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Trip Reports

Valentin Imperial

If Disney built a tropical all-inclusive resort, The Valentin Imperial would be the blueprint. The theming of the property is reminiscence of a Spanish manor: Large, wrought iron chandeliers, peaceful water-features, mosaic tile, and lush vegetation. You immediately feel as if you're the special guest of a wealthy Spanish land owner. Beautiful marble tile floors and expansive, high archway welcome you to the one the most beautiful lobbies in the Cancun area.

Lobby Check-In Area

The expansive, well-landscaped property contains wide, stamped concrete walkways that make you feel like your hundreds of miles from civilization, yet all the meandering walkways make everything on the property conveniently located. 

Wide, stamped pathways lead the way to everywhere.

Night lights illuminate all the paths after sunset. Your morning and evening walks will be enjoyed with the subtle music being played through speakers that line each walkway.

The Valentin Imperial has the LARGEST pool of the 10+ all-inclusive resorts we've visited in Cancun. 

A second, quiet pool, is just steps away from all the amenities surrounding the large pool, yet somehow maintains its peaceful and relaxing feel. Trust me, this pool may look “plain jane" or boring but that's exactly what you want at the “quiet" pool. The palapas surrounding the pool provided welcomed shade, or you can pull your chair out into the sun – either way, this is a great place for “nap time".

My morning walk provided this great image of the quite pool.

Before I leave the pool conversation, I want to point out the only food available at the pool is from the Pool Bum Food Truck. But it offered plenty of variety. You could choose to eat at one of many tables under the shade or grub on your food of choice lounging poolside. 

What about the beach? Well, well, well…Valentin has one of the best beaches! Not only does Valentin Imperial have one of the largest (and nicest pools), they have a fantastic beach! Check out the walkway to the beach…subtle, yet it builds anticipation.

Early morning champagne in hand....beach time!

Just before you access the beach, the Sunrise Bar greets you on the left with a fantastic view and colorful drinks.

The Sunrise Bar is a great location to swing or sit at a table to enjoy a great ocean view or just to contemplate life…

:quot:There:apos:s no place like...the Riviera Maya:quot:

Or dare I say it….check emails! There's Tammy – always working.

Always checking on her clients!

We grab our drinks and head out to the beach. Wide, expansive, and plenty of palapas to choose from.

Cheers!

Let's visit the rooms. We were fortunate to stay in the Junior Suite Silver Superior building. When you first look at the property map you may think, “it's not close to the pool" or “it's not close to the beach" or “it's not close to the restaurants". On the contrary, this location was perfect…it may not close to any one particular area but it was super convenient to everywhere. Of course there wasn't a pool or beach view from our room but if location convenience is high on your priority list, this is a great option. 

Building 1 was surprisingly convenient to everything.

After a short golf cart ride, we make the quick walk to our room through the lush landscape.

Here we go! Time to tour some other rooms!

Astrid and Tammy leading the way!

Let's get to the good stuff. Welcome to the Junior Suites Emerald.

Now this is a walk-in shower...with a view!

Relax the day away with this view.

On our way to the Golden Pool area!

Walking along the Golden Pool

Not to be outdone, this next room is part of the Junior Suite Golden options. All the rooms in these buildings have either a view with quick access, or swim up access to the Golden Pool.

Great view of the Golden Pool

This would be your view for a swim up room.

And our room tour is complete! Thanks to Astrid for showing us around and answering all our questions!

Astrid rocked those high heels like a pro!

Food!

What about the food you ask? Well, there was plenty of it…and it was ALL delicious. We ate Mediterranean (L'Olivo), Mexican (LaHacienda) , Japanese (Ginger), and Surf/Turf (Mar y Tierra Restaurant) during our stay. We did not have time to visit L'Alsace (French Cuisine) or Taman Sari (Asian).

I'm just going to post these pictures below and let you delight in their presentation.

Ginger - Sushi

Ginger: Teriyaki Beef

L:apos:Olivo: Chicken Breast stuffed with mascarpone and saffron sauce.

If you have a someone in your family who just wants good 'ol fashion bacon, sausage, eggs, etc for breakfast, well, they have that too! Plus a crepe station for the more refined members of your family 😉

Oh! I almost forgot to mention our favorite after-dinner spot: Don Miguel Bar. What a beautiful, sophisticated bar. Elegantly decorated and home to several signature drinks. My fave was the Blackberry margarita.

Well, that brings us to the end of another trip report. I hope you enjoyed this quick look at The Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya. Here a quick summary of our Pros/Cons of Valentin:

Pros:

  • The resort has a soul, meaning you feel like family.
  • The roadway entrance is impressive, and the drive onto the property is very prominent and tropical. 
  • The Lobby (Majestic in all its grandeur)
  • Service
  • Food Truck – The Pool Bum
  • Ginger Restaurant
  • Ambiance
  • Don Miguel Bar

Areas for Improvement:

  • No restaurant directional signage
  • Lack of Beach/Pool Towels (You are provided one towel each in your room for the beach/pool)
  • Small Fitness Facility
  • No poolside pizza

Remember, you can also follow Tammy on Tiktok @travelagenttammy or Facebook: Exclusive Travel by Tammy.

