Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Beaches Resorts for Everyone

Yesterday, I attended my re-certification for the Beaches and Sandals brand to maintain my “Certified Sandals/ Beaches Specialist.”  While the Sandals (couples) brand is terrific, my client base has a large preponderance of families, so they tend to be more in the Beaches stage of life.  And, of course, Beaches resorts are for everyone.

Beaches have more quality inclusives than any other resorts in the world. For you, that means more watersports & motorized waterskiing, unlimited scuba diving, the Caribbean’s biggest waterparks, more dining choices, up to 16 restaurants, exclusive Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street characters, nanny programs, Xbox 360 game garages, Kids camps + Teen programs, unlimited premium brand liquors, up to 14 bars per resort, exclusive Beringer Wines on the house, Free Martha Stewart Weddings (restrictions apply), Most Unique Suites, Scatch DJ Academy, English Guild Trained Butlers, more Botanical Gardens, more awards, Caribbean’s best beaches, Martha Stewart Craft Club, and more.

There are 4 Beaches Resorts – 3 in Jamaica, and 1 in Turks and Caicos. 

The 3 Beaches in Jamaica are Beaches Boscobel in Ocho Rios, and Beaches Negril and Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril.  The 1 Beaches outside of Jamaica is in T&C.  Here are some distinguishing features on all 4 properties:

1. Beaches Boscobel is in Ocho Rios. It is Jamaica’s only all-inclusive with Golf for Kids. It has undergone major renovations. There are 223 rooms and suites on 2 acres, and it is a 2hr 15 minute airport transfer from Montego Bay airport. It is action packed fun for all ages in a lush hillside setting with terraced views, and has the largest water park in Jamaica with its Pirate Island Water Park featuring 9 new slides. Golf greens fees & transfers are included, and there is a complimentary golf clinic for kids.  There are 70 connecting rooms for families.

2. Beaches Sandy Bay is the perfect piece of paradise, and is next door to Beaches Negril. It offers terrific lead in rates, with exchange privileges at Beaches Negril. It has 128 rooms with 13 categories on 9 acres, with a 75 minute transfer from Montego Bay airport. It has the most intimate Beaches resort, and is laid back and unhurried.

3. Beaches Negril offers 7 miles of pure magic in 210 rooms with 11 categories over 20 acres. It is also a 75 minute transfer from Montego Bay airport. It is a friendly beachfront hideawy with an upscale flavor. It is situated on the widest stretch of Negril’s famed 7 mile beach. It has a pirate island water park with lazy river, and offers afternoon tea. It also offers Martha Stewart crafts.

4. Beaches Turks & Caicos is the last of the true exotics. It offers 615 rooms with 30 room categories over 65 acres.  It is a 15 minute airport transfer from PLS airport. This is the Caribbean’s hottest and most exciting family resort boasting “4 vacations in one” on a 12-mile pristine beach at Grace Bay. It has 16 restaurants (including 2 dult only) with the largest Priates Island Water Park plus surf simulator, and the most extensive dive program.

So – if you’re thinking of organizing a Beaches vacation, give me a call. We can talk about your needs and interests, and match the proper resort (and room category) to your family. But don’t wait!  I’m having a devil of a time finding space for a family of 5 this Christmas, and March break is already almost sold out too.

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Kids | 1 Comment

Hotel St-Barth Isle de France – a Virtuoso Hotel

 When I was in Vegas in August (attending the world’s largest luxury travel show at Virtuoso’s Travel Mart), I met the Director of Sales for North America for the Hotel St-Barth Isle de France. Christy Connolly kindly introduced me to the hotel during our 4 minute “speed dating” session, and I was so intrigued, I set up a follow up 10 minutes sales meeting with her.

Even still, 14 minutes is not enough time to learn about a terrific property. So, today, hotel manager Evelyn Weber was in Ottawa, and she kindly came by my office to share even further details on the property I’m checking out for a couple of clients’ families.

The Hotel St. Barth Isle de France is located on the beautiful Baie des Flamands beach. The hotel is a luxury boutique-style property with 39 rooms, suites, and villas.  This 5* property combines French culture and style, with West Indes charm. 

Of course, it is a Virtuoso partner of mine, which means I can negotiate special amenities on your behalf!

The hotel has a main building set on the beach, as well as tropical garden room/ bungalows/ villas and hillside bungalows (as well as some new beach suites).

