a lot of nothing; other than go to the beach, the pool, the pool bar, the restaurant or the spa, there is not a lot going on there. However, I highly recommended this resort for honeymoons and for those looking to relax 100% with little distractions.

Although the resort allows children, think twice before booking them on this vacation because the kids could potentially get bored quickly since there are little to no activities for adults, let alone for children, and they still have to pay full price.

If you get bored of the beach or the pool, you can always mix it up with a visit to the gym or the spa or the salon.

This resort is only 96 rooms big and it feels secluded and very private (perfect even for a celebrity looking for privacy), on this vacation no matter the location of your room, the beach or the pool are only steps away.

There are only 4 restaurants (only 2 open for dinner) 1 is open for breakfast and one for lunch, and there is always room service. All rooms are all inclusive, including gratuities (none the less, tips are expected and appreciated by all staff).

At Zoetry you actually get your own concierge, who can help you with spa and excursion bookings, recommendations, special requests, etc.

As part of the all-inclusive, the resort offers unlimited “top shelf” spirits, and even though the resort bars were stocked with Patron, Jack Daniels, Frangelico, Absolut, Bacardi, local President Beer, etc., if you want a wine other than the house wine there is an up-charge, and don’t expect much from the bubbly, as the house bubbly is a very mediocre sparkling wine called Platino, anything else is going to cost you.

In the evenings there is entertainment at the lobby from 9:15 PM on, it changes every night, it varies from a saxophonist, to a singer, to a 1 man bartender show, most of the music during our week stay was old school, think of the 80’s and 90’s, no merengue here!, don’t expect a party at the lobby because you will be disappointed, and quite frankly, possible bored.

Our room (I traveled with a girlfriend) had 2 beds, a small table with 2 chairs, a balcony that had direct access to a pool, and our 2 own pool chairs, the room decor was nice but lacked wow factor, the bathroom had little privacy, this can be a potential issue for some people, the bathroom did not have a privacy door, the toilet was separate and had a door, the shower/bathtub did not have a door and anyone in the room could easily see you in the shower or tub ( the shower head and bathtub hardware were dirty, see picture below)

The resort offered us a 20 minute complimentary horseback riding  , unfortunately, the company the resort uses for this service do not have healthy looking horses, to the contrary,  the horses looked tired, thirsty, some (including mine) had open sores, they looked sad, I decided to spare “my” horse the ride and give him a 20 minute break and massage instead, once the other people came back from the ride, the horseman took out a bottle of rum and pictures that they wanted to sell the riders for $35 dollars. In addition this company did not offer riders helmets unlike other vendors we saw in the area.

As many hotels and resorts do, here you will get the time share pitch and I took it because I was offered a $100 spa credit and a half day catamaran trip that included snorkeling and an open bar, it was well worth the hour and half spent in the sales pitch even though our sales guy was not happy about not having my business, oh well….

I would recommend to Zoetry that they require this vendor to treat their horses ethically and with respect and dignity, or give the business to someone else.

Overall and despite a few shortfalls, the resort was nice and I would come back for my honeymoon or if I needed to recharge and wanted some me time and not have to deal with crowds.

I am a scuba diver so I took the opportunity to do a 2 tank dive one day and it was underwhelming, the day started by being picked up early in the morning and taking the longest trip to Bavaro Beach making more stops to pick customers than a 7 train to Queens, once there only 3 of us were diving, the rest of the people had other activities planned. Moving on to the diving, the 3 of us and the divemaster proceed to the beach and a small boat is waiting for us (small, no ladder, jumping overboard to get in the water and struggling to get back on the boat , repeat twice on heavy currents!  not fun getting back on the boat!) , we head to the first diving sight and the dive master tells the boat guide where to go, we finally “get there”, but there is no diving buoy anywhere to be found,  our dive master tells the boat guide “ well , it’s supposed to be around here, because ( and he signals toward shore)  dive shop is over there and the dive site is supposed to be over here and a little to the right “ , yeah I think to myself ,  this is really looking promising!! ) so we continue to go somewhere else in search for the diving site , finally we get to the first diving site and find the diving buoy which turns out to be a lifesaver jacket (must be a Caribbean thing) , we have no dive site briefing get in the water and descend to a dive that is not very exciting, sandy bottom, lots of current, hardly any fish and coral that looked mostly tired and sick, the most exciting part of both dives was the sight of a young barracuda that was swimming weird and at a closer look we discovered that it had probably been hit with a harpoon and was struggling to survive, the dive master grabbed the barracuda and ascended to the surface with it and gave it to the boat guide to take it home for dinner , can’t get any fresher than that!. Several people recommended Catalina Island as a good diving destination, although I did not have the time to go there on this trip, I will check it out when I go back.

