Thursday, August 29, 2013

JetSetPilot Travel Excellence Resort (Punta Cana) Review

                As owner of JetSetPilot, it has always been my worry that brand consistency between the Excellence Punta Cana and the Mexico version was missing for my clients even as they frequently came back with wonderful overall reviews of the resort.  My goal of scouting the Excellence was to find out if this worry was unfounded and to see if any differences between the two actually contributed or hurt the overall feel of the resort vs the Mexican version.  My breakdown of the many facets of this resort are as follows:

                When referencing the grounds of most Caribbean resorts, it’s important to discuss both the actual resort grounds themselves as well as the beach which can be totally dissimilar.  In this case, that was not true at all.  The resort was in great shape upon arrival, especially considering the season.  The finishings were not to my personal liking as they were colonial in style as opposed the Mexican Excellences which have more of a modern feel, however, everything was clean, well-appointed, the grass was cut well, the sand was combed and the day-to-day wear and tear seemed to be diminished greatly versus many of the competitors in Punta Cana.
                The beach itself was spectacular.  It is rare to see a resort set in the center of a long, private beach with somewhat white sand and beautiful, older palm trees lining the resort to make it feel like the resort belonged there.  There was one issue that I could see hurting clients’ opinions of the resort beach and that is the rough surf.  As a young traveler, I appreciated the big waves and workout I received when out in the ocean, but many older travelers and those looking to relax in the surf will be disappointed.  But then again, that is what the pool is for, right?  There was one vendor the entire time we were at the resort, which was a huge relief.  Many of the other Punta Cana resorts have dozens of vendors walking up and down the public beaches.
                As mentioned, the rooms were well-appointed with marble bathrooms, huge massage tubs and large showers with overhead showerhead which was uber-pleasant.  The tile floors could have been updated a little, but I am being picky.  The refrigerators were refilled twice daily with your own liquor, beer and all relatively high end brands.  The preferred club which we stayed in offered extra amenities with the room including concierge, lounge, private pool, bar and, most appealingly, a private beach area with plenty of day beds and chairs to lay on under straw umbrellas.  This was complimented by pool and beach waiter service which was extremely nice.

                The service at the Excellence was outstanding with many employees going out of their way to make you smile.  They make you comfortable throughout the resort and that is down to the last maintenance man.  The concierge team in the preferred club are extra helpful in doing basically anything you want or need.  Huitzi, the sales manager amongst other managers is sure to make our clients feel extra special.  We will communicate to that team which of our clients are coming to the resort so they can prepare accordingly.

Food was a minor letdown here, though it was great for an all-inclusive.  Dishes were very hit or miss and we will provide clients with certain restaurants to avoid as there are many less of those than ones we loved which include Barcelona and the Lobster House.  Late night room service is offered (24 hours) and is average at best, but that is what one can expect late at night.  The room service during regular hours is much better.

The entertainment was a C+.  The shows such as a “Cirque de Soleil” type show was good and so was the Burlesque show.  The game show night was poor, though if you were selected to be in it would make your vacation as a couple.  Also, the Caribbean dance show was mediocre at best.  What made my grade higher than I would have regularly rated it was the MC who “Loves His Job” and the secondary shows which were, in some cases, better than the primary shows such as the “Showtender” who was a flare-type bartending show complete with fireballs and a great drummer.  The late night disco was a C- as one night it was great, but most nights it was average to poor in terms of attendance.

Though they will try to sell you on going on some excursions while there, most in Punta Cana are not great compared to other destinations.  This is not the resort’s fault, just a differentiator between islands.  Some of the more popular ones were horseback riding on the beach, zipline, dune buggy driving and snorkel/SCUBA.
Other observations include the amazing pool bar which was the largest one I have ever seen.  The large grounds and pool made the hotel seem half full when it was very full most of the time.  I would say that this may as well be a couples resort instead of adults only such as a Sandals because unless you were part of a large group, the singles (both men and women) were difficult to find if there even were any.  The beach, again, is the nicest all-inclusive resort beach I have been to as well.  The current drive to the resort is an hour or so and is windy and bumpy, but this will be taken care of in the next year or so with new highways being built.  Keep in mind that Punta Cana requires a $10 entry tax to get in that is not included in the price of your airfare.  This is to be paid in $US as are tips throughout your stay.
In Closing
I would HIGHLY suggest this resort to all clients who are couples.  The age range made it so people of all ages would appreciate it along with the many different activities available to them.  Only those who are singles or even a bachelor/bachelorette party would I say stay away from this resort unless you want to get away from the other sex on purpose.  Those having weddings would do well to have theirs here as long as they do not want children in attendance.  Also, for the money, this resort offers extreme value compared to some of its competitors who would price similar properties much higher.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Destination Weddings with the Excellence Brand of Resorts

