looking for decent all inclusive - anywhere

Old Apr 5th, 2007, 09:25 AM
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looking for decent all inclusive - anywhere

I've never done an all inclusive, but think that it might be a good idea for a honeymoon after the craziness of a wedding.

Time is early December, budget is $4000 including airfare from DC area for 5-7 nights. Our biggest interest is a great beach. Also desirable is decent food, outdoor activities such as snorkeling or golf, and a spa for her. If possible, it would be nice to be somewhat secluded but close enough to an area to explore or eat dinner/nighlife for a night to give us something fresh.

I realize the budget may be tight but our expectations are reasonable. No big preference on island/country, but I was thinking St. Lucia, DR, Costa Rica, or maybe even Brazil (but airfare could be trouble to Brazil). A popular place like Sandals or Breezes is fine. Any ideas?
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 09:33 AM
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cbbjr - December will be an expensive month but your budget should be pretty good. I would avoid Sandals - in my opinion they are very expensive and you get lots less for your money at those resorts than at other AIs. Sandals has the bad habit of requiring you to book the more or most expensive rooms to get the things that are commonly included at all price levels at other AIs, such as an in room stocked fridge, room service, etc.

There are many good resorts in St Lucia but the beaches there are not as good as other places. Islands we really like are St Lucia, Curacao, Aruba, Sint Maarten/St. Marten, Jamaica, Grand Bahama, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Some offer many AIs, some only a few. Another area we really enjoy and return to over and over is the Playa Del Carmen and Tulum area of Mexico (south of Cancun). We really feel that we get lots more "bang for buck" there and the selection of AI resorts is huge, and they come in all price ranges and star ratings. I think you will find your budget will go furthest with a package deal to one of the Mexican resorts, but you should be able to do others as well.
One thing to think about is to narrow your search down to those resorts that are adult only since it is your honeymoon.

Congratulations.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 10:15 AM
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On many islands, early December (until about Dec 15) still is low season, so that will help a lot with your budget. I have done AI trips to St. Lucia and the DR. For a future trip, I also would consider Mexico (Playa del Carmen area) which is supposed to have a number of nice AI resorts at good prices. The DR and Mexico will probably be cheaper than St. Lucia, but I think you should be able to do St. Lucia within your budget in early December. I really liked the resort I stayed at in St. Lucia, the BodyHoliday at LeSport and would recommend it as long you knew what to expect. It is a nice resort, but not if you are expecting a Ritz Carlton type place. Also, it tends to attract primarily British guests, and on average, the age range there is older (more of a middle-age crowd). I went on an island tour that also had people from Sandals, and it seemed like there were definitely more Americans and younger honeymooning couples staying there, based on the people I met at least. Anyway, the reason I am recommending LeSport is that it has daily spa treatments and golf (greens fees) included, as well as a lot of watersports (including off the beach snorkeling) and fitness activities.

Although it is not cheap (I'd guess that the lowest priced double room during the offseason will be around $500/night, you get a lot for your money. Check out luxurylink.com; they often have packages there. LeSport also is close enough for you to go into Rodney Bay for dinner or some nightlife (about $10 - 12 and 10 minutes by taxi). There also are three Sandals resorts on St. Lucia. I didn't look at those, but it seems like people either love or hate Sandals, and there is a perception among some it is over-priced.

Good luck and congratulations!
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 11:38 AM
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I also have to agree with Playa del Carmen, MX. You'll get a lot more amenities for your money and is one of the less expensive destinations. We are staying at The Royal Playa del Carmen in September. It's an adults only AI with ala cart resturants, jacuzzi in the bedroom, an in room bar and a spa. Sits on a nice beach and is within walking distance to 5th Avenue where resturants, bars and shopping is located. It also has exchange privledges with it's sister resort across the street; Grand Porto Real. There are lots of things to see and do off property like snorkeling, eco tours, Mayn Riuns, etc. But, I'm not famailar with golf. We don't play. Other resorts in that area that have been mentioned as nice are; Secrets Capri, Royal Hidaway, Moon Palace, Excellance Riveria, and Adventura Spa Palace.

I think St. Lucia is a very beautiful Island. Lots of mountians, greenery, waterfalls and flora. However, if a great beach is that important, I would reconsider. Their beaches are not powdery white sand with crystal clear water, and we found the snorkeling not great compared to other Islands. We stayed at the Sandals Grande. It was very expensive and we were not all that impressed for what we paid.

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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 12:20 PM
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Just another comment about beaches.

