We welcome trip reports and pictures from our clients about places you have visited or cruises you have taken!

TIP:  This section of our website contains a lot of information, so here is a list of the destinations featured in alphabetical order (after locating the destination you want in the list, in Internet Explorer, use the search box at the far right on your IE  toolbar, type in the destination, choose the drop-down option “Find on this page” and search that way if you don’t want to scroll through a VERY long page.  The search function on our website will only take you to the page where the subject is found).:

1.  Barbados

2.  Beaches Turks & Caicos

3.  Cancun/Playa del Carmen, Mexico

4.  Crested Butte, Colorado

5.  Fiji

6.  France

7.  Jamaica

8.  New Zealand

9.  Park City, Utah

10.  Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

11.  Sandals Royal Bahamian

12.  Sandals Whitehouse, Jamaica (South Coast)

13.  Siesta Key/Longboat Key, Florida

14.  Telluride, Colorado (Ski Trip)

15.  United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Ireland)



In August of 2006 Brenda and I went with a group of travel agents to Barbados.  The trip was sponsored by the Barbados Tourism Authority.  We were there for about four days and we were on the go almost the entire time touring resorts and seeing the entire island.  This island is the easternmost island in the Caribbean chain, and is different than the other Caribbean islands in that it is not a volcanic island; it is a coral and limestone-based island, so because of that, the water there is some of the freshest tasting and safest to drink in the world right out of the natural spring aquifers.  All the government has to do is add a little chlorine just to be safe and it is ready to drink.  Barbados has a very high literacy rate, a very low crime rate, and some of the friendliest people you will ever encounter!  AlthoughBarbados-St Johns Parish Church055 you always want to use common sense and routine safety precautions no matter where you go, Barbados is an extremely safe destination.

Fairmont Beach 3033The west coast of the island faces the Caribbean Sea, and has your typical Caribbean golden-white sand beaches and calm clear water for swimming and snorkeling.  The scuba diving is excellent here, and the water is a gorgeous color of turquoise.  The east coast of the island is very different.  The east coast faces the Atlantic Ocean and you have dramatic cliffs and boulders, very rough surf, and big waves, and international surfing championships are held here.  The east coast is not suitable for swimming, but the scenery is breathtaking.  Barbados-East Coast near Cherry Hill052

The island is a British Commonwealth, but is an independent nation; however, still retains a very British atmosphere.  Since they rarely get hurricanes (it has been over 50 years) they have beautiful old examples of British architecture all over the island and remnants of old sugar plantations.  But don’t think that because the island has a British influence it must be stuffy—besides taking in the beautiful scenery there is plenty to do here for the active traveler!  There is zip lining, wonderful scuba diving and snorkeling with many shipwrecks to explore, horseback riding, great golf courses, Harrison’s Cave, fine dining, rum factory tours, underwater submarine tours, great nightlife, and very cosmopolitan shopping.


The national currency is the Barbadian dollar, but the US dollar is widely accepted and is valued at $1 to the BD Barbados-Sugar Mill East Coast050$1.98.  Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere and ATMs are readily available.  The nation has WiFi Internet available almost everywhere.  It is not necessary to rent a car here, as the island has a wonderful bus system that is clean, efficient, safe, and very economical.  It is very easy to get around the island and roads and directions are well marked.  Delta and American Airlines have regular flights into and out of Barbados, with increased air lift recently, making it possible to be on the island and through baggage claim by midafternoon!  Because Barbados is far south in the Caribbean, it is a great year-round destination because it is warm year-round.  Also, because the risk of hurricanes is much less in Barbados it is also a wonderful option during hurricane season.


ALMOND BEACH VILLAGE: This is the resort where we stayed, and it is a large all-inclusive resort on the northwest coast of the island.  The beach is large and very nice.  Most of the resort is for families, but there is part of the resort that is reserved for adults only.  The rooms were fairly basic hotel rooms, but very nice.  The pool area was very large and pretty.  They do have a supervised kids’ club.  This resort is considered a high-moderate resort and is a very good value.  There are not too many restaurants, but the food was always good and one restaurant is open air on the beach which is especially pretty at sunset.

ALMOND BEACH CLUB: This is the sister property to the ABV, above, except this resort is all adults only and has recently gone through an entire renovation.  It is smaller, and is on a much smaller stretch of beach, but a nice stretch of beach right next door to the Sandy Lane Resort, which is very well known.  This is also all-inclusive and has a very nice spa.  The Almond Beach Village and Beach Club offer a free shuttle into town for their guests and also offer exchange privileges for adult guests between the two resorts.

ALMOND CASUARINA RESORT: This resort has recently been opened, and is an all-inclusive resort on the south side of the island in a location very convenient to St. Lawrence Gap, which has lots of nightlife and shopping options.  So far the feedback has been very good on this resort.  It is a little more upscale than its sister properties.

SAVANNAH HOTEL: This hotel was really unique and one of my favorites.  It is in an old military garrison, and when you step into the lobby you really could be in Savannah, Georgia.  You can definitely see how West Indies trading influenced our deep Southern architecture and decor.   It is a very charming smaller boutique hotel, once again with a beautiful pool complex, and it offers a good value.  The beach is also very nice here, with calm water, although not as many rooms offer ocean views.

THE HOUSE: The House was probably the most unique hotel we toured.  It is a small boutique hotel that is a favorite of celebrities, including Alicia Keyes, because it offers a lot of privacy.  When you drive up outside it’s hard to tell there is even a hotel there, and we actually had to be let into a locked entrance door by the hotel manager.  Then you step into a courtyard surrounding private plunge pools and beautiful foliage and tropical plants, and it is beautiful.  There is one restaurant, although it is very nice, and a small beautiful stretch of beach with a small pool.  The decor is very contemporary but warm, and this hotel consistently wins awards and, as you can imagine, is rather expensive.

HILTON CARIBBEAN: This is kind of an unusual hotel for Barbados.  Most hotels on the island are privately owned and are not chains.  This is a large hotel and definitely has a more “American” feel with contemporary decor.Hilton Barbados Pool012 However, it is beautiful and it has its own calm swimming lagoon and a very pretty beach to go with it.  It is next door to an old fort from the days when pirates roamed the Caribbean and they have incorporated the fort into the grounds of the hotel as a lovely garden where many weddings are held.  It is a very beautiful setting.  The feedback on this hotel has always been very positive.

COBBLER’S COVE HOTEL:   This was one of the most charming hotels we saw on our trip.  It is a small boutique hotel set on lovely grounds and a pretty beach in such a peaceful setting.  One of the suites was a two-story suite with its own rooftop jacuzzi and the most gorgeous view.

FAIRMONT ROYAL PAVILION: As with most Fairmont Hotels, this one is not going to be inexpensive, but it will be Fairmont Dining Area023worth it.  The level of service will be a cut above the rest, as will the attention to detail.  Again, this was not a large resort, as is the case with most on Barbados, but it was really pretty.  It sat on a beautiful calm stretch of beach, a bit further from town but not inconvenient with the good bus service.

SANDY LANE RESORT: We did not get to tour this resort, as there was a major celebrity in residence at that time and the manager would not let us visit; however, this 5-star resort is consistently named as one of the best in the Caribbean and even the world..  The spa is large and incredible and it has a world-renowned golf course, “The Green Monkey”.

THE CRANE: And finally, The Crane.  This resort had one of the most beautiful views of any resort anywhere, lookingThe Crane-Scenery049 out from a small cliff to that gorgeous turquoise water.  (There is now an elevator down to the famous beach that has been named one of the world’s best repeatedly; one of the pictures on our home page is of this view.)  The original part of the hotel dates to 1887 and it The Crane Sunning Garden042has been added to, with a large and spacious expansion completed just last year, with suites offering private plunge pools and a view of that gorgeous ocean.  The resort has a British feel in the architecture with beautiful spacious stone buildings and wood detailing.  This is a 4 to 4-1/2 star resort, depending on the room category, but during the “Best of Barbados” promotion that the island runs twice a year, it can be a great value.

