Hard Rock in Cancun: Adding a little rock and roll to your vacay

The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun is everything the Hard Rock has become synonymous with: a party atmosphere, beautiful lodgings, and a great vibe from its guests.  When you add these classic Hard Rock elements with the natural beauty of Cancun in a premium all-inclusive hotel, you amp up the volume on a typical Hard Rock visit.  I have always loved the vibe of the Hard Rock hotels as the rock and roll theme always puts me in a mood for fun.  With the great restaurants and prime locations the hotel chains in Las Vegas and Chicago hold some amazing memories.  In Cancun, however, this type of fun isn’t a novelty, the city itself has built a brand for party and fun so how does the Hard Rock make it even better???? Beach, booze, and bliss.

You usually know a good time is in store when at check in you are offered a drink of your choice.  Well at least that is a good sign for me.  Once you step into this beautiful property you know that most anything you want is at your disposal.  The many restaurants offer convenient seating and a variety of cuisine options. The bars are fully stocked with premium liquors and the bartenders pour freely.  The rooms are comfortable even including large Jacuzzis and also a full stocked bar ready for you to raid.  Room service offers a variety of options and deliver any time of the day or night.  Even with all this the fun does not stop there.

 

One of my favorite features of the hotel was the pool.  The in pool seating allowed you to rest in water to get a break from the heat in comfort and style.  The pool atmosphere is lively with performances, games and entertainment throughout the day.  While the kids hopped in a game of volleyball I hopped in between bar, buffet and the pool and finally finished out my day of R & R with some time on the beach.  With the sun coming down we got a chance to experience some of the nightlife options at the hotel with a nightclub pumping music throughout the main pavilion and hookahs picked up by small friendly groups enjoying the night breeze.  A delicious taco cart came out just in time to smooth the munchies that descended as we danced and laughed into the wee hours.  With so much to do you escape some of the boredom that can come with being in one place for your whole vacation and with such a great location you are always free to hop into some of the fun party or adventure vibe of Cancun.  Hard Rock Cancun does a phenomenal job of giving you classic hard rock fun in a beautiful tropical environment.

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel Review

fort-lauderdale-vacation-4Sleek and cool is a great look in South Florida and an exceptional look when it comes to the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach.  My first priority in South Florida is always the beach so being located directly by the water was my first priority when searching for a hotel.  With a prime time location right off the Intercostal the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach provides easy access to shopping, restaurants, the airport and freeway and most importantly the beach.

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Upon arriving from our drive from Orlando I wanted to catch the last remaining hours of fun in the sun beach time that I could. This is a great example of where it pays to join the hotel’s loyalty program.  These programs are usually free and come with some great bonus features such as upgrades, early check in and free drinks.  With the Sonesta Travel Pass I was able to capitalize on two at the hotel so while other guests where in a room holding pattern.  Quickly I headed up to my room and was pleasantly surprised at the great view of the ocean from the room.  The lobby and rooms offer a modern vide and don’t give you the old South Florida switcharoo where the lobby is amazing and the room falls short of the high expectations set.  With a quick pit stop in our lovely room we headed to the beach which was just across the street.

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The fact that I love luxury hotels is no secret and the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach showcased why the little things matter so much in this distinction. Having fruit infused water waiting on you are a great poolside bar serving up cocktails are just some of the features that really define value for me in a high end property.  In between beach fun and trips to Las Olas I found the location and vibe of the hotel great for a weekend getaway and a perfect home base for exploring Fort Lauderdale.

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Music and libations at a fun trip to Ace Hotel New Orleans

ace-hotel-new-orleans-5Some hotels you choose for the luxury and others you choose for the location but a special few hotels you choose for the fun and Ace Hotel in New Orleans is one of them.  New Orleans is a city of fun and revelry so a lot of times you just need a hotel with clean rooms where you can get a couple of winks of sleep before the next run.  With that in mind I was a little reluctant about choosing Ace as it was not directly in the French Quarters and I was unfamiliar with the brand.  My friend, who has more contacts in New Orleans, assured me that Ace Hotel was the new place to be in New Orleans with a poppin lobby and party atmosphere so we decided to give it a go…Best decision of the whole trip.

