Tag: family vacation area

May 16

Classic Resort on St. Pete Beach

Postcard Inn on the Beach — A treat for those wanting something different.

This place, along with a few other locations are the dieing breed to the classic hotel of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s cute, nostalgic you might feel that a Star from the old movies might walk around the corner.

That is what I was after and that is what I found. Was it your modern box hotel with the same old, same old? No way. This place oozes a rich history that you just can’t find everywhere but still exists here.

This 2 story walk up is located directly on the beach with a classic tiki bar style bar with live music that will have you smiling no matter what your age. While we were there we saw young couples, people living a dream, people wanting to escape and even a couple young boys where one was being deployed the next day.

At 57 years old, it was a fun night of people watching and yes, I bought the young fella a drink that was shipping out the next day. My wife and I watched the usual gang at the bar, One lady celebrating a divorce and some younger kids that couldn’t keep up with here.

In the day time, it was kiddies in the pool, people celebrating young love and the classic walks up and down the beach looking for discoveries that have yet to be found.

There are very few places left on earth that are so close and easy to get to yet transport you to a vacation spot that feels half way around the world.

Was it perfect from a travellers stand point no, but the good over rode the bad and when you are vacationing, to me that is the most important point. The beds were very comfortable, We had the usual things in the room but , here, the room should be a place to sleep and if that is what you want, this will fill the bill.

I usually work while travelling, I look for a good work station etc and you will not find that here. There was a spot to set up my gear, but you would not want to sit there for any length of time and I did not. About the only real complaint that I had on the room is that it was newly refurbished and did not have light blocking drapes. The mini-blinds gave you privacy, but did nothing for blocking out the morning light. I saw some rooms on the other side that had the drapes, but I do not know the condition of those rooms.

The food was quite good for breakfast, but a little expensive, we took leftovers back that did us for several meals. 😉 But really, you are on the strip, there are so many places to try out for food it is unreal.

Towels are available at the pool, but also available at the front desk for the asking along with bags of ice that are also available out of the machines, but the commercially packaged ice had no “flavor” so it was a plus to take the extra 2 minutes to walk to the lobby.

I should also point out that the staff was very professional and looked after us very well. When we arrived early, the place was sold out and the room was not yet ready. However, they invited us to take advantage of the resort and phoned us when the room was ready. We still checked in several hours early.

I would 100% recommend this property for your next trip. I feel you should take advantage of this and a few others that most likely will be replaced with the typical 500 room resort in the near future. At some point the land will just be too valuable for this to remain, but I dearly hope that it will be here for years to come.

The owners of this resort seem to take pride in keeping things as they were and take pride in the up keep of the physicality. Enjoy and have a blast soaking in the atmosphere.

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Feb 21

Beware of the Hidden Mega Resort!

Looks like a beautiful Resort, But beware, it is larger than you think!

Looks like a beautiful Resort, But beware, it is larger than you think!

I am finding a disturbing trend in the resort industry. It’s been known for awhile now that most people don’t really like a resort with 2,000 plus rooms in it. In fact the perfect maximum size seems to be between 6-750 rooms. If you find a resort with say 1-200 rooms, many people would expect to pay a premium for this type of location.

This is creating a dilemma for the resort operators that want to have as many people as possible per square metre of ground space as this means maximum revenues can be achieved. So what is “their” solution? It seems the trend is to still put up these mega resorts, but to simply divide them into smaller sections called … wait for it … Resorts!!

That’s right; they have a layout of say 2,000 rooms, running down to the beach. It has a centre pool area and specialty restaurants at the top and somewhere near the bottom. You know the ones I am talking about. Here is the Steak, the Italian, the Japanese, the Seafood, etc.

So here is what is happening. All the rooms to the left of the pools are called Resort “A” and the ones to the right of the resort are called Resort “B”. Now they can advertise a resort of 1,000 rooms instead of the 2,000 rooms. But wait, it gets better. This number is still too large for that magic figure, so they take the rooms closest to the beach and make them Premium and … you guessed it, these are now another Resort. Let’s say “C” and “D” of 250 rooms each. These rooms are usually “Adult Only” and come with Premium drinks a private small, sometimes very small private pool area and so on.

You are looking at 6 different resorts when advertized to you.

You are looking at 6 different resorts when advertized to you.

