Monday, July 14, 2014

Millennial Travel

It seems as though everyone has something to say about millennials these days. Despite growing up in one of the toughest recessions, this disillusioned generation remains optimistic and is hungry for adventure and new experiences. I recently attended a major travel industry show in Las Vegas and millennial travel was a major topic of discussion.

Accordingto the Boston Consulting Group, the millennial generation, defined as those between the ages of 16 and 34, is more interested than older generations in traveling abroad as much as possible—by a 23-percentage-point margin. And although millennials are not yet the core travel customers of airlines and hotels, they will be in 5-10 years, when they enter their peak earning, spending, and traveling years. So what’s important to millennials when it comes to traveling? Let’s take a look and see how this intrepid generation is changing the way we look at travel.

-     Why Wait? – Rather than wait for the golden years of retirement like their parents, this generation wants to see the world and they want to see it now. While millennials appreciate the importance of work, they also desire more of a work/life balance than previous generations. They want the flexibility and the opportunity to travel the world now and experience new adventures while they are young.

-     Quick Communication – It’s not a surprise that millennials prefer fast and easy communication. This tech-savvy, on-demand generation prefers text messaging as the #1 method of communication followed by email. As a travel agent I am aware of the unique needs and preferences of all of my clients and make sure you get the information you need as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

-     Beyond the Beach TheWorld Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation, found that young travelers are not as interested in “the traditional sun, sea and sand holidays” as previous generations are. Instead they are more interested in exploring remote destinations, backpacking, and extended trips that allow them to visit multiple locations and countries. By working with a travel agent like myself, I can connect you to some of the most remote, unique places around the world and create a custom itinerary that will not only save you time, but create one of a kind of experiences that you simply can’t book on a travel website.

-     The Real Deal – Simply put, millennials don’t want a “cookie cutter” vacation. They want to experience something unique and meaningful, to see and do what the locals do, and create memories that will last a lifetime. This is one of the main reasons millennials can benefit from working with a real, flesh and blood travel agent. I do not plan one size fits all vacations. I scope out travel trends, pinpoint the best locations, and orchestrate every detail for my clients to save them time and money. Top priority for me is researching where the locals eat, shop, play, and stay-cation, so I can pass this information on to my clients. From reservations, to accommodations, to private excursions, I tailor each trip to ensure the most incredible travel experience possible at the best price.

Ready to flood your friends' feeds with pictures of your own amazing getaway? Contact me today and let’s plan the trip of a lifetime. Adventure is calling. Why wait?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Vegas...Where to Begin?

Confession...I just got back from Vegas and yes, for the very first time.  I know I know, a travel professional who had never been to Vegas.  I know it somehow breaks the "pirates code" so to speak, but I had just never thought of Vegas as my vacation destination of choice.

So let me clarify, this was actually not a vacation in Vegas.  I was attending a very large travel conference and frankly didn't get to do as much as I would have liked, but I feel like I was able to get the flavor of Vegas regardless.  You be the judge.

So where does someone begin when they try to describe Vegas to someone else who has never been? I feel a need to prepare someone for what they WILL see.  Vegas is not a destination for everyone and that is mainly due to things you see in Vegas that you just can't insulate yourself from unless you become a hotel-room-hermit.  By the time the strip wakes up around 10am, you will get an eye full of not-so-fully-clothed women and men who are lined up the street for photo-ops.  I mean, how is any trip to Vegas complete until you pay a thong & bra wearing woman $5 for being in YOUR picture? And this is not including the mobile "private dancer" ads that parade up and down the strip all day long or the variety of sunning/bathing attire at any of the hotel pools.  So would I send a church group with small kids to Vegas for a week of fun?  Uh, no.

Best way to describe Vegas is a mix of NYC, the Big Easy, Hollywood and toss a little Nashville in for good measure.  Lots of people until the wee hours of the night.  Lots of adult beverages being consumed as folks are walking up and down the strip.  Lots of energy and lights and honestly...a lot of excitement.

That is what makes Vegas, Vegas.  There is no place like it on earth.  Where else can you eat at 5-star dining venues, sleep in rooms that are more electronically sophisticated than all of Best Buy, enjoy a host of thrill rides (yes, roller coasters and such), see some of the best choreographed shows in the world (inside and outside of the hotels), dance in high-end, high-energy nightclubs until dawn, shop at some of the worlds' most high-end stores, tour casinos that rival any theming at some major theme parks and, to top it off, gamble 24hrs, 7 days a week?  Nowhere! That is what makes Vegas so different and so special for so many people.  It is a place that is very hard to describe to someone who has never been there, even though I am trying with this post.

