A Week at the Excellence Playa Mujeres

The following post is written by Adam from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.  Adam recently vacationed at the Excellence Playa Mujeres, and shares his insight into the resort and his overall travel experience booked through Boscov’s Travel.

DSCN0145.JPGAfter spending a week in Mexico two years ago, my wife and I decided to spend our yearly vacation in the land of guacamole again this year. During our previous stay in at the Secrets Silversands resort in Mexico, we enjoyed the beach but it wasn’t ideal for going into the deep waters of the Caribbean. When deciding where to go this year, the beach had to be priority. After much research, discussion and competitive “the resort I found is better than yours” banter we decided on the Excellence Playa Mujeres. And by we, I mean her.

After the flight and breezing through customs we were picked up by AMStar Tours for our private transfer to the resort. The resort was about 20 minutes from the Cancun Airport. Our guide, Carlos, did a fantastic job of providing an update of the Cancun area since our previous visit. During the drop off at the resort, he also provided his contact information in case we needed to change our pick up time or schedule any excursions we wished to take with AMStar Tours.

If you are going to an all-inclusive in Mexico, I would highly suggest using AMStar for airport transfers from the airport to the resort. They are dedicated to providing world-class services and their team is staffed by nothing less than travel professionals. And besides, when you’re stepping into a private vehicle at the airport, it makes you feel like a celebrity. Treat yo self!

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After making it through the city, we finally arrived at the Excellence Playa Mujeres. As always, it’s nice to be greeted with a cold towel and “Complimentary champagne, Sir?” Once inside, it’s always a sight to behold at how large the lobby can be at an all-inclusive resort- three floors and decorated to the nines. After checking in, we were escorted to our room right away. This year we decided to splurge a little more on our room and stayed in a Terrace Suite with Plunge Pool.

This Terrace Suite offers an expansive (807 sq. ft.) private terrace with Plunge Pool, comfortable lounge furniture and an open-air shower. If you decide to spend a vacation at this Excellence resort, stay in this suite. It was nice waking up in the morning and being able to lounge or swim when the sun was coming up. Also, my wife and I would enjoy a cocktail before going down to dinner each evening.

Excellence offers gourmet dining in ten international restaurants and eleven bars; no reservations needed. All meals, unlimited beverages, snacks, and 24/7 room service are included, plus all of the restaurants feature healthy menus and vegetarian dishes.

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We ate at a majority of the restaurants for dinner, the only ones we didn’t eat at were Basmati (Indian), Spice (Asian), and the Flavor Market (Tapas). And the only reasons why we didn’t eat at those places was because we wanted to eat at Chez Isabelle (French) and Agave (Mexican) more than once. I really believe that the menus in the restaurants at the Excellence are designed so that you are able have an appetizer, a salad, the main course, and dessert, and leave satisfied. The meals are portioned well and never disappoint.

Lunch was another experience all together. The Excellence had your standard buffet for breakfast and lunch. In addition to that, the Lobster House and the Grill offered a la carte menus for lunch. But the one we visited the most was Las Olas. Las Olas is located on the beach and has a selection of fast food, salads, wood-oven pizzas, and grilled favorites. The main course they offered was different everyday. One day we ate Seafood Paella, which was prepared in a giant wok, and another day we had Jamaican Jerk Chicken. It was fresh and served buffet style. It was by far the best place to eat lunch.

During our stay in Cancun 2 years ago, we went on a snorkeling excursion that gave us the opportunity to swim with sea turtles. This excursion is no longer available because the sea turtles habitats are now protected, which is a great because it helps the species from becoming extinct. So this year we decided to buy our own snorkeling gear and bring it with us.

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The beach at the Excellence provided more than enough space and ocean for us to explore the waters. We snorkeled at least twice a day and saw Bluefin Trevally, Starfish, Batfish, Sea Turtles, and a Manta Ray. Because of our decision to buy snorkeling gear, we decided we didn’t need to leave the resort to experience an excursion. We also took advantage of the free water sports offered by the resort and took the Stand Up Paddle Boards into the Caribbean a handful of times.

