All-Inclusives… Yay or Nay?

20170801_063332I was inspired this morning by this great list of all-inclusive resorts published by Caribbean Journal. Some I have visited before & some have been on my bucket list for quite some time. I’m a huge fan of the all-inclusive concept & have been checking them out regularly since 1998 with our 1st trip to Sandals ūüôā They’re certainly not for everyone, but the ease with which they operate, and all they have to offer, makes them a no-brainer in my book.

Sandals Royal BahamianI’ve been to Sandals, Beaches, Excellence, Melia, Iberostar & several other all-inclusive chains, big and small. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the more laid back, less cookie-cutter resorts, without an overwhelming number of activities or the invigorating “party” atmosphere. It could just be that I’m getting old, but I like to think at this point in life, I’m more than capable of entertaining myself… lol. Don’t get me wrong, I always love some local, live music in the evening & I’ll never pass up a good snorkeling or boating excursion. But usually I’m just there to relax, read my book on the beach, do a little sightseeing & enjoy a delicious meal each night!

The beauty of an all-inclusive (AI) lies in its simplicity… one-stop-shopping if you will. Pick your resort & then enjoy everything a small beachside village would have to offer, without ever having to leave the property. You’ll have the option of fine dining from all nationalities, shops, a beautiful spa, a gym, a water sports center & more. Easy peasy.

Pineapple Beach Club

Perfect local entertainment!

With that said, it becomes more a matter of personal preference when selecting the perfect AI. For me, it’s all about the beach & the food. I don’t need a super luxurious room, a fancy spa or lots of theater-style shows, but those amenities are important to some, and widely available. ¬†I enjoy a good “adults-only” resort (or at least an adult “section”), but when traveling with my son, I need to adjust our requirements a little and include a good pool & an active kids club.

AIs are found mostly in Mexico and the Caribbean with an extreme number on the Yucatan Peninsula & in the Dominican Republic. You definitely get what you pay for, however sometimes the brand name alone, dictates a higher price but not necessarily a better experience. It’s important to read reviews & be clear on what type of resort you’re looking for. Here are a few things to consider:

Size of the resort. ¬†AKA… how far do you want to walk to the beach or to dinner. ¬†Layout plays a part here as well… some resorts lie parallel to the beach, while others form a long, perpendicular strip from the main road to the sea. ¬†Another trend seems to be combining multiple properties into one, creating a huge mecca of dining options, pools, etc. ¬† It all depends on what you need to keep you entertained and your mobility level.

Variety (and quality) of restaurants. If a buffet for breakfast & lunch and a few a la carte options for dinner are sufficient, any AI will do. ¬†However, if you want access to room service, need to order breakfast off a menu or would like a high-end French meal for dinner, you’ll need to stay on the upper end of things. Some of the smaller resorts may only have 2 or 3 restaurants, but if their focus is on quality, you should still receive an excellent variety of fresh & creative food. ¬†Some of the best food I’ve had at an AI was at the Excellence Punta Cana last year… here’s just a snapshot of the types of items available at the BREAKFAST buffet!

Room accommodations. ¬†Do you want to be next to the ocean? Do you need your own swim-out pool? Are 2 beds a requirement? ¬†As with all resorts, most AIs offer a large variety of rooms and the cost will most likely be determined by the view & proximity to the beach. ¬†Many AIs now also offer an exclusive section (usually adults only), that includes a private stretch of beach, select restaurants and other upgraded amenities – it’s up to you to determine if this extra expense is necessary. ¬†Reading resort reviews on TripAdvisor or other trusted sites, is the best way to find this out for each particular resort. ¬†Here’s a perfect example… our room at the smaller,¬†Pineapple Beach Club in Antigua wasn’t the most luxurious, but it literally sat on the water, with a huge balcony… I couldn’t have asked for anything better!