http://www.zoetryresorts.com/agua

Home Page

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Carnival Cruise Line, the “NOT so fun” ships

I had been excited about taking my 5th cruise, (second one on Carnival), this one out of the Port of Miami and heading to the western Caribbean, finally when the day came, me and my mom and I are headed to the port , as soon as we are dropped off, we walk towards check-in when we were approached  by one port employees and asked us if we were dropping bags, once we did, we proceeded to walk to check in and the employee stopped and asked me “to show appreciation for the port crew” in a way that was not only intimidating, but threatening , as though “I’d better” give him a tip or something could happen to my luggage!!!!! Not the way I wanted to start this adventure, what this port of Miami employee did was not only disrespectful but should be illegal and not allowed; this left a bad taste and set a very low tone to was yet to come.

Our first day came with an announcement from the Capitan saying that a guest had fell ill and that he had to change course so the coast guard could come and air life and take him to land to seek medical attention, due to this, our arrival time in the first port would be delayed, ok, no problem, things happen and I must admit that I felt very  proud when the US Coast Guard came to the rescue of the ill passenger, which was not easy, as by this time the winds had pick up , which make the term “rock the boat” not only a literal term, but made for a very miserable day at sea. After the rescue, the Capitan proceeded to make the announcement that due to the change of course for the ill passenger and the fact that the high winds made the capital slow the ship down for safety, he made the decision to reverse our itinerary so we would not have to cancel any port days. The rescue efforts of the US Coast Guard were undeniably top notch, and made me feel proud to be an American. Watching this rescue take place was one of the highlights of this cruise.

Food and service:  we picked our time dinning , which means you Don’t have a set time  for dinning like your typical  1st or 2nd seating, instead you go at any time during a period of time, between 5:45 Pm and 9:30 PM for example, most days we went to dinner earlier and the dining room was not very busy, non the less, out service was consistently slow and the food was low quality and did not taste very good, we had to send food back several times because of temperature, or flavor.

We also attended Bingo one evening just to find a rude host who made not only made mistakes calling out number; she was condescending to the people that called her out.

This is just a small example of the unprofessional people working on this ship; we encountered time and time again employees that where not only unhappy, they were all too willing to spill the beans on working for Carnival. One employee from Mexico was complaining to us, (in front of other passengers) how Carnival paid her only $500 a month and she had to pay for her own trip to Cancun for an interview and pay for her own pre-employment medical exams. This conversation was disturbing and left my mother and I uncomfortable and not feeling very good about Carnival as a company.

Other examples of unprofessionalism and employees not having a clue of what to do (which is clearly a reflection of poor training and employees not feeling empowered or motivated to do the right thing) was when due to weather delays, we were arriving to ports late many times, this created havoc when excursions were cancelled and passengers had to go to the customer service desk to change tickets and there were only 3 people helping literally hundreds of passengers!. Why didn’t employees open the excursion desk to also help out? To add insult to injury, arriving late to ports created bottle necks with passengers trying to get off the ship to make there excursion pick up times , and Carnival did very little to make this process smooth .

One of the fun things to do on the ships when at sea is to go shopping at the stores, there is usually a large variety of merchandise to choose from, on this ship the merchandise was scarce, not displayed properly and the little merchandise available was low quality. One visit to the shops and you did not want to come back for more.

The last straw and bad experience on board this “fun Ship” was with Park West Gallery on board: I had the misfortune of attending one of the Carnival Glory’s on board auctions. On the first day at sea there was a champagne auction to which my mom and I attended allured mostly for the raffle and the free champagne, while we were there we looking at the art exhibited and were admiring a couple of Brito works as well as some other colorful flower art pieces, right then .

