Finally! A True Five-Star Resort at Disney Orlando

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Finally!  A true five-star resort at Disney Orlando.  If it’s that time in your life when you are taking your kids on their pilgrimage to Disney, I would highly recommend the Four Seasons Hotel which is located within the Disney Resort.

In true Four Seasons fashion, you will find comfy beds, a large bathroom, lot’s of closet space, nice décor and FIVE STAR SERVICE.   The rooms that face the Magic Kingdom come at a premium since you can view the nightly fireworks show right from your room.   All of the hotel rooms are comfortably sized and have sofa beds — so if you are traveling with one or two children, everyone can stay in one room (yahoo)!

When you are at Disney and Orlando for the first time you have a ton of questions and the hotel is well equipped with concierge staff who are friendly and full of answers.  Disney also has its own concierge/sales desk in the Four Seasons lobby allowing for easy and accessible information and tickets.

For those of you not able to spend every waking hour of the day taking in Disney or other local attractions, it is nice to return to the Four Seasons where you will find two pools: one catering to adults and the other for families. The family pool boasts a couple of serious water slides plus a lazy river.   Additionally, there are ping pong tables, bean bag toss games and a few other activities to keep the kids entertained.   There is a top of the line spa and fully equipped gym for parents.

The dining experience at the hotel is excellent.  Our breakfast server was the same person on our two mornings and on the second day she knew all our coffee details, our son’s name and remembered what we had on our agenda the day prior; even conversing with our son and asking questions about his day.   One night we enjoyed sunset drinks at the rooftop bar where there is also a Spanish style steak house with two distinct rooms.  One room seemed to have families and the other, adults, which I thought was a nice touch.

All in all, if you want an adult/luxury experience when traveling to Disney, I would recommend the Four Seasons.

 

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“When In Rome” …….stay at the Eden

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You know the saying “When in Rome”

Well…… “When in Rome stay at the Eden”.

My family had the pleasure of a two night stay at the Hotel Eden, which has recently re-opened after a multi-year facelift.  Rome is a city that you are likely to spend a good part of your day walking and for that reason choose your location carefully so that every step has you taking in the sights you want to see. The Hotel Eden is perched just behind the Trinità dei Monti , the church locate at the top of the Spanish Steps.   From our perspective the location could not have been better as the hotel is on a quiet residential street, yet in the heart of everything.  Additionally, the majestic view from their sixth floor restaurants and bars is probably one of the best in Rome…..the entire city is laid out before you.

Service was second to none at the Eden.  From check in to check out they anticipated our needs and answered all our silly tourist questions with great detail.  The hotel has undergone a complete overhaul.  It has been brought up to modern standards and décor yet keeping its historical elegance.  The room was fantastic with great space and all the amenities.  Being up to date on the technology front is definitely a benefit of being newly opened.

Both the bar and restaurants are perched on the 6th floor with spellbinding views.  Even if you don’t the opportunity to stay here take the initiative to go for a drink or a meal at their top rated restaurant, La Terrazza.  In addition to the great view – the food is excellent.

I really can’t think of anything that the staff could have done to improve our stay.  The room, the food, the service and the location all contributed to a five star experience.

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A Beautifully Curated Boutique Hotel on the Cliffs of Sorrento

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In short, Maison la Minervetta has been one of the most pleasant hotel surprise’s I have had in a few years.   I arrived late in the afternoon to this twelve room gem that is literally hanging off the side of a cliff at the far end of Sorrento.  Given the price point on the room, particularly in light of the room prices in the region, I didn’t have any expectations of grandeur, but boy did I get it.  The reception, lounge and outdoor patio area all flows together with fantastic colors and a stunning view overlooking the harbor, Mt Vesuvius, and the Bay of Naples.  The property is beautifully curated and feels as if you have stepped into the pages of a high end home décor magazine.  With hundreds of books and pieces of art bringing the space to life, you could spend a week just paging through photography books alone.

Our room was similarly located on the side of the cliff with unbelievable views through massive windows on two sides.  The room had beautiful floors with nautical red and white walls and bathroom. If it sounds like it might be too much for you go on their website for a peak.  Bedding and toiletries are very luxurious. Every room is different in shape, size, color and décor although a nautical theme runs throughout.   The place is so hip I felt like Austin Powers the whole stay!

The hotel does not have a restaurant although a very nice breakfast is include and around 5:30PM each day a nice array of hor’ douvres are offered up to go with the bar service.   The service is excellent although they make you feel so at home that at times I was in the kitchen chatting with the staff as they made me some poached eggs.