Let me touch on the hotel and casinos I visited.  I stayed at Treasure Island.  Would I stay there again?  Most likely not.  It is nice or at least you think it is nice until you venture into Aria or the Venetian and then you wonder, "why am I at TI again?"  Oh yea, because it is cheaper than those.  The hotel lacked some of the nicer things you find at nicer hotels such as bell staff to take your luggage to the room, digital thermostats in the room or in fact, digital anything.  So I spent little time at TI and frankly more time looking at the other resorts on the strip.  You can sense that TI is for those who don't want to remember much the next day.  I say that only because of the amount of store-bought liquor I saw being carted into the hotel by a large amount of guests.  The room was very nice but the noise between rooms could be heard fairly easily.  So next time, the Venetian it is for me or maybe Aria.  I am judging those by the apparent differences you see as soon as you walk into the check in area of their hotels. Not to mention their food and beverage venue choices compared to TI.  You can tell how much I liked those casinos more simply by the amount of pictures I took inside of those compared to those I took at TI.  The conference was at Caesars and frankly didn't see much of it other than some of the food areas, the casino itself and the pool.  But holy cow, the pool was worth seeing.  I would stay at Caesars just to use their pool.

So to wrap up this simple summary of my first time in Vegas.  Vegas is not for everyone. But for those who want a trip like no other and want to have a vacation where you leave it all at your destination...Vegas is the place!  But always remember...what happens in Vegas...stays in Vegas (as even the sign in the airport reminds you as you head to your departing gate).   Maybe that is why this is such a short review. Not much I can tell...

Vegas 2014 from Oeshpdog2 on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Price vs Value: When Cheap Is Not Always The Best Value

When consulting with clients about their upcoming vacation, I usually ask the all-important question...what is your budget for the trip?  Quite often I get the reply, "We want it as cheap as possible."

But do you really want the cheapest vacation possible?  What if the cheapest price consisted of the smallest room at the resort in the furthest spot possible away from the pool, restaurants and beach and adjacent to the employee entrance and trash dumpster?  What if the cheapest price possible meant that you flew on a flight that left your home airport at 5:30am, connected through 2 different airports, had 2+ hour layovers at each airport and did not arrive at your destination's airport until 8pm that night?  And coupled with that, what if the cheapest price then included a shared transfer that stopped at 3 different resorts before finally stopping at yours...1 hour later?

Does that "cheap" price sound like a bargain now?  This is why value has to trump "cheap" price.  So many of us pay $3 or more for a java-house coffee than what we would pay for making a cup of Folgers at home because we put value over price (better experience over the cheapest).  But when it comes to the life-long memories we will make on a vacation, so many think "must go cheap."

So let me lay out what might be a better value and experience over the one I just painted earlier.  Now you leave your home airport around 7am, you connect one time with a 1 hour layover and arrive at your destination's airport @12:00pm.  Your travel consultant has arranged private transfers for you.  You get through customs and you are greeted by a person who is now your personal concierge for the drive from the airport to the resort.  He or she chats with you on your drive about the things to see and do and you and your traveling companions are the only ones in the vehicle and the only stop is your resort.  You arrive at your resort and are checked in by 1:00pm.  You are escorted to your junior suite overlooking the blue waters of the Caribbean.  You change and are at the pool sipping your first umbrella drink by 1:30pm.

Now, scenario number 2 is not the cheapest option for that trip.  But which one has better value and will offer a better overall experience?  Imagine you paying for scenario number 2 and you sit at the pool (the next day) by someone who has paid for scenario number 1.  You both left the same hometown airport, you are at the same exact resort.  But the person who paid the cheapest is telling you that he paid $200 less than you did.  If you didn't know the details of their package, you might think, "Hey, that is not fair. I paid too much."  But if the scenario number 1 person was honest and told you about their long layovers and that their luggage got misplaced between connection 1 and 2 and they missed out on dinner because they arrived too late and you can smell trash every time they open their room door, would you feel like you then paid too much?