We were approached by park west employees and asked if we were interested, my mom and I kindly responded we were only looking because we knew we could not afford to buy Brito art at the moment. Instead of leaving us alone and understanding that NO means NO, this employee continued to hassle us asking how much money we could afford and how much do you think it costs, etc., etc., he continued to hassle us and telling us that if we applied for the Park West credit card we could get a bottle of champagne and an art piece for free, so we accepted and applied.  As the auction is taking place, my mom and I continue to be approached by a Park West employee going on and on , on why we should own art and trying to convince us to buy art we can’t afford to buy , finally my mom and I give in and  agreed to buy 3 pieces , for a total of $3190. On the last day on sea, park west held one more champagne and art unveiling event,  at this event my mom and I were admiring a floral piece , which the park west team were quick to pick up on and insist we purchase it, after we said no repeatedly , we said yes, but did not sign any paperwork , the next day, the team started calling our cabin to have us go down and sign for the new purchase, we went down to say we were not going to purchase a new piece and were received with some major attitude and feelings of guilt,  saying we had “agreed” to buy something and that we should reconsider our decision.  As a customer, I have the right to change my mind and that was exactly what we did, due to this , I decided I wanted to cancel my initial purchase ( I called and cancelled on 2/18/16 ), I will not tolerate being bullied into buying anything, let alone a high ticket item. I am very disappointed in this experience, I have been in several cruises where I have attended Park West events and was never hassled like in the cruise.  What a shame….

Needles to say, me and my family will not be cruising on Carnival again.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Where did the American golden age of flying go? It’s time to bring it back

I recently traveled to Dubai from Portland, OR and used miles to book business class for my trip, when making my reservations, I had to book with 2 different airlines since I did not have enough miles in one single airline to book roundtrip. This is what happened and a review of all the airlines I flew to Dubai and back:

When booking my first leg to Dubai, I redeemed miles in American Airlines and the best choice at the time of booking had me traveling from PDX to Chicago on Alaska Airlines with a 4 hour layover there, then on Royal Jordanian from Chicago to Dubai with another 4 hour layover in Amman, Jordan.  The first leg of my trip was your typical American airline first class flight, uneventful with a side of burnt pulled BBQ pork sandwich and subpar service to accompany it.

When the it was finally time for my next flight, I was pleasantly surprise to walk into a newer Airbus plane that actually had business class seats that looked comfortable , clean , wide and it looked like I was going to enjoy the next 10 hours!. Man was I right, the fine service started with a flight attendant dressed in Jordanian attire offering me cardamom infused coffee, what followed was going to change the way I view flying forever. Dear readers, superb service and food in airlines DO exist, they are REAL, just not provided by American based airlines!

Dinner service soon followed, sure I read the menu and made my selection, I was expecting the typical tray with microwaved tasteless food that I am so used to in American based carriers, but to my delight, the flight attendant came by with a service cart and actually PLATED my food in front of me, the best thing of it all was that it tasted delicious, I even wanted seconds. She was also nice, attentive and dedicated, she truly made me feel like I was being serviced and that my needs were met, weather it was a refill of champagne or bottled water, I felt I was getting true service regardless of class of service. This made me think of the demise of the American Carrier, why did them all go kaput? What once was the golden era of flying in America has been replaced by greedy and gouging airlines, who continue (with no end in sight) to take away what little is left of the passenger dignity, we continue to get hit with fees and continue to loose service, food, leg room, comfort, reclinable seats. Seams it soon will be standing room only on American carrier flights. Why American carriers, why???

My experience coming back from Dubai was a disappointment as well. I booked my return flight on delta and the choices on delta.com were slim pickings so  I chose a flight on a Virgin Atlantic from DBW to LHR and a Delta flight from LHR to PDX (via SEA). I was looking forward to flying Virgin for the first time as my perception of Virgin’s Upper Class was that it would be a very cool, fun, and comfortable cabin to travel in , at least that is what my research indicated (Virgin’s website, social media. etc.). Unfortunately for me that was not my experience, I found my seat (1A) on flight 401 to be uncomfortable, narrow and frankly, a drag, why would a flat seat need the assistance of a flight attendant to convert from seating to flat? I found this to be not only inconvenient for the passenger, but also for the flight attendant who has to come over and convert the seat with linens and all at least 2 times (to and from flat).  I just did not find this to be easy nor convenient for any party involved. The food was bland and forgettable, so was tea service which as disappointment, probably best if not served at all! Anyway, my first experience with Virgin did not meet my expectations, and I was left feeling that I wasted my miles on a class of service that was just not up to par, I believe I would have had a better experience and saved my miles on economy class.

