Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa

Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa

What’s the difference between a cruise and an all-inclusive resort? That could be a question that has a great deal of importance for some of us, so we checked out an all-inclusive Sandals Resort and Spa on the island of Antigua.

Sandals, as you may know, is a relatively well known and popular destination resort that owns and manages resorts all over the Caribbean and even into the Mediterranean. They feature all-inclusive destination stays in a luxury style that can only be approached by luxury cruise ships. Let’s see what they have to offer:

What are the Rooms Like?

Caribbean Premium Honeymoon Room at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa

The rooms are comfortable at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa. Photo by Donald Fink.

There are several kinds of rooms at the Sandals Grande Antigua. Our room was called a Caribbean Honeymoon Premium, but you could get others with a variety of features. There was a tower that provided more hotel-like rooms, but there were also beach front rooms called Mediterranean one bedroom butler villas that featured their own private plunge pools and butlers. Pretty much any level of comfort was available. 

Our room was a single room with a patio overlooking a garden view. It included a king size bed, a fridge stocked with drinks, and a coffee maker as well as a kettle for heating water. There was an air conditioner and a fan, so controlling the temperature was not a problem.

It was central to the amenities, about a minute’s walk to the lobby and even closer to the beach. There was a covered porch too. Overall it was roomy and comfortable.

If absolute luxury is on your mind, there are rooms available that include a bedroom, living area, private plunge pool, private spa, and a butler. The butler seems to do all kinds of things, including serve drinks and meals, and making reservations at restaurants, or securing lounge chairs at the beach. The experience is of course more expensive, but the treatment appears to be world class. And if you don’t mind being pampered, why not?

What’s Included?

Bayside Restaurant, Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa

Guests enjoy breakfast in the open air Bayside Restaurant; a comfortable covered setting with the waves lapping at the beach as you enjoy your meal. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Pretty much everything is included. At Sandals Grand Antigua, there are over 10 restaurants, and all of them are included in the price. Actually, they mention 11 restaurants, but one of them is a hot dog stand near the main pool. But if you like hot dogs, that should count too, right?

All drinks at the resort are included. Yes. All of them, and that’s where Sandals seems to get really competitive with cruising in terms of price. An average drink package on a cruise ship can cost $55.00 US per day per person. At Sandals, that’s part of the experience. And while we don’t have firsthand experience with the quality of the alcohol, the people in our group didn’t appear to be complaining. Beer was mostly local, but many of the wines were from the Napa Valley in California, and the hard liquor seemed to be labels we recognized. Coffee and tea was available too.

Our room had both a coffee pot and a kettle for heating water, as well as a completely stocked fridge with water, soft drinks, and juices. Some of the rooms had a mini bar included too.

Are There Beaches?

Beach view at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa

At Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and spa, the white sand beaches stretched the length of the resort. Beaches here are public, but Sandals provides chairs and umbrellas exclusively for Sandals guests. Photo by Donald Fink.

There are indeed beaches. The Grande Antigua Resort is situated on a white sand beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea. As you sit on the beach in the included Sandals lounge chairs, you’re either in the sun or under a grass shade. The choice is yours.

Off shore, there’s a small barrier reef that seems to help keep the beach quiet most of the time. We noticed the reef as we were headed out for some diving. You can see the waves breaking on the reef, making the waters calm closer to shore.

How’s  the Food?

When we travel, we judge the food we encounter based on the food we see on cruise ships, and the food at Sandals is very similar to some of the better offerings we see. If we had to name a brand, we might say that the meals at Sandals was in line with the quality we expect on Royal Caribbean, maybe a little better.

Our main, go-to restaurant for this visit was called Bayside Restaurant. It is a buffet style offering for breakfast and lunch, but converts over to table service for dinner.

The wait staff is good here in that they are friendly and competent, but the service was less formal, even in the specialty settings. In other words, while the food was really good, no one came around and removed the crumbs from your table between courses. And most meals were three courses, with appetizer, main course, and dessert.

