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Nickelodeon Punta Cana – November 2016 – Sandy Brewer

Sandy traveled to see this BRAND NEW resort last month! Here is what she thought in her own words and pictures:

Where did you travel?
Nickelodeon Resort – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
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What dates where you there?
November 7-9, 2016

How long did it take you to get there?
From Atlanta 3 ½ hours

Have you been there before? If so, when?
I went to Punta Cana in November of 2015

Tell a little about the resort.
It is a great Resort for families and has a very fun waterpark set at the back of the resort. Nice wide soft brown sand beach. The water is not Caribbean blue as it sits on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Dominican Republic. The resort opened June 2016 so rooms and resort are very modern and clean. Great food and the restaurant atmospheres are wonderful.

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What was your favorite part?
It is very family oriented but you don’t see the Nickelodeon Characters wondering through the resort. Still very elegant feel throughout the resort.

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Anything else you want to add?
For and extra fee they offer a Character breakfast or you can get slimed at the waterpark. It is a great waterpark, Spa, Fitness center.
There is a language barrier but each building has 2 concierges to use and they speak English very well. Dinner reservation are requires in all of the main restaurants that have menus except Burgers. Sugarcane is a buffet and does not require reservations and changes the menu each night.

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Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; & London, England – August 2016 – April Smith

April Smith and her husband, Nick, traveled to Dublin, Paris, and London for their first anniversary in August. Here is more about her trip in April’s words and pictures:

Where did you travel?
My husband and I, for our one year anniversary decided we wanted to go back to Europe for our one year anniversary since we went to Italy for our honeymoon. We first traveled to Ireland for 3 nights, then flew to Paris for 2 nights, then took a train from Paris to London for 3 nights and then flew back home to Memphis from there.

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What dates where you there?
We were gone August 19th – August 28th 2016.

How long did it take you to get there?
We had an overnight flight from Atlanta to Dublin that took about 8 hours. Our flight to Paris from Dublin was about an hour and a half. Our train from Paris to London was 2 and a half hours. Then, London coming back home was almost about 10 hours air time. Both of our international layovers were in Atlanta then we flew back to Memphis from there.

Have you been there before?
We have never been to any of these cities so this was a first!

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Tell a little about your trip.
Prepare yourself for a long paragraph for each…being gone for 9 days to 3 different countries is a lot to talk about.
Dublin: So first, we arrived in Dublin on the 20th and went straight to the hotel (Best Western Plaza Hotel). We had them hold our luggage until our room was ready and we went out to explore Trinity College which was a short walk from our hotel and other parts of the city that was nearby. Once our room was ready, we went back and took a long nap since we lost about 6 hours of sleep on the ride over. After that, we got dressed and went out to eat at a pub in Temple Bar, which is the hotspot for locals. Pubs everywhere! We enjoyed lamb stew and a rotisserie chicken and chips (as we call potatoes). The next full day we had, we did the hop on hop off tour bus around the whole city. This took us to see many churches, Guinness Storehouse, the Dublin zoo, and many more attractions. I always recommend this if you are somewhere for a short period of time. At one of our stops, my husband is a whiskey lover so we stopped and did a tour at the Jameson Distillery to learn about the making process. Our last full day in Dublin, we decided to rent a car, this day was actually our first anniversary, and drive 3 and a half hours (where the cars drive on the wrong side of the road) to see the Cliffs of Moher, which is a major attraction on the complete opposite side of country. It was definitely worth it! We also got to see Malahide Castle on the way there which was a castle built in the 1100’s. At the end of the day, we ate a nice steak meal at a restaurant nearby.

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Paris: Paris, France was our next destination. We originally weren’t going to travel to Paris, but our layover between Dublin and London was going to be in Paris, and since we had never been, we decided to stay two extra nights in Paris. As soon as we arrived in Paris and off the subway to our hotel (Paris Marriott Rive Gauche), I fell IN LOVE with this city. I never had a desire to go to Paris because it was over talked about I felt like, but I think this was my favorite city out of all three and we only had two nights here. Everything about this city is beautiful. Every building is so unique and has so much history, it just amazes me to no end. After we checked in to our hotel, we took a taxi to the Eiffel Tower to catch a glimpse of it before night time. We walked around and eventually found a café somewhere near to grab us some dinner. Once we were done with dinner, we walked back over to the Eiffel Tower to catch it at night. We grabbed some ice cream nearby and watched it twinkle for the 5 minutes it does on the top of the hour at night. The next and only full day we had, we decided to do a hop on hop off package that included a river boat tour, a day tour, and a city of lights night tour. We did the river boat tour first and cruised the Seine river. It had commentary in all languages so that was a neat experience to see the city and cruise the river that connects two sides of the city. After the riverboat tour, we did the hop on hop off day tour bus and we got to see everything from the Louvre Museum, the Opera, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Grand Palace, Moulin Rouge, and many more! At one stop we did get off to explore the Louvre Museum and we did get to take a peak of the original Mona Lisa portrait! We grabbed a quick bite to eat before we had to get back for the night tour which toured the city at night! I will be definitely be coming back here in the future to actually go in to all the wonder places we saw!

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London: After we got up the next morning, we took the subway to the Paris train station and headed our way to London! It works just like an airport but not as big! The fast train was an experience in itself because we got the see the suburbs outside the city. Arriving in London at the train station, we automatically got a subway pass since that is the main way of transport around the area. We headed straight for the hotel (Marriott Kensington) dropped off our luggage and went downtown to walk around the city. We explored the Big Ben and the London Eye. For our first full day, we got up, ate brunch and headed to Kensington Palace (where royals William & Kate reside) and then to Buckingham Palace (where the Queen lives during the week). We ended the day seeing Chelsea Stadium and eating at Marco Grill nearby, which was honestly the BEST meal I have ever had in my life . Our next full day, we decided to take the train to Windsor Palace, which was about an hour away. It is the Palace the Queen lives on the weekends and man is it enormous! We also did a private tour called Conquer the Tower which allowed us to reach the highest point of the castle, 200 spiral steps up & down! Heading back into town, we ate a meal we can get here in the states, Benihana’s, and went back to the hotel, ordered dessert room service, watched a movie and crashed before our long flight the next day!

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Universal Orlando – February 2016 – April Dalehite Smith

April Smith traveled down to Universal Orlando and had a blast exploring the ever changing parks and the Cabana Bay Resort! Here is more about her trip in her own words and pictures:

Where did you travel?
I traveled to Universal Orlando Resort staying at the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort attached to the amusement parks.

What dates where you there?
I was there from February 11th – February 14th

How long did it take you to get there?
I had a nonstop flight on Southwest from Memphis to Orlando. It was about a 2 and a half hour flight.

Have you been there before?
I have been to the Universal Orlando Resort visiting both parks, Universal Studios & Island of Adventures about 8 years ago. So they have had plenty of new updates! It was my first time staying at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, as it was new in 2014, and I LOVED IT. We were able to get in the park one hour before the general public and had free transportation from the resort to the parks and City Walk areas.

Tell a little about your trip.
I arrived in Orlando Thursday afternoon. I took the Mears transportation bus offered at the airport to my resort. Once I arrivied, I checked in and lounged around the resort for the remainder of the day enjoying the pool, sand areas, and cafeteria. On Friday, my husband and I got up early and ate breakfast at the resort and then head to Universal Studios. This resort included transportation to the City Walk/Parks so we didn’t have to worry about getting any taxis, etc. We spent the whole day at Universal Studios, eating lunch there, and riding as much rides as we could. The lines weren’t long at all. The longest we had to wait was around 45 minutes, which was for the Harry Potter rides. By the end of the day, we went back to the resort, got dressed for dinner, and headed back to the City Walk for dinner. On Saturday, we spent all day at the Island of Adventures. This day we decided to splurge and get Fast Passes. We were able to ride every ride numerous amounts of time! This night, we did decide to get off property and explore the city. Sunday morning, we lounged around the resort, and headed back later that afternoon to the airport for our flight back to Memphis.