We look forward to sharing more resorts with you soon! Until then – cheers!

Secrets Maroma

Welcome to Secrets Maroma. One of our favorite All-Inclusive Resorts.

Secrets Maroma ranks in the Top 3 of all the resorts we've visited. Two of their amenities, the beach and the food, rank #1 overall.

Lets get some of the formalities out of the way before I over-indulge your senses with pictures of the beach and food. 

Below is the modest check-in area for guests.

After checking in, your know you've arrived on vacation when you walk into this beautiful lobby.

Here's a view from the other side of the lobby. This marble slab with falling water is the lobby's impressive centerpiece.

If you are visiting as a Preferred Level Guest, this will be your check-in area.

The Preferred Bar is a great place to get a drink during check-in.

Sometimes we would walk over to the bar mid-day to stretch our legs and grab an adult beverage.

This property has some of the best all-around views. 

Eddie is an early riser, and his walks around the property in the morning provide some great images.

His walks always take him to the beach for sunrise.

Secrets Maroma has one the best beach front properties in Cancun.

Occasionally you may hear about seaweed. This can be a common problem for most beaches in Cancun.  The resorts can't do anything to mitigate seaweed but most of them have seaweed removal operations. Seaweed isn't present everyday either, it all depends on the ocean's currents.

Much like the beach, the pool area is large are beautiful. 

Wow! Now this is what a “main” pool should look like.

Pools

We like to get to the pool early in the morning and enjoy some quality time before it gets crowded. A lot of times it feels like we have the pool to ourselves.

It's Never Too Early To Start Hydrating

In the afternoon we always had time to hang out with new friends!

There's also a second pool that is very long and linear just steps away from the “main” pool. Check this out! 

This second pool is what I would call the “activity” pool but the main pool would host water yoga a couple times a week.

Cool Activites

Mini-golf Day or Night

Lifesize Billiards

Poolside Spanish Lessons

Everyone wants to see the view from the room. As you wish…

Sunrise

Food and Beverage

I won't bore you with listing all the restaurants and names of dishes, you just want to know if the food was good, right? Yes! 

When reviewing these pictures, I realized we eat A LOT of food, and most of it is poolside. Guilty! Enjoy.

Well, that about does it for this trip report. If you're interested in Secrets Maroma or any other All-Inclusive resort, you know who to contact. Tammy can help you plan any trip…anywhere. Cheers to a good time.

Sandals Montego Bay

We consider ourselves experienced travelers to tropical locations, but there was one vacation destination we hadn't visited…until now. Jamaica!

This was a last-minute trip so we settled for a long 4-day weekend. The resort's close proximity to the Montego Bay Airport made it very convenient but also produced another unexpected surprise…more on that later.

Since this was our first visit to Jamaica, we decided to take advantage of Club Mobay (extra cost) to have someone guide us through the airport and customs. We were greeted by a Club Mobay rep who was super friendly and very helpful. She escorted us directly to a special customs area for Club Mobay visitors.

Welcome to Jamaica!

It's starting to feel like vacation!

Another advantage of Club Mobay is access to their lounge (circled below) when arriving or departing the airport. But since we were vacationing with Sandals on this trip, we also had access to the Sandals Lounge. 

Club Mobay circled in the background

We checked into the Sandals lounge and was told the wait would be 15 minutes for the shuttle, but it turned out to be a 45-minute wait. Not a big deal – we're on vacation! 

The lounge was very nice, well furnished, and provided a refreshment area with fountain drinks and assorted snacks. No liquor though (Mental note: Club Mobay has liquor!)

The drive to the airport was a quick 20 minute commute. Darkness made it difficult to enjoy the entrance “arrival” but based on the bus needing to do a 3-point turn to get into the resort, it was easy to recognize there wasn't a grand entrance worth seeing anyway. 

Once the bus departed the property, it was easier to see the up-lighting and landscaped entrance.

Now here's where I'm going to get real with you for a minute. As I walked through the open-air lobby area, I commented to Tammy, “This must be their flagship property”. Not because it impressed, but more because it under-whelmed, especially compared to newer resorts. The property is also wedged along a very narrow strip of land between the airport and Caribbean – definitely not a location any developer today would say is a great location for a resort.

I later learned Montego Bay is indeed Sandal's flagship property, originally constructed in the late 1980's but had recently completed renovations in 2019. The renovations must have all been concentrated in the suites and to adding the restaurants Tokyo Joe's and Butch because the lobby still felt dated – maybe it was the paint, the low ceiling, or maybe the furniture, either way it felt nostalgic. 

Now, don't get me wrong, once you walked through the lobby, you could venture onto a great outdoor patio area with fabulous views of the Caribbean. 