Location. ¬†Do you want to explore the town/culture/sights or just stay put? Some of the best resorts are often farther from any centralized “downtowns” or local hot spots. ¬†Consider your sightseeing needs when making our selection. ¬†Also, depending on the length of your stay, you’ll want to consider the drive time to & from the airport. ¬†In Cancun, for example, most resorts are on the main strip, with a quick, 20-min ride from the airport. ¬†If you venture out towards the Riviera Maya area, however, you’re looking at 45 mins to an hour. ¬†For shorter trips, the closer the better, but if you have the time, the ride is often worth it.

All-inclusives offer something for everyone and are often easier when traveling with kids or a larger group. It’s also nice to pay for everything up front & not have to worry about extra expenses once you arrive (other than trips to the spa, gift shop or unplanned excursions). Personally, I like to make as few taxing decisions as possible when I’m on vacation, so the concept works wonderfully well for me. ¬†The only way you’ll know for sure, is to do your homework, get recommendations from friends & try it out!

Here are a few links to some of my favorites:

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Melia Caribe Tropical – Larger, well-established resort in Punta Cana. ¬†Go for the upgraded “Level” if you’re leaving the kids at home ūüėČ
Excellence Punta Cana РBeautiful, adults-only resort.  Amazing food & my favorite stretch of beach.
Iberostar Costa Dorada РSmaller, open-air resort on the north coast of the D.R.  Great food & service.

COSTA RICA
Flamingo Beach Resort – Experience “pura vida” at this laid back, boutique resort. ¬†Soon to become a part of the Margaritaville chain… hoping that doesn’t spoil the atmosphere. ¬†Here are some pics from last year’s visit ūüôā

ANTIGUA
Pineapple Beach Club & Galley Bay¬†– Both part of the Elite Island Resorts chain… Visited the quaint Pineapple this year (here’s my review), looking to try the more upscale Gally Bay soon!

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The Calm Before the Storm…

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In a few short weeks, the crowds will arrive and the summer season will officially begin at the Jersey Shore. I love living here, but I have to admit, I’m not ready to give up my empty beaches and boardwalk quite yet!

We’ve had a few mild mornings and I’ve been trying to take full advantage… enjoying long walks, bike rides, collecting shells, taking pictures and mostly just relishing in the solitude. Nothing quite compares to having that empty stretch of sand all to yourself where you can stroll, explore, & search for treasures while listening to the soothing sound of the surf and digging your toes in the sand. It’s the most peaceful and calming time for me… and always so hard to leave!

The locals know how precious this time is, and how beautiful this time of year here can be. ¬†Everyone’s seen the crowds and heard the horror stories of wall to wall people spread across the sand, and bodies bumping into each other in the water, so I wanted to share a handful of my morning pics, and even a little poem… lol… to give a glimpse of life here in the “off-season” ūüėČ ¬†Enjoy!!!

My 13.1 Mile “Trip”

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I’ve never considered myself a real runner. Over the years¬†I’ve gone through stints here & there, as a means of trying to stay fit, but I never really loved it or covered any significant distance. Then a few years ago, I was talked into running my 1st 5K race. ¬†It was right in my town, it was for a good cause & I’m pretty sure my friends “made me” do it. It was not fun. I definitely had to walk a few times & it was really difficult to catch my breath. But I finished, and proudly chalked up the accomplishment.

Fast forward a few years & a few 5ks later… My friend suggested that we do the upcoming New Jersey Half Marathon. My immediate response was absolutely not. The farthest I had EVER run was about 3.5 miles so there was no way a distance in the double digits was anywhere in my future. But then I started thinking… imagine if I could actually do it… how cool would that be???

