DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay Hotel Review

In:
13Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida is located in the heart of downtown Miami, a mere few miles from PortMiami.  We tried out this hotel as a pre-cruise hotel stay before a Royal Caribbean cruise and have our thoughts on what the hotel offers and our experience staying here.

Being in downtown Miami, the DoubleTree is located quite close to PortMiami.  In fact, many of the rooms in the hotel offer a view of the port. The proximity to PortMiami makes this a compelling choice for a pre- or post-cruise stay.

This particular hotel is a waterfront condominium hotel located next to Sea Isle Marina.  What this means is as you enter the building, you will notice two entrances.  One entrance is for hotel guests and the other for condo residents.  Evidently this is a thing in Miami, where the building owner can invest in multiple revenue streams (hotel guests and tennants).  

The DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay offers 152 guest rooms, along with 50 condominiums for short or extended stays. Since it is downtown, you can easily walk out the hotel and explore some nearby attractions and restaurants.  Miami is more spread out than some other major American cities, so expect to rely on taxis or ride sharing to truly get around town.

One nice aspect of the hotel is attached to the lobby area is a small shopping plaza, which has coffee shops, restaurants, convenience store, hair stylist and more.  There was a surprising amount of shops in this area, and it is extremely convenient to not have to leave the hotel building and have access to a lot of services.

The hotel does have a large outdoor pool for guests to use during their stay, along with a fitness center and 24-hour business center.

The room itself is quite large, with lots of living space.

The bathroom is large as well, and offers a great deal of space for toiletries and a shower/tub that does not feel confined at all.

The rooms have a balcony, and if you are lucky enough to have a room that faces the water, you not only get extra living space to enjoy, but a fantastic view of the ships in port.

Thanks to John Bamber for providing these photos

Overall, the DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay is a clean, safe and well-appointed hotel suitable for anyone that needs a hotel before or after their cruise.  It may not be the least expensive hotel in downtown Miami, but it is likely to be a mid-range priced hotel and not one you have to be concerned about compromising on the quality.

If you are just staying one night, I think this hotel is just fine for a place to rest and relax until you depart on your cruise. 

Your thoughts

Have you stayed at DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay? Is this a hotel you’d consider? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!

Royal Caribbean announces 2020-2021 Northeast, Bermuda & Caribbean sailings

In:
12Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean announced today its 2020-2021 Bermuda, Northeast and 7-night Caribbean sailings.

As we reported earlier, Oasis of the Seas will become the first ship in her class, and the world's largest, to sail from the Northeast.  Oasis will arrive in May 2020 and  transport travelers to the clear blue waters of The Bahamas all summer with 7-night itineraries, as well as a select number of short cruises north to New England and Canada.

Adventure of the Seas will return to Cape Liberty, sailing a variety of 5- and 9-night summer and fall itineraries to Bermuda, New England and Canada, The Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Vision of the Seas will offer three 10- to 11-night open-jaw itineraries between Bayonne and Quebec City with an overnight in Quebec’s capital.

Symphony of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas will return to PortMiami and Port Canaveral, Fla., respectively, offering 7-night itineraries to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Both ships will feature visits to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Brilliance of the Seas will sail 7- to 10-night cruises to Canada starting in September 2020, while Grandeur of the Seas continues to offer 9-night itineraries to Canada and New England for fall foliage from her year-round homeport in Baltimore, Md. Grandeur will embark on a combination of 5- and 9-night itineraries to Bermuda and The Bahamas in the summer months, and transition to 9-night Southeast Coast & Bahamas and 12-night Southern Caribbean cruises for the winter. Northeast, Canada and Bermuda itineraries will be available to book as of Dec. 13, 2018.

In 2020, San Juan, Puerto Rico will welcome what will be the newly modernized Freedom of the Seas. Freedom will return for the third consecutive year to sail 7-night itineraries year-round throughout the Southern Caribbean, traveling to destinations like Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis; St. Johns, Antigua; Castries, St. Lucia and Bridgetown, Barbados.

Liberty of the Seas  will continue to sail from Galveston to the Western Caribbean ahead of her own highly anticipated amplification in early 2021. 

Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society members can begin booking sailings on December 12, 2018, with the general public available to begin booking on December 13, 2018.

Northeast

Bermuda

7-night Caribbean

Royal Caribbean will homeport Oasis of the Seas from New York City area in 2020

In:
12Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

For the first time ever, an Oasis Class ship will offer sailings from the New York City area when in 2020 Oasis of the Seas spends the summer offering cruises from Cape Liberty, New Jersey.

Royal Caribbean's 7-night 2020 itineraries for Caribbean and Canada were posted to the website yesterday, and it shows Oasis of the Seas arriving to Cape Liberty on May 6, 2020 and staying through October 25, 2020.  Oasis of the Seas will return to Florida on November 4, 2020.

When Oasis arrives in Cape Liberty, she will offer a quick 4-night Canada Getaway cruise on May 6 before offering 7-night sailings down to the Bahamas, with stops in Port Canaveral, Nassau and CocoCay.  On August 1, 2020, she will offer an 8-night sailing that adds a stop in Miami.

