Steve Kincade

Author's posts

Nov 26

Let’s talk Florida!

Let’s talk Florida! — for today, it’s Anna Maria Island!!

I know that as soon as I say “Florida” most people will automatically think of Orlando, International Drive, Universal Studios and of course the place with the mouse, Disney.  Now, don’t get me wrong here. I grew up with Disney and later Universal. I am a coaster freak, and lately I have become a real fan of the simulators like Despicable Me. At the age of 53, I loved being transformed into a Minion and flying through everything. I will talk more on these areas in another article, but just not here.

There is more to the great state of Florida then the theme parks. Although we “travel” we still like to have several trips to Florida each year. This is a great place to really unwind and still have a week of full days with lots of activities, no matter where you are. Well, within reason. There are some places that have really nothing to do, but just relax, and that can be perfect as well.

Anna Maria Island Beach

Anna Maria Island Beach

Today, I want to introduce you to a spot that has great relaxation and yet is close to fun activities in almost every direction toy can travel. Anna Maria Island is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, travelling south from Tampa and St. Petersburg, you will cross the Skyway Bridge and land in the Brampton area. Just turn towards the Gulf of Mexico and over a few island causeways, you will find yourself on Anna Maria Island. A touch of the past. This is actually the first of  three islands connecting to each other call North, Central and South Island, North being the actual Anna Maria Island.

Besides having many locations that you can stay at the give you that million dollar view every evening as the sun goes down, there are a lot of things to do, all within easy reach by car. Wait a minute …

Anna Maria Island Sunset

Anna Maria Island Sunset

Did I almost blow past the sunsets, just like that? As with many locations on the Gulf Coast, the sun sets straight out in front of you on the beach. The sunsets are truly spectacular and can make for a romantic evening, if that is what you are looking for. Just be on the beach at Sunset, and you will see what I mean.

The beach is truly a first class beach. I do like to get my walks in on the beach with the surf lapping on my heals as I walk as far as I want and then head back to enjoy the rest of the day. Some people here end up walking very slowly and spending relaxing hours on the beach doing something that you don’t normally find as an activity. That’s right, “Shark Tooth Hunting.”

I was introduced to this great “sport” by my friend Bill Hall. He dawn’s his bike bandana and start walking, looking intently at the spots where shells would gather and wash up in the eddy’s . He is as happy as a clam and had more relaxation then many would from a good jig saw puzzle.

Miles of Beach at Anna Maria Island

Miles of Beach at Anna Maria Island

I know this may sound strange to some, but for some reason, connected to the currents of the Gulf, Sharks would end up somewhere in the ocean to die. Over time their teeth would become mineralized by the ocean replacing the calcium in the teeth with the minerals found in the ocean. The result is fossilized sharks teeth and again for reasons I do not understand, they are very concentrated on this beach.  Go figure. For people that “want” time on their hands and surf sound the day away, this can be heaven. A treasure for those that do not need to find a treasure.

For others, like my wife, Judy, It is a good 3-5 mile brisk walk to start the day and then on to new adventures. Some days this included popping over to Brampton for a relaxing day of shopping and your Starbucks fix.  If you like flea markets, you have to take a trip to the Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton.  With 145,000 S.F. of space, it really does have something for just Red_Barn_Flea_Market_3[1]about everyone.  If you are renting a home on the Island for a week, the Red Bard has a great Farmers Market with rows on rows of fresh produce.

If that is not in the cards for the day, you can head on down to the peer and  locate some great food. Either on the peer, but also in many other areas. By tradition, you have to visit Rotten Ralphs for some great eats. With 7 miles of beach front, there are many great choices in the food area.

If you like pancakes, you can fins that as well, right on the beach. A nice walk and then another to work off the carbs. really though it is a very nice social event and well worth taking it all in.

Now if you want to do this, you will need accommodations, and the three islands off three different  distinct choices. The North Island (Anna Maria Island)  is more ritzy and offers some unique choices while the South island is more of the up coming place for clubs and moderate rooms.