It should be mentioned that not all restaurants are open all the time. At Grand Antigua, for example, there’s a restaurant called The OK Corral that features Tex-Mex, but was only open a couple of times in the week we were there. There’s another Italian styled restaurant called Mario’s that was open every night. And another British Pub called the Drunken duck that was open too. We enjoyed a couple of seriously good hamburgers there, by the way.

On Wednesday nights, there’s a beach bar-b-que that probably goes down as one of the included restaurants. It looked like a fun meal.

Another restaurant down by the main pool is called Barefoot by the Sea. This open-air restaurant is nearly on the beach, with rustic tables, comfortable chairs, and sand on your feet. They’re open every day for lunch and most nights for dinner.

There’s a dress code for the restaurants at Sandals. The two designations are Evening Attire, and Resort Casual Attire. As you might guess, Resort Casual Attire means, “come as you are.” And Evening Attire means long pants for men with no T-shirts. Shoes or elegant sandals are required. For the ladies, the expected dress is evening pants, skirts, elegant top, sundress, with sandals or shoes. And to be clear, the above description is not verbatim from the Sandals guide. Be sure to check the dress codes directly with sandals before you pack for the trip.

What Else Is There to Do?

PADI Dive Center at Sandals Grande Antigua

There’s a pool behind the dive shop that’s dedicated to scuba instruction and “check-out” dives. Here, Don is entering the water to prove he still remembers how to dive. Divers are required to demonstrate basic skills if they don’t have signed log books indicating recent dives. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Aside from the pool time, the walks on the beach, and lazing away the day watching the waves patter on the sand, what else can you do at Sandals?

This particular Sandals had an active scuba dive program with dives nearly every day. There were mostly single tank trips, but a couple of two tank trips were also thrown in, presumably when the dive site was close by. All dive equipment is included. You can see a quick video of one of the dives below, where we went to a site called Billy’s Reef.

Snorkeling was available every day. They discourage snorkeling directly off the beach because of the amount of boat traffic, but dive boats left daily to other destinations where you could get your snorkel fill. All equipment is included.

Sail boats are available on the beach. To take one out, you simply walk over to the dive shop, get a life jacket, and grab a boat. We noticed four or five small catamaran sail boats available. Those things are fast, by the way, but easy to sail.

There are jet skis available too, but at an extra cost. We noticed two jet skis on the beach, but with all the included activities, we didn’t have the time to take one out.

Horseback riding is available at an extra cost too. Not being avid riders, and with so much else to do anyway, we didn’t take a ride.

There’s an area marked out for general swimming in case you felt the need to cool off.

Final Thoughts

We’re mostly cruising people, so we naturally want to compare this new all-inclusive resort idea with our cruising experiences. What we came away with is that the cost versus benefit was very close. The Sandals stay was a bit more expensive than a typical Caribbean cruise for the same period of time, but you need to factor in the free alcohol, free snorkeling and Scuba Diving, and an impressive beach-front.

Would we stay at a Sandals again? Sure, we would definitely return. But more likely, we’d visit one of their many other resorts in the Caribbean or even in the Mediterranean.

The question we asked at the beginning of this post was, is a stay at a Sandals Resort as good as a cruise on a luxury cruise liner? For many people, the answer has to be, “Yes, a stay at a Sandals Resort is as good or even better than a luxury cruise.” The high-quality restaurants, the included drinks, and the many recreational activities that are already included is a powerful draw. Did we mention the included drinks? And yes, we mean the alcoholic drinks, the soft drinks, and coffee and tea. Just to be clear.