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What was your favorite part?
As much as I LOVED this property, Universal Studios was all my time favorite. There were so many rides and activities going on in the park that could take your whole day.

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Cancun, Mexico – April 2016 – Audra Kennedy

Where did you travel?
Cancun, Mexico Cancun Hotel Zone and Playa Mujeres

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What dates where you there?
Tuesday April 12 – Saturday April 16 2016

How long did it take you to get there?
Flew out of Atlanta airport – flight was 2 ½ hours transfer to my hotel in hotel zone was approx.. 30 min

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Have you been there before?
NO, I wanted to get to Mexico so I was really excited to go on this trip.

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Tell a little about your trip.
I actually booked myself to arrive very early the first day so I could experience the resort as a guest would experience it. I also wanted to see/experience the Cancun airport to be able to help my clients move quickly as possible through the airport and to their transfer.
I stayed at the Fiesta Americana Condesa – which is a “no frills” family resort.
Each day we did site inspections of resorts in the area. On the first day we did site inspections at Paradisus Cancun: it smelled so great right when you walked in the front door!
This is a family property, but they also have an adults only side of the resort so it would be a good option for a couple traveling without children. One thing that was great about this resort is they have guaranteed room options for handicapped. There is shopping and restaurants across the street.
Next we went to Hard Rock Cancun which is also a family friendly resort. One nice thing about this resort is that a family of 6 traveling together can have the option of adjoining rooms making it a Rock Suite. Hard Rock is also a great place to have a destination wedding and get treated with Rock Star Royalty.
Then we went right next door to Secrets The Vine which is an adults only property. This property was a less active more quiet property. One thing that I loved here was that they have a spin cycle class that has glass front overlooking the ocean.
We then went north to the tip of the hotel zone. Hyatt Zilara Cancun an adults only resort.There is a wonder Corner suite on the ground floor that has a swim up pool. The pool has active and relaxed sides so you have options depending on your mood. They do have an authentic Mexican restaurant on site with a mariachi band 3 times a week.
Hyatt Ziva Cancun which is right next door is a family friendly property but also have an adults only tower with Jacuzzi on the balcony and adults only pool.
This resort has dolphin view suites that overlook a dolphin pool. There is a beautiful gazebo for weddings and a sky gazebo for events or weddings. They also have a microbrewery onsite and have 3 in-house brews that change monthly.
The second day we did site inspections at LIVE Aqua which is a part of the Fiesta American Properties. This property is very relaxing with very few activities the average age is 35 – 65 yrs old. 96% of their menu is gluten free and the chef will come out and personally interview those with food allergies (with a 2 week notice).
We then went to Playa Mujeres area and did site inspections at Beloved which is a family friendly boutique resort. They will put a family of 5 in the same room without having to get two adjoining rooms.
Next door is also Excellence Playa Mujeres an adults only resort. They have a lazy river that wraps around the property. It is situated on 2 miles of white sandy beach. There is a main stage with nightly entertainment.
Again right next door is Finest Playa Mujeres. Finest is a family property. They have kids clubs and a mini kids waterpark on site. There is a gorgeous two-story roof top terrace with private plunge pool and outdoor shower.

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What was your favorite part?
My favorite part of the trip was the opportunity during a “free day” to experience Secrets The Vine as one of my clients would. I was able to get a day pass and no one on property knew that I was a travel agent, so I did not get any “special treatment” BUT now I know that all my clients that I send to Secrets The Vine get SPECIAL TREATMENT! We met a couple staying there and they had spent the morning deep sea fishing and brought back a 50 pound tuna and the poolside kitchen cooked it for them for their lunch and they shared it with me. Talk about VIP treatment! Can’t get fish any fresher than that!

