Staff Spotlight – Jose Vargas – Vibe Manager – Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

The Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya is not your average tropical beach destination resort, that much is clear from the very second you set foot on property at the resort.

Rock music fills the air and the sights & sounds of Rock & Roll’s long history invade your eyes & ears like a kid entering a candy store!!

DSC_0154 Gene Simmons - Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

But who is responsible for such a cornucopia of thought provoking sights & sounds?

In this weeks feature blog post, we would like to introduce you to Jose Vargas, the appropriately titled “Vibe Manager” at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya who’s job is to create experiences for the guests both musical and cultural that really keep them begging for more, so they know they’re at a Hard Rock Hotel and not a Holiday Inn.

Vibe Manager - Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

1. How long have you lived in The Riviera Maya?

I officially arrived in November of 2013, I started working for the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in September but spent two months training at our sister property in the Dominican Republic (Punta Cana).

2. Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in Southern California, just outside of Los Angeles. My family is originally from Mexico. I spent the last 8 years of my life working in the entertainment industry producing various events and concerts for music and lifestyle marketing agencies.

Jose Vargas

3. What department do you work in and what are your day to day responsibilities? Do you work at any of the special events.

My department is VIBE, which is essentially part management. Actually I’m the only person in my department. It can be said that my role is to work with all departments to make sure that Hard Rock brand and culture is well represented and executed throughout the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.

I’ve been here for a little over 8 months and I can honestly say that each day has been different. On any given day I can have back to back meetings, spend my time out in the guest areas making sure daily activities and music is all on par, or working with a department on trying to improve on any type of service.

I’m the brand ambassador for Hard Rock and everything music culture, so with every event onsite I’m involved in one way or another. From over-all logistics to brainstorming ways to tie in music or activities to enhance on the overall guest experience.

**Editor’s Note – We were on property at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya for the Grand Opening and really enjoyed the live music at the Heaven Swim Up Bar – what a great experience!! Dancing in the pool with a drink in your hand when the sun is shining and not a care in the world!!  Cheers to good living and its something you wont see at other resorts!!

DSC_0067

4. Where can you be found most of the time?

If I’m not in the office, it may actually be a little hard to find me. I’m the only person in the staff that doesn’t wear a uniform. So a lot of times guests will think I’m another guest and not a manager. You can find me in the various hotel areas checking out the vibe and music.

Jose Vargas - Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya - Vibe Manager

The idea is that I should be able to experience everything from a guest point of view and find/think of ways to make it better. Whether that be with music or another form of kick ass service. When I’m not at the hotel you can find me out and about at a bar, club, concert, or any other popular hang out. As the brand ambassador and expert on music culture its my job to know the local artists, trends, managers and try to bring those experiences to the hotel.

Jose Vargas - Handling the Details

**Editors Note – We saw you all over the resort, attending to details, making sure things were to standards….seems like you were everywhere!!! We don’t know of any other resorts that have a person like you. Very nicely done Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya!!

5. What are a couple of your most memorable experiences working at Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya?

There have been so many already in such a short amount of time that I’ve been here. Off the top of my head three come to mind… first one would be the moment I actually touched down and landed in Cancun, I remember thinking to my self, I’m really here. I knew I was starting a new chapter in my life and the whole thing kind of hit me at once. The others were our opening events, the soft opening or “re-flagging” day as its known in the hotel industry was memorable just because it was the first time we were able to feel the change in vibe in the hotel.

The biggest memory so far would have to be the grand opening that we just had with Jon Bon Jovi. Even if you didn’t like the show, the logistics and planning that went into the concert and after parties were second to none and really set the bar for what the hotel has to offer. It brought all staff together and showed off what our hard work in past months was really paying off. I’m very proud to say that I am part of this team.

Stage Setup - Jon Bon Jovi Show HRRM - JBJ JBJ jbj2

**Editors Note – now that’s something you don’t see on vacation……..ever!!! We ran into several guests on property who were flat out amazed to see this type of planning. Two live performances….all free for registered guests staying at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya!! We had a great time at both shows & the after parties were outstanding!! We cant wait to see what you have planned for the future!!

6. From the moment you walk into a Hard Rock Resort, it’s clear that this is not your average resort. What is your favorite activity or event that takes place down at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya?

My favorite thing that we have at our hotel would have to be our new Rock Star massage services. Hard Rock is rolling out with this new brand of music infused massages where music is projected from a speaker that hangs over the massage table. Additionally vibrations from a subwoofer type speaker that is mounted under the table are felt throughout your body.

All the while you have an expert masseuse that moves in motions that go along with the music you are hearing and feeling. The music you hear is carefully curated by music experts that take you on a journey of familiar songs and some new ones that still trigger moments bliss and peace. Its an surreal experience and I recommend it to everyone I speak to.

DSC_0026 DSC_0029 DSC_0030 DSC_0031

7. These days, many travelers are looking for unique & authentic experiences on and off the resort. What are a couple of the must-do experiences that you tell guests about when they are on property with you.

I can on about all the different things that guests can do while on site at our property. But offsite, it’s a whole nother world (no pun intended) we are talking about… the area is well known for its archeological sites along with its various nature parks and attractions.

Most of our guests go off site during their stay to visit nearby Mayan ruins, or swim with dolphins, or snorkel/scuba dive in the various reefs nearby. You really cant go wrong with any of the above options. There is so much to do here, its one of the reason we have guests that come multiple times a year and yet never have the same experiences.

DSC_0053

8. Why should someone who is considering a trip to Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, but not quite sure yet, come there?

We’ve put a lot of work into our new property, both aesthetically and with our style of service throughout all departments and areas of the hotel. We take pride in being able to wow guests with everything from our gourmet food, newly redesigned pools, trendsetting spa treatments, to the exciting nightlife and entertainment. Simply put, our job is to provide our guests with authentic experiences that rock!

DSC_0150 DSC_0151

**Editor’s Note – we really enjoyed Club Heaven. This is a unique nightclub that you wont see anywhere else. The size and thought that went into it have to be seen first hand. So if you want a nightclub that really delivers a great experience, be sure to check out Club Heaven.

