Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach Participates in Sonesta Hotels’ ‘Flee to Florida’ Social Media Contest

Travelers Can Share a Photo for Chance to Win Beachside Vacation in Sunny Florida

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach on Tuesday announced its first social media contest of the year, encouraging travelers to escape the snow and head for the sand, entering to win a tropical winter getaway. Open to all travelers who share a photo on Instagram or upload an image to the Sonesta Hotels’ Facebook contest tab – using #SonestaSnowcation – are entered to win 3 nights to Sonesta ES Suites Orlando, and 2 nights each at Sonesta Coconut Grove, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale and Sonesta ES Suites Jacksonville. The contest is live now until February 28, 2018.  Photos should illustrate why the participant wants or needs to ‘Flee to Florida.’

“Our team is excited to launch this social media contest giving travelers nationwide the opportunity to experience their own tropical escape during the cold winter months,” said Eduardo Fernandez, general manager of Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Participants in the ‘Flee to Florida’ contest must include a getaway caption along with their image, and like each of the participating hotels’ Facebook accounts or follow all the participating hotels’ Instagram accounts. Joining Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach in the contest are Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami, Sonesta ES Suites Orlando and Sonesta ES Suites Jacksonville. The final prize will be awarded as 210,000 Sonesta Travel Pass points, which can be redeemed for a stay at the winner’s choice of hotels. Travel Pass is Sonesta’s guest rewards program that gives travelers perks, points, privileges and exclusives on top of the warm, friendly service and little extras available at any Sonesta.

Overlooking Fort Lauderdale’s pristine coastline, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach is the ideal getaway destination for travelers this time of year. The stylish hotel features modern yet elegant oceanfront accommodations and multiple on-site amenities to enjoy throughout the stay. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, the hotel’s casual, full-service beachfront restaurant, Bistro, offers an encompassing menu. The hotel is also conveniently located only eight miles from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and minutes from the Las Olas Arts & Entertainment District and Port Everglades.

For more information about the ‘Flee to Florida’ contest please visit:

To enter, follow Sonesta Hotels on Facebook at and Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach on Instagram at @SonestaFortLauderdale. 

For more information visit or call 1-800-SONESTA. 

About Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach

The AAA Four Diamond-rated oceanfront Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, features 240 guest rooms including 23 spectacular suites, all of which boast panoramic views of the seven-mile stretch of Fort Lauderdale Beach. This oceanfront hotel provides a new level of hospitality to the Fort Lauderdale market by offering travelers a sense of place, not just a place to stay. Catering to both business and leisure travelers, the hotel is centrally located on the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and A1A, only 8 miles from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and just minutes from the Las Olas Arts & Entertainment District and Port Everglades.  Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach offers an authentic, local experience to guests and locals alike, brought to life through the brand’s signature Food is Art, Liquid Art and Daily Delights programs.

The Arts Residences and Thompson San Antonio Hotel Set Groundbreaking

Texas’ Fastest-Selling High-Rise to Break Ground January 30 

DC Partners recently announced the groundbreaking ceremony for The Arts Residences and Thompson San Antonio hotel will take place Tuesday, January 30, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the project site, 123 Lexington Avenue, San Antonio, with a reception following in The Arts Residences Sales Gallery, located at 115 Auditorium Circle.

“The Thompson San Antonio hotel and The Arts Residences will truly be a landmark project –redefining luxury downtown living by offering residents exceptional customer service and unparalleled amenities from 24-hour concierge and room service, a spa, first-class restaurant, a pool deck and more,” said Roberto Contreras, CEO of DC Partners, which is entering the San Antonio market for the first time. “The premier location and proximity to the Tobin Center and the performing arts district places residents in the epicenter of San Antonio’s thriving downtown.”

The groundbreaking will begin at 9 a.m. with the ceremony of shovels, followed at 9:15 a.m. with remarks by Contreras; Leland Rocchio of Jordan Foster Construction, the general contractor; – and City of San Antonio officials. At approximately 9:45 a.m., the event will move to the sales gallery for champagne, mimosas and light bites.