Nice beaches are a big deal to me too, but I chose to go to St. Lucia last year knowing that for the most part, the island does not have long, powdery white sand beaches and bright turquoise water of other Caribbean locations. Much to my surprise, I found that I liked the beaches a lot more than I expected I would. Most of the beaches are in coves with lush, mountainous backdrops. Overall, I thought St. Lucia was one of the most beautiful places I visited, and I'm really glad I didn't miss going there. It definitely was a nice change, although I am going for the perfect white sand beach on my next trip!

Kurt or KVR,

I thought I had read that the beaches around Playa del Carmen were not that great (rocky and/or somewhat narrow), possibly as a result of the last hurricane there. Is that correct? Are there particular resorts (adults only, middle-high range that have good beaches)?
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 04:04 PM
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beachdreams3,

I haven't been back to Playa del Carmen since 2001 and Cancun since 2002. Been checking out the Caribbean Islands since then, so don't know first hand regarding the damage Hurricane Wilma did to their beaches. However, I've been researching our trip back to Playa del Carmen in Sept. for several months and looks like the Royal Playa del Carmen has a decent beach. I'm not expecting beaches like in Turks and Caicos or Grand Cayman, so it should be fine for us.

We are going back to Cozumel in 2 weeks on a Princess cruise. I've been researching that trip and it looks like the repair of the damage is coming right along.

Just from all the Islands we have been to, it's very hard to find a decent AI resort located on an Island with a great beach. Mexico comes the closest as well as Aruba. Haven't been to Curacao or Antigua, but they're on our list. You will find a few AI hotels there and the beaches/snorkeling are supposed to be good.

Actually, we were 2 weeks out going back to Cozumel on a land vacation when Hurricane Wilma hit. Our TA did a fine job cancelling that trip and re-routing us to St. Lucia. The beach at Sandals Grand was very nice, but we did a catamaran trip and the snorkeling was bad. However, the weather wasn't great so probably some of the reason. We also went to a black sand beach and the water was so rough I didn't go in. Reminded me a lot of Maui, HI, dark and rough water, which we didn't like. Other than that and the Sandals hotel, we really loved the topography of St. Lucia. Too bad it too far and to expensive to get to and stay there.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 05:48 PM
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KVR,

Thanks for your response; I hope you have a great trips, and I'll look forward to your reviews and pictures! My friends were in Cozumel in February and had a great trip, but they are more into diving, shopping, and other activities than the beach.

Actually, to respond to your point and get back to Cbbjr's original question about island choices, I think that parts of the DR are good options for decent beaches and AI. In particular, the Bayahibe/LaRomana area, which is on the Caribbean side. That is where I went a few years ago. The reason I didn't go into too much detail in my original response was that the hotel where I stayed (Coral Conoa) was not what I would recommend for a honeymoon given cbbjr's budget. It wasn't bad by any means, but the rooms were not that nice (kind of like a cheaper chain motel in the US that had not been renovated recently). Anyway, I've heard that the Sunscape or Iberostar hotels in that area are nicer. Casa de Campo (sp?) is also around there, and it is supposed to be a fantastic (but very expensive) resort with great golf. I don't think that it is AI or has a good beach though. Maybe non-guests can pay to play there?
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 05:36 AM
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Here's another vote for taking a look at St. Lucia for a honeymoon, but specifically at the southern end of the island near the Pitons--it's the most beautiful and romantic setting I've seen in the Caribbbean.

Take a look at the Jalousie PLantation, which is frequently offered at stunning rates at www.luxurylink.com. The hotel itself used to offer an AI option that you could purchase at any time during your stay, so if you could purchase the auction package at a good rate and then "add-on" the AI portion of it, you could be well within your price range. Food and drinks are expensive there, and not among the best food I've eaten in the Caribbean, but quality and price were in line with other resort food I've eaten.

Jalousie has a spa, wonderful hiking, fabulous views, great privacy (most rooms are spacious free standing cottages with private plunge pools), there's a pitch-and-putt golf green, a workout room, and pretty decent snorkeling around the base of the Pitons. The beach is lovely because they've imported white sand that contrasts well with the darker water, and there are sun chairs and thatched bohios for shade along the beach. There's also a sizable pool with lots of chaises longues. Beach service is available, too, for either drinks or lunch.