We would later learn that our room would be adjacent to this beautiful patio area with views from our balcony.

I caught Tammy hanging out on the balcony one morning!

The convenient location of this room was it's best asset. This had to be the only set of rooms that weren't renovated in 2019. I took some pics but the rooms were so small and dark, I didn't like the finished product. Imagine a four-post wooden bed with antique furnishings. I thought at any moment Ricardo Montalban from the 1980's Fantasy Island TV show was going to walk around the corner. 

This was the hallway leading to our room. Once again, a little unassuming, narrow, and plain. I imagine this is what a 1950's medical ward felt like. Thankfully the room was conveniently located to almost everything on the property, so we were able to overlook the nostalgic feel of this particular building.

Let's talk pools! There aren't many pools on this property. Below is the “main” pool for the property. Even if you haven't visited other all-inclusive resorts, you can tell this pool doesn't accommodate a lot of people – very small for a “main” pool. There also aren't a lot of options for lounging around the pool. But it was quiet! Most people opted for the beach or hanging out in the “activity” pool located elsewhere on the property (but it too was tiny). If we had stayed in a “swim up” room, we may not have ever visited this main pool.

In the picture below you can see the main pool is surrounded by cabanas that were first-come, first-served. I'm an early riser so I noticed most of the cabanas had been “reserved” with towels, books, hats, or floats by 6:00AM. It was disappointing to see several of the cabanas that had been “reserved” so early in the morning sit empty until noon or later.

There's an open area next to the main pool for basketball and corn hole. 

The beach offered plenty of lounge chairs but limited palapas. 

Here's the obligatory picture everyone posts while on vacation. My view (and yours) from the beach chaise lounge. 

Now, here is an area where Sandals (at least at this resort) needs to get a handle on things. I mentioned earlier that I'm an early riser, meaning I'm usually up by 5:00AM. I usually like to walk the property and then grab a chair to enjoy the sunrise, read a book, or just wait for Tammy to rise and join me. Each morning, ALL the palapas chair were reserved with floats or towels by 5:30AM, and I thought this was odd because most people on vacation aren't early risers. So, these chairs were either being saved the night before or by Sandal's Butler Service (extra cost). I don't have anything against reserving chairs, or Butler Service (I liked to be pampered sometimes too), but most of the “reserved” spaces didn't have anyone sitting in them until 10:00AM. The number of “reserved” chairs was aggravating for other beach goers who were trying to find a spot earlier in the morning.  Here's what most of the reserved spaces looked like early in the mornings.

Once the sun comes up, and you can't find a beach chair, you can always wade out to this cabana to enjoy the vibe.

If privacy is what you're searching for, you can rent one of the over-the-water cabanas.

One of the coolest places to hangout is Latitudes Bar. You feel connected to the resort and it's location over the water provides a VIP feel.

Check out these cool hammocks suspended over the water at Latitudes.

Guess what? Cancun isn't the only tropical location with swings!

Oh! Remember how convenient I said the resort was to the airport? And remember the “unexpected surprise” I mentioned? Well, here it it. A couple of times in the morning, and again between the hours of 2-4PM, you'll be jolted awake from your nap as planes take-off from the adjoining runway. Here's a view of how close the runway is to the resort.

Busiest Time for Take-Offs: 1PM-4PM

Let's talk restaurants. Cucina is the Italian restaurant with awesome 2nd floor views of the beach, water, and sunset! Caution: Being an open-air, elevated restaurant, the temperature was a tad warm with very little breeze during our visit. 

Our favorite menu item was the lasagna.

Cucina is also a good breakfast spot too.

Tokyo Joe's, added during the 2019 renovations, was a favorite spot for us. Think Hibachi-style grill. 

The restaurant is snuggled up against the resort, sitting atop pylons, hovering over the water. 

The food at Tokyo Joe's was fresh and delicious. Better than anything we've eaten at a Unico, Secrets, or Excellence resorts. The spicy tuna sushi and spring rolls were perfect appetizers. I didn't get a picture of the food (I was too busy shoveling it in my mouth), but I did get a picture of my date! Check out this hottie.

One of favorite after-dinner spots each evening were these fire pits adjacent to Tokyo Joes.

Another favorite restaurant of ours was Butch's Steakhouse. The addition of this restaurant was also part of the 2019 renovations. 

There is a really cool outdoor bar area for your pre-dinner drinks.

The interior design at Butch's provides a much better high-end feel than other areas on the resort.

And the food didn't disappoint. It was delicious. 

The Grilled Black Pepper Bacon and Crab Scallop Balls were some of the best appetizers we've ever eaten.

Well, our time has come to an end. In all, we enjoyed our first trip to Jamaica. “Island time” is a real thing here, but once you come to terms with the fact that the service and pace is slightly slower than other all-inclusive resorts, you'll enjoy the stay even more. We will definitely visit Jamaica again but more than likely will try another resort brand or other Sandals property. Stay tuned!

Until next time! And always remember, Never Regret Fun!

