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Royalton – Antigua n – 2019

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

I love travelling to different places and then writing about them as I think it helps others plus it reminds us of the adventures that we had. Ever since i was a little girl, travelling was and still is important to me and my family. I would spend my summers in Greece, a few weeks in Athens and then a month or so in Naxos where my dad was from and those trips will always hold such special memories for me and I wanted to do the same for my family. Even though we tend to go to caribbean now, one day I plan on taking the family back to Greece to show them their heritage.

In the meantime we will travel to various locations and I will blog about them. Usually I would bring my pro camera, but since my car accident in 2016 its been hard to carry my beast around, she’s pretty heavy and although I miss my beautiful images, for now, I will just use the olympus tough tg-5.

This trip my best friend and I decided to try the Royalton in Antigua and let’s just say we weren’t disappointed. Once we got to the airport we were directed to the Royalton booth where thWe have travelled many times to many different places but this little spot will hold a special place in our hearts. From the moment I contacted them (Sandor replied) and I was assured that the staff there would do everything they could to make our stay amazing and that they did. As soon as we stepped off the bus, the manager Caesar and Nildrey and Rammary were there to great us with drinks and to take us to our room. They took care of everything and we didn’t even have to go to the front desk. We were whisked away to our villa by the sea and next to the pool. It was perfect!! Even had food waiting for us in the villa as we got there late. Nildrey took care of our little girl every day and our daughter loved her, she was kind and attentive and wonderful. We also got to relax a bit and not worry as our daughter was in good hands. Nildrey took her to see the dolphins and even stayed up late with her in our room while we went to a beach party. The food was pretty good, chef Jeremiah is awesome, and made us personally churros everyday and would deliver them to us wherever we were. Norje the cook would always make heart pancakes and heart shape omelettes for our little girl and always greeted us with a smile. Alex was the other manage and he was always so happy to see us and always took a moment to ask if we were well taken care of and if we needed anything and he took care of many of our particular needs when it came to food. The entertainment staff was so much fun, they tried to include everyone and they were friendly and so kind. Jorge (George) was full of energy and took time to spend with the guests even when he wasn’t working. Julie would always take such good care of us while dining and Adonis was an amazing bartender. Everyone went above and beyond their jobs and made you feel like you were at home. We were very sad to leave and hope to come back soon one day. Just make sure you take lots of mosquito spray as that’s the only thing that one may complain about. Again thanks to everyone there for making our stay extra special. We can’t thank you enough and we consider you family.ey put our diamond club bracelets on us and gave us a bottle of water and off we went to the resort. We were greeted with a tropical punch and warm towels and then shuttled to the diamond club lounge where they had little appetizers for us to nibble on while we waited for our butlers to come and take us to our rooms. Rooms are beautiful and although there was a little mishap with our suitcases going to the wrong room, we were well compensated for the 2 hours of worry that we went through. After that we did not have one problem. The food is amazing, the restaurants are fantastic, we love Hunter steakhouse, fillet mignon was like butter in your mouth. We never waited for our table, and although the food took a bit of time getting to us it was worth the wait and we were well taken care of by our wonderful waiter.

The beach was gorgeous and diamond club members have their own little area, we were well taken care of but at times the wait was a bit longer than we liked, it was ok though, we were in paradise and we know that not everything is always going to run smoothly all the time. We loved the cabanas with the private little jacuzzi’s so we rented them for 2 days at $95 per day, again well worth it, it was a highlight of our trip.

We did a catamaran cruise for a day and it was so much fun, and thrilling as we would go over the waves and it was almost like being on a roller coaster.

We also did some shopping in town, not much to choose from but both my best friend and I love blue diamonds so we both purchased blue diamond rings.

We loved getting all dressed up every evening for dinner and then the show, which was ok, sometimes better than other nights but one night they had a silent dance party which we ended up having a great time at. It was our first time doing this, you go to the roof and choose a pair of headphones and you can choose between 2 channels and then you dance but no one else around without the headphones can hear the music. It’s a cool and interesting event and we were so happy that this couple told us to go and check it out, we almost didn’t but really ended up enjoying ourselves.