Should "cheap" always be the driving factor?  I say no.  But here is what you can do to help your own personal travel consultant; come up with a budget that you would be comfortable spending for your vacation.  Let your travel consultant know that upfront.  He or she has knowledge of what a good vacation will cost for a variety of destinations.  And if your consultant says, "It will be difficult to put together a GOOD package to that destination for those number of nights for that budget," listen to him or her.  Make adjustments necessary such as cut back the number of nights or possibly think of an alternative destination, or possibly look at a different budget etc.  But whatever you do, don't run out to the internet and think your "cheap" vacation you just found is apples to apples to what your consultant was trying to advise you about.  That cheap vacation may be just

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Use a Traditional Travel Agent

Have you recently found yourself uttering the words “I need a vacation”? Well, you’re not alone. According to a new survey only 25 percent of employees with paid time off took all of their vacation days last year, and 15 percent took no vacation whatsoever! What’s even worse? Almost half of the people surveyed who went on vacation, ended up working at some point during their trip. I think the message is loud and clear – it’s time for American’s to take a break and enjoy their vacation for what it’s meant to be, an escape from the stress and strains of our everyday lives.

I often get asked the question, “Why should I use a travel agent when I can book trips myself online?”

While it may appear the easiest way to book a vacation, you may want to consider your options before planning your next trip. Below I have listed the Top 10 Reasons you should move from an online travel agency such as Expedia or Orbits, to a Traditional Travel Agent (i.e. a real person with real experience). Here we go:

  1. We offer expert guidance - we know how to sort through the myriad of travel information
  2. We are internet interpreters - we understand travel codes and jargon
  3. We save time – saving you countless hours of research
  4. We offer convenience - we provide a one stop shop for all aspects of a vacation
  5. We offer a great value - we have access to information where we can find the best products at the very best value
  6. We offer added value - we can offer guidance to the best restaurants, excursions, etc.
  7. We offer personalized service - every client is different and we can adjust things to make sure we find what the client values
  8. We offer unbiased advice - we work for the client, not the suppliers
  9. We offer customer advocacy - we act on behalf of the client when things are not going right
  10. We offer professionalism - we are experts in our field and trained in our industry

And as if those aren’t enough reasons to consider making the switch, one of the best parts about letting a travel agent like myself plan your next vacation is that it’s absolutely NO COST to you! If you’ve never worked with a traditional travel agent before, I urge you to give it a try. I have a feeling you might be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Brilliance of the Seas Review 2014

My wife and I returned recently from our February 10th, 5 night western caribbean cruise out of Tampa aboard the Brilliance and I wanted to give you a brief summary of our experience and explain why we love this class of ship.  The Brilliance is a part of Royal Caribbean's Radiance class of ships.  Back in the day, the Radiance class would have been considered a very large ship (weighing in at  90,000 tons), but compared to today's mega ships, the Radiance-class will look and feel more like a midsize vessel.  This was our second cruise aboard this class of ship.  Our very first cruise ever was aboard the Radiance of the Seas so this cruise held a lot of nostalgia for us.  While so much was still the same, RCCL has added some great features due to the huge refurbishment in May of last year (2013).

It is an easy ship to get from point A to point B which cannot be said of some ship designs and sizes.
The decor is still what I call modern, but elegant which is why I think Royal Caribbean as a whole appeals to a broader clientele.  They tend to not be as flashy (Vegas-like) as Carnival, but also not as dark and stately as Holland America.  But back to the Brilliance.  The additions of Vintages to the Centrum was a nice addition.  I loved the decor.  For wine-enthusiasts, this will be your favorite hangout on the ship.  The new restaurant called Izumi was also a new-addition home run.  I was a bit disappointed in the location of the "library" because it is not really a library anymore; it is more like a area used for photos that happens to have some shelves of books back behind it.  But that was really the only change that I saw that I was not fond of compared to the way it was pre-refurbishment.   I will post a link to the pictures so you can see the decor yourself and I won't have to blather on and bore you with details.

Let's get to the important things that most want to know about in a review:

1) Pre-cruise stay.  We drove to Tampa since we are only about 12 hours away.  It is hard to justify flights these days when you look at the overall cost compared to driving.  We enjoy our leisurely drives to various places in Florida.  So we arrived actually two days early because we were staying at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Spa.  We really wanted two days at this awesome hotel.  It is located just steps away from the pier.  By steps I mean it is walkable.  Our room was a standard room but had a great view of the city and was plenty big and comfortable.  There is a Starbucks on the first floor that offers free wifi in its seating area which beats the expensive wifi offered in the rooms.  The best thing about this hotel is its location.  You can arrive, park your car and not have to drive to any shopping or eateries before you head out on your cruise.  I particularly loved waking up early the morning of our cruise and standing by the waters edge as I watched our ship return back to port.  For sports fans, the hotel is across the street from the home of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.  One of the hotel's staff members let us know that one of the stars of that team uses their hotel for his pre-game nap which we thought was quite funny.