There is a small pool that gets morning sun and is surrounded by a few quiet sitting areas.   The hotel would not be known for it’s sunbathing so don’t go here expecting to sun worship on the property.  They do have an affiliation with a beach club that is located on the water at Marina Grande a small harbor/beach area located about a 4 minute hike straight down the stairs of the hotel.    In Marina Grande you will find a number of very local (not touristy) restaurants, café’s and gelato stands.   While the main town of Sorrento maybe overloaded with tourists Marina Grande had wonderful local vibe with great food and a nice seaside feel.

If you are remotely near Sorrento I recommend spending a day or two here.   Maison La Minervetta is a very special place.  Should probably note….it’s more of a couples place than a family destination.  We were the only guests (during our visit) that had a child however we were made to feel perfectly welcome…but a lot of 9 year olds don’t really get the “groovy décor and fabulous sunset thing”.

Off the chart setting, fabulous rooms, great hospitality and located near lots of dinning, history and activities.  For the price you will not get better value in all of Italy…..one of the best finds on the Amalfi Coast.

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The Resort at Pedregal….Five Star Luxury at the Tip of the Baja Peninsula

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The Pedregal in Cabo came as close to perfection for service, food quality, style and location as is conceivably possible. I won’t go too deep on why you need to go to Cabo San Lucas but suffice it to say the weather is nearly perfect every day, the scenery is ultra amazing and there is a great selection of activities and dinning in the area.

My husband and 9 year old son spent 4 days at the Pedregal and were treated like royalty.  The resort is situated in  a very private cove at the North end of Cabo with a very grande entrance through a 300 yard tunnel lit with candelabras.  From the moment you check in the smiling staff make every effort to customize your stay.  So many little details are thought about and inconspicuously taken care of.  After our first day the breakfast staff remembered exactly how we liked our coffee, where we wanted to seat, the kind of fruit smoothie our son liked and on and on.  My husband chatted about fishing with one of the valets on our second day and unsolicited a fishing rod showed up in our room so that he could surf cast on the beach in front of the hotel.  Every evening they brought an appetizing snack and beer or margaritas as well as fresh fruit to our room every morning.  The level of thoughtfulness and detail was very impressive.  In short if you want a severe pampering try the Resort at Pedregal.   Feel free to reach out to me if you need help choosing a room as I toured all of the rooms during my visit.

The rooms are all perched on the cliff overlooking the ocean where the waves crash in day and night.  Rooms are spacious, nicely appointed in Mexican Colonial style with great linens and toiletries.   Generally speaking the beach receives large surf 24/7 and is not suitable for swimming but the beauty of the surf and the infinity pools which practically hang over the beach more than make up for the lack of access to swimming in the ocean.   There is an adults only pool and another large pool for families.  At times surf will crash into the outer wall of the pool sending  a shower of sea water into the air which is very breathtaking.  There is no need to scramble for chairs in the morning as pool side chairs are ample, large and well cushioned.  There is a third pool that is a bit smaller than the other two, it is next to the kids club and is set up for families with young children.   Pool side service for food, beverage, towels and umbrella moving could not have been better.

The quality of food at the pool side restaurants (there is one near each ocean front pool) was excellent.  Lots of ceviche, tacos, sandwiches and salads.  We wanted an arugula salad one day (which was not on the menu) and with no fuss we got exactly what we wanted.  My husband and I had dinner one night at El Farallon which is a cliff side restaurant overlooking the water with incredible views and even better food.  My husband had a couple conversations with staff about recipes and the waiter took his email address and sent him the chef’s recipes the next day.  The wait staff here could serve in the best restaurants in NY without a hitch.  Very professional staff and I might even dare to say the best we have encountered in Mexico.  Sorry if at this point I am sounding like a cheerleader for the Pedregal but I genuinely have a hard time finding any aspect of the resort that did not exceed our expectations.

The gym is large and well equipped with Cardio, weight machines, free weights, and a yoga/stretching room.  There were a number of exercise classes going on but I never took part so I will reserve comment.   The spa had everything you would want including steam, dry sauna, hot and cold pools, salt baths and a wide menu of services.  I enjoyed a massage one day and it was exceptional.

The Pedregal welcomes families and there were a number of families there during our stay but the kids club is oriented to smaller children (say 7 and under) however each day they had a few activities that were targeted at slightly older kids.  For our family, there was plenty to do off the resort as well such as fishing, ATV excursions and a day trip to Todos Santos about an hour’s drive away.

Service, Service, Service, Service…..the Resort at Pedregal nailed everything.  Ring for our rental car to be brought up and it happened immediately every time.  Had trouble with the TV one day and a technician was at our door in 15 minutes.  Great service often goes unnoticed as it seems so seamless, but if you sit back and consider the effort and detail put into making you happy at the Resort at Pedregal you will definitely be wooed back.

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The Cape, A Thompson Hotel- The Hippest Hotel in Cabo?