“We are thrilled to bring Thompson Hotels’ unique brand of luxury to downtown San Antonio. This city is culturally and economically dynamic and has a robust future,” said Todd Wynne-Parry, Executive Vice President, Global Acquisitions & Development for Two Roads Hospitality, the international lifestyle hotel group which owns and operates the Thompson Hotels brand. “Thompson San Antonio will be a locally-immersed hotel and another valued social venue, contributing to the community and counting our neighbors among our guests.”

“We are very excited to get construction underway and play a major role in creating this landmark mixed-used development,” said Leland Rocchio, President of Jordan Foster Construction’s Commercial Group. “The Arts Residences and Thompson San Antonio hotel will further enhance the culturally rich arts district and growing downtown by providing a positive impact on the community and its long-term intrinsic value.”

Attendees will include City of San Antonio elected officials; representatives of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Centro San Antonio, Jordan Foster Construction, Two Roads Hospitality, Powers Brown Architecture, Universal Services Group and Kuper Sotheby’s International Real Estate. Numerous representatives of DC Partners will also be on hand, as well as The Arts Residences sales team, prominent members of the San Antonio real estate community, Arts residences owners and prospective buyers, friends and family.

Artistic renderings showcasing the building’s exterior and interior features will be on display both at the groundbreaking site and the reception. The sales gallery features a three-dimensional model of the project, as well as all available options and finishes for The Arts Residences condominiums.

Located at the epicenter of San Antonio’s vibrant performing arts district and across from the River Walk, The Arts Residences is a $116 million, 20-level, 337,000-plus-square-foot mixed-use development at the intersection of North St. Mary’s Street and Lexington Avenue, across the river from the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The development slated for completion in 2019 will include The Arts Residences’ luxury condominiums atop San Antonio’s first Thompson Hotel, an international collection of design-forward, luxury lifestyle hotels and resorts.

Forty percent of the condominium homes in The Arts Residences at the Thompson San Antonio hotel have sold since the sales gallery opened May 11, 2017, setting a new record for the fastest-selling high-rise luxury condominium project in Texas. The for-sale residences are priced from the high $400s to over $4.5 million for penthouses.

“Residents of The Arts Residences will live an elegant, concierge lifestyle within minutes of San Antonio’s finest cultural and entertainment offerings,” said Acho Azuike, Chief Operations Officer of DC Partners. “A limited number of these incomparable condominium homes remain for those discriminating enough to recognize their timeless value.  Now more than ever is the time to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

For more information please visit or contact the sales office to schedule a tour at (210) 227-4840.

Budget-Friendly Spring Break Getaways

Spring is the perfect time for a vacation. Shake off the doldrums of winter as you transition toward fresh beginnings and warmer days. One tip for planning a fun-filled trip with nearly countless memories: start your planning by deciding what types of things you’d like to do and experiences you’d like to enjoy.

For example, destinations like Texas, which offers hundreds of miles of coastline along the Texas Gulf Coast, can be a perfect destination for spring break travel for all ages. Start looking forward to a getaway to remember with these ideas, perfect for family travel, spring-breakers and everyone in between.

See the sights. If you’re the exploring type and want to mix some education with your fun, plan your journey around attractions like museums and nature centers, where you’ll find plenty to learn about the local area. Look for experiences you can’t find anyplace else, such as a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage site, which can offer a special look at the past.

Make a splash. For water lovers and more active types, a visit to the seashore may be just the ticket. At some locations, you can find all sorts of adventures, like surfing, kiteboarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, jet skiing, deep sea fishing and more.

Pitch a tent. When you’re looking to put the hustle and bustle of the city aside, a camping trip is the perfect way to reconnect with nature and enjoy some peaceful relaxation. Whether in Texas’s Hill Country or on a beach, you can find a variety of camping locations. For example, the small beach town of Port Aransas can provide a perfect backdrop to an evening by the campfire and a restful night under the stars.