Photo Credit - Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

Photo Credit – Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

Another area we are looking forward to seeing is the all new bar / DJ area near the far end of the Heaven section out on the waters edge at the Hot Tub by the sea. So many places and spaces on property that stand out – the hard part, will be picking out our favorite spot!!

Thanks for sitting down with us Jose. We really appreciate it and we are looking forward to coming back to see you.

For more information on the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya and to book your VIP experience, contact us at 517-917-0510 or email mark@island-breeze-travel.com

www.island-breeze-travel.com

Posted in Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Trip Review – Sandals LaSource Grenada

We wanted to share a freinds experience with you from her recent trip to Sandals LaSource Grenada

I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of nights at Sandals LaSource Grenada. All that I can say is WOW! This is the most incredible hotel I have ever experienced in the Caribbean – all-inclusive, EP, etc. The architecture, service, features, facilities, food & beverage – the best ever! It is a 225-room boutique hotel.

My room was 3603 – an Italian Oceanview Penthouse One Bedroom Skypool Butler Suite with Veranda Tranquility Soaking Tub (PSKY). It was on the top floor of the Italian Village. Imagine an almost 1,000 square foot one bedroom suite with a large living room, butler pantry, bedroom and bathroom.

Italian Oceanview Penthouse One Bedroom Skypool Butler Suite with Veranda Tranquility Soaking Tub (PSKY)

Italian Oceanview Penthouse One Bedroom Skypool Butler Suite with Veranda Tranquility Soaking Tub (PSKY)

Italian Oceanview Penthouse One Bedroom Skypool Butler Suite with Veranda Tranquility Soaking Tub (PSKY)

The living room encompasses a butler pantry, sofa and chairs, an indoor dining table, and a large flat screen HD LED smart TV (which can be used to get Island Routes info, order prints from Snapshots, get hotel info, purchase movies, etc.) It also opens to a large balcony with two lounge chairs and a soaking tub. The tub has special pipes and fills up at an incredible 27 gallons a minute.

The luxurious bedroom features a king size bed, another large, flat screen HD LED smart TV. The bathroom includes two large Carrera marble vanities, a Kohler claw footed tub, and a frosted glass shower again enclosed in frosted glass. The bedroom also opens up to your very own private infinity pool, with an incredible view of the ocean and the capital, St. Georges.

 All accommodations in the Italian Village and South Seas Villages are just steps away from the pristine Pink Gin Beach.

 The entry-level room, South Seas Premium Room with Veranda Tranquility Soaking Tub is in excess of 400 square feet and classically appointed, including a king size bed, large flat screen HD LED smart TV. The Pink Gin Beachfront Walkout Club Level Room has steps that lead right out to the beach. The Rondoval ,Millionaire Suites and Private Pool Sanctuary Suites have to be seen to believe!

The food – phenomenal. One night I had dinner at Butch’s Chop House (our first ever steak restaurant in the entire company). It looks just like a New York City world-class restaurant. I ordered the Wagyu Sirloin; during Christmas, I went to a famous steak restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale and ordered one for $58 (just for the steak) and the steak I had at Sandals LaSource blew it away. I also had an incredible s ’mores cheesecake and carrot cake; we all agreed that the carrot cake was the best we have ever tasted.

The sushi at Soy was incredible. The executive sushi chef was a consultant for a cruise line and owns a handful of sushi restaurants in L.A. I felt guilty for not receiving a bill on the way out.

Neptune’s and Le Jardinière were fabulous and we also sampled some great desserts at Café de Paris. The pizza at Dino’s is also incredible.

The Pink Gin Pool, with the fire pit, is a must-see, as is the swim up pool bar in the South Seas Village.

The fitness center is incredible. It has floor to ceiling windows and state of the art cardio machines that face a reflecting pool.

What’s most impressive, is the attitude of the staff. The friendliest and most helpful staff you will ever experience anywhere in the world.

For more information about Sandals LaSource Grenada – contact us at info@island-breeze-travel.com or call 517-917-0510

SA_2013_Regional_Awards_SandalsSpirit_Final

Posted in Grenada, Sandals Resorts, travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Staff Spotlight – Odayne Ewart – Butler – Beaches Turks & Caicos

We tend to write about Turks & Caicos quite often. The reason for that is because we truly love the place. Of all the wonderful places & spaces we have visited, Turks & Caicos feels like our second home and we love sharing the island with our friends.

One of our favorite resorts down there, is Beaches Turks & Caicos. From its seemingly never ending beachline which is perfect for romantic strolls along its talcum powder soft white sand beach to its crystal clear waters that lure snorkelers & scuba divers from near and far, the small island of Providenciales is a beach & water lovers paradise.

Recently, Beaches Turks & Caicos underwent an expansion with the addition of Key West Village. The resort looks even better and now boasts an impressive 19 restaurants to choose from.

One of the very unique and highly sought after services at the resort, is Beaches signature Butler service. Pro tip: Beaches Turks & Caicos suites that feature Butler service tend to sell out first. If you are considering butler service, contact your travel agent well in advance to place your $400.00 deposit. We recommend placing deposit 12-16 months prior to travel on the butler suites.

Beaches Resorts Butler team are trained exclusively by the Guild of Professional English Butlers and while on property at Beaches Turks & Caicos recently, we had a chance to sit down with Odayne Ewart, a friend of ours who is on the butler team.

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

Odayne Ewart – Butler – Beaches Turks & Caicos

1. How long have you lived in Providenciales?

Odayne – I have been living in the Turks & Caicos Islands for 7 years.

2. Where are you from originally?

Odayne – I am originally from Whitehouse, Westmoreland, Jamaica.

3. What is your job here at Beaches Turks & Caicos and what are your responsibilities?

Odayne – My job is a Butler! As a personal butler I take care of all needs of my guests that are legal within the hotel policy and the country law.

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

6:30 A.M. – O.D. is on the job, getting the Cabana ready for his guests.

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

4. How long have you been with Beaches Resorts?

Odayne – I have been working with Sandals and Beaches for 9 years. I started off as a Bartender and now as a proud Butler.