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San Francisco – January 2016 – April Smith

April Smith, along with her mom and husband, traveled to San Francisco in January and had so much fun seeing all of the tourists’ favorites! Here is some more in her own words and pictures.

Where did you travel?
My husband and I, along with my mom, went to San Francisco for a long weekend! We stayed in the Fisherman’s Warf and explored all the sites around the bay, along with Napa Valley, Red Wood Forest, and the drove down the West Coast!

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What dates where you there?
I was there January 16th – January 19th, 2016

How long did it take you to get there?
There is a four hour difference between Memphis and San Francisco and with a layover each way in Dallas, it took about 8 hours of our day to get there.

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Have you been there before?
I have never been to San Francisco or the West Coast so this was first for me!

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Tell a little about your trip.
We arrived late afternoon in San Francisco on the 16th and first went to our hotel, Hotel Zephyr. Once we unpacked we walked the streets of Fisherman’s Warf, seeing all the Piers and marina! After lots of walking, we ended up eating dinner in Little Italy at an delicious Italian restaurant. On the 17th, we got up and ate breakfast at the Boudin Bakery right across the street from our hotel! We then rented GOCARs to explore the big sites of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Painted Ladies, Alamo Square, etc. A GOCAR is a small car that has a GPS attached to it that tells about your surrounding areas while you are driving. It knows exactly where you are and can lead you around the city giving you plenty of great information about the buildings you pass by! I would highly recommend it if you are wanting to combine something fun and educational! To end the night, we ate the Cheesecake Factory downtown! The next day, January 18th, we decided to rent a car and drive up to the Red Wood Forest to see the large trees & do some wine tastings in Napa Valley! I would highly recommend visiting the Red Wood Forest if you ever get the chance! They get up to 40 feet WIDE! We then drove down the west coast for about an hour catching a glimpse of the surfers trying to catch some large waves! BEAUTIFUL! We ended the night visiting the Painted Ladies back in Alamo Square and the curviest road in the world! We ate at a delicious steakhouse in the Fisherman’s Warf for dinner and got dessert at the Ghirardelli shop right across the street. On our last day, we went over to Alcatraz and took a tour of the island and jail!

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What was your favorite part?
My favorite part of the trip was the GOCARs, there are such a perfect way to learn about a city in a fun way!

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Riviera Maya, Mexico – November/December 2015 – April Dalehite Smith

April attended a FAM trip (a trip to familiarize herself with several properties) in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This FAM showed her many resorts and wedding locations that she loved!! And now she wants to share her experience with you, in her own words and pictures:

Where did you travel?
I traveled to the Riviera Maya in Mexico, which is just south of Cancun. We visited several resorts including: Secrets Maroma, Barcelo Maya Palace, El Dorado Seaside, RIU Playacar, Secrets Silversands, Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita, Dreams Riviera Cancun, Now Jade Riviera Maya, Generations Riviera Maya, El Dorado Maroma, and Azul Sensatori.

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What dates were you there?
I was there from Monday, November 30th – Friday, December 4th. So a total of 5 days, 4 nights.

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How long did it take you to get there?
The air time from Atlanta (where my layover was) to Cancun was about a 2 and a half hour plane ride.

Have you been there before?
I have never been to the Riviera Maya or even Mexico so this was a first for me.