Explore the great outdoors. Discovering new flora and fauna is a delightful way to spend spring break. National parks offer nearly endless opportunities where you can experience natural elements teeming with life. These protected destinations are the perfect places for unique animal encounters, such as birdwatching, with hundreds of native species.

Go by land and sea. You can create an eclectic trip with diverse experiences by choosing a destination that lets you enjoy activities on both land and water. For example, Galveston Island’s cruise ports offer an array of activities that appeal to travelers in transition, such as harbor tours and an amusement park pier, along with the island’s ample supply of art galleries, entertainment and architecture.

For more ideas and inspiration to start planning your spring break trip, explore (Family Features)


Texas Tourism Board

Hitting the Road for the Festive Season? Stay Connected on the Go

Traveling for the festive season but worried about being disconnected? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. In fact, plenty of other road warriors are making sure their devices are packed and ready to go so they won’t miss a beat.

Intel(R) recently conducted a survey with YouGov to learn more about the tips and tricks connected road warriors use to keep up with email, entertainment, news and more. According to the survey, connected road warriors (69 percent) admit they always bring their mobile computing device on vacation, and nearly 1 in 3 (32 percent) indicate it makes them nervous to travel without their device.

Regardless of where they are, road warriors continue to demand strong performance and have high expectations for consistent, reliable and accessible connectivity. Seven out of 10 road warriors (71 percent) get frustrated by lagging internet performance and poor connectivity speed. And over half (55 percent) admit that the inability to quickly load pages (emails, web pages, etc.) is a top computing-while-traveling pet peeve.

Whether going to grandma’s house, a beach or a ski slope, chances are these road warriors will be looking to connect. Nearly 2 in 3 road warriors (65 percent) admit doing something extreme in order to connect their mobile computing device to the internet. Eight in 10 (81 percent) report they have connected to the internet in an unusual spot. Restaurants (60 percent) are the most commonly reported location, while nearly 4 in 10 share they have connected in a parking lot. Others report connecting at a park, beach, bar, the side of the road or at a rest stop.

While some people may still want to stay on top of work, being connected is about more than getting through your to-do list. Email may still top the list of favorite activities (90 percent) when connecting on the go, but entertainment is also popular. More than half (53 percent) say they mainly connect for entertainment like streaming and gaming.

The good news is that there are plenty of devices available today that offer great performance and great connectivity for computing on the go. The latest Intel(R)-based mobile devices are fast and responsive and come in a range of connectivity options for you to choose – Wi-Fi, tethering or always-on 4G LTE – so you can power through email or get lost in a 4K-resolution movie from a coffee shop, library, beach or grandma’s house. Powered by the latest Intel processors, these devices run all of the most popular apps for work and play and connect seamlessly with other devices:

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 – Currently available via Verizon, this 2-in-1 PC comes with an S Pen and keyboard that connect instantly and never need charging, plus lightning-fast LTE and Wi-Fi connections so you can be creative, productive and connected, no matter where you are.

Google Pixelbook – Google’s high-performance Pixelbook is its thinnest Chromebook ever. It features a built-in Google Assistant, a Pixelbook Pen, amazing battery life and Instant Tethering, which allows people to access their phone’s data connection even when without Wi-Fi.

HP Spectre x360 – The ultra-slim convertible laptop has high-end power, a digital pen, long battery life, increased security features and a 4K display in addition to Wi-Fi connectivity, offering endless versatility.

Lenovo Yoga 920 – This Wi-Fi-enabled 2-in-1 intuitive convertible laptop offers voice-activated support, a digital pen option, top performance and speed, and a 4K screen. Its Constant Connect feature downloads emails, plays music and receives Skype calls – even in standby mode.

If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, or want to give the gift of connectivity, consider an always-connected PC so you don’t miss a thing! (BPT)

Celebrate The Festive Season with Sonesta’ s South Florida Hotels

The festive season is well underway and Sonesta’s two South Florida hotels are looking to celebrate this time of year with special menus aiming to bring family and friends together.

Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami

Overlooking Biscayne Bay, this hotel provides guests with the ideal getaway to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve in beautiful Miami. On Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, the hotel’s Panorama Restaurant and Sky Lounge will delight guests with an exceptional menu. Top highlights include Seared Diver Scallops ($17), Pepper Crusted Roast Prime Rib and Trio Crème Brûlée Spoons ($11). For those looking to ring in the New Year with a bash, the hotel has created a one-of-a-kind package. Book from now through December 30 and travel December 28 – January 2, 2018 with promo code SONNYE and receive the Big Orange New Year’s Eve Package. Guests will receive fun party accessories, specialty cupcakes and a complimentary bottle of champagne to toast to the memories of 2017 and beginning of 2018, all while enjoying the best view of Miami with Big Orange Ball Drop, fireworks, and Pitbull’s New Year’s Resolution and Countdown. Panorama is also offering a New Year’s Eve prix-fixe menu that will be available from 8-11:30 p.m. for $105 per person on that day. The exquisite menu includes an appetizer station, raw bar and carving station. Elaborate dessert tapas are also part of the night, with a wide range of tasty treats to top off the night. Reservations can be made by calling (305) 447-8264. Here you can access the limited-time menus. 

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach

Across from the Atlantic Ocean and golden coastline, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach is the perfect location for those looking to escape the cold winter and bask in the warm Florida weather. The hotel’s full-service restaurant, Bistro, will be offering locals and guests a celebratory Christmas Eve menu this year. The menu includes Curried Lobster Bisque with Cream Fraiche and Caviar, Holiday Roast Prime Rib of Beef and Chef’s Apple Pie. This will be available throughout the day for $45 (adults) and $15.00 (children 12 and under). For New Year’s Eve, the hotel is rolling out a flavorful three-course dinner spearheaded by executive chef Thomas Russo. Diners will enjoy from a Sunrise Salad with Seasonal Mixed Greens, Crumbled Goat Cheese, Toasted Almonds and Seasonal Berries to a Broiled Lobster Combination with Fillet Mignon, Saffron Scampi Sauce and Port Wine Demi Potato Soufflé. Reservations are available by calling (954) 315-1460. Here you can access the menus with more details.

5 Tips to Start Your Own RV Adventure

If you’re looking for a way to get away without the hassle of planes, hotels and an exorbitant travel budget, a recreation vehicle may be just the answer.

Whether you’re traveling with family, your significant other or several generations of family and friends, these tips from world-renowned auto travel expert Alan Taylor can get you on your way to an unforgettable RV vacation adventure.

  1. Put style first. The first step to planning an RV getaway is deciding what works best for you: a motorhome or trailer. Motorhomes are built on a motorized chassis and are designed as temporary living quarters for camping, travel or seasonal use. Towable RVs or trailer RVs are towed by another vehicle to be moved from place to place. Many are designed to be lightweight, so even family vehicles like minivans or SUVs can tow them.
  1. Take time to plan ahead. Beyond the type of RV you need, think about how you’ll use it to understand what features you’ll want. What types of trips will you take? Who will be traveling with you? What’s your budget? There are hundreds of models, so how you answer these questions will guide your purchase.
  1. Try it before you buy it. There’s no better way to try before you buy than by renting an RV. Many people rent RVs simply for a change of pace by taking a trip to a special event or destination. You can rent near home and journey to your final destination or fly and pick up your RV at the other end. More than 460 national chain outlets and local RV dealerships rent RVs, including state-of-the-art, late-model-year units. A growing number of campgrounds offer on-site RV rentals, as well.

Most RV rental companies offer housekeeping packages (dishes, pots, pans, bed linens, etc.) for a fee, or you can bring your own. Even if you’re driving or towing an RV for the first time, features like automatic transmissions, power steering, large external mirrors and rearview cameras make it easy for inexperienced drivers to adjust to the difference in size, height and weight.