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As soon as we pulled up to Ace Hotel with their casual mix of bellhops and lingering guest I knew it would be something different.  The lobby of Ace Hotel is a very long list of cool kids.  With libations flowing and music bumping it feels like you have magically stepped into an eclectic bar in the French Quarter.  Ace reinforces the lively atmosphere with a music schedule of local performances that escalate the room to a concert venue.  Even with the short ride to the French Quarters we found there were nights that it was never necessary to leave the hotel.

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Night time fun is one thing but when a hotel can captivate your days in New Orleans too you have confirmed you are to something special. The pool at Ace is amazing and a quick trip up to get some fun became a whole day of fun with locals, visitors, musicians and everything in between.  The drink specials at the pool bar are delicious but also really pack a punch that gets you in the lounging kind of mood.  The guest and locals that come still give off the cool kids and we quickly joined some locals in lively chats about everything from Vegas to sugar daddies to topless bars in New Orleans.  The food, while limited to grill options, was delicious and had me daydreaming about their salad the rest of my trip.  While Ace may not be the best choice if you are a room fanatic, with very dorm like starkness, if you are going to have a great time moving around and partying then without question Ace is in your top picks.

Marriott Lakeshore Reserve Hotel Review

rosen-shingle-creek-7The Marriott Lakeshore Reserve Hotel offers a great home away from home option with visiting Orlando.  Being the USA theme park central has made visiting Orlando synonymous with family travel.  Having access to amenities as well as home conveniences like a fridge and microwave can be invaluable to making sure you stay on budget and get the most of your experience.  The Marriott Lakeshore Reserve hotel operates as a timeshare property/hotel so it is a great in between for bring together groups at a central starting point for exploring Orlando.

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The trade off on some of the homey amenities is restaurants and some of the high end comfort of other hotels rooms. This tradeoff is forgettable, however, for a family that wants to stay on the move.  The pool and lazy river in the property have the perfect mix of relaxation and fun and the property store serves snacks and quick bites.  My favorite part of the property was actually the grounds themselves.  Even outside the pool and slides the opportunity to have fun was woven in and out the property.  With games, ping pong, outdoor tv’s, and a setting on a scenic lake you couldn’t ask for more if your goal on vacation was to actually spend time with your family and not just cooped up in a hotel room staring at the tv.  While not the most luxurious choice, the variety of room options and great opportunities to get out and have fun the Marriott Lakeshore Reserve gives you the opportunity to do what is most important on a family vacation, spend meaningful, attentive time with your actual family.

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Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel Review: family fun in Orlando

rosen-shingle-creek-8Hotels that have it all can promise a lot but deliver only a little; Rosen Shingle Creek, however, serves as a shining example of how to give great service, in a beautiful hotel with top notch amenities.  When last minute booking, if you find a hotel with a great price you can be a little suspicious that you are indeed really getting a great deal.  As soon as Rosen Shingle Creek was in my sight in the horizon I knew I gotten everything I paid for and a little more.  The hotel’s large and welcoming reception area is grand enough to fit the huge conferences the hotel often hosts while still peaking the interest of small families and groups of all different age ranges.  The focus on quality does not stop there as the rooms continue the spacious luxury vibe of the lobby and grounds.

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While the hotel did remind me some other large hotels that I loved, some of the things I found unique about the feeling of a Caribbean all-inclusive without the long distance travel and cost involved. Everything you needed was on site and not just one but several options to give you just want fits for you.  The hotel offered a lot of great restaurants from sushi to Mexican with ambiance choices equally expansive for family dining and for some grown up fun. If you wanted to be more on the move there was a store where you could pick up snacks for your room or pool area or get a quick lunch from the preset menu or sandwich bar.

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Outside of eating and relaxing in your room the hotel pool was also a hit with the kids. While the Rosen does not offer the most features or space I have seen in a family focused pool, the wade in opening made it easy to have fun with the kids of all ages.  The kids and families at the hotel were friendly and ready to play so the older girls quickly got lost in a game of Marco Polo while Bronx practiced his dance moves and I enjoyed a Pina Colada.  I even got a chance to sneak away to their posh spa and get some real relaxation time in.  All in all it was a day that would be hard to top at a hotel that is definitely at the top of my list when visiting Orlando.