While not well known to the public at large, this area is well supported on the Net. Check out these sites to help you chose where you should stay on your next get-a-way or romantic trip.

 The main thing to realize is that at Anna Maria Island, you have a taste of the real old Florida. Sit back, relax, enjoy good food and share the moments with friends. But, remember you are still very close to the modern Florida and yes, i do recommend that you take some day trips. Perhaps up to Tarpon Springs where they harvest sea sponges or into Tampa to the Aquarium or to Busch Gardens and hit a few rides with or without the kids.

If you want to have still another different Florida vacation, I will be sharing on Central Florida in an upcoming post. Heading to the other side of the state, I will have separate posts on the theme parks area of the state. Stay tuned for this. 

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For more information please check out these links

There are rates for every price range. Here is a site that is well maintained and offers a great selection.

don’t forget the Flea Market 🙂

Another great resource.


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Nov 22

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — A slice of Paradise

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana --  Awesome Resort

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Awesome Resort

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana, Bavro Beach, Dominican Republic

I have tried very hard to figure out how to describe this resort that was by far the best that we have ever stayed at. Was it the quality of detail, the majestic care of the resort? How do you describe a resort that goes above and beyond? A resort that not only gives you everything you would expect but so many things that you would simply not find anywhere else, period. How would you describe a resort that should have more stars than allowed?

Elegance. In this case Majestic Elegance. Can you tell we were impressed by this resort? Truly we were. Okay, this may sound over the top, but I have struggled for days on how to describe this place.

I am torn between writing this as praise to the staff and management and trying to convey how you too can have a wonderful vacation at this 10 star out of 5 star resort. I have to admit that at other resorts, we have always had a great time. My business is property management and real estate sales, so I am used to asking people their names. In this case, I think that this is part of the great service. The simple caring about others goes a long way. You go, you are open happy and meet new people and have a blast.

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana -- Buffet Staff

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Buffet Staff

But the difference here is the staff, no, not just the staff. These folks have received great training and support from great management. I watched the management level personal walk around and interact making sure all is well. At restaurants, and the buffets, they are there, somewhat in the background greeting people and making sure that you are satisfied and happy.

I do want you to say hi to these great staff people but, I really did not find any staff that was not super friendly. We were in the club section so the staff included Clora, Ysandra and of course Felix and Mariano. Like in the restaurants, the staff at the bars and on the beach were never far from a supervisor / manager that was also making sure you had a great time.

DM 2011 014

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Staff on the Beach



Check out the photos of my wife, Judy on the beach. She wanted to get one picture of a staff and others literally RAN to get in the photo that turned out to be a series of 4 photo’s with Judy being lifted up by the girls. Again it all comes to great management that produces and maintains high standards that translate in to the great staff and a great experience for you.

I booked the plane separate from the resort. This was to be a special trip for our anniversary and I wanted to fly business class and to have an excellent Club room. (A post on travel points and flying business class verses pre-packaged vacations will be posted soon, if not already)

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana --  Raul Garcia Carpintero, Room division Manger

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Raul Garcia Carpintero, Room division Manger

I did have a few questions and needed to arrange for transportation to the resort from the airport. I wrote to the resort and Raul Garcia Carpintero, Room division Manger promptly wrote back with everything arranged. When we landed, we had a driver with a sign for the resort with our name on it. After a quick smooth drive and no stopping at multiple resorts as on a bus, we were greeted by Junior, our butler who looked after our check in and took us to the bar for a relaxing drink. While there, several management personal were there and one made a formal introduction to me to Raul. What a nice touch to be able to shake the hand of the person that personally made me feel comfortable about coming to this resort.

The surprises just kept coming. Our door had a Happy Anniversary banner on it and chilled bubbly was waiting inside our room. Needless to say, we felt like we were in a little piece of paradise from the moment we arrived. I don’t want to make this a huge report, but the level of quality was perfect. We took a walk through paradise down to the Club Pool where they had Canadian Club (A blend of Canadian Rye Whiskey that is usually never found in the Dominican) there for the asking. Then off to rest in the sun and pool.

