What you say about the WOW Factor!
March 31st, 2016 (Havana, Cuba)
Dawn and Zusel:
Since we were one of your first visitors, I thought that you would appreciate some feedback. It is very positive, but I wanted to you to know the negatives as well.
Getting to Cuba. After we booked the condo, we ran into problems finding flights on the days that we needed. Ultimately it worked out by staying a night at Yanin (we actually enjoyed being able to see two places) and Zusel’s idea to coordinate our ride to Azul with the Architecture tour was fantastic.
Cuba Travel Services was helpful in arranging the Visas. We had a lot of stress and back and forth over the travel affidavit, and the amendments to the Treasury department regulations the week before we left, but ultimately it proved unnecessary (see below). This should be easier based on the changes to the regulations on March 15th. Everyone should be able to check the Person to Person educational and cultural exchange. We felt that we had that requirement fulfilled by the end of the first day based on our conversations with Zusel and Rafael!
Yanin. Fantastic Compound. Diani was a great cook. Her dinner the first night set a high bar. We were not that impressed with the “beach” and were glad that we did not stay there permanently. Azul was much more centrally located and better for all of the activities that we had planned. But we may not have been the “normal” group either. We were looking to stay active, not to lounge around by the pool for more than a few hours at a time.
Azul Penthouse. We loved it. It was rough on the outside but fantastic on the inside. It was everything that we could have asked for. Having the Beer, Water and Rum available for purchase upon arrival was a great touch. The location could not have been better (we definitely preferred it over Yanin). There were some problems in some of the showers with hot water but we expected such inconveniences. It might be helpful to try to coordinate check--in and checkout times with the flight schedules. It isn’t a hotel, so it might be possible. We had a little scare the last day because of our late (9 p.m.) flight time, but it ultimately worked out by vacating the rooms bynoon and having the pool deck until 2 p.m.
Zaida and Alina were fantastic. Unfortunately we lost Zaida to her medical condition, but Alina took care of what we needed, including a special birthday Dinner for Julia.
Joel / Architecture Tour. Joel was great. He was highly informative, and he really knew his material regarding the architecture. This was probably our most educational tour.
Rafael / Vinales / Angel (the farmer). We greatly enjoyed our time with Rafael and we loved his approach to the mural where he gave his views very subtlety and let us draw our own conclusions. Angel was fantastic. He was very friendly and welcoming. Getting to see how he and his family lived was a highlight. All that said, the ride was a little too long for our taste and I’m not sure that we would select it again due to the 6 hours of round trip driving time. But we do not regret doing it once. Some suggestions for improvement include adding a stop in the town (but I understood the reasons for not doing it) and doing more of a cigar tasting with a few branded cigars to compare to Angel’s organic cigars. It might also help to be a little more detailed in the descriptions of the touring. I’m not sure that we would have selected this one if we knew that it would require 6 hours of driving.
Yuly / Old Havana / Independent touring. We loved Yuly and enjoyed her personal story. She did not have the same expertise as Joel and our old Havana time was interrupted by President Obama (Finally, we can actually blame Obama for something and actually mean it.). I’m glad that we saw old Havana, but I suspect that it is going to become even more touristy in the near future as the cruise ships fill the harbor. The independent touring was a bust -- but that was our fault. I would suggest that people not pick this option unless they have very specific plans in mind. We did not, and as a result it was not as good as it could have been. Yuly found some good places to take us, but I think that we could have done better with more planning.
Beach day. The weather did not cooperate, but Zusel and Yuly’s efforts to find something that would work for everyone were fantastic. Santa Maria was a beautiful beach, and we had a good lunch before the weather became too windy.
Buena Vista Social Club. We left early. The food was the worst that we experienced (and we tried gas station street food and the Kefeteria). The music was great, but there was no salsa dancing and Yuly was kept off in a corner by herself. We wanted to have her with us. This felt like a tourist trap, and it felt like a cruise ship had emptied into the restaurant.
Convertible Tour. Fantastic. That was a great way to see the city. I would put this at the beginning of the week so that people can get a better feel for the city. I definitely have an email where we discussed combining this with the architecture tour, but that would NOT have been a good way to do this. One of our divers was a little more knowledgeable that the other and we had seen some of the sights previously, but we really enjoyed this tour.
The Rolling Stones. Bucket List Item Checked Off! Zusel went above and beyond to find that house for us. We had every intention to go into the concert, but our spot was too good to leave. Enough said.
Alejando. We loved him. We just wish that he could have been with us all week.
Zusel. Zusel went above and beyond in many ways and has an expertise in coordinating schedules and simply getting things done that is simply a gift. I won’t belabor it because apparently we gave Brendan enough information to ensure Zusel’s job future -- I understand that she was immediately promoted during the concert.
As a more general matter, we would have preferred to have our Cuban hosts join us at meals. We enjoyed their company and we learned something new in every conversation. It was well worth an additional few bucks to have them join us, and I would encourage you to make that a “suggestion” as part of the tour packages. But again, our group may be a little “not normal.”
Airport Issues. STRONGLY encourage guests NOT to check bags on the way to Cuba. If they need to check on the way home to bring home their purchases, that is fine. We waited over 2 hours for mine upon our arrival. The airport just can’t handle it and it is going to get worse before it gets better. Once we finally had our bags, Zusel made us feel very comfortable as soon as we met her. That was well executed.
Wifi is now available in the parks. But don’t just give people cards. Make them work for it the way that we had to. It made it more interesting.
Leaving Cuba. We lightened our load by donating some of our clothes to our Cuban friends. I often bring older clothes on vacation and leave them there. This time, they served a purpose. This is a good recommendation for other travelers.
I think that arriving 4 hours in advance for departure was excessive. 2 hours would have been more than enough time. There simply are not many flights in and out of that terminal so it should not back up excessively. Bring books for the wait. There are money changes before and after passport control and there is food available. Some of the shops close, but we were told that the currency exchange does not.
Tips. We wanted to give something to everyone, but when you spread it out, like that it adds up. Suggestions for future travelers would be welcome.
US Customs in Miami. They looked at my travel affidavit and laughed. They said that you don’t need it. Only 3 of the 150 people on our flight were non-Americans. 5 of us went through separately and none of us had any issues -- or even questions about rum or cigars.
Again, thank you for helping us arrange an unforgettable and enriching trip. I can’t wait to go back (with Christine) in a few years. As much as we enjoyed ourselves, we hope to find that some things are very different at that time.
March 15th, 2016 (Kinsale, Ireland)
Jim Good and the Shearwater condos were the perfect combination of location and that warm "Irish" welcome! Jim provided in depth knowledge of the area to us and provide a fun and fact filled 1.5 hour tour around Kinsale. When we had a slight medical emergency while in Kinsale he took charge and got us into a doctor's office and provided transport to us. He is a wonderful resource and his nickname of the "the Mayor" is well suited to him. He knows everyone!
March 16th, 2016 (Costa Rica)
We had a fabulous time on our Girls Trip to Roma Del Mar. The Villa was perfect and the views were breath taking and panoramic of the beach and the mountains. The food and service at the Restaurant Aroma was spectacular! We really enjoyed the personal touches that you and Michael provided to us on our stay. The Costa Rica locals were lovely as well. We met quit a few as we ventured out every day for excursions. We highly recommend Thomas for the Snorkeling and beach excursion as well as the Zip Line through the 11 waterfalls and the horseback riding in the mountains! What a lovely paradise you have created and get to live in.
Sept 9th, 2015 (Kinsale, Ireland)
We had a fabulous time on our trip thanks to Jim. I did not get to say goodbye or thank you to him, could you please pass this along to him. The accommodations were fabulous, Kinsale was everything my imagination dreamed of. Hiring of Elite cars was the best suggestion and their drivers were so informative and made each trip great, and the rates were great!!!!!!!
There is nothing I would do different, and will be looking to hopefully plan a trip with WOW factor again in the future!
July 17th, 2015 Sheena C. (visited England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales)
I just found this email from you down in the bottom of my LONG list of emails. Thanks so much for all your tips while in Killarney - I do actually think Ireland was the best part. I would indeed be back! Loved the entire area!