Hyatt Ziva Cancun – Great Family Resort

Cancun. All-Inclusive. Family-Friendly. Dolphins. Sunrise AND Sunset. You have found the right blog post. Hyatt Ziva is the place!

“Let's not talk about going home.” Those were the words from our very own teenagers. This is a true story. Here's what has been dubbed the best vacation ever! Let us show you why!

Ziva View of Hotel Zone

All four of our kids patiently waiting for the boarding call.

How Did I Survive as a Teenager without Technology?

Pro Tip: If traveling with kids (even teenagers), we have found it useful to use Ziploc bags for storing clothes for each day. Compressing the air out of the bags helps maximize suitcase space too!

Pro Tip: Use 2 gallon Ziploc Bags

We landed in Cancun and quickly navigated our way through Customs & Immigration. This is the view that awaits you in the transportation area. Don't fret, everyone is there to help. If you have transportation arranged in advance, the driver will be waiting for you with a sign.

We quickly found our driver and loaded up for the 20 minute ride to Hyatt Ziva.

Ok, enough about the journey, let's get to the destination. We arrived! COVID protocols were in effect when we arrived but the experience was very pleasant. 

Hyatt Ziva boast one of the most beautiful entrances of any of the Cancun Resorts. Their location on the northern tip of the traditional “hotel zone” in spectacular. 

The above photo doesn't do justice for the spectacular view. Let's get a little bit closer. I didn't know if I wanted to run to the pool or the ocean first!

The staff at Hyatt Ziva is so welcoming and friendly. We were quickly escorted to the Club Tower for check-in.

Tammy enjoying a glass of champagne – one of many!

We were excited to be in the Club Tower. This was the view from our 3rd floor room looking south towards the hotel zone.

Mr. Oinkster Approves.

Check out this awesome view from a much higher floor!

Wow What A View!

This is the view looking east from yet another room.

View Looking East

We had adjoining rooms with plenty of space for everyone. Having a ceiling fan in each room was wonderful too.

King Size Bed.

The bathrooms are appropriately sized, and the shower is plenty big enough.

Club Tower Bathroom

Staff kept the snacks and refrigerator stocked. Guests can ask for a variety of different items and adjust quantity amounts as needed.

Let's check out the rest of the resort property. The kids loved the pools the best. In fact, we rank Hyatt Ziva pools #1 overall for families among all the hotel zone and Playa Mujeres resorts. The cabana's by the main pool are awesome (extra fee…but worth every penny).

The Pools

The Main Pool

Main Pool Cabana Beds

View from the Sahara Pool

The swim up bar is popular and spacious

Forget Your Float? No Problem.

The Beaches

Enough about the pools, how about the beaches? The great thing about Hyatt Ziva is, being situated at the northern tip of the hotel zone, guests are rewarded with more than one beach option! 

This is the north facing beach. Unlike the south-facing beach on the other side of the property, this beach is isolated from the public. The water isn't as clear as the south-facing beach but with views of the red & white striped lighthouse and the evening sunset frames this beach nicely.

Did I mention the south-facing beach? Wow. Wow. Wow. Protected by a manmade jetty that protects the beach from wave erosion. This beach is accessible by the public but the beach is so large, the public is never an issue. And the Hyatt Ziva staff are constantly making sure the public does not access the resort property. 

Manmade Jetty

This beach offers access to the double-deck family cabana ($199-$249 per day depending on time of year). This was the location of the family cabana we rented one day.

Manmade Jetty

Here's the show stoppers…At Hyatt Ziva, you are rewarded with Sunrises and Sunsets!

Sunrise

Sunset

Dolphins!

Did someone say dolphins?! Yes we did! Everyday you can watch the dolphin swim and play. For an additional fee, you and your family can suit up and play with the dolphins.

@Moods is the exclusive teen-only lounge to hang out. There is a virtual reality simulator! Or they can play pool or foosball. Centrally located, this is a really cool place to just chillout, and it's not hidden in some basement, so it's easy to get too.

Virtual Simulator

Virtual Simulator

Last but not least….FOOD! Our kids loved all the restaurants at Hyatt Ziva. They had everything from pizza, Lasagna (Lorenzo's), Japanese (MoonGate), and Steak (Tradewinds). Tradewinds was also the location of the best breakfast on the property, although the breakfast buffet at El Mercado was great too. 

Tres Cervezas had the BEST hamburger any of us had eaten anywhere (Stateside or abroad).

This is the iconic Chevy's restaurant.

El Mercado's Breakfast Buffet

Craving Japanese? MoonGate is your savory option. You can choose to sit at the grill and watch the “show” (similar to most Japanese Steakhouses) or you can elect for a table off to the side and order of a menu. We chose the show!

One side of Moongate's dining room

Chef had mad skills!

Best Beef Wantons Ever!

And the sweetest place at Hyatt Ziva is definitely Pastels. Check this place out! It was always a great stop for ice cream and other baked goods during the day, and especially after the evening entertainment show each night. 