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

**Editors Note – Odayne taught me how to make a Chocolate Martini and it has become a standard drink request at our home bar when we have friends & family over. If you have Odayne as your butler, ask him to make you one!! Those kind of skills need to be experienced first hand!! Here’s a shot of O.D. running the bar at the Chocolate Martini party a few years back!

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

5. Did you receive any special training to be a Butler at Beaches Turks & Caicos?

Odayne – I was trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers with Robert Watson who is the founder.

Editors Note: The Butler experience is clearly a much more personalized level of service and the training that Butlers go through to deliver this service to guests is intense. Candidates for the Butler team are hand selected to attend the training. We have no doubt about why Odayne was asked to become a Butler. O.D’s upbeat personality and willingness to go the extra mile was apparent from the first time we met.

All butlers trained by a Guild Certified Trainer are awarded a Guild Foundation certificate on completion of the training. Their performance and development is monitored by The Guild over a period of two years.

Once they have successfully completed this period they are awarded Associate Membership of The Guild. After a further three years as an Associate Member they qualify for Full Membership of The Guild.

For more on what you can expect from your Sandals Butler, take a look at this link: http://www.beaches.com/difference/butler-service.cfm

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

6. What can one of your guests do to make the most of their Butler Experience with you?

Beaches Turks & Caicos has a wide range of activities, from beach activities, to pool activities to waterpark and further more, the Entertainment Team has a large activity list that involves the guests on a daily basis and Island Routes provides some of the greatest tours on the island. More information on the tours offered by Island Routes can be found here.

7. Although I wont ask you to disclose all of your secret Butler surprises because those are things just for your guests to experience & enjoy, what is one of your favorite things to do for your guests?

As a butler you have to be creative. Everyday I try to invent something new, however there are some basic techniques of a butler that is displayed more often than others, eg. Towel fold at pool and beach, decorated dinner table, bubble bath etc. There are several other surprises that I will do, which I can’t expose before the guests actually come on vacation because to do a WOW, it means that you do something that the guests will never expect…

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

8. Most peoples lives are very busy these days and when on vacation, sometimes people like to cut loose a bit and have fun.  What’s the silliest / craziest thing you have seen at Beaches Turks & Caicos?

As you know, Beaches Turks & Caicos is a family resort with a lot of kids around. However some areas are adults only. I witness a lot of silly and crazy stuff but guess what????………. What happens on vacation normally stays there..

9. Where can you normally be found on property?

Since its a very large property I don’t find myself in one spot. However, if I am taking care of 3 families and they are hanging out in 3 different villages I try to be at a central location, otherwise I will mostly stay in the village that my guests 3 rooms are since I have to make sure that my rooms are clean and the in suite bar is always re stocked. On the other hand we give our butler guests a cell phone so they can reach me anytime. If the guest should leave the phone in there suite, they could go to the closest lobby area and the agent there will locate the butler for the guest. We have you covered from the time you arrive, till you leave!

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

10. Even though all of your guests are stars at Beaches Turks & Caicos, who are some of the celebs you have taken care of at the resort?

As you know all of our butler guest are VIP, some famous faces are; Shaquil Oneil, Dwayne Wade, Michael Jordon, Mark Brown etc…

Editors Note: I’m not too sure on that last guy, but thanks for the shout out O.D. ;0)’

11. Providenciales features some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world and most of the activities there focus on water related activities. What are some of the must-do activities that you recommend to your guests?

Beaches Turks & Caicos has a wide range of water sport activities that I would recommend like kayaking, water bike, stand up sail boarding, wind surfing etc. All these activities are included in the guest package.

Odayne Ewart Butler Beaches Turks & Caicos

12. Why should someone who is considering a trip to Beaches Turks & Caicos, but not quite sure yet, come there for a vacation, wedding or honeymoon?

Beaches Turks & Caicos has one of the best beaches on the planet and to be able to capture that background in your wedding pictures, why not!! Further more, we also offer a free wedding!   We also do some of the most romantic candlelight dinners on the beach, no honeymooner will want to miss a moment like that. And if your are a big fan of diving …WOW.. Nowhere like Beaches Turks & Caicos.

I have been working here in Beaches Turks & Caicos for over 7 years and each year its getting better. It is such an environment that captures the heart, mind and soul of all human beings that are blessed enough to visit this island. Even though I live here, I can’t get enough of such a wonderful resort on a such unique island. Our Chairman Mr. Gordon Butch Stewart along with the CEO Mr. Adam Stewart set the foundation for people around the world to discover some of the treasures of the Caribbean…… It is almost impossible to write a modern book of tourism without mention the world famous and number 1 family all inclusive resort – BEACHES TURKS & CAICOS.

Posted in Beaches Turks and Caicos, chocolate martini, Destination Wedding Specialist, Island Breeze Travel, Italian Village, Scuba Diving, travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

Beaches Turks & Caicos – Key West 2 Story, 2 Bedroom Concierge Suite

The new Key West Village at Beaches Turks & Caicos is a wonderful addition to the property. The new village adds another 3 restaurants to the property and a myriad of new lodging choices. We recently stayed at the property and in this blog post, we would like to focus on our lodging in the Key West 2 story, 2 bedroom Concierge Suite. Big thanks to our friends at Beaches Turks & Caicos for placing us in such a wonderful suite!

Beaches Turks & Caicos Key West Village

Key West Village - Beaches Turks & Caicos

Key West Village - Beaches Turks & Caicos

These suites have rich furnishings representing Key West. The living
room and dining room with a breakfast nook feature a fully equipped
kitchen with stainless steel, state of the art appliances, a large flat screen
TV and a dining table for 4.

Beaches Turks & Caicos Key West Village

Bedrooms feature a king size bed, double beds, a trundle and a flat screen TV. The bathrooms come equipped with a combination tub and shower and granite counters. The suites are two story and some feature a spiral staircase. Suites also boast a balcony.