Oasis will sail one New England & Canada sailing on June 21, 2020 when she offers a 6-night cruise to Portland, St. John and Halifax.

Adventure of the Seas will also sail from Cape Liberty and alternate between 5 and 9 night itineraries to Bermuda and the Caribbean.  Adventure of the Seas will also offer a nine-night New England/Canada sailing a few times during the summer and fall 2020.

Royal Caribbean offering up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases during Deck The Deals offer

In:
11Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases made this weekend with the Deck The Deals offer.

Dates: December 11, 2018 - December 20, 2018
Sailing Window: Sailings from December 22, 2018 - May 31, 2019

BEVERAGE: Up to 30% off on select sailings.

  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 30% off onboard prices. Discount varies by ship.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Save up to 25% off

  • Save up to 25% on select tours on select sailings. Discount varies by ship.

INTERNET: Up to 60% off on select sailings

  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4, Device(s): Discount varies by ship

DINING: Up to 50% off on select sailings.

  • 3 Night Dining Package. Discount varies by ship.
  • 3 Night, 4 Night and 5 Night Ultimate Dining Package. Discount varies by ship.

Mr Sanchos Beach Club all-inclusive day pass review in Cozumel, Mexico

In:
11Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Odds are if you are reading this review of Mr. Sanchos, then you probably heard about it from a friend, colleague or some online who recommended as a good choice.  Mr. Sanchos is among one of the more well-known all-inclusive beach spots in Cozumel and it is why we decided to try it out after hearing so much how others enjoyed it.

Description

The staff at Mr. Sanchos recommends making a reservation in advance to ensure a spot for you and your family.  It is not uncommon for Mr. Sanchos to sell out, and reservations can be made via the Mr. Sanchos web site. Reservations require a small deposit at the time of booking.

Mr. Sanchos is located south of where the cruise ships dock, and is roughly a 15 minute cab ride away.

Mr. Sanchos offers two admission options: A la Carte section (Pay as you Go) or the All Inclusive Day Pass. The resort claims there are two separate areas, and they do not mix All Inclusive Guests with Pay-As-You-Go customers.  For the purposes of this review, we opted for the all inclusive day pass option.

Upon arrival, you check-in and pay the remainder of the cost owed for the day.  Your admission gets you unlimited access to the beach, pool, food and drink for $55.. There is optional aquatic park add-on that costs $12 extra per person.

After checking in, you are escorted to the spot of your choice along the beach. Your admission gets you beach chairs, a table and umbrella. 

Mr. Sanchos has a rather large footprint, with at least three large pool areas, a couple of buffet restaurants, multi-story spa, shopping plaza, and more.  Something I have never seen at an all-inclusive beach resort is a small shopping district at the front of the resort where you can buy a lot of the typical Cozumel souvenirs found downtown.

After picking your chairs for the day, the wait staff will introduce themselves to you and they are your go-to point for any beverage or food order you want. On our visit, we were introduced to two waiters, with at least one of them usually around to take any order.  Mr. Sanchos offers unlimited food and drink, so there is no limit to how much you can order or how often.

The beach area is where most guests will spend their time, with lots of space to lay out and enjoy the water.  Entering the water, there is a good mix of sand and rocky areas and lots of fish swimming about.  

Speaking of the ocean, the aquatic park is a popular option with families.  The $12 aquatic park entrance gets you all-day access to the inflatables located just off shore.  Swim vests area available upon request.

The aquatic park includes:

  • Large climbing Iceberg
  • Climbing rock
  • Two large trampolines
  • Two medium trampolines
  • Pyramid slider
  • Two water totters
  • Moonwalk with two bouncers
  • Rock slider
  • Stadium ball

There are three pools, two of which feature a swim-up bar, in-pool seating and even swings around the bar to enjoy as you sip a drink.

The menu at Mr. Sanchos offers quite a variety of food, with a mix of Mexican favorites (tacos, ceviche, fajitas, guacamole, etc) and American fare (hot dogs, hamburgers, etc).

Comments

Mr. Sanchos has earned a reputation over the years for being a premier all-inclusive choice in Cozumel and after spending a day here, I can see why that is the case.  

The sheer amount of offerings included (and not included) in your admission stood out to me instantly from arriving at Mr. Sanchos.  They have a very large beach area, multiple pools, aqua park, water sports, bars and more to choose between.  Where other all-inclusives in Cozumel may offer a pool or a beach bar, Mr. Sanchos has multiples of each, which means you never have to stray far to run into something to do.

The service at Mr. Sanchos is impeccable, with the waiters almost hounding you if you need anything else.  While in the pool, the pool bartender got to know my name and had beers ready for me the instant my current beer dropped below half.  He wrote my name on it and whistled to inform me it was ready when I was.  That is some serious attention to customers.

Perhaps the greatest asset Mr. Sanchos offers is possibly its largest detractor, in that its sheer property size and capacity had me questioning what it would be like in Mr. Sanchos if they ever came close to selling the place out.  To be perfectly honest, we had no crowding issue on our visit.  But I could not help but notice the amount of seating offered at Mr. Sanchos and contemplated what the experience would be like on a day where they surpassed 75% capacity.