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I went to my trusty friend Google, and started looking at training plans. I texted my serious runner friends and asked for their thoughts. I was slowly being swayed… but the self-doubt was still heavy. Ironically, timing is what eventually forced my decision. There was an upcoming registration deadline and the race was just about 12 weeks out – the exact amount of time needed for the training plan I’d been studying. ¬†

So I bit the bullet and registered. I only told a few people and decided to keep my plans off of social media (because posting it there meant I actually had to do it!). I would start the training, see how it went and make my final decision closer to the race date. It was a safe, practical, & commitment-free plan. ūüôā

And then I started running… 3 miles, 4.5 miles, 6 miles… I couldn’t believe I was actually making it so far. At 7 miles, I seemed to hit my breaking point and around the same time, I started having some crazy foot & heel pain, commonly known to runners as plantar fasciitis. It was awful. Some days I couldn’t run 2 miles before the pain stopped me from going any farther. I was halfway through my training plan and should have been up to 8 or 9 miles for my weekend “long runs” but I just couldn’t do it.

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My Battle Tools ūüôā

I finally went to a trainer who tortured me with a process called the Graston Technique, which breaks down the muscle & soft tissue in your legs that is causing the foot pain. It was absolutely horrible (sorry Chris!), but it must have helped because that procedure, combined with regular epsom salt foot baths, icing, inserts & wearing a plantar fasciitis compression sock at night helped me to recover enough to return to my training.

With my maximum distance still at 7 miles, I committed to a 10-mile training run, hosted by volunteers from the NJ Marathon group. It covered part of the actual race course and landed on a perfectly crisp, sunny, Sunday morning. My foot held up, and my confidence was boosted. I kept being told, “if you can run 10, you can do 13” and I believed it. So much so, that I posted that training run on Facebook. ūüôā

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I continued with my 3-6 mile runs, not wanting to overstress my semi-healed foot. Four days before the race, I posted my official announcement that my training was done, and that I was indeed about to partake in my very first half marathon. I worried that I hadn’t done enough, but hoped the pure adrenaline & cheers from the crowd would pull me through.

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The night before the race, I ate my big bowl of pasta, set my alarm for 5am and hit the hay. Unbelievably, I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages and I woke up feeling confident & excited. I made my coffee, tried to eat my one piece of toast with peanut butter and banana, settled on an outfit and packed my race-issued, clear plastic bag with enough supplies for days. ¬†

Our arrival at Monmouth Park, where the start would take place, did not go so smoothly.  There was a huge traffic jam leading into the venue, which forced us to hop out and walk the remaining distance. Once inside, the lines for the bathrooms were over 20 minutes long and we ended up missing the start with our intended pace groups. Remaining optimistic, we worked our way into a random spot with the rest of the herd and started our slow jog out the gate.

IMG_20170430_153018_186I won’t bore you with my 13.1 miles of life or death thoughts (only a few of death… mostly related to thirst & my ability to make it to the next water station!), but for just over 2.5 hours, a lot went on in my head. ¬†Luckily, the race route is lined with funny & encouraging signs, people blowing horns and playing music, and tons of little kids offering high fives. I will say this, to all those people who said, ‚Äúif you can run 10, you can do 13‚ÄĚ – it’s a bit misleading. ¬†Miles 10 to 12 were the most challenging by far, and I did have to walk a few times. A more realistic statement would be, “if you can make it to 12.5, you will find the strength to sprint that final stretch!”

And sprint I did… Crossing the finish line with a surge of energy and a huge smile across my face. I don’t know if you get the same feeling with subsequent races, but as a first-timer, the sense of accomplishment is amazing. You’re not concerned about your time or your place, you just know that you made it without dying, and you’re still able to walk! And I’m not embarrassed to admit it, but I definitely worked my way into a good position at the last minute for a clear, unobstructed finish line photo… After all, I just completed a HALF MARATHON!!! ¬†


