The Spa at The Linq Las Vegas

17 May

One of the highlights of my most recent jaunt in Las Vegas was going to the spa to have a little “me time.” I find it essential to have some alone time on any trip I am on, whether I am with family or friends, big groups or even just on a trip with my husband. Since I was staying at the hotel, I bought a spa pass for $20 and went during the last 2 hours of the day (5-7 pm). There are separate spas for men and women. I was the only woman there that Thursday evening, besides two others who were finishing up a salt cave session (more on that later).

I was warmly greeted and pointed in the direction of the lobby/lounge area where I was told to wait for Bobbi. The lounge area was tranquil and soothing. The walls seemed to dance as they softly changed colors.

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Bobbi was an absolute gem. When you go there, ask for her. If she’s not there, wait for her. You won’t be disappointed. She gave me a tour of the quaint facility, showed me how to operate the lockers and then left me to relax on my own, coming to ask if I’d like some fresh squeezed juice a little later while I was in the jacuzzi. She asked if I’d like to put my name down for a 45 minute salt cave session. Of course, I jumped at the chance. The Linq Spa website says that the Himalayan salt therapy cave is available to those who book a treatment and must be booked in advance, but it must have been my lucky day!

The salt cave is unique to the hotel spas on the strip, however, there is not a sauna in the Spa at the Linq. There is a steam room, and as I mentioned, a jacuzzi (whirlpool). I visited the spa several years ago when The Linq was the Imperial Palace, and I do believe that they turned the sauna into the salt cave. There is room for 4 in the salt cave and Bobbi mentioned that they would be getting ottomans soon. Since I was alone in the room, I used one of the other chairs to prop up my feet.

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Another unique feature to the Spa at The Linq can be found in the refreshment area. The “harmonize water bar” caught my attention. I honestly cannot explain how it is supposed to work, so hence the link. Always one to try anything at least once, I added 5 drops of the digestive heath water to my bottled water before I headed to my salt cave session.

If you are staying at The Linq, $20 for a half day, or even in my case, 2 hours at the spa, is well worth it. Especially if you can get a salt cave session in. In my area (Dallas-Ft. Worth) salt cave sessions alone run about $30 each, regular price.

Leave me your questions or comments about The Spa at The Linq below!

Bermuda Pool Party

25 Apr

If I’m not choosing a hotel based on the fact that it has a whirlpool tub, I’m most likely choosing it based on its amazing pool. What about location, you say? On the roughly 20.6 square mile island of Bermuda, location is a non-factor. No matter where you stay on the island, sweeping views of lush blue hues are merely a hop, skip and jump away.

These gorgeous colors, combined with an infinity pool is just what the doctor ordered for some ultimate R&R on your next Bermuda getaway. Here are two of my favorites.

Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa

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A cruise ship leaves the harbor, as I relax poolside after my massage

Minutes from the center of town, and thus overlooking the harbor, is the beautiful infinity edge pool at Newstead Belmont Hills. I had a fabulous deep tissue massage at the spa and went down to the pool to check it out. It was a gorgeous June afternoon and tourist season was in full bloom, but you couldn’t tell it here. The pool scene was quiet and serene. The pool is breathtaking and actually has a good depth to it, unlike most hotel pools.  I think I’ll actually stay here next time I come to Bermuda.

 

The Fairmont Hamilton Princess

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On a partly cloudy day, this pool is just what the doctor ordered  

The makeover of the Fairmont Hamilton is utterly impressive. Not only do they now have this jaw opener, but they have kept their original salt water pool as well. Even on a cloudy day, this perfectly placed pool is a wonderful place to relax. There are plenty of chairs and umbrellas at this larger resort.

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Oh look! The sun came out!

The Fairmont is within walking distance to town and is a larger resort than Newstead. Add to that the on-site marina and all of that said, the pool crowd can get a bit noisy at times. I still love this pool for its modern, fresh style and abundance of seating options.

 

No matter which hotel you choose, you’ll find yourself staring out into the harbor: Watching cruise ships come and go, party boats crank up the latest reggae and soca mixes, and children learning how to sail.

If “worse comes to worse” and you choose to stay elsewhere, the beautiful pink sand beaches are merely a hop, skip and jump away.

The Belize Zoo

1 Jun

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My kids and I met another mom who was traveling without her hubby on the cruise. Neither of us had a shore excursion planned for Belize and we had heard on Tripadvisor that the Belize Zoo was the #1 attraction in Belize City. Here are my tips for making the most of this excursion.

Make your way out of the cruise terminal area and past all of the tour operators that will be trying to get your business (usually in bright colored shirts). You will pass through a well air-conditioned building that will have shopping to the right and more tour companies on your left. Just ignore or politely decline their services and go out of the other side of the building. Here, you will get more bang for your buck. There will still be tour operators on this side, but you will have more room for negotiating. Find an operator who will take you to the zoo, stay there with you (taxis are hard to come by while at the zoo) and bring you back to the cruise terminal. Agree on a set fee (NEGOTIATE!). We had 5 people in our party and didn’t pay more than $25 a person. The zoo is about a 40 minute drive from the cruise terminal.