If you have gotten the idea from my trip report that I fell in love with this island and its people, you would be correct.  Yes, this island has the reputation of being expensive, and it can be, but there are hotels and resorts in every price point as well as private villas to rent.  That’s why it’s important to have a travel agent who is able to match you up with the property that is the right one for you! –Tina Messamore


November 2009

As part of the group of 160 travel agents, our charter flight flew from Nassau to Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos to visit Beaches Turks & Caicos, one of the resorts for families owned by the Sandals organization.  What a beautiful property!  This is a very large all-inclusive resort, IMG_0223with three sections of accommodations divided into sections–the Caribbean Village, the French Village, and the Italian Village, as well as a limited number of Seaside Villas.  The rooms all had beautiful West Indies decor with luxury fabrics and every thoughtful amenity.   IMG_0196

There is a huge water park for the kids (and the “big kids”, too!) called Pirates Island, as well as a large XBox 360 Game Lounge, hang-outs just for the teens and tweens, the most adorable nursery facilities for the little ones with highly-trained caregivers, and even an optional DJ studio class to learn professional DJ skills and spin records!  But don’t think this resort is all for the kids—there are lots of areas for adults to relax and be pampered, too!  The resort also has beautiful locations on the property for weddings.  Butler suites are available, and we all found it so informative AND entertaining to be able to listen to one of their butlers tell us some of the “tricks of the trade” and get to ask him some questions!  All butlers at Sandals and Beaches properties are trained by the prestigious Guild of Professional English Butlers, and they are the only Caribbean resorts who can make that claim.  It truly was amazing to hear some of his stories!  All of this luxury sits on one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in the Caribbean, Grace Bay, with some of the most crystal clear Caribbean Sea stretching before you that you have ever seen!   IMG_0280

I felt so fortunate to be able to see this resort first-hand so I can help you plan your special vacation!  As a Certified Sandals Specialist, please let me know if you are interested in this wonderful resort, or any other Sandals or Beaches property!  ~~~Tina Messamore




Since Cancun is one of the favorite destinations for our clients in the Middle Tennessee area, we are devoting a large amount of space and information to this destination.  At certain times of the year, charter flights are sometimes available from the Nashville area to Cancun; however, even with connecting flights schedules are very convenient and you can leave Nashville at breakfast time and be on the beach by the afternoon!


Cancun is located on the Yucatan Peninsula’s east coast.  The island is shaped like a “7” and is divided into two zones-Downtown Cancun is on the mainland and the Hotel Zone is on the island.  Playa del Carmen is a smaller village about 40 miles south of Cancun.


It is semi-humid with an average temperature of 80 degrees.  Cancun is famous for its beautiful beaches that are champagne-colored sand and powderlike.  (The sand oddly enough does not get hot!)  The water is mesmerizing with its amazing turquoise color, and it is crystal clear.  The Playa del Carmen area has more reefs, which offer great snorkeling opportunities, but in general these beaches are not as good for swimming and wave riding.


Most restaurants are open-air, and it can be quite hot & humid in Cancun…..plan accordingly.  However, many of the nicer restaurants at all-inclusive resorts have a dress code.   Men are required to wear long pants and collared shirt, and cannot wear sandals.  No denim is allowed in these restaurants.


You will be met at the airport by a line of vendors trying to sell you tours, transportation to your hotel, etc.  If you have purchased transfers through your vacation package, do not be detained by these aggressive salesmen!  Just walk on past and look for a person holding a sign for Vacation Express, Funjet, ATA Vacations, or whatever company you are booked with (we will advise you about who to look for).  They will be standing outside, near the front doors of the airport, after you have gone through Customs.  You will be directed to your hotel/transfer company shuttle.  You may have a little wait for the van to fill, and the transfer to your resort  may be up to one hour, so make sure you grab a drink and use the facilities in the airport before you go outside.


One more word about this……be forewarned that you may be offered a free meal or tour at your hotel in exchange for listening to a time-share sales pitch.  These often will last three-plus hours, so you should realize what you are getting into should you accept the invitation.


BUS – Great bus system in Cancun.  Buses run every 5-10 minutes.  They are very clean, modern, and safe.  The cost is around 3 pesos or $.50 each way.  You cannot get lost on the buses because they only run in two directions-Downtown or to the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone).  If you don’t know where to get off, just tell the driver where you want to go and they will stop for you.  If you forget to get off and go the opposite direction, you will have to pay again.  THE BUSES RUN FROM 6:00AM TO MIDNIGHT.  Drivers will stop for you by flagging them down or at bus stops.

TAXI – Generally $3.00 to $7.00 USD.  Most rates are posted in hotel lobbies; settle on the price ahead of time when you first get into the taxi.  Tip is included in the price.

CAR RENTAL – Cars and jeeps can be rented with a valid driver’s license.  Remember insurance, and gas is in liters, not gallons, and is a little expensive.


US dollars are accepted everywhere, but you will get a better exchange rate if you pay for your purchases in pesos.  There are money exchange places in the airport and at numerous locations in Cancun & Playa del Carmen…..check around for the best rate.    If you do use US dollars, remember you will probably get your change back in pesos.  There is a charge to cash these back in at the airport, or of course there are the usual duty-free shops available to help you put these to good use!  Credit cards are widely accepted as well, and you do get a good exchange rate by using this method.  I have heard warnings about credit card fraud in most third world countries, but we have never had a problem (knock on wood), and continue to charge most of our purchases.  ATM machines will generally dispense pesos.


Although not necessary, if you are staying at an all-inclusive resort, it is good advice to take a roll of $1.00 bills to distribute for good service.  The Mexican people appreciate American tourism and generally work very hard to make sure you have a good time, and if you smile & show your appreciation with a $1.00 tip, they will treat you like royalty!


Cancun – Malls are Kukulcan Plaza, Flamingo Plaza, Plaza Caracol, Plaza Laguna.  There are flea markets and the Downtown shopping area for rugs, silver jewelry, t-shirts, etc.  Prices in the malls are generally fixed, but bartering is the way to go in the local markets.  If you relax and have a good time, shopping is a great adventure in Cancun……many shops offer entertainment and free tequila shots, spirited bargaining, and good prices.  They do try hard to get you to spend your money and have a good time.  For the best prices on liquor and vanilla, visit the large grocery store in old Downtown Cancun.

Playa del Carmen – The atmosphere is more laid back with most of the shops lining one street that has been named, interestingly enough, Fifth Avenue.  This “avenue” still maintains a sort of  small village charm, but offers many shops, restaurants, and nightlife.  It is also possible to take a water taxi to Cozumel for additional shopping and sightseeing opportunities.  The water taxis depart from a downtown pier…..check with your hotel for the schedule and price.


Cancun and Playa del Carmen both have a purified water system in the major hotel zones that is safe to drink.  When venturing out to the Yucatan or the ruins, or on long day trips, bottled water is recommended.


It’s good, but access charges are high in the hotels.  If you have to call back to the states, look for BLUE phones, they have no access charges.


Cancun can be a very, very expensive city in which to dine but the following are restaurants that have been recommended by travel agents on a recent visit to Cancun.

NOTE- Several of the nicer restaurants…..especially in the all-inclusive resorts, have dress codes.  Men must wear long pants & a collared shirt…no sandals.  Women may not wear flip-flops.


Authentic good Mexican food.  Drinks under $2.00, entrees $3.00 to $7.00.  Very casual, we ate there on Sun afternoon and lots of locals were eating out with their families.


Genuine Mexican dishes, moderate prices.  A fun place, casual attire, lively entertainment with Mariachi and Marimba music.


