The Art Of Vacationing

Travel with Pam

Iceland Adventure

Pam Keystone - Friday, September 29, 2017

Iceland is one of the hottest destinations for world travelers right now. This summer, I decided it was time to pay the country a visit to see what everybody was talking about. And it was incredible, from the vibrant green hillsides and vast lava fields to the soaring waterfalls, steaming geysers, and crystalline glaciers. The country's majestic natural spaces are sparsely populated, with tiny towns and fishing villages few and far between outside the capital city of Reykjavik. But wherever we did encounter locals, smiling faces greeted us (tourism helped Iceland recover from its recent recession, so visitors were very much welcome). Read on to learn more about my trip, and recommendations!


How long should you spend in Iceland? Based on our travels, five to seven days should allow ample time to see the best of the country. I recommend three nights of driving around the south, then two nights in Reykjavik enjoying shops, restaurants and activities close to the city; for instance, a boat ride from the harbor to see puffins and whales. Then spend two nights on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, wandering about fishing villages and volcanic fields.

Some other must-see highlights: 

Waterfalls. Iceland must have the highest number of awe-inspiring waterfalls per square mile of any country in the world. The most well-known is probably the multi-tiered, 105-foot-tall Gullfoss, located 68 miles inland from Reykjavik. We also paid a visit to Skógafoss, near the country’s southern tip (and climbed the 370 steps running alongside up to the top for a sweeping view of the southern coastline); Hjálparfoss, a two-stepped waterfall near the confluence of the Thjorsa and Fossa Rivers; and Seljalandsfoss, a 197-foot cascade on the Seljalands River that originates at the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano. 

Glaciers. There are many worth seeing! Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000-year old, 4,744-foot-tall glacier in western Iceland, sits atop an active volcano within a national park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon borders Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland, and you can take a boat ride out to see icebergs calved from the Breioamerkurjökull Glacier (as we did; below).

Thermal Springs.
Gunnuhver is a highly active geothermal area of mud pools and steam vents on the southwest end of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Temperatures in the ground can reach 300°C (570°F), and the terrain resembles a steamy, bubbling moonscape (the waters are more hospitable at the nearby Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa). At Geysir, northeast of Reykjavik, you’ll find boiling mud pits and exploding geysers, including the famed Strokkur, which spouts water 100 feet into the air every few minutes.

Churches. The most photographed church in Iceland is probably the rocket-shaped Hallgrímskirkja in downtown Reykjavik, but the country’s tiny village churches are beautifully picturesque. The most iconic is Búdir Church, a black church built in 1848 for the hamlet of Búdir, which lies in the Búðahraun lava field, on the westernmost tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Wildlife. Atlantic puffins form breeding colonies in coastal areas during the spring and summer. Some of the best areas to see them include Látrabjarg in the west, Dyrhólaey in the south, and Ingólfshöfdi in the Westman islands. Summer is also the prime viewing time for whale species such as minke, fin, blue, humpback, sperm, and orca. Another species of inhabitant you’ll spot as you traverse the countryside is the Icelandic horse. These stout, bushy-maned horses, bred only Iceland for the most part, can be seen all over the island, and they make incredible photo subjects against a backdrop of volcanic mountains.

Museums. The Lava Centre, in Hvolsvöllur, is a brand new, interactive, high-tech educational exhibition depicting volcanic activity, earthquakes, and the creation of Iceland over millions of years. Iceland Erupts (below), at the Hvolsvöllur Þorvaldseyri Visitor Centre, opened one year after the start of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010 by a farmer whose property is right at its base, features a video and display on Iceland’s volcanoes, from the days of the Vikings to recent years. For something completely different, The Phallological Museum in Reykjavik displays a collection of more than 200 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals found in Iceland. 

Getting Around

I had two choices for getting around the country: a self-drive trip or a small-ship cruise. Both Windstar Cruises and Tauck Tours offer great small-ship cruise options, presenting an opportunity to see dramatic scenery from the water and get beyond the tourist hot spots to remote fjords, soaring waterfalls, and tiny fishing villages – usually during a week-long circumnavigation. In the end, however, I chose to do a self-drive tour, because I wanted to see the country’s interior and check out the quality of hotels along the way. We planned our trip with a tour operator in Iceland, who provided a tablet with an itinerary pre-loaded, and all of the important sights highlighted.