Located ten minutes from the heart of Cabo San Lucas, this property is a slick, trendy hotel set in a small cove that produces amazing surf and is visited by a half dozen surfers each morning and evening.   The views and scenery are spectacular.

The rooms all face the ocean, overlook the pool area and have balconies with a table, chairs and a swinging daybed that is very comfy.   The rooms are very nicely appointed with good closet space, a workable desk, great linens and a cool open glass shower that lets in lots of light and has two shower heads.  The rooms were spacious and the décor was industrial chic while staying warm and comfortable.

The pool area has one large pool overlooking the ocean with chairs in a semi circle amphitheater type configuration.  The pool has an upbeat vibe with a bit of music (not overbearing) and the loungers all facing the ocean.  There is certainly a groovy guy/gal scene going on.   If you are seeking more Zen like options there are other areas to hang out throughout the resort. There is a small salt water pool that is a bit more inconspicuous off to the side with a row of chairs in a quieter area of the common space.  There are also a number of lounge chairs on the beach in front of the pool should you want to get away from the somewhat busy pool area.  Food and beverage service around the pool was very good and lunch at the pool side bar was excellent.  Tacos and Ceviche’s were top notch…we ate the same lunch every day.

Breakfast at The Ledge has a great setting overlooking the ocean, food is good and depending on your waiter, service is good.  I wouldn’t rave about the service but given the great view the service shortcomings are easy to overlook.  We also had dinner at The Ledge and the food was good but again the service (and the place was not full) was ok but we had to chase them down a few times for some condiments and second beverages.  Small details in a nice place.

The gym is small and was very busy but well equipped and is perched ocean side with floor to ceiling windows so your work out is accompanied by a stellar view. They had good cardio equipment, exercise machines, a few free weights and a stretching/yoga room.  I did have to wait to use the cardo equipment daily however I did visit the hotel during Easter week which may have had something to do with that.  The Cape is a very new hotel so all the equipment is shinny, new and in good working condition.

The hotel also boasts a very popular rooftop bar and restaurant with amazing sunsets.  I highly recommend a visit.

The Cape Hotel is a great choice for a social getaway with friends.  Rooms are great, location is fantastic, and there is a good vibe if you want to be in the mix as well as a few quieter areas if you want to get into your book.

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Andaz Mayakoba – A New Arrival in The Riveria Maya

I have just returned from experiencing four nights at the brand new Andaz in Mayakoba with my husband and 9 year old son.  The hotel is brand spankin’ new having opened just before Christmas 2016.  As a result everything is shiny and new and they seemed to have ironed out any startup bugs.   Similar to the other Mayakoba properties (Banyan Tree, Rosewood, etc), the property is very spread out as the main area of the resort (including most of the rooms) are separated from the beach area by about a ½ mile of mangrove and lagoon areas.   So beware a golf cart shuttle is needed to get between the beach and the main area of the hotel.

There are two large pools.  One located at the beach (Beach Pool) and the other located at the main area of the hotel which has very comfortable day beds and lounge chairs with the gym, spa, kids club, gift shop and main restaurant immediately beside you.  The Beach pool area at the Andaz is the largest among all of the hotels within the Mayakoba and offers two restaurants with the beach literally steps away.   The beach at the Andaz is very nice.  White sand and clear blue waters.

The rooms are spacious and minimalistic and decorated in a tasteful industrial feel.  The bathroom area is large with great showers and double sinks and stocked with high quality robes, towels and toiletries. I believe all rooms have an outdoor balcony or seating area with a table and a couple chairs.   Rooms that are called Lagoon rooms are located in the main area of the resort and the rooms that are called Beachside or Beachfront are located very near the Beach area of the resort.   The hotel has rooms and suites in various sizes located Beachfront which is very hard to find these days.  I also thought these rooms offered good value.    I did tour all of the rooms so if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.

The property had 4 restaurants.  Breakfasts at the main restaurant was superb, and the ceviche and more formal Latin American restaurant (Amate) were definitely worth a visit.   In addition to the on property restaurants within the Mayakoba complex you have some great dinning options at the Rosewood and Banyan Tree Hotels which you can walk to via the beach or the property will provide you with complimentary shuttle services that are very prompt and take roughly 10 minutes.   The town of Playa del Carmen is also nearby (15 minutes) which offers tons of dinning options.   Food is tasty and the service at all of the restaurants is first rate.

The spa facility is very nice and certainly can compete with all five star hotels.  Given its proximity to the pool and gym it is a great way to finish a day in the sun or to relax after a workout.   The Spa was simple but very nice and provided all the bells and whistles you need to unwind from your unwinding.   Similarly the gym was small but new and well provisioned with cardio equipment and exercise machines.

The resort put out a weekly bulletin highlighting the on property activities.  We did not take full advantage of the offerings but fitness classes, yoga, nature tours, cooking classes and a number of kids activities offered opportunity to get off your beach chair and engaged in an activity should you choose.  I chose the beach chair.

