Tag: Choice


newleafWhile we are hoping that Canada will have a new airline that offers new lower fares, for now it has been sidelined. It seems that there are questions and the CTA is now in the middle of it. Their website is down with a holding page that states in part …

“The CTA is currently conducting this review, but during this period Newleaf decided that in order to confidently protect the interests of our customers against any potential changes that could affect their travel plans, we have temporarily postponed sales of airline tickets that were scheduled to begin on Feb. 12, 2016. All customers will receive an automatic full refund of all credit card transactions made to date within 72 hours.”

So it looks like there will not be a quick fix to this or they would hold off on giving the eager beavers their money back.

All we can do at this point is hope that they can work this out and we will once again have a new choice in flying.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=540

Travel as far as you can

How Far Can You Fly?

How Far Can You Fly?

When you travel, are you taking full advantage of the connections that you have to take? Have you considered extending that business trip by a few days and taking in the sights of one of your stops?

Pacific Coast

Pacific Coast

Why not do this on purpose and take full advantage of the possible stops along the way.

Recently I had to take a business trip from the East coast of Canada to the West coast. As I thought about stopping off in Toronto or Calgary for a few days, I thought, “I wonder how far I can travel on the same number of points.

For this particular trip, I was travelling on AeroPlan points. They have an option on booking that you can plan a “Multi-Leg” journey where you can pick an extra stop along the way and chose different dates. This allow you to select the path of your journey and the duration of each segment stopover.

Yes, there are limits to how far you can journey but it is very flexible and well worth the time to investigate this great option. It seems that if the extra leg is within a short-haul flight of the farthest destination, you can easily book it at no extra points.

My flight would have seen me leave New Brunswick, fly through Toronto and on to Vancouver. But, as I looked at my options, I went from my home base, and selected LAX as my first stop. This still took me up to Toronto and then a direct flight down to LA for an awesome Memorial Day weekend at the end of Highway 66. Some of you will know this as the Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier — The end of Highway 66

From there, I selected my second leg that went from LAX up to Vancouver and after my work was complete, I flew from Vancouver back to the east coast as my third leg of my trip.  You do have to love the adventure of travel and you can even make the flight more enjoyable by selecting the best craft type for your journey.

I chose to fly business class for several reasons. Most are the usual ones that have to do with comfort but this time, I selected the flights that had the most modern seating arrangements. When I booked my segments, I first looked at the craft type and then confirmed this on the SeatGuru site. I like this site because they give you tips on the best to the worst seats to select on the flights.

I wanted to experience the full sleeper seating options and I was able to select three different styles on the longer segments of my itinerary.  For the flight from Toronto Canada down to LAX I was shown the back seat on the single row side had extra space and privacy. This turned out to be an excellent recommendation and made for as close to a perfect flight as I have ever had.

Flying up the Rocky's

Flying up the Rocky’s

For the heavy traffic but shorter flight from LAX to Vancouver, I also had a great seat. This was surprising to me since it was an Air Canada Rouge flight. As many of my readers know I am not fond of Rouge and I would not call myself a fan, but, I have to admit they have really improved things. Still a long ways to go, but it is worth noting that things are getting better. Keeping in mind that my Android device still would not work on the Rouge entertainment system, but, as always, I re-loaded my tablet with a few good movies and a book or two.

I will share more on my LAX side trip later, but for now, I do hope you will consider taking a little more time booking your next flight and take the opportunity to travel to a new place. Experience what is all out there for you to enjoy and live life to the fullest.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=513

Cuban Resorts

Iberostar Ensenachos, Cayo Santa Maria (Isla).
Cayo Ensenachos Santa María Clara, Cuba

Iberostar Ensenachos

Iberostar Ensenachos

Well, I am overdue on my articles but, I am still unsure of what to say about this resort, this area and this Country. It is almost a question of writing about the country to understand the resort.

One one hand, I want to compare this resort to other Caribbean resorts I have stayed at, that were of a comparable price but then on the other hand, I have to look at this and say, ”This is Cuba!”. Read on to understand.

If I were to say all things are equal and I am comparing the rooms, service, restaurant quality, beaches etc. from other resorts to this one I would come up with a different chat to the one I have today. It is almost each area need to be rated. For example, the beaches in this area are among the best in the world. I’m not just saying this, it is a fact in the Cayo Santa Maria area. Much better than the other areas where resorts are allowed in this country and yes, even better than Bavaro or Negril.

On the other hand, we have all the problems of the Cuban Management System to contend with. Up to this point, I really don’t understand this part fully. I know that multiple resorts have pulled the on site upper management and replaced it with experts in the field. However, they were not experts in the local government and improvements did not happen as planned. This seems to be a consistent theme among the resorts.