The driving was easy, because we were on the same side of the road as in North America, and there was usually very little traffic. (Side note: it always amazed me how few cars we encountered on the road, yet when we arrived at an attraction, the parking lots were always packed – where did all of these vehicles come from?) There were so many sites to see along the way, from tiny wooden churches and glaciers to lava rock fields. We usually only had to drive 20 or 30 minutes before we noticed another sight to check out on the tablet.

Best Hotels

There are no five-star hotels in Iceland at all, but we found some great four-star options, many offering wonderful character and beautiful views (in most cases, we found it best to upgrade from the entry-level rooms to the hotels’ premium offerings). In Reykjavik, I recommend staying near Austurvöllur, the city's main park square (Hotel Borg, Apotek Hotel). However, the Reykjavik hotels seem to attract locals and visitors who like to party, and we found the noise levels high in town (we were woken up most nights).

Outside the city, these are the hotels I recommend based on my research:

Hotel Búdir: a comfortable spot on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, in west Iceland, near the famed Búdir Church. Remote and charming, with a gourmet restaurant.

Hotel Rangá: a log-cabin-style property located in the countryside between Hella and Hvolsvöllur, about an hour southeast of Reykjavík. There are 51 rooms and suites, as well as an acclaimed riverside restaurant, three outdoor hot tubs heated by geothermal energy (perfect for viewing the Northern Lights September through April), and an observatory for stargazing.

Hotel Húsafell: a modern property on a former farm that boasts 48 luxurious rooms and suites. A great base to explore nearby Langjökull glacier, the highlands, and Snæfellsjökull National Park.


Iceland had some of the most expensive restaurants we had ever eaten at, anywhere in the world. Average entrée prices were $38–$47! But the food was incredible; especially the fish and lamb. Iceland also had some of the best bread I have ever eaten – perhaps due to the fresh, natural mineral water that is available everywhere. Some of the best restaurants we tried were those at the four-star hotels listed above, with creative chefs offering inspired cuisine. 

Two other Reykjavik favourites were Grillmarkadurinn, which serves elegant farm-to-table fare inspired by traditional Icelandic dishes, and Fiskfelagid, which features a mix of Icelandic and world cuisine.

 Contact Pam or call (480) 629-5559 to plan your next adventure to Iceland

Cuba with Tauck

Pam Keystone - Sunday, November 27, 2016

After many years of sending our clients on Tauck tours, somewhere in the world, I decided it was time for me to personally experience what made Tauck so special. Cuba was on my bucket list and it was one country we could not travel to on our own, due to the travel restrictions imposed on Americans. On October 31 we joined a Tauck tour of only 17 people with 4 of my clients. It was a 12-day trip with 10 nights spent in Cuba traveling throughout the country. We went to Havana, Varadero, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad and Holguin.  Our Tauck Tour Conductor, Siggy, and our local Cuban guide, Alicia, made this trip very special. Siggy could not do enough for us and Alicia shared her stories of life in Cuba to personalize our experience.

Our first stop was Havana. Our hotel was modern, comfortable and excellent in every way. We spent 3 days in Havana, including a tour with an architect showing us around the old city explaining the incredible refurbishment effort that is going on to revitalize the old buildings.



The cars from the 1950’s are in incredible condition. The Cubans keep them running without the benefit of original replacement parts.


Music is the life of Cuba.  We visited several music schools that taught opera or dance. One school provided 1 teacher per student! We also attended concerts exclusively put on for our small Tauck group. The troupe below merges Spanish dance with Afro-Cuban rhythms.


About 9 miles outside of Havana is the home of the writer Hemingway. The Director of the museum took us throughout the property and house detailing what life was like for Hemingway and his family. He purchased the house in 1940. They stayed on after the revolution in 1959 but the Cuban government took over the house in 1961 after Hemingway's death. The house has been maintained with the original furnishings from the time Hemingway lived in the home.




Varadero is a tourist beach location. To infuse money into the economy back in the 1990’s, this area was developed to draw visitors from Canada and Europe. We stayed at a 5 star resort on a beautiful beach. One afternoon was spent enjoying the sunset on a catamaran. Our local guide was not allowed on the boat for fear she would sail away from Cuba and escape to another country. This was the first time we experienced first-hand the restrictions that are still imposed on the Cuban people.  We had a great time on the boat as did my clients.


We visited two 500-year old towns: Sancti Spiritus (my favorite) and Trinidad. We stayed 2 nights in Sancti Spiritus and enjoyed spending time with the locals in their colorful city, sitting on the park benches in the main square to get the only internet signal available in the town.