Jalousie is quite isolated and perfect for a honeymoon where you want your focus to be on your new spouse, but it's worth getting away for at least two things whilst there--a tour of the botanical gardens and dinner at Dasheene, the restaurant at Ladera.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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Everyone, thank you so much for your help. There definitely seem to be some affordable deals to Playa del Carmen. It looks like I can get airfare and a week at the Royal Playa del Carmen for $2600, which would leave room for spa visits, shopping, etc. I will also keep looking at St. Lucia and follow up on everyone's leads. There is something about that island, maybe it is the pitons, but it seems to jump out at me.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 10:24 AM
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My husband and I did Sandals Whitehouse - Sandals newest resort. It is in Jamaica and it was incredible. It is more secluded and not near any major cities, but they have bus trips and other excursions to get you off the resort - although, in seven days, we didn't get to do everything AT the resort - they offer a ton of fun things to do - snorkling, scuba, windsailing, etc. The beach is INCREDIBLE and the weather was in the 80s (February) every day. It was wonderful. They have Red Lane Spa available and we did a couples massage one day...awesome. They have private dinner options on the beach and an amazing assortment of restaurants to choose from. We got a gret deal through a travel agent at 40% off per night! With all inclusive, that is the best! GOOD LUCK and CONGRATS!
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 01:09 PM
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I've been reading the reviews and message boards on Trip Advisor also regarding the Royal Playa del Carmen. I have not seen another recently opened resort get as many postive reviews or recommendations by so many people then this resort.

We've been to 2 Sandals resorts; the The Royal Bahamain in Nassau and the Sandals Grande in St. Lucia. Unless you purchase a concierge room you will not get an in-room bar. None I know of even have an in-room jacuzzi. I would need to take out a second mortgage on my house to get a room with a butler or a plunge pool. :roll eyes: The food at the Royal Bahamain was good. The Grand had terrible food. We purchased the 3rd from the bottom catagory room at the Grande for 5 nights and with airfare paid more than double what you were quoted for the Royal Playa del Carmen. That was not a concierge room. We paid $2,100 for 6 nights the first week of Sept. for the Royal Playa del Carmen. Can't beat that price. It's also the major start of hurricane season, which helped with the good deal, but we are willing to chance it with trip insurance.

The Royal Playa del Carmen also has a 24 hour room that is self serve food, drinks and pour your own alcohol (supposely top shelf brands) There are covered beds on the beach and wait service by staff for the beach and pool. There are canoes filled with bottled water, fruit juice and fresh fruit by the pool where you can help your self. Also books, magazines and sun tan lotion for your use. I never found amenties like that at a Sandals or any other resort I've read about.

The Sandals Whitehouse is about an hour outside of Negril. It's sits in the middle of nowhere and is not close to anything. You'll need to hire a taxi or book a tour to get anywhere.

We really loved St. Lucia, but check airfare. We spent $1,800 and that was about average. So you might end up spending half your budget just in air. Also its a long way, so plan on the first day just getting there and the last day just getting home. Check the hotel's locations. Depending on which airport you land at and which hotel you chose, there may be an hour drive from the airport to your hotel.

We've been to alot of Islands and we are quite biased when it comes to Mexico. I'm sure you'll make a decision before Sept., but will be happy to report back our experience with the Royal Playa del Carmen if your interested.

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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 03:09 PM
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Luckily airfares from the DC area to St. Lucia are not quite as expensive as yours, KVR. Cbbjr, if you decide to go to St. Lucia and have some flexibility, BWI airport usually seems to be about $100 cheaper than DCA or IAD. Current low fares for December are about $570 per person.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 07:00 PM
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check http:www//www.holasanjuan.com for money eise hotels. Raul
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Old Apr 7th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Also check out the Iberostar Paraiso AI just south of Cancun. Staff is excellent...beach is wonderful (we were just there a couple of months ago so pretty updated opinion)...food was not gourmet but good and the nighclub and bars are jumping late. Can't go wrong.
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Old Apr 7th, 2007, 02:22 PM
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KVR, the Sandals Grande in St. Lucia was another one I was looking at, so thank you very much for comparing it to the Royal Playa del Carmen. Right now it is in the lead. It seems like you get more for your money there than pretty much any other place (and cheap airfare). And the negative reviews for it on tripadvisor are far better than the negative reviews for other places.

Several people have mentioned luxurylink. Maybe there is another thread on this I should find, but are most of the deals on it pretty good (I'm not too familiar with online auctions)?
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Old Apr 7th, 2007, 04:00 PM
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I've never done Luxury Link or Price Line. I don't like bidding on hotels either. I did use Hotwire for our cruise in 2 weeks for an overnight in Ft. Lauderdale. I really didn't care what hotel we got since we are arriving at 9:30pm. I lucked out and got a Holiday Inn. I'm a preferred member, so I think it will be OK.

I like to use www.beachdestinations.com for pricing. We did book with them when we went to Turks and Caicos and I booked with them again for Playa del Carmen. I'm very limited on air choices from my area. It's either AA or Continental, and they have the best prices I've found.
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