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana -- Bailey Beds by the pool

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Bailey Beds by the pool

We could have reserved a Bailey bed and a few did that week, but there was no real need. In fact we went to the same spot all but one day as there was an ample supply. You could move the wicker pool beds around to get the perfect sunshine or let the palm tree leafs flicker over you in an extremely comfortable Bailey Bed. It was not a tough week. My hat is tipped again to the great staff who were on a constant walk up and down the pool either as a waiter delivering drinks or as management making sure there was nothing else you need. To give you an example of this, we brought a pool float and left it by the pool one night. The next day it was gone, but Benny walked by and in a flash he retrieved it from somewhere safe.

If you only go to the buffet, you will not run out of choices as the variety of food changes and all are delightful. This may sound like a broken record, but again the staff was great and management was there making sure all was perfect. Now, I do want to take a moment here to say, that this is a wonderful country, and the people working here as in any resort have families to feed and a small dollar tip goes a long way to help. So, yes, we tip with joy and gladness. It is our easy way of blessing the staff that work so hard to give this level of

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana -- Staff

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Staff

over the top service. I urge you to tip all the people who you come into contact with, up front, not at the end of the meal. A dollar to the greeter, a dollar to the waiters with coffee and water. Three or four dollars and you have made an impact on the lives of 3 or 4 people who are giving their all to you. Also if you can learn just a few key Spanish phrases you will make their eyes light up. To say good morning instead of Hi or when they ask how are you to be able to answer them very good is a game changer. The greeter at the buffet lit up when we came through the door each day. I am so sorry that I do not remember her name, but she asked me in Spanish how I was after I answered her English question the first day in Spanish. She remembered that little detail and was delighted that we tried.

Of course, go to the other restaurants as well. The steak house was great. Look at the pictures to see how great the staff was here and yes I am a steak lover and it was extremely good.

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana -- Resturant Staff

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Restaurant Staff

My wife is a seafood lover and the lobster tail was far better than expected. (Remember we are from the east coast of Canada and get Rock Lobster cheap. This was warm water spiny lobster (no claws, really a different animal) and I was not expecting much, but the chef prepared this in excellent fashion.)

We spent days lying in the sun, walking the beach for what seemed like miles, meeting new friends, and just hanging out around the pool. Once we were relaxed we went swimming with the sharks which was fun, but did not compare to this resort. We were booked for another excursion the next day and we cancelled. Drive on a bus or stay in paradise, … real tough decision.
One of the reasons we booked the transportation separately is that on the day we leave, we like to enjoy the resort, not the airport so, we always end up taking a taxi to the airport as the buses leave way too early at all resorts. We got up, ate, went to the spa where my wife got her nails done and I relaxed with a full massage then we checked out of the room at noon, enjoyed a nice lunch and then went to get our cab. As we were leaving the staff and management were doing a professional photo shoot so they are all there to thank and say good-bye to. As we got in the cab, it just happened that all the management were out front talking. We waved good-bye and the entire management waved back. Knowing the level of care that Raul put into our trip I have to wonder …. Was that planned as well??

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana -- Club Entrance

Majestic Elegance Punta Cana — Club Entrance

Go to the Majestic Elegance; if you are a couple 100% do the club (Adults only). It is worth the upgrade many times over. There are so many perks from free internet in the room to the managers party to the premium drinks, to the extra relation you will only only only find in the club section.

Please let me know if you found this review helpful. Look at the pictures, they do tell a story and feel free to contact me with questions, but really why ask me when the management makes it a point to write back look after your needs even before you book the trip. Cheers.

Room Tip: If you stay in the Club, ask ahead of time for the left side of the resort. This is where the management dinners and other club events take place. No biggie as it is only a 2 minute walk around the seafood restaurant.