Beaches Turks & Caicos Key West Village

Beaches Turks & Caicos Key West Village

Location: East Village and West Village inside Key West Village

1336 Square Feet – sleeps 6 people.

Posted in travel | Leave a comment

Staff Spotlight – Omar Fletcher – Bartender – Sandals Whitehouse

Sandals Whitehouse sits on the lush & largely untouched south coast of Jamaica in an area where for many of the locals, time stands still.

The Stewart family saw this untapped area as a vacationer’s paradise…and they were right!!

What the Stewart family built here is a European-style Beach Resort and Spa, featuring three authentic architecturally designed villages – Italian, Dutch and French.

663

They also brought the world class, Red Lane Spa with ten extensive treatment rooms and an oversized spa courtyard.

The suites at the resort are also fantastic and they overlook the 2 mile beach on Jamaica’s south coast where its a true beach walkers paradise.

wh-004

All of this is wonderful, but the real stars of Sandals Whitehouse, are the staff. The men and women of Sandals Whitehouse work tirelessly to bring the guests an experience that exceeds expectations day after day.

In this blog post, we would like to introduce you to one of their star crewmembers. Omar Fletcher is a mixmaster of the highest caliber and after hearing from Omar, we think you will agree. Seriously!! The guy has skills!!    sea

1. How long have you worked at Sandals Whitehouse?

Omar – I have worked at Sandals Whitehouse for 6 years.

pool

2. Where are you from originally?

Omar – I am from the Parish of Westmoreland and specifically the Savanna-La-Mar area.

drinks

3. What’s your favorite / signature drink to make and what’s in it?

Omar – My favorite drink to make is called the “Island Cooler”. This drink contains pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, coconut rum, our very popular White Appleton Rum and Blue Curacao.

**Editors note – this one just made the home bar list!!

martini bar

4. Where can you normally be found on property?

Omar – I can normally be found in the Martini Bar….The best bar on property!!

fletcha

5. The beach at Sandals Whitehouse is a beach worshippers trinity of sun, sea, and sand and its great for long beach walks but what are some of the other things you recommend to guests that they must-do while in the Whitehouse area?

Omar – We have two great tour areas down this way.

YS Falls  is a package tour area example. In one part you have the falls ,zip lining,horse back riding and you can have lunch there. One of the best parts, is its all local foods. The ride takes 45-50 minutes from Sandals Whitehouse.

There is also a Appleton Rum tour. You  can also book lunch there and while on tour, you see how Jamaican’s used to make sugar and then turn it in to rum back in the 17 century.  There’s also an opportunity to taste all the rums and they actually have up to a 50 year old rum that is valued at about $5000 USD a bottle.

Another option is 1 hour from Sandals Whitehouse to the Pelican Bar and that’s also a tour on the catamaran boat from the resort. You can also head south and visit the Whitehouse community. There is also a Guest House on the south coast where you can learn about the history of slavery.

flava

6. What are some of your favorite times of the year down at Sandals Whitehouse and why?

Omar – I really like November because we have more people down here which means more fun for the guests and the staff.  December is also a great time because of Christmas season and we get to showcase traditional food and entertainment.

January is another wonderful month down here because of New Years Eve and we throw a great party with a lot of champagne.  The staff can also break lose that night which makes it that much more fun.  February we have reunion week. And there’s also April because its a great time with great weather.

flectha

7. Why should someone who is considering a trip to Sandals Whitehouse, but not quite sure yet, come there?

Omar – Sandals Whitehouse is a complete dream come true. Its the kind of place where you can come & re-energize your life, your relationship with the one you love and free your mind from work when the stress of it all just makes you want to give up. So come to Sandals Whitehouse, visit with me, exhale, and let your mind be free for a while.

Posted in Sandals Resorts | Tagged | 1 Comment

NEWS RELEASE – BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, 18th October 2013 – Sandals Resorts International (SRI), parent company of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts, today applauded the Government of Barbados following the announcement of a deal which will result in opening of two resorts in the country.

barbados-beach

SRI and the Government of the Barbados reached the agreement following months of negotiations that will see the Caribbean’s leading resort company open the former Couples Resort in St Lawrence as a Sandals Resort as well as managing a new Beaches Resort set to be built on the site of the former Almond Beach Resort in St Peter.  

According to Sandals Resorts Chairman, Mr. Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the 10-acre former Couples property will open as a Sandals Luxury Included® Resort and will honor all existing commitments with guests who had booked to stay at Couples up until November 6th

Beach in Barbados

Stewart commented, “We are delighted to announce the opening of, not one, but two of our first ever resorts in this wonderful country of Barbados. Barbados and its people are so rich in culture, charm and personality and has been one of the leaders in Caribbean tourism for decades. We have been in discussions to bring our award-winning brands to this country for some time and are thrilled that negotiations have now been successfully concluded.

“In the former Couples Resort, I strongly believe that we have acquired one of the most beautiful properties in the entire island and we cannot wait to bring the full Luxury Included® experience here. We have been voted the world’s best time and time again and have more luxury inclusions than other resort on the planet and we promise to give the people of Barbados a resort to be proud of.”

Upon opening as Sandals Barbados, the resort will offer a selection of 280 luxury accommodations that range from beachfront suites to exquisite rooms situated in the resort’s lush tropical garden. A program of enhancements will be launched in order to ‘Sandalize’ the property immediately.

**Editors note – Pricing is up and available for immediate arrivals at Sandals Barbados. There is also a 300.00 air credit being offered.

In addition to the opening of Sandals Barbados, SRI also announced that an agreement has been reached with the Government of the Barbados regarding the building of a brand new Beaches Resort at the site of former Almond Beach Resort in St Peter, Barbados.

Crane_Beach_Barbados1

“Since it first launched over 16 years ago, Beaches has captured the hearts and minds of holidaymakers everywhere and I can assure you that what we’re planning in Barbados will become one of the most sought after resorts in the entire world.”

“We are a Caribbean company that has been in business here for almost 33 years and no one knows this region like we do. It is an exciting time for Barbados and its people not to mention those looking for the best vacation experience imaginable. We believe the best days of Barbadian tourism lie ahead.