Still, for us, we’re drawn to the ship where we wake up in a different place every morning, but we see the advantages of Sandals too. Everyone is different, so we encourage you to take a look for yourself.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Hotels, Travel, 0 comments
Villa Ludwig – A Great Hotel In Southern Germany

Villa Ludwig – A Great Hotel In Southern Germany

The first time we stayed in Schwangau, we made our home at the Villa Ludwig, a small eighteen room hotel just on the outskirts of town. We were so taken with this little hotel that we booked an even longer visit here on our second trip.

Vilage of Schwangau

Tourists can take over the village of Schwangau at times, spilling into the streets. Locals seem to take it in stride. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Schwangau is a small town along the southern border of Germany, within a literal stone’s throw of the border with Austria. In fact, when driving around just randomly looking over the country side, much of our sightseeing was in Austria. Of course, with the European Union fully entrenched here, it’s hard for us outsiders to actually know when we leave one country and enter another. The signs denoting the event are not much different than driving from one state to another in the US. If anything, they’re usually smaller and less significant.

The hotel is modern. It was first in operation in 2012. The main lobby or reception area serves as a dining room where breakfast and an afternoon snack are provided. There is underground parking, and there’s reasonably good internet.

Neuschwanstien Castle

Here’s a view of Neuschwanstien Castle as seen from Villa Ludwig. Many of the rooms have a castle view from the balcony. Photo by Donald Fink.

The hotel has a great view of Neuschwanstien Castle. This is the famous castle designed and built by Mad King Ludwig II. King Ludwig grew up in the village’s other castle, Hohenschwangau, which was built by his father, Maximillian II of Bavaria.

The Disney fans in the crowd will know that Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom came in part from the Neuschwanstien Castle here in Schwangau. You can certainly see the resemblance when comparing the two. It seems that the parts of Neuschwanstien that were most attractive and over the top were re-created with gusto in Cinderella’s Castle. We haven’t visited the castles on this trip, preferring instead to concentrate on other activities in the surrounding area, but we wrote about the castles of Schwangau on our first visit here.

Walking to town from Villa Ludwig takes about five minutes. This is good. There’s lots of parking in town, but it’s so busy with tourists that having a free parking spot underground at the hotel is a real treat. We have been able to access all parts of town and the castles on foot, saving the car for our adventures into the alps of Austria, located just behind the castles.


This hotel is not a youth hostel. You won’t find it in a book about how to get around Europe on $15.00 a day. In fact, it’s the most expensive hotel we’ve stayed in this trip. But is it worth it? For us, it’s been worth every penny. The price included internet, breakfast, parking, snacks in the afternoon, free bicycle “rental”, and free concierge service.

If you’re planning any activities in town that require a ticket, don’t pass up the concierge service at the hotel. They can arrange everything with absolutely no trouble for you. The one day we walked by a ticket center in town, the line for castle tours was out the door and wound around the street; not our idea of the best use of your time.

The bottom line is, sure this hotel was more expensive than others we’ve found, but the value was certainly there. In fact, when it comes to value, the prices at Villa Ludwig were similar to prices at other hotels in Schwangau, so it might be argued that with the amenities they offer, it’s actually a bit better value than other establishments.

Everyone at the hotel seems to speak good English, including the folks that service the breakfast in the morning. We didn’t speak to the house keeping people, but they probably speak English too.


Villa Ludwig Chalet

The ordinary rooms at Villa Ludwig are good, but if you need a little more room, or more privacy, there’s always the Chalet in the back. This is new for this year and should be popular with guests traveling with large families. Photo by Donald Fink.

There’s a separate building that just recently opened in the back of the hotel called the Chalet. This building houses only two suites, each with multiple bedrooms in different configurations. This Chalet is for groups, families, or folks wanting a very special place to stay while in Schwangau. They have kitchens and separate living rooms apart from the bedrooms. They’re complete apartments, appointed in a tastefull and thoughtful way that lets you know that you’re in a place where kings once lived.

The Chalet is not for everyone, but can be something to think about if you’re visiting with a small group or family.


Junior Suite ”Parsifal” at Villa Ludwig

View of the Junior Suite ”Parsifal” at Villa Ludwig. There was plenty of room, lots of electrical outlets, and good WiFi. Photo by Donald Fink.

Our room was a more or less common room with a single king size bed, done in the European style. This means that the bed was made with two separate quilts. There were plenty of plugs around for our electronics and the WiFi signal was strong in the room. There was a fully equipped mini bar which we partially unloaded to make room for a carton of milk. There was also a kettle and a coffee machine.

We also had a view of Neuschwanstien Castle by stepping out on th balcony and looking left. Other rooms had better views but they were more expensive suites. Some rooms have no view of the castle. You need to specifically ask for a Castle view when you make your reservations.


The staff has a concierge service and will take care of reservations for Castle tours, or just about any other kind of excursion you could want. Their German is probably better than yours, so it’s not a bad idea to let them help if you’re the least bit uncomfortable about this kind of thing. Also, if the reservations you’re trying to make are in any way complicated, it would be a good idea to let them help since their language skills—meaning their ability to translate into English—are all excellent. We didn’t use their service since we didn’t do any organized tours this time around, but we did consult about other things to do since they’re locals and know the area.

Tiefgarage at Villa Ludwig

The underground Garage at Villa Ludwig. This guest parking area has nineteen spaces. There are eighteen rooms in the hotel. Looks like they’ve got it covered. Photo by Donald Fink.

There are nineteen parking spaces under the hotel, plus a staff parking area outside to take care of staff and service vehicles. Since there are eighteen rooms, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have a place to park if you bring a car.

Breakfast is daily. They serve American style bacon and scrambled eggs. You may think it’s unusual to mention this, but after a couple of months in Europe, we get excited when we see something besides hard boiled eggs and cold sandwich meat for breakfast. And of course, there are the usual pastries, jams and jellies. And if you actually like hard boiled eggs and cold sandwich meats for breakfast, they have those too.

We prefer walking, but we already mentioned that the hotel provides free bicycles and helmets if you prefer to move around the village and surrounding area that way. They can suggest some routes to see the countryside too.

The internet is free here, which is a change from our stay two years ago. Latency times were in the 20-30 millisecond range and downloads were as fast as 15 megabits, but when afternoon comes around and everyone is on the internet, it slows down quite a bit. We suspect that if we cared to look into it, we would find that the internet service is probably dictated by what’s available in this small town. We could complain to the hotel, and they could complain to the internet provider, but it probably wouldn’t get any better any time soon. It’s just how things are in a small town.

Truthfully, the internet is good enough to check email and do some casual browsing in the evenings. At all other times, it’s good for streaming, skyping, or whatever high bandwidth activity you have in mind. You just have to pick you’re times carefully if you’re going to do something that requires a lot of bandwidth. We’re just spoiled.

We would be hard pressed to say that Villa Ludwig is our absolute favorite hotel of this trip simply because we’ve stayed in so many great places. We wrote about Stumberger’s in Cochem and Weinhaus Uhle in Schwerin earlier, and if we visit those areas again, we’ll certainly use them. But when we come to the southern part of the country, and we certainly will, Villa Ludwig will be our first choice. We’ve stayed here twice now in two years, and haven’t been disappointed yet.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 1 comment
Weinhaus Uhle – A Four Star Hotel in the German Town of Schwerin

Weinhaus Uhle – A Four Star Hotel in the German Town of Schwerin

There are many places to visit in Germany, and many of them are quite popular. One town in the northeast that’s not yet recognized as one of Germany’s best is Schwerin. We learned about this little taste of the real Germany on a Baltic Cruise a few years ago. Our ship, the Norwegian Star, docked in Warnemünde and we made a bus ride down to Schwerin to see the Schwerin Castle.

After that excursion, we made up our minds to come back one day, and this was the year for that trip. While in Schwerin, we stayed in a hotel called the Weinhaus Uhle. The nearly new eighteen room four start hotel is located almost in the very center of town, literally 30 seconds walk from the town square. It’s in a building that was once a wine wholesaler.