Now the main two resorts are now reduced to that magic number of 750 rooms each. Here is where it get’s nasty in my books. If, for the entire 2,000 rooms, there are say 7 specialty restaurants, they are available to everyone at all the “Resorts”. The same goes for the main pool area and sometimes the one pool swim up bar and other bars. So, what is advertised to us, the buyers of these rooms? They will tell the tour operator the following

  • 750 rooms
  • 7 specialty restaurants
  • 2 buffet restaurants
  • 8 bars (only one open at night in the main lounge area)
  • 1 large swim up bar
  • 1 Gym
  • 1 Spa
  • Beautiful beach area.

The problem is that this is all true except all of these services are being shared and sought after by 2,000 room guests or say 4,500 people.

4,500 people competing for

  • Restaurants
  • Seating at the bar areas and show areas
  • Spa appointments
  • And a seat by the pool or beach.

Any experienced traveler knows in these situations, that if you have one person in your party that is an early riser, they are elected to travel to “your” spot and claim your chairs for the day with the old towel and book routine.

But, we, as innocent travelers arrive at our 750 room resort with all of the restaurants and amities, do not feel the need to rush down and select your reservations for the entire week and guess what happens? You are at the buffet for most of your trip, you missed the lobster that you saw in the picture and it takes you 4 days to figure out the towel and book routine.

Of course, the Premium section does not have to go to the main guest services to book the restaurants. They have a special number to call or a private guest services that will either book the restaurants for you or in some cases, sometimes depending on your tip in advance, will watch for a cancellation and get you in whatever night you want.

Have a closer look at the bottom of the map, you will see two of the "lobbies"

Have a closer look at the bottom of the map, you will see two of the “lobbies”

So, what do we do about all of this? Can we boycott it and expect it to change? On a trip I took last year to Mexico, this really became apparent to me and started me on this research. I called the resort and they said this is normal business, I called the tour operator and they said they cannot check on the facts sent to them from every resort and have to assume they are telling us the truth.

Well, that was a year ago and you will still find the same resorts advertized as smaller ones. With a very small amount of work, it is easy to figure out. The resorts do not hid it once you are there, so if you find pictures people take of the resort maps, of the names of the resorts as you drive in, you will pick up on this.  As well all most any resort built more than 10 years ago is most likely a single resort. It is the newer ones that are constructed to take advantage of this.

To give you some examples of this, and yes, I know you are waiting for this part, let look at the Majestic / Colonial resorts in Punta Cana of an example of this done right. Here they have two resorts next to each other. I say next to because everything advertized as being in one resort is in that resort. There are no ads to my knowledge where they include any restaurants from the sister resort.

They have the Colonial and the Elegance resorts. Each has its own pool areas, their own restaurants, etc. but you can walk from on to the other easily.  

In Mexico we have the newer style example. For example, you can book a room at the Grand Sunset Princess but, at least through Canadian tour operators, you cannot book a room or even have a hint that, across the pool the Grand Sunset Riviera exists. I just re-confirmed now and they still advertize that this resort has the following:

Property Amenities : • 672 Room(s) • 12 Pool(s) • Medical Centre ($) • Beauty Salon ($) • Air Conditioned Gym/ Fitness Centre • Jacuzzi • Kids pool • 11 Restaurant(s) • 9 Bar(s)

Once you arrive, you will discover that most of these are shared between over 2,100 rooms. To me, this just does not seem right and YOU need to be aware of this beforehand.

What can we really do? Check out the resorts. I strongly recommend that you read the reviews I have posted here at http://StevesTravelBlog.com and everyone’s reviews at TripAdvisor.com Spend one hour researching the Resort, not for what you want, but what you now know you do not want. Ask questions on blogs and you usually will receive answers quickly.

I hope this has helped you have a great upcoming vacation.

Yes, that is my hand and I was being a "Crazy Gringo!" but having fun at this huge resort.

Yes, that is my hand and I was being a “Crazy Gringo!” but having fun at this huge resort.

On a final note, I am not saying that you will not have a great time at these resorts. Most people have an awesome time, I just want you to get what you pay for. I would guess that up to 80% of travelers go for the fun in the sun, the more the better and only go indoors to grab a bite at the buffet and to sleep. It is for the ones that enjoy the extras and the atmosphere expected that may experience disappointment without this information. At the Resort(s) I am talking about in this article, the staff were all fantastic. 

Enjoy, travel well, and I just might bump into you somewhere this spring season.

 


Permanent link to this article: http://stevestravelblog.com/?p=211

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.

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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

https://www.facebook.com/amisland

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

https://www.facebook.com/amiaccommodations

don’t forget the Flea Market 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/RedBarnFleaMarket

Another great resource. 

http://annamariaisland.com/

 


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