Tag Archives: Caribbean

Planning Around The Holidays

Experience a magical time of Christmas in Europe
Experience a magical time of Christmas in Europe

Hope everyone is in a festive spirit and getting ready for a wonderful holiday! In addition to shopping and trimming the tree, TET has been busy checking out a host of  resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean and learning what’s new out there for couples in love, families looking to spend quality time, destination weddings your guests will never forget, girlfriend getaways, bachelor groups and MORE! To see pictures from our latest trips visit Total Experience Travel’s Facebook page There are plenty of albums to get lost in, and more to come.  Look for Jamaica in January!

Know someone getting engaged? Recommend a trusted travel pro for their honeymoon or destination wedding!
Know someone getting engaged? Recommend a trusted travel pro for their honeymoon or destination wedding planning.

Did you know it’s not only the holidays but, it’s engagement season? More couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentines day, than any other time of year.  Did you also know that more than 70% of couples choose an all-inclusive tropical honeymoon?  As a certified Honeymoon/Destination Wedding Specialist, I CAN tell you why!

 

Whether in the Caribbean or Mexico, there is an all inclusive resort for every style and budget. Ask me which is best for you
Whether in the Caribbean or Mexico, there is an all inclusive resort for every style and budget. Ask me which is best for you.

I will help YOU decide which resort and room is best,  be there for you from research thru return, add personal touches & perks –that only a live trusted agent can! Don’t listen to what those paid advertisements tell you, collaborate with someone you can trust. Pssst- it’s the same cost as doing it all yourself.

Christmastime is about the joy of giving. Give the best gift of all, the gift of travel!  It’s not to early to start planning for next Christmas and not too late to plan for that family Spring Break in 2017.  I have all kinds of wonderful recommendations; something to fit every style.

beaches-this-months-featured-resort-turks-caicos_05
A favorite for FAMILIES and GROUPS – old and young! Books up fast – don’t wait to contact me.

 

 

Ask me about my new favorite family resort.

 

 

New Year's Eve in the Caribbean!
New Year’s Eve in the Caribbean! Don’t wait – contact me today!

 

Or the hottest New Year’s Eve party in the Caribbean! There’s still limited space for 2016 and it’s NOT too early to plan for 2017!

 

 

Still not sure where to go next year – read my latest Travel Tips with info on Alaska, traveling abroad, ship nightlife, and Disney cruises for inspiration.  Then, contact me to start planning! I am specialized in All Inclusive Resorts, Ocean & River Cruises, and Guided Tours because these vacations offer best values and are the kind my family and I love to take!  What I haven’t done personally, my clients or peers have.  In addition to expertise, I’m independent so, can be objective when planning a vacation that’s just right for YOU!  It’s a No Brainer

Chris Rakes - Travel Planner & Honeymoon / Destination Wedding Specialist
Chris Rakes – Travel Planner & Honeymoon / Destination Wedding Specialist

When you are ready to plan, plan with Chris 919.589.2437 / info@totalexperiencetravel.com

Happy Holidays from Total Experience Travel!
Happy Holidays from Total Experience Travel!

 

 

When Is the Best Time To Take A Cruise

Clients are always asking me when the best time is to take a cruise.  So, when I came upon Cruiseline’s article written by Simon Duvall, I thought I’d share it.  It will really depend on your priorities and preferences but, there are some general rules of thumb based on weather, price and destination.  Contact me for more input and to help you decide which cruise line and itinerary is best for you.

Cruisers enjoy Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman - Photo by Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock
Cruisers enjoy Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman – Photo by Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for when to sail: It depends on your own personal priorities. Whether you’re looking to avoid the rough seas or score a bargain deal, there’s a time of year that’s best for you. If you’re looking for low prices, shoulder season — the time between peak and low season — is a great option, but it may come with trade-offs like rainy weather or fewer wildlife sightings. Check out our breakdown of the best time to cruise based on destination, weather, and price:

Alaska

Regent Seven Seas -Alaska's most luxurious ships
Regent Seven Seas -Alaska’s most luxurious ships

Best Price: Mid-May to early June and late August to mid-September. The trade-off: Cooler weather, less wildlife activity, and (in September) more rain.  Best Weather: For longer days, dry weather, and warm temperatures, the best time to cruise in Alaska is late June through mid-July.  We Recommend: Salmon run season (mid- to late July) is when the bears are most active. If you’re interested in whales, however, August is when you’re mostly likely to spot them.

Australia and New Zealand

Milford Sound, New Zealand - Photo by Rawpixel.com
Milford Sound, New Zealand

Best Price: November to mid-March, except for holidays.  Best Weather: December and January are warm and dry. Avoid cyclone season (early December and late May) in Australia; New Zealand is rarely impacted.  We Recommend: New Year’s Eve is the highlight of the year in Australia; cruise to New Zealand during reliably sunny December and January.

Bermuda

A white-sand beach on Bermuda - Photo by SIME / eStockPhoto
A white-sand beach on Bermuda

Best Price: March, April, and November.  Best Weather: Bermuda is often in the path of storms during hurricane season (early June through late November), with the biggest risk from August through October. May through July is usually ideal.  We Recommend: Cruise during Bermuda’s festival season (winter through early summer) for cultural events like the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, which draws artists from around the world.

Canada and New England

Annisquam Lighthouse, Massachusetts - Photo by Christian Delbert
Annisquam Lighthouse, Massachusetts

Best Price: June through early September, as well as late October.  Best Weather: Temperatures are warmer in the summer months, and June, July, and September are driest.  We Recommend: Fall “leaf-peeping” season runs from the second or third week of September to mid-October.

Caribbean

Caribbean Photo by Sean Pavone
Caribbean Photo

Best Price: January, May, and September.  Best Weather: Hurricane season lasts from June through November, so winter is prime time. We Recommend: Winter is a no-brainer. (Plus, it’s colder up north and kids are in school, so ships are less crowded.)

Hawaii

Disney Wonder off the coast of Kauai - Photo by Disney Cruise Line
Disney Wonder off the coast of Kauai

Best Price: Between October and early December.  Best Weather: The rainy season runs from November through March, so the weather is best between April and October.  We Recommend: Since the prices are stable year-round, choose a sailing between April and October.

Mediterranean

Carnival Freedom in Venice - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Freedom in Venice

Best Price: October through February, except for holidays.  Best Weather: The peak season is May through August; however, if you’re looking at small-ship cruises, beware of the Meltemi winds in the Aegean Sea. We Recommend: In summer, tourists overwhelm many ports. If you’re looking to avoid the flocks, consider early fall, when the weather is still warm but kids are back in school.

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Splendor sails way from Cabo - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Splendor sails way from Cabo

Best Price: September and January. Best Weather: Summer is often uncomfortably hot along the Pacific Coast, so sail during late fall or winter. We Recommend: Score great deals by sailing here in winter, which is more likely to be cold back home.

Northern Europe

Seven Seas Voyager in the Norwegian fjords - Photo by Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Seven Seas Voyager in the Norwegian fjords – Photo by Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Best Price: The season is short (May through August), so there aren’t many bargains. Try to snag a deal on the first or last cruise of the season. Best Weather: Conditions during summer are perfect. We Recommend: If you want to avoid crowds, cruise in early May or late August.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal - Photo by Heeb Photos / eStockPhoto
The Panama Canal

Best Price: April, September, and early January. Some lines offer longer repositioning cruises in May and September; if you can spare the time, these are the best per diem deals anywhere. Best Weather: December through February offers warm temperatures and the least rain. We Recommend: From December through February, the weather is best, shops stay open later, and street festivals abound.

South America

The Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro - Photo by Fuse / Thinkstock
The Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro

Best Price: November and late April to early May. Best Weather: December and January are typically most pleasant, but the farther south you travel from the equator, the more varied the climate. Seas are rough near Cape Horn and Antarctica, regardless of the month. We Recommend: December and January offer the best temperatures and the most wildlife. The Carnival of Brazil is the five days leading up to Ash Wednesday.