The flight on Delta from LHR to PDX in business class, was not much better, more than uncomfortable and difficult to use seat controls, plus hardly any storage room, the flight attendants did not provide first class service, when it came time for food service, I asked for the featured cocktail, as detailed on the menu, and the flight attendant had NO idea what I was talking about? Really? Are Delta flight attendants not trained on food and beverage?  especially if they are serving it on board? (Emirates Airlines, just to name one and many other NOT American Based airlines sure do) After a very forgettable and tasteless meal service, coffee was followed, when I asked for cream, the flight attendant poured, literally lumps of cream, ( I guess this was Deltas version of clotted cream? I don’t think so!)  The flight attendant saw that the cream was not right and did nothing to offer me a fresh cup of coffee; needless to say, I did not drink my coffee. Customer service, especially in a premium class should meet passenger’s expectations, and I am surprised that Delta is NOT following up on its service promise. I would hate to think that in Deltas journey to become the biggest airline in the world, it is sacrificing fare competition, quality, service, comfort and most importantly customer satisfaction for a profit.

So dear reader, I urge you to speak up and say something when and if you receive a bad service on an airline or otherwise, please don’t just take it, say something, use social media or customer service, it might not do much, but if we, as customers continue to not say nothing, we will continue to be taken advantage off, it’s time to bring the golden era of travel back to the Good USA.

 

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Best cities for foodies

No surprise here, Portland, OR is # 1!

via msn.com
http://www.msn.com/en-us/foodanddrink/foodculture/the-10-best-food-cities-in-america-ranked/ar-BBnNwyh?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=mails
ignout#page=10

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Palm Springs, Oasis in the middle of the desert

I have a full time job in the corporate world and only have 3 weeks of vacation per year available to me, this makes it incredibly challenging and frustrating to fulfill my travel obsession, so I make sure my time off does not go unused, I maximize my time off by using weekends and holidays and this way get the maximum time off I can.

I enjoy going to places I have never been, and I choose my travel locations based on days available and proximity, recently I traveled to Palm Springs, CA, I chose this place because first of all I have never been there, second of all it was close enough to make it a quick getaway even with no direct flights from Portland, OR.

My flight was scheduled to leave Portland, OR at 5:15 am, unfortunately the flight was delayed 4 hours because neither American Airlines nor PDX airport where ready for the weather that morning and they failed to be prepared with de-icing fluid causing this delay and causing us to miss our connecting flight in Phoenix, AZ.

Finally we touched down in Palm Springs 4 hours late, but I was determined not to let this little airline setback damp my spirit.

Palm springs welcomed me with 80 degree weather and immediately I knew I was in paradise, first thing I did was drive to the hotel to check in, unpack and freshen up before exploring.

I did not know much about Palm Springs other than that it was a ritzy play ground where the stars like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope used to live and play, in addition to still having an air of the 1960’s, including charming architecture.

At first glimpse Palm Springs reminded me of Phoenix, AZ, even reminded me of parts of the middle east, more specifically, Egypt and the Sinai peninsula, yellow rock mountains that mingle within the dessert, next to palms, cactus and patches of green in every front yard that make you wonder how so much beauty can exist with so little water.

As you drive along highway 10 east or west, marvel at the windmill farms, as they are not only useful for the environment, they are sight to be enjoyed as they churn the air in unison almost hypnotically along the highway.

Things to do:

Palm Springs aerial tramway: for the experience and the views

Palm Springs Art Museum: small but worth it if you like corky art, especially if you are women and are in to heels, go check out the Killer Heels exhibition, ladies, it’s to die for!

El Paseo shops, think Rodeo Drive, just fab!

Palm Springs downtown: shop, eat and see the walk of stars

About my stay: We stayed at the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, the room we stayed in was outdated; parts of the roof were too low, especially the bathroom, made it feel small, the bathroom shower head was dirty and full of soap scum. our room did not have a microwave and we needed to heat something, my mom went to one of the restaurants in the resort to ask to have her food heated and she was told NO, that we could request a microwave to be brought into our room for a $10 charge but they could be liable if she got sick for heating up her food!!!! SERIOUSLY?

We also used the Spa services to have a massage and even though my mom and I had the same treatment, we both had very different experiences, we both had the relaxation massage with scalp massage for 55 minutes, my therapist did not know what I had scheduled and kept trying to sell me services and products I was not interested in, including, trying to charge me $10 for having her use one of the 3 essential oils available (my mom was asked which one she wanted used on her, not charged $10 and did not get the scalp massage). I also did not get the scalp massage, as a few fingers running thru my scalp one time do not a scalp massage make, needless to say, I was not impressed with the Spa, or the quality of room we had.