As the cost of weddings domestically seems more and more unobtainable to many bride and groom to be’s, there has been an increasing trend towards saying your “I Do’s” elsewhere around the world.  Specifically, resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico have made increasingly easy and fun to have weddings on the beautiful beaches they have to offer.  While everyone invited to the wedding gets their much-needed vacation, the bride and groom get their fairytale wedding and honeymoon at the same time!  Certainly, just like at home, there are some countries and some resorts that make it a little easier and offer a lot more in terms of wedding services.  One of our favorites, the Excellence Resorts, are of the few in the region that allow the ability to get everything a bride and groom could want at a reasonable cost and all in a perfect setting.

So why have your wedding at an Excellence Resort?
1. We recommend these resorts because of accommodations.  It is hard to please everyone, but the two resorts in Mexico and one in Punta Cana truly offer luxury, with rooms that boast marble, granite and tile with high-end furnishings.

2. We also love their available wedding spaces.  Some of your choices include beautiful white-sand beaches, piers and wonderful gazebos.  All spaces have great views of the ocean.

3. Food and drink.  Need we say more?  It is hard to find an all-inclusive with outstanding food including lobster tails and a plethora of choices.  Couple this with high-end liquor and beers at your disposal and you have a party!

4. Wedding planners are a well-oiled machine!  The weddings and vow renewals we have planned here are executed by wedding planners at the resort who give you a consultation upon arrival and are extremely responsive before you leave for your dream wedding.
5. The secluded “Excellence Club”.  This area will allow you to have some privacy as most guests will not stay in the club, which boasts a separate bar, beach area, pool and more.  Need to get away from your parents for a bit?  This is the place!

For these reasons and many more, we regularly offer the Excellence as an option for all of our clients.  We also use our trusted friends at Travel Impressions as suppliers.  They allow us to consolidate all of your travel needs including travel insurance in one package.  They also help keep the group organized as there are usually many people traveling with different itineraries, wants and needs.  Some other reasons we choose Excellence are proximity to the airport and sites like Chichen Itza.  At the end of the day, we trust Excellence Resorts with our clients and their most important of celebrations and they never let us down!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Accolades for JetSetPilot Hit the Media


JetSetPilot Travel
Brian Podvia

 Brian Podvia, JetSetPilot Travel
Will Represent Excellence Resorts Through 2013

            FARMINGDALE, NY (Oct. 4, 2012) – Out of a pool of over 800 applications received nationwide, Brian Podvia, Owner/Advisor, JetSetPilot Travel, Conshohocken, Pa, has been named as one of 96 Travel Impressions Ambassadors for their newly-launched program (/ and will act as a brand advocate for Excellence Resorts through Sept. 2013.           

            Brian Podvia has been carefully selected by Travel Impressions and Excellence Resorts to participate in this program based on his booking history with Excellence Resorts via Travel Impressions; personal experience and knowledge; agent enthusiasm and passion; plus communication skills and a willingness to share content through social media.

Selected agents are year-long brand Ambassadors, each with specific responsibilities for one month, beginning in October 2012 through September 2013. Travel Impressions will support Brian Podvia by collaborating on innovative promotions; generating public relations efforts, creating buzz among consumers to drive business to Ambassadors, helping to promote Ambassador status and providing exclusive social media education opportunities.

"It’s wonderful being able to represent a group of resorts I truly believe in," said Brian Podvia, Owner/Advisor OF JetSetPilot Travel. "It isn’t all that hard to tout the quality of the Excellence Resorts and ultimately recommend them to our clients because of our personal and professional experience with the brand."

Additionally, Brian Podvia’s customers will enjoy a $100 Travel Impressions Future Travel Credit which can be redeemed only when booking through them and is valid for any of the eight participating Ambassador partners noted below.