From our family to yours, we hope you enjoyed this review. If you need any free travel planning services, for Cancun, Disney properties, cruises, or anywhere else, just send us a message!

2021 Year of the All-Inclusive Resorts: Secrets Cap Cana Arrival Day

Greetings friends! Eddie here. Tammy asked me to take on the roll as blogger for this trip, so when your beautiful, travel agent wife asks you to carry your weight, you gladly respond “As you wish” (The Princess Bride fans will get that reference).

Our 2021 travel year started in Punta Cana (Dominican Republic). With COVID still lingering around the globe, our options were limited but still luxurious and tropical. In 2020, we had traveled to other All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico, like Unico and Excellence Playa Mujeres, so we wanted to venture to a new destination and selected Secrets Cap Cana. Here we go…

The Punta Cana International Airport was surprisingly quaint. No mobile ramps or modern architecture to detract from the tropical paradise that awaits you. The thatched terminal rooftops left no doubt you had arrived to the Caribbean. 

The Customs and Immigration areas were spacious and well marked for travelers.

COVID safety protocols were in full effect. Since this was our fourth international trip during the world pandemic, we were used to these measures, and so was everyone else around us.

The baggage claim area maintained the charm of thatched ceilings and open breezeways. The warm tropical breezes were beckoning us.

Punta Cana Baggage Claim

Once you exit baggage claim, the shuttle/taxi area is very easy to navigate and find where you need to go. We had arranged transportation to Secrets Cap Cana through Mike Fisher Tours and Travel.

The drive from the airport to Cap Cana was a very short 15 minutes. We've arrived!

The welcome staff was friendly and very helpful. They always enjoyed pausing a moment for a great picture!

In typical Secrets fashion, we were handed a glass of champagne upon arrival to kickoff vacation! 

Eddie, Tammy, and our two newest travel buddies: Julie and Angela!

Tammy enjoying her champagne while I perform my duties as business photographer.

The open-air lobby area is reminiscent of other Secrets Resorts. Their architects and designers do such a wonderful job creating great signature views as soon as you arrive.

We were staying in the Preferred Club for this trip, so we were escorted to the Preferred Lounge for check-in. Along the way you get an opportunity to see restaurant locations or subtle landscape elements that make each walk memorable.

Jourdain was patient with our questions.

This was my favorite restaurant.

My mother's side of the family is Italian (shout out to the Lazzuri peeps!), so naturally I quickly see the Italian restaurant Portofino's on the walk to check-in. This restaurant would later provide a great outdoor dinner experience on Day 2.

There's something about wine bottles hanging from a tree that mesmerizes me, as if calling out my name.

After a short five minute walk, we arrive at the Preferred Club lounge for check-in.

Karla helped check us in as we waited for our Room Host (sometimes referred to as a “butler”) Oliver, to arrive.

Yes, I believe those are watermelon margaritas.

And who else would it be, none other than the famous Javier! He was fantastic behind the Preferred Club bar. I watched him handle a many obnoxious and loud guests with grace in the evening hours. 

Oliver is on his way…here's where we're headed!

Oliver is going over the details of the room. COVID cleaning protocols are visible throughout the room.

Yes, Tammy is still nursing her margarita.

The snacks and refrigerator were stocked with plentiful options. If you wanted more or less of particular items, your room host can easily accommodate.

So….you wanna see the beach! So did we. We quickly grabbed our bathing suits and headed out to the Preferred Club beach area!

This was a great way to unwind from a quick flight and relax before dinner. You can see more beach, pool, and property pictures here.

Secrets Cap Cana Beach, Pool, and Property Amenities

Thinking about vacationing at Secrets Cap Cana? Read this first. Tammy and I have visited other Secret Resorts (Secrets Akumal and Secrets Maroma) but this would be our first vacation to the Dominican Republic and Secrets Cap Cana. Let me say, it did NOT disappoint!

From the moment you arrive, the Secrets brand of open-air lobbies welcomes you home.

Cap Cana has one of the widest and most beautiful beaches we've ever visited. 

Lobby bar area

Plenty of seating through the lobby

Frequent visitors to Secret Resorts will recognize Coco Cafe. Strategically located in the lobby with fantastic views over the property.

View from outside Coco Cafe

Lets take a look inside Coco Cafe real quick.

Muffins, Donuts, Cake. Yes, please.

Lets cut to the chase. Here's the pool area. 

View from the beach.

Early morning walk view

Luis helped me every morning

The best feature of Secrets Cap Cana is the view of the beach from the pool. Fantastic.

View from our pool location

Obligatory “Wish You Were Here” photograph.

Tammy and our two travel buddies, Angela and Julie, enjoying some quality pool time.

Can't vacation without a “drinks in the pool” picture

Want a night time picture of the pool? Here you go.

Swim Up Rooms provide same colorful glow

The Preferred Club Pool area was small but intimate. Seating was understandably very limited during COVID-restrictions.