Very inexpensive, beers under $1.00, large Margarita’s $2.50.  Recommend: Tampiquena or the Mixed Grill for two.  Casual.  Go early evening; it tends to have a wait as the night gets later.  Drinks, an unbelievable dinner and tip for under $22 for two.


Casual, fun, not overboard, moderately priced.


Pricey but the biggest lobsters you can imagine. ….great view of the water at night.


More affordable for lobster, seafood.  Nice Mexican show and live Mexican entertainment.


Great ambiance, Mayan garden in an old Yucatecan home…..wonderful atmosphere …..Caribbean seafood and steak……House specialty “Coco Habichuela” which is shrimp and lobster in curry sauce, served in coconut shell with plantains and pineapples.  Not really very expensive for a nice evening out. $$plus.  (note from Brenda:  I loved this place!!!)


Real fresh seafood, live reggae, and real fun in a majestic tropical ambiance.  Moderate prices, casual attire.



Everyone must go at least once!!!!  A wild night on the lagoon offering energetic entertainment… never know what may happen next but it is great fun.  Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Another fun, crazy place……always something going on.


Disco, enormous dance floor…..slightly older crowd


High tech disco with nightly laser and light shows


Also offers nightly laser and light shows, zany atmosphere……open 10pm to ????

OTHER THINGS TO DO (besides eat and drink)

SUNBATHING – The sun is very intense; use sunscreen no matter how tough or tan you think you are.  Don’t forget sunglasses and a hat!  If you do get sunburned, try a bottle of clear green or blue gel “Sunburn Relief”…..different brands, but they do help.


Natural paradise of inlets and coves transformed into an unusual destination.  Snorkel and swim in the underground river, horseback ride on the beach, or swim with the dolphins ($$extra).  The best part of this excursion is the fantastic evening show….be sure to plan your day so that you do not miss this.  Take dry clothes with you!  You are divided into groups according to what language you speak, then are toured through the caves by candlelight as you are being entertained by natives re-enacting a history of Mexico…..with a song & dance extravaganza at the end.  We loved it!  This is not performed every night, so make sure you go when it is scheduled……no extra charge to attend.

TULUM – south of Playa del Carmen

Ancient Mayan city from 1200 AD.  It is the only ruin built on the coast and is a spectacular setting…….interesting guides, native dancers.  Tulum is a good choice if you want to learn about the Mayan culture and see well-preserved ruins in a beautiful setting without taking the long drive to Chichen Itza.


There are a few locations in Cancun and Playa del Carmen where you can do this.  It is suggested that you book prior to your trip due to the popularity of this activity.  My son recently did this while on a Spring Break trip to Cancun.  He loved it!  Located in an aquarium setting.


U.S. CITIZENS TRAVELING TO MEXICO MUST HAVE a valid passport that is not due to expire within the next 6 months!   You will be denied boarding if you do not have your passport with you!

In addition, for those under age 18 traveling to Mexico without BOTH of their legal parents or guardians you must provide the following:

*Minors traveling unaccompanied or with anyone other than their parents must provide an original notarized letter of permission signed by both parents.

*Minors traveling with only one parent:  must have notarized written permission from the other parent.  (Airlines also require the name, address, and phone number of the person meeting the unaccompanied minor upon arrival in Mexico).

*In the case of deceased or divorced parents: legal proof must be carried to accept just one signature on the letter.  This proof (death certificate, proof of sole custody, etc) can also be shown to a notary who can then notarize an Affidavit of Sole Custody form.

Your first step is at Mexican Immigration where proof of citizenship is inspected and tourist cards are validated.  DO NOT LOSE YOUR TOURIST CARD!  You will need to turn this in when leaving Mexico.

Please pay attention to the baggage weight allowance, particularly if you are arriving by a charter flight.  The extra charge for overweight luggage can be quite expensive.



The proper tool for the job makes the job a lot easier. This not only applies to repairing boats and cars and other assorted machinery but it also applies to the travel agent you select to take care of your travel needs. A good travel agent takes care of getting you from point “A” to point “B” and back again as hassle free as the transportation system will allow. A great travel agent not only does the latter but can also find those perfect places to spend your vacations. A fantastic travel agent finds those perfect places to spend your vacation that are so wonderful that the week you get back home you’re on the phone reserving your perfect getaway for next year. Brenda Wagers at Travel Escapes is just that kind of agent.

Gordy2In 2005 Brenda introduced us to Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado. We weren’t very good snow skiers when we took our first trip to Mt. Crested Butte. In 2004 we traveled to another popular ski resort and our skiing experience there was a disaster, but Brenda knew if she could get us into the right environment the skiing would come to us. Mt. Crested Butte was such a place. We still aren’t expert skiers but we have FUN and that’s what it’s all about.

The ski area at Mt. Crested Butte is designed to suit most skiers’ abilities and skill levels. The Green and Blue runs are always well groomed with plenty of room to just cruise around and enjoy the magnificent scenery. The Black and Double Black runs will get your heart pumping and your quads burning. I’ve never been to the Extreme ski areas but those who have say those areas are world class. There are more than enough lifts to service the mountain. Most are quad or triple chair lifts. Unless you plan your trip during Christmas or Spring Break there is hardly any wait time to get on a lift.

Obviously you go to ski, but one of the things that makes Crested Butte so much fun is the people. The Crested Butte staff—the folks you see all over the mountain in their Crested Butte jackets—are friendly and helpful. I’ve always had a hard time getting off the lifts. Eight out of ten times I’d fall getting off the chair and take out two or three other people in the process. I rode up one day with a Crested Butte customer service rep and was lamenting about my difficulty getting off the lift. She showed me a trick that gets you off the lift without falling. I tried it, it worked, and since then I’ve never wiped out getting off the lift. It’s little things like that that you will experience when you ski at Crested Butte. In my opinion that equals bang for your buck.

Accommodations at Crested Butte are excellent. We stay in one of the ski in/ski out units at Crested Mountain Condominiums. The units are expensive but well worth it. There are other condos all over the mountain that offer easy access to the ski area. If you’d prefer to stay in less expensive accommodations there is a free bus service that runs all over the mountain and into town. The buses are equipped with ski and board racks. The buses run at fifteen-minute intervals all day long and most of the evening. You don’t need a car.

Restaurants are everywhere and most are very, very good.  The Avalanche, located at the base area, is nothing fancy—just good old-style comfort food. Killer pizza and nightly specials. My favorite is the chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, and a big homemade biscuit. Their breakfast is awesome.  A full stack of pancakes will feed a family of four. Another one of our favorites is Slogars. Located in town, this restaurant serves meals family style. Their specialty is Southern style fried chicken. It’s all you can eat, so go with a big appetite. We also enjoy Timberline and Maxwell’s Steak House. There are many more to choose from and all are very good.

Ski equipment rental and pro shops are located in and around the base area. We usually rent our equipment from Flat Iron Sports. Christy Sports and CB Sports also have shops on the mountain. Several years ago we bought ski boots from the folks at Flat Iron Sports. They have always been more than helpful with boot adjustments over the years and never charged us a penny for that service. Their rental shop carries beginner, intermediate and performance skis. All of their equipment is in great shape. You can reserve your skis online and get a discount.

Crested Butte maintains an excellent web site. Go to Lots of great info, snow reports, grooming reports, maps, real estate, lift ticket reservations, and live cams, and they will put you on their email list.  Gordy3

Getting there from Nashville you have several choices. We fly American, but Delta, United and a few others offer service to that region. We fly into Dallas and then from Dallas to Gunnison, CO. From Gunnison we take a shuttle bus to Mt Crested Butte. Depending on your layover time in Dallas you’ll spend about 6 hours en route from Nashville to Gunnison and another 45 minutes to 1 hour getting from Gunnison to Crested Butte. Unless you are delayed en route you usually get to Crested Butte well before dark.