The hotel is on the Conde Nast Traveller UK – Gold List for 2010 as the “Best Hotel for ‘Ambience & Design” in the Americas & Caribbean. Conde Nast Traveller UK 2009 named it “Best Hotel in the Americans and the Caribbean” and “4th Best Hotel in the world”.  Tatler rated it in the “Top 100 hotels of the year 2009 worldwide.” Conde Nast Traveller US 2008 rated it “Best hotel in the Caribbean and Atlantic”, and Travel & Leisure 2008 rated it the “Best Hotel for Service in the Caribbean.”

There’s a Malton Brown spa on property, as well as a gymnasium, and a fresh water pool. And there are weekly fashion shows too.

Water sports are big on the property. You can rent sailing boats, catamarans, and motor boats – with or without a skipper.You can surf, scuba, kayak, or deep sea dive. (In addition to water skiing, windsurfing, snorkelling, and swimming.) Tennis is 5 minutes away, and horseback riding is also possible. There are options for archery, aerobics, and rugby.  

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about the Hotel St-Barth Isle de France. I can use the power of one-to-one from Virtuoso’s Travel Mart to “VIP” you with my new friends, Christy Connolly and Evelyn Weber.


September 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels | 1 Comment

Proud to be Four Seasons Preferred Partner

Besides my affiliation with Vision 2000 Travel Group, and being a proud member of Virtuoso, I am also thrilled of V2K’s additional partnership with the Four Seasons chain.

In addition to membership in Virtuoso, Vision 2000 Travel Group is a preferred partner with Four Seasons. There are only 3 preferred partners in Canada, and only 101 around the globe. Not only is Vision 2000 in rare company, we are also the largest seller of Four Seasons in Canada – which gives us terrific negotiating power for our clients.

The Four Seasons Preferred Partner programme is an exclusive, invitation-only network of high-end travel consultants from around the world.

As a preferred partner programme member, V2K has proven our dedication to providing our clients with a premium level of service, and, so, we share in the Four Seasons commitment to exceptional quality.

There are terrific benefits to V2K and me from this partnership – Four Seasons shows the value it places on the business I bring by doing everything they can to make my job easier – from streamlining the booking process, to ensuring that my clients are always treated with the utmost care and attention.

But, in addition to the Preferred Partner website, there are tremendous benefits and services that I can offer my clients. This includes a preferred partner amenity programme (where I can negotiate tremendous amenities on my clients behalf), to simplified booking process, to consistent communication, to support.

Of course, my clients benefit greatly from the Preferred Partner Amenity Programme. Thanks to my status as a Four Seasons Preferred Partner, my clients can enjoy special value-added benefits at all Four Seasons hotels and resorts worldwide. These benefits have been standardised across all properties to make the elements easy to remember — and also make it easier for me to promote the benefits to my clients.

Available on most rates and promotions, I can negotiate the following amenities on my clients’ behalf:

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets).
  • Extra value-added amenity, such as: Spa credit of USD100 once during stay (not applicable to products); golf credit of USD100 once during stay (not applicable to pro shop purchases); or lunch for two once during stay (up to USD85, excluding gratuity and alcohol). (Each hotel’s specific extra amenity is specified by the individual property.)
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites and villas).
  • Welcome note at check-in .
  • Complimentary high-speed Internet access for all suite bookings.

And, the power of one-to-one gives me access to the top-level managers at each Four Seasons. This means that not only can I get my clients preferred partner amenities, but that I can also get them enhanced recognition and personal welcome from on-property management, access to the best guest room inventory, and have priority access to wait-list clearance.

Why aren’t you staying at a Four Seasons for your next holiday? Give me a call, and let me take advantage of the Four Seasons Preferred Partner status to “VIP” you!

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Other Items, Lush Life Partners, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort Set to Open in 2014

 Terrific  news for those of us who love Mickey Mouse – especially those of us whom are Four Seasons Preferred Partners (ahem, like me!)  Book your Four Seasons hotel stays with me, and I can negotiate some terrific Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities on your behalf!


Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts finalizes USD 360 million development deal in Orlando, Florida with Silverstein Properties and Dune Real Estate Partners.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has entered into a joint venture with Silverstein Properties and Dune Real Estate Partners to develop a 444-room luxury resort at the Walt Disney World Resort. Construction is set to begin on what will be the largestFour Seasons resort in the world this December, with a target opening date in 2014.

In addition to 444 rooms, the development will also include up to 40 Four SeasonsResidence Club units and up to 90 Four Seasons Private Residences. Within the Resort will be several dining venues including a rooftop restaurant with views of the nightly fireworks from the Magic Kingdom; a 14,000 square-foot spa with 18 treatment rooms; a fitness centre; three pools and a “lazy river”; sports facilities including tennis courts, basketball court and climbing wall; two recreational centres for children, teens and families; and approximately 37,750 square-feet of meeting and event space plus a business centre.

