Posts

Back in July, I had the pleasure of staying at Couples Tower Isle. This beautiful all-inclusive, adults-only, couples hotel is located in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This property was built in 1949 and was the first resort built on Jamaica’s undeveloped north coast. In 1978, the founder, Abraham Issa introduced the “all-inclusive, couples-only” concept to Jamaica, and the Tower Isle was renamed, Couples Ocho Rios. The property was again renamed years later as Couples Tower Isle.

While this resort has been renovated, the art deco architecture remains.

The Pool Grill – Open for lunch and dinner as well as late night food service.

I found many things to love about this resort, but the food was definitely a highlight! There were many restaurants to choose from, however with COVID-19, not every restaurant was open every day, so we had to plan our meals out to make sure we hit as many restaurants as we could. Reservations are required for dinner at most restaurants and it was super easy to make them the app for our entire stay.

We ate most of our meals at The Patio which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They offer both a buffet (currently modified with a server plating the items you select) and an á la carte menu. Our favorite meal was at 8 Rivers. This restaurant has a glamorous 1950s era feel, serving classic food while incorporating local Jamaican and Caribbean ingredients. Reservations are required and a dress code is enforced. Dinner at The Verandah was also a treat! The website describes it as, “For those nights when you crave continental cuisine at its finest.” While it was continental cuisine, the chefs elevated it in both the fusion of flavors and presentation.

One restaurant that we did not get to try was Bayside. I heard incredible things about the casual and candle-lit Asian restaurant situated on the sea.

This resort is very romantic and great for couples celebrating their honeymoon or anniversary. They do offer nightly entertainment with live music and dance shows including resident band and cabaret performances, but the resort gets pretty quiet at night.

While there are garden view rooms, most guest rooms face the Caribbean Sea, many with views of Tower Isle. Tower Isle is a small private island for au naturel sunbathing. The beach here is small but private so you will not encounter vendors trying to sell you anything. During our stay, the water and beach were full of seaweed and there were red flag warnings, so we didn’t spend much time there. Luckily there are two pools, one with a swim-up bar that we enjoyed.

Every room features air conditioning plus a ceiling fan, private balcony or patio furnished with wide cushion seating and an outdoor table, large bathroom with a shower or tub, IPOD/MP3 player, satellite flat-screen TV, coffee maker, iron and ironing board, in-room safe, complimentary minibar that is refreshed daily, and nightly turndown service (the turndown service is currently on hold due to COVID-19). The furniture in the rooms felt a bit dated, but the rooms were clean and comfortable. The bed was so comfortable, we slept like babies.

Being a travel agent, I do have the opportunity to stay at a variety of resorts. Couples Tower Isle is now one of my favorites. The hotel itself felt special with its art deco architecture. The views were incredible and the staff was lovely! This resort felt like home to me. I think it is a great choice for a couple looking for a quiet, relaxing getaway.

To see more of this resort and the other Couples Resorts I visited on this trip, visit my YouTube channel

After traveling to Jamaica at the end of July and having such a good experience, I jumped at the chance to go to Cancun last week. Spoiler alert, it was quite a different experience. 

I flew from Grand Rapids to Chicago and on to Cancun. Both of my flights were full, in fact, over-sold. American Airlines was still implementing the same safety protocols — mandatory face masks, no in-flight service, and asking all passengers to remain seated during the duration of the flight. Unlike a few of the other airlines, they are not leaving the middle seat open. 

Other than the flight because being completely packed, it was fine. I wasn’t super comfortable, but I wore my mask and face shield and tried to relax. For this trip I was traveling alone, so I think that made me a bit more on edge. 

While in Jamaica, the resorts where we stayed were around 20% occupancy. There was social distancing and serious safety precautions. For this trip, because it was hosted, I was not able to select the resort for my stay. Our group of travel agents were placed at the RIU Palace Peninsula in the Hotel Zone in Cancun. 

The resort was at 60% capacity which was the government allowance at the time I traveled. This felt like a lot to me. The resort didn’t feel crowded, but felt very full.

RIU Palace Peninsula

During COVID-19, everyones comfort level is different and I understand that. Personally, I traveled within my comfort level and am pointing out the practices and protocols that bother me. In my opinion, The RIU Palace Peninsula did a lot of things “right”…

  • Hand sanitizing upon entry to the hotel.
  • Washing/wiping of your shoes upon entering the hotel. 
  • Thermal temperature taken as you enter. 
  • Social distancing markers at check-in and at the buffets. 
  • Plexiglass barriers are the front desk. 
  • Enforcing masks be worn in the lobby and when you order at bars (with one exception). 
  • Elevators were marked for 4 guests per elevator.

However there were a few things that I felt they did very wrong and these few points bothered me. A LOT.

  • Buffets were still self serve with shared serving utensils (I was told they were changed out every 30 minutes and did see them changed once).
  • Social distancing was almost never followed by guests, especially at the buffet where guests would come right up behind you. In my experience when I hung back, guests would cut right in front of me.
  • Tables were not spaced out and there were no outdoor dining options.