In the end, Palm Springs is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert and I would love to go back again.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Mini guide to Cartagena, Colombia

via travel and leisure:

The oldest port city in the Americas continues to enchant travelers with new openings, not to mention warm Caribbean breezes, Spanish-colonial mansions, and Afro-Cuban rhythms at lounges like La Vitrola. JetBlue launched nonstop service from New York’s JFK in 2012 and has just added a new daily route from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Clued-in cruise lines have been stopping here for years, and luxury hoteliers are angling for real estate. The InterContinental recently opened in Bocagrande—Cartagena’s ritziest suburb—and in 2016, Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi will launch her second stylish boutique hotel in the Old City, while Viceroy christens Convento Obra Pia, a restored 17th-century convent in the artsy neighborhood Getsemani. For souvenirs with a decidedly Colombian flair, join the well-heeled visitors wandering medieval cobblestoned streets in search of locally sourced emeralds (among the world’s finest), which can be custom-designed at Lucy Jewelry, or a bespoke guayabera shirt from Ego. —Nora Walsh

Cartagena is one of the most be one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia; full of history and wonderful architecture, it offers something for everyone, you will see that 3 days will seem like a minute and you will want to stay and or come back.

Stay:

  • Sofitel Santa Clara
  • Casa San Agustin
  • San Pedro Hotel
  • Hotel Quadrifolio

Eat: everything and anything seafood, just like bubba! , fried, stewed, raw, eat it!

La Vitrola Do what you must to land a reservation. Even if you have one, you may still have to talk your way past the guard at the door. No web site, call 575-660-07-11.

Casa de Socorro huge servings of traditional Colombian fare such as cazuela, a seafood stew in a coconut milk base that comes with fried plantains and the ever-present coconut rice. It’s on Calle 25 (aka Calle Larga) in the Getsemani neighborhood near the convention center and definitely worth visiting.

Alma in the Casa San Agustin hotel, a 17th century colonial mansion updated with modern amenities and courtyard pool.

1621 Hotel Santa Clara‘s gourmet Restaurant 1621 specializes in dishes reflecting Caribbean cuisine with a French flair. The hotel used to be a convent and the nun’s ate in what is now the restaurant dining room.

El Santisimo French trained chefs prepare classic Colombian dishesi. The restaurant is housed in another former convent, hence the icons, angels and statues of hooded monks lording over the dining rooms .

Don Juan Chef Juan Felipe Camacho trained in San Sebastian, where modern Spanish cuisine was invented, and the vibrant flavor of tapas informs his creations.

Vera Colombia’s leading fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi has a stylish boutique hotel which you should also check out, and her restaurant features Italian fare in high style and lush gardens.

Club de Pesca Situated in the ancient San Sebastian fort with an outdoor deck virtually adjoining the marina and its huge yachts, Club de Pesca has delicious seafood, ceviches and cazuelas along with dazzling views of the harbor.

See:

  • Walled city
  • Castle san Felipe de Barajas
  • Cathedral San Pedro Claver
  • Plaza Santo Domingo
  • Go to Islas Del Rosario
  • La Popa Monastry and Convent
  • Just walk around the cobblestone streets

Myriam Acevedo for http://www.thiscolombianeatsandtravels.com

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

MIni guide to Bogota Colombia

Must Eat, drink: Ajiaco, it’s a regional dish, but for me, it should be our national dish, Pan de Queso (cheese bread), drink Hot Chocolate and of course stop by one of Juan Valdez’s for a taste of the best coffee in the world!

See:

Take a Coffee tour tel. 7539777

Guatavita Lagoon, Neusa Dam, can be done in one morning, then maybe go to lunch in Sopo at a restaurant by Andres Cepeda, he is a famous Colombian singer if you make it to Sopo, also make sure to visit the Alpina factory, which makes milk products and they have a store where you can try and buy products, so worth the visit for some great Colombian treats, like cuajada con arequipe, ( cheese curds with caramel).

Another day you can tour Bogota, botanical garden, if you are there on a Sunday and or holiday, go to Usaquén for local art and handmade Colombian wonders  , there are also free tours to the gold museum , Botero museum, go to Monserrate, it’s a town on top of a hill, and magnificent city views, Bolivar plaza,   la Candelaria neighborhood in Bogotá to walk, eat and see, its an old part of town.

45 minutes away is the salt cathedral in Zipaquirá, yes, its made of Salt, must not miss.

As far as places to eat and hang out, go the the Parque de la 93 y la zona rosa, these 2 places are the hippest places in the city to see and be seen.

Another great day trip is Villa de Leiva , about 3 hours ayay and Paipa also about 3 hours

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

Check out this article about Food and Drink in Portland, OR

via Food52

http://food52.com/blog/14117-your-guide-to-feasting-and-drinking-through-portland?utm_term=5195202&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20150923_eds_travel_sl2

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment