Cuba Hotel Awards – A Way Through Excellence

Looking for more than good-value hotels in Cuba? Discover a selection of Cuba hotels that have received several prizes and awards, granted by international tour operators and tourism specialists. These leading facilities could be a fine choice for your perfect Cuba holiday or vacation if you trust well-known experts’ criteria.

One of the most prestigious lists of the best hotels worldwide is The Gold List of Condé Nast Traveler. This annual list includes a selection of the hotels around the world that have the best service, rooms, food, ambiance and design, location and leisure facilities. The Saratoga hotel, an Old Havana hotel, received a high rating in the readers’ travel awards 2006 survey, since it was at 24 in the hot list 2006 of the 60 best new hotels in the world within the category “Best for Ambiance/Design”. You can find this distinguished facility in a prime location opposite the Capitol at Havana City. Art lovers will appreciate the Cuban art in all the public spaces of the property and the “mélange” of colonial and contemporary styles at bedrooms and lounges.

If you look further examples of hotel excellence then you should consider theWorld Travel Awards, voted by travel agents worldwide. They were established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate the achievements in all sectors of the global travel industry. These awards are regarded as the “Oscars” of the tourism industry by The Wall Street Journal. Cuba hotels winners at 2007 and 2008 were Hotel Nacional de Cuba as Cuba’s Leading Hotel and Sandals Royal Hicacos Resort & Spa was the Leading Resort. A classy Cuban hotel at the Cuban capitol city and a gorgeous beach resort in one of the best beaches of the island and of the Caribbean, these are the choices of tens of thousands of travel experts, such as travel agents and other travel professionals.

Also Thomas Cook, one of the most important tour operators in the world, recently accorded its Marque of Excellence Award to hotel Paradisus Rio de Oro Resort & Spa, a hotel which received several important prizes in 2008. For those seeking blissful vacations, here you will find a piece of your own paradise. This elegant hotel, located right alongside Playa Esmeralda beach in the province of Holguin, has received for the fifth time the Marque of Excellence Award (2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008) due to the quality ratings granted by clients. Since it is a 5-star Ultra All-Inclusive hotel that was conceived for adults over 18 years, it is more suitable for romantic getaways, weddings, honeymoons, events and vacations with group of friends.

Plus, Trip Advisor, the largest travel destinations and tips guide in the Web, granted this hotel in Cuba two Travelers Choice 2008 Awards (The Best All-Inclusive in the World and the Most Romantic Hotel in Latin America and the Caribbean). These popular distinctions in the tourist industry represent the views of millions of travelers that have selected this hotel for its outstanding service.

Moreover, Paradisus Río de Oro hotel received the Gold Medal 2008 Award accorded by clients of First Choice, the leading British wholesale company. Also in 2006, the Paradisus Rio de Oro was awarded the Travelers’ Choice Prize in the category of Most Outstanding Hidden Jewels of the Caribbean. Want a better reason to go there in your next Cuba vacations?

If you prefer more responsible and ecologic hotels then you should try Brisas Guardalavaca. This Cuba hotel has won the important award “Green Planet Award” presented by the European Tour Operator Kuoni. This distinction is given to the hotels contracted by this tour operator with relevant results in terms of Environmental Care. This facility has also received the National Basic Environmental Award presented by the Ministry of Technology and Environment in Cuba. So if your catchphrase is “a better and a greener world is possible” then you should consider Brisas Guardalavaca in the top of your Cuba hotels choices.

Also for environment enthusiasts there is a fine resort at Varadero beach, the Iberostar Tainos hotel, which has won an Environmental Hotel Award in 2004/05. Singles, couples and families will appreciate the good four-star value of this recently built hotel, set on a beautiful stretch of beach surrounded by tropical gardens.

Other Cuba hotels have won international distinctions like Meliá Las Antillas, which was awarded the Primo Neckermann Reisen 2008 Award thanks to the rankings given by clients of the important German tour operator Neckermann, part of Thomas Cook group. This property ranked among the 100 best and most popular hotels in the world in 2008! So if you want to experience a truly unforgettable holiday you should look after this offer, an All-Inclusive Superior 4-star resort especially recommended for weddings, honeymoons, tourist groups and circuits.

Also the magnificent hotel Paradisus Princesa del Mar was granted the Marque of Excellence Award 2007 by leading tour operator Thomas Cook, in recognition of the hotel’s high service standards and quality of its accommodations. What’s important about this award is that clients are the ones who assess the hotels by responding to Thomas Cook’s satisfaction polls, which measure the service, facilities and quality of the accommodations. It is conceived for adults aged 18 and over and it is highly recommended for those who want to spend some time in romantic environments with extraordinary scenic views and total privacy.

Deciding for any holiday is not an easy thing and planning where to stay is sometimes one of the most stressful parts of planning a vacation. So be a wise traveler and follow the expert’s opinion on your next retreats in Cuba.

Use Credit Card Rewards To Travel The World For Free

Credit card issuers are finding it more and more difficult to compete for the business of you the consumer in recent years. To combat that rising difficulty, many issuers are offering rewards for using their card. These offers range from something as simple as lower interest rates to cash back bonuses to low or no annual fees to the ever popular airline mileage cards. When you put your mind to it, you can use credit card rewards to earn world travel and great discounts, and possibly even free.

With credit cards that offer free airline miles, free hotel stays, free entertainment and sports, and free gas cards, you could actually go on vacation virtually free of charge. With so many different cards offering so many different types of rewards, cardholders often fly free, eat free, stay in hotels free, and rent cars free of charge. Many business owners reap the benefits of the credit card rewards at a greater rate because they are able to use the rewards from their business purchases as well as their personal purchases.

The most popular of the rewards cards is the airline mile reward cards. Different issuing companies handle the rewards differently, but some will offer mile for mile rewards on airline tickets purchased and some will offer 1 reward point for every dollar spent. It will likely take a larger amount of reward points to purchase an airline ticket on this type of card, but this type is very popular among US consumers. Another popular reward card for travelers is the gas reward card which is gaining popularity because of the rising cost of gas. The other card that has seen a steady gain in popularity is the cash back bonus award cards. They offer a small percentage of every purchase paid back to you in the form of credit on your account, credit with certain merchants, or a check paid to you. All of these types of rewards cards are popular with world travelers because they are rewards that can be used on world travels.

The availability of rewards points per purchase can vary from card to card. Using credit card rewards to earn world travel can be a tricky situation. The airline mileage rewards are usually subject to blackout dates or other restrictions. Other rewards cards are subject to terms and conditions and their rewards may not be available overseas. Rewards from gas cards that include free gas may not be available outside the continental United States. Cards that offer free restaurant visits for rewards may only be available at restaurants on a specified list that may not include a restaurant in the area you are visiting. In order to make sure that your rewards can be used where you are wanting to use them, you should always check with your credit card issuer and make sure of the availability.

If you are a common credit card user and you have the right type of rewards program on your credit card, it could be easy for you to use credit card rewards to earn world travel.

Holidays and Travelling With Kids

One of the most exciting things that a parent can do for their child is to give them new experiences. Buying them new gifts may seem exciting at first but in the long run, it is the experiences and the memories of travelling with them to new places that they will cherish forever. Even in adulthood, it is easier for a person to relate to a memorable excursion or a trip that they took many years ago. Children are easily excitable about learning new things and going to new places therefore it is important to ensure that you create an amazing experience for your child.

While it may be a carefree vacation for the kids, it is not entirely the same case for the parents. There are a great deal of logistics to be considered well in advance to ensure that the kids not only have a great experience but that they are also safe and well catered for in case of any emergencies. Some service providers also have specific rules regarding kids of certain age groups therefore it is best to be well prepared for the possible scenarios. This article seeks to highlight the important factors to consider and will also provide some handy tips that will assist you achieve the above.

One of the most important things that parents forget to do is to think about the vacation from a child’s perspective. As an adult, you may have experienced and ‘seen it all’ therefore it is easy to assume the same about your kids. This however is not the best approach. Take your time and let the children soak in the experience at their own pace. Instead of rushing to complete a ‘bucket list’, take enough time at every single stop to ensure that the child has a rich and wholesome experience.