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The Fairmont Washington DC Hotel Review

outside-the-fairmontAs a city that frequently host dignitaries the world over, Washington DC has its fair share of phenomenal hotels. With my last visit my cousin who resides in DC one of her favorites and with my most recent trip I decided to give it a go.  The Fairmont Washington DC is a hotel rich in history and a regal since of luxury that makes it a beautiful choice when you visit the city or just want to get away on a staycation within the city.

fairmont-dc-entranceAs it was recently remodeled one of the most interesting parts of the Fairmont is the influx of old and new. From the first step in the entrance you can tell it is an old hotel, but not old in the since of some tired antiquated building.  It’s polished and eloquent and with the new remodel an uplifted and elevated version of something classic.  The bar and courtyard area provide a beautiful space where you can just relax and enjoy a cocktail or even tea.

fairmont-dc-roomThe rooms are roomy and elegant but my goal in most cities is to be on the move almost the entire time I am there. What I look for is a place ideally situated to help me make that happen.  With its pristine placement in Georgetown, the Fairmont is a great starting point to exploring the food, fun and wonders of DC.  With a leisurely stroll you can be at the wharf or browsing the shops and restaurants in Georgetown.  Feeling like being even more on the move then a lot of city tours, bikes, Segway’s and even on foot, take off close to the Fairmont’s location.  The routes are beautiful so within a couple mile stroll passing parks and shops you can access a couple of great parts of the city.

fairmont-dc-lobbyWith a great location and elegant setting the Fairmont already ranked high on my list but the icing on the cake was definitely the customer service. We had a great bartender who insisted on making sure my best friend made the most of her birthday celebration and when you sign up for their rewards program other great perks like car service come hand in hand.  When in DC staying at the Fairmont is a great way to balance luxury with the ability to still have some fun on a holiday weekend.

Hotel Excelsior Gallia review: A well deserved five stars!

excelsior-hotel-gallia-maserati-car-serviceI often find the hotel rating system is a little too generous in giving out stars, but in the case of the Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan 5 stars simply is not enough.  From the ambiance, to the rooms, to the car service, to the bar, my experience at this hotel was bar none my favorite.  Located directly across from the central train station in Milan the hotel was a welcome change from the days of movement from my cruise.  From its original construction in 1932 the hotel brings sophistication and luxury and once you step in the doors the recent renovation brings a sleek futuristic appeal to the hotel.

gallia-front-entrance rooftop-bar1  I frequent nice hotels often so despite the beautiful aesthetics of the exterior the hotel did not truly have me hooked until I stepped in the door. The beautiful scent of linen struck me as I walked in to be greeted by welcoming faces and from there I was in love.  The hallways and staircase carry the balance of old and new luxury all throughout the hotel.  With luxurious beds and posh bathrooms if you just stayed tucked away in your room chances are you would be a happy camper.

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hotel-excelsior-gallia-bartenders hotel-excelsior-gallia-bar-snacks-2 hotel-excelsior-gallia-bar-bites excelsior-hotel-gallia-whiskey-tastingIf being on the move is more your speed the hotel again has just what you need both inside the hotel and around Milan. As always, on the move is my first choice so we ran down to a very helpful concierge who also clued me into one of the best hotel perks I’ve ever had… local car service in a Maserati.  This alone made my daughters trip as well cruised down the Milan streets heading to Duomo.  Even better you can also get them to pick you up before 8 pm so our rides were set.  As we ended our day on the streets of Milan we found the surprises for the hotel did not stop there.  With a beautiful pool and gym to greet us through the spa the kids had a chance to relax and enjoy as well.  My night continued on at their bar.  Located on the top of the hotel I met people from Milan, London and even the US who came to enjoy the libations, incredible view, great music and hot bartenders!  As I speak bartender fluently my night ended with a steady stream of complimentary snacks, a small whiskey challenge and joining in on a bachelorette party’s request to hear “It’s Raining Men”.  All and all and extraordinary stay at an extraordinary hotel.

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Travel Review: The Intercontinental Sydney

Intercontinental Sydney (5)As with many historical cities, there are many parts of Sydney that are a throwback to a historical era long pasted.  Although located in the Circular Quay and surrounded by historical foundations of the city such as the Botanical Gardens and the Rocks area, the Intercontinental Sydney is not one of those throwbacks.  Instead the hotel is a modern perspective of the future of the city focused on the innovation and comfort that comes from a blend of old and new.