June 2015 From Kim & Kurt M., Visting Killarney
We have been having a wonderful time in Ireland, Nyree. The countryside is absolutely stunning and the people here are some of the nicest ever! We have been told that we have had the "luck of the Irish" on our side with the weather, too!
Our driver for the Ring of Kerry, Con, was such a nice man. Full of interesting facts and stories. Well worth our money. Thank you so much for recommending and setting it up. Our trip has far exceeded our expectations! And by the way, your treat box was gone days ago!
We made it home safely after 30 hours of some sort of travel…planes, trains, and automobiles! The weather did not cooperate and we experienced several delays. But, travel aside, we truly enjoyed our Ireland experience so much. We met some wonderful people, saw some great sights, and felt very much at home. Thanks again for meeting with us and guiding us in the right direction. We will most definitely pass your name along and highly recommend a trip to Ireland to our friends and family. Hope you enjoy your summer as well.
June 2015 Nancy P., Visting Killarney
So good to hear from you, Nyree! I had planned to email you on the way home but got wrapped up in other things.
It was lovely finally getting a chance to meet you and your partner, Niall. Your advice came in handy-- I got my glass of Murphys at the pub Niall recommended. Later I noticed that the pub was listed on a poster of top pubs in Ireland. I also watched the Gaelic football match in a pub on Sunday and had the game explained to me. Quite a celebration afterwards. It was funneling in Killarney on such an eventful weekend and The Malton is very centrally located for either walking or driving. I had a great time with my brother and his wife--and we covered a lot of ground together -- a day up to theCliffs of Moher, a nice weather day around the Ring of Kerry, a day in Killarney National Park and a day to Cork/Blarney Castle. Only had one really rainy day, so we were lucky. Didn't get to Dingle orGalway so I will have to come back, hopefully with my husband! Would love to chat more! If you all come to DC, contact me!
June 2015 Bruce P., Visting Killarney
We loved our trip and would love to come back some day. Our expectations were exceeded in every way. I felt bad for Niall because I think we kept him out longer than expected, especially since he had to double back and retrieve the supposed lost cell phone that really wasn’t lost! I hope he wasn’t too tired from the long day, we sure loved it, it’s my favorite part of the trip. Thank you both so much for everything and I have your card and contact info that I will share with others should anyone around here get that way.
It was a trip of a lifetime. Best of luck and good health to you and Niall!
July 2015 Mike B. & Cindy C., Visting Killarney
We had an absolutely amazing time in the Kingdom of Kerry. The accommodations were outstanding as were all of the folks we encountered in our travels. Ireland holds a special place in our hearts and we were honored to have you be a part of this journey.
All our best, Mike and Cindy
June 2015 David F., Visting St. Andrews
I replied yesterday, but did have a couple of additional comments. The accommodations were very good. The location was what made them excellent.
It would be an improvement if you could come up with a less expensive way to make the security deposit on the apartment. I had to pay a $50 fee for my bank and a $25 fee for the Bank of Scotland to wire a £150 deposit. Electronic check or some alternative would be less expensive.
Thanks again for this lodging- our week in St Andrews was fabulous.
July 2015 Mary Jo G., Visting Killarney
I just want you to know that we have returned from our WONDERFUL TRIP to Ireland!!!! The Condo was ABOSLUTELY PERFECT!!! It was Very Accommodating for our Family of 7. And the location and the VIEW was Beautiful!!! J Only, Only thing was ‘just a bit cool’ for a Southern Girl….but Very Grateful for ‘no rain’. Until the last day in Dublin and Only for a brief time at that!!! And Mr Jim Good was a TREMENDOUS Help and a very Kind Man!!! And you were also a tremendous help to me as I planned for our trip. Thank you and I will certainly recommend ‘Wow Factor’…. Do you have properties in other countries?
Sincerely Mary Jo
March 2015 Eric C., Visting Costa Rica
Thanks for the note. We had a great experience at Roma Del Mar! It's hard to explain, as we are more used to being either in a large resort or traveling in larger cities when we go abroad. This one was totally different and one we'll always cherish. We WILL go back. I believe it was a combination of the hospitality directly at Roma, but also being submersed in the culture as much as we were. AND, the house was fantastic as well.