Sandals Resorts International’s arrival into Barbados marks another milestone of exciting expansion that has seen the recent opening of the Key West Village at their flagship Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos as well as the hugely anticipated opening of Sandals LaSource Grenada in December.

Barbados Specialist Certification CSS2013WMS

For more information and to book your trip to Sandals Barbados, please contact mark@island-breeze-travel.com or 517-917-0510

Link | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Staff Spotlight – Vaughan Bowe – Butler – Sandals Emerald Bay

I still remember the first time visiting Sandals Emerald Bay. The picture plays out in my head vividly every time I think about it. The long driveway leading up to the palatial front entrance is just the start. Once you are through the main entrance, past the lobby, and out onto the back terrace your view widens out into the massive main pool with Sandals signature pool bar & tower framed by the even more impressive Emerald Bay.

Sandals Emerald Bay Main Pool Bar

Visually stunning and almost unreal have been two recurring descriptions of the sight before me. But its not until you clear the swim up bar area, move through the dune grass and step foot through the openings and onto the beach do you get the real understanding of one of the main reasons the Stewart family may have decided to purchase the former Four Seasons property on the island of Exuma.

Sandals Emerald Bay  Sandals Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay in the out-islands of the Bahamas maintains a commanding stretch of real estate on the island of Exuma and even though its one of the more remote locations, once you are on-property with your feet in the sand, staring out into the wild blue yonder looking at the water and trying to decide if the color is real or photo shopped – its clear that you have arrived at a location that is quite different than others in the tropics.

With water glowing so incredibly blue and green, the lines between real and and enhanced seem to blur together and pictures or words, will never describe this scene properly. Time just seems to stand still and hang in the balance here & it’s something you have to experience for yourself to truly understand.

DSC_0103

Sandals has spared no expense to make this a world-class resort either. From the many different dining options to 5 star accommodations alongside a Greg Norman designed Golf Course, the resort has it all. But even with all of the wonderful features of the resort, without a great staff ready and able to take great care of you, it wouldn’t be half the resort we come to expect out of the Sandals family of resorts.

Fortunately, the Stewart family once again has assembled a top shelf team at the resort. This week, we would like to showcase one of their wonderful staff members from the Butler Team. We had a chance to sit down with Vaughan Bowe and ask him about life in the Bahamas out-islands, get a little insight into his life and his job as a Butler at Sandals Emerald Bay, and a few other things.

On Vaughan’s Facebook page he writes “To Serve Is My Passion, Making You Feel and Live in Relaxation & Peace satisfies me, To Ensure You Never Want To Leave is my only Goal…. May I have the Honor to Spoil You….?? :-)…”

Vaughan Bowe - Butler at Sandals Emerald Bay

1. How long have you lived on Exuma?

Vaughan: I have lived on Exuma for 1.5 yrs now….

2. Where are you from originally?

Vaughan: I am originally from Nassau, Bahamas….

Vaughan Bowe - Butler at Sandals Emerald Bay

3. What is your job here at Sandals Emerald Bay and what are your responsibilities?

Vaughan: I am a Butler and my responsibilities paraphrased are to ensure that every aspect and need you will have during your stay is catered to timely and efficiently with lots of surprises… I always say YES….

Vaughan Bowe - Butler at Sandals Emerald Bay

4. How long have you been with Sandals Resorts?

Vaughan: I have worked for Sandals Resorts for 3yrs….

 Vaughan Bowe - Butler at Sandals Emerald Bay

5. Did you receive any special training to be a Butler at Sandals Emerald Bay?

Vaughan: Yes I did…. By the Great Robert Watson himself….(Founder/Owner of The Guild of Professional English Butlers)….

Editors Note: Established in 1995, the Guild of Professional English Butlers was created to deliver the highest level of service in the world fit for royalty, heads of state and celebrities. Sandals Butlers are trained to anticipate guests needs and create lifelong memories with individual touches not found in any manual. For more information on The Guild, go to http://www.guildofbutlers.com/

Butler Team at Sandals Emerald Bay

6. What can one of your guests do to make the most of their Butler Experience with you?

Vaughan: Well, simply to remember that you are on a vacation…. Ill take the wheel to make sure you celebrate, relax, experience the local life and most importantly have a bit of fun…. Our style of service is professional, but at the same time we develop a new close friendship….

Vaughan Bowe - Certified by The Guild of Professional English Butlers

Editors Note: The Butler experience is clearly a much more personalized level of service and the training that Butlers go through to deliver this service to guests is intense. Candidates for the Butler team are hand selected to attend the training. All butlers trained by a Guild Certified Trainer are awarded a Guild Foundation certificate on completion of the training. Their performance and development is monitored by The Guild over a period of two years. Once they have successfully completed this period they are awarded Associate Membership of The Guild. After a further three years as an Associate Member they qualify for Full Membership of The Guild.

For more on what you can expect from your Sandals Butler, take a look at this link: http://www.sandals.com/difference/butler-service.cfm

7. Although I wont ask you to disclose all of your secret Butler surprises because those are things just for your guests to experience & enjoy, what is one of your favorite things to do for your guests?

Vaughan: Lol…. Well Mark my work already speaks for itself daily on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/VaughanTheButler …. I want to share my passion with everyone…. My favorite thing is chatting about families…. Sharing the comforts and good memories of home always brings peace of mind….

Butler Surprises at Sandals Emerald Bay Butler Surprises at Sandals Emerald Bay

Butler Surprises at Sandals Emerald Bay Butler Surprises at Sandals Emerald Bay

8. Most peoples lives are very busy these days and when on vacation, sometimes people like to cut loose a bit and have fun. What’s the silliest / craziest thing you have seen at Sandals Emerald Bay?

Vaughan: Lol…. Oh boy now I am in trouble…. There are always guests that drink too much (thats normal)…. However, an 8 seater golf kart parked inside of a guests room…. That was EPIC….

9. Where can you normally be found on property?

Vaughan: Same place you saw me Mark….. EVERYWHERE…. There are no fixed stations for a Butler….

