Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Our Mexico Escape

This was going to be an epic travel year for us;  Seabourn Caribbean Cruise, Christmas Markets on the Rhine, and our son’s graduation trip to Japan.   But as the saying goes … the best laid plans ….    Travel is in our blood which is why the team loves what we do.  With travel starting to recover .. we had to go somewhere!   So off to Cancun we went in September to stay 5 nights at the fantastic Excellence Playa Mujeres Resort.  We wanted to share what it was like to travel in the post-Covid world and give all of you a firsthand perspective. 


Getting There:  We flew Southwest, which is one of our favorite airlines, with flexible polices and great customer service.  Southwest (along with Delta) are still blocking middle seats which made for a comfortable trip given I am 6’3 and need that extra room.  No need to fight to get the extra roomy emergency exit row seating.    Mask usage on the plane was monitored well – there are always those that will try to break the rules.  We take Covid seriously but do not give in to the hyper panic - we had our ‘travel masks’ with the extra filter inserted, Lysol wipes to wipe down the seats (we did this prior to Covid), and we set our air vents on high pointing down creating a sort of fresh air curtain in front of us.  The benefit of flying with fewer flights in the air … every flight was on time and even arrived early.  Travel Tip -  many airports have very limited concessions and food venues open  - so plan accordingly.


Arrival: The Cancun airport was as ‘normal’ as could be expected.  There was social distancing, everyone was wearing masks, and they had monitors set up to check all arriving passenger’s temperature as they walked toward immigration.    Our private transfer to the resort was smooth with luggage being disinfected and both the driver and us wearing masks.  

At the resort we were warmly greeted with luggage again being disinfected along with a mat to disinfect our shoes.  The staff at Excellence were wearing ½ length clear face shields instead of traditional masks.  While I think I would prefer a regular mask – you are not around any one staff member for a long period of time.  The resort is also performing health checks every day for their staff with temperature checks and monitoring for any illness.   During check-in and at the bars they also have protective barriers in addition to the social distancing.   Once we arrived at our room we were greeted with a ‘disinfected seal’.  Although the room looked spotless - we went through our regular routine of wiping down surfaces with our Lysol wipes. 


The Resort:  Now the fun stuff!!  We had an amazing time and the staff was warm, caring, and went above and beyond during our stay.  They were constantly cleaning and genuinely concerned for everyone’s health and safety.   The beach and pool chairs were all socially distanced.  The open-air theater and outside band areas were also set up to promote social distancing.   The resort was about 40% full and as we left - Cancun had increased the allowable resort occupancy levels to 60%.   Mask usage for guests was optional.  With most venues open-air and with social distancing we did not wear masks while at the resort. 
























Dining:  The dining was excellent with a lot of variety and freshly prepared delicious meals.  Donna has a severe Gluten allergy and they flawlessly accommodated her needs.   After a couple of the days she did not even have to inform the staff as they already were prepared for her special requests.   

 

                   







Summary:  We had a great time and it was a most needed reprise from the everyday news assault on the pandemic and other news of the day.  On our last day sitting at the beach our concierge created this wonderful goodbye for us.  It touched us and really showed the spirit and kindness of the staff and how appreciative they were that we were there at the resort supporting their livelihoods.   A truly ‘Excellence’ experience. 



Dream Vacations - The Operach Team is a travel agency based in Overland Park, Kansas. We take pride in working with clients across the country who love to travel. We build vacation experiences that will create memories to last a lifetime.  Our team has specialties across a wide range of vacation options; custom Europe itineraries, Alaska, escorted tours, all-inclusive resorts, Disney, Caribbean, Hawaii, South Pacific, cruise holidays, and river cruises.   

We look forward to making your dream vacations come true!! 


Monday, August 10, 2020

Travel Photos You Won't Believe Are Real

Earth's remarkable landscape certainly isn't lost on travelers but there are some places that require us to remind ourselves that we're still on this planet. Satisfy your wanderlust with a glimpse at these amazing photos from all around the world.


Cappadocia, Turkey

This unmistakable region of Turkey famous for its unique rock formations and hot air balloons looks like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. 


Pura Lempuyang, Bali

Your Instagram followers will agree that Pura Lempuyang is right up there (literally) with Bali’s most breathtaking temples.


Uluru, Australia

Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru in Australia's Northern Territory began forming hundreds of millions of years ago. Today, it's widely recognized among the greatest natural wonders of the world.


Haukland Beach, Norway

The northern lights or aurora borealis aren't limited to Norway but Lofoten's Haukland Beach is one of the most scenic sites to experience this coveted phenomenon from.


Taung Kalat, Myanmar

Taung Kalat is a unique Buddhist monastery that was constructed atop a tall volcanic plug. Visitors to Myanmar can find the epic site on Mount Popa in the country's Mandalay Region.


Hallstatt, Austria

Located on Austria's Lake Hallstatt, this village is practically oozing with scenery and charm, highlighted by the centuries-old Alpine houses overlooking the beautiful lake.


Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Often referred to as the "House of the Sun," Maui's Haleakala National Park is named after the Haleakala Crater, a dormant volcano located more than 10,000 feet above sea level that provides visitors with a wide range of landscapes to soak in.


Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is home to some of the world's most incredible skyscrapers, many of which challenge those of rival Dubai.