Travel Impressions Ambassadors Program

            Travel Impressions is one of the nation's largest leisure tour operators and a wholly- owned subsidiary of American Express, offering vacations to over 200 destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Middle East, Asia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Canada and the U.S.  The newly launched Travel Impressions Ambassadors Program awards top travel agents the opportunity to represent and promote eight of Travel Impressions' leading resort and destination partners including All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels; AMResorts; Atlantis, Paradise Island; Cancun, Mexico; Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts; Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resort; Sandals & Beaches Resorts; and The Island of Aruba.  

JetSetPilot Travel

JetSetPilot Travel, based in the Philadelphia area, focuses on romantic travel including destination weddings, honeymoons, babymoons and anniversary travel.  To start planning your next vacation, please call Brian Podvia at (215) 272-3221 or email him at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Using Your Local Travel Agent in 2012

I find it interesting being a travel agent these days.  Many people, when they ask me what I do for a living, look at me in disbelief when I tell them.  Their usual responses are "Those still exist?" and "Oh, I have never used one."  At the end of the day, my strong opinion is that response one only exists because of response two.  Let me break it down:

Once upon a time it was just a guy or gal on the corner of Main St. USA selling your vacations.  Then came the 1990's and online booking started becoming more and more popular.  There was good reason for that: it was easy and quick.  As popularity grew, many people decided this way was for them and stopped using the Travel Agent altogether.

Fast forward to now and while you could only book flights and hotels online in the 1990's, now one can do just about anything given the time to search for it.  So why in the world would a person go to a traditional travel agent?  To answer this, let me use my personal experience and argue the points most online bookers make and then add some color at the end:

1Booking Online is cheaper.  You are correct, people who book online spend less money than those with travel agents.  But that is misleading in many ways.  They also do not book the same trip.  Many times I have to talk my clients into spending a small amount more than they would have online because I understand what resorts, etc they will be happy with.  Too many times people come back from their online trip having stayed at the wrong type of resort or having stayed at a not so nice resort because they wanted to spend a little less.  Not to mention, those online booking engines that touted the less expensive number; they did not include transportation to and from the airport and they didn't include tours to must-see attractions that you will end up spending money on anyway.  But then you're stuck with un-trustworthy suppliers at the last second when you're scrambling to find someone to take you to your hotel from the airport upon arrival.  I am sure there's nothing wrong with that Mexican taxi....right?  and you know those people selling tours outside of the Coliseum?  Good luck with that.

2. I can find all the reviews and information I need if I just google it: You know what, you might be correct.  You also might not be.  Let me explain.  It has taken me four years to start using and trusting certain service providers and hotels after personally experiencing them.  I am not sure what google search could get me there quicker, but if someone could let me know the term I use to find and be able to trust these companies after a few days research, please tell me that now because I have been doing it all wrong.

The hotels and service providers we use are ones we now use regularly and get nothing but rave reviews from our clients about.  They are people we can reach by email and phone to check on how you are doing and request things from.  They are personal relationships that make our clients even more important to them than someone booking once online who they know most likely will never be back.

3. I really just enjoy planning my trip:  Great!  We do, too.  That's why we got into this business.  That being said, we offer our clients multiple choices of hotels and resorts, different tours and other services at multiple price-points that allows you to weigh quality and cost.  The great thing about it is that we, again, trust all of these hotels at the multiple price-points.  We also give you direct links to online rating agencies and the resort websites themselves to jump-start your own personal research.  You can say no to whatever we suggest if you don't like it and we will find the right trip for you!

There is also so much more to consider when planning a trip.  First off, do I get insurance?  Why would I get insurance?  A professional can discuss those things with you.  Certainly, those people caught in hurricanes this last summer or those that were stuck in Europe when the volcano in Iceland blew would argue for insurance.  There are also those other coverable situations such as layoffs, illness or death in the family and lost luggage.

Most importantly and what adds the most value in our mind is having someone to call in case you need anything while on your trip.  We have been able to fix small problems and snafus while our travelers are abroad.  This is worth its weight in gold when you're standing in line waiting at the desk because of a flight cancellation.  The line isn't moving, but guess who is on the phone talking to your airline as soon as you call us.  Oh, and by the way, you won't wait on hold to reach us and we do speak your language!