Vaughan Bowe - Butler at Sandals Emerald Bay

10. Even though all of your guests are stars at Sandals Emerald Bay, who are some of the celebs you have taken care of at the resort?

Vaughan: You’ve already answered for me…. All of my guests are that…. They aren’t media celebs, however they are stars in their homes and workplaces…. I have never taken care of a media celeb….(yet)….

DSC_0102

11. Because the out-islands of the Bahamas are a white sand, blue water, sun drenched beach lovers dream come true destination, what are some of the things you recommend to your guests that they must-do while in Exuma?

Vaughan: The 007 Thunderball tour is a ‘DEFINITE MUST DO’…. I have done it twice…. Another day take the water taxi to Stocking Island where stingrays and dolphins come up to the shore to say hi – I have done this twice…. Of course you must go into Georgetown, eat at the local restaurants and do some shopping at the straw markets….

VBIguanas

12. Why should someone who is considering a trip to Sandals Emerald Bay, but not quite sure yet, come there for a vacation, wedding or honeymoon?

Vaughan: Mark…. ‘IT’S ALWAYS BETTER IN THE BAHAMAS’…. Enough said….

deepak

We couldn’t agree more!! Thanks for all you do and thanks for sitting down with us Vaughan. We are looking forward to seeing you again very soon!!

Posted in travel | Leave a comment

Staff Spotlight – Sandals Royal Bahamian – Ramon Munroe – Dive Instructor

One of the many reasons we love going to Sandals Resorts, is because diving is included in the price of your vacation and having been on several trips ourselves with private dive companies, those costs can really add up if you dive quite a bit.  Fortunately, Sandals Resorts has put together a world class diving operation available at all of their resort offerings in the Caribbean.  

From their fleet of Newton Dive Boats, to their top notch dive gear everything you need is right there.

Not certified but you would like to learn? That’s no problem either.  Sandals Royal Bahamian has some of the most highly trained dive instructors on the island. In this blog post, we would like to introduce one of our friends and considered by many, as the best instructor at Sandals Royal Bahamian, Ramon Munroe.

We had the chance to sit down with Ramon recently and asked him a few questions about himself, his position at Sandals Royal Bahamian, and the diving in the Bahamas.

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe

1. How long have you lived in Nassau?

Ramon: Since Nassau first opened L.O.L., but seriously I was born and raised here 34 years.

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe

3. What is your job here at Sandals Royal Bahamian and what are your responsibilities?

Ramon: I’m currently a scuba diver instructor and am responsible for certifying and teaching dive lessons.

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe

4. How long have you been with Sandals Resorts?

Ramon: I started with Sandals back in 1998.

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe

How long have you been certifying divers and what’s your current level of certification?

Ramon: I’ve been certifying divers since 2005 and my current level of certification is OWSI, Open Water Scuba Instructor.

What kind of diving do you personally enjoy?

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe - Lionfish Hunting

Ramon: If I must choose I would say multi level diving. *Multi Level dives are often started out deeper and gradually ascending to shallower levels depending on the topography. An example might be: 60 feet for 7 minutes, 50 feet for 14 minutes 30 feet for 18 minutes.

What is your most memorable dive?

Ramon: lol, there are so many, but I’ll have to say when we saw three different sharks on the same dive. There was a large reef shark followed by a saw-toothed shark and then a hammerhead appeared out of nowhere……….yea that was a awesome dive!!

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe - Shark Diving

What is your favorite dive site offered at Sandals Royal Bahamian?

Ramon:  Ahh, let me see – it has to be between the Shark Dive and the Lost Blue Hole Dive.

**The “Lost Blue Hole”, is a 200-feet wide natural opening in the ocean floor starting at a depth of 30 feet and descending to 200 feet and probably the most amazing variety of marine animals including sea turtles, stingrays and reef fish. There are usually 1 or 2 nurse sharks here and during the spring a large school of blacknose sharks inhabits the bottom of the 200′ hole. **This is the location of the Bahamas first lionfish sighting.

**For a closer look at a few more of the dive sites, check out Sandals Dive Site Page

What do you enjoy most about instructing new divers?

Ramon: I love the fact that they are excited to dive and also as a teacher it’s so amazing to take someone that knows nothing about diving….a complete novice, and pour into them your knowledge of diving and watch that student bring to life.

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe

What is the most difficult aspect of instructing?

Ramon: I must say there are many techniques in which to teach generally speaking and sometimes when a student is not getting it you have to be creative in reaching them.

Sandals Royal Bahamian - Ramon Munroe

Have you ever failed to certify a student? Why or why not?

Ramon: Sadly I had to several times. As a PADI instructor (Professional Association of Diving Instructor’s) we have a standard to up hold and must be met, also that student carries your name on and you want to make sure the product you’re putting out there lives up to the standards.

If I am coming down to Sandals Royal Bahamian and I don’t get you as my dive instructor, who is the second best instructor Sandals Royal Bahamian (grin)?

Ramon: Lol, well my instructor who I look up to and hope to be as great as he is,the one guy that gave me the diving bug, who is in my book the best would be Wenzel, but we have a bunch of great instructors and each have different qualities that make them special.

**Thanks so much for sitting down with us Ramon, we cant wait to get back down there and dive with you.

Posted in travel | Leave a comment

St. John – US Virgin Islands Trip – July 2013

For this trip, we flew out on an early flight from Detroit to Philadelphia with Ann, Aaron, and Aaron’s friend Matt who was a first time flyer. 

It’s always cool to watch a kids face when they experience flight for the first time. Seems like it always brings back great memories and as with most people, once you fly through the clouds, you never look at  them the same way again. 

DSC_0747

After a short layover in Philadelphia, we were on our way to St. Thomas. 

Upon arrival in St. Thomas we collected our bags and immediately had a taxi hailed for us. Cost for the taxi ride to the St. Thomas Red Hook ferry to St. John was 15 dollars per person. 

The Red Hook ferry departs every hour, on the hour and the cost per adult is 6 dollars. Bags are at a small, extra charge. The ride across the bay to St. John doesn’t take long at all and arrival at the Cruz Bay boat dock immediately gives you a much different feeling than St. Thomas.  