 

GAME ON – Changing the game of the all inclusive

Christine Rakes OF Total Experience Travel ATTENDS SANDALS RESORTS’ LUXURY INCLUDED® WORSKSHOP IN Cary, NC

Chris Rakes - certified Sandals & Beaches Resorts specialist
Chris Rakes – certified @Sandals & @Beaches Resorts specialist

Raleigh, NC 6/29/16– On June 21, 2016, Christine Rakes of Total Experience Travel participated in an intensive travel agent workshop administered by Unique Vacations, Inc. (UVI), an affiliate of the worldwide sales and marketing representative for Sandals, Beaches, and Grand Pineapple Beach resorts. Each workshop – The Closer You Look the Better we Look… –offers detailed information on Sandals Resorts International extensive portfolio – comprised of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts – as well as an overview of new developments, services and amenities. All who participate in the workshop are eligible to become Certified Sandals Specialists (CSS), an elite group of travel agents recognized by Unique Vacations, Inc. and the travel industry as experts in the worlds only Luxury Included® Resorts.

Beaches!
Beaches!

According to Chris of TET, there is a serious job at hand, understanding the nuances of each brand within the Sandals Resorts portfolio which is critical to her customers.  “My clients rely on me to help them make the best vacation choices so that every hard-earned dollar they spend is giving them true value,” said Rakes.  “I am thrilled to have been a part of this workshop. I have come away with a wealth of knowledge. My clients want to feel confident that the information they receive is based on expert knowledge and now, my Certified Sandals Specialist designation does just that.”

Need help finding this spot?
Need help finding this spot?

According to Gary Sadler, Senior Vice President of Sales at UVI, relying on a CSS travel agent is one of the best ways consumers can get the most out of their Caribbean vacation.  “Vacations are memories in the making,” said Sadler.  “You don’t get a second chance to celebrate the perfect honeymoon or family reunion. It has to be just right. CSS agents such as Christine are helping us to match customers to their ideal vacation experience. We congratulate Christine for participating in our workshop, and wish her the very best.”

Chris Rakes of Total Experience Travel (TET) is a certified @Sandals Resorts Specialist and valued partner
Chris Rakes of Total Experience Travel (TET) is a certified @Sandals @Beaches Resorts Specialist and a valued partner

 

Contact Chris today to plan your best all inclusive vacation yet! 919.589.2437

 

Dreaming of A Destination Wedding? It’s Easier Than You Think.

Beach Wedding Setting Option
Beach Wedding Setting Option

Having just returned from another phenomenal Sandals Resorts training seminar, I find myself thinking once again; why do I sell anything other than Sandals?  It’s a rhetorical question I know because not every brand or resort is perfect for every person.  And, first and foremost I always want to do what’s best for each of my clients.  However, if you are considering a Destination Wedding, it’s almost impossible for me to imagine that one of the Sandals Wedding-Moon packages and resorts isn’t perfect for you!

Garden & Beach Settings to Choose From
Garden & Beach Settings to Choose From

The training was held at the extraordinary Sandals Royal Bahamian.  SRB is a legendary resort steeped rich in history. On the cosmopolitan shores of Nassau, the once-famed Balmoral Club of the 1940s, hosted such nobility as the Duke & Duchess of Windsor as well as celebrities like The Beatles. Today the iconic Sandals Royal Bahamian is a regal place of exceptional beauty and sophisticated elegance. SRB unites two vacations in one; from the manicured gardens and refined atmosphere of the main resort to an exotic offshore island adventure.