I had quite a few problems with my stay at the RIU Palace Peninsula, as did almost all of the agents that I traveled with, but that’s a story for another day. Don’t ever request to stay there because I won’t send you. It was that bad.

The good news is that I visited 8 other properties in Cancun and saw and learned a ton! There are many resorts where I would feel comfortable staying and booking clients during this time. I think that the biggest takeaway from this trip is that to travel during COVID-19, you need to understand the protocols of each resort and where they fall within your comfort level. This is why traveling during this time is so important for me to do for my clients.

Will this experience deter me from traveling again soon? Absolutely not!!! Having visited two different countries now within the last 90 days, I feel comfortable traveling at this time and hope to get on a plane again soon! 😉

About a month ago, my husband and I visited Jamaica. While some of you may believe it is irresponsible to travel during this time, please remember that this is part of my job. I have many clients traveling over the next few months (quite a few to Jamaica) and part of my job to advise them. There is no better way to let them know what to expect than to experience it myself. That is why when Couples Resorts in Jamaica invited us down to spend five days learning all about their resorts, we jumped at the opportunity.

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that we had second thoughts after confirming that we would join them. It wasn’t being in Jamacia that worried me, but rather the plane ride. Flights were limited and we departed from Chicago O’Hare, connected in Charlotte, and continued on to Montego Bay, Jamaica. 

We had our masks and face shields and hoped for the best. O’Hare Airport was nearly empty, as was our plane to Charlotte. The connecting flight to Montego Bay was about 80% full but no one sat next to us, although we did have people in the rows in front of and behind us.

Overall the flights went really well. Most everyone stayed seated throughout the duration of the flights and practiced social distancing as best they could. There was no beverage service on any of the flights and instead, we were handed a bag upon entering the place with a bottle of water, biscoff cookies, and a hand wipe.

Jamaica has regulations to enter the country including an approved travel authorization, negative COVID-19 test depending on your state of residence, health screening upon arrival, and temperature checks. There are also restrictions on where you can go within the country. We were required to sign a statement agreeing that we would not leave the resort.

Traveling right now is not for everyone. There are lots of rules and if you do not yet feel comfortable doing it there is no rush. But if you are comfortable and willing to follow the strict guidelines you may find yourself in what seems like your very own paradise as crowd levels are very low. I had such a good experience that in a few weeks I’m off again, this time to Cancun!

There may not be a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom this year but that doesn’t mean that Halloween won’t be celebrated! From September 15 to October 31 you are sure to “fall” in love with Magic Kingdom Park all over again. You will be able to soak in the aura of autumn with Main Street, U.S.A. dressed in fall décor, and other seasonal offerings.  

There will be some bewitching surprises this year, including a special Halloween-themed cavalcade with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and pals wearing their favorite Halloween costumes. You may even spot those rascally chipmunks, Chip ‘n’ Dale, in costume over in Frontierland, and look for other Disney character friends dressed up and riding the horse-drawn trolley down Main Street, U.S.A. 

And speaking of costumes, you will want to get yours ready! To bring some Halloween party fun into the park this year, for the first time guests of all ages can wear their funniest, Disney-ist, most creative costumes during Magic Kingdom regular operating hours from September 15 to October 31. As an important reminder, costume masks are not permitted for adults; only children younger than 14 years old are permitted to wear costume masks. In addition, all guests are required to wear approved face coverings during their visit. 

Halloween is one my most favorite times to be in the Magic Kingdom! I LOVE pumpkin-themed wreaths that adorn lampposts up and down Main Street, U.S.A. We also love the specialty themed holiday Disney PhotoPass photo opps! Photographers will be available throughout the park for themed photo opps. But beware – happy haunts may materialize in the pictures! 

A holiday at Walt Disney World wouldn’t be complete without treats! Here is a list of everything the parks have to offer:

Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey Cinnamon Roll (Available at Main Street Bakery) – Mickey-shaped cinnamon roll drizzled with orange and white icing 
  • Cinnamon Donuts (Available at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café) – Served in a Hitchhiking Ghost Novelty container 
  • Hades Nachos (Available at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café) – Black bean nacho chips with “fiery” buffalo chicken, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa, and jalapeño 
  • Constance’s For Better or For Worse Wedding Cake (Available at Liberty Square Market) – Citrus cake with raspberry Bavarian cream, whipped cream flowers, and a chocolate axe 
  • Pumpkin Spiced Waffle Sundae (Available at Sleepy Hollow) –Pumpkin spice-flavored waffled topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and sprinkles 
  • Poor Unfortunate Souls Float (Available at Storybook Treats)– Cream cheese soft-serve, black raspberry syrup, and Coke 
  • Pumpkin Spice Milkshake (Available at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies) – Topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, sprinkles, and a Mickey-shaped marshmallow straw
  • Pumpkin Spice Soft-Serve Sundae (Available at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies) – Served as a sundae topped with whipped cream, caramel, and sprinkles
  • Mickey Monster Mash Burger (Available at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café) – Burger with Meunster cheese, potato barrels, bacon, and sriracha aïoli 
  • Headless Horseman Rides Again (Available at Sunshine Tree Terrace) – Strawberry DOLE® Whip with Fanta Strawberry and a Headless Horseman Novelty Straw 
  • Not So Poison Apple Cupcake (Available at Pinocchio Village House) – A spiced apple cupcake with pecan crunch buttercream themed after a poison apple 
  • Orange and Black Sugar Churros (Available at Various Churro Carts and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café) 
  • Oogie Boogie Dice Novelty Glow Cubes (Available at Various Quick-Service Restaurants) 
  • Jack Skellington Sipper (Available at Various Quick-Service Restaurants and Outdoor Vending Locations) 
  • Oogie Boogie Premium Popcorn Bucket (Available at Various Popcorn Carts throughout the Magic Kingdom) 
  • Mickey Pumpkin Premium Popcorn Bucket (Available at Various Popcorn Carts) 
  • Halloween Base Popcorn Bucket (Available at Various Popcorn Carts)