You may not know what I am referring to here so just as a point or two for reference and there are many. Let’s see; from time to time, you may not have beach towels available. the official excuse for this is that all towels need to be laundered and serviced by a local Cuban company, employing people in the nearby towns and even building these towns to a larger size. At first, this sounds great. As Canadians, we tend to say, it is okay to go multiple days without a clean towel, as long as we know we are sacrificing to save the local economy.

This is a very real problem and will happen to you at some point on a trip to this country. What I do not understand is why the management, knowing that from time to time, this is going to happen, do not stock an extra week’s worth, or even two weeks worth of towels at the resort so they have a supply to draw on as needed? Seems like an easy solution that would be paid for with the saving of one bad review, not to mention 20-30 about this problem.

Another example would be repairs to pool areas, walkways, lighting I.e. Maintenance problems; Honestly, this one happened to me personally. I had a maintenance issue in my room and they were sending someone over as soon as “he” was free. this seemed odd to me so after a few minutes, I used my property management background experience to solve the issue and called and cancelled the request. When i did, I asked how many were on call for issues and i was told that there was one person for this.

I went out and headed for the main lobby and as i was walking along the path, I noticed one person working on the wiring to the path lights. I stopped and chatted to him and between broken Spanish and broken English, it soon became apparent that he was that one person looking after everything. Now, since the resort is supposed to be employing local Cubans for this work, wouldn’t it make sense to hire four or five people to make sure that no one on the resort who has a problem has to wait an excessive amount of time?

Again, I don’t profess to understand the problems with the Cuban government, but I do understand good Hotel Management and from what I could see, many of the problems I have encountered in four trips to this country are never what they seem to be. There just can’t be that many bad managers.

We Canadians are a very mild-mannered people. You can step on our toes as long as it does not hurt too much. I do think that so many of the positive reviews are Canadians defending this cherished little island that we have had as our private playground for far too many years. This is going to change for all of this country over the next several years if relations with the US start to allow tourists from that country to come to Cuba.

Americans are not Canadians or people from the EU. I can just about guarantee that they will 100% not put up with the poor management that takes place at these resorts currently. I am not just talking about Cayo Santa Maria Resorts, but also Varadero and Cayo Coco as well.

In the past, we Canadians have enjoyed trips to Cuba at one half the cost of Jamaica and about a third less than the Dominican Republic. but, this year, it is changing. I think mainly because of the demand, costs are climbing closer and closer to other Island nations and with that, they will have to compete with some of the best resorts.

Even with a hands down best beach area, they can’t continue to offer terrible service, terrible food, terrible mold filled accommodations. The sad thing about this is that it seems that it is the Cuban Government, according to the resort staff, that have caused this problem. What seems to be missing is the damage it is doing to the reputation of the nation on whole. If there are government regulations that are to be followed, then at the same time the government should have regulations on Minimum standards. resorts should face fines or penalties if they are found to be damaging the image of the Cuban Nation.

Can the Cuban tourist industry be saved? Of course it can, but not by this article. I doubt I will find a buyer for this rant so it will go largely unnoticed short of Social Media. No the solution to all of this will come from an unexpected area. I truly believe that people from the USA will be allowed to visit and spend their money in Cuba in a few years. When this happens, the reviews and hostile response that they will have for problems will force the Cuban government and the Resort Owners to come to a quick solution. Let’s see what happens.

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=503

Comfort Hotel Bayer’s Lake Halifax: What are you looking for in a hotel?

Comfort Hotel

Comfort Hotel

I have worked on this review for a while now because I am comparing different hotels in the greater Halifax area. However, I have decided that it would not be exactly fair to this place to compare it to the downtown hotels. It is like trying to compare and apple to an orange. They are both satisfying, they both serve their purpose, but that is it. We really need to compare different verities of apples to other apple verities to understand which is better.

Can you get a hotel that is more luxurious than this place in Halifax? Yes you can, but at what price and what is included. Will you find something that offers free parking and a free hot breakfast in the downtown locations? For me, I like the super quality mattresses, the large bath areas and other amenities that are available in the more expensive hotel lines. Will I continue to pay for this when there is an alternative like this? Time will tell.

For now, let’s look at this location, on its own and not in comparison to other locations.

Comfort Hotel - Welcome Gift.

Comfort Hotel – Welcome Gift.

1. Value: It is easy to see why this is the number one choice at TripAdvisor. The value is here. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The best value you can get in a hotel is the staff. Here, the staff, are all great.

I was met with a smiling face who has the name of Klong. He made the check in process a breeze, as it should be, and went on to describe what this hotel offered and where everything was located. As well, he was sure to point out the operating times of such things as the indoor pool and dry sauna and the hot breakfast that included scrambled eggs and pancakes. They also had multiple catalogue books where you can choose from their large collection of Blu-Ray movies.