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Overall, our stay at the Excellence Playa Mujeres was by far the best vacation at an all-inclusive we have ever had. The service of the staff, the accommodations, the food, and the overall experience exceeded our expectations and was nothing short of amazing.

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If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Rediscovering my love of cruising aboard the Norwegian Breakaway

The following post is written by Wendy, a member of the Boscov’s Travel Corporate Team.  Wendy recently sailed on the Breakaway, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, as part of a FAM. In the travel industry, FAM trips – better known as familiarization trips – help travel agents learn what’s available for their clients in destinations across the globe. Wendy traveled on the FAM in October 2016. 

Norwegian Cruise Line had invited myself and other members of the Boscov’s Travel family on a 7-Day FAM trip aboard Norwegian Breakaway. For me these trips are a real joy and it had been a number of years since my last cruise, so needless to say I was excited. One of the beautiful things about a familiarization trip on a cruise ship is that travel specialists can experience, well, everything!

img_3715For our Bermuda cruise, we departed from the New York City pier. Boscov’s Travel offers transfers for select cruises to this pier from local Boscov’s in Reading, Camp Hill, Lancaster, and Easton. Our group took one of these transfers aboard a luxury bus from Reading, PA to the cruise terminal. Having cruised before I was quite familiar with the procedures of boarding a cruise ship. I’ll admit, I was blown away by how much more smoothly and streamlined Norwegian has made the boarding process. We were moved along quickly, porters took our luggage, and the staff was polite and friendly. All in all the experience was hassle and headache free.

Unfortunately, the weather was not going to cooperate. Hurricane Matthew threw a wrench in the works. Instead of sailing to Bermuda as planned, our itinerary was changed to Port Canaveral, Florida and Nassau, Bahamas. Seeing as we were on a FAM trip to learn about the ship, this didn’t deter us at all from enjoying everything the Norwegian Breakaway had to offer.

Our first stop was Port Canaveral, Florida. Despite being a little overcast, we decided to check out Cocoa beach. After an enjoyable bus trip to the beach, we felt like we had the beach to ourselves. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought and the weather helped play a small part in that. There are surf shops in the area and made for a nice break in between relaxation sessions on the beach.

The second port we experienced was Nassau, Bahamas. We spent two hours in Nassau at the Straw Market. It was great experience to be able to see hand-made art and local delicacies. According to the locals, the sunset in Nassau is a must-see and we decided to catch it from the Breakaway. And to be honest, the locals were right… was breathtaking.

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The food on the Breakaway was something to behold. We had the chance to experience the Brazilian style Moderno and the Italian style La Cucina specialty dining restaurants during our trip. And if you have the chance, I highly recommend eating at both. At Moderno, your mouth will water as different grilled and slow-roasted meats are carved tableside. At La Cucina, they take classic Italian dishes and put a fresh twist to create something unbelievable.

The rest of the time, we enjoyed the Garden Café Buffet. The buffet style of cooking on a cruise ship has come a long way since the last time I experienced it. Everything tasted as if it had been cooked especially for us. The taste, freshness, and options available were delicious. They also incorporated themes everyday with options ranging from Chinese one day to Western the next, then seafood after that. There were also made-to-order dishes available upon request.

One of our Boscov’s Travel team members is gluten intolerant. One of the best great things about Norwegian’s food options is that they can make anything gluten-free. The staff was very accommodating and understanding of any and all dietary restrictions. During the day, you can go to any of the restaurants and place an order for your dinner that night with your restrictions. When you arrive later that night, your food will be made to your specifications.

The nightlife experiences aboard the Breakaway transformed the ship into the hottest spot at sea. At H2O, every night was a different theme. One night it was a 70’s disco night and the next was an 80’s new wave night. During the day, cruisers could attend a flash mob class and that night everyone would perform the routine they learned that day. We had the chance to experience a flash mob and see everyone perform the dance routine from Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video.

img_3492Entertainment rocked the ship throughout our 7-days. Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor are two of the on board shows you shouldn’t miss. The cast of Rock the Ages was friendly and entertaining and managed to really involve the audience in the show. Even though the 45-minute dance routines from the foxtrot to the salsa of Burn the Floor is not my cup of tea, it was an amazing performance to watch.