Finally, as a small business, we give you personalized service.  We learn more and more about you every time you come to us.  You're supporting us and you're not just another online booking to us.  We'd like to get to know you!  Oh and that online price you found: we can match it!  Why not get all of this service from us at the price you find online? 

So do yourself a favor, try a travel agent next time you're planning a trip.  And definitely go to an experienced agent that has a good presence in the community as well as online.  And remember, everyone has an opinion, but who has experienced most everywhere and most resorts everywhere as well?  A good travel agent has.  You haven't experienced a full, turn-key trip with no worries until you have used a good travel agent.

Brian Podvia
Owner, JetSetPilot Travel

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Most Recent Feature in Recommend Magazine

Some of you may have seen this highlighted on our Facebook page.  However, here is a link to the article directly.  Thanks.  It gives some insights from us and other professionals about the Atlantis Resorts.  Good stuff, but we never reveal all our secrets to non-clients!  Enjoy............

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Our Partners: Little Woman Design

JetSetPilot and Brian Podvia were lucky enough to be featured in one of their partner's blogs. While Little Woman Design focuses on graphic design and stationary for big events, their blog tries to address the event and wedding planning scene as a whole. Here is their recent article on honeymoon planning:

Don't forget that JSP was also featured as one of only 12 agents in the US to act as Ambassadors to the Excellence Resorts in Mexico, Punta Cana and, soon enough, Jamaica.  These high-end resorts are reasonably priced and will have most people come running back.  Article to follow in the coming days!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Please read the excerpt from our partner's newsletter featuring Brian Podvia, Owner of JetSetPilot Travel.  This newsletter is from All About Events, a company specializing in event and wedding planning owned by our friend Sarah Morrison.  Our partnership involves working together to make destination weddings perfect for our clients, including full wedding planning services and travel services for your friends and family: 
Vendor Spotlight

Brian Podvia
JetSet Pilot Travel

As destination weddings have become more popular in recent years, All About Events has teamed up with JetSet Travel Agency to offer a one-step, combined planning experience to clients who are planning such a destination event.

Brian Podvia is a managing partner of JetSet and prides himself on being a destination wedding and honeymoon specialist. He has agreed to join forces with All About Events in the destination planning process because he believes this is the best way for couples to get a truly unique, stress-free planning experience.

For both the travel and planning components of destination events, Brian explains why couples will be much happier working with professionals who offer a "one stop" service rather than juggling everything themselves.

"While many resorts have their own wedding planners," Brian notes on the event planning perspective, "most can not think outside of their ‘three packages to choose from’ box and most won’t even bother planning with you until a couple of months before your wedding date because they are stacked sometimes 4-6 weddings daily." This can make for a very impersonal experience and Brian encourages couples to use a planner they can meet with and speak to regularly.

All About Events is very excited about this joint venture with Brian and JetSet! They encourage couples to heed Brian’s advice so your destination wedding experience is the very best it can be.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We couldn't have said it better ourselves..........

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Key West, Florida – “Quaint” Is the Word of the Day

Bright and early Easter Monday, stocked with water, soda, coffee and breakfast sandwiches we set our sights on Key West from Ft. Lauderdale. After much debate of whether to take 95 or the Turnpike to Route 1 (the often 2 lane highway that takes you from Miami to the Southernmost Point), we settled on the Turnpike. Either way would have been fine, my suggestion is take a look at the traffic reports and go with whichever one looks clear.

TRAVEL TIP: When vacationing to Key West, or any of the Keys, you have several airport choices. Ft Lauderdale, Miami, or 2 airports within the keys: Key West International or Florida Keys Marathon Airport. Ft Lauderdale will 9 times out of 10 give you the best price from anywhere in the country, but leaves you with the longest drive. Keep in mind most find the drive through the Keys a destination in itself, so if you think you’ll enjoy a scenic 3.5 hr drive…skip the more expensive flights into the keys and rent a car from either Miami or Ft Lauderdale.

There are over 4500 Keys, some of which include Marathon Key, Scout Key, Long Key, Grassy Key and of course Key Largo. The views along the drive are supreme, but most of the 180 miles consists of a 2 lane highway which makes the drive a little more stressful when you’re stuck behind someone driving slower than you’d like. But with Key West as your ultimate destination, we just sat back and relaxed, knowing the beautiful weather, views and drinks that awaited us.