The only complaint we had is the concierge on every floor, at first they are so nice to you and offer to do anything you want them too and then they hit you. Our nice concierge lady called us one evening and asked if she could come and talk to us. I had a feeling I knew what she was going to say and warned my bestie but my bestie has a big heart and when our concierge basically told us that she doesn’t get paid unless she gets customers to go to this “special presentation” my bestie persuaded me to go. Even though that I knew it was a waste of time, and it would not be just 30 mins long, and I knew they would try every tactic to get us to purchase into their “club” I sighed and went along. After a very long 3 hours of breakfast and then touring the cabins on the water and told if we bought in at $17,000 then we would get to go to any Royalton and get an automated upgrade plus perk after perk but in the end its still not worth it to us as we may not want to go to the Royalton and then what. The guy trying to persuade us to buy even told us that this was better than buying life insurance, and which I got upset that he could even compare purchasing a timeshare to purchasing life insurance and I was ready to leave when he went to get his boss. I was about to let the boss have it, but he was nice and just wanted to shake our hands and wish us well and then we left. So don’t get duped into doing the presentation and losing precious time from your vacation.

Other than that, we have an awesome time and were well taken care of. I do think that the Royalton in Antigua is new and has some work to do still, like quicker service and such, but hopefully they will get there. I give it an 8 out of 10 and although its a a bit pricey, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Baby Aliza

Saturday, March 9th, 2019

I know this wonderful family for years and Mariam is just one of 6 kids and I remember her as a little girl and now she’s all grown with a beautiful daughter of her own and I was honoured when she asked me to do a photo shoot of her precious newborn.

Baby Aliza is only 3 weeks old but she’s already alert and ready to go. She’s usually a sleeper but she wanted to see what was going on when I came by to photograph her so we didn’t get many sleepy shots, but her eyes are so big and beautiful that you can’t help but stare into those big beautiful brown eyes of her in every shot. She is so adorable and both mom and grandma love taking care of her and she has become their little princess.

Thank you Mariam for allowing me into your home and your lives and for asking me to photograph your precious little girl. It was a pleasure spending a few hours with you all and getting to know your little girl a bit. She has a strong personality already and I look forward to seeing her grow up.

I couldn’t help but turn her into an angel for a few shots.

My day with Sue Simmons

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Had a wonderful day up north at our cottage with Sue, she is the creator of Lemons to Lemonade, a guide on how to better interact and teach your child, and she is the owner of Equinox Family Consulting. She has a wealth of knowledge and information and helped me out incredibly with her course. I learned so much and I have a new way of interacting with my children and approaching problems in a different way which helps both the child and the parent. I met a few wonderful moms during her course and we laughed and cried and shared our stories and learned so much from Sue. I can’t thank her enough for sharing her techniques and helping us each to build better relationships with our kiddos.

I was thrilled to do a mini session with her and we even took a few images of her daughter, and we had so much fun trying to run from the mosquitoes, but we picked an awesome location and enjoyed our time together. Here are just a few images from our session.

to share one of her beautiful daughter too.

Breezes Bahamas

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Have been to Bahamas 3 times now and I must say that this hotel was my least favourite. Bahamas is beautiful and it was a nice beach but the hotel itself is very dated and needs a renovation and the rooms are tiny and the views are not great in most rooms and staff wasn’t the friendliest except at the jewellery store, the lady that dealt with us there was so nice and made our experience all that much better plus we left with a few lovely diamond pieces that we loved. The food was ok at the buffet, but the restaurants were better.

To start I have a very bad back and hurt my shoulder in a car accident and deal with a lot of pain, so we went to relax and get some sun, enjoy the water and food, and do a bit of shopping.

Upon arrival, we had to wait for our room and it took a while so we sat in the lobby and just tried to relax for a bit. We finally got our room, got changed and proceeded to the beach.