Oceanfront Bungalow

Here is the headliner…The Beach!

Tammy was my model this evening.

Preferred Club Beach Area

View from our beach chairs under the Palapa

Bali Beds Available for Extra Fee

Early morning strolls provided some of the best picture opportunities.

Beach Wedding Setup

The clear water wasn't beaming with fish but I was able to see several conch shells.

I placed it back where I found it.

One last stop – the fitness center, just in case you want to burn off some calories. The center had plenty of well-maintained machines and weights to keep up with any fitness routine.

Standalone Facility next to Building 9

Secrets Cap Cana is a fantastic resort. I wish we could've stayed a few more days. Stay tuned for a review on some of the restaurants we visited.

Excellence Playa Mujeres

Hi, I'm Eddie (My friends call me Fast Eddie but that's a story for another time). It looks like my beautiful, talented, travel agent wife, Tammy, has handed me the reigns for this blog. I question her decision but if you're married, I know you understand the art of compromise. Here's a picture of compromise when your wife tells you to get on the swing when you don't want to.

Now, I think you should know right up front that I'm not as eloquent with the written word as Tammy, but I am honest and to-the-point…which I think most people appreciate. If you're into connecting with an authors feelings or intimate thoughts, you can try reading some of Tammy's trip blogs on the Grand Canyon, Disney World, or Alaska!

Having provided that disclaimer, lets get started!

Trying to celebrate a wedding anniversary in the middle of a World Pandemic is difficult, but we haven't let COVID slow us down yet (Disney During COVID and Unico 20.87). So off we go!

Before we take you straight to Excellence, this blog may be your first introduction to Mexico! If so, WELCOME! After you arrive to the Cancun International Airport and depart immigrations, you will have to pass through a rental car and resort sales area. 

If you have pre-arranged transportation to your resort, which we highly recommend, you don't need to stop in this area. Just keep walking to the double doors that lead outside to the transportation hub. Here you will see all the private transportation and public transportation options. Tammy and I prefer pre-arranging transportation with Kalido and Amstar. Each of them have provided great service. Tip and shameless plug:  If you book your trip with Tammy, not only will she help you select the perfect resort, she will also prearrange your transportation for you (her travel agent service is at no cost to you!) 

This is the hub where your transportation greeter will escort you and your baggage. Here you will meet your driver.

We selected Kalido for this vacation. Our driver was Adriano Sosa. He was one of the best drivers we've ever had. Kalido drivers have always been polite, helpful, and safe.  

As soon as we exited our van and before we enter the resort doors, the Excellence staff sanitizes your luggage, provides hand sanitizer, and requires guests to walk on a sanitation pad.  

Entrance through the front doors of Excellence offers the view of a seemingly ordinary lobby area.

But when you take a few steps forward, the lobby opens up to this spectacular view!

The COVID precautions continue at the check-in desk with temperature cameras and plexi-glass.

Excellence staff decorated the room door to help us celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Oscar did a fantastic job helping with the luggage and showing us the room.

We had a fantastic swim up room in Building 7 with a king bed, full-size tub, and beautiful view of the lazy river outside.

This room was fabulous. Having said that, there is one area for improvement. What is difficult to know by looking at this picture is how small and low these bathroom mirrors are fixed. For anyone shorter than 5'3″, they will struggle to see more than the top half of their head.

Like most resort showers, there are two shower heads, with one being a large rainfall element. The shower dimensions are huge.

The winner of the mini-bar contest goes to Excellence! Forget the mini-bottles…They provided full bottles of liquors for consumption during the stay. So, if the all-inclusive alcohol at all the bars wasn't enough, you could still stumble back to the room. Or, if a subtle evening is more your speed, you could enjoy a quiet evening with a drink on the patio. 

The actual mini-bar was reserved for some delightful beverages too.

After we unpacked and settled in, we decided to take a stroll around the resort. The pools and beach are stunning.

The Prelude Terrace Bar provided a festive environment for bands and musical entertainment.

Stars Theater was a fabulous open-air venue that provided entertainment every evening at 9:00PM. During our stay, the theater hosted a range of options from Fire Dancers to the Michael Jackson Tribute Show. 

Excellence is home to Aroma, a specialty coffee and pastry restaurant. The drink menu offers a variety of options for guests.

There were 20 different flavors of sorbet. Check 'em out!

The pastries and donuts were unbelievably fresh and hand-delivered every morning by the pastry chefs themselves.

Aroma also has pre-made sandwiches for a quick bite. Perfect for a meal-on-go before you head to the airport.

One of our favorite restaurants was Spice. You didn't need reservations unless you wanted the traditional dog-and-pony hibachi show. We opted for a quiet table and ordered off the menu. The decor, lighting, and food were all perfect. 

Although chicken teriyaki wasn't on the menu, the kitchen was kind enough to replace the steak teriyaki with chicken for Tammy. The tenderness was perfectly moist. Better than any Asian dish we've had back home. 

I opted for the Kung Pao that was packed with flavor.