Children of different age groups require different levels of preparation and care. For example if you are travelling with toddlers, you are required to think entirely on their behalf. This is involves choosing a destination to visit, means of transport to be used, what/how much supplies to carry, the kind of accommodation to select among other things. Take time to map out every single step of the vacation so as to avoid having any loop holes in your plan. Young children often get hungry and messy so be sure to carry lots of extra resources such as food, diapers, clothes, paper towels and such amenities. As much as one may be tempted to ‘wing it’ as may have been the case before becoming parents, remember that it is easier for adults to cope with a change in plan, compared to kids who require extra care. Make sure to contact all service providers you intend to use during your trip to avoid disappointments which are often based on assumptions.

Pre-teens and teens should be more involved in the trip’s logistics. To cultivate a sense of responsibility, you can assign easy tasks to them. Some kids tend to zone out if they feel bored or disengaged. To avoid this, keep them involved for example by tasking them with entertainment (singing and telling stories), taking photographs among other exercises that they can use to cultivate a skill or learn something new. In conclusion, every once in a while try and seek the child’s opinion perhaps on activities they would like to do or food they would like to eat in order to remind them that you value their opinion.

World’s Top Airlines

Flying to different parts of the world in style has become even more comfortable in the recent times with excellent services form different airlines.

Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways is the flag carrier of the UAE established in 2003. The airline is headquartered at Abu Dhabi, UAE and operates its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Etihad operates services to 81 destinations in 52 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and Australia. It is not a member of any airline alliance, but has codeshare agreements with member of different alliances including Sky Team, Star Alliance and Oneworld and other airlines. Etihad’s frequent flyer program is called Etihad Guest. The airline has recently released information about a new partnership deal with Virgin Australia and V Australia. Etihad Airways has won awards including ‘the World’s Leading Airline’ in 2009 and 2010 by the World Travel Awards.

Qantas Airways

Qantas Airways is the flag carrier of Australia established in 1920. The airline is headquartered at Botany Bay, Sydney and operates its primary hub at Sydney Airport and Melbourne Airport and secondary hubs at Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Singapore Changi Airports. Qantas operates services to 20 domestic and 21 international destinations in 14 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania. It is a member of Oneworld alliance and has codeshare agreements with many airlines. The airline’s frequent flyer program is called Quantas Frequent Flyer. It is the second oldest airline in the world is rated as 4-star airline by Skytrax.


Emirates is an UAE airlines established in 1985. The airline is headquartered at Emirates Group Headquarters, Airport Road, Garhoud, Dubai and operates its hub at Dubai International Airport. It operates services to 103 destinations in 65 countries in six continents. It is not a member of any airline alliance, but has codeshare agreements with some airlines. The airline’s frequent flyer program is called Skywards. Emirates is amongst one of world’s top ten airlines in different categories.

Thai Airways

Thai Airways is Thailand’s national flag carrier and largest airline established in 1988. The airline is headquartered at Chatuchak District, Bangkok and operates its hub at Suvarnabhumi Airport. It operates services to 72 destinations in 35 countries. It is a member of Star Alliance and has codeshare agreements with many airlines. The airline’s frequent flyer program is called Royal Orchid Plus. Thai Airways has won several awards including ‘World’s Best cabin Staff and Best Airline in the World’ in 2006 by Skytrax, ‘second in Airline of the year’ in 2007 and ‘World’s Best First Class Lounge’ in 2009 and ‘Excellence in in-flight hygiene measures’ by World Health Organization.

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines is the flag carrier of Malaysia owned by the Government of Malaysia and was established in 1947. The airline is headquartered at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Subang, Malaysia and operates its primary hub at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and secondary hub at Kuching International Airport. It operates services to 87 destinations in six continents. It is a member of Oneworld Alliance and has codeshare agreements with many airlines. The airline offers two frequent flyer programs namely Grads and Enrich. Malaysia Airlines has been awarded several times for its service, safety and operational safety practices. It is also a 5-star airline in Skytrax rankings.

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Finding Money for Travel – 3 Steps to Get You on the Road Fast

Some people live paycheck to paycheck. I live trip to trip.

The world calls my name, and I love it. Places I’ve never been, exotic places with unpronounceable names. Water so clear you can see the shadow of the boat, rippling on the sand at the bottom of the sea. An ancient walled castle, crumbling on a craggy hill. Bustling cities flashing in the night or forested roads wandering deep into nowhere… I want them all. I want to breathe the air, walk the paths, meet the people, and eat the food.

Unfortunately, that all takes money. And since I have a limited budget, getting money together for the next adventure is always on my mind.

Here are 3 steps that get me on the road. Use them to fast track your next journey outward.

1. Make it real.

When your heart connects, your travel changes from being a vague “someday, somewhere” into being a real part of your actual future. Suddenly this trip is urgent, pressing. It’s part of what you need to do, to be who you really are. And it’s do-able!

So make it real. Create a Pinterest page, develop a favorites folder, keep items of interest. Think specifics. What time of year would you want to go? Rainy season or dry? Any festivals you want to see? How much of the language can you learn before you go? Cover a poster board with pictures from the places that interest you, travel quotes that interest you. Work on an itinerary, research any dangers. Compare hotels, apartments and hostels. Put a local news site on your toolbar.

Immersion begins now.

2. Get real with money.

You need a realistic financial goal – not one that will leave you stranded or one that will scare you off.

Every trip has three basic money requirements: getting there, staying there, and living there. “Getting there” is usually the biggest expense, but even if you fly, you can often get better deals if you stay focused. The internet is full of good resources for cheap airfares. You can fly into a European hub city on an international carrier, for instance, and then take a low-cost airline to nearby countries. Play with it!

“Sleeping there” can be a huge expense, or it can be cheap, even free, depending on your choices. Willing to work for your room? Stay in hostels, or in an old convent with nuns? You can do it. You just have to do the research.

“Living there” is the cost of your daily life expenses, as you live somewhere else. Eating is part of living there, along with admissions, tips and side trips. Nights out for drinks, buses and rental cars are all part of living there. Explore local sources for in-country trips. They’re often less expensive and more interesting simply because they’re less “Americanized”. Live like a local in an apartment and cook some meals at home. Grocery shopping can be an adventure in another culture!

3. Make friends with your savings.

The money you save is not “money I don’t get to spend.” It’s “the trip I’m getting ready to take.” It’s for you. Own it.

Name your trip – “Bali for New Years”, for instance, or “Eastern Europe with Jack and Ellie”. Make a spreadsheet, or better yet, get an actual ledger or a notebook, and put colored tabs on it. Keep track of your savings in your ledger. When you enter an amount, record it in one of your three basic categories – getting there, sleeping there, or living there. You may want to designate a little for each area, each time you save, or finish one and start on the next – that’s my usual system.

The big amount you put in first, directly from your paycheck – that could be transportation money. The money you make from overtime, or pick up from babysitting for your neighbor’s kid on a Saturday – that could be one night in the over-water bungalow. When you stay home and eat cereal instead of going out with friends, and put the money into your account – that’s dinner on the beach.

To encourage yourself even more, recognize how much you’re saved as you go along. Basic airfare – check. Between country hops – check. Hotel in Singapore – check. Hostel in Bali – check. Romantic dinner on the beach – check. You get the idea.

Naming things helps you remember what really matters. You may want a new car. You may want to go to Vegas with the wedding party. Or out for mid-week dinner and drinks – every week. And those are good things. But you probably can’t do all of them, and still go on that fabulous trip.

You get to decide. If it’s between dinner out tonight or vague travel sometime, we’ll probably choose going out tonight. But if it’s between dinner out tonight, and hitting my hotel goal tonight when I put that $25 into my trip savings, I may very well decide to stay home and eat cereal!

Planning for your favorite things, learning about your new place, seeing your resources build – it’s an exciting part of the trip. And before you know it, you’ll be off to live your adventure in a whole new place.

Dr. Deborah Kukal is a licensed psychologist with a broad sense of her home in the world. She is Board Certified in Health Psychology, and she writes on health, sleep, spirituality and meditation, as well as life enrichment, travel and current events.