Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jaimey at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

I recently had the immense pleasure of staying at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa on the beautiful island of Oahu in the Ko Olina resort area of this tropical Hawaiian Island.

Aulani means “Messenger of the Chief” or “Our Home” so as you are welcomed to Aulani by the amazing staff they say “Welcome to our Home”.  Aulani is situated in the Ko Olina Resort location surrounded by lush tropical landscaping and the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.  The resort sits on 21 acres and they have used every inch of it! 

Aulani is around twenty minutes from the Honolulu airport depending on traffic, which can be absolutely terrible during rush hour.  There is a shared shuttle service called Speedi Shuttle that is the most cost effective way to go.  Aulani also offers private transfers for an additional charge. Guests are greeted at Aulani with either a traditional Lei for the women, a Kakui Nut Lei for the men or the children are given bracelets.

There are a variety of dining options on property or off.  Directly across from the resort is Ko Olina Village that offers local hot spots and coffee shops. Aulani offers quick service options, snacks and table service options.  

Makahiki Restaurant offers character dining with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald for breakfast each morning.  I would highly recommend booking your reservations in advance and at the earliest option of 6:30am as well.  This is a fun, light hearted experience that your little ones and your adults are sure to love!

Aulani has 359 accommodations including 16 Suites.  Room rates begin at $400 per night which includes your nightly entertainment, Aunty’s Beach House for your children as well as many activities and offers that would at most resorts result in an additional charge.Aulani also offers 481 Vacation Club Villas and 21 Grand Villas for families needing larger accommodations.

Aulani boasts 3 pools, 1 “lazy river” , 1 theme park sized splash and water play area, 1 splash pad for the little ones and 2 adult infinity edge whirlpools as well as Rainbow Reef, Oahu’s only 3800 square foot private saltwater snorkeling lagoon. I knew my kids would have had a ball exploring the various pools and splash areas! Pools are heated year round to 82-85 degrees ensuring every traveler a comfortable dip any time of year.

Wailana Pools and Spas is the adults only section of the pools area. Located next to the Ka Maka Grotto and next to the Quick Service Outlet of Ulu Café, it is quiet, and offers a pool bar as well.  The Spas offer beautiful views with infinity edge hot tubs.  These are adult only as well.

Cabanas are offered at many of the locations listed above with private service, flat screen televisions, ceiling fans, bottled water and fruit bowls.  Rental fees are $325 per day.

Aulani offers Oahau’s only private salt water snorkeling reef.  This is manmade lagoon in the middle of the Aulani’s grounds.  You can also view the sea life from a viewing area under the reef next to Waikolehe Pool.  There is an additional fee for this $15.00 per day, $10 per child 9 and under, or $20.00 per stay, $15 per child 9 and under.  Equipment is included with this.  The water is monitored and kept at 77 degrees.

In additional to the many water activities and pools available at Aulani, you will also have access to a wonderful beach and lagoon with private beach chairs and umbrellas along with crafts, hula classes and access to Aunty’s beach house.

Aunty’s Beach House is located next to ‘Ama’Ama and is the perfect spot for your little ones ages 3-12 to hang out. This is 5,200 square foot house features rooms filled with video games, arts and  crafts, dress up outfits, tv’s, computers etc. 
Starlit Hui and Mo’olelo Fireside Story Telling are two complimentary nightly activities that are perfect for the entire family.  The Starlit Hui takes place on the lawn behind ‘Ama’Ama and is an interactive Hawaiian show with dancing and story telling.  They involve the children and Mickey and all of his friends come out afterward for a dance party.  This takes place twice during week in off season and 3 times during pack season.  Mo’olelo Story Telling takes place at the fire pit located just outside ‘Ama’Ama and an interactive evening of story telling with props and puppets told by Uncle.

Aulani is a magical place that brings to life the Hawaiian culture with the magic of Disney. This is a place that will truly bring your family closer and create the perfect vacation for children and adults alike.  