2) Embarkation.  I had heard mixed reviews of Tampa's port.  Most of the negativity was directed at disembarkation, which I will get to in a minute.  But as far as embarkation is concerned, we left our hotel around 10:30am, drove the whopping 5 mins from the hotel to the pier and opted for the valet parking service.  For about $20 extra, you drive up, give your bags to the porter and watch your car get whisked to the lot that is right there next to the terminal.  I am all about convenience and I highly recommend their valet service.  You pre-pay for the valet parking right at the bottom of the escalator that takes you up to the check in area.  It took no more than 5 mins to pre-pay and and no more than another 10 mins to get through security and checked in.  We waited another 10 mins or so for our boarding group to get called and we were on the ship by 11:00am.  30 mins from the time we left our hotel until the time we were looking at the decor of the ship...not bad at all.

3) Stateroom. We were in a Category D2 which is the deluxe ocean stateroom with balcony.  One of the highlights, other than the balcony, was the abundance of storage.  We could not fill up all of the storage areas in our room.  The stateroom was spacious and very comfortable.  We were on deck 9 in #9614.  Not too far from the stairs and only 2 decks away from the pool deck and the Windjammer which is the main buffet eating area on the ship.

4) Food and Dining.  Seems like the food is becoming more and more bland in the main dining
rooms and the buffets these days.  We just found the food to be OK.  Breakfast was...OK.  Dinner in the main dining room was...Ok.  The highlight as far as the mass-produced food goes continues to be Royal Caribbean's french fries.  They are awesome!  And if you have had them, you know what I mean.  Our best meal by far was in the new Izumi Restaurant which is near the back of the ship in the area that used to be the Seaview Cafe.  It is a made-to-order Japanese/Asian restaurant and it was excellent.  We did not make any advance dining reservations before we boarded and we were able to call the day we wanted to try it and we got right in.  Great new addition and I highly recommend it. And for the first time, we tried the "My Time" dining option for the main dining room.  Unlike NCL's "Freestyle" dining, RCCL's version is a little more structured, or at least it can be.  With "My Time," you can still pre-select a set dining time for each night of your cruise.  You can select the same time for each night or mix it up a little.  Or you can simply opt to show up at the "My Time" level of the main dining room and wait for the first available seating.  We opted for 6:30pm every night.  We had the same table every night and the same waitstaff, but we had different table mates every night.  Nice option and we may opt for that again on a future cruise.

5) Entertainment.  The comedian was great.  The juggler/comedian was great.  The guest singer was great.  But some of the other musical groups throughout the ship left something to be desired.  If it had not been for the main performances in the main theater, we might have felt a bit bored at night after dinner.  RCCL has added some new acrobatic shows in the Centrum and they were OK, but you need to get to the Centrum early if you wanted to be able to get near the railing so you could have a good view of what was going on.   Our cruise director was good, but not the best compared to our other cruises.

6) Ports of Call.  Since this was only a 5 night cruise, we had two ports of call; Grand Cayman and Cozumel.  This was our 3rd visit to each of these ports.  We hired a taxi driver in Cozumel and negotiated a private tour of the island.  For $35 per person, we had an entire van to ourselves and a nice tour of the entire island including at least 4 stops at various areas of the beach so we could get out, take some pics, get a beverage, shop etc.  It was a great way to see so much of beautiful Cozumel.  One of the stops was at the new area call Paradise Beach which is an area really built for the day tourist.  You pay a one time fee and you are given access to a nice pool and also a great stretch of beach including lounge chairs and hammocks.  Food and beverages can be purchased at an additional cost.  While in Grand Cayman...we opted again to do some shopping and enjoy a day at leisure.  We did happen across a great Thai restaurant for lunch which happens to offer free wifi if you are a patron.  It appeared to be a popular spot for cruise line employees to eat and chat with their family back at home.  We also had to stop in at Breezes and enjoy a cool beverage on their open air balcony before heading back to the ship.