But the best stuff of the night was dessert. The Banana Tempura with warm chocolate sauce was sinfully good. OH. MY.

Every restaurant was perfect. The food. The atmosphere. The service.

But I won't bore you with all the details of every menu item we savored, but I have to devote a few sentences to our meal at the Indian restaurant Basmati.

I can't adequately describe the flavor, spices, and aroma this dinner delivered. We love Indian food and have never tasted anything this good. The Korma Chicken (cashew nut, rich poppy seed flavored finished with rich cream) and Chicken Kadhi (chicken, green pepper, onion, tempered with roasted blended spices) was off the chart. The kitchen was also able to prepare a dish of Butter Chicken that wasn't on the menu. This meal was the highlight of all meals.

Here are some delicious pictures of other food favorites we enjoyed!

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the most important meal of the day…breakfast. Tammy and I chose to enjoy breakfast two mornings at The Lobster House which provided some great views.

And like most great resorts, the drinks were plentiful and delicious. 

Having stayed at Unico a few months ago, we were eager to see how Excellence Playa Mujeres compared.  It was almost on even par in all areas. There were two clear areas where Excellence exceeded expectations – the food and the beach.  Every single meal was fantastic and the beach had plenty of lounge chairs, palapas, a long stretch of area to walk and activities such as jet skis and parasailing just steps away.    

There are a lot of resorts that provide wonderful service and amenities in Cancun. Excellence Playa Mujeres ranks in our Top 2 (A trip report of our Top 5 resorts coming soon). As we wrap up this trip report, here are some positive elements if considering Excellence Playa Mujeres: 

  • Plentiful Beach Palapas
  • Lounge Chairs in Pool
  • Breakfast views at The Lobster House
  • Large room shower
  • Wide Beach
  • Agave restaurant (Awesome Mexican Food)
  • Spice (Great Asian/Better than Unico)
  • Basmati Indian Restaurant
  • Toscana Italian Dinner/Breakfast

Also….Excellence Playa Mujeres has some wonderful art. Check out a few of these landscape sculptures. These sculptures as scattered throughout the property and add to the elegance.

When we returned home I noticed that we didn't have a lot pictures of ourselves from this Anniversary retreat, but I'll leave you with one of my favorites during our dinner at Toscana.

Disney During COVID

You want to visit Disney World during COVID but you’re unsure how safe it is. Well, this blog is for you. In July 2020, Disney World opened its doors with limited capacity and many new safety protocols were in place to keep their guests safe. Temperature checks at entrances, social distancing in lines, sanitizer stations, partitioned stantions, and limited bus seating are some of the new experiences at Disney parks.

We arrived at Disney early evening. Since we were staying at the Yacht Club we decided to take a stroll on the Boardwalk over to restaurant Trattoria al Forno. The evening was warm with clearing skies, and the walk over was quiet. It was almost as if we had the Boardwalk to ourselves.

Empty Boardwalk

Our first full-day was a visit to Hollywood Studios to check out the newly opened Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway and the possibility of getting a Boarding Group number for Star Wars’ Rise of the Resistance. 

On our walk to Hollywood Studios, we passed the Skyliner. This is where we first saw the new social distancing placards on the ground. The placards identified the safe waiting distances between guests, as was the case for this extended waiting line at the Skyliner. 

Please Wait Here

Before entering any of the Disney parks, guests must pass through a temperature check point. Wearing masks was mandatory. The only time you were not required to wear a mask was when you were eating or drinking while stationary…this rule was strictly, but politely, enforced.

Temperature Check Point

Masks Mandatory

Masks? Check.

Time to get our Mickey on, so we begin our wait for Runaway Railroad! Aside from the temperature checks and mandatory mask wearing, the most noticeable COVID protocol was the expanded social distancing measures. Remember those “Please Wait Here” placards? Well, they are everywhere. The placement of placards extended wait lines swirling down sidewalks and streets. The extended lines create an image that wait times are forever, but the lines actually move fairly quickly.

The image below illustrates the area where the Runaway Railway spilled out to the vast concrete areas in front of the former Chinese Theatre. There are patio umbrellas strategically placed to provide shade for waiting guests.

See placards on ground.

Once inside the Runaway Railway, the permanent stantions were outfitted with sturdy plexi-glass and metal framing.

Here we go! Notice the cast members are masked up with face shields.

If you haven’t seen or experienced the new Skyliner, here’s a quick pic. The Skyliner connects EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and the resorts of Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera. 

Once back at the Yacht Club, we decided to have some relaxation time. Even the pool area was COVID-proof. There were signs reminding guests of COVID regulations and plenty of space between lounge chairs for social distance….which we didn’t have to worry about because we had the quiet pool to ourselves!

Yacht Club Quiet Pool

Later in the afternoon we headed back to Hollywood Studios for our #42 Boarding Group (2:40 PM) for Stars Wars Rise of the Resistance. Social distancing was still in full effect.