Intercontinental Sydney (3)With the hotel being just a block away from the Circular Quay you can easily take advantage of being in one of the most transportation parts of the city.  A short walk to the Central Business District puts you within a short strech to the train system and for the more scenic route a block away from the entrance of the several water ports of the city’s ferry system.  Although I love mobility my favorite feature of the location is actually its closeness to the Botanical Gardens.  The Gardens is a huge park wonderland with features from ponds and lakes, to rose gardens and even some historical homes that are open to the public.  It is a great place to take a picnic, enjoy a view of the Opera House or just read and relax under a tree.  In perfect understanding of one its best features by association the hotel even offers meal options that let you customize a picnic (be it romantic or casual) and head over to the Gardens for a day of relaxation. Intercontinental Sydney (1)Intercontinental Sydney (2)Intercontinental Sydney (4)

In its modern ease the hotel provides a renovation that equally places pieces of the past with the smooth lines and minimal approach of more modern design.  From the sleek lobby to the beautiful seating in the lounge you saw pieces of both the new and old that appeal to those who prefer the sleeker side of things, but still love the heritage, culture and history you can find in Sydney.  Likewise the rooms offer modern design features and modern appeal like a digital greeting and TV guide, combined with some flashback components such as the more antique feel of the bathroom décor.   Other amenities are completely modern such as their indoor pool and work out facilities, offering all of (or even more) of the conveniences of home to ensure you have a fantastic stay. Intercontinental Sydney (10) Intercontinental Sydney (6) Intercontinental Sydney (9)

 

 

 

The Westin Sydney: Location and elegance in the heart of Sydney

Westin SydneyWhen you are in the midst of logging the 20 hours in travel time to get to Australia, you definitely wonder if the trip is going to be worth the trouble.  Once you arrive, however, and step foot into the Westin Sydney, you at least begin to feel like the pleasure may indeed be worth the pain.  Located in the Central Business District, the Westin Sydney has an air of elegance and hospitality that exudes from everything that they do.  Even as we first walked in the majestic lobby area we were both welcomed and made to feel like we were on the road to something grand.  From the various shops to dining options a taste of Sydney can easily be found once stepping in the hotel.

The Westin Sydney is located at the Pitt St. Mall (Item I on the map)

The Westin Sydney is located at the Pitt St. Mall (Item I on the map)

As with any hotel, the people can often make or break the experience.  From the second we stepped in the door the staff at the Westin Sydney worked to ensure our stay would be an unforgettable one.  We arrived early, which is always a hard turn when all you feel like doing is hopping in the tub.  The staff, however, quickly swooped our bags away, took our number to notify us of the first possibility of receiving our rooms and gave us the option of a hot shower at the gym.  The concierge quickly became my city guide giving me tips on the best of the best, and being patient enough with me to stand my questions and delays throughout the duration of my stay.

Westin Sydney Lobby 4 Westin Sydney Lobby 3 Westin Sydney Lobby 2 Westin Sydney Bathroom 2 Westin Sydney East Wing Room Westin Sydney (4) Westin Sydney Walk in ClosetThe hotel pointed to luxury at its best at every direction.  Even the lobby bathroom was impressive with motion controlled doors and combined sink/hand dryers.  As with the rest of the amenities the gym blew a typical gym out of the water.  Instead of a couple of treadmills and weights within the Westin Sydney was a fully functional local gym that you received access to as a guest at the hotel.  From machines to free weights to classes, and even a steam room and showers for a weary traveler, they had it all.

During our several days at the hotel we had the pleasure of staying both in their more recent tower addition as well as the older renovated addition.  The tower rooms combined great city views of the city with the sleek elegance and of course dreamy shower heads the Westin is known for.  The older rooms, although lower, offered great views of the nearby shopping district and plaza as well as enormous room sizes that included sitting areas as well as a walk in closet.  Oh and who could forget the incredible oversized soaking tub in each room that went hand with the relaxation the vacation and the hotel should demand of you.

Westin Sydney (12)Outside of what was inside the hotel, The Westin Sydney gets top marks for location.  When traveling to Sydney you frequently hear about the Rocks, Circular Quay, the Opera House or even Darling Harbor as the prime locations.    While all of those locations are beautiful, you can be smack dab in the middle of all of them and right next to the shopping district in the Westin Harbor.  I was a 10 minute walk to almost all the attractions I wanted to see so I never felt limited to stick within the area I was staying.  From our hotel we got a vibe of the city on the relaxed weekends as well as the busy weekdays and feel the pulse of the city.

Westin Sydney Australian BreakfastFrom location, to staff, to food (the Australian breakfast is a must try), to rooms, the Westin Sydney is one of the best of the best that Sydney has to offer.

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