  1. Do your research. You’ll find plenty of information online, but another source of knowledge is any person who owns an RV or regularly rents one. One way to get the scoop and gather tips from experienced owners is to stay at a local campground and talk to your neighbors about their RVs. Ask questions about the space, key features, expenses, tricks they’ve learned and so on. Also be sure to ask about any problems they’ve encountered or any decisions they’d make differently if they could.
  1. Get practical. Unless you’re planning to make RVing a way of life, when the vacation is over and the real world beckons, you’ll have to do something with the RV. Before you buy, be sure you have plans for storage, be it a campground, in your garage or at a storage facility. Learn what’s involved in safely storing your investment while it’s not in use and take those needs into account when considering what type of RV you’d like to own.

As you work your way through the preparations, visit to learn more about the different types of RVs, get ideas about what to do and find a wealth of information, including dealers near you, as well as campgrounds, manufacturers and rental companies. (Family Features)

Recreational Vehicle Industry Association

Festive Season Events at Horseshoe Bay Resort!

Check out the variety of festive events that will take place at Horseshoe Bay Resort during the months of November and December!
Thursday, November 23rd
  • 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Fall Festival & Turkey Trot for the whole family. Celebrate Horseshoe Bay Resort’s 21st year of celebrating Thanksgiving traditions with a 10k run or 5k run/walk while children ages 3 to 8 enjoy the 1k Kids Trot. After the Turkey Trot, head over to the Fall Festival for hayrides, pie walks, musical hay bales, face painting, arts & crafts and much more.
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Thanksgiving Brunch at the Yacht Club, with a spread including a soup and salad station, iced seafood display, an assortment of meats on the carving block and assorted brunch classics and entrees. Thanksgiving brunch costs $67 per person, $27 for kids five to 12 and $6 for kids five and under.
Friday, November 24th
  • 5 p.m. – Pumpkin Chuckin’ at Turtle Beach, where guests can hurl pumpkins in the lake to celebrate the changing of the holidays. Pumpkins available for purchase for $3, with the owner of the furthest pumpkin receiving a prize.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
Saturday, November 25th
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
  • 6 p.m. – Gingerbread House Village in the Hotel Lobby with complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.
  • 6:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. – Letters to Santa at Yacht Club Waterfront. Stick around until 7 p.m. to hand deliver it to Santa himself!
  • 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. - Holiday Laser Light Show at the Yacht Club and Candy Cane S’mores at Star Gazer Beach.
  • 7 p.m. – Santa Claus is coming to town! Stop by and get a picture with Santa.
Daily Activities
Throughout the month of November
Enjoy Horseshoe Bay Resort’s everyday activities in the month of November, including:
  • Whitewater Putting Course open Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Course is closed until 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Exotic animals on display between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Whitewater Putting Course.
  • Arcade at the Marina filled with classics like Pac-Man and Galaga.