12 TIPS FROM A FIRST-TIMER:

  1. Sign up with a partner.  Even if you don’t always train together, having someone to keep you accountable & motivated is a huge bonus. (Thanks Sam!)
  2. Commit to your training plan.  But don’t be afraid to make adjustments to fit your schedule. Typical plans include 2-3 shorter runs during the week & a longer run on the weekend, but the actual days are really up to you. Get the miles in, with rest days in between, to gradually increase your distance and endurance.
  3. Get used to drinking lots of water.  It’s going to be a constant during your training, and essential in the days leading up to your race.
  4. Find the right shoes.  Scoring that perfect sneaker can be a huge challenge but running 13 miles is very different than running 3, and you’ll feel it most in your legs & feet. Start with a free evaluation of your technique & requirements at a specialized running store (we went to Road Runner Sports) and let them guide you. However, use common sense and don’t get roped into overspending.  
  5. Wear cool, comfortable clothing and don’t try anything new on race day.  Unfortunately, you won’t know what the weather will be for your run until a day or 2 beforehand, so you need to have a few options ready based on the temperature.
  6. Rally your troops!  Encourage your friends & family to come out & support you and then space them out along the race course. It’s great to hear the roars at the finish line, but seeing a familiar face cheering you on from the sidelines along the way is priceless. Extra bonus if they have water for you!
  7. Plan to arrive AT LEAST an hour early.  You need time to check your bag, warm up & stretch, and make one final trip to the bathroom. The lines can be long and you don’t want to stress yourself out.
  8. Start SLOWLY.  You’ll be chomping at the bit by the time your group takes off, but a cautious beginning will help you to finish strong.
  9. Take advantage of the water stations.  Even just a sip at each stop, will help you to stay hydrated.
  10. Don’t get discouraged.¬† You might have to walk a few times & that‚Äôs ok. Don‚Äôt beat yourself up – take a drink, refocus and continue on at a comfortable pace. ¬†
  11. Get ready for your photo finish!  You just ran a half marathon Рshow that photographer at the end just how excited you are to be crossing that line!
  12. Most importantly… have fun!  You’re not going to win, you’re not going to break any records, and you don’t want to end up getting hurt… so pace yourself & simply enjoy your time on the course!

Antigua… Another Great Getaway!

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Our 7th Annual Girls Getaway to the Pineapple Beach Club in Antigua (pronounced An-TEE-gah) was another successful endeavor! This totally relaxed resort (they actually describe themselves as “the most laid back all-inclusive in Antigua”) is full of breathtaking views, beautiful grounds and an accommodating staff. With only 180 rooms, this intimate spot provides a great getaway for those looking for an adults-only resort to simply unwind.

To start… which room???

If you can splurge just a little, the waterfront rooms are the way to go. This 2-story block provides a feeling of privacy while still being right next to all the action. The rooms themselves are fairly basic, but the unobstructed views just can’t be beat. Second runner-up would be a 2nd floor spot in the Beachfront rooms… though not as private, still a great view and only steps from the sand. You really can’t go wrong with any of the accommodations here as the resort is small and nothing is very far from the beach.

Pool vs Beach… The Great Debate

The beach here wins hands-down. We’re talking the powder white sand & aqua blue water that you travel to the Caribbean for! The surf can pick up a bit on windier days, but most times you’ll be floating carefree. Don’t get me wrong, the main pool is nice with its 2 levels and cascading water features, but it’s on the smaller side and just can’t compete with the open sea!

And of course there are plenty of water sports to take advantage of as well… you can snorkel right off the beach, paddle board, kayak, windsurf and more.

How About the Food?

You know this is an important area for me… and what I will say is that the food was fine. We ate at the buffet for breakfast & lunch and had no problem assembling a nice plate with plenty of options. There is a station at breakfast for fresh eggs and at lunch they offered custom pastas or meats/fish in the same spot. I’m sure it would get a bit repetitive if you were here for a full week, but for a 4 night stay, it was perfect.

As for dinner, we enjoyed the themed buffet on 2 of our nights, ate at the Pineapple Grill one night (reservations required 2 days in advance for this one as well as their other a la carte restaurant, Chef Pietro’s) and one night we paid a preset $35 for a very nice meal at their sister property, the Verandah, right across the street. All were good, although the service was a little spotty at the a la cartes. Overall, I found the food to be more than satisfactory, but just a little on the bland side.