Ask for Raul. Tell him I sent you and recommended the resort. So far, I know of over 40 people who have been here.

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Nov 19

Delta Halifax Business Travel Review

After staying in many rooms that I consider “normal” I think I have grown used to having somethings not being perfect. In this case, I have to say that, the more time went on, I was looking closely since I could not find anything wrong with this hotel.

The room was super clean and did not smell like perfume, stale smoke or chemicals, just nice and clean.

Excellent room at the Delta Halifax

Excellent room at the Delta Halifax

I can’t tell you how nice it was to have this as I hate smells covering up other smells and people saying that, that is “clean” To me cleaner small is just as bad on my nose as a stall room. Most likely it is worse for me. Wonderful first impression to have real “clean”.

The staff from the front door, to the check in to the people who attended the room were all friendly with a smile and for the most part, used my first name when addressing me once they knew it. Nice touch.

I was going to go out and sample the local restaurants, but I had emails and work to do first and I ended up ordering from the room service menu. This is not something I like to do, since I have found that hotel quality usually lower than the hard-working restaurants competing for the dollar. I even had a few restaurants recommended to me by clients I was meeting with. In this case, I have to admit that even the food was great and priced to where I feel I got great value for what was spent. Actually, I will go on to say that the simple meal I ordered was far above average. French onion soup was excellent, and the steak sandwich was a full strip loin steak cooked to perfection and was tender and with a really great taste.

One of the reasons for booking this hotel initially, is the central location to everything. It is connected internally to a mall, it is connected to internal walkways to the entire downtown core. I had 3 meetings in the morning and only went outside by choice to enjoy the great weather.

Being connected to the downtown business towers is great, but also being connected to the historic properties and to the boardwalk area was really nice to have as well. Just another step above the hotels that are several blocks away from all of this, and it was priced very nicely so that was not a reason in deciding hotels.

Would I recommend the Delta Halifax and would I stay there again? 100% yes.

Please take this review to heart and go and see what Maritime hospitality is really all about.

I hope this is helpful to you and Enjoy,


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Nov 18

Catalonia Bavaro Resort

This is a review of the Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Casino & Golf Resort, Dominican Republic. We chose this resort after reading many reviews on Trip Advisor. Here is my review.

Bavaro Beach - This location is further from the pack of resorts to the north. This means less venders!!

Bavaro Beach – This place is further from the pack of resorts to the north. This means less vendors!!

Okay, it’s time to set the story straight on this wonderful resort. Let me start be saying that one of the reasons we chose this resort was the large number of positive reviews versus the other resorts that seemed to have about a 50/50 split. Now that I have been there, I want to comment not only on our trip but I will try to give you a set of pointers to help you have a great trip here as well. I truly believe that many of the small number of negative comments could have been overcome if people had more information before they go.

Looking into the Lobby Area

Looking into the Lobby Area

I think it goes almost without saying that we had a GREAT “holiday”. We went with a very open mind. We have traveled to several other islands and have always enjoyed ourselves in Jamaica. This time, it was a last-minute thing and we just tried the best sounding resort and the best price. Because of some other great reviews, we were ready for several things but many things were not commented on.

Several people suggested that we should try to get villa 1 or 2, but we ended up in villa 20. Don’t be as concerned about this. Most, if not all, of the villas that will be available are great and none of the people we met there had any complaints about their rooms. They are adding some new rooms so try to get rooms towards the beach or on any of the inside rows. I would avoid the rooms on the left away from the beach as these, I would guess, might get some of the sound from the nightly shows. Villa 20 is closest to the beach on the inside row on the right hand side. So, it is just before the pool. We never heard a sound from our room and had great sleeps every night.

As you can guess, when we checked in, I was trying to get villa 2 (based on other reviews)and when I heard we were in villa 20, I spent a few minutes at the desk as the very friendly staff tried to see if they could accommodate our request. Suggestion: If there is any delay at the front desk and you want a good drink after a long day of travel, just have the person you’re traveling with walk 20 feet to the left and get yourselves a couple of cold refreshing drinks. Don’t worry about carrying the glasses out of that area and to the front desk, it is fine. The cocktail was fine, but a nice tropical drink that we took with us to our room was great.