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Tell us a little about your trip.
I went on this trip for work to not only learn about the area, airport, etc., but to also get a feel of different resorts around the Riviera Maya. This trip also focused on weddings so we were able to check out all the wedding venues at each resort and learn about the wedding packages they each had to offer. There were about 40 travel agents on this trip along with me! We all stayed at two different resorts during the trip and did site inspections at other resorts in the area over the 4 days we were there. We stayed at Secrets Maroma, an Adults Only resort, the first two nights and Now Jade Riviera Maya the second two nights. I loved Secrets Maroma! It had that romantic and intimate feel, yet there were many activities that you could do throughout the day. Now Jade was more family-friendly. This property was more active and had more of a condo feel you would find in Florida. So if you like the activeness of a vacation but also want all-inclusive, this would be a good property for a family. After visiting all the different resorts, we learned that they each have their own different benefits a person or group might want out of their vacation. There were resorts for more romantic getaways, and there were some that were more focused on children and some in between. It was definitely a great experience to see how each resort you go to has a different feel! Everyone at these resorts were very kind and generous to go out of their way to make sure we were all enjoying our stay and visit. All-Inclusive resorts are definitely the way to go for any family vacations or romantic getaways!

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Punta Cana – November/December 2015 – Heather Scobey

About a month ago, Heather and Gina traveled to Punta Cana to visit some beautiful properties. Here is a little about her trip in her own words and pictures:

Where did you travel?
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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What dates where you there?
November 30 – December 4, 2015

How long did it take you to get there?
We flew SouthWest from Memphis to Chicago (took 1hr 20 min) and Chicago to Punta Cana (took 4 hrs.)

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Have you been there before?
No, this was my first time.

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Tell a little about your trip.
I stayed the first 2 nights at Breathless Punta Cana. The food was wonderful. It is a very active resort. The second two nights were at Secrets Royal Beach, which is next door to the sister property NOW so I was able to go the restaurants and entertainment there as well. It is a very nice resort and you can find activity if want it or you can find quiet, if you prefer.

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What was your favorite part?
Definitely the scenery. The palm tree and soft sand were beautiful. And all the resorts by AM resorts were fantastic.

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Anything else you want to add?
The road from the airport to our resort as well as the roads between the resorts (the furthest being an hour and a half away) were all smooth and straight. Very nice atmosphere.

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Italy – August 2015 – April Smith

This past August, April Smith and her husband honeymooned in Italy! Here is more about their amazing trip, in her own words and pictures:

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Where did you travel?
My husband and I traveled to Rome, taking excursions from Rome to the Tuscany Region of Florence, then traveled to Naples and the island of Capri.

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What dates were you there?
I left Memphis on August 24th, 2015, arriving in Rome on the 25th and came back August 30th, 2015.

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How long did it take you to get there?
I had one stop in Atlanta, GA between Memphis and Rome. Our flight left Memphis around 2:30pm on the 24th and arrived in Atlanta around 4:30pm. Our flight in Atlanta to Rome left around 6:30pm. The time difference from Memphis and Rome is 7 hours. Therefore, if it was 12:00PM in the afternoon in Memphis, it was 7:00PM at night in Rome. Our flight from Atlanta to Rome was about a 8hr and 45min flight. Therefore we landed in Rome around 9:30AM (Rome time). The flight back to the U.S. from Rome on August 30th was about a 10hr and 45min flight. We also had one stop between Rome and Memphis, which again was Atlanta.

Have you been there before?
Neither me nor my husband had been to Italy, let alone out of the country. This was our first out of the country trip together for our Honeymoon!