The destination was excellent from the home perspective. While we were aware that this was not a location near a large city, I don't think any of us were aware just hot remote it was. So, at first, we were a bit surprised. But, this ended up being one of the biggest advantages and what we'll remember the most.
Accomodations: As I mentioned the home was great. Not super well appointed in the kitchen, but we got by. The pool area was awesome, the view spectacular and every day when we came back from whatever we were doing that day, it was just fantastic to come back and relax there. Perfect....
Customer Service: First of all, there are not enough superlatives to describe Arlene! From the start, before we embarked, she was so accommodating in setting up our itinerary. But even more importantly, once there, she (and Adrian) became a major reason why our stay there was so positive. Honestly, we were so sad to leave them and our house. I'm generally ready to head home after a vacation week, but within a week, I felt like this WAS home. It was absolutely a great experience because of Arlene's hospitality!
We did several planned activities through the Roma del Mar program. We went snorkeling and through the Curu forest one day, Offshore fishing another, and kayaking a third day. Then we had "down" days in between. One of those days we went on our own to the beach at Samara. We also went down to nearby Playa Blanca the second day we were there and made lots of friends! Then we ended the week (on Friday) with massage therapy from Anna (awesome).
It's hard to say any one of these were our favorites, because each were enjoyable. If I had to pick I'd say the day we went to Curu and snorkeling. This is because the guide for that was really great (Milton)! He was so kind and so knowledgeable it made the day for us.
But again, it really was everything tied together that made this such a great experience.
In regards to improvements, again, possibly some of the appointments in the house (especially kitchen) could have been better. And, there were light bulbs missing. But that did not take away from our experience!
Thanks for checking in and Pura Vida!
March 26th, 2014
Just a quick note to thank you for your generosity while we were in Kinsale a few weeks back! We enjoyed meeting you and appreciate your kindness in showing us around your wonderful town. We know we saw things we would not have otherwise, and that includes Patrick! At your recommendation, we dined at Man Friday that night as you know, and have that in the book as the best dinner we had the entire time we were in Ireland. The Spaniard was up there as one of the best pubs, and of course the Trident was great as well…..but most of all, we enjoyed meeting you and hope to see you again sometime in Kinsale. Many thanks!.
John McGovern (Julie McGovern’s cousin)
Karen & Doug
Oct 9th, 2013
We had the best trip ever!!!! it couldn't have been better. We had a few questions about "the equipment" in the flat. We Americans had trouble trying to figure out how to turn on the hot water for the shower, use the fancy coffee pot, and even turn on the dish washer and the mircowave.lol. so our guide helped us and so did Nikki. We left "suggestions" so they could perhaps share with other guest who don't use the same wonderful systems. Other than those kinks, the trip was Fabulous!!!! Many thanks to your organization for making it possible. It was indeed a WOW experience. Blessings to you Dawn and to all those that provide this experience. With much appreciation,
Aug 26th, 2013
We just made it home and heading for bed before I am right back at work but...
Once More, thank you very much for a lovely vacation. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Please see below for my review and please use this as my permission to use it online or in other marketing materials you will use.
Roma del Mar in Costa Rica was a fabulous place to stay. The villas are gorgeous and well kept. The villa we stayed in had the most beautiful view, as well. I highly recommend you experience Costa Rica in general and even better if you stay at Roma del Mar.
Beyond the villa itself, the people that you work with to get settled are the most friendly people you will ever meet. They make sure you are comfortable and ensure you are not missing anything to make your stay complete. During our stay we decided to do a few excursions off site. Each was booked on our behalf, all directions supplied and it was the smoothest process we could have asked for. Arlene was perfect in her suggestions on what to see and for all the arrangements that she made on our behalf.
Don’t hesitate to enjoy a personal chef for a night or two. The food was out of this world and our evening was so enjoyable. If a little relaxation if also needed, massages at your villa can be arranged. Again, great value and well worth the few extra dollars for this.
I took my family of 4 plus my parents on this vacation. It worked well for the young and old alike J. I highly recommend a villa at Roma del Mar. Pura Vida!