The development will encompass the existing Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge 18-hole championship golf course, which will be renovated and subsequently managed by Four Seasons. Four SeasonsResort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is an enclave located within the Golden Oak residential community, created and master-planned by Disney.

Click here to read the entire Press Release.

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels | Leave a comment

The Bellagio in Vegas – Home of the “Best of the Best”

 I just returned from Virtuoso’s luxury travel show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  The Bellagio hosted the “best of the best” travel advisors, hoteliers, suppliers, and onsite destination specialists in a one week trade show that really has blown my mind. While I’m still processing all the information I absorbed, and trying to organize the +500 business cards I collected, I can say that I loved my stay at the Bellagio.

I’d been to Vegas before, and had popped into the Bellagio for a meal and to throw some $ in the slots. But staying at the Bellagio is a different experience. Besides the terrific fountain show out front, and the central location on the strip, the hotel is beautiful.

I can honestly say I’ve never walked so much at a convention, however. The hotel is huge!  It would take me ~15 minutes to leave my room in the Bellagio Tower to reach the Convention Centre. 

The room itself was gorgeous, even though I didn’t spend much time in it. (The days started very early, and ended very late.)

I hardly got outside at all during my stay (the convention was truly that busy that there were days when I didn’t venture outside the four walls at all) – but I did manage to sneak a swim or two in at the pool.

So – if you’re looking for a terrific spot to stay in Vegas, consider the Bellagio. I just stayed there for 5 nights, 6 days, and had a terrific time. Now I have to go back to take in more sights!

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Partners | Leave a comment

The Balancing Act – Picking a Disney Hotel

I always recommend staying onsite at a Disney hotel. There are so many terrific perks you get staying at an official Disney onsite hotel:

a. you get a free shuttle to and from the airport to your hotel (and have your bags delivered)

b. you’re surrounded by Disney magic 24 hrs

c. you can use Disney transportation around resorts, parks

d. you can make purchases throughout the “world”, charge to your room key, and have delivered back to your hotel

e. you can add the Disney dining plan, and

f. the primo benefit – you get access to the EXTRA MAGIC HOURS – which means you can get into a park an hour early, and stay at another up to 3 hours longer than non-onsite guests

Choosing a hotel requires you to consult with your travel advisor.  Price is a factor, but it is not the only factor.  You have to consider what kind of vacation your family wants to have, the style of hotel you normally like to vacation at, and how much time you want to spend commuting each day.  In my conversations with new clients, we focus on 8 factors/ parameters in choosing between the 22 onsite hotels:

1. the level of service you like from your hotel (are you a Best Western or a Four Seasons kinda gal?)

2. the price point you’d prefer (cheap as long as clean, vs. willing to pay for luxury?)

3. the room size you’d like (and bedding size – more budget-oriented hotels are smaller w double beds)

4. the amenities you’d like at your hotel (e.g., do you want a waterslide, kids’ club, etc.)

5. the dining options you’d like at your hotel (e.g. do you want just takeaway kiosk or character meals or fine dining choices)

6. the location you prefer (e.g. do you want the closest to the parks and higher price, or happy with lower price but also accepting they are the furthest away and have longer commute times), and

7. the convenience you prefer (e.g. what ease and speed of access to the parks do you want, and how about ease of getting to your hotel room once you get back to your resort – e.g., a standard room at a value resort could have a 15 minute walk back to your hotel room vs. a preferred room being 5 minutes walk)

8. the recreational activities you prefer at your resort (e.g., do you want the ability to rent water craft, do you want access to pool activities, etc.)

If you’re thinking about a trip to Disney, give me a call and let’s chat about what’s most important to your family.  Balancing all the factors/ parameters is all about matching your family to the perfect resort for you!

Sheila 613-837-0699

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 2 Comments

Concierge at Disney’s Grand Floridian – Pampering to Die For!

I often will recommend to my clients that they stay at a Disney monorail hotel.  The benefits of the location, and the convenience of access to Magic Kingdom,  just can’t be beat. Last month, we visited WDW for the 19th time, and we again stayed at a WDW monorail hotel. We stayed at the Grand Floridian, Disney’s flagship hotel. And we splurged, and upgraded to the concierge category. Was the pampering good?  To die for!