Trinidad’s stone streets made it challenging to walk around but the horses were quite comfortable.


Overall we had a fantastic trip. Tauck planned so many special events and took care of the smallest details. We were well taken care of in a country that still struggles with poverty and poor infrastructure. I am glad we visited now before the influx of Americans and the challenges this will bring to their people and country.

Canada/New England Cruise

Pam Keystone - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In September, I hosted 24 clients on a cruise to Canada and New England to see the fall colors. I am from Canada but had not been east of Montreal so it was fun to share my home country and see it during the most beautiful time of the year.



I chose Oceania cruise lines since they offered a great itinerary on a small ship -- only 684 passengers. The itinerary started in Montreal and went on to Quebec City, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, Rhode Island and ended in New York City.



I arranged for private tours for my group which gave us all better tours for a fraction of the price of those offered by Oceania. Friends of mine, who are retired school teachers, had become guides in several of the Canadian ports so they provided a very personal and interesting tour experience.



I strongly recommend Oceania Cruises. I thought the service and food were outstanding. There were many dining venues to choose from and their Italian and Steak specialty restaurants offer an excellent fine dining experience. I liked them so much, I decided to host another cruise to the Baltic in Aug 2014.

S. African Adventure

Pam Keystone - Thursday, September 12, 2013

South Africa is one of the most exciting destinations to visit, especially if you are interested in history, wildlife, adventure and staying at some of the best luxury lodges found anywhere in the world.

During the month of August, I hosted 6 clients on an African adventure. We booked through &Beyond, a company that manages 32 luxury lodges throughout Africa and India. They are an experienced luxury, lodge operator but they had their challenges in coordinating our complicated itinerary so I am glad I was involved to ensure all was smoothly implemented.

We started our journey in Johannesburg which many people will say you can skip. We were thrilled that we spent a few days in this diverse city. The transformation from Apartheid days to the S. Africa of today is a story that you must hear. And there is no better person to do this than Robin Binckes. This incredible man grew up in S. Africa of old and lived through all of the changes and came out a better person from his experiences. He offers tours of the areas most involved in the Apartheid struggle and the museum that should not be missed. Reading Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom helped me appreciate what I was seeing.


Victoria Falls was next on our schedule and we stayed in Zambia to see both sides of the falls. Zimbabwe is the more dramatic side although only 25% of the falls are in Zimbabwe.


We loved our stay at Tongabezi Lodge on the Zambezi River. Imagine being woken each day to the sounds of hippos right outside your window.  Henry, the resident hippo, would even visit our lodge at night while he scrounged for food. Hippos are dangerous but fascinating creatures.


To spice up our trip a little, we “walked” with the lions at a conservation park for lions. We petted and walked with 17-month old lions. We thought we would be with cubs. Boy, were we surprised.


In order to experience animal life at the river, we boarded the Zambezi Queen river boat on the Chobe river for 2 nights. With over 120,000 elephants along the Chobe, we really got to see elephant life close-up and other creatures. The Zambezi Queen itself is a 3/4 star experience but the sites were 5-star.



Our Safari adventure was next. We had 2 lodges lined up from &Beyond in 2 very different private game reserves. We started in Phinda in the south east of S. Africa. Here we came to see Cheetah, Giraffes, Zebras and Rhinos – all of which we saw in abundance. The food was excellent, the lodge cozy during the cool nights and the overall care of us as guests outstanding. The best part of being on a private game reserve is how close to the animals you can be. They are completely disinterested in the jeeps and us.



Leadwood Lodge in Sabi Sands (next to Kruger National Park) was our next destination. The rooms at this lodge were huge and fabulous. Leadwood staff went out of their way to provide special experiences each and every day.


Sabi Sands has an abundance of Elephants, Leopards, and Lions. The sites we saw at Leadwood were more dramatic than those at Phinda with sightings of several predators feeding on their catch.


A pride of lions resting after devouring their recent prey.


After 6 nights on safari, we headed to the beautiful city of Cape Town. We stayed at a lovely Guest House called Four Rosmead, located in a residential area, with views of Table Mountain out our bedroom window. (I toured the Cape Grace Hotel down at the waterfront area, which is surrounded by restaurants and shops--another great place to stay.)