Sandals Royal Bahamian is located on Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas
Sandals Royal Bahamian is located on Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas

Located on the world renowned Cable Beach, SRB is in an enviable spot in the heart of it all.  With full and easy access to all of Nassau, you can still be a world away. You can travel like royalty to and from the airport in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce; participate in all manners of water play in the crystal clear aquamarine waters of the Bahamas; relax on the pure white sand beaches looking out at the

Swim-Up Butler Suite & Garden Villa Options
Swim-Up Butler Suite & Garden Villa Options

stunning turquoise waters; get your game on with an abundance of land sports; give your mind, body and soul a chance to relax and reenergize at the Red Lane Spa; and take a culinary journey each day among 10 superb international dining restaurants. You can stay in suites so luxurious they can only be called “Love Nest Dream Suites” and celebrate each evening with a wide variety of entertainment. You can literally do it all or nothing at all.

Full Wedding Team & Variety of Options
Full Wedding Team & Variety of Options

With the focus of our training on Destination Weddings and Honeymoons, we learned A LOT! For instance, did you know you can fully customize your wedding and still have a 100% stress-free experience?  From color schemes to cake flavors, cocktail & reception menu items, entertainment choices; whatever it is, it’s Your Choice!

Signature Cocktails Made to Order
Signature Cocktails Made to Order

You pick the ceremony location, reception location; you pick it all with a dedicated and professional wedding team assigned to help you every step of the way. You and your bridal party can get your hair and nails done, and do a mock run too, if you like!  Like the idea of a signature cocktail? Done! Everything part of the customary wedding rituals done at home, can be done at a destination wedding, only better!

Bespoken Table Setting Option
Bespoken Table Setting Option

If you have friends and family coming from all over to help you celebrate your wedding, seriously consider a destination wedding. Not only will you have a stress-free wedding to remember, you will give your guests an unforgettable reunion and vacation!

And, everyone will have the time of their lives!!

Barefoot & Formal Reception Options
Barefoot & Formal Reception Options

FOR MORE ABOUT DESTINATION WEDDINGS CONTACT ME, Chris Rakes.  919.589.2437 / crakes@totalexperiencetravel.com

Christine Rakes; Destination Wedding & Honeymoons Specialist and Luxury Cruise, All Inclusive Expert.
Chris is a Destination Wedding & Honeymoons Specialist and Luxury Cruise, All Inclusive Expert.

More pictures on Total Experience Travel Facebook Page.

Is the all-inclusive experience for you?

All-inclusive resorts are designed for relaxation. From the moment you step off the plane, everything is taken care of. Need a drink? You got it. Want to play a round of golf? The staff will arrange it. Just want to enjoy the beach or pool? They’ll guide to you to cozy cabanas complete with drink and snack service. While all-inclusives may sound like a dream vacation, consider the following before you book.

Palm Trees and Tropical Breezes
Palm Trees and Tropical Breezes

Pros

  • You’re busy, and you want to relax, but don’t have the time to spend shopping around for hotels, airfare, or activities. All-inclusive resorts take the stress out of planning a vacation. Book your trip, and the resort handles the rest.
  • Often your flights, airport transportation and activities are included with your booking – making your arrival and departure as stress-free as possible.
  • Since you’ve paid up front, you’re less likely to stray from your budget. You won’t need extra money for tips and other typical vacation expenses.
  • Forget about cooking, grocery shopping, or figuring out where to eat; all your meals and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are
    Refreshing poolside and beach-side drinks
    Refreshing poolside and beach-side drinks

    included in your booking fee. Resorts typically offer a few different dining spots for travelers as well.

  • All-inclusive vacations are great for groups and couples alike. With adult-only and family-friendly options, you can choose as much alone or together time with your companions as you desire. Plus, many family-friendly resorts  have special clubs to keep kids occupied.

Cons

  • When you book an all-inclusive, you’re committing to staying on a resort, which can be claustrophobic for some travelers. If you are the type of traveler who likes spontaneity and experiencing local flavor, skip the all-inclusive option and plot out your own path.
  • Check with the resort to make sure the offerings work for you.