Horseshoe Bay Resort Winter Wonderland
Saturday, December 9th from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Take a stroll through Horseshoe Bay Resort’s Winter Wonderland and enjoy the Laser Light Show, Texas State University’s Acapella Group Vocalibre, photos with Santa, arts and crafts, food and beverage stations, horse-drawn carriage rides and more. Check the resort event calendar for pricing and updates.
An Evening with Nutcracker
Sunday, December 17th starting with dinner at 5 p.m. and the show at 6 p.m.
Don’t miss a fabulous performance of a Christmas classic by Ms. Rhonda’s School of Dance, a Fredericksburg dance company that has been operating for more than 26 years. The evening includes a dinner buffet with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the students of the Fredericksburg Dance Company. Cost is $49 for adults and $25 for children ages five through 12. Reservations required.
Friday, December 22nd
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – Holiday Hunt, find your scavenger hunt clue card at the front desk.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - Gingerbread House Decorating in the Yacht Club Ballroom, where pre-assembled gingerbread houses are made on property and are ready for you to decorate! $40 per gingerbread house with supplies and decorations included. Reservations required.
  • 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. – Mini Nutcrackers at the Kids Club where you can paint your own nutcracker for $3 each.
  • 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. – Holiday Sand Art at the Kids Club for just $3. Makes for a great holiday gift for your loved ones!
  • 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. – Candy Cane Course at Whitewater Putting Course (weather permitting) where you can enjoy a round of golf surrounded by holiday cheer and hot chocolate. Regular rates apply.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
Saturday, December 23rd
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – Holiday Hunt, find your scavenger hunt clue card at the front desk.
  • Kids Club activities include:
    • 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. –  Jingle Bell Canvas Art
    • 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. –  Tea Light Snowman
    • 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. – Holiday Ornaments
    • 3 p.m. – Ugly T-shirt Design
    • 4 p.m. – Christmas Bingo
  • 5 p.m. – Holiday Sunset Cruises on board the Ladybird Yacht on Lake LBJ. Cost for adults is $20 and cost for children ages five to 12 is $10. Other dates for Holiday Sunset Cruises include December 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. - Marble Falls Walkway of Lights with a complimentary shuttle for overnight guests and club members. Watch more than two million lights transform Marble Falls Lakeside Park into a Winter Wonderland.
Sunday, December 24th
  • 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. – Holiday Hunt, find your scavenger hunt clue card at the front desk.
  • Kids Club activities include:
    • 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. – DIY Stockings
    • 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. – Christmas Pillows
    • 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. – Cookie Decorating
  • 3 p.m. – Christmas Caroling in the Hotel Lobby
  • 4 p.m. – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas read by the Hotel Lobby Fireplace, with complimentary milk and cookies and a special fireside reading of the traditional book.
  • 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. – Candy Cane S’mores (weather permitting) at Whitewater Fire Pit, a traditional sweet treat with some holiday flare. Complimentary.
Sunday, December 31st
  • 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. – New Year’s Eve Celebration at Kids Club featuring new crafts and activities by the hour including a bird show, karaoke, video games, dancing, s’mores, pizza, glow in the dark shirts and more. $90 per child age four through 12. Reservations required.
  • 9 p.m. – Ring in the New Year with Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes Live at Horseshoe Bay Resort for a night full of good music and dancing with one of the premier party bands in Texas. Doors open at 9 p.m. with bar service, a champagne toast at midnight and a culinary treat after midnight. For overnight resort guests and club members only.
Daily Activities
Throughout the month of December
Enjoy Horseshoe Bay Resort’s everyday activities in the month of December, including:
  • Whitewater Putting Course open Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Course is closed until 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Happy Hour at Whitewater Putting Course featuring half-priced putting, candy and drinks excluding beer and wine.
  • Arcade at the Marina filled with classics like Pac-Man and Galaga.

The Caribbean is Open for Cruise Vacations

Contrary to what some may think, the hurricanes in September had little to no impact on the vast majority of the Caribbean – a far-reaching region covering more than 1 million square miles.

In fact, of the nearly 100 ports in the Caribbean, almost 90 percent are open and fully operational – and welcoming thousands of cruise ship passengers every day.

To help make sure consumers are aware that the Caribbean is open for business, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) has launched a campaign and website,, to provide the latest updates.

The Caribbean is one of the world’s most popular regions for cruise travelers. The islands are not only conveniently accessible, but offer spectacular beaches, legendary crystal-clear waters, vibrant towns and popular shore excursions.

The locals welcome vacationers to their islands as tourism, and the cruise industry in particular, is critical for the economy.

According to the FCCA, cruising generated $2.4 billion in direct economic impact for the Caribbean and created nearly 55,000 jobs and $842 million in wages throughout the region during the 2014-15 cruise season. This is in addition to the indirect jobs created in supporting industries, such as providing supplies for shore excursions, ports and restaurants.

“Seasoned cruisers to the Caribbean understand that most of the islands have been unaffected,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, chief content strategist for the website Cruise Critic. “They also understand tourism is a top driver for the islands’ economic well-being and that cruises are a large part of that equation. Because of that, it’s important for both cruise lines and travelers to continue to support so many of the Caribbean islands that are ready for business and eager to provide travelers with the incredible vacations they’ve come to expect from the region.”