We spent 4 days in Cape Town to see: Cape Point, the Winelands region, Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years), and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront area. A visit to S. Africa MUST include a stay in Cape Town.


I have traveled to a lot of countries in the world but S. Africa had the most profound impact. It is a trip to do at least once in your lifetime and not to be missed.

The flight is long and needs to be flown in Business Class or First. This is a great destination to use points to fly to since it is so expensive. Award flights are not easy to come by but it is possible if you plan far ahead.





Paris and Provence River Cruise

Pam Keystone - Sunday, August 12, 2012

In May 2012, I hosted 20 Marriott Vacation Club owners on a trip to Paris and then on an AMAWaterways River cruise through Provence. Although the weather was a little rainy and overcast, we all had a great time.


Using Marriott Rewards points, I booked all of us into the Marriott's Champs Elysees Hotel. This is one of the best Marriott hotels in Paris due to its central location. It is easy to walk to all of the sites or catch the subway just down the street. The staff are very accommodating and friendly. Many of us enjoyed sitting in the large, open lobby sipping wine or having a light meal after a long day of sightseeing.

For the group, I arranged visits to Versailles and Claude Monet's house and also to Normandy. These full days were packed with lots to see. I personally did not go to Normandy but those who did said it was well worth visiting the area. I also arranged a 1/2 day walking tour to Montmartre with a private guide who was very entertaining. It is a very rewarding experience to see these areas with a guide since you learn so much more about the culture and life in Paris then just walking on your own.



After spending 5 days in Paris, we all took the fast train to Lyon to meet the river cruise ship.


Before heading to the ship, we had a quick stop for a french cooking lesson.

Our itinerary included visits to Trevoux, Vienne, Tournon, Viviers, Grignan, Avignon and Arles. The french countryside was beautiful and many of the towns were elevated offering breathtaking views.


Wine tasting was a highlight of several day trips.


Black truffles are a highly prized delicacy found in the area of Southern Provence. We visited a Truffle Farm where we learned how specially trained dogs are used to locate the hidden truffle.



The Provence region has a rich historical past. Avignon was an important center of the Catholic Church and was the home to the papacy from 1309 to 1377. Seven popes resided in the magnificent Gothic Papal Palace below.


Most days were spent touring in the morning and sailing in the afternoon. The relaxed pace allowed us to enjoy the ship and take in the sites from the top deck (weather-permitting).

AMAWaterways offers a great vacation experience offering friendly, helpful staff, excellent food and unlimited wine at dinner.


Our group had a great time as usual. I invite you to join us in Sept 2013 for an Oceania cruise through Eastern Canada and the USA or in April 2014 for a Vietnam/Cambodia adventure.

Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club on Kauai

Pam Keystone - Sunday, January 08, 2012

Visiting Hawaii is one of my favorite kick-back vacations.  I instantly feel relaxed when I get off of the plane. Kauai is my favorite island because it looks and feels like the Hawaii of our vacation dreams. At its center is the wettest place on earth, receiving 400 inches of rain per year. It creates a lush and green landscape, with tropical flowers growing over the entire island.


I own Marriott's Kauai Beach Club so have been to the island many times but this was my first visit staying at Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club. The location is the best on Kauai, situated right on Poipu Beach and the sunny side of the island. It can be raining on other parts of the island but the south side will remain sunny. Sunsets are amazing and Poipu Beach is one of the best beaches.

The resort is small with approximately 210 2-bedroom villas. There are no lock-off units so you will always stay in a 2-bedroom unit.



There are only 2 view categories so you will either have an island view or an oceanview villa. Our villa was island-view with fantastic views of the property and the ocean in the distance. We were in the very back of the property in the 400 block building but I loved the view. The property is narrow and filled with water features and flowers.


The beachfront bar area serves drinks and lunch only so you need to go off-property for dinner. There are some excellent restaurants a short walk or drive away from the property. My favorites are The Beach House, The Plantation Gardens, Roys and Josselins Tapas Bar and Grill. For a real casual lunch or dinner check out Brenneckes on the Beach. Below is a picture of a typical sunset at The Beach House Restaurant.


Kauai does not have the shopping that Maui or Oahu has available, but you can keep busy exploring the island. The North Shore has amazing beaches and snorkeling activities. You can spend 1/2 a day zip-lining about 20 minutes from the resort. A helicopter ride is a must-do on Kauai so that you can see close-up the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. A katamaran cruise along the Napili Coast offers spectacular views of the cliffs that you can only see from the water (or the air).