We decided on a Bed and Breakfast on the southern end of Duval street, the main street that goes through town, called Avalon. It was the definition of quaint and a perfect place for us and Brian’s parents.

Definition of Quaint: Charmingly odd, attractively unusual, especially in an old-fashioned way.

Everywhere we went in Key West, we found ourselves using the word “quaint” to describe our surroundings; our bed and breakfast, the restaurants, Duval Street, etc. We also found the description “quaint” on handbags, towels and mugs; so we are not the only ones who felt this way.

We also found that a great deal of European families around town, which was quite surprising considering Key West with all its bars busy nightlife and liberal nature, is not the most family friendly Florida Key. We did our own bar crawl of our favorites, kicking it off with Fogarty’s and the Flying Monkey drinks

Next was the Earnest Hemmingway’s favorite, Sloppy Joes, followed by Hog’s Breath and eventually Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel for dinner, watched the sun set at Mallory Square and hit up an Irish bar for after dinner cocktails and a country musician / comedian for entertainment.

The next morning, Brian’s parents walked across the street from the Avalon to The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory which they raved about! Check for coupons which are everywhere, and you should be able to find at least $2 off an adult ticket.

Meanwhile, Brian and I got the four of us tickets to the World Famous Key West Conch Train Tour The train leaves every 20 minutes from several locations in Key West, and zig zags through historic Key West. The amount of history, stories and get commentary they pack into the tour is truly amazing. The only time the train drivers were silent was during a few multi-block quiet zones. We hopped on and hopped off a few times, picked up a pair of Kinos, handmade flip flops made for men, women and children and only cost $14 on average! I’ve had my pair for 2+ years and while they are worn in, they are still going strong!

A few more Flying Monkey drinks, shopping excursions and a brief afternoon rest back at the Avalon, we made our way to The Half Shell for our seafood dinner.

Everyone choose a different seafood entrĂ©e including fish and chips and crab and shrimp, as well as a few appetizers. My personal favorite was the conche ceviche! Sufficiently stuffed, we walked back to the Avalon were we sat on our front porch recapping the day and all the fun we had…sad to have to leave the next morning for the 7 1/2 hour drive to Tampa.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Florida - Part 1

Thank you US Airways for the First Class upgrade once again! Check in was one of the shortest waits in our travel history, as was the security line with the ability to go through the priority line. Unfortunately Brian’s luck brought him to be chosen for the random security search and pat down, and due to my floor length sundress I was patted down as well. My thoughts darted off to the show “Locked up Abroad” where women wore the same outfit I was wearing, only difference is they were carrying 10+ pounds of some kind of white powdery drug. Meanwhile my purse was also being run through the x-ray machine 3x plus a manual search. Surprise surprise, nothing turned up, and we walked off to grab some breakfast before boarding the plane.

I love the US Airways magazines that are offered in the airplane seat holders, they are great travel and business reads. With the US Airways hub being in Philadelphia, it’s not surprising to see all the features of the area, this particular magazine featured Brian’s home hometown of Skippack and a few featured restaurants in Philadelphia. It also included a good deal of golf courses around the US…which I’m not particularly interested in but I’m sure a lot are.

While visiting family in Ft Lauderdale, we decided to stay for the second time at the Ramada: Hollywood Beach Resort in Hollywood Beach a bit south of Ft Lauderdale. The resort itself is pretty outdated but the rooms are clean, prices are good and the resort Beach Bar is well worth the return. We did however upgrade our room category from our last stay to a 1 bedroom suite in hopes that the rooms would be a bit more insulated and quiet in the evenings to promote a better night sleep. At check-in it turns out the only suite room available was a 2 floor loft with the 2nd floor on the penthouse level. It couldn’t have been any quieter! The 1st floor consisted of a bathroom, closet, kitchenette and living area. Upstairs another bathroom closet and bedroom, and an ocean view to top it all off!

A large resort pool, many shops and resort bar O’Malley’s it’s all you need for a nice long weekend vacation. The surrounding area of Hollywood isn’t the most glamorous, but with O’Malley’s there’s no reason to stray too far. We haven’t tried any of the restaurants in the area, but we passed plenty of Seafood Restaurants right by the water which I’m sure are worth a try. Parking was $18/valet or $15 self park for 24hrs. $2/hr for short term parking, or street parking if you’re able to find anything.