Wine Shop and Bistro

Wine Shop and Bistro at Wienhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

The story goes that in 1751, a wine merchant by the name of Johann Uhl founded a wine retail company. He was officially recognized by Duke Christian Ludwig as a Frey-Wien-Schenker, or, Free Wine Merchant. That title enabled him to store and sell wine, brandy, and beer inside the city walls of Schwerin and around the immediate countryside. Over the years, the business grew as it was passed down from one generation to the next, and at one point, the family name changed from Uhl to Uhle.

The wine business survived the great depression as well as World War II, but was unable to thrive after the war in the Communist run GDR (German Democratic Republic). It was nationalized and operated by the government until 1991, when it was handed back to the family after re-unification.

Today, Weinhaus Uhle is a four star hotel rather than a wine warehouse. It’s operated by Dirk and Annika Frymark of Schwerin. They’ve done a remarkable job in restoring the property to its original period look while maintaining a comfortable and modern hotel, restaurant, and wine bar for their guests.

Guest Room at Wienhaus Uhle

Double room deluxe with Balcony at Weinhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

We were on the second floor with a balcony that looked into a common area shared by local apartments, so it was quiet. We didn’t get to enjoy the balcony much this trip because it rained much of the time we were there, but the balcony was there just the same.

The room was large. Actually, it was very large by European standards. The bathroom was modern and functional with a large shower complete with a rain head. There was fast internet on the property and plenty of electrical outlets. We point this out because the building is old, dating back to at least 1763. The interior walls were at least a foot thick. Still, the Frymarks had taken the time to have the building properly wired with electricity, cable for television, and WiFi throughout. There was even an elevator that ran from the top floor to the underground parking garage.

Details in the Dining Room

Incredible ceiling and details in the Dining Room at Weinhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

Breakfast was served in the main restaurant each morning. It was buffet style with scrambled eggs, American bacon, and all the rest for a typical European breakfast bar, including the meats, cheeses, and hard boiled eggs plus several kinds of rolls and jellies.

The price for staying here was modest considering the quality. Parking was additional, but that seems to be normal in Europe. Breakfast was at an extra cost too, which again, seems to be normal for European hotel accommodations. Internet was free, which seems to be trending towards the normal here in Germany. Two years ago, internet worth using was at an extra price.

Parking here was kind of strange. This is both a good thing and an inconvenience. It was inconvenient because the streets were restricted to pedestrian traffic after 10:00 am. You could drive to the entrance of the hotel, but a hotel staff member needed to go with you to lower some barriers in order for you to get around to the parking garage. From strictly a parking point of view, this was a minor annoyance.

The reason for the vehicle restrictions was because this hotel is right downtown in the historic park of old town, almost in the town square. For us, it was worth a minor inconvenience with the parking situation in order to be so close to everything. As we mentioned earlier, the town square was only 30 seconds walk away. The Schwerin Castle, and Lake Schwerin itself, was no more than about two minutes walking time from the hotel. There was a more modern area complete with a small shopping mall, a Subway, and a McDonald’s that was less than five minutes walking from the hotel.

Market Square Schwerin

The colorful Market Square is a great place to start your adventure in Schwerin. It was literally 30 seconds walk from the front door at Wienhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

They say location is everything, and in the case of Weinhaus Uhle, it was an important draw. But it didn’t hurt that this hotel had everything else in its favor. Modern, clean, service oriented, and comfortable. If we ever return to Schwerin—and we probably will—this will automatically be our first choice in hotels in the area.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 0 comments
Stumberger’s Hotel in Cochem, Germany

Stumberger’s Hotel in Cochem, Germany

Not long ago, we happened through Cochem, Germany on our summer’s trip through what we consider to be the heart of Europe. Our purpose when coming to Germany is to view castles, and just take some time to look over the pristine countryside. Cochem is on the Moselle River, about 20 miles from the Rhine River. It’s in southwest Germany, not far from France and Belgium. Aside from the famous Reichsburg Castle, this is a major wine producing region, and a popular German holiday spot. You’ll find a few English speakers in this town, but not many since most of the vacationers here are locals.