Aug 26th, 2013
Brendan and Jim (via Wendy):
The press of business upon return has passed so it is time to thank each of you for making the WOW! experience in Kinsale pretty much a wow from our perspective. We enjoyed ourselves very much. Jim was a gracious and concerned host who was able to answer even our most obtuse questions regarding Kinsale and Ireland.
The car in lieu of golf also worked well. We came up a little short but not an issue at all. By car is a great way to see and touch Ireland.
Thank you very much for the experience.
Van and Jayne
We had a fantastic trip to Ireland! We are now thinking about our return trip since we could not visit many destination! Kinsale was lovely and Jim Good was a treat – he did a nice job orienting us to Kinsale. The golf at Old Head was unbelievable!!! I wish we could have stayed longer but as you know – work and kids called us home…..
Thank you so much for working with us. We will look for more Wowfactor at our charity events! Cheers, The Shelby
July 22, 2013
I just wanted to let you know we had a great time in Kinsale. Jim Good was a blessing!! If it were not for him, our trip would have been average but his sincere effort to make sure we hit all the right spots spots was a blessing. Also, Eugene's driving service was awesome. He was very professional and made our trips around Kinsale very enjoyable! His driving service was definitely the right decision! Thanks again.
June 12, 2013
The Petersen’s (and party) had a wonderful time in Kinsale and southwestern Ireland. On top of that (according to several people we talked to) it was the best weather that Ireland experienced in a very long time. I think what made the trip very special for all of us was… Jim Good. I am sure that this comes as no surprise, but we all felt that he personally took care of us from the very beginning to the last few moments of our visit to Kinsale. He is such a wonderful person and wish we could have “bottled him up” to take home with us. Jim would fit right in with our Texan hospitality.
All six of us want to thank you, Jim and The People of Ireland for a wonderful visit. You have made all of us lifelong fans of your beautiful country and can’t wait for a return trip.
All the best,
Mark and Margaret Petersen
May 27th, 2013
The villa was beautiful and just as advertised as far as facilities. The hosts were wonderful as well. So helpful. The only recommendation I have is to inform people that if they fly from the US and catch the ferry they will get to Roma Del Mar after dark and the place to check in will be closed, so it's a very good idea to have a usable cell phone to call the hosts when you arrive. We were lucky that we rented a local cell phone from our car rental agency. Our AT&T phones did not work well down there and we probably would have been in a lot of trouble without it. Also, it should be noted that Roma Del Mar is Not in a tourist heavy area which we liked but could also cause problems for some people. It was an adventure. We took a 4 year old 2 year fold 1 year old and 4 month old and had a great time. Thinks about repeating the trip sometime in the future Also, the massage and the chef that are available were awesome.
May 6, 2013
Just a note to tell you how much Maureen and I enjoyed the Kinsale trip.
Could not have asked for a better time. The accomodations were first rate, and Jim Good, Mr. Lillis' contact in Kinsale was superb.
Jim took the time to find out our interests, and arranged for us a spectacular time.
I would highly recommend Brendan Lillis and his trips to anyone. Feel free to use me as a recommendation.
July 31, 2012
Hello Jim - A note to say 'Thank you so much for your amazing Irish hospitality. This has been such a memorable vacation here in Kinsale, & I know it wouldn't have been possible without all the tours and conversations of how to make thisan experience we absolutely will not forget. Thank you for booking the guys golf at Old Head and our Spa day.
The entire trip has been a trip of a lifetime, and you have been a great part of our experience here
Love, Chris & Julie
Wishing you all the best with many thanks for your gifts of hospitality. You are a man of many talents and we were blessed to be the recipients of these and your time.
Thank you for making our stay the very best it could be.
May you continue to go far with many friends!
Sincere Regards, Joe and Lori
Jim, Thanks so much for your gracious help. We have had a wonderful trip & hope to be back soon!
Steve & Wendy
Jim, Thank you for making our visit so enjoyable. I loved every minute of our Ireland experience.
Jim, You have such a wonderful country!. Thank you for all your help. We sure had a great time here and would love to come back!.
October 28, 2011A Thank You Letter from Community Grief Support Service
Carol A. MacMillian
October 20, 2011
"Thank you again, Brendan, for allowing us to use these packages. They continue to be a huge hit."