7) Disembarkation. is where some of the negative reviews about Tampa's port were correct.  This has nothing to do with Royal Caribbean.  Royal Caribbean is at the mercy of the customs department when it comes to how quick guests can actually get off the ship.  The customs area at the pier is chaotic at best.  They just don't seem to know how to organize everyone.  The Getting off and getting your luggage is the easy part.  But then the line to get through customs just seemed to be a mess as if no one seems to know what to do.  Employees were trying to get people to follow a certain line path, but nothing was marked very well and the lines were backing up fast.  So here is a very important tip; when it is your time to disembark, grab a porter as soon as you get into the baggage claim area.  Porters are allowed to escort you to the front in a different line and you can be out of there in no time at all.  That is what we did and it took no time at all and we were off the ship and in our car in about 15 mins.   And this is where having your car valeted helps. We walked out, handed our claim slip to an attendant and our car was quickly brought to us curbside.

Regardless of what some might consider negative comments, the cruise was awesome.  Can't say enough about the beauty of the ship.  Our stateroom was kept spotless and our attendant was there if we needed him.  Our service staff in the dining room was wonderful.  Everyone we came in contact with on the ship was friendly and helpful.  The public areas, including the restrooms (keep in mind that this cruise was shortly after the big moro-virus news aboard another RCCL cruise), were spotless.  The weather was ideal...lots of sun and warmth.  The Brilliance is, well, Brilliant.

If you have any specific questions about any part of the cruise or the ship that I did not address, please leave a comment and I will make sure I respond.

For more photos of the can click on these links:

Brilliance of the Seas Part 1
Brilliance of the Seas Part 2

Caribbean Cruise 2014 from Oeshpdog2 on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Trending Destinations in 2014

Are you tired of visiting the same ole' destinations? It may be time to switch things up and add a little adventure to your life. According to a recent article from Travel Agent Magazine, here are the top trending destinations to visit in 2014:

Douro River Valley, Portugal
Vineyards, castles, and monasteries -- oh my! Port wine gets its name from this locale and you can find world-renowned wines here. There are also plenty of historical sites to see. Cruise the river, experience the riverfront, or choose a stay with seaside terraces for breathtaking views.

Black Sea Region
This coastal region includes parts of Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Russia. Whether you choose to cruise the Black Sea and its 17 ports along the coast, or take it in from your hotel's rooftop bar, you are sure to enjoy its beauty.

Puebla, Mexico
This is the place to visit if you are looking to break out of the "party" atmosphere that dominates many tourist spots in Mexico. With live bullfights, an outdoor market along colonial stone streets, an active volcano, and rich art in the form of murals and architecture, you'll definitely want to spend an extended vacation here.

Nicaragua, Central America
With 37 miles of beaches and perfect waves, it's no mystery why this spot is so popular with surfers! Whether you choose a private beach villa or an exclusive resort, you're sure to enjoy a "carefree luxury" stay.

At the northern border of Thailand, you'll find high-end boutique hotels and cultural landmarks. This spot has been steadily gaining popularity with American travelers since its political climate has become more favorable.

Projected by travel experts to be one of the world's leading tourist destinations by 2021, this international Riviera is located off the southern coast of China. The city of Sanya features ultra-high-end hotels and resorts, including future plans for an Atlantis resort.

Take a safari in the Serengeti! See zebras and wildebeests in their natural habitat during the day and return to your luxury hotel at night. Or, take a walk on the really wild side -- there is a tented camp located in the Serengeti National Park.

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
White sand and blue water made this the perfect location for The Bachelor in 2013. You can take a diving expedition to explore reefs, wrecks, or one of only three underwater museums in the U.S. Or, if you prefer, experience championship golf. This island features 18th century architecture and botanical gardens, as well as the Cruzan Rum Distillery.

Samana, Dominican Republic
Great news for travelers who hate layovers -- you can take a direct flight to Samana. Resorts feature access to beachfront, a lagoon created by a fresh water spring that runs down from the mountains to the ocean, as well as exclusive swimming pools, a spa, restaurants and bars, water sports, a playground for the kids, horseback riding, tennis courts, and bike trails. The family won't want to leave, even if it is a nonstop flight.

The setting for 2012's The Bachelorette, this Dutch-European cultured Caribbean island is located 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It belongs on your list because of its "sophistication, ecotourism and pristine diving conditions."