The worse thing though that was hard to get over was the overwhelming smell when you were on the beach, it was really horrible and that put quite a damper on our vacation as we love the beach but hated the smell.

The rooms were also not up to par, small, and dated and dreary and in need of a serious makeover.

The hotel is not that big and the stage is right next to the lobby and although the nightly entertainment was good, the location was not as people were constantly coming and going.

The pool was ok, nothing amazing though, and there was not much else in the hotel to do other than play billiards or ping pong. The casino next door was fun though but we do not gamble, so we just went to look around a bit and then came back home.

The staff at Breezes wasn’t very friendly, no one went out of there way to make your stay more enjoyable and it didn’t feel like a welcoming hotel.

We had fun shopping in town though, and we cleaned house as we bought so many things and the jewellery stores were all calling out for us with some awesome deals and we couldn’t help but purchase a few items. Loved the Breitling store and my sister bought a beautiful watch encrusted with diamonds and they gave us many additional extras such as a hat and a few other things but we spent probably about 3 hours in that store alone (most of the time sitting down in their very comfy chairs, so we had to make another trip into town to finish the rest of our shopping. That’s the best thing about this trip was all the shopping we got to do and was mainly the reason why we went there in the first place.

If we go back to Bahamas again I would definitely not stay nor recommend Breezes to anyone until they renovate and get rid of that smell.

Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

This was my 3rd time going back to Playa Cayo Santa Maria, and I’m not the type that really wants to go back to the same hotel twice, but with this hotel I changed my mind. The first two times were so much fun and such a relaxing environment and great staff, and beautiful resort, good food, awesome restaurants, and fun entertainment, with the most pristine beach. The water is turquoise and warm and no waves, which is exactly what I want. Dealing with pain issues, I can not go somewhere where there are waves, so I’m always careful about choosing a hotel with a beach that is smooth as silk and the water is calm and inviting. I want to be able to float on the water and not get hit by a big wave, so this place had everything I was looking for. It may not be 5 star but for many reasons it will be 5 star in my heart. The staff is one of those reasons.

Although I took pictures with my compact camera and wish I could have brought my pro camera with me, but its just to heavy and due to my pain I can’t lift it for long so I didn’t bring it but managed to get some nice images with my canon compact camera. I pray that I get better and one day can bring my pro camera again on our trips, as I missed taking truly beautiful images, but I guess this will do for now.

I began by writing customer service and a lovely human being named Marta Maria Diaz replied and she was so delightful to talk to and she did everything she could to make our week there absolutely amazing. She booked restaurant reservations for us, and planned a birthday party for us and even got the resort to bring in a foam party company as I had never seen or been to one before and was so excited to experience. She went above and beyond her job and from the suite to the restaurants to the reservations and surprises everything was simply magnificent. She even managed to somehow get us invited to the managers brunch which was suppose to be for guests who have been there the most. There is a manager’s dinner as well for those that are returning guests as well. We ate lobster 3 times in our week stay because of Marta. My only regret is that I didn’t get a picture with Marta and I and I promise not to make this mistake again when travelling to another resort.

In fact I’m an avid traveller and I love travelling almost as much as photography so this is why I’m combining both and will blog about each destination and resort that I go to from now on. This way people will get a better idea of what to expect when travelling to the same hotels that I have.

I also find that taking a vacation helps with one’s whole outlook on life. My sister knows how much I have to deal with at home and the pain I go through on a daily basis, and she always encourages me to take a week vacation with her, to get away from everything and to just relax and restore ourselves. It does my body good as well as my spirit as daily life can get to be very demanding and can take its toll, especially when dealing with pain, so hubby takes care of the kiddos and we fly away to somewhere warm and relaxing.