When staying in Cochem, we like a small, independent hotel just on the edge of town called Stumberger’s Hotel, no doubt named after the Stumbergers who own and operate this establishment. It seems to be just Mr. Stumberger and his wife, along with a small handful of staff that makes this establishment run.

The hotel consists of a few rooms, a restaurant, and a beer garden. The beer garden isn’t always open, but also serves fast food along with ales when it is. On one of our first trips, the beer garden was open because there was an unusually large number of bikers in town on that particular weekend, and it was popular among them.

The restaurant might be unique to Cochem because it’s a Mexican themed establishment. We were surprised to see this in Germany, and had to try it out. Surprisingly, it was pretty authentic. The main dishes were spot on while the Mexican Rice seemed a little different than our usual Tex-Mex expectations. And the refried beans weren’t enough, compared to the usual portions in a Mexican restaurant in the States. But the overall experience was pretty close, and way better than we were expecting. After all, Germany is a long way from Mexico, and being original Californians who lived in New Mexico for several years after retiring, we have pretty high expectations when it comes to our Mexican cuisine.

View From Balcony at Stumberger's Hotel

We enjoyed the view sitting on our balcony at Stumberger’s Hotel. Photo by Donald Fink.

We requested a “castle view” for our room at Stumbergers Hotel. There are only ten rooms, but three of them have a large balcony with a stunning view of the Reichsburg Castle, nestled on top of the hill overlooking the riverfront town of Cochem. What you’ll see from a Castle View room is the River Moselle across the road, the town of Cochem to the left with the castle on the hill above. The river is active most of the day with river tour boats, river cruise boats, bulk transport ships, and pleasure boats ranging from yachts to kayaks. It makes for quite a show from the balcony in the afternoons after a day of trudging through your favorite castle of the day.

Normally, we prefer to stay in chain hotels when we travel for a number of reasons. The main reason is that we like the consistency they offer. We know what to expect when we book a room. There’s a level of excellence that we enjoy when staying at a familiar place, and we’re rarely disappointed. Stumberger’s Hotel is an exception to this rule. We’ve stayed there twice now, so we do in fact have an expectation, but the first time was a shot in the dark that paid off for us. Truthfully, we do stay at independent hotels quite a bit even though our goal is to stay somewhere that’s better known. Sometimes it pays off, as is the case with Stumbergers, and sometimes it doesn’t.

What You Can Expect

At Stumbergers, you’ll get a clean, comfortable room. It’s not the biggest room we’ve stayed in, but it’s big enough.

Internet is included, and quite good. We were at about 6Mb/s up and down with small latency times.

Parking is free. And there’s enough of it.

Breakfast is included, and quite good. It’s a typical European kind of hotel breakfast, which is not quite what we’re used to in the US, but everything was there. The one notable difference for us was that eggs were cooked to order rather than having to dig through a bowl of old scrambled eggs, hoping to find that sweet spot where they weren’t too runny or too dry. Mr. Stumberger brings your eggs freshly cooked to your table, as well as your orange juice and coffee.

The restaurant is good. Truthfully, we ate there only one night on this trip. We had various enchiladas that were authentic to our idea of Mexican cuisine. There are also various German inspired dishes on the menu, but the menu was primarily Mexican.

The Beer Garden was not open this trip. We were at a somewhat slower time, and it probably didn’t pay to have it open. Keep in mind that most of the time it’s Mr. and Mrs. Stumberger running this operation. They can’t be everywhere at once.

