Signature Travel Network’s Educational Journey to South Africa with Rose Gray

Signature Travel Network’s Educational Journey to South Africa Sponsored by South African Airways and African Travel ~ March 1 – 12, 2015 Rose Gray

March 2 – Our adventure began as we flew from JFK to Johannesburg in Business Class and then JNB to Cape Town in Economy Class on South African Airways. The front-facing business class seats were configured 2 x 2 x 2 and reclined fully into a flat bed. The mattress pads, full size pillows and duvets made the seats/flat beds very comfortable.  The latest movies and TV shows were available on demand on a personal twelve inch screen. Ala carte dining was offered as well as a selection of South African wines; both were quite good.

March 3 – Upon arrival in CPT, we were met and transferred to our hotel,  Resort 1Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.  Due to our delayed flight, we would be staying one night which was unfortunate because it would have been nice to take advantage of all that this luxury hotel has to offer. The hotel has six individual accommodation wings, each with its own unique character, private gardens and facilities. The 201 spacious rooms and suites are individually decorated.

Mount Nelson rooms_02 Junior Suite1My deluxe junior suite was located in the Helmsley, one of three buildings that were acquired, restored and converted into guest accommodations in 1996.  It was the site of the first Jewish Synagogue in Cape Town.

Fun Fact – Cape Town was the hottest place on earth on March 3, the day we arrived; 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Dassie
Dassie

After freshening up, we were transferred to the cable car which would transport us to the top of Table Mountain. We were lucky to have been able to experience Table Mountain on this day, as there were wildfires that were still burning which had caused the cable car to stop operating several days prior to our arrival. We spent about an hour hiking, enjoying the views, and checking out the wildlife including lizards and dassies, a cute little African rodent (dassie translates to badger in Dutch).

March 4 – After an early breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and had an orientation tour of Cape Town.  After lunch we took a tour to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years in prison. This prison 2island is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Access to the island is via ferry from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The tour was quite moving as all guides are former political prisoners and their stories and commentary contributed to the experience. Photos and stories hung on many of the cell walls, describing the inmate who occupied that cell and his “crimes”.  It was especially emotional to see the narrow cell where Mandela spent 18 years and the limestone quarry where he and his fellow prisoners worked in the hot sun.

We were scheduled to have an afternoon free, however, Thompson’s Africa was able to re-schedule the helicopter ride that we were supposed to have on our first day, so we transferred to the V & A Waterfront where we all enjoyed a 15 minute helicopter flip and got a bird’s eye view of the sights and grandeur of Cape Town.

resort 2Next we were transferred to the One and Only Cape Town, our accommodations for the next two nights. This unique 5 Star hotel is truly an urban waterfront resort in the heart of Cape Town’s V & A Waterfront. The Marina Rise is a seven-story resort which affords marvelous views of Table Mountain and Signal Hill from spacious rooms and suites. Or you can choose to stay in one of the 40 Island Suites which are

March 5 – After breakfast, our Thompson Tour Guide, Michael and driver, Wally, collected us for a spectacular day of touring and exploring the pristine coastline and quaint towns of pn“The Fairest Cape”. We drove past the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton and then made our way along the coast, past Bakoven and Llandudno to the charming fishing village of Hout Bay, a functioning harbor and the heart of the local crayfish industry. Here we boarded a boat to Duiker Island to view the Cape Fur Seal colony. From here, we traveled to Chapman’s Peak Drive and then on to Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve where we spotted mountain zebra, bontebok (a South African antelope) and baboons. Next we visited the beautiful Boulders Beach where we spent time observing and photographing the colony of penguins there.

Our next stop was The Flagship.  This unusual four bedroom B & B is known for its fabulous interactive seafood lunch which we were fortunate enough to enjoy. Chef Bruce Robertson was known for his support of sustainable fishing and the new host, Duncan Doherty who took over after Chef Bruce’s recent passing, is carrying on in that same way. This truly was one of the most memorable and delicious meals that I have enjoyed in my lifetime.

12A-Accom-Presidential-002-1400x568After lunch, we returned to the One and Only Hotel where we had just enough time to freshen up before departing for The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa for a site inspection, “sundowners” (the South African equivalent of happy hour) and dinner. This Red Carnation Hotel features two swimming pools, a sixteen seat cinema, a helipad, fitness room, complimentary wifi throughout and complimentary shuttle service to the V & A Waterfront.  There are 70 rooms here ranging from Classic Rooms to One Bedrooms Suites and they are all elegantly appointed.

March 6LaR_room11_021After breakfast and check out, we traveled through the beautiful wine lands to the charming town of Stellenbosch. We took a walking tour of this old university town which the tourist board offered called Bites and Sites.  This was a great way to see the town and to sample some of the great food and wine offered here. Then it was on to Franschhoek Valley and La Residence (one of the hotels in The Royal Portfolio collection), our home for the next two nights, situated on a 30 acre estate. We arrived in time for lunch. Each one of the sixteen suites is uniquely decorated with its own theme and color scheme. La Residence also enjoys a reputation for its superb cuisine and this reputation is richly deserved. Both lunch and dinner were exceptional and the wine pairings were outstanding.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Rose’s South African Adventure to be posted next week!