Marriott Group Danube River Cruise

Pam Keystone - Saturday, October 29, 2011

Marriott Vacation Club owners know how to have a good time! In September, I arranged and hosted 40 Marriott owners, including their friends, on a 2 week European vacation.  We visited Prague, spent 7 nights on an AMA Waterways Danube River Cruise and toured Budapest. I saved my clients thousands of dollars by using Marriott Rewards points to fly to/from Europe in Business Class and to stay at centrally located Marriott hotels in both Prague and Budapest.

Nancy and Dick Scherer had this to say:
"We were thrilled with the trip and all of the details you put together to make the trip exciting, enjoyable and personalized for some 40 people. Your ability to organize and book all of the various itineraries for so many people was absolutely AMAZING!! It was as if the group was hand-picked - we enjoyed spending time with everybody."

Prague has to be one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in Europe. It is clean, vibrant and very well preserved. Since 1992, the entire historic centre has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.



We toured in small groups of 10-12 people with our private guide, Jana Pehe. Below is a picture of some of us at the Prague Palace.


From Prague, we took a bus to Nuremberg where we met our ship. We stopped in a pretty spa town called Karlovy Vary on the way to Germany for a short tour and lunch. The waters in Karlovy Vary are known to be healing.


One of our group feeling good after drinking the "water".


For the next 7 nights, the ship below became our floating hotel. Included was daily tours of our choice, meals, snacks, wine at dinner, and nightly entertainment.

Our group bonded quickly and enjoyed the evening activities and entertainment. I am sure the free-flowing wine did not hurt.


 We traveled to lovely German towns: Regensburg, Passau, and Melk

The more adventurous ones even chose to take a bike trip to Walhalla. Yes, I tackled this bike trip. It was fun and not too strenuous.



Some days we had the pleasure of just hanging out on the top of the ship as we sailed down the river, soaking up the beautiful scenery.



We spent a fun day in Vienna. Another beautiful city. We had some time on our own to explore. I found this wonderful outdoor cafe where my husband and I enjoyed delicious apple strudel.


Budapest was the last stop on our journey. Another interesting city with lots of history and beautiful sites. Beware of pickpockets in the crowded tourist areas!


The final evening on the ship included a night cruise on the Danube viewing the beautifully lit buildings in Buda and Pest . Budapest at night is amazing! It was a wonderful finale to the cruise.



We all had a wonderful trip. It was fun to travel with a group that got along so well. If you are a Marriott Vacation Club owner, you should join us on our next cruise to Provence in May 2012!

National Parks in Montana and Wyoming

Pam Keystone - Friday, July 08, 2011
Every summer, living in Arizona, we head north to cooler climes. My husband has always loved Montana and I had never been so we planned a 10 day vacation to visit Glacier National Park and Yellowstone.

We flew into Missoula, MT, although there is an airport in Kalispell which is closer to Whitefish and Glacier National Park. We spent a night at the Courtyard Marriott in Missoula and ate a good dinner at The Depot restaurant on their fabulous outdoor patio. Friends of ours had traded for a decent timeshare through RCI at the  Meadow Lake Resort just outside of Whitefish, MT and we stayed with them for 5 days.

Glacier National Park has an East and West entrance and during the summer there is a pass that you can take within the park which will lead you from one side to the other. This winter had so much snow that the pass was still closed at the end of June so we only saw the sites closest to the West entrance. Plan a trip to this park after July 1 to be assured of the park being totally open.

Whitefish and Columbia Falls have some excellent restaurants. Check out The Three Forks, Ciao Mambo, and Garry's Roadhouse.

The drive from Whitefish to Yellowstone would have taken 9 hours so we opted to drive as far as Helena, MT. We stayed at a very nice, new Marriott Residence Inn and used a free hotel certificate from renewing our Visa card. I really like these new Residence Inns--very contemporary but still comfortable.

On our way to Yellowstone we stopped in Livingston for lunch. It was easy to find a place to eat--we just stopped at the restaurant with the long line up in front. Mark's In and Out Beefburgers is an original 50's drive-in--super reasonable and very good.

Yellowstone Park is amazing to me. I had no idea what to expect and was shocked at the hydrothermal features of the park--hot springs, geysers, mudpots and funaroles.

The landscape varies throughout the park so you definitely need at least 2-3 days to see the highlights.

We had the thrill of seeing bison, elk, and deer.