    Resorts vary in size
    Resorts vary in size
  • All-inclusive activities are available, but are limited and first come, first served. You may end up spending more money on things you want to do outside of the resort.
Chris Rakes - Cruise, Tour, All Inclusive Expert and Honeymoon & Group Travel Specialist.
Chris Rakes – Cruise, Tour, All Inclusive Expert and Honeymoon & Group Travel Specialist.

Whether you’re an all-inclusive traveler, or are looking to blaze your own trail, the vacation you want is waiting for you. Use a trusted Travel Pro to help you decipher best options and book your bucket-list experience, for the same price as booking direct.

The Caribbean Is A Premier Destination But, Did You Know?

The islands of the Caribbean comprise one of the world’s premier vacation destinations, a naturally beautiful landscape of sunny blue skies, powdery white-sand beaches and year-round warm weather.

Antigua - Barbuda
Antigua – Barbuda

The region features more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs and cays, and consists of the Greater Antilles, bounding the Caribbean Sea on the north, and the Lesser Antilles and Leeward Antilles on the south and east. The region also includes the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos islands, in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba.  Bermuda, situated in the Atlantic, north of the Caribbean Sea, and the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba, are also considered parts of the Caribbean.

turks-caicos
turks-caicos

The Greater Antilles include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, and are by far the largest countries in the area and generally the ones most visited by travelers. The largest cities include Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Kingston, Jamaica; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Port of Spain, Trinidad.  Antigua and Barbuda are located in the Eastern Caribbean’s Leeward Islands, while Aruba is the smallest of the Dutch Caribbean islands.

The Caribbean is organized into 27 territories including sovereign states, overseas departments, and dependencies that reflect Afro-Caribbean, native American, Arawak, Carib, Taino, Spanish, French, British, Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese cultural influences.

Bermuda
Bermuda

The Caribbean has long been a resort vacation destination for families, honeymooners and retirees. In recent years Caribbean travel has diversified to include historical, adventure, cuisine, eco-tourism and cultural exploration-oriented vacations.

For example San Juan, Puerto Rico is the oldest city under the United States dominion and features distinctive century-old architecture, including Spanish military forts dating from the 1540s to the 1800s. San Juan also offers an active harbor, magnificent beaches and a wide array of hotels, plazas, museums, and historic sites.

Jamaica is the Caribbean’s third-largest island with six main tourist regions – Montego Bay, Negril, Mandeville and The South Coast, Kingston, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios.

Ocho Rios is a top cruise ship port and also features lush bays and beaches including Runaway Bay, and Discovery Bay.  Just inland lies Dunn’s River Falls – a long-popular attraction. Montego Bay is another vacation center featuring sailing, scuba diving, jet skiing, parasailing, sport fishing and glass-bottom boat excursions.

Barbados
Barbados

Meanwhile, Barbados offers sugary beaches, powerful surf, plus luxurious hotels, inns and villas. The island’s premier festival, Crop Over is traditionally celebrated the end of the sugar season, lasts for five weeks and features markets, carnival shows, calypso concerts and colorful parades. The Barbados Jazz Festival offers a week of live performances, each at a different island venue. Sunbury Plantation House dates back to 1660 and offers antiques ranging from carriages and farm implements.

Caribbean cuisine is enormously varied. Many Caribbean cooks and chefs train overseas before returning home to fuse outside ideas with traditional island cuisine, which features spicy stews and soups and créole recipes utilizing vegetables like yams, cassava and okra. The region’s wide varieties of fruit are used in refreshing island drinks. Caribbean rum is among the world’s finest, and the region also features many distinctive local beers.

The overall Caribbean climate is tropical, although rainfall varies with a destination’s elevation, size and water currents. Warm tradewinds from the east create rainforests and arid, semi-desert regions on mountainous islands. The Caribbean enjoys year-round sunshine, plus dry and wet seasons. Air transportation to the region is widely available from major U.S. gateways, and there are several inter and intra-island air transportation providers. The Caribbean is the cruise industry’s number one destination, and major cruise ports are scattered across the region.