Now is an ideal time to plan a Caribbean cruise vacation. Contact a local travel agent or check out cruise line websites to find plenty of options for cruise vacations.  (Family Features)

Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel Gets Multi-Million Dollar Makeover

Written By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy of Downtown Renaissance Phoenix.

As the fifth largest city in the United States, more than 22 million visitors flock to metropolitan Phoenix every year. With a bustling downtown quadrant comprised of around 100 square blocks, this section of town is teeming with fun and exciting things to do—keeping tourists duly entertained and engaged. From professional sports, live music and fine dining venues to festivals, museums, and an endless stream of events at the 24-acre convention center, downtown Phoenix is a bustling hub with an appeal all its own for leisure and business travelers, alike.

No matter your reason for visiting metro Phoenix, one salient place to stay is the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Ensconced in the heart of the city, this enduring property is only four miles from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and within walking distance to the many area attractions, including Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field and the Heard Museum. It’s also convenient to the light rail, which gives guests convenient, quick and reliable access to the rest of the city.

Since 1896, a hotel has been located on the land where The Renaissance currently resides. In 1910, when the hotel was called the First Hotel Adams, it burned in a fire. It was rebuilt and brought the first fire-proof hotel to Arizona. That hotel stayed in place until the 1970s, when it was imploded so that the current hotel could be established. Since its storied inception, the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel has hosted some pretty famous guests over the years like George Burns, Debbie Reynolds, Chris Pratt and Brittany Spears.

Today’s iteration of the hotel boasts a recently completed $13 million renovation to its expansive lobby and reception area as well as its on-site eatery, Dust Cutter. For its part, the lobby is now brimming with artful and visually captivating elements. Spectacular framed works adorn the walls, while sculptures, modern furnishings and light fixtures, eye-catching area rugs, and thought-provoking décor are arranged in various vignette-style seating areas exuding personality with a purpose.

The lobby-adjacent eatery, Dust Cutter, is the property’s primary source of sustenance. This sophisticated saloon-like locale is quite a draw. The moody Edison bulb-lit space is laden with wood, iron, glass and fire—from furnishings to interior décor elements—that all convene to create a cozy urban cowboy atmosphere. This full service bar and restaurant is clearly a key communal space for the hotel as guests mix and mingle in droves amid fabulous fixin’s from the kitchen and the expansive bar.

Given the breadth of the recent revamp, staying relevant in inimitable style is an apparent priority for the property. In fact, of the $13 million makeover, hotel manager Jon Erickson said, “As a result of our renovation, we clearly have the hip, chic, ‘it’ vibe of all the downtown hotels in Phoenix.  The unique design influences, art and especially light fixtures and chandeliers are one of a kind.”

Also in its plight for distinction, in addition to Dust Cutter the hotel features Melinda’s Alley, a semi-secret speakeasy. This underground bar, which exudes prohibition era ambiance, is open only on Friday and Saturday nights.  It’s consistently named among the top 10 Dark Bars in Phoenix and definitely worth stopping in for a cocktail.

The hotel also has a club lounge on the 19th floor called Elevate that’s exclusively available to those staying at the property. According to Erickson, “Elevate ranks among the best lounges in all of Marriott in food quality and guest experience. We focus on locally inspired ingredients to pull through the flavors of the Sonoran climate and region.” For example, since mesquite trees are common in the area they infuse this flavor into things such as waffles, and hatch chilies are made into a syrup and added to mixed drinks.

Downtown Renaissance Phoenix Secondary 1 credit Downtown Renaissance Phoenix

The Renaissance Phoenix has some other unique features that make it a top pick for visitors, like a one-of-a-kind art exhibit in the lower level of the hotel. The exhibit is called “26 Blocks” and is comprised of photos of 26 downtown Phoenix blocks taken by local photographers (26 of them) paired with local writers (26 more). The result is an art exhibit unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, but very much metro Phoenix in flavor.