I almost forgot about Mary’s Outhouse! Make sure you take the hike up to Mary’s for lunch one day & enjoy a great BBQ buffet in their rustic picnic area. It’s part of the resort & is located high up on the hill with incredible, panoramic views of the island. For fun, you can create your own “sign” to leave your mark here, along with hundreds of other guests.

Nighttime Fun?
20170125_211703Instead of the usual “shows” put on at most larger all-inclusives, the Pineapple offers nightly entertainment in the main bar area each evening. They had different singers, bands, and even a karaoke night. Most started around 8pm and were finished up by 11pm, which was fine for us after a long day in the sun. There is also a disco, that we really enjoyed one night – but I think that was mainly due to the great group of 10 Canadian girls who were there celebrating their 40th birthdays – otherwise I think it may have been on the quiet side ūüėČ

Cocktails Anyone?
screenshot_20170204-172027Upon check-in, you’re handed the most deliciously strong rum punch… and from there, you’re on your way! ¬†There is one main bar in between the pool, beach & buffet restaurant. This is the central gathering spot for the resort and you’re bound to make lots of friends here, including the bartenders. Cocktails are good (no top shelf liquor though) and the local draft beer, Wadadli, was delicious. They offer a decent white wine and both a Cabernet and a Merlot for the red drinkers, both of which were quite nice for an all-inclusive.

screenshot_20170205-122027“Must-Do” Excursion…
The resort offers its own snorkeling/sightseeing trip on the “Calypso Cat” for only $65 per person. I highly recommend this 1/2 day outing to either Bird Island or Green Island (based on the day). The boat leaves right from the beach at 9am & includes snorkeling equipment, a light lunch & plenty of cocktails. The staff were awesome and we enjoyed our day IMMENSELY! For more on this trip, check out my post with more pics on my Facebook Page.

It’s so incredibly beautiful here… with so many things to see and do. Unfortunately, 4 nights were just not enough. We never made it into St. John’s to go shopping (a 30-minute trip by taxi) or over to Devil’s Bridge (a 20-30 min walk from the resort) which had been on¬†our list, but it only gives us a reason to come back, which I definitely plan to do!

NCL Breakaway… Beautiful Ship, but the Extras Can Add Up!

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Three weeks ago today, I woke up to this beautiful sunrise from my balcony on the Norwegian Breakaway. This was a last-minute booking, as my husband had to work, but my 10-year old son was off from school so I decided to take advantage of his vacation days & hit the high seas!

Departing from New York City, the Breakaway is NCL’s newest & largest member of their fleet. Sailing with almost 4,000¬†passengers,¬†this¬†is the biggest ship I’ve been on & I was worried that I’d spend most of¬†my week clutching the¬†map. I was¬†pleasantly surprised however,¬†by the ship’s easily navigable layout. And the crowds¬†only became a¬†problem when looking for the ideal lounge chair up on the pool deck or when trying to get on or off the boat (we spent almost 1.5 hours in line to get off the ship in NYC!).

There were several promotions available when I booked this sailing, however they did not apply to the “Balcony Guarantee” category we selected¬†because of its great price. For almost double the cost of our reservation, I could have chosen¬†our specific¬†balcony cabin location¬†& received¬†2 of the following free perks: 3¬†dinners at their “specialty” restaurants, an all-inclusive drink package, free wifi or prepaid gratuities. Honestly, when traveling with a 10-year old, I really didn’t think those upgrades would be worth the extra cost, so I stuck with our base fare of $649 per person and hoped for the best.

We did ok with our cabin assignment… On a “Guarantee,” the cruise line picks a cabin for you, in the category you select or higher, and you’re notified of the cabin number a few days before sailing. We ended up on Deck 11, which was very centrally located, but all the way forward on the port side. No complaints… it had a balcony and that’s all I really wanted for this trip! Our cabin attendant, Ruby,¬†was wonderful and the little extra walk to the very front of the ship was not a big deal (and always made it easy to find our room!).