Chris Rakes - Travel Planner and Honeymoon & Group Specialist
Chris Rakes – Cruise, Tour & All Inclusive Expert

 

Use a trusted travel professional to help plan your Caribbean Cruise or All Inclusive  Resort vacation!  Contact me at  919.589.2437  crakes@totalexperiencetravel.com

My Visit to Sandals Whitehouse

european whitehouse

While I’m still reeling, I wanted to take some time and share a little about my most recent stay at Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, located on the south coast of Jamaica, just a short ride from Montego Bay Airport.

To start, the Jamaican Government has just completed a multi-million dollar rehabilitation on the road leading to the resort, making for a smooth and easy ride from Montego Bay’s airport.  euro whitehouse 3 Upon getting to my room, not only was I taken with the spacious accommodations and gorgeous decor but the views were breathtaking.  I couldn’t help but just stand on the balcony and take in the ocean breeze.  One of the many unique features of Sandals Whitehouse is that you are guaranteed an ocean view regardless of room category.

That evening, I was able to enjoy the romantic fire pits scattered throughout the property before heading to the group cocktail party and dinner at Bluefields.  The next 2 nights, we took advantage  of Gourmet Discovery Dining.   Before and after dinner I enjoyed a gorgeous sunset catamaran sail and singing songs with new friends at the martini piano bar.

euro whitehouse 2

 

 

 

 

 

New friends at Sandals
New friends at Sandals

The Sandals Whitehouse resort boasts 360 rooms and suites, 7 restaurants, and the luxurious Red Lane® Spa. It is set beachfront within a 500-acre nature preserve where three distinctive European Villages – French, Italian and Dutch – are set along a 2 mile stretch of beach.  Thanks to Gourmet Discovery Dining, between lunches and dinners, I made it to Bayside, Neptunes, Jasmines and Giuseppe’s.  Choices were varied and dishes delightfully prepared!

Gourmet Discovery Dining:  Sandals Whitehouse has 7 sensational dining options.    Restaurants include Giuseppe’s, a cozy Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating; Jasmine’s,  specializing in pan-Asian cuisine;  Café de Paris, a Parisian-style patisserie; Eleanor’s, specializing in authentic West Indian dishes;  Bayside Restaurant, overlooking the pier and Caribbean Sea;   Bluefields Beach Club, the casual beachside grill;  and Neptune’s, the oceanview seafood restaurant. eurowhitehouse 4  In addition, Sandals Whitehouse serves Robert Mondavi Wines as well as an enhanced Manager’s Wine List.

Accommodations:   Sandals Whitehouse is designed so that everyone, no matter where the location of their room, can enjoy views of the sea.   eurowhitehouse 5  With all beachfront rooms, including 80 lavish suites, every accommodation is designed to bring the outdoors in with spectacular views from beach view balconies and walk-out patios close to the water’s edge.

 

eurowhitehouse 6  Entertainment:   With three pools (including Jamaica’s largest pool) and four whirlpools, unlimited land and water sports, and unlimited diving, there is something for everyone to enjoy during their days at Sandals Whitehouse.  This visit, I mostly just took advantage of the beach and pool.  At night, the energy level kicked up a notch with shows at the amphitheater, opulent beach parties or at the lively piano bar.   Daily and nightly experiences include exciting beachside activities and themes such as Talent Night, Carnival Party, Caribbean Night, Live Bands, White Night.

eurowhitehouse 7

I saw two weddings while there. One was on the beach during sunset. The other alongside the newly manicured lush gardens. There really is something for every bride and groom at Sandals. With its romantic wedding locales, wide array of beautiful suites and enhanced amenities, Whitehouse makes it the perfect location for friends and family to celebrate together!

As a Certified Sandals Specialist, and Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Expert, I am happy to help you narrow down the perfect resort for your special occasion or first time together as Mr & Mrs.

Contact me today to get started!

Chris Rakes - certified Sandals & Beaches Resorts specialist
Chris Rakes – Sandals & Beaches Resorts certified specialist

919.589.2437 / CRakes@totalexperiencetravel.com