EPCOT

  • Halloween Cupcake (Available on Halloween Day Only at Sunshine Seasons) – Choice of vanilla or chocolate cupcake with buttercream and a Mickey Pumpkin garnish 
  • Nemo & Squirt’s Noggin Concoction (Available on Halloween Day Only at Coral Reef Restaurant) – Chocolate brownie stuffed with a chocolate chip cookie topped with white chocolate-covered pretzels and a Mickey Pumpkin Garnish 
  • Halloween Sugar Cookie (Available on Halloween Day Only at Traveler’s Café and Garden Grill) – Sugar cookie topped with Halloween Sprinkles 
  • Liquid Nitro Cake Pop (Available on Halloween Day Only at Desserts & Champagne Marketplace in World Showplace for EPCOT Taste of International Food & Wine Festival) – Liquid nitro chocolate cake pop with Halloween sprinkles 
  • Oogie Boogie Premium Popcorn Bucket (Available Canada Popcorn Cart and Fife & Drum) 
  • Green Cauldron Premium Popcorn Bucket (Available at Eats at EPCOT Experience and Mission Space Popcorn Cart) 
  • Halloween Base Popcorn Bucket (Available at all EPCOT Popcorn Locations) 
  • Tire Pumpkin Novelty Straw (Available at Sunshine Seasons and Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue) 

Animal Kingdom

  • Scar Cupcake (Available at Creature Comforts, Flame Tree Barbecue, and Restaurantosaurus) – Red velvet cupcake with toasted marshmallow filling, chocolate marshmallow frosting, chocolate pebbles, white chocolate flames, and an edible icing image  
  • Spooky Apple Punch Specialty Beverage (Non-Alcoholic) (Available at Flame Tree Barbecue and Isle of Java) – Sprite with Monin Apple Syrup poured over ice, garnished with a rocky candy apple straw, a gummy worm, a Novelty Poison Apple Glow Cube, and a sugar lime rim 
  • Rotten Apple Punch Specialty Beverage (Alcoholic) (Available Flame Tree Barbecue) – Angry Orchard and Fireball Cinnamon Whisky over ice, garnished with a rocky candy apple straw, a Novelty Poison Apple Glow Cube, and gummy worms 
  • Tire Pumpkin Novelty Straw (Available at Tamu Tamu, Trek Snacks, Restaurantosaurus, TriloBites, and Outdoor Vending Ice Cream Carts)  
  • Purple Cauldron Premium Popcorn Bucket (Available at Trek Snacks) 
  • Halloween Base Popcorn Bucket (Available at Trek Snacks)

Hollywood Studios

  • Poison Candied Apple (Available at Trolley Car Café) – Apple and caramel mousse covered in red glaze with a crunchy candy base 
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake Cannoli (Available at PizzeRizzo) – Pumpkin cheesecake mixed with a hazelnut praline crunch in a cannoli shell 
  • Pumpkin Tiramisu (Available at Rosie’s All-American Café) –Layers of cream mascarpone and spiced pumpkin cake 
  • Box of Bones Chocolate Éclair (Available at Backlot Express)– Chocolate éclair with dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate bones Frozen Apple Cider (Non-Alcoholic) (Available at Rosie’s All-American Café, Backlot Express, and PizzeRizzo) – Served with a Novelty Poison Apple Glow Cube 
  • Frozen Apple Cider with Crown Royal Regal Apple (Alcoholic) (Available at Rosie’s All-American Café, Backlot Express, and PizzeRizzo) – Served with a Novelty Poison Apple Glow Cube 
  • Orange Cauldron Premium Popcorn Bucket (Available at Anahiem Produce, Hollywood Popcorn, and Animation Popcorn) 
  • Tire Pumpkin Novelty Straw (Available at Rosie’s All-American Café, Backlot Express, PizzeRizzo, and Anaheim Produce) 

Who is ready to visit the most magical place on earth this Fall? Contact me today for a free, no-obligation quote.