Ready to book your family's trip to Aulani and create your own magical memories?
Please contact or your Sanders travel advisor today.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Kathy B in Italy

Kathy Brueggemeyer was just in Italy exploring the rolling hills of Tuscany and the city streets of Rome. She visited a number of fabulous hotels, toured the top tourist sites, drank delicious wine, and ate incredible culinary creations.She was hosted by a fabulous partner of ours, Marcelo at Waterstone Marketing. His collection of properties includes very unique and authentic gems. 

Kathy started her journey in Rome where she had a site inspection and dinner at the Hotel Hassler. This beautiful property is in a prime location at the top of the Spanish Steps. It has the most magnificent Presidential suite with an extremely large terrace overlooking the Spanish steps. Kathy dined at the 1 Michelin starred restaurant on the rooftop, Imàgo, and it was fabulous!Even if you cannot stay at the Hassler be sure to dine at Imàgo during your next trip to Rome.

While in Rome Kathy toured the Vatican where she highly recommends a private tour. Her small group of 12 people made it hard to hear the guide with all the crowds around you. Nevertheless her guide was very knowledgeable and professional.

Located about 30 minutes from FCO airport – about equal distance from Rome central and Civitavecchia - is La Post Vecchia. This villa hotel located is on the water and offers an array of unique room categories. Be sure to tell your advisor what you prefer so they can match you with the best fit. Kathy recommends staying on the 1st floor (2nd floor to Americans since the Europeans call the ground floor zero). These rooms have very high ceilings and large windows that can be opened up.  Seaside or garden view - it is all beautiful so you can't go wrong!! The Cesar restaurant is an excellent 1 Michelin starred restaurant on property with both inside and outside dining. This is a great hotel for 1 or 2 nights pre-cruise or before going to FCO airport to return home. 

Kathy continued about an hour and half north to the sister property to La Posta Vecchia, Il Pellicano. Located on the cliff of a peninsula into the Mediterranean this hotel has beautiful views to the sea.   The winding cliff road gives it a real feeling of being away from it all even though it is only about 15 minutes to the town. This hotel has a more cosmopolitan feel than it's sister property and has 2 accommodation options – the main lodge overlooking the sea and public areas or the quiet cottages. This property has a 2 Michelin starred restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating.   Kathy says while she is not a “foodie”, the meal was excellent and the service was impeccable but still in a casual, comfortable setting. Enjoy the “beach” club with decking over the rocks and a small pier with access to the water. Enjoy a beverage from the mobile bar and soak in the sun from this pristine spot.

 About two hours north of Il Pellicano, Kathy stayed at Hotel Byron in Forte dei Marmi, another villa property.  There are no beachfront properties here (nothing is on the beach) but Hotel Byron is directly across the street from the beach. Again, all the rooms are different so you should discuss your desires with your travel advisor to be sure you are getting the right type.  Kathy had a 2 story two bedroom villa called the Shelley Suite with a terrace and two bathrooms. This would be a great accommodation for either family with older children or two couples.  Her room was just steps from a nice pool area which also serves as casual dining.  The breakfast area is located at the front the property with views out to the main street where you can watch the hustle and bustle of town. This hotel is also has a one star Michelin restaurant – located in a separate building in the back of the hotel, with excellent sea food.    

Forte dei Marmi has wide, sandy beaches like Southern California. They are dominated by beach clubs that offer service, but at a cost. Rates range from 60-300 Euros per day and include anything from beach chairs up to a cabana for 6 people.Food & beverage service is available as well. Forte dei Marmi is small, easy to walk town filled with lots of shopping including a lot of high end designer shops. 
Pietrasanta is a short drive from Forte dei Marmi.  It is known for its marble quarries and artist communities. Here Kathy got to try her hand in marble sculpting. It was certainly much harder than the artists make it look.   

Stay tuned for more of Kathy's adventures as her trip continues on to Florence.