What’s Wrong at Stumberger’s

About the only thing we can find fault in at Stumberger’s is the fact that there are no elevators. To stay here, you’ll need to walk up at least one flight of stairs. Having only ten rooms, there simply isn’t space for an elevator. This was not a problem for us, but for a person with severe mobility problems, negotiating the stairs could be a challenge. Getting your bags up to the room wasn’t really a problem for us, but again, for a mobility challenged person, this could be an issue. We wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Stumberger was willing to help with the bags if necessary. He seemed to be interested in making us comfortable.

Keep in mind that the lack of an elevator is not uncommon in small hotels, and especially small hotels in Europe. We didn’t find it a hindrance, but we felt compelled to mention it in the interest of full disclosure.

In The Future

We’ll come to Cochem again. It’s one of those kind of places where it takes many trips to see all there is to offer. When we do come back, we’ll definitely make Stumberger’s Hotel our home base. It’s got everything we need, and Mr. Stumberger made us feel right at home.

Even though we write this review of this hotel like it’s a paid advertisement, we were not paid or even approached by the Stumbergers to comment in any way. We’re doing this simply because we think it’s one of those hidden treasures you occasionally find on a trip that helps to make your vacation a pleasant experience. We’ve been here twice and the experience has been the same each time, so we know it’s not just a fluke. This little hotel in this little German vacation spot is the real deal.


Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 1 comment
Staying at the Hotel Jagdschloss Kranichstein

Staying at the Hotel Jagdschloss Kranichstein

Yeah, that’s a mouthful for a hotel name. We stayed at the Hotel Jagschloss Kranichstein for just a night on our way to Cochem because we thought it would be fun to stay in a four star hotel with some serious history. It turns out that it was kind of anti-climactic, in that we were expecting “rustic,” and what we got was well maintained and modern on the inside, and historic on the outside. Rustic was nowhere to be found.

The rooms were as modern as it gets with the exception of air conditioning. There was none, but there wasn’t any real need for it either. Keep in mind that we’re at 47 degrees north latitude, or the equivalent of a bit north of Seattle, so air conditioning even in August isn’t a priority. The windows being open in the evening were adequate for comfort. There’s even WIFI in the building. Speed tests showed about 5 MB/s up and down, so no problems there.

There was a well-appointed “Bistro”, which looked to us like a combination bar and morning breakfast area, and in fact that’s how it was used. And there is a restaurant on the property. We didn’t try the restaurant because there was a private event in progress the night we stayed. Instead, we went for a walk in the forest.

Near the town of Darmstadt, this building was constructed in or around 1580 By Georg I of Hesse-Darmstadt Landgrave. The idea then was to build a hunting lodge, or castle among the forests of the area, and it remained a hunting lodge through the centuries. It gradually changed purposes until it finally emerged as a premier location for the elite to vacation and unwind. Queen Victoria was known to visit here in the mid-19th century.

Today, it’s a four star hotel that houses travelers from around the world as well as hosting weddings, meetings, small conventions of all sorts. It’s still among the forests and we found a walk in the woods was quite inviting. There is a large pond (about three acres) in the immediate back of the hotel grounds and the forest is crisscrossed with hiking and biking trails. The landscape, to us, looks very much like Tennessee, but without the humidity.

The question now is, how can we find more excuses to stay in this great hotel in the future?

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 0 comments
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Visiting Disney and staying on property during a holiday of some kind has become almost a tradition for us. It started with New Years, wanting to be on property so as to not have to deal with New Years Eve drivers. Then it moved to Christmas, and now it seems like pretty much any excuse we have, we’re staying on property having a mini-vacation. This last one was the Fourth of July holiday, and we stayed at one of our favorite moderate hotels, Disney’s Coronado Springs.

Coronado Springs is modeled in the 17th century Spanish style buildings found all over the southwest. If you’re a Californian, you might think it represents Southern California because that’s what much of the southern half of the state looks like.