Despite Hurricane Matthew changing our entire itinerary, it did not stop us from enjoying everything Norwegian Cruise Line had to offer! If you have the chance to get aboard this floating palace of entertainment, food, and fun; I would highly recommend that you do so. Norwegian’s really taken things to a whole new level with this ship and it shows; from the accommodating staff to every minor detail on the ship. The Breakaway is truly a cruisers dream ship.

If you’re ready to learn more about cruising, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020. Be sure to ask about specials!

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

America’s Last Great Frontier; Exploring Everything Alaska Has to Offer

The following post is written by Boscov’s Travel Specialist Jennifer from our Camp Hill branch. Jennifer recently traveled to Alaska along with Colonial Park Travel Specialist Amy, on an educational trip to experience tours and options that our clients can enjoy while experiencing America’s Last Great Frontier. 

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We experienced a whirlwind 6 nights in Alaska that felt like twice that. It never gets really dark even when the sun sets around 11pm and is back up at 4am. Nineteen hours of daylight feels like 2 days, especially when you are trying to see all that your clients may want to see in a fraction of the time. As travel specialists we tried to take in everything that the tours and hotels had to offer. Next time we will return as vacationers.

It’s hard for me to describe but Alaska is young in many ways. Not to discount the native cultures which are a big part of the history, peoples and culture but it’s statehood is less than 60 years old. Even the Russian influences are ‘new’ compared to the ancient cultures. The buildings are new, the corporations and governments are new, the ‘Alaskans’ are new. In a world of travel we often sell the ‘old’….go see ruins in Mexico, the cathedrals in Europe, historical colonial places from our US history, but how often do we seek out the new? We seek the modern in some places but Alaska is different…

According to the locals, to be ‘Alaskan’ is to live in Alaska for a winter. If you live through the season and stay, then you are an Alaskan and these transplants account for a significant part of the (750,000) population. When you realize that Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas that number seems, well, tiny. But I have digressed into my ‘factoid-ness’.

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The natural landscape of Alaska is clearly very very old. Sculpted by glaciers and home of the highest point in North America, its vistas are breathtaking. When we arrived at 11:30 pm in Anchorage my heart was delighted to see majestic mountains in the twilight. We stayed our first night at the Lakefront Anchorage, which is close to the airport and very convenient. We also woke to see planes taking off and landing right from the lake – a primary method of transportation for the locals in the deepest regions Alaska.

We stayed a second night at the Marriott in downtown Anchorage and proceeded to explore the city. We checked out the “Saturday Market”… on Sunday. It was full of delicious locally made foods, crafts and even entertainment. I had a lemongrass halibut taco that just had me fearing the trip had peaked at that point. Yes, it was that good. We walked some more and found ourselves eating at Snow City Café for a delicious second lunch (or first lunch for my colleague).

We walked a bit of Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and came back through residential areas and Delaney Park. We met up with some of the folks we would be with on the tour and our dedicated tour guide, Jared, that we would be traveling with for the next 6 days. With Royal Caribbean Cruise Tours you will always have a dedicated tour guide for the land tour. We headed for dinner at Sacks. This was a tasty, fancy little establishment. This was just a fraction of the delicious food that Anchorage has to offer. If you happen to find yourself with some free time in Anchorage I highly recommend doing a food tour.

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We were off to Seward! A quick stop at the Chugach State Park Bird Point Trailhead for a short break and a photo opportunity and then another at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. These are great ways to break up the drive and briefly see what Royal Caribbean can offer to our clients. On to the Kenai Fjords Cruise we saw orcas, humpback whales, sea lions, otters, puffins, eagles, porpoises, cormorants, and even at a great distance a goat. We had lunch at Fox Island (delicious) and again just breathtaking views. I feel like we had a day like no other. Alaska is a raw place and sometimes the weather isn’t the sunny clear day we had, but it is a place where the unexpected can surprise and amaze you. We ended the day at the Alaska Sea Life center… I could have spent much longer here learning and observing and even interacting with the animals and caretakers.

Lots of options for food are available in Seward as well. We had a delicious dinner at Ray’s. Let me tell you how important food and beverage is to me – VERY! We watched otters out the window into the marina while we dined. The Alaskan brews are so good too. I love to eat and drink local and Alaska is just sumptuous!