First of all, continental breakfast each morning makes it easy to get up, grab some food, and hit the park.  Anyone who’s travelled to Disney with kids knows that something fast to satiate the morning appetite works well – kids don’t want to waste a lot of time eating before they hit the rides. So, having a continental breakfast just outside your room door works great!

Second of all, besides staying at a 5* hotel, with the attendant wonderful service, terrific amenities, fine dining and character options, recreational options, as well as great rooms; you get pampered by staff.  There’s a concierge staff (who are set up right across from the food and drink) to help with your dining, other reservations, and/or other needs. So – you can grab a soft drink or snack while they assist you. The snacks are there throughout the day, for rest time – when you come back from a swim and need to get refreshed.

Third of all, there are hot h’or d’oeuvres from 5-7 that will give you a little boost after a long day park hopping… (all with your choice of alcoholic or other beverage).

And then there is the dessert buffet from 8:30 to 10:00 pm, so you can grab a chocolatey snack, with a Grand Marnier, and then head out to see the fireworks.

Is the pampering good at the Grand Floridian?  To die for!

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Returning to My Happy Place – Disney’s Grand Floridian

My family was lucky enough to return to the Grand Floridian for our 5th visit recently (and our #19 visit to Disney in total). I returned to my happy place!

Let’s be clear…. I LOVE the Grand Floridian. 

I love the Victorian elegance. I love the white buildings, and pastel shading. I love the service, the amenities, the pools, the dining, being so close to Magic Kingdom, and the convenience of being on property and at such a terrific resort.

How could you not like the beautiful sand beach, the canyon-themed waterslide, and being within walking distance of some terrific restaurants – and we’re not even talking about the monorail access to Magic Kingdom!

Seriously – look at the photos. How could you not want to stay here?

July 14, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts | 2 Comments

Some Pros & Cons – Staying at a Moderate – Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

For visit #19 to WDW last week, my family spent 3 nights at the Caribbean Beach moderate resort, and 3 nights at the Grand Floridian deluxe resort. I’d stayed at the Grand Floridian 4 times previously, so I knew I loved it, and knew what to expect. However, this was my first time staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), and I was looking forward to getting a “fuller” appreciation than my previous onsite visits and training could capture.

First up, the pros :

a.) The CBR is a beautifully laid out resort, and it takes its design and theming inspiration from an actual place (like all moderate hotels) – you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. The resort is composed of 6 villages/islands of Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, Jamaica, Trinidad North, and Trinidad South; and each has its own Caribbean vibe. I’d done a blog previously that is relevant here.

b.) The Disney bus transportation can whisk you from the CBR, which is in the Epcot resort area, to the various Disney parks and Downtown Disney.  Like all Disney hotels, you have free transportation onsite, plus have Disney service, are surrounded by the magic 24 hours a day, can purchase the dining plan, can use the free shuttle to and from the airport, and have access to the Extra Magic Hours.

c.) The CBR offers onsite recreation including a pool with a waterslide. There are quiet pools in each village/island, in addition to a large pool by Old Port Royale. The quiet pools give you lots of opportunity to get away from the bustling crowds, if you’d rather a more sedate swim time. But if you want to be around a lot of folks, the waterslide area of the main pool will certainly fill your needs!  See earlier blog post here:

d.) The CBR is one of Disney’s moderate hotels, and it offers a good balance between amenities and price. It offers great value for folks looking for stays longer than a couple of days. It can also serve as an appealing move up from a value hotel for repeat Disney guests (especially if they think they might spend more time around the pool). There are lots of accommodation options for multi-generational families to gather (so each can have their own space, but still be close enough to visit back and forth as well).  Staying at the CBR, you will be aware that you are vacationing with many other young families, and there will be raucous laughter and fun aplenty happening on the hotel grounds.

e.) There are plenty of quick service dining options in Old Port Royale and the Marketplace (pizza, sandwiches, burgers, salads, beverages, etc), as well as shopping opportunities. And there is also a sit down, or table service restaurant onsite, called Shutters.

f.) The CBR has perhaps the largest rooms in the moderate category hotel.

Now, for the cons:

a.) The CBR is beautifully laid out, but it is really spread out. The CBR is so large that it has its own internal bus system. If you’re not staying in a preferred room, you will spend a long time walking to get to Old Port Royale to the dining and main pool areas. 

b.) Part of choosing a resort is balancing what works for your family in terms of amenities and price. Staying at a moderate (instead of a deluxe hotel) means you save on price, but sacrifice location and convenience of access. At CBR, my family stayed in a preferred room in Trinidad North, so we were at the prime location at this resort for being close to transportation and dining options. However, we hadn’t appreciated how different the convenience factor would be from a monorail hotel.