I was also introduced to Nimfa Bautista, the General Manager that happened to make my hotel arrangements. She too wanted to make sure that all my needs were looked after and gave me a warm welcome. She was talking to someone at the time and as it turned out, it was the Owner, Stephanie. Instead of being above the guests, she too was welcoming. You can tell when the good training comes from the top down and it does here 100%. I failed to note the kitchen staff names, but they interacted with the guests and made it a very pleasant part of the hotel experience.

Comfort Hotel - Room Interior

Comfort Hotel – Room Interior

2. Comfort: The room I had was 417. One of the business suites which by looking at the floor plan means it is the larger size rooms. Not a unit with a separate bedroom. The king size bed was comfortable, but they have some type of waterproof covering on under the sheets that well, creaked if you rolled over. I know it must be for sanitary reasons, but not the best idea in my opinion. I minor point, but the microwave and coffee maker were nice and clean. The room over all was a little sparse from the doorway in. It was large enough and could have used a table and chairs for eating in that end of the unit.

The bathroom was functional, but the tub/shower area was small and lacked modernization. They have installed the curved shower curtain, but that was it.

3. Amenities: The TV was a larger flat screen that has multiple inputs. A HUGE point for the traveler as I use my computer to feed to HDMI to watch the shows I want to watch in HiDef. The room also does have the blu-ray player but I did not use this. I am still surprised that it is still the norm to have no HiDef channels coming into the room. Nothing against this hotel as it is that way in most hotels I stay in.

They did offer me 10% off the restaurant and a free drink that included alcohol, but I was out for dinner and did not get to take advantage of this. However, later in the evening I was hungry so I did order room service. The late night menu really pushed their pizza’s and when I called, they stated that this was a popular item. Well, I really could not eat the crust. Yes, it was that bad. The toppings were good but not worth the price tag. If you want a late night pizza, I would recommend you order out.

Comfort Hotel - Room Interior

Comfort Hotel – Room Interior

4. Hotel features.: The hotel did have a nice pool area. Sort of a different location as there are windows through to the eating area. I suppose some parents might head to the kitchen while kids are in the pool, but I would suggest that this is not a great idea. I did not take pictures of the pool since the tile lining was a very dark blue and I know they would not look good. The water was conditioned well and was at an excellent temperature. If you enjoy a pool, this is a good one to do a few laps or just relax.

The dry sauna should have been a nice experience. It was until I looked at the heater or rather the floor area surrounding this. It is a dry sauna, but people still bring in water from time to time. In this case, the area surrounding the floor had black dots where people splashed something. I welcome the comments from the hotel on this as it looked like possible mold and I left the sauna area.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience here. Again great bang for the buck. More so if I was travelling with a family as all the perks would be multiplied. It is in the Bayer’s Lake area so, lots of shopping, eating and movies to entertain you. It is only 10 minutes to the downtown area, but you will still have the downtown parking and other expenses. If you are coming to Halifax for the Bayer’s Lake shopping, I would recommend this location to stay at.

It is interesting and always a treat when I post a review on my Trip Advisors page and the staff reply to my comments. I take this as a response that means the owners / managers care about the feed back and take the concerns to heart. Here is the reply I received.

Stephanie G, Owner at Comfort Hotel Bayer’s Lake, responded to this review

1 week ago


Dear Valued Guest,
Thank you so much for your wonderful, detailed review. We truly appreciate the comments on all aspects of your stay. It is through this type of feedback that we can work on maintaining and improving the level of excellence that we want our guests to experience.
I am delighted you appreciated our staff, value, amenities etc. 
I will take this opportunity to comment on some of your valuable feedback and recommendations.
a) Our waterproof mattress coverings. Yes Steven, we have placed them for sanitary reasons. They are there to protect our guests. During our 2 1/2 years of operation we have had a couple of comments regarding creaking noise and most do not notice it at all. I have been trying to source something as effective but of a different material. No luck yet. It is something though that I will keep looking into.
b) In regards to the lay out of our Junior suite. I sincerely appreciate your recommendation for more furniture. I am on it!
c) Our phone and tv channel provider, had informed us before the summer that many channels were to be converted to High Definition. They have some technical issues in implementing and we are still waiting.
d) I have spoken to our Kitchen Manager regarding the pizza crust. He will definitely work on improving it and discussing with the rest of the cooking staff, so there will be consistency.
e) It is unfortunate that you did not enjoy our dry sauna. I had a close look at the spots you were referring to with my housekeeping manager. They are the result of natural residue released from the heated stone. Even though the sauna floor is cleaned daily, getting rid of those, required a stronger chemical agent. Thank you for bringing it to our attention, as it can be confused for mould.

I hope you will visit us again when you are in Halifax!

Kind Regards,
Stephanie G
Owner/General Manager

Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=180