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None of the animals in the zoo have been taken from the wild. The have either been injured, born there, given as gifts, or orphaned. Entry is $15 USD for adults and $5 USD for children. (Hint: If you have a large family, you can purchase a family membership for $35 and get a year’s free admission, plus a cool bumper sticker!).

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The Belize Zoo is small, yet uncrowded. Some of the animals you will see include the king vulture, black spider and howler monkeys (my personal favorite), puma, macaw, ocelot. Some of the lesser known animals you will see include peccaries, agouti, paca, and coatimundi.

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The zoo also provides animal encounters and even accommodations. My kids, ages 6 and 15 had a great time. Grab some lunch at the gift shop/cafe. Try the hot sauce on the table and if you like it, purchase some to take home in the gift shop. (I wish I had gotten more).

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Have you been to the Belize Zoo? Are you thinking about going? Post your questions in the comments below, and be sure to like my page on Facebook.

The Disney Wonder

1 Mar

“Mommy, it was magical!”

Can any words be sweeter to hear from your child about a family vacation? From top-notch food to better-than-Broadway shows, you will find it on this ship!

Disney has made the check-in process painless (for adults anyway). The food was wonderful and there was always an abundance of characters around the ship. While I never write a full, lengthy reviews on the cruise ships I’ve been on, I will point out some tips to having a more-than-magical time on the Disney Wonder.

  • Unless your child wants to hunt down all of the characters for their autographs, you can take up to 4 items per stateroom to guest services to get signed. Place your items and permanent markers in a ziplock bag. Guest services will fill out a form with specifics (your room number, which characters you want, etc.) and will return it to your stateroom at the completion of the cruise.
  • Get to the characters meet and greet EARLY. Especially the Princesses!
  • Arrive at the main show at least 15 minutes early to ensure a good seat.
  • When arriving on embarkation day, eat at Parrot Cay (Deck 3, aft) instead of the main buffet on deck 9. You will be served your drinks and it’s a nicer, less crowded environment.
  • Some items in the gift shop will be marked down on the last night of the cruise. It’s better to wait to see if that shirt you want will go on sale.
  • For the pirate party, we brought glow necklaces and glow bracelets. We also wore them to the shows. All the kids wanted one!
  • If your child participates in the end of cruise show with the kid’s camp, they will get a free t-shirt.

I will be happy to answer any questions about the Disney Wonder if you would like to leave them in the comments section.

Stingray Sandbar, The Cayman Islands

28 Jan

Ah, the stingray. Fear of these little guys shot up about 1000% after Steve Irwin’s unfortunate death. Alas, the most popular thing to do in The Cayman Islands is the stingray sandbar tour. The boat ride out to the sandbar was nice but felt like it took forever- even on the “speed boat” we were on.

When we finally arrived, we peeked over the edge of the boat, watching these marvelous creatures seem to anticipate our arrival.

I have to admit I was quite fearless upon getting into the water. The crew will stay with you while you are in the water. You have the opportunity to feed the stingrays, pet them and hold them. We even got snorkel equipment. No one was stung on this tour. I have to admit, my fearlessness diminished when these majestic creatures started sliding under my feet and around my legs. It kind of gives you that creepy feeling when their velvety skin touches yours. After all, you are in their habitat. Their territory.

Please excuse the bad pic...taken with an expired underwater camera!

Nonetheless, this was a great experience- one I will never forget! I highly recommend the stingray sandbar for adults and kids who are not fearful of stingrays or swimming with ocean life. My 4-year-old daughter and I are stopping in The Caymans next month on a cruise itinerary and are opting to swim with the dolphins instead. She would be quite freaked out by the stingrays. However, there are life jackets provided for everyone and I saw kids younger than my daughter on this tour, so only YOU know your children and what they will tolerate.

Cruise line excursion rates can be high. I can get you this tour PLUS an additional snorkel stop for only $49 per person. E-mail me at bluegrottotravel@outlook.com and ask me how!

Do This: Cave Tubing in Belize

16 Jan

A woman recently stopped me after she saw my ‘Blue Grotto Travel’ car magnet. She had booked a Spring Break family trip to Belize and was wondering what to do while there. My reply was simple- Cave Tubing! It is a popular shore excursion among cruisers- and it’s no wonder why!