Review of Iberostar Paraiso

Mexico is one of Fox World Travel clients’ most sought after tropical destination. In order to be able to provide valuable, first hand experience and advice to their clients, Fox World Travel sends their agents on Familiarization Trips so that they can experience, in person, the destinations that their clients want to visit.

Vacation Travel Consultants Barb Rogers and Erika Martinez, along with Marketing Coordinator, Kristen Rahmlow, recently went on an intensive Familiarization Trip where they toured 12 resorts in just 3 days! View their review of their second stop, Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar here.

Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar

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This was our host resort for the 3 nights we were in Riviera Maya. It is about 20-30 minutes from the Cancun airport. This property is huge! There are a total of 5 resorts on the property – Del Mar, Beach, Lindo, Maya, and Grand. There are two room categories at the Del Mar – Standard and Jr Suite. The rooms at this resort are all garden-view. The Del Mar and the Beach are equal resorts and share amenities. There are 2 grill snack bars and 7 a la carte restaurants where you can make dinner reservations upon arrival at the concierge desk.  If you stay seven nights you can make four dinner reservations, five nights – three reservations, four nights – two reservations, and three nights – one dinner reservation. We ate at the Italian Restaurant the second night. The food was good and came with a salad, entrée and then choice of dessert.

Coati
Coati

We ate at the breakfast buffet every morning. There was a nice selection of food at the breakfast buffet including made to order omelets, French toast, pancakes, cereal, fruit, yogurt and an assortment of pastries.

Del Mar Lobby
Del Mar Lobby

Wi-Fi was not included at the Del Mar. You had to pay a fee in order to have Wi-Fi and even then it was only available in the lobby area. The fees are as follows: 1 day – $12, 3 Days – $25, 5 Days – $30, 7 Days – $40. There was a shopping mall that you could walk to if you wanted but from where our room was located it would have been a bit of a walk so we took the golf cart shuttles that ran every 5-10 minutes. The shopping center included a small bar, little “restaurants” to get tacos, burgers, coffee and gelato. They also had some clothing stores and souvenir stores. Wi-Fi was free at the shopping center but we did not always get the best connection. There is also a disco in the shopping center that is open until 3am.

 

Riviera Maya Boot Camp: Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun

Mexico is one of Fox World Travel clients’ most sought after tropical destination. In order to be able to provide valuable, first hand experience and advice to their clients, Fox World Travel sends their agents on Familiarization Trips so that they can experience, in person, the destinations that their clients want to visit.

Vacation Travel Consultants Barb Rogers and Erika Martinez, along with Marketing Coordinator, Kristen Rahmlow, recently went on an intensive Familiarization Trip where they toured 12 resorts in just 3 days! View their review of their first stop, Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun here.

Day 1: Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun

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Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun is an adult only (18 years and older) resort.  This is a very contemporary looking property that offers Unlimited Luxury which includes unlimited meals, snacks and top-shelf premium drinks.  24 hour room service is available and each room has the “Secret Box” which means when you order room service they will not be knocking at your door to bring you your meal ordered but putting the tray of food into the box and you just access this from your room without seeing anyone.

The resort has eight pools, eight bars and 8 gourmet restaurants (seven of which are a la carte and a buffet).  We actually ate at the buffet for lunch and the variety of food choices was outstanding.

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11111On our day of arrival it was raining outside and I was very impressed with the area by the lobby bar  which is located downstairs from the lobby.  It was a great large space for guests to socialize and keep busy or just hang out if you didn’t want to be in your room. The resort had a ping pong table, darts were being played and even a vendor brought in a monkey for guests to be photographed with.

Non-motorized water sports are available which would include kayaks and hobie cats which are used for sailing.  The second largest coral reef is way out in front of the resort.

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Restaurants:

  • Bordeaux / French Cuisine
  • El Patio / Mexican
  • Himitsu / Pan-Asian
  • Oceana / Seafood
  • Portofino / Italian
  • Ratatouille / Mediterranean
  • Seaside Grill / Steak & Grilled specialties
  • World Cafe / International Buffet
  • Coco Cafe / premium coffees & pastries (6:30am-10:30pm)

Secrets Silversands offers an even higher level of luxury in the Preferred Club.  You can enjoy an upgraded suite, access to the exclusive Preferred Club lounge which is open from 7am until 11:00pm with its own bar. Continental breakfast is offered and concierge service is also included.

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Learn more about Riviera Maya Travel Destinations or contact a vacation travel consultant today.  Stay tuned for reviews of other resorts visited during Fox World Travel‘s Riviera Maya Travel Agent Boot Camp!