We stayed at what I think is the best accommodations in the park, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Built in 1891, the hotel has been completely restored to its 1920s grandeur. Rooms were spacious and pleasant. The food was excellent in the dining room and surprisingly not overpriced. We had two excellent dinners in the hotel dining room and really enjoyed both experiences. Be sure to make dinner reservations when you book your room as the restaurant fills up quickly.

If you can, reserve a room with a view of the lake.

The Grand Tetons were next on our journey and an easy drive from Yellowstone. Here we saw a moose and our first black bear playing with her cub. We spent the day touring through the park and took some time to canoe around Jenny Lake.

We stayed in Jackson Hole, WY due to the proximity to the Grand Teton National Park. Check out the Rustic Inn and book a cabin in the back of the property by the river. The cabins are gorgeous and very private. We stayed in Jackson over July 4th and were lucky to catch the Rodeo and watch the big fireworks display. This is truly a western town with bars that have saddles as their stools and archways to the park made from deer antlers.

We had such a great trip that we already have plans to head back to Montana next summer. Since we will be driving next year from Arizona up north, I think a quick stop into Yellowstone and Jackson Hole are in order.

Marriott's St. Kitt's Beach Club

Pam Keystone - Sunday, May 15, 2011

St. Kitts still retains the old Caribbean charm with sugar cane swaying in the breeze, lush landscapes including rain forests, roadways covered in pot holes and shacks on the beach they call restaurants.  The Kittitians are extremely friendly and welcoming which makes for a fun vacation.

The St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Marriott Vacation Club’s St. Kitts Beach Club sits prominently on the west side of the island on Frigate Bay.  The Beach Club is comprised of 8 three-story "outbuildings" on the sprawling hotel property. There is a small pool by these buildings but it is only a short walk to the main pool and beach area shared with the hotel guests.

Each set of 3 villas have their own separate entrance with one villa on each floor.  There are no elevators so make sure you request a ground floor if you can not easily manage stairs. The 2- and 3- bedroom villas are some of the largest I have been in and the most soundproof. Usually I request a top floor at purpose-built Marriott Vacation Club properties since you can hear people above you but these villas were converted from hotel use so they were solidly built. We were on the second floor and never heard noise from above or below.

There are Garden View and Oceanview rooms. We were on the second floor with a view over the pool and a sliver of the ocean. I would request an ocean view before check-in but ask not to be in the Turtle Bay House —you are close to the ocean but in your sights is a broken down old fence which would mar any views you may have.

This modern resort is comprised of a hotel, casino, timeshare, and golf course.  The beach is adequate, but the sand is darker and denser than you usually find. There are lots of permanent hut-like structures strewn along the beach so you can catch some shade. The hotel is on the Atlantic Ocean so the water can be a little rough for swimming.

Connected with the hotel is a challenging 18-hole golf course. Five of the holes offer great ocean views. Rates drop after 2pm and hotel guests get a discount. In May, they offered a great twilight rate of $115 including clubs and shoe rentals, 2 sleeves of balls and a glove.  At these rates you don’t have to hassle with bringing your clubs.

There are several restaurants on property that I heard were good but we never tried them. A short walk down the road are several good choices—we quite liked Rock Lobster for seafood and believe it or not, Tex-Mex.  (After eating seafood for a week, I was ready for something different.) A $6 cab ride away are the shacks on the beach that I alluded to earlier—and I mean shacks. The menus are all pretty similar at these so-called restaurants—ribs, lobster and chicken. Not much variety. My favorite shack is Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack. The food was good—try the Lobster—and on Friday night the live entertainment was excellent. We tried to go on Thursday night when they have their bonfire night but the place was so packed we couldn’t get a seat so go early if you want to check this event out.

For a special dinner, I strongly recommend The Beach House. This was by far our favorite restaurant on island. The restaurant is open-air and beautifully decorated. Food was excellent and the service was outstanding. Ask for Chantelle, she was terrific. It is a bit of a hike from the hotel—about 30 minutes drive—but worth it.

St. Kitts is the place for a kick-back beach vacation but there are some fun things to do on island. We did The Valley of Giants Rainforest Hike with Greg’s Safaris that I recommend for either adults or families. I wouldn’t call it as much a hike as a walk through the forest. Our guide, Cleaver aka Joseph, described all of the different plants and their use for medicinal purposes. It was very interesting and the forest is fascinating with huge towering trees and root systems that look like something from the dinosaur era. It was a fun half-day trip.