June 28 ,2011
Hope all is well where ever you are in the world. Marianne and I finally arrived back home yesterday evening after having an amazing vacation. We truly believe that are time in South Africa will be difficult to top. Everything at Zulu Nyala couldn't have been more perfect than it was. Everything from the staff, accommodations, AMAZING GAME DRIVES, meals, scenery, etc was just breathtaking and we already miss it. We did however take over 2000 photographs that will take me the better part of a few dedicated days of editing and deleting, but will remind of us of our time in South Africa.
Furthermore, we just wanted to say a final thank you as this vacation was made possible with your assistance. From the endless emails we sent back and forth to you taking care of the bookings, Marianne and I were truly satisfied by this wonderful experience that we hope one day we can venture off and do it again.
Thank you and Safe Travels,
Zack and Marianne
Dear Mr. Lillis,
On behalf ofthe Southeast Cancer Foundation, I want to thank you for making the trip to Ireland possible for our recent James Bond Gala Live Auction. Thanks to your generosity, Jack Granger and Associates were able to raise a total of$14,500 for the trip by selling it twice, to the two top bidders!
Needless to say, we are just overjoyed to have made this much money for cancer research, where doctors in the Southeast are working hard towards better treatment options for patients and finding a cure. We are happy to be a part ofthis very important environment and feel that we are making a difference for mankind.
Because of friends like you, we will be able to net close to $250,000 from our Gala and help these researchers in their advancement towards finding a cure -in our lifetime. We appreciated your kindness to us and wish you success in your endeavors as well.
Sincerely, Yvonne Pope
Oct 22, 2010
We would like to thank you for arranging a fantastic trip for us to Zulu Nyala, Johannesburg and Victoria Falls. Each place was special with wonderful accommodations. We would particularly like to commend Sandile at Zulu Nyala and Patrick at the Country Manor for making our experience memorable and educational.
Both are knowledgeable, delightful to be with, and true ambassadors for your beautiful country. Seeing Victoria Falls is an awesome experience.
We’re already missing our daily game drives
Sincerely Naomi and Ivan
Nov 6th, 2010
We are still flying high from our trip to Zulu Nyala! Everything went so beautifully and all your arrangements worked perfectly. Our guides were wonderful and the accommodations were spectacular. Thank you for all your hard work and diligence. This was the trip of a lifetime for us and one we will never forget.
Thank you for making it so memorable and seamless
Leslie and Bill
Nov 15th, 2010
As I reflect upon my 3 weeks in Kinsale I am so very grateful to you. Upon my first moments until my final departure you were with me every step of the way and I feel it is important to acknowledge this sort of hospitality. Never in my life have I met someone so committed to hospitality.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you did for me; stocking the apartment with essential groceries that I might have needed my first 24 hours, to giving me outstanding recommendations to the restaurant and sightseeing amenities, guiding me through the many apartment heating and appliance instructions, to checking in with me to ensure my comfort, to driving me to the train and actually getting me and my many bags on the train upon my departure.
I have never travelled alone and I never for one second felt alone. I will never forget all that you did for me and my family and I want you to know how much it meant. You made me feel so very welcome and a part of an extraordinary community which I have come to treasure in a very special way. I don’t know if you will understand how important that was to me.
So, to conclude we may never know what another person’s needs are in life. Maybe they need a comfortable place to be: a place to work for a while, maybe they need a safe haven from life’s hardships, or maybe they need a place to celebrate the best of life which for me was in Kinsale! You are a person that covered it all and so very graciously! I thank you Jim Good for all you did to make my time in a foreign country as one of the most pleasurable experiences of my life. I do hope to return and extend up my most blessings to you and all that I think I know you to be – a very honorable man of distinction! May God Bless you and if it ever were that I could extend hospitality to you or your family please let me know.
This was a great experience. The staff couldn’t have been nicer. Our guide Philemon was just terrific. We met some wonderful people to share our experiences as well.
Thank you again for helping with choices and decisions during the many months preceding our trip. You were a wonderful resource and I greatly appreciated your patience with my various inquiries! Look forward to hearing from you.
With warmest regards,
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