Why do we continue to go back to Crested Butte? Of all the resorts we have traveled to over the years, sun or snow, Crested Butte is for us the most hassle-free place we have ever been. We stay in the same condo every year, rent our skis from the same business, go to the same restaurants, and know how to get around the mountain and the town below. We can turn off our brains and just have fun. Brenda knew if she could find that perfect spot for us the skiing would come to us. It sure has.   ~~~Gordy, a Travel Escapes client


November 30 – December 9, 2010

Fiji’s 333 beautiful islands are situated approximately 1250 miles north of New Zealand, in the very heart of the South Pacific.  Here in the world’s friendliest paradise you will find warm smiles and warm beaches, crystal clear waters, soft and gentle trade winds, relaxed and unspoiled magical islands.

There are seven key areas in Fiji – Nadi/Denerau, Lautoka and the Mamanuca Island Group, The Yasawa Island Group, the Coral Coast, Pacific Harbour and Suva, the Northern Group and the Outer Islands.  Fiji’s International airport is located in Nadi.

Throughout these islands, you will find outstanding natural beauty, spectacular waterfalls, tropical forests, pristine coral reefs, soft white sand beaches, gently swaying palm trees, quaint villages and marketplaces……..but the one attraction that will bring you back to these magical islands time again, is the genuine friendliness of the Fijian people.

~~~~~Sunspots International 2010 brochure                     Fiji2


I totally fell in love with Fiji on my recent trip with Sunspots International Vacations!!  Of course much of my time was spent touring resorts but I still had a fabulous time and cannot wait to return with my family and friends.  I now have the knowledge and the contacts to plan your wonderful vacation in Fiji as well.  Highlights for my trip follow:

Tuesday November 30

I flew on Southwest Airlines to Los Angeles, collected my bags and walked to the International Terminal.  These terminals are at opposite ends of LAX but I had plenty of time and enjoyed the walk in the sunshine.  I met with other agents on the trip and we checked in for our 9:30PM flight on Air Pacific non stop to Nadi.  We were very fortunate to that Sunspots arranged for us to be upgraded to the Upper Level of our plane.  Air Pacific sells these upgrades for a minimal amount at the airport based on availability.  After my experience I must say this upgrade is highly recommended!!  It was uncrowded and quiet upstairs so we were able to spread out and really get a good nights sleep on the way over.

Thursday December 2

We arrived in Nadi at 5:15AM.  After crossing the International Date Line, you do loose a day going over but gain it back when you return!  We were greeted by the fine folks at Rosie Holidays with Fiji water and fresh flower leis.  Our tour guide Ronnie immediately embraced us as “family”.  He not only took very good care of us but demonstrated the warm friendly attitude that we would soon learn was the norm throughout Fiji.

We spent the morning touring several hotels in Nadi and Denarau: Novetel Nadi, Hilton, and Sofitel.  I have notes on all of the hotels we toured but will not share them in this trip report.  You will need to call me for that information ;)

By early afternoon we were at Port Denarau waiting to board the Malolo Cat for our transfer to Musket Cove Resort on the island of Malala Lailai.  The staff at Musket Cove had gathered on the dock to sing to us as we arrived…..this welcome was repeated at every resort throughout our stay and we never ceased to be impressed by the quality of the singing, the smiling faces, and the enthusiasm exhibited by the Staff. Bula, the traditional Fijian greeting, was said with gusto by everyone we walked by.  At Musket Cove we were assigned to spacious 2 bedroom Fijian Bures that I was very impressed with.

That evening we enjoyed a sunset cruise aboard a Catamaran complete with a band, drinks, and appetizers.  What a gorgeous sunset and a great way to end our first day in Fiji!  We were really tired by the end of this very full day so ate some from the Pig Roast Feast back at Musket Cove and went to bed early.    Fiji1

Friday December 3

We left Musket Cove via Catamaran for our transfer to Malolo Island Resort for lunch and a site inspection.  The resort has been completely renovated and looks great!  It is the sister resort to Likuliku and is more geared towards families….beautiful!  After lunch we were again picked up by boat for the short transfer to LikuLiku Lagoon Resort.  Wow……this resort is gorgeous!!  It boasts the only “Over the Water” bungalows in Fiji and there are only 10 of them so book early!  They are absolutely beautiful and a much better price than what you would find in Tahiti.  This resort has it all:  great beach, wonderful snorkeling right off the Pier (where I saw my first Blue Velvet Starfish!), lovely accommodations, and yummy food.  It is quiet, elegant, and geared towards couples but it is a magical place.  Our room had a wonderful outdoor shower which I enjoyed!  This was a first for me…..loved it!  The Beachfront Deluxe rooms with private plunge pool were very nice and these are located closer to the beach than the standard rooms.  The view is  better in the Deluxe rooms too so I think it would be worth the upgrade!  I am so glad that we had some free time to enjoy this resort.  We snorkeled in the afternoon and enjoyed cocktails at sunset out on a point while being entertained by some of the staff in costume performing traditional dance and singing.




Saturday December 4

A small transfer boat picked us up for the short trip to Castaway Island Resort where we waded ashore…..just like Castaways J I must say that this was my favorite resort all around.  It is not as fancy as Likuliku but it was lively and fun with excellent food!! You must order the Fijian Chocolate Dessert with Liquor……it is to die for!  Do I keep repeating myself about the food??  Really I enjoyed the food in Fiji very much.  They use an interesting mix of flavors and focus on fresh ingredients that are often grown right on the resort property.  So it was also very healthy!!

We had the afternoon free to enjoy Castaway Island.  There is a jungle feel as you walk around the grounds….very cool.  The rooms have been renovated recently and look amazing, plus the beach is gorgeous!  They took us by boat out to a reef for some great snorkeling, then we cleaned up a bit and enjoyed relaxing in a bar overlooking the beach until time to board another boat to take us to meet “The Reef Endeavor” ship with Captain Cook Cruises.  This is an older small ship and the cabins are tiny…..especially compared to our room at Likuliku the night before!  The first night of our 3 night cruise was “Captain’s Night” so it was a challenge to get checked in and dressed up in time for dinner!  After dinner we attended a Reef Talk which consisted of an old style slide show presentation of what you might see as you snorkel the reefs around Fiji.  The talk was interesting but could have been sooo much better!  The new Captain does have big plans to improve all aspects of this cruise experience but it is still a work in progress.

Sunday December 5-December 7  Cruising the Mamanuca Islands

Although our 1st impression of the ship was less than enthusiastic, the experience ended up being awesome!  On our 3 night cruise we had the opportunity to discover the “real” Fiji that we may have missed otherwise.  Included with the price of the cruise were excursions every day.  We always snorkeled once or twice each day.  The snorkeling was over the top incredible and I feel like this is one of the main reasons why it is worth it to travel all the way to the South Pacific.  Each location was a bit different and I never was bored with the wonders that I saw beneath the ocean!  Other highlights included visits to beautiful white sand beaches and an evening dinner in a traditional Fijian Village where we could talk with the friendly locals and learn a bit about their simple family oriented lifestyle.  I participated in a Kava drinking ceremony and learned to dance the Meke.  On another afternoon we visited a Fijian school where the children performed for us then grabbed our hands to show us around.  I will never forget those special children!  We also had to opportunity to attend a Methodist Church service in one of the Villages.  We could not understand much of what they were saying, but the singing was truly amazing and inspiring.  In fact the Fijian people all seem to have incredible voices and singing is a big part of their lives.  They greeted us with song every place we went and sang to us again when we departed.  I loved this so much that I purchased a CD of traditional Fijian music!  ***On a side note, you must cover your shoulders and knees when you visit the Villages as a show of respect for their culture.  A “Sulu” and a T-shirt works great for both men and women.

Tuesday December 7