Unfortunately,¬†to really experience all this ship has to offer, you need to shell out some extra cash, and be prepared to make reservations for everything – even the shows! The¬†promos that NCL was offering clearly would have enhanced¬†our experience,¬†but we kept to our budget and still managed to have a great time. Here’s my take on whether the promotional perks that I skipped were really worth it…

DINING – There are 3 complimentary main dining rooms on this ship, each with a different atmosphere, but all offering the¬†exact same menu. There is also¬†a huge buffet restaurant on Deck 15 with¬†food literally available all day long. I have always been pleased with the quality & selection of the food in these “inclusive” venues without feeling like I had to spend extra money to get a better meal at one of the specialty restaurants. On this cruise, however, I was a little disappointed. The buffet was very good & full of options, but the dining room meals were just ok and the service was spotty at times. The menu lacked creativity & variety and there were several nights that I couldn’t really¬†find anything that appealed to me. I truly look forward to my evening meal on a cruise (it’s the actual highlight of my day… can you say “foodie”?), but many nights here I was disappointed.

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La Cucina, the beautiful Italian specialty restaurant.

The specialty restaurants (some being a set price per person, others with¬†an a la carte menu) received rave reviews and the selections all looked delicious. There were options for steak, seafood, teppanyaki, sushi, Brazilian, & Italian (which I was tempted to try as the prices weren’t too bad, but I couldn’t get a reservation ūüė¶ )We did try the sushi restaurant for lunch on our last day & it was amazing.

Bottom line:  If you want to eat well on this ship, (and by that I mean quality, not quantity), pick the specialty restaurant promotion or purchase one of the dining packages & make all of your reservations online before you leave, to insure entry into your favorites.

DRINKS – This area was interesting to me. On every cruise I’ve been on, there have always been an abundance of waiters walking around trying to take your drink order. As soon as you¬†walk on the ship, they are usually pushing the “drink of day” and I usually get one… lol! Not the case here. No welcome drink as you boarded, no waiters to be found in the pool area,¬†and in the dining rooms I was only approached once. Now that so many people are opting for the all-inclusive drink package, apparently they’re no longer hungry for that money. So for those of us who would like to¬†have a drink here and there, and¬†actually pay their outrageous prices, you’ll have to find a bar & wait in line.

Bottom line: ¬†If you get the drink package, you’ll have plenty of¬†places to wet your whistle. There are uniquely themed bars¬†for¬†martinis, beer, whiskey, margaritas and more. But the all-inclusive packages are pricey…¬†averaging around $400 per person for the week. However, a single glass of red wine was over $10, so you’ll make your money back in no time. It truly depends on how many days you’ll be on the ship (vs in port) and how much you think you’ll drink each day. To me, this one is still a toss-up.

WIFI – We sailed on Carnival last year and paid approximately $60 for 120 minutes of internet access. It was fine… no file size limits and easily trackable minutes.¬†This ship only offered “per megabyte” plans, not minutes, or you could purchase an unlimited plan for $210 for the week (almost 1/3 the cost of my cruise!). I finally broke down on the 4th day¬†&¬†bought the 300mb plan for¬†$59, but was afraid to upload any pictures or even scroll through Facebook or Instagram for fear of using up all my MBs!

Bottom line:  If you need to keep in touch with the outside world, this perk may be worth it, or plan to cough up over $200 to stay connected.

GRATUITIES – This is that little bill that they tack on to your account each day to cover the tips of all the people who serve you during the week. ¬†In the old days, they gave you actual envelopes that you filled with cash and handed directly to those people providing you with the service. Now it’s simply charged to your¬†account, at the rate of $13.50 per person, per day. For a 7 night cruise, we paid $189. If you’re not happy with this amount, you can go down to Guest Services and have it adjusted, but then you’d really just look like a big jerk. ūüėČ

Bottom line: ¬†This is a set fee, so you know the cost right from the start. It would be the least valuable add-on offered, but if you didn’t need the wifi or you aren’t big drinkers, it’s a nice perk.