Tammy was admiring the Stars Wars gear along the route to help the Resistance. Psst…she’s not a big Star Wars fan so this photo was staged.

Guests ultimately end up outside prior to boarding an escape pod. Everyone was assigned a numbers for proper social distancing. This was your number throughout the remainder of the ride.

I’m not easily impressed but Disney…WOW…you really impressed me with the Death Star hanger bay. It was stunning.

Death Star Hanger Bay

Even the storm troopers were masked up.

After Rise of the Resistance, we headed over to Rock’n Rollercoaster. My hair is proof I was obviously still shocked from my experience on the Death Star.

If you’ve ridden Rock’n Rollercoaster before, you know this scene is out of the ordinary. Never before has the line spiraled like this. With the heat index at 99 degrees, this was the hottest wait of the day. Everybody below was socially distanced in line.

The permanent plexi-glass closest to the boarding area really complemented the “city” feel.

After a long, hot, exhausting day, it was time to head over to Disney Springs for dinner. This was our opportunity to see the COVID measures on the Disney buses. All of the seats were numbered and dividers were added in between seats grouped together. Before stepping onto the bus, the driver would ask how many people are in your party, then assign you a seat number. The straps hanging from the overhead rails were zip tied unusable, so there is no standing allowed. The days of seeing 50 people crammed on a bus are over for now.

Well, that concludes our hot, late summer, visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can also check out our visit to EPCOT for the Food and Wine Festival. We hope our story and pictures help you feel comfortable and safe visiting Disney during COVID. If you’re excited and want to book a trip, you know the best person to call is my talented wife and Disney-expert, Tammy.  

Disney World’s Food & Wine Festival 2020

Hey traveling couples, Eddie here. I decided to give Tammy a break and handle this blog myself. In September, Tammy and I decided to take a quick trip to Disney World for the International Food and Wine Festival. COVID obvisouly made it a different experience from year’s past but it was worth it!

Safety first, so before entering every park, each guest must walk through a health tent.

Taking Temperatures at Entrance

Plenty of social distancing

We entered EPCOT via the International Gateway near Boardwalk, so we started our food and beverage tasting in France. What better way to start than with a drink!

Grey Goose Slushy

I’ll cut to the chase. There were several food favorites but Brazil has the best option: Crispy Pork Belly and Cheesy Bread. 

Crispy Pork Belly

A very close second was Morocco’s hummus fries. Morocco also has the Kefka Pocket (ground beef with carmalized onions, garlic, and spicy tomato).

Hummus Fries

My mother’s side of the family is Italian, so I crave pasta, cheese, onions, and ham. And what better place to taste all those food ingredients mixed together than in Germany. Germany? Oh yeah! Do yourself a favor and get you some Schinkennudeln. Delicious! 

Grubbing on Schinkennudeln

We originally walked past the Spain kiosk but my curiosity turned us around and we decided to try the Shrimp Paella. This dish was surprisingly delicious. The spices were subtle and flavorful. Wait, maybe this should’ve been my #1 option. Hmmm.

Shrimp Paella

The Festival Market used different kiosk spread througout the World Showcase. Several of the kiosk contained merchandise from the Flower and Garden Festival too.

Grape Themed Mickey Ears

Grab a growler

This year’s festival was great, even with the COVID limitations. The weather was warm the day we visited (99 degree heat index) but we made sure we stayed hydrated and paced ourselves accordingly. The crowds picked up mid-afternoon but there was plenty of space to socially distance, sit, and enjoy our food and wine selections in the shade. Always a must do!

UNICO 20.87. Arrival Day

To read about our covid travel experience, click here.  

Unico is a fabulous resort. Our visit was during the Summer of COVID and the resort had taken all the necessary precautions to keep their guest safe. The fabulous staff were always wearing their mask. Our room host, Adriano, met us in the lobby upon arrival.

Adriano goes over details with Tammy

When you arrive, guests are welcomed with a refreshing beverage – Jade (cucumber and mint). I later had some vodka added to mine. 

Aromatherapy menu for guest room diffuser

After discussing the aromatherapy options, spa treatments, and dinner reservations, Ernesto took care of our bags and escorted us to the room.

Ernesto was super helpful

We passed through Bar Balam, then proceed outside through covered walkways on the way to the room.

 

Bar Balam

Beautiful display cases in Balam Bar

Pool table in Bar Balam

Anticipation was building with each turn on the way to the room.  All we wanted to do was unpack and go poolside.

The grand lobby

Corridor leading to the resort restaurants.

Breezeway view

After a pleasant walk to the room with Ernesto, we arrived!  And it was amazing.  But first, Ernesto showed us some of the room’s amenities.

Fridge stocked w/ soda, water & beer.

And now, the big reveal…..and it was spectacular!

Fabulous bedroom with a view

A HUGE bathroom

The unbelievable balcony view

Plenty of balcony space

View of sunrise from the balcony

This was the start of a great vacation.  Stay tuned for more resort photographs and a review of resort restaurants and menus.