We departed the ship back at Port Denarau where we were met by Ronnie again.  Our bus with Rosie Holidays took us for site inspections of the Westin, Sheraton Villas, and Sheraton Fiji on Denarau Island.  After lunch and a bit of free time at the Sheraton we headed to the airport for our flight (on a very small plane) to the North Island of Vanua Levu.  Our flight was 2 1/2 hours late due to rainy weather but once we took off the rain stopped and it was a beautiful flight.  We landed at the tiniest little airport I think I have ever been to.  I loved it!  You immediately noticed the difference between this part of Fiji and the other areas we had visited.  It is very lush and mountainous!  We transferred to Koro Sun Resort where we were greeted not only by singing but by a foot massage!  All guests at the Koro Sun are treated to a foot massage upon arrival!  I loved my bungalow at this resort……very charming.  My bed was surrounded by mosquito netting although there was not a problem with mosquitoes….it just made the atmosphere seem exotic….and I did have another outdoor shower here.

Wednesday December 8

What a treat today to have the opportunity to visit the gorgeous Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort!  I absolutely loved every single thing about this resort except that they do not have a/c.  You may not need it on most days but I know it is important to many of my clients.  They are very energy conscious so have no plans to add air conditioning.  At this resort we were given a foot massage overlooking the beach…..wonderful!  Also we had the opportunity to snorkel

with the Staff Marine Biologist.  He would write down what we were seeing, then hold the sign up under water for us to see.  He also showed us some cool tricks with the various types of coral.  This resort is very family friendly and even has a small zip line for the kids!

Too soon it was time to leave but we did have the opportunity to visit another amazing resort: Namalie.  Low tide is not particularly pretty here but the resort itself was fabulous!  Meg Ryan owns one of the Bures here!

Back to Koro Sun for entertainment and dinner before packing to leave for home.


Thursday December 9

We flew back to Nadi and had day rooms at the Radisson on Denarau with free time until our 11:00PM flight to LAX.  Unfortunately it was raining so we were limited in what we had to do.  It would have been fun to relax by the pool!  We only had two rainy days though so really we cannot complain.

Airport- Rosie Holidays has a VIP lounge available that you can reserve for a minimal charge.  It is a very nice place to relax if you have several hours to kill before your flight.  You can even schedule a massage!

Shopping-  the shopping in Nadi is about the same price as what you will find at the airport.  Resort gift shops are high! There is an UGG Manufacturing Plant in Nadi…..not your normal “souvenir” from Fiji but the prices were better than in the United States and they will custom make your boots then deliver them to your hotel by the end of the day!  I also love the entire line of “Simply Fiji” products!!  This includes wonderful moisturizers and a lemon grass insect spray that smells really good but also keeps the bugs away.  There were some issues with mosquitoes at various places we visited so I recommend taking Skin So Soft or your favorite spray……or buy this Lemon Grass Spray when you arrive.  Remember you are in the Tropics so there are bugs but this would definitely not keep me from going back!!!!!

Please call me when you are ready to embark on this adventure of a lifetime!!~~~Brenda Wagers


October 20 – November 3, 2009

Paris is known as the “City of Lights” for its world-renowned beauty and charm.  I fell in love with the city last year when I only spent two nights there at the end of a river cruise across Germany.  Fortunately I had the opportunity for more in-depth exploration this year.   After spending a total of six nights in Paris I feel comfortable with the city and am ready to help you plan your next trip!  ParisAtNight

Accommodations in a lovely 3* hotel on the Left Bank sold me on the desirability of this location.  Our hotel was near St Michaels, Notre Dame, & La Sorbonne with a great choice of cafés, brasseries, and restaurants within walking distance.  A few of the highlights of Paris that I will always remember:

  • A sunny day spent exploring on foot and being amazed by all the incredible architecture!  Petit Palais, Grand Palais, Champs Elysees, Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame, Ile de la Cite, Sainte Chapelle, Paris Opera, Musee D’Orsee, Pont Neuf, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre Museum, The Tuilleries, and Jardens du Luxemburg were all within walking distance!
  • Versailles -Very impressive and well worth a day trip!!  No need to book a tour as it is only 30 minutes by train.  I can advise!
  • Montmartre and Basilica of Sacre-Coeur –  Charming area on top of a hill with a spectacular view of Paris.   Fun to ride the train to the top and take a guided tour of the artist’s colony & Basilica. The famous Moulin Rouge is in this area as well.  Nightly Las Vegas style shows are very entertaining!
  • Rainy day spent touring The Louvre and Musee d’Orsay, as well as a couple of lesser known but fascinating  museums.  Highly recommend getting the Paris Museum Pass ahead of time!  It allows access to most of the major attractions without standing in line to buy tickets!
  • Cheese crepes and cider from a street vendor!   Louvre
  • Exploring the interesting area along the Seine across from Notre Dame as well as the lively alleyways near St. Michael train station.  This area has a number of shops and outdoor cafes with a fun party atmosphere.
  • Elegant shopping along Champs d’Elysee.  Very expensive, but window shopping is free!
  • Eiffel Tower – go at night for a fabulous view!
  • Sightseeing night cruise on the Seine. …highly recommend!!
  • French wine, French bread, French pastries, French hot chocolate…….delicious!


Paris to Geneva, Switzerland via high speed TVG train – The ride is so smooth that you would never know you were travelling over 300 kilometers an hour!   Quite a wake-up call when a train passes you going in the opposite direction though!

Rental car pick up in Geneva –  Added expenses that are soooo worth the money:  Automatic transmission and GPS!!!!

Annecy –  What a picturesque little town that is often referred to as the “Venice” of France!  This charming medieval village is set on the northern edge of Lac d’Annecy Annecy1and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  The historic center is laced with canals, flower-covered bridges, and arcaded streets.  It was worth the small upgrade for a room with lake view……simply stunning!!   My memories of Annecy include:

  • Picture-perfect weather every day was an unexpected treat!  The leaves were at their peak fall color so the scenery was even more breathtaking!
  • Two beautiful scenic drives:  “Cret de Chatillon” with a stop in Talloires.  There is a wonderful chalet restaurant that is a short hike up from the end of the road where you can sit outside and enjoy the view of the lake far below while listening to the tinkle of cow bells……definitely feeling the Swiss influence here. Annecy2

“Col de la Forclaz takes you in the opposite direction from Annecy and ends above the tree line for a view of snow capped Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe.

  • Swiss Raclette and Swiss Fondue…..Yum!!!!
  • Day trip to Chamonix which is a famous ski town about 1 ½ hours from Annecy.  Riding the cable car up the mountain was a worthwhile adventure!!  We stayed up on the mountain for a long time while enjoying the sunshine, view of Mt. Blanc, and the constant stream of hang gliders leaping off the side of the mountain!

Next stop Provence!   After leaving the interstate behind, the roads became narrow and winding with vineyards, olive trees, & farmhouses composing the landscape.  It was the wrong time of year to see the famous fields of lavender but going off-season also means fewer crowds!  Highlights of Provence:


  • Les Baux en Provence –  Home base was a rustic family-run inn with gorgeous flower gardens and loads of charm.  Loved the location near the Alpilles Rock formations which were an incredible vantage point from which to watch the sunset!  The old citadel Les Baux is lit up at night and is something most tourists probably do not see unless you are staying nearby.  The whole area is unlike anything I have ever seen before!
  • Arles –  famous for the impressive Roman Ruins dating back to the 7th Century BC!  The Roman Amphitheater located here is only 3’ smaller than the Coliseum in Rome!!  Very interesting Picasso museum located here, as well as a variety of historic sights in the Old Towne area.  Arles


  • Avignon – Massive walled village that was fun to explore.  Among the sights to see was the amazing Palais des Papes and the bridge made famous by the children’s song “Sur la Pont d’Avignon”.
  • St. Remy- Beautiful tree-lined roads leading into town.  Upscale shopping and restaurants in a picture-perfect village.
  • Gordes –  Hilltop village of white buildings that is particularly impressive from a distance.  The buildings spilling down the hillside almost look like snow.
  • Village des Bories –  Worth a stop to see these beehive-shaped stone huts that date back to the 16th Century.