Even though the hotel recently finished the $13 million renovation, they continue to update the hotel to stay fresh and modern while still keeping the charm of yesteryear. The rooms as they are offer a myriad of creature comforts like ergonomic workstations and deluxe bath products. Each also proffers a view of downtown Phoenix.

“We are also renovating our 24 corner suites; we have new carpet for all of our meeting spaces on the way, and we just decided to revamp all of our 500-plus TV’s in the hotel, also adding an entertainment platform that allows guests to watch programs from their own Netflix account along with other web based services,” said Erickson.

Downtown Renaissance Phoenix Primary 1 credit Downtown Renaissance Phoenix

I also appreciate that guests can keep up their exercise routines at the hotel’s state-of-the-art fitness center and heated rooftop pool. The property also has 50,000 square feet of flexible event space called Skyline, which is the area’s largest rooftop terrace. It’s a great option for weddings and social gatherings and certainly for business and corporate events.

I’m told that as many as 40 different managers are tasked with thinking outside-the-box, encouraged to brainstorm ways to keep The Renaissance at the top of its game. For their part, the artful and enticing communal spaces and decidedly comfortable accommodations are both an effective means toward this end.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority–a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She identifies and reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at, on Twitter at, on Facebook at and on Instagram at

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or sponsored at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.*** 


Where to Enjoy National Rum Day in South Florida

In preparation for celebrating National Rum Day on August 16, we’re thrilled to share with you a few places to enjoy tropical rum cocktails across south Florida.

5 O'Clock Somewhere

5 O’Clock Somewhere

Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami / Miami, FL

Sonesta Coconut Grove’s widely recognized restaurant, Panorama Restaurant & Sky Lounge, provides for the ultimate spot with spectacular views to celebrate National Rum Day. For one day only, guests and locals can order the Spiced Blood Orange cocktail for $6 off the happy hour menu. Perfect for after a long day in Miami, guests can relax and unwind with the refreshing light rum cocktail, while indulging in a selection of light bites ranging from sweet chili glazed wings to roasted garlic hummus and pita chips, while overlooking breathtaking views of beautiful Biscayne Bay.

JWB Prime Steak and Seafood / Hollywood, FL

Located inside the lobby of Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, JWB Prime Steak and Seafood will offer a complimentary rum tasting for both locals and resort guests with Zacapa Rums from 6 to 8 pm. Crafted with fresh crushed sugarcane in Guatemala, Zacapa Rums are filled with complex flavors from being aged to perfection in the highlands 8,000 feet above sea level. Attendees can also enjoy food specials and live music from Thais & Flavio, a Bossa Nova duo that blends pop and jazz music.

The resort will also offer all of its signature Boat Drinks for a discounted price of $9 at Margaritaville Restaurant, 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill, Lone Palm Beach Bar and LandShark Bar & Grill. Sample boat drinks include the “5 o’Clock Somewhere” made with Margaritaville Silver Rum, Paradise Passion Fruit Tequila, BACARDI® 151° Rum, orange and pineapple juices, sweet & sour and a splash of grenadine, as well as the “Tranquil Waters” made with Cruzan® Mango Rum, blue curaçao, pineapple juice and mango.

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach / Fort Lauderdale, FL

Celebrate National Rum Day at the laid-back, sophisticated Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, where travelers and locals alike seeking a tropical rum cocktail in the heart of Floridian paradise can look no farther. While there, guests can take advantage of the hotel’s handcrafted cocktail of the month, The Hurricane. Providing spectacular views throughout the property, guests can choose to enjoy their passionfruit, lemon and rum cocktail at the pool, lobby bar or with innovative cuisine ranging from lamb rack to yellowtail snapper at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Bistro.

A Few Favorite Recipes

August The Hurricane

August The Hurricane

The Hurricane / Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach
2 oz dark rum
1 oz passion fruit syrup
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Spiced Blood Orange

Spiced Blood Orange

Spiced Blood Orange / Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami
1.5 oz. Light Rum
2.5 oz. Blood Orange Puree
Smoked Paprika
Slice Orange for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

Remember to enjoy your alcoholic beverages responsibly.