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Tell us a little bit about your trip.
Before Nick and I got to Italy, we already had a set schedule of things and excursions to do each day. On Tuesday the 25th, we arrived in Italy and got to our hotel by our private transfer around 1pm. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we decided to take a walk around our hotel to explore around the city. After arriving back to our hotel around 3pm, we took a long nap til about 8pm because of the time difference. After that, we went to a close restaurant nearby and got our first real Italian dish. On the 26th, we had a Cooking Class and Walking Tour of Florence. We got up that morning and walked to the Rome Train Station to catch an early train to Florence. It was about an hour and a half train ride. It was actually a nice train ride because we were able to see the open land between the two cities. Once we got to our specific location, they first took us around the city of Florence on a walking tour and to the local supermarkets to get our ingredients for the dishes we were going to make later that day. After the walking tour, they took us by bus up the Tuscany hills to a gorgeous home overlooking the city. We then cooked and prepared several meals. After our tour was over, we explored the city ourselves and then took a train back to Rome that night. On the 27th, we explored Rome, taking an all inclusive tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. Then we went to the Vatican City and received more shared tours of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We also were able to sit in a mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, which was once in a lifetime thing to do! On the 28th, we traveled with a tour group by bus to Naples, which then took us on a fairy to the island of Capri. We passed by the second most active volcano that destroyed the town of Pompeii. At Capri, we traveled to Anacapri for a delicious lunch and were able to take in the beautiful island! After that we purchased tickets to see the Blue Grotto, which is a blue lit cave that individuals can go inside and experience. This island is beautiful! On the 29th, my husband and I got a couples massage at a local Thai massage spa and then just explored more of the city of Rome, really focusing on all the beautiful fountains. After that, we went to one of the locals favorite American style restaurants and walked around the city some more with a bowl full of gelato! Our flight was the next morning back to the U.S.

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What was my favorite part?
Everything was amazing! I think my favorite was the Italian Cooking Class in Florence because all the delicious food, wine, and views! However, the landscape and views of Capri were amazing! Probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! Everything about Italy was beautiful. Many buildings, history, and tradition you don’t see much in the U.S.

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Sandals Resorts Jamaica – August 2015 – Victoria Reisinger

In August of this year, Victoria and Audra visited all 9 Sandals/Beaches properties in Jamaica, while there on a FAM trip. Here is more about their awesome trip in Victoria’s own words and pictures:
Where did you travel?
All of Sandals and Beaches resorts in Jamaica! (Specific areas of the island: Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril and the South Coast)
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What dates where you there?
August 20-26, 2015
How long did it take you to get there?
About 2 hours 40 mins non-stop from Atlanta
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Tell a little about your trip.
Seeing all 9 properties (7 Sandals and 2 Beaches) really showcases just how unique each resort really is. Each property has its own “vibe” while all of them encompass the Sandals/Beaches brand. A step above all-inclusive; luxury-inclusive. From the rooms to the beaches at each property, there were so many things that I loved it would be impossible to write about them all. Even after only traveling to Jamaica twice, it somehow feels like a home away from home.
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What was your favorite part?
Getting to watch brand new over-the-water hammocks being put in at Sandals Royal Caribbean, and getting to experience the new speakeasy bar at “The Rabbit Hole” at Sandals Ochi. Such a cool element to the resort that no other Sandals (currently) offers!
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Anything else you want to add?
My love for Sandals and Beaches properties continues to grow each time I experience them firsthand, and I absolutely love getting to explain my experiences with clients who are traveling there as well!
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Punta Cana – September 2015 – Sandy Brewer

Sandy and her husband (along with Alice and her husband) attended a FAM trip to Punta Cana in order to familiarize herself with several resorts. Here is more about her trip in her own words and pictures:

Where did you travel?

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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What dates where you there?

September 7-12, 2015

How long did it take you to get there?

We flew on the nonstop charter out of Nashville and the flight was about 3 ½ hours.

Have you been there before?

No, this was my first time and I was very excites, as Punta Cana has become a very popular destination.

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Tell a little about your trip.

I was able to see 9 different resorts in order to help our clients choose the right resort for their vacation. We stayed at the CHIC Punta Cana and visitied RIU Palace Bavaro Beach, Iberostar Bavaro, Iberostar Grand, Majestic Elegance, Excellence Punta Cana, Majestic Colonial, Royal Suites Turquesa by Palladium, Palladium Bavaro and Royalton Punta Cana.

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What was your favorite part?

Being able to see all of the different areas, beaches and resorts in Punta Cana.

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Anything else you want to add?

There is definitely a large language barrier between the resort staff and the clients. Just be prepared for this and it will be okay.