  • Roussilon –  Another village perched on a hilltop but this is unique in that the hill is composed of bright red sandstone called “red orcher”.  All of the buildings are made out of red orcher as well, making this a very picturesque little town.
  • Local wines and wonderful restaurants!!

Last stop, the Loire Valley, which is a LONG 9-hour drive from Provence. ….might plan this a little differently next time!  Another hit with accommodations though…..what better base for exploring the Loire Valley than staying in a 4* Hotel located in a beautiful historic chateau?   Perfect!!  The chateaux scattered throughout the Loire Valley are spaced quite a distance apart so you do have to plan your time accordingly.    The audio tours are informative and entertaining!  I enjoyed touring the following:

  • Chateau de Chenonceau


  • LoireValley2
  • Chateau d’Ambroise
  • Chateau de Chambord                                     LoireValley4
  • Blois
  • Tours

After returning the rental car to the train station in Tours, we boarded the TVG train to CDG airport for the return flight to Atlanta.  I am so glad that I had the opportunity to explore this wonderful country and found the French people to be warm and welcoming.  It does help if you attempt to speak French a little instead of just assuming they will speak English.  Of course that is the case in most countries…..they do appreciate our efforts to speak their language.  I learned a lot and am ready to use my experience to plan an equally awesome trip for you!! ~~~Brenda Wagers


OCHO RIOS-  I was very impressed with how much they have cleaned up the Ocho Rios area.  A number of upscale hotels & shopping areas are being developed,  and the whole area is looking great!  We went to Dunns River Falls and I am happy to report that they have gotten rid of the trail of vendors that you used to have to walk past in order to purchase tickets.


RIU OCHO RIOS-  New gorgeous hotel.  The resort is laid out so that all of their standard rooms are on one side, and the suites are on the other side.  The suites were just a bit larger, and that wing was a bit fancier.  If you stay in a suite, you also have access to a more upscale fine dining restaurant.  You have to make reservations for the fine dining restaurants on the same day that you want to eat there, and it is first come/first serve.  For the main dining restaurants there are two seatings for dinner, similar to what you would find on a cruise ship.   The pool, sports bar, disco, & piano bar were all impressive……fun place!

JAMAICAN INN-  An older resort, but this is a gorgeous place……old Jamaican elegance at its finest.  The pool is small…..but, everything else is fabulous.  Great for those of you who want something different from the normal all-inclusive resorts.  Exceptional spa where all of the treatment rooms are open air with a tree house feel.  You can hear the waves crashing below you….pretty cool.

COYABA RESORT-  Another one of my favorite independent resorts!  Great honeymoon suites!!

HALF MOON-  Gorgeous!!  Check out the large villas that would be perfect for family groups.  And as an update, this resort has recently gone through an extensive renovation.  AND there is a golf course.

SANDALS GRANDE OCHO RIOS-  Across the street from the beach……very large resort.   As with most Sandals properties, there is a lot going on here!

SANDALS DUNNS RIVER-  We only spent an evening here and did not really tour the resort.  However, from what I saw I liked this resort!  We have had several clients stay here, and we have put wedding groups here, and everyone has always been very happy with this resort.  We consistently get great feedback.  With this resort, you have the option of being close to the beach or being in a cottage on the hillside with your own private plunge pool.

ROSE HALL RESORT-  This resort has been totally renovated and is absolutely gorgeous!  It is a great family resort with lazy river & water slides, but the entire place is very elegant with a rich “plantation” feel.  I loved it!!

BEACHES BOSCOBEL, OCHO RIOS – This is an all-inclusive that is part of the Sandals/Beaches franchise and, as such, can be counted upon to be well run with a staff that is second to none.  And that was the case the day I spent there.  The staff was so much fun and, even during the periods of time when it was raining, they made the day great!  The food was wonderful and the drinks great, too!  The beach is somewhat smaller here than at many other resorts; however, it is a very nice calm beach which is good for children and it is more than ample for most families.  This Beaches resort is not as large as many all-inclusive resorts tend to be but has a really pretty pool area.  This resort is built on a hillside (not too steep) that rises from the beach, so although there are elevators, there are also a lot of steps if you choose not to use the elevators.  Like all Beaches properties, the children’s programs are superb.  Since I was there, a great waterpark has been added to this property which has only added to its appeal.  And this Beaches usually prices a little bit cheaper than the other Beaches properties, which makes it a good value.   (–T.M.)

JAMAICA is particularly good for active tourists who are interested in adventure tours.  Check out to see what tours are available.   So much is available, from zip-lining to river rafting, and even Jamaican bobsledding!  The beaches & mountains are beautiful in Jamaica—some of the most beautiful scenery in the Caribbean, and English is the official language, which is a plus.  The dollar is accepted everywhere and there are good deals to be found while shopping.  Right beside the cruise pier is the Island Village shopping area, which is where you will find Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and several other great shops, some with beautiful local handicrafts and artwork.  Another shopping center not too far from the cruise pier and in the “downtown” Ocho Rios area is the Taj Mahal Center, where you will find most of your nicer jewelry stores but also some souvenir stores as well.  You do have the vendors who try to sell you stuff, and parts of the country are dirty & run down……however, you see this all over the Caribbean so it really is not any different.   And use the same precautions for your safety and belongings that you would use anywhere you travel.  For the most part, the people are welcoming and gracious and very friendly.  You need to come to Jamaica with an attitude of leaving your worries at home and having “No problems, mon!”   –Brenda Wagers and Tina Messamore


Kia Ora travel fans! I feel quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to tour both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.  What an incredibly beautiful country!!!   Kia Ora is a Maori language greeting which translates into “Hi”, G’day, “Thank-you” or “Your Welcome” and is widely used by Native New Zealanders. This picture was taken at Cape Kidnappers….just one of the many scenic places we discovered.  NewZealand1

Other highlights included the mysterious Whakarewarewa Thermal Hot Springs, the charming Art Deco village of Napier, several excursions by boat including a thrilling ride on the Shotover Jet and a full day trip to see the awe inspiring beauty of Milford Sound.  We saw wildlife and wineries; went on 4 wheel drive jeNewZealand5ep tours, boat trips, hiking, and a couple of brave souls in our group did the original world’s first A.J. Hacket Bungy Jump!

My best memories are of the people we met however.  Having tea with a local family on their absolutely picture perfect farm….with time to just wander and talk to them was very special.  And everywhere we went, we were greeted with warm enthusiasm and a zest for life that is contagious!  If you have ever considered traveling “down under” please call me!  I would love to tell you all the reasons why you definitely should GO.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon!


I went on a trip to Park City, and combined my trip with some “site inspections”, and wanted to share some of my experiences with you.  Perhaps you will want to plan a trip there as well!  The location is great……surrounded by mountains, and only a short 30-minute drive from Salt Lake International Airport.  An abundance of outdoor activities are available, both in the summer and winter, and most days offer beautiful blue skies & low humidity…..a great combination!

In addition to touring houses available for vacation rental….for YOU….., I had the opportunity to go fly fishing with an instructor, hike at Sundance, and do a little mountain biking.  I admit, I did not catch any fish, but started to get the “10 & 2” concept mastered.  At least I did not fall in, as one of the other ladies in our group did!   We also spent an afternoon at Olympic Park and rode in a bobsled, 70 mph down the track used in the Olympics….quite a thrill!!

If you are thinking about a ski trip next year, I would highly recommend this area.  Three ski resorts are within five miles of Park City…..with 14 resorts available only a short drive away.  I toured a number of beautiful houses that would sleep 8-20 people, and have easy access to the ski resorts.  We work with several different vendors, and many of them offer provision service so your groceries are stocked in your rental condo or house upon your arrival!  So get your friends and family together, and let’s plan a trip!  I know which houses and resorts offer “true” ski in, ski out…..this is not information you are going to find on the Internet!   Please call any of our agents if we may be of assistance in planning your next ski/mountain vacation!   ~~~Brenda Wagers