 St. John Boat Dock

Because 75 percent of the island is a national park, thanks to the donation of land from the Rockefeller Family, you wont see any high rises or other things associated with bigger, developed islands. Certain parts of St. John have a Key West feel to many of the streets & restaurants. In the town square, you will find long time residents trading stories with visitors in a way that instantly gives you a very invited, laid back welcoming feeling. 

We were also greeted by Michelle from the villa management company. Michelle escorted me to St. John Car Rentals – http://www.stjohncarrental.com/ just a block away where I picked up our 4 door Jeep Wrangler for the week.   Cynthia Dupigny manages St. John Car Rentals like a champ and she always has a great, welcoming smile on her face. 

St John Car Rentals St John Car Rentals

St. John Car Rentals has brand new vehicles all of which, are in great shape and they are a wonderful place to rent a car from. Because parking is at a premium in downtown Cruz Bay, you will have to pay to park. With  St. John Car Rentals, you can park for free at their lot. St. John is also one of those places where you would want to rent a car. With so many beautiful beaches, it would be a shame not to explore them.  We had a 4 door Jeep for the week and we were very pleased with it.

Another nice point that Michelle took care of, was to escort us to Villa Maria. Finding it on our own would have been difficult to say the least so that was very helpful.

Check in was seamless and we couldn’t have been happier.  Once on property, Michelle did a great job showing us the villa and she covered several items that normally, a person would be on their own to figure out so we really appreciated her assistance. One tip from us, look in the cabinet above the microwave ;-) !

Meredith from St. John Provisions also had everything we asked for placed in Villa Maria as well. Many thanks to Meredith and her team too.

Villa Maria:

Villa Maria is a 3 bedroom (2 king and one double twin  rooms) multi level villa overlooking Great Cruz Bay. From the decks of the villa we had a wonderful view of the bay and St. Thomas. You have a full kitchen, and all the modern conveniences one would need. 

Villa Maria St John Villa Maria St John

Villa Maria St John Villa Maria St John

Villa Maria St John Villa Maria St John

One of the best features is the outdoor pool with its own outdoor bar complete with bar seating, a sink, refrigerator, and a bathroom to use while poolside. With all of the foliage surrounding the pool, there is also ample privacy for those who seek it. One of the bedrooms sits off on its own, perched above the pool. With the front slider curtains open, you have a wonderful view of Great Cruz Bay to wake up to. 

Villa Maria St John

There is also a separate seating area with coffee table inside the master bedroom.  The bathroom is also very large with double sinks and a walk in shower built for 6! not that you would need 6 in a shower but that’s the size of it!! Every room has its own private deck area as well to enjoy quiet reflection, reading, wine drinking or anything else you could want to do. Villa Maria also has a whole house stereo system with iPod hookups so you can enjoy your favorite music, poolside or deckside, your choice!! Tiki lights also line the pool area for night swims.

As sunsets go, I don’t think there are many better places to watch it.  At the beginning of the bay also sits the Westin Resort. Boaters from far & wide tend to like spending time in Great Cruz Bay as well because of the protection it offers. Time seems to slow down and hang in the balance down here and its easy to see why people enjoy St. John so much.

We decided to check out the beaches along the coast. The views of Trunk Bay were spectacular, but we continued on and we ended up at Cinnamon Bay for the day.

Cinnamon Bay – This is a great beach with some of the softest sand on the island. We spent the day watching the sailboats move in and out while snorkeling in some of the clearest water down here. Cinnamon Bay also has shower facilities along with a full service restaurant & bar, washroom facilities and a small gift shop.

 Cinnamon Bay St John Cinnamon Bay St John

Cinnamon Bay St John Cinnamon Bay St John

Coral Bay & Skinny Legs Bar & Grill – another must do while visiting St. John, is a trip over to Coral Bay and the world famous Skinny Legs Bar & Grill. From Cruz Bay, the 8 mile drive will take 45 minutes to an hour because of the twisting turning up and down the mountain drive. If you needed further proof of the benefits of a 4 wheel drive vehicle, this will convince you. But the view is spectacular and there are several spots to pull over and take pictures of the beautiful shoreline vistas.  

Skinny Legs is another one of those places on the island that has a rich history.  Originally started by the original Skinny Legs owners, Doug “Dougie’ Sica of New Jersey and Maurice “Moe” Chabuz of Massachusetts, opened the bar in May 1991 when there were only a few homes on the Coral Bay hillsides and a handful of boats in the harbor.

Skinny Legs Bar & Grill

Moe and Dougie were best friends who worked at the famous Back Yard Bar in Cruz Bay together in the 1980s. With little more than their bartending and schmoozing expertise, the two took over what had been known before as Red Beards.

Skinny Legs Bar & Grill

The bar was eventually purchased by Doug Bean and his wife Jaime Elliott, who bought the business on April Fool’s Day 2012 after a visit down to the island. That seems to be a common theme down here. For those who dream of running away to a island and to live and work the rest of your life in the sun, it all comes down to timing and opportunity. Very nicely done Doug!!

Doug Bean Skinny Legs St John

Skinny Legs is located on the quiet side of a quiet island and titles itself as “a pretty ok place”.

Angels Rest Floating Bar

Another one of our favorite stops, was a beach down past Coral Bay near Hanson Bay or sometimes known as Vie’s Beach. Captain Peter mans the wheelhouse of Angels Rest, a floating pontoon bar of his own creation. Time and lots of effort went into the creation of Angels Rest and Captain Peter……..is one of the nicest, no stress, laid back guys you will meet down on the island. All the drinks are 5 dollars and his Rum Punch is quite tasty.

Captain Peter Angels Rest

We had a great time on our afternoon down with Captain Peter listening to stories about the island and how he built his one of a kind party-barge and is living life on his terms – Something many of us only dream about!! Thanks for taking great care of us Peter – we will be back to see you soon!!