I really don’t understand the need for the colored band they put on your wrist when you check in, but all the resorts do this. Now, I am not saying to do this … but, friends that we met at the pool said theirs “accidentally” broke as they scratched an itch and it was not long after that, that our’s somehow “accidentally” broke and then many of the others in the group of people we met there all had the same accident. We did carry them in our bag, but we were never once, asked to see them. So … hint, hint.

If you arrive in the evening, like we did, remember that the buffet area by the beach is only open in the day time, not at night. In the evening, it is 2 of the specialty restaurants, and you need a reservation. So, remember to either head back to the lobby area for dinner or just send your bags on ahead of you and grab a bite right there.

Although the staff are very friendly and most know enough English to get the job done, please remember that this is a Spanish-speaking country. I found many smiles from the staffs faces as we tried to use their language. They would help me pronounce the words correctly and the instant friendly attitude was there all week. I think many of the complaints about the staff are unfounded. My wife and I found ALL the staff to be extremely friendly, but we treated them as friends as well. The most common but still rare comment I heard about the staff was something like “The staff is not friendly, They don’t even speak English” Well, there were many people at the resort that were from France, Italy, Spain as well as French people from Quebec here in Canada. I think it would be hard to find a large number of waiters and other staff in a Spanish-speaking country that can speak 5 or more languages, right. So I think that if you give the staff a little honour and allow them to take pride in their language, you will have a wonderful experience.

Now while we are on the topic of staff, I want to cover another 2 areas that will greatly help you in you positive vacation experience. We did two things every day that made our experience there like flying first class.

1.We brought gift packs of shampoo, specialty soups, and small things like pencils and candy for kids. We got most of these things with one trip to the dollar store so it was not expensive. We just quickly made up 7 packet’s in sealable baggies and left one each day with $5 for the house cleaner. We had the opportunity to meet the house cleaner and found out she had 3 small children and she was delighted with the gifts. Everyday, we ended up with extra water, beer, towels in many different shapes and fresh flowers everywhere. However, the smile on her face was a treat in itself.

2.At the main pool bar, which was the area that we spent most of our time at, I made sure to know the name of the bartender and slipped him $5 every day. That and my wife gave him a flashing pin of a parrot and other pins that he really liked. In fact the pins were a hit and other staff wanted one. We just stuck with the one fellow and I could not get my glass or our friends glasses empty. He always had a smile and was extremely friendly.

Do you have to tip? Of course not. I truly believe that you would get great friendly service anyway. But, All I am suggesting is this: If you were not at an all-inclusive and you went for drinks or dinner, you would, most likely, tip the staff when you paid your bill, right? Well here, you do not have a bill, but you still have staff that, in my opinion, deserves a tip, and with the huge majority of the guests not tipping, you will stand out to them as someone to give special service to.

Several people reported in their reviews that there were a lot of kids at the resort. Well, this is correct, but only for one day. It seems that the staff are allowed to bring family in to the pool area for the 1/2 day on Sunday. I don’t think that this is every Sunday, but the Sunday we were there, they were highly visible. Note, this was the ONLY day we saw a lot of kids that went around together like they were very knowledgeable of the area. All other days, we only saw a few kids with their parents (guests with kids). We just went with the flow and still had a great day, but here is a suggestion, if you are concerned that this will make an unpleasant day for you then, just book one of the great excursions that are available and be out of the resort area for the Sunday morning. I highly recommend the Safari Tour that takes you out into the countryside and the off shore snorkeling – you can actually swim with sharks (remember to bring a disposable underwater camera). Personal tip. If you want to try the snorkeling, I like to pop down to Wal-Mart and pick up a low-cost mask and snorkel kit. I think it is sort of nice to have my own snorkel 🙂 We left ours in the room for the house cleaners kids. Remember for any items like that, leave a note stating that these items are for the house cleaner and you’re giving permission for them to have them.