Here you can explore the charms of a traditional Mexican town complete with cobblestone streets, enjoy a romantic gourmet feast in some of Mexico’s finest restaurants, go art gallery shopping, take the kids on a swim with dolphins, play golf on a championship golf course, zip from tree to tree on a canopy tour in the Sierra Madre mountains, kayak, snorkel, scuba dive – or just laze on the beach. PuertoVallarta2

Located on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, also known as the Mexican Riviera, in the western state of Jalisco (home of tequila, mariachi music, and traditional and historic charms), Puerto Vallarta is part of the 42-mile coastline on the Bay of Banderas – among the select group of Most Beautiful Bays in the World – and is framed by lush jungles and the surrounding Sierra Madre PuertoVallarta6Mountains offering dramatic and picturesque scenery.

Art lovers will find one of Mexico’s most dynamic arts scenes in Puerto Vallarta.  Take a stroll down the famous Malecon (boardwalk) to see an open-air art gallery of sculptures and artists selling their paintings.  You may also then want to swing by Los Arcos (The Arches), a beautiful open-air amphitheater overlooking the sea to enjoy cultural performances.  Dance, music, theater, acrobatic and folkloric presentations take place here every day all year-round.

Depending on the season that you visit, you can admire the magnificent humpback whales (December to April) as they migrate to the Banderas Bay area to breed, or be a part of the protection of the Olive Ridley sea turtle (June to November) when the turtles come to lay their eggs on the beach and the new hatchlings are released every night into the ocean.  I was able to participate in this sea turtle release program and will remember it always. PuertoVallarta3

Puerto Vallarta is the most charming beach destination that I have visited in Mexico.  The cobblestone streets and architecture of Old Town as well as the wide variety of adventure activities in the Sierra Madre mountains make this area much more than a “beach” destination.   With the knowledge that I have gained from this trip, I am ready to help you plan a wonderful vacation in Puerto Vallarta!!!   ~~~Brenda Wagers


November 2009

Shortly before the holidays, 160 travel agents (myself included!) from Philadelphia and the Middle Tennessee area were lucky enough to be IMG_0161asked by the owners of Sandals and Beaches to fly on a chartered jet to Nassau and to Turks & Caicos to visit and explore two of their resorts, and I would love to tell you a little about my experience!  First of all, we flew to Nassau and we were greeted at the Sandals Royal Bahamian by cool towels, a refreshing drink, and a lovely dinner.  Almost immediately, flight delays and a cold winter in Nashville were a distant memory! We proceeded to take a tour of this lovely property and managed to get some pictures to take home despite some uncooperative weather that afternoon.   The resort is not a long transfer from the airport–only about 20 minutes, and is on New Providence Island, just outside of Nassau.  It sits on Cable Beach, which is one of the better stretches of beach on the island.  IMG_0169

This Sandals is one of their smaller, more intimate properties, but it provides several lovely settings for weddings and unlimited backdrops for romance.  The fire pits on the white-sand beach were so pretty at night reflecting in that gorgeous Bahamian water.  One of the best things this particular Sandals has to offer is their own private island just off shore from the resort, and they have a launch that runs back and forth regularly.  On the private island there is a restaurant, another pool, bar service, and a beautiful expanse of white-sand beach looking out over that impossibly blue ocean.  It’s hard to tear your eyes away from that view!

IMG_0164At a Sandals property, it is definitely true that the difference is in the details.  The cool towels, the premium top-shelf drinks included in your all-inclusive plan, impeccable service, ample toiletries provided in the bath, and at this property even Baccarat crystal in some of the restaurants—the special touches that set Sandals apart.  Sandals Royal Bahamian, being one of their smaller properties, can often provide the Sandals experience at a value, and has the advantage of being just a short flight from the mainland.  As a Certified Sandals Specialist, I would love to help you plan the perfect romantic trip for two!   ~~~Tina Messamore


JAMAICA, April/May 2012

In late April/early May of 2012, my husband and I went to Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica.   This resort sits in a 500-acre nature preserve on the relatively unpopulated south coast of Jamaica.  The setting is beautiful and unspoiled, and the resort is large and luxurious.   As you arrive you are immediately treated to the wonderful Sandals hospitality and service.  My husband and I were checked in and in our beautiful beachfront suite within 15 minutes.  IMG_0884

IMG_0895Our view every day was spectacular and I miss waking up to the gorgeous view of clear blue water and soft sand.  Our room was the distinctive British Colonial decor of all Sandals resorts, which honors the heritage and history of the island during their long British ownership; they are now independent and the island is considered a Commonwealth.  Eco-adventure is popular and there are many opportunities for excursions—ziplining, catamaran cruises, snorkeling, and scuba are available in addition to trips to nearby YS Falls, a beautiful waterfall in the rain forest of Jamaica.

IMG_0944The restaurants are very diverse and there is so much to choose IMG_0899from—Italian, French, Continental cuisine, French pastries, seafood, traditional Jamaican cuisine, and yummy breakfasts.  There are several pools ranging from lively to quiet and plenty of bars to get a cool drink whenever you like!  There are some great shops and boutiques right on the property where you can get odds and ends you may have forgotten or some cute beachwear!  At night there is entertainment available and once a week there is a wonderful beach party with great food and music.

The road to the airport from the airport is not great; there are lots of curves, hills, and potholes.  It takes about 90 minutes, plus the driver usually stops at a jerk shack along the way.  However, do not let that deter you from going to this resort—it is SO worth it when you arrive!  The resort is beautiful and the beach is great!   My husband and I loved our stay here and I know you would, too!  Contact me if you would like more information, or to see more pictures!



I have been to Siesta Key, Florida on vacation many times, and have visited Longboat Key, Florida (just one “island” above Siesta) several times, and in May of 2008 did a site inspection of the Longboat Key Club there.  I would like to tell you a little bit about both barrier islands, which lie just off the coast of Sarasota, Florida.  Siesta Key and Longboat Key are easily accessible from airports in Tampa, Ft. Myers, or the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport.  FL030014

FL020014Siesta Key’s beach has won the honor of having “The World’s Finest, Whitest Sand” on more than one occasion and I can tell you, from having seen it myself, it truly is.  Sunglasses are an absolute necessity because of the reflection of the sun off of this sand that is almost blindingly white.  The sand is as powdery soft as confectioner’s sugar and stays cool to your feet, no matter what the temperature is outside, and the water is a beautiful clear blue, and generally calm and great for swimming and water sports.  Siesta Key is a really laid-back barrier island, and most of the accommodations on the island are condominiums; however, just recently Hyatt has opened one of their Hyatt Vacation Club properties on the island, and it is a 4-star property directly on a beautiful stretch of beach.  Hyatt Passport Club points can be used and accumulated at this property.  Siesta Key has retained much of the feel of what Florida used to be like before high rises took over much of the state, because most of the condominium properties here do not give it the feel of Miami Beach; it has still retained the feel of a friendly island.  There is a village on the island with shops and restaurants that are wonderful to browse through.

Longboat Key is just north of Siesta Key, and is very close to St. Armand’s Circle, which is a great shopping and restaurant district (developedFL020026 by John Ringling of circus fame) across the bay from Sarasota.  Longboat Key is a little more “upscale” than Siesta Key and has 45 holes of great golf on the island associated with the Longboat Key Club, a beautiful resort on the island, which I had the opportunity to tour.  This resort has a country club atmosphere without being too stuffy.  It sits on a gorgeous white-sand beach with calm, clear Gulf water views from your balcony, and offers an outstanding spa and top-notch tennis facilities in addition to all the golf you could ever want.