This hotel, as we understand it, is designed as a place that Disney used for convention business. In fact, it houses a 90,000 square foot convention hall that’s set aside just for that purpose. What this means to most folks is that, unless there’s an actual convention in progress when you’re there, it’s usually pretty quiet. We’ve actually been there when a convention was in town and it was still reasonably quiet compared to some of the other hotels. There’s a new fifteen story addition currently under construction here, projected to be complete some time in 2019, and we think the hotel will still be a quiet, out-of-the-way, lazy little place to relax.

We’ve heard people mention on social media that Coronado Springs is too far away from everything, but we’re not sure what that means. We use Disney transportation when we’re staying on property, and to us, everything is no farther away than the nearest bus stop. In fact, Coronado Springs sits between Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, so it’s actually in between two of the four parks, and still just a bus ride away from the remaining two parks and Disney Springs.

Although not intended as a full review of this hotel, we thought we should at least mention one of our favorite restaurants, Las Ventanas. Another tradition of ours is to seek out the best breakfast on Disney property. There is some good company here in terms of quality, places like The Garden Grill at Epcot and Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

Currently, our all-time favorite breakfast is the Whole Wheat Pancakes, although a close second is the Sourdough French Toast or the Huevos Divorciados.

It’s not fair to try to rank the hotels at Disney. For us, we happen to like them all, and our favorite is usually the one we’re staying in at the time. Of course we prefer the Deluxe hotels over the Moderates, and the Moderate hotels are preferred over the Value resorts. But since we’ve stayed in all three “classes” of hotels, we’ve never had a bad time or even a valid complaint. So, we can truthfully say that since we were just there over the Fourth of July, Coronado Springs is our favorite Moderate hotel on Disney Property. Until our next stay.

Below are a few images we made during this recent visit. We did a more complete Photo Tour for in 2016, and you can see the images and article here.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Disney, Hotels, Theme Parks, 0 comments
Port Orleans

Port Orleans

Today we started another vacation. And as with many of our vacations, we’re spending the night at one of our favorite Disney hotels, Disney’s Port Orleans, Riverside. We’ve stayed at this hotel many times before and even posted a story about it on here.

Today, our check in at Disney’s Port Orleans is worth noting. Disney has a process where you can electronically check in without visiting the front desk, and today it worked that way for us. For our check in, we received a text message from Disney telling us that our room was ready, and giving us our room number. We  already had a Magic Band associated with our account, and when the room was made ready it was associated with that room number. All we had to do was make our way to the room and walk in. No stopping by the front desk, no nothing. Tomorrow when we leave, we’ll just get up, load our stuff in the car, and leave. Easy Peasy. Continue reading →

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Disney, Hotels, Theme Parks, 0 comments
Hotel Continental, Barcelona

Hotel Continental, Barcelona

We’re a Holiday Inn Express kinda folk. We like to know what to expect when we book a hotel, and we like to have a good feeling for the value we’re about to get for our money. It makes sense, then, that we were a little on the skeptical side when we booked our recent two night stay at the Hotel Continental in Barcelona, Spain.

We were flying in from Florida, planning to catch a ship in Barcelona for an Atlantic crossing voyage back to Florida and wanted to spend a day in Barcelona first, just looking the city over. We wanted to stay downtown somewhere and all the reviews suggested that the Hotel Continental might be a good choice.

When we landed at the airport in Barcelona, we were greeted by a driver that was previously booked and paid for. Our previous experience with folks in Barcelona was that not everyone spoke English, and we wanted to have an easy trip to the hotel after traveling all night. We were tired and severely jet lagged. The driver was a good call. He spoke absolutely no English, but already knew where he was taking us, so there was no problem getting to the hotel.

Our arrival on Las Rambles Street was at about 8:00 PM on a Friday night. The lights were just starting to come on and people were definitely out and about starting to enjoy their evening; a true lively and vibrant part of the city. Continue reading →

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in Blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 0 comments