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The next day we were back to Anchorage and the Native Heritage Center with a brief stop in Alyeska, an adorable place just above the quaint town of Girdwood. Alyeska is only seen on the tours that focus on the mountains and the longer tours but from this vantage point you can see some spectacular mountain views. Again, we just didn’t have enough time because we were getting the abbreviated version.

It’s hard to believe that very shortly we would be in Talkeetna. This was the town I was most excited to see… if you are old enough to remember the show “Northern Exposure” about a doctor from NYC that finds himself practicing medicine in a quirky small Alaskan town, well, this is where the idea was born. It’s been about 20 years since this show first aired so I assumed it would be large and commercial now. It’s NOT and I loved this place. It’s a gathering place for climbers before and after their treks to ascend Denali (Mt. McKinley) and while we were there, there were many an unhappy climber because ascent hadn’t been possible in the last few weeks due to weather. Locals singing karaoke, climbers drowning their lament and a dog walking around town (in and out of places of business) made this town charming.

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Talkeetna was also special because we signed up to do a glacier landing on a small plane. Are there any people out there who aren’t afraid of small aircraft? This was no exception. But we had been told, by numerous accounts, that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was not to be missed, so we signed up, butterflies and all. I know I’m not a gifted enough writer to describe this but I will use a few words to try – powerful, spiritual, humbling. When that plane set down on the glacier we were so close to something so large and grand, something that from the distance was awesome and powerful and up close was even more so. We were so small and it was so grand. It brought tears for many of us. It was spiritual.

We would eventually re-board taking off from the glacier to see a little more and have an up close view of Denali. It was amazing to see a huge avalanche (even the pilot was impressed and circled back around), and the base camp for climbers. That base camp was the first perspective I had at the size of everything. Tents on the snow at the base of mountain were like ants….I just couldn’t fathom the massiveness of this. No regrets on this excursion. I will do this again and hopefully share it with my children and husband.

Our time in Talkeetna was all too short. The next day we were to board the Wilderness Express glass domed train for Denali National Park. This was quite a luxurious experience and really enables you to see so much including a view of those living off the grid. I know there are a lot of TV shows out there to teach us about Alaska but they don’t do the ‘real’ Alaska justice, they just scrape the surface.

Denali was our smallest snapshot of what’s included on these tours. Every land tour with Royal Caribbean includes Denali and we only saw a hint in the hour that we had. This just means every last one of us who was on this trip will come back.

That evening it was back to options and my colleague Amy and I did different things. She took to the river and did Whitewater rafting in the Nenana. Quite a few did this tour and everyone loved it. It was cold and a little wet but they supplied equipment to keep you dry! I went to the Husky Homestead to hear four time Iditarod champion Jeff King talk about his life and adventures, and I got to snuggle puppies and see some gleefully mush, even without snow. Aside from enjoying each of our very different adventures, we also once again were captivated by the Alaskan people that we would meet.

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Again our time was too short and morning came too soon as we ventured off to Fairbanks. I had the least expectation of this city, which is probably why it surprised me so much. It has a quirky untouched feel but is still modern and artsy. We headed up to Gold Dredge #8 where we panned for gold (and all got some), learned about the mining industry and how it established Fairbanks, about the pipeline and some musical entertainment with a train ride because – why not! We did the Alaska Salmon Bake (they make food taste so good served in large quantities!) and Palace Theater Show (a fun way to learn the modern history of this place).

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Our last day we enjoyed the Riverboat Discovery before heading to the airport. This was on the Chena river and we had the chance to see the Chena Indian Village, Susan Butcher’s huskies (another 4 time winner), a float plane land and take off right beside the river boat, and plenty of stories too! I think when I go back I’d like to start in Fairbanks.

This trip was an educational opportunity but it lit a passion for Alaska in me. Knowledge is a key to explaining but feeling unlocks something else and I know anyone I send to Alaska won’t be able to come home without having these feelings. There is so much of the history and narration that we were given by our dedicated tour guide that made everything not only informative, but interesting and fun.

If you’re ready to book your Alaskan adventure, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.