Let me give you an example in terms of travel time to Magic Kingdom (MK) by bus. The first night at CBR, we lined up to catch the bus in Trinidad North at 7:00 pm, boarded the bus at 7:10pm, and at 7:25 pm, our bus was exiting the CBR grounds. (Did I say the resort is spread out?) We finally arrived at the bus station at MK park gates at 7:45 pm. So, it took us 20 minutes to get to Magic Kingdom, once we had left the CBR grounds, but it had taken 35 minutes from the time we’d boarded the bus, and 45 minutes from the time we stood in line in terms of wait and transport time.

Managing expectations may be key, of course, because if you know about this upfront, you can plan around it; and if the balance of convenience and price makes this the right resort for you, then you can definitely make it work. However, the wait and transport time is significantly more than the 5-10 minute period I know from staying at a deluxe monorail hotel.

A bus trip home to CBR from MK later that night had us boarding at 12:18 am, and back at the resort at 12:40… so 20 minutes seems to be pretty standard ride time (with a 10 minute or so wait at the front end). Being a preferred building, our Trinidad North was one of the first stops coming home, which was nice. 

However, the ride home from MK had also involved a much longer walk to get to the CBR bus station than I’d anticipated. Having previously stayed many times at the Contemporary, I knew well the walk home from MK. So, I was surprised that we had to walk almost back to the Contemporary from MK to catch our CBR bus, as this shaky photo from our CBR stop line shows. 

Bus transportation from CBR to Epcot and Hollywood Studios was about 10 minutes faster, as the CBR is located closer to those parks than it is to MK, but we found MK transport usually took longer than a half hour. 

The location and bus transport time also meant we didn’t zip back and forth between our hotel and a park, as we would often do at a monorail hotel – once we left the CBR, we were usually gone for longer periods of time. (It isn’t as easy to head back to your hotel for a swim, and then go out again.)

c.) As with any vacation choice, you make a decision about resort based on the level of service, price, amenities, location, etc…. and the CBR does offer a good balance of price and amenities. However, if you are a power internet user while on vacation (as I am), it’s possible that the CBR may not be the resort for you. My time there had been plagued by connectivity and intermittent access issues (even after replacing the cable, and dealing with their onsite help desk). At one point, the onsite help desk advised me to step down my internet connection speed to 10 megabits/second half duplex, which, for a travel agent needing fast access, was awfully slow. I was also hampered by the fact that the internet plug in was behind the bed, and the cord wasn’t long enough to reach the desk (and no extensions were available), which meant that the work I did do on vacation had me plunked on the bed (which wasn’t ideal for me or my family).  

I had been assured by onsite staff that my connection issues were most unusual, and perhaps I just had a bad port/ area of the hotel. They apologetically refunded the $9.95/day connection fee I’d been charged to access the internet. However, it’s worth  noting that I had none of these connection issues when we later moved over to the Grand Floridian (and there, we had extremely fast, and free, wireless access during my stay in the concierge area). If you don’t need internet access on holiday, this isn’t an issue, of course, but if you need to work, even a little, this access can put a damper on your stay.

d.) While the main pool area of the CBR is terrific, my heart lies with the canyon-themed waterslide and beach of the Grand Floridian (GF).  My own personal preference is for the finer dining options of the GF, the queen beds (rather than the doubles at a moderate), more sedate surroundings, the gorgeous pastel shading and Victorian surroundings of the GF, more room service options, having access to the character meals and even childcare (if needed), a different level of service, and more spacious rooms (deluxe rooms are much larger). But these are the differences between a moderate and deluxe hotel category, rather than cons of the CBR per se. 

The differences between hotel categories should be discussed and considered before choosing your Disney resort. It’s obviously important that we match your family’s needs and expectations to the proper resort. Disney has over 22 onsite hotels, so we should talk to discover what’s most important to you. I’m here to ensure your family can create the memories that will matter most to you!

Give me a call!  Sheila 613-837-0699 or email me

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 4 Comments

Chillaxin’ at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

We spent some time chillaxin’ at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort during our visit last week.  We swam in the big pool, with the waterslide.

And hung out with some family.

And chowed down on some good eats. (Caribbean burger with plantains, carmelized onions, and hot peppers. Yum! While kids had burgers and fries served in sand bucket (lined!) – terrific way to chillax at Disney!

July 7, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 3 Comments