Captain Peter Angels Rest  Shopping – several great shops call Cruz Bay home, but one of our favorites is run by a nice lady way up in the hills. Tutu as she is known by has a great selection of handcrafted, local jewelry and has a great selection of the St. John Vibe necklaces & rings.

Tutu Much St John 

Woody’s Seafood Saloon – located street-side, this bar/restaurant serves up some of the best seafood platters in the area. We found ourselves there a few times during this trip down. Woody’s is another one of those small dive bars with tons of personality. According to locals we spoke with, Woody’s is one of Kenny Chesney’s favorite spots when he visits the island.

Woodys Seafood Saloon St. John Woodys Seafood Saloon St. John

Woodys Seafood Saloon St. John Woodys Seafood Saloon St. John

Other favorites were High Tide with its waterfront dining on Cruz Bay at its finest and just a few steps farther is Joes Rum Hut.

Bad Kitty – one of our most memorable parts of the trip, was a day sail on the Bad Kitty – http://www.calypsovi.com/bad_kitty.html – The Bad Kiity is a twin 225 HP Catamaran with an upper deck area.  Awesome Captain & crew on the Bad Kitty – cant say enough good things about them.

Bad Kitty St. John  Bad Kitty Crew St. John

Bad Kitty St. John

Another stop along the way was a trip to Virgin Gorda and the Baths.

At The Baths, the beach shows evidence of the island’s volcanic origins, which deposited granite that eroded into piles of boulders on the beach. The boulders form natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea.  The largest boulders are about 40 feet long. These  large rock formations line the baths and visitors can crawl through the natural voids.

Virgin Gorda and the Baths Virgin Gorda and the Baths

Virgin Gorda and the Baths Virgin Gorda and the Baths

Virgin Gorda and the Baths Virgin Gorda and the Baths

Cooper Island – Lunch – Cooper Island is a eco resort situated on a great stretch of beach in the British Virgin Islands. Food here is excellent and well presented. 

Virgin Gorda and the Baths Virgin Gorda and the Baths

Snorkeling at the Caves & the Indians – this area is normally overlooked as a snorkeling area because of the waves. but on our day to the area, the water was calm & flat. tons of fish in all shapes & sizes call this area home & we even encountered a moray eel swimming in and out of the small outcroppings about 20 feet down.

Snorkeling at the Caves & the IndiansSnorkeling at the Caves & the Indians

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke – Hands down, the best beach we visited on our trip was White Bay. home to world famous beach bars such as One Love, the home of the Bushwhacker and The Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the Painkiller.  Several boaters make day trips to White Bay and others stay the night – probably because of too many Painkillers!! 

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke  The Soggy Dollar Bar Jost Van Dyke

The Soggy Dollar Bar Jost Van Dyke The Soggy Dollar Bar Jost Van Dyke

The Soggy Dollar Bar Jost Van Dyke One Love Bar Jost Van Dyke

Sandy floors and ceiling fans along with flags & patches from visitors past decorate this open air bar and from all appearances, its the place to gather year-round. Mic, or Old-Timer as some call him works the bar like a champ and he never misses a beat all while keeping a mile-wide smile on his face.

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke  White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke  White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

The party starts in the bar and spills out onto the beach & up in the boats, sailboats and catamarans lining White Bay. One of the biggest parties of the year happens on New Years Eve when the island whose population is just under 300 swells to well over 15,000 people with craziness happening at every turn.

Trunk Bay – Probably one of the most developed beach areas on the island. Trunk Bay has a great beachfront, awesome views of the neighboring islands, and a Snorkeling Trail complete with underwater trail markers.

Trunk Bay St John 

Last but not least, is Maho Bay. This is a very unique beach because of its status as a Turtle nesting ground. During August, countless turtles travel back to their birth site to start the process all over again. Snorkelers reported several large Sea Turtles & Sting Rays.

What a great trip it was and we are already planning a return visit.

Boats On Cruz Bay St John USVI

Posted in Jost Van Dyke, St. John USVI, Villas on St. John | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Trip Report–Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa

By: Carol Black

I have just returned from spending several days of site inspection tours of all 10 Sandals resorts in Jamaica including Beaches Resorts and Grand Pineapple Beach Negril. Jamaica is truly a land of diversity and the Sandals’ properties reflect it’s beauty, personality and excitement.

Sandals FAM - Jamaica 2013 003

Long stretches of white sand beach, vast acres of tropical rain forest, winding rivers and powerful water falls…Jamaica has it all, and there is a Sandals property that fits everyone’s idea of the perfect vacation.

Albeit impossible to truly interpret into words…….but as they say in Jamaica…..”Once you go….you know”

Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa

Tranquility is the word that comes to mind when stepping onto this Beautiful property. Situated within a 500-acre wilderness preserve on the lush & untouched South Coast…this is old Jamaica. The European-style Beach Resort and Spa, features three (3) authentic architecturally designed villages: Italian, Dutch & French. Every room and suite overlooks the two mile beach.

Sandals FAM - Jamaica 2013 021

The Main Pool beyond the beautiful courtyard is a perfect backdrop for a wedding on the beach. In a class by itself, Sandals Whitehouse is an ideal location for both adventure travelers and those who enjoy anonymity and just want to relax.

Sandals FAM - Jamaica 2013 012

Although fully booked, the resort seemed to have very few people due to the placement of buildings and the unique landscaping. Butler, Concierge and rooms for Physically challenged are available. All rooms are exquisitely furnished with mahogany furniture and tiled floors.

sandals whitehouse main pool 

Sandals FAM - Jamaica 2013 023

With seven (7) restaurants….no reservations needed; six (6) bars including (2) swim up pool bars and a piano bar; (4) freshwater pools and (4) Whirlpools; land and water sports including unlimited scuba diving; tennis courts, fitness and aerobic studio…..guests have all the activities they expect in a Five Star Diamond facility.

image

Weather hiking, riding horses on the beach or just relaxing by the pool, your spirit will be renewed in this pristine Sandals resort, truly one of a kind.

For more information or to book your trip to Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, contact Carol Black at 772-245-6486 or email at carol@island-breeze-travel.com

Posted in travel | Leave a comment