Meteora, Greece

Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, this rock formation in Greece is home to one of the world's largest Eastern Orthodox monastery complexes. 


Dream Vacations - The Operach Team is a travel agency based in Overland Park, Kansas. We take pride in working with clients across the country who love to travel. We build vacation experiences that will create memories to last a lifetime.  Our team has specialties across a wide range of vacation options; custom Europe itineraries, Alaska, escorted tours, all-inclusive resorts, Disney, Caribbean, Hawaii, South Pacific, cruise holidays, and river cruises.   

We look forward to making your dream vacations come true!! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Why Second Cities Should Be On Your Travel List

If you want to experience a city like a local while on vacation, consider cruises that include visits to “second cities”– lesser-known destinations that still allow you to discover all the charm and culture of a country but with less hustle and bustle (domestically, think San Diego to Los Angeles or Portland, Maine to Boston). Not only could you make your dollars go further, you’ll help spread the positive economic impacts of travel to the local economy, all while getting an even more personal and intimate experience.

Whether you’re heading to Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Norway or Australia, consider these second cities:




Belfast, Northern Ireland

You might recognize Belfast from “Game of Thrones,” since the show filmed for 10 years in Northern Ireland at key locations like Winterfell Castle and the picturesque county of Antrim. But the city is more than a home to film sets (although it has a Glass of Thrones as tribute).

Belfast has come a long way since its Industrial Revolution, becoming a metropolis on par with Dublin, its southern counterpart. Now a cultural center of Northern Ireland, the second city is recognized for its award-winning architecture, such as the Metropolitan Arts Centre, and historic landmarks like the Titanic Quarter or the HMS Caroline, a ship used in both World Wars that is now a floating museum. And for literary history, what James Joyce is to Dublin, C.S. Lewis is to Belfast. Literary fans can visit C.S. Lewis Square–the inspiration for “The Chronicles of Narnia.”




Bergen, Norway

Also known as “the heart of the fjords,” Bergen is a haven for nature enthusiasts who want to escape into misty mountain peaks and vast fjords.

While it may be the second largest city in Norway, it has all the charms of a small town, with its cobblestone alleyways and medieval houses that are painted variations of red, yellow and white–similar to what you’d find in Oslo. Make sure to visit the Bryggen wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the center of trade for Northern Europe, and then prepare to savor the seafood-centric local cuisine like “persetorsk,” a traditional steamed cod dish that made the city a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.




Civitavecchia, Italy

Located 37 miles and about 80 minutes northwest of Rome, Civitavecchia is a smaller city that has much of the same history dating back to the Roman and Medieval ages. Since many cruises start and end here, you’ll have the opportunity to explore before or after your cruise and visit to Rome! It’s filled with monuments and archaeological sites that give a look at how ancient residents (and the emperor) lived and socialized, including Fort Michelangelo, which was commissioned by Pope Julius II to protect the city from pirates.

Another popular destination is the Taurine Baths, a thermal complex dating back to the Republican Age of the first century B.C., although no waters run there today. Instead, make sure to take a dip at the nearby Ficoncella Thermal Baths—where the 13th emperor of Rome, Trajan, frequently visited—before soaking up the sun, views and medieval castle on the coast of Santa Severa.




Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Trade the super popular Tulum or Cancun for the serene beaches of Cabo San Lucas, where the rich and famous come to relax with views of the Pacific Ocean hugging one shore and the Sea of Cortez, one of the world’s most biodiverse waters, on the other.

The coasts here are perfect for action sports as well, including parasailing 600 feet above turquoise-green waters, flyboarding on a secluded bay, snorkeling amongst parrotfish, manta rays, sea turtles and more. If R&R is on your agenda, Lover’s Beach is a great bet whether you’re with your significant other or on your own. For those who want something even more chill, visit one of the rejuvenating spas that use indigenous plants such as sage and holy basil to pamper you, or play a round on one of the many championship golf courses throughout the region.




Newcastle, Australia

Newcastle, or “Newie” to locals, is the second-oldest city in Australia and about a two-hour drive up the coast from Sydney. The city is brimming with golden beaches with local dolphins and stunning coastlines begging to be photographed. It also has notable museums such as the Newcastle Museum, historic Ocean Baths (swimming pools filled with nearby ocean water) and nature reserves for koalas, wombats, emus and kangaroos.

After all that, refuel and take in Australia’s famous coffee culture with a flat white or a long black at a cafĂ©. And it wouldn’t be Australia without surfing, and here you’ll have plenty of space to hone your skills in less-crowded waters perfect for hanging ten. Newcastle is also a stone’s throw away from one of the country’s major wine regions, Hunter Valley–meaning you can easily sample local award-winning shiraz and chardonnay.


While there is plenty of reason to see the popular capital cities on everyone’s lists, don’t underestimate these off-the-beaten-path gems. Whether it’s relaxing on pristine beaches or cultural attractions, you can discover the best of these countries by land or sea!


Dream Vacations - The Operach Team is a travel agency based in Overland Park, Kansas. We take pride in working with clients across the country who love to travel. We build vacation experiences that will create memories to last a lifetime.  Our team has specialties across a wide range of vacation options; custom Europe itineraries, Alaska, escorted tours, all-inclusive resorts, Disney, Caribbean, Hawaii, South Pacific, cruise holidays, and river cruises.   

We look forward to making your dream vacations come true!!