Being on the beautiful west coast of Florida, this area has stunning sunsets and wonderful, fresh Gulf seafood at an abundance of great restaurants from which to choose!  I would love to help you plan your trip to this area and share my Gulf Coast secrets with you! ~~~Tina Messamore


February 16-20, 2010

Tuesday-  Smooth flights on Delta Nashville-Salt Lake City-Montrose.  I loved Montrose Airport with the welcoming large fireplace in the baggage claim area and easy access to everything.  We collected our luggage and boarded our shuttle for the

1 ½ hour drive up to Telluride.  It was a beautiful sunny day with mild temperatures and no snow…..a little worrisome but we were assured that conditions were good on the mountain.  Our driver was very friendly and talked to us about the area all the way to Telluride which made the trip go by quickly.  We passed through Roadway, Co where the John Wayne movie “TRUE GRIT” was filmed.  He also pointed out the residences of several “rich & famous” folks who enjoy the beauty of this part of the country.  We saw “mule deer” but no eagles, elk, or sheep on this trip.

We checked into Hotel Telluride and were quite impressed!  I really cannot say enough about this hotel from the helpful staff, beautiful rooms & lobby, location that is walking distance to town, complimentary private shuttle that will take you right to the gondola or anywhere you want to go, luxurious bedding, fabulous full breakfast, and of course hot mulled cider and cookies every afternoon in the lobby!

We walked downtown and noticed the brightly-colored Victorian style houses and historic buildings, and the fact that this old mining town is located in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains, making the views from the town quite beautiful.  Another unique feature to this destination is the red rock visible on the mountain sides.

This trip we decided to rent skis since the airlines charge so much for checking bags!  We did take our boots with us, but decided to use the “Black Tie Service” for our ski rental.  This service only costs a few dollars more but is so worth it!!  The skis were brought right to our hotel where we were fitted, then they took the skis and placed them in storage at the hotel for us.  When we left to come home, we just called Telluride Sports and left our skis at the hotel for them to pick up.  This was very convenient!!

Dinner at Telluride Pizza Kitchen- Yum!   Telluride_Brenda

Wednesday-  After we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at Hotel Telluride we headed to the slopes via the complimentary shuttle.  Although we have been spoiled in the past by staying in ski in/ski out locations, I must say that this private shuttle was pretty awesome.  The shuttle driver handled our skis and delivered us right to the base of the Town Gondola which then took us on a 12-minute ride to Mountain Village.  At the end of the day, we would call the hotel as we boarded the gondola and the shuttle was always waiting on us when we arrived back at the base.  Then the shuttle driver would store our skis until the following day.  We felt quite pampered!  The skiing was incredible….fortunately lots of snow, as promised, up on the mountain.  This was a busy week since it was President’s Day on Monday, but still the lift lines were minimal.  When we got across the mountain to the higher elevations, there were no lines at all.  We loved the Prospect Bowl area and the view from the top of Gold Hill Express was absolutely breathtaking!!  It was a gorgeous sunny day and we had a blast!!  Lunch was at Gorrono Ranch Restaurant on the mountain.  We sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed good food, a fantastic view, and live music!  Dinner was at “Siam” which was a very interesting restaurant in an old house that was located a couple of blocks from the hotel.  Neat atmosphere and very good Thai food.

Thursday-  Another great day of skiing until the end of the day when we decided to take “Telluride Trail” which is a Blue run all the way back down to the Town of Telluride instead of taking the gondola.  We knew this would be switchbacks but were totally unprepared for a portion of it to be uphill!!  We had to remove our skis and walk quite a distance as this happened right in the middle of the trail so we would have to walk uphill either way we went.  So we trudged uphill for quite a distance not knowing what was around the next bend.  Finally we came to a Black Run or more uphill walking on Telluride Trail.  So, we chose the Black and made it down OK.  So, stay off of Telluride Trail!!!  Another recommendation is to take the Green trail “Galloping Goose” all the way down to see the fabulous houses that are built along this run.

HotelTellurideWe decided to ride the gondola back up to Mountain Village for dinner and of course I wanted to look at some of the other properties located in this area.  The Fairmont Franz Klymer Lodge, Bear Creek, Tristant & The Peaks (new condos behind the original building) are all highly recommended!!  We also looked at Camel’s Garden and Hotel Columbia located in the town of Telluride right near the gondola.

Dinner tonight was at the new Palmyra restaurant at The Peaks which was fabulous!!  You must get a reservation at this popular romantic restaurant but we were lucky to get in on a cancellation after our site inspection of the resort.  We enjoyed a table by the window with a great view outside, plus the reflection of numerous candles & fireplaces made this restaurant one of my favorites even before we were treated to excellent cuisine & service.  Loved it!!

It had been snowing all afternoon so walking around after dark was magical.  We took the gondola back down the mountain and enjoyed the lights of Telluride on the way down.  Our shuttle was waiting on us to take us back to Hotel Telluride .   DSC03928

Friday- The heavy snow continued today so we had limited visibility on the slopes.  Neither of us are experienced skiing on fresh powder but did enjoy this experience a bunch as long as we stayed on the Green & easy Blue runs.  Dinner was at Honga’s Restaurant for sushi.

Friday-  Unfortunately we had to return home today and after 13 inches of snow overnight, the roads were a bit treacherous.  However our shuttle driver had no difficulty getting us to the airport in Montrose and our flight was right on time.  It would have been a much different scenario if we had gotten that 13 inches of snow in Nashville!!

We fell in love with Telluride and I am sure you will as well.  Call me when you are ready to plan your trip there!!  ~~~Brenda Wagers

UNITED KINGDOM, Oct. 18 – Nov. 3, 2003


I went on a wonderful trip to the UK, with “In Quest of the Classics”,  They offer classic hotels & resorts, and specialize in custom-designed trips for individuals or small groups who want to “do their own thing”, rather than join a large bus tour group.  Check out the web site to see what this company is all about.  I was very impressed!

We toured a number of hotels, and even visited a couple of places that they did not sell.  These were shown to us in order to prove a point.  First, we looked at the brochure featuring each property.  Then we toured the actual resort.  What a contrast!  Remember, brochures (and theIinternet) can make ANY PLACE look good.  You may not see the rust stains, peeling paint, worn carpet, musty smells, etc, etc.  Just one more reason to call your travel agent!!

Some of the highlights from this trip that will forever stay with me:

  • Touring London on a double-decker bus
  • The British Museum……we even saw Cleopatra’s mummy!
  • The Crown Jewels in the Tower of London
  • London Theatre District…..”Blood Brothers” & “The Lion King”
  • Watching the Tennesee Titans, which just happened to be on, while we were eating dinner in a London pub!
  • Blenheim Palace, The Cotswolds, & Oxford University
  • Scotland…….Tartan plaids, bagpipes, The Trossaches, rock walls, arched stone bridges, lighthouses, and sheep
  • Scotland….Glamis Castle, Culzean Castle
  • Scotland Golf Courses…..St Andrews, Troon, Prestwick, Carnoustie, & Gleneagles
  • Edinburgh’s Old Town
  • Ireland……GREAT PUBS!  We had one especially memorable night at Jack Meade’s Pub with a great group of locals.  Imagine getting serenaded by an Irishman singing “Danny Boy”, then having everyone in the pub join us in a round of “DoWahDitty”.  Many traditional Irish & American songs were performed… was too much fun!
  • Halloween in Killarney…..everyone in our group dressed up!
  • Killarney…..The Ring of Kerry, Sheen Falls Lodge, Waterford Crystal Factory
  • Ireland……Colorful small towns, flowers, green rolling hills, & mountains.
  • Ireland……narrow road sand rock walls; our bus had to stop twice to wait for a herd of cows to cross the road!
  • Ireland….Great golf courses!

We are ready to plan YOUR trip.  JUST DO IT……the memories you will return home with are priceless.  –Brenda Wagers

Information and trip reports on other destinations will be added on a regular basis; be sure to check back frequently!PalmTreeLogo