My party and I booked through Cave-Tubing.com and could not have had a better time. While other cave tour groups were over-crowded (we saw over 20 people linked together by their tubes at one point), we were a nice small group of about 8. Smaller tour groups mean easier management and more time for FUN! Plus, afterwards you get to try a Belizean tamale and purchase a nice “Butt’s Up” souvenir tee. During my extensive research I also discovered that they had the best price for the tour as well. Our guides were really nice and we even got a chance to “cliff jump” afterwards, They really knew all of the ends and outs of the cave and the area. Don’t worry- they will always remind you to keep your “butt’s up” during cave tubing.

The pictures I took during cave tubing didn’t come out so great (my underwater/waterproof camera was an epic fail on this trip, plus the caves are dark!).

Passports with Purpose

16 Dec

Passports with Purpose

Passports With Purpose was founded in 2008 by Debbie Dubrow, Pam Mandel, Beth Whitman and Michelle Duffy as a way to build community among travel bloggers and to give back to the places we, as travelers, visit.

Each year the Passports With Purpose founders select a charity based on several criteria along with their sense of what would inspire them and the Travel Bloggers community.

This year, we raised one hundred thousand dollars to fund five wells in Haiti with Water.org. It is inspiring and humbling to be part of such a great cause. PwP is still accepting donations through its website. Click here to donate to this worthy cause.

Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas

21 Nov

If you are sailing to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean, chances are that Coco Cay is listed on your itinerary. This charming island has everything you need to have a great time. Whether you are looking to shop, relax on the beach, or bounce on a water trampoline, Coco Cay has it all. As with other ports of call, you can pre-book excursions for Coco Cay. We booked snorkel equipment, a glass bottom boat tour and an hour time slot at the Aqua Park.

First up was the Aqua Park. I am a water park lover and this was amazing! There were a few large trampolines, and several “rock climbing” inflatable islands to climb on and jump off. All the while, you are being closely watched by a lifeguard. You do have to wear a life jacket, so keep this in mind. Even though the weather is gorgeous and sunny in February, the water is still cold. You have to walk out to the water park area, so if you are going in the winter months, be prepared to freeze until you get used to the temp!

There is an island barbecue which is put on by the ship, so you don’t have to tender back to the boat to eat lunch. The house band also came ashore to play Caribbean rhythms while we ate.

The glass bottom boat tour was one of the highlights of my trip. Led by knowledgeable staff, we traveled around the island looking for schools of fish and other marine life. Staff members dove under water to bring various marine life onboard that we could touch (optional). They also retrieved a conch from the ocean and we got to taste it raw (very optional)!

Unfortunately, we never got to use our snorkel gear. We had simply planned too much for our time at Coco Cay.

There is also a charming market, run by native Bahamians, conveniently located close to where the ferry tenders. The prices were fair, but don’t be afraid to haggle even lower. The vendors do accept US currency.

There were other areas of the island that we didn’t even get to explore, such as a nature area and trails. Get excited if you see Coco Cay on your ship’s list of destinations!

Westminster Abbey

31 Oct

Most English sovereigns have been crowned and buried in the abbey. From the soaring arches to the tombstone paved floors, this abbey is steeped in English history. Over the centuries, burial here has been the greatest honor that could be bestowed.

From the moment I walked in, I was in awe. I remember the chills I got as I learned bits and pieces of historical moments that have occurred there. As I stood where Princess Diana’s funeral had been, I was overcome with goose bumps. I was standing in this beautiful masterpiece where so many important members of history had stood- and in some cases, I was standing on them. Tombs are below your feet, in the walls and everywhere in between.

I wish I had gotten more photographs of the abbey. I did try to respect the “no photography” policy, even though many people did not. As with most museums and historical sites, you can elect to take a guided tour or a listening tour of the abbey. I chose to explore the abbey on my own- it’s just my personality. If and when I return to Westminster Abbey, I will most likely take a tour in order to gain more in-depth knowledge. That said, you can spend a half day in the abbey, taking in every room and every monument. You can also take some quick glances in each room, but you will still spend a good 2 hours minimum in the abbey. Take this into consideration when planning your time in London.

Whether you consider yourself religious, not religious, or anywhere in between, do not miss touring this historical and architectural masterpiece.

Appleton Estate, Jamaica

21 Oct

Tucked away in Jamaica’s countryside is Appleton Estate. When you go on the Appleton rum tour, you will get an overview of the history of the estate, get to see how the rum is made, and get to sample many types of rum.  I don’t always drink, but when I do, I prefer rum (Insert the most interesting man in the world here). The tour starts with free rum punch, sugar cane for…er, chewing, and a short video. Next you start the walking tour. Bring a hat and wear sunscreen. After the tour is the fun part- the tasting! There were 12 varieties of rum available to taste. Afterwards (if you can still stand up), stop by the gift shop to purchase your favorites. I recommend the rum cake/rum cream combo. The rum cream is great on vanilla ice cream and it’s packaged pretty enough to give as a gift.

This tour is often packaged with the “South Coast Tour” which also includes YS Falls and Black River Safari.