A big draw for a lot of families is the aqua park, which features a number of inflatable objects a short swim from shore on the left side of the beach.  If someone in your family is interested in climbing up inflatable pyramids or platforms and jumping back into the ocean a lot, then this is a great add-on to consider.  I bought passes for me and my 7 year old daughter, but I quickly realized she was a bit too young to enjoy the activity.

Overall, Mr. Sanchos offers a compelling all-inclusive spot to enjoy a day in Cozumel.  Mr. Sanchos is a great choice for larger groups, especially if some or all are interested in more than simply lounging by the ocean or pool.  The activities and aqua park seem to resonate with a lot of our readers who travel with kids or young adults. The all-inclusive option allows for a lot of indulgence while visiting the beach club, so it behooves you to sample as much as you can.

How to book: Reservations can be made online via the Mr. Sanchos website or third-party reseller.

Spotted: Funnel cakes in CocoCay

In:
10Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

As you stroll down the beach at Royal Caribbean's private island of CocoCay, you might find yourself craving a funnel cake (naturally!). When that happens you’ll want to stop by the new funnel cake kiosk.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Lauralee Best spotted (and sampled) the funnel cakes while visiting CocoCay this past weekend on an Enchantment of the Seas cruise.

The best part about them (other than the sugar on top) is that there is no additional cost to enjoy one of these treats. It is included with your cruise fare.

Royal Caribbean treats breast cancer survivors to cruise vacation

In:
10Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

A group of breast cancer survivors from the US, UK and Singapore led by US-based non-profit organization Send Me On Vacation, was invited by Royal Caribbean International’s Asia Pacific office to sail on a three-night cruise from Singapore to Penang over the weekend, on its ship Voyager of the Seas. As part of the group’s activities onboard, they were dressed up in mermaid costumes for a special photoshoot by the poolside, as they enjoyed their holiday at sea.

This is the second time for Send Me On Vacation recipients on sail with Royal Caribbean in Asia. The organization’s mission is to provide much-needed vacations to breast cancer survivors who need to rejuvenate and heal their minds, bodies and spirits. It empowers survivors to reconnect with themselves on a rejuvenating vacation.

Ms Cathy Backus, founder of Send Me On Vacation who sailed with the group said, “Our recipients transform into mermaids to reconnect to their inner beauty, strength and grace. The photo therapy or photoshoot that we conduct visually shows each women that they are beautiful inside and out. Experiencing a vacation after fighting breast cancer ignites the spirit and restores joy and happiness back into life after the fight.” 

“Royal Caribbean has a complimentary synergy to Send Me On Vacation in the way it fosters diversity, human kindness and inspires people to look beyond the now and ask themselves what if this vacation can take me to places I never thought I could see in my dreams, and what if I could heal because love and happiness have been restored into in my life again,” she added. 

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: December 9, 2018

In:
09Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Happy December! We cannot believe that we are already one full week into the month – there is so much going on with holiday preparation and shopping and baking!

Royal Caribbean announced this week that it will end its parternship with DreamWorks.

Starting on all sailings departing on or after April 1, Royal Caribbean will cease to offer the DreamWorks experience on any of its ships.

All cruises that depart before April 1 will have the DreamWorks experience for the entirety of the cruise; programming will not cut off mid-cruise.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 279th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and this week, we share what you need to know before going on a cruise from Terminal A in PortMiami.

Royal Caribbean's brand new cruise terminal in Miami is open, and Matt shares a guide for going from curb to ship in Terminal A.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean Around The Internet

Orlando Sentinel shared how an astronaut helped Royal Caribbean develop a show on Symphony of the Seas.

Seatrade Cruise News reports Royal Caribbean named a new member to its Board of Directors.

TravelBiz reported Royal Caribbean has won the title of favorite cruise line in India.

Photo tour of Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

In:
08Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

The Grand Suite (Category GS) on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas is a popular choice for guests who want to indulge in a suite experience. It offers a lot of living space, and the Sky Class benefits of the Royal Suite Class.

This photo tour is from stateroom 12254 on Symphony of the Seas during a November 2018 sailing.

The Grand Suite measures 371 square feet and has a balcony that is 105 square feet.

Grand Suite staterooms on Symphony of the Seas have a bedroom area with two twin beds that convert to a Royal King.

The full bathroom has a tub and two sinks. There is a living room with a sofa that converts to double bed.

The private balcony has a seating area and private dining.

Royal Caribbean updates app with support for Harmony and Liberty of the Seas and add new games

In:
07Dec2018
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean rolled out a new update to its smart phone app that adds support to two ships, plus new interactive games on Symphony of the Seas.

Version 1.13.0 was released today and it adds support for Harmony of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas. This brings the total to 12 ships in the fleet that can take advantage of the app.  Each ship has varying feature sets, as the app is still under development.

 

In addition, guests on Symphony of the Seas can download and play two new immersive games from the app: Duck Duck Bear and Splish Splash Soak. These games are activated when standing in front of designated signs on the Boardwalk.

The new app is being actively developed, which means not all features area available on the app yet.  Moreover, the cruise line is slowly rolling out support for more ships.

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