Now while I mentioned the Safari tour, This is a great way to see the “real” country. You will be visiting places that show the different things in the country. We bought cigars at the cigar factory, pure vanilla at the plantation and a lot of other things. They offer you hats and shirts at the sugarcane area and 85% of the money spent for these items goes to a local school that they support. (Yes, it does go to the school) Another Tip: Schools are provided only until grade 4. the schools are in need of supplies and although it might sound silly to us, it is a great blessing if you bring supplies to give to the school. We brought pencils but we discovered that scribblers/writing pads/books (or even just paper) are in great need. To see these kids is a little heart breaking, but you will leave with a great feeling. As well, a lot of people brought candy to give to kids along the way, but what really got to me was that they all asked for water!!! That was the big treat for them. So, be kind to your maid, ask for extra water. Of course you will not hear them say water, but you will hear them ask for “Agua” (Pronounced A-gua.)

Here is another tip that we discovered as we came back to our country and came through customs. If you bring back the honey or other things that are not labeled, they may not make it through customs. Wood products are iffy but we made it through with the carvings and things like that. Now, on the tour, they will talk about something called Mama-Guana. It is a drink that they take once a day for good health. However you can buy the bottle with 9 different kinds of wood in side ready for the liquid ingredients. We just liked the look of the bottle with the wood inside so we bought it. At the border, it was taken because of the wood. However, they told us that if we had of filled it with the honey and rum, the alcohol would have made sure the wood was clean and we would have been able to keep it, So, if you like this, buy the honey there and mix it back at the resort with free rum before coming home. I can’t say you will pass with success, but I can say that the wood will not make it on it’s own so … with free rum, you have little to lose.

I mentioned that we have been to Jamaica before and we thought we were ready for the sun here. I am not sure what the difference is, but the sun seemed to be more intense. I brought factor 15 with the intent on quickly going to 8 and then a 4, but we ended up buying a factor 30 to protect our shoulders. We still tanned even with the factor 30 on, so, considering the expensive price on the resort stores, be sure to bring some with you.

Here is a quick check list of things to bring.

1.LARGE Insulated coffee mugs (to keep your drinks cold at the pool or on the beach)
2.Disposable underwater camera – hint, even at the beach at the resort, you can snorkel. Take along a few crunched up bread rolls for the fish and take some great pic’s
3.Water shoes – useful for going out beyond the roped area where there is some rock bottom.
4.Inflatable water raft (Buy 2 or more so you will have a spare and leave them with a newly met friends that is staying later then you.)

All in all we:
1.had great weather
2.met new great friends
3.had great service
4.went on a great excursion
5.ate at great restaurants
6.had a great time

We highly recommend this resort.

MiMi -- the best guide at the Bavero Runners safari excursion

MiMi — the best guide at the Bavero Runners safari excursion

We kept in touch with MiMi and if you are doing this tour, we recommend asking for him.

New friends we met and had fun with for the week.

New friends we met and had fun with for the week.

We always meet new friends. Break out and start talking. It makes for some fun times. I think we were up to 12 by the end of the week.


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Nov 17

Time for a change

A new day is dawning.

A new day is dawning.

Time for a change.

After reading and spending time in many different travel sites and blogs, I did not see anything that ready covered all the basis for information that I was after.

Oh, I could find information by digging and searching many, many different sites, but why should you go through this when I already have?  this is why I wanted to create this blog. Combining my reviews that I put up on TripAdvisor and different travel sites, along with the information that I discovered along the way.

i will divide my posts into these separate categories so that if you are looking for something specific, you should be able to find it quickly and easily.

I hope you will enjoy reading through my Blog. I urge you to join and get email updates as I post new entries of my travels around the world.

Steve’s Travel Blog.

Steve Kincade


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