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In front of The Breakaway in Nassau.

All in all, we had¬†a great time… our trip was fairly low-key, focusing on activities for the kids (although none of the kids we met were overly thrilled with the kid’s club) and not participating in too much of the ship’s nightlife. The itinerary was unfortunate as our beach day at NCL’s private island was cancelled due to damage from Hurricane Matthew & our late arrival into Nassau only gave us a few cloudy hours of beach time on shore. Our best day was in Port Canaveral, FL when we chose to just stay on the ship & enjoy the less crowded pool areas.

As for NCL’s concept of “Freestyle” cruising,¬†I’ve realized after taking this trip, that the structure & formality of a traditional cruise vacation is something I actually enjoy! I missed¬†getting dressed up for dinner, getting to know my servers in the dining room, looking forward to¬†each meal¬†without¬†having to make a reservation or pay extra & being able to¬†decide last-minute if we wanted to attend¬†the main¬†nightly show (at no additional charge!). As for the food, I certainly ate my fair share, but I just didn’t find the high-end options in the dining rooms that I’m used to.

Bottom line: This is a gorgeous ship with tons to offer. The public areas are beautiful and¬†everything¬†is new and spotless. Kids will have plenty to do¬†during the day, but if they’re not into the Kid’s Club, finding something to do at night will be a bit of a challenge. For the adults, there seem to be enough bars, shows and¬†of course the casino, to keep everybody busy. Our particular itinerary wasn’t great, but the usual¬†route should be adequate for most. Don’t rule this one out, especially with the convenience of leaving from New York, but it’ll be tough to find a bargain if you want to take advantage of all this ship’s extras.

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Breakfast Worth the Wait in Asbury Park

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I love going out to breakfast (or any meal really), but there’s something about that late morning meal on a weekend that I especially enjoy. This week I returned to “Toast,” a spot that I had tried a few years ago that was good, but hadn’t really left me ohhhing or ahhhing at the time. Well, I’m happy to report that certainly wasn’t the case yesterday!

screenshot_2016-09-26-10-20-02-1Arriving at prime time on a Sunday morning (around 10am), we were told there would be a 15-20 min wait. Luckily, they take your cell number & text you when your table is ready, so you’re free to roam around Asbury Park while you’re waiting. Once we got our call, we were seated quickly & handed the delicious menu to peruse.

I immediately spotted the Eggs Benedict, of which they offer a few varieties including a Crab Cake version (which I saw pass by several times) and a Smoked Salmon Benedict, which I always adore. Yesterday however, the highlighted “Huevos Rancheros” caught my attention. I love this dish and you just don’t see it very often, so my selection was easily made.

img_20160925_112029The food took a little while to arrive, but we enjoyed the bustling atmosphere and our warm drinks (a tasty¬†Pumpkin Spice Latte for me) while we waited. ¬†And it was worth it… ¬†My two over-easy eggs, covered in Mexican cojita cheese, sat upon a crispy tortilla surrounded by a delicious variety of beans, tomatoes & fresh cilantro. Every bite was a treat. My son devoured a giant Belgian waffle topped with fresh strawberries, and my friend enjoyed her “Bacon & Brie” omelette. Delish!

Toast is only open for breakfast & lunch, but the menu offers a wide variety of options, and all items are available all day. I can’t wait to go back & try the “Lobster Cobb Salad” and I’m sure that the “Smoked Salmon Benedict” will also end up on my plate before too long!

Toast is located at 516 Cookman Ave in Asbury Park, NJ.
Current hours are Wednesday thru Monday, from 7:30am to 3pm.  During the off season, they are closed on Tuesdays.

Visit their site for the full menu (www.toastasburypark.com) and their Facebook Page for daily specials and more!