My 9-year-old son spent a lot of time at the KIMBO kids club.  Given it’s proximity to the large pool he would come and go from the kids club as he chose.  If your  child is too young to allow come and go privileges the kids club is a mere 30-second walk from the main pool, however if you were wanting to be at the beach, the KIMBO Kids Club location it is not as convenient.   KIMBO kept my son busy with nature tours, eco boat tours,  visits to the beach to build sand castles, crafts, some sports and had at least one kids movie night while we were there….giving us a chance for an adult only dinner.

On the logistical front, the resort is roughly a 40-minute drive from the Cancun airport and roughly 15 minute to Playa del Carmen.  The area has a ton of activities for kids and adults so a quick Google search should show you the plethora of things to do in the area.

Great resort with a very reasonable price point that I would recommend to families, couples and groups.

andaz

 

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St. Regis Punta Mita- Time to Getaway from It All!

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If you don’t want to read this entire review, go to The St Regis Punta Mita for the food, the vistas, the service and the ability to spend your entire vacation without a single feeling of stress.  In fact, if you are simultaneously getting a divorce, going through bankruptcy, and learning that your 22 year old son wants to become a professional skateboarder, I suggest you to head to the St. Regis Punta Mita to forget about it all.

The hotel is located about a 45 minutes’ drive from the Puerto Vallarta Airport.  The hotel has luxury SUV’s for ground transportation, so once off the plane you are in good hands and the unwinding begins.  Punta Mita is a large peninsula about 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta with the St Regis and Four Seasons sharing the area with a scattering of private homes and a golf course, although the two hotels are probably a half mile apart.    The St. Regis comprises 120 rooms (a perfect size resort) strung out along a very long private beach facing due west.   Yes, the sunsets are breathtaking.  This is not a resort where you will find resort after resort lining the beach.  It is truly a pristine and secluded location and you will feel as though you are on a private island.   There are 3 very large pool areas (one is adult only) and although the hotel was sold out during my stay I never saw any of the pools having more than 1/3 of the loungers in use.   Similarly, we were able to more or less pick our lounge chairs on the beach and you never feel that you are encroaching on anyone.  No waking up early to get the best pool chair at this joint.   The beach views are of a number of small island rocky formations that generate some amazing surf.  The beach near the water is a bit rocky so it is not the best for swimmers but at every point on the beach you were only a few steps from a pool.  Our son had beach slippers (which I recommend if you care to frolic in the pacific) and spent a lot of time at the waters edge.  The trade off is that if you are a surfer there is some great break and there were a half dozen surfers out each day, a few sail boats and lots of paddle boarders cruising around as well.

The property hosts a decent gym, tennis, and 2 good golf course which we had played about ten years ago during a visit to the Four Seasons.  The kids club is basic which is probably good for toddlers. The hotel did organize a number of activities on a grassy area near the beach in the mornings that gained the interest of the sub teen crowd.  There was a small soccer field and the pool did have a number of items for kid’s entertainment.

We had only three nights at the St Regis so we did not experience all of the restaurants.  On our first night we loved the beach side restaurant called “Mita Mary”.  This is a toes in the sand barbeque/ceviche/taco restaurant looking over that great seaside view into the sunset.   The food here is killer good, very simple but full of flavor.  Combine that with top notch service, good beverages and the view and it’s an experience you can’t replicate anywhere.  Our kids hammered back their dinners, politely excused themselves from the table and got back to their play in the sand.  There are a few games within sight so you can watch over them but not hear them…how perfect.   As the meal ends and night falls, the fire pit is only a few yards away and we settle in for a fire side chat and some complementary s’mores……a very nice touch.  We loved Mita Mary’s so much that we skipped the other restaurants and decided to enjoy Mita Mary’s on our last night (we went into town one night  for dinner).  The restaurants on property are all priced in Peso (which was at 20/$ during our stay) and we found the pricing very affordable for a five star luxury resort.   The hotel also had a great kids menu and the kids can easily eat lunches and dinners for under $10US.   Breakfasts and lunches wear at Sea Breeze, which is a few steps from the beach.  I would rank both the breakfasts and lunches at a 9 out of 10.  Again service is excellent, the menu is diverse and the food is fabulous.

I nearly forgot to mention the rooms since we spent virtually no time there.  We had two queen beds, ample room, and nice décor with a great bathroom including an outdoor shower.  At the front of the room was a nice patio with ample teak furniture.   The rooms are very nicely appointed however the property is so spectacular we spent hardly any time in our room.

Just to reiterate, if you love chilling on the beach or pool side overlooking the beach then go to the St Regis Punta Mita.  The fact that the food, beverage and service level are on par with the setting makes this place a real gem.

mitamary

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