While in Santa Maria, one must take advantage of the offers out there and try out an excursion or two and we enjoyed one so much that we went on it twice. This is the catamaran and dolphin interaction excursion. For roughly $100 you board a beautiful huge catamaran and cruise around Santa Maria and get to experience sea life and even interact with it. We not only went snorkelling (well I didn’t, my sister did, but I watched) and helped feed the fish (as I would throw her some food and she would give it to the fish) while swimming with them and had a marvelous time doing so, but then we went to the dolphin (Delfinario)
http://www.cayosantamaria.info/dolphinarium.html and we actually got to touch and watch the dolphins perform as well as get up close to them as they did tricks for us. It was nothing short of spectacular. Not only were they cute and adorable and beautiful creatures, they were smart and warm and friendly and I could have played with them all day. It was so much fun that we went and booked a private interaction with the dolphins for the following day and we (my sister, as I was in too much pain) got to ride them and swim with them and feed them and talk to them and we kissed them and they kissed us back, and all this was captured for us on video as well as a couple of awesome collages to hang on my wall and make me smile each and every time I look at them.

As for food, buffet is ok, but the restaurants are what were really impressive to me. From Asian to Italian to Seafood and Steak, to the 24 hrs snack bar that had yummy shrimps and delicious margarita pizza. They also have a sweet little spot for all the ice cream you can eat, and at times someone would come and make cotton candy as well. I do wish they had a churro cart though, as I was expecting that from articles I had seen, and I love churros. For breakfast, I would always have crepes as they were so tasty, with a bit of honey and cinnamon on them and a bit of fruit, that’s all i needed but they have eggs and bacon and different meats and breads and cereal, you will not go hungry that’s for sure. Lunch buffet can be eaten near the main lobby but we always opted to eat at the beach restaurant, the fried fish was amazing and if you don’t like what they offer you can always grab a burger or hot dog or grilled cheese sandwich in the beach grills which are located right on the beach, so you can lounge in your chair and take in the beautiful view while eating a yummy lunch.

The drinks were also yummy and although I don’t really like alcohol, and drink virgin pina colodas mostly you could tell everyone was enjoying their “alcoholic” beverages. I’m also not a coffee fanatic but I heard nothing but great things when it came to the coffee.

They have a small shop in the lobby but they have a bigger market 10 mins away which you can take a double decker bus, or an old vintage taxi or even better the little train that comes by, any which way you take its definitely an adventure. The market place has many artisan sculptures and dresses and paintings and wooden objects as well as beautiful crochet dresses or tshirts or nice jewellery. Don’t forget to purchase some rum, can’t leave without purchasing some Cuban rum. If you are a smoker, then you know about cuban cigars, and there are many places you can purchase them from. I bought some from the hotel.

The spa was beautiful and tranquil and the massages were fantastic, and we were allowed to use the big jacuzzi pool everyday because we booked massages with them. Definitely a must while you are there.

I even liked our room, it was quaint, with a nice view of the ocean, but a little outdated and could use some touch ups like new sheets and a fresh coat of paint but its definitely liveable and worked just fine for us for a week. It was also cleaned everyday and the maids and the gardeners always work very hard so they must be commended for a job well done.

The entertainment staff is quite nice, they always have a small show, more like a dance as well as playing a couple of games at poolside in the afternoon around 3 or 4 pm. They try hard to entertain everyone every night and of course the Michael Jackson show is always a thrill (punn intended) but I wish they would mix things up some more as all three times they basically had the same shows. The entertainment staff also greets you in the mornings at times when you go for breakfast and they are always smiling and making everyone feel included. They even gather at the disco/cigar lounge at night and dance with the guests.

The only other negative thing and its not really negative although some might think it is, is the long 90 min drive from the airport to the resort. You can choose to get upset and grumble about this or you can choose to enjoy the scenery and the lovely tour guide that tells you all about the cities you are driving through and their history while drinking a cerveza. This way time flies and you find that it can be an enjoyable drive.

Our deepest gratitude to the staff at playa cayo santa Maria, we will definitely come back and I highly recommend this resort to anyone going to Cayo Santa Maria Cuba. You won’t be disappointed.