Are you ready to have an adventure this year and visit one of these incredible destinations? I would love to help you plan the trip of a lifetime! For more information about any of these locations feel free to send me an email at

Monday, December 9, 2013

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel...a True Destination Hotel

Who says that Universal Orlando can't be an actual destination in and of itself?  I am discovering that too many travelers don't give Universal Orlando and one it's onsite resorts enough credit for being its own stand-alone vacation destination.   I must confess that I was one of those travelers a few years back...ok, maybe only a couple of years back.  But I am no longer one of those people.  I am a true fan of Universal and what it offers when it comes to a full vacation package.

Did their rides and attractions change my mind?  Not completely, although The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has aided a bit.  Their resorts are what has sold me.  Universal Orlando has made a smart move in teaming up with Loews and Hard Rock.  Both Loews and Hard Rock know how to run hotels and resorts.  They know what makes their hotels something that travelers will stay at even if a theme park is not adjacent to them.  That to me sets them apart from Disney.

Show of many of us Disney fans (if we are really honest) would stay at one of Disney's resorts if there were no theme parks to visit?  How many of us would pay the prices at a Disney resort if there were no theme parks, would be a better question to ask.  I am thinking not many of us would including myself.  But in comparison, I would for sure stay at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel even if a theme park visit was not planned.  It is a true resort hotel and a destination hotel.

What makes it a good destination hotel you ask?  Here is my criteria for a great hotel to be a destination hotel:

1) Great pools with attentive staff and good ambience
2) A good variety of food options ranging from grab-and-go to fine dining
3) Lot's of shopping options that cover a lot of different things from art to clothes to souvenirs
4) Great eye appeal in the design and lots of areas of interest (best way I can describe that)
5) Evening lounges for entertainment
6) Large, comfortable rooms preferably with a separate tub and shower
7) A first class spa

The Portofino Bay Hotel offers all of these and does a great job keeping your interest at the resort itself.  You could wake up, go grab a nice buffet breakfast at Trattoria del Porto, enjoy the paper and cup of coffee before putting on your swim wear and heading down to one of their great pools.  You could then eat lunch at the Splendido pool side grill before you head off to your mid-afternoon spa treatment at the Mandera Spa.

Then go back to your comfortable room, relax before getting ready for pre-dinner drinks at either Bar American or the Thirsty Fish.  Let your appetite build there before heading off to a fine dining experience at either Bice or Mama Della's.  Then cap the evening off again with an aperitif and some live music and take in the evening serenade out on the promenade.  That is what I call a vacation!

That is how a stay at the Portofino Bay Hotel can go.  I am speaking from experience and am writing this post as a review of just the property itself, not the parks.  Did we visit the 2 Universal Orlando theme parks during our stay?  Sure we did, but we found ourselves gravitating back to our resort during the day.

Our stay consisted of 2 nights in one of the hotel's club level rooms which gave us access to the private lounge downstairs where we enjoyed our included continental breakfast, afternoon snacks and beverages, evening snacks and beverages and our nightly cookie run before heading back to our room.  We enjoyed the evening snacks well enough that we considered them a meal. Beverages included at the evening snack time were choices of red or white wine, domestic and imported beers, sodas, water and teas.  And the continental breakfast was plentiful each morning.

We enjoyed a pool side lunch at Splendido and utilized their pool servers often for some fun afternoon treats.  One of our dinners was at the wonderful Mama Della's.  The food and atmosphere were wonderful if you enjoy Italian cuisine and being serenaded table side.  The Italian theming of the hotel is well done.  Great theming means you transport the guest from where they really are to somewhere else (mentally) just by good design, architecture and ambience.  As you walk around the hotel's grounds, you do get the sense that you may have taken a longer flight than you had planned and have actually stepped into a nice seaside Italian town.

So here again is where I think Universal has done well by forming this partnership with Loews.  When you are at a Disney resort hotel, you are constantly being reminded that you are at Disney.  Their dining is built around their dining plans.  Their shops are mainly focussed on selling their name and merchandise.  The Disney deluxe resorts have smaller rooms overall.  Disney's argument in return would come to Disney because you want all things Disney and because you will most likely be heading into one or more of the 4 main parks so the room sizes are overlooked.  True! But for those who don't want Mickey staring at them every time they turn around, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a great Orlando vacation option.  I think it is time to quit thinking of Universal Orlando as just an add-on to a Disney World vacation.  I think it is time to start considering one of their resort hotels as an actual destination and then you can decide what you want to add to the trip as far as theme park visits or some other Orlando area attraction.  Bravo Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, bravo!

For more photos of the can click on this link, Portofino Bay Hotel