To really get a feeling for the island and the people, I would suggest an island tour. We met Ava with Venus Taxi. She has lived on the island her entire life and had great stories to tell. She took us to Brimstone Hill Fortress, a wonderfully preserved old British fortress built in 1690s.


Ava, below with my friend Beth, also took us to Black Rock.

She showed us where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea and the unusual waves created by this convergence. We drove around the entire island and visited historical Ottley Plantation Inn. This historical hideaway is comprised of a restored 1832 great house and free-standing cottages offering sweeping views of the Caribbean sea. For a more intimate experience than the Marriott, I would check out Ottley’s and also their highly rated restaurant, the Royal Palms.

Ava was knowledgeable and FUN. To arrange your island tour, call Ava at 869-665-8790 or email her at  For $80/cab it is well worth your time.

St. Kitts offers limited shopping. There is a small area with shops by the port to serve the cruise ship customers where alcohol was very reasonable. The main town, Basseterre, is quaint but mostly offers services for the local people.

Although it is difficult to get to St. Kitts due to the limited number of airlines that fly here, Marriott's St. Kitt's Beach Club is worth the trek if you enjoy island type vacations.


Marriott's Frenchman's Cove

Pam Keystone - Saturday, May 14, 2011

Most cruisers are familiar with the location of the Marriott Frenchman's Reef hotel on St. Thomas as they enter into port. Its prominent position perched high-up on a cliff is the first sight one sees when approaching the island. This 30+ year old hotel just closed for a much-needed $48 million restoration, due to re-open in October. Nestled in a cove next to the hotel is Marriott Vacation Club’s Frenchman’s Cove timeshare. You can see the hotel on the far right in the picture below. The brightly painted buildings is the timeshare.

All villas at this beachfront timeshare offer spectacular ocean views.  Tiered up the side of a mountain, the 6-story buildings wrap around the cove with the main pool in the middle down by the man-made beach.  Each 2-bedroom villa offers 2 balconies, one off each bedroom, and the familiar Marriott Vacation Club layout. These units are not lock-off capable so the second bedroom has 2 Queen beds.

Below are the views from our 3rd floor villa. I think this is the best part of this resort. It is rare you can visit a Marriott Vacation Club timeshare and be guaranteed stunning ocean views.

The beach at the Cove is quite small so many guests head over to the larger, natural Morning Star Beach by the hotel. A shuttle runs guests over to the hotel every 15 minutes. Below is a picture of the beach at the timeshare.

The Green Iguana is a regular visitor to the pool. These creatures can grow up to 6 ft. long. I was shocked the first time I saw them.

There is one restaurant on-site of the timeshare which offers breakfast, lunch and a limited dinner menu. This pool side restaurant is swimsuit casual and offers very good food--try the Fish Tacos, they are excellent. A privately run restaurant at the hotel called Havana Blue offers delicious Latin-fusion cuisine and creative martinis. The concierge recommended an established restaurant on island that was under new management called Old Stone Farmhouse. This is a MUST. The ambiance, food and service were all excellent. The menu offers surf and turf combinations but the chef offers a twist --create your own dinner. Every guest heads in to the kitchen to view the fresh catch of the day or to see what was just freshly flown in--ostrich, elk, New Zealand lamb chops, Mediterranean seabass, Maine scallops. You pick the size of each portion and combination you desire and create your own meal. It is fun and not outrageously expensive. Plan on adding $40 to your tab just for the cab ride to and from the hotel.

St. Thomas is a shoppers haven. Every store is duty free and tax free with jewelry being the predominant item to purchase. I found that the same item could be found anywhere from 10-25% less than what you would pay on the mainland.  Many shops sold the same item so you have to check them all out to find the best price. For only $8, a water taxi picks you up at the timeshare dock every hour and whisks you into town in only 20 minutes. It is a fun and informative ride as the captain regales you with stories about the island. 

After spending a week in St. Kitts we flew to St. Thomas on Liat Airlines for only $89. We only had 2 days to spend at Frenchman's Cove so I will put it back on my list for a longer stay.

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Dreaming about upcoming vacations is always fun. Then the frustrating tedium of transferring points, black out dates, rules and regulations, innumerable contacts... the fun is gone. Thanks so much, Pam, for listening to our dreams, and then doing the hard part, so we could anticipate the fun

Timeshare Consulting