Saturday, May 25, 2013

Choosing the Right Caribbean Destination (guest post by Tiffany Mullins)

With over 7,000 islands to choose from, selecting the ideal destination for your Caribbean getaway can seem like an overwhelming task. While all of the Caribbean islands provide sun, sand and stunning ocean views, it’s important to consider what other attractions and activities you’ll want to experience in order to make your vacation perfect. The good news is that the Caribbean offers a little something for everyone, whether you’re hoping for a romantic and secluded retreat, a fun and family-friendly environment or a high-energy party scene. Decide what type of vacation you’d like to experience, and check out our list below to learn which hotspots you should visit during your getaway.

Rekindle Romance in Negril, Jamaica

Readers of recently voted Negril as the most romantic destination in the Caribbean. A small town situated along Jamaica’s western coast, Negril boasts gorgeous rock cliffs and pristine beaches that create a unique, unforgettable backdrop for your exotic escape.

Dubbed the “Capital of Casual” for its easygoing vibe and authentic Jamaican feel, Negril hosts more than 50 romantic resorts that cater to parties of two, like Sandals Negril and Grand Pineapple Negril. One of the area’s most alluring attractions is its famed Seven Mile Beach, where white sands stretch as far as the eye can see. Once you’ve attained the perfect tan, you can head over to the popular Rick’s Café to sample Jamaican cuisine, watch cliff divers splash into the turquoise water and witness some of the most stunning sunsets in the world.

Finally, once you and your loved one have had enough beach bumming and cocktailing, you can enjoy romantic excursions like catamaran cruises along the calm Caribbean surf, or bond over island adventures like horseback riding on the beach. It’s no wonder Negril was recently voted the top Caribbean destination in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice® 2012 – it’s a veritable paradise for couples hoping to leave their cares behind!

Party Up and Boogie Down in San Juan, Puerto Rico

A popular destination among spring breakers each year, San Juan has been nicknamed the Caribbean “City that Never Sleeps” by travel site, which describes San Juan as one of the seven best Caribbean cities for exciting nightlife. In fact, San Juan boasts more nightclubs than anywhere else in the Caribbean! Salsa clubs and lively bars line the streets of Old San Juan, where tourists can get their fill of dancing, partying and barhopping as they listen to top international DJs spin the night away. Thirsty vacationers can also visit the well-known Señor Frog’s, where new friends are waiting and the tequila is always flowing.

Once morning arrives, spring breakers on a budget will be happy to see plenty of American fast-food chains around town, where they can chow down on familiar fare. And let’s not forget about the beautiful beaches and perfect weather, which contribute to San Juan’s prestigious rank at the number two spot on TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice® 2012 poll, second only to Negril, Jamaica. Young U.S. travelers looking for the party of a lifetime in Puerto Rico will appreciate the cheap flights to San Juan, as well as the ability to arrive without a passport.

Enjoy Family-Friendly Fun in Nassau & Paradise Island, Bahamas

One of the most popular family vacation destinations in the Caribbean, Nassau plays host to many resorts that cater to fun-loving broods. Voted number two by U.S. News Travel in their list of Best Caribbean Family Vacations, Nassau is home to the only zoo in the Bahamas, as well as the Pirates of Nassau Museum, where kids will love hearing the tale of Blackbeard spun by employees decked out in pirate garb. Blue Lagoon Island is also a popular attraction for families who want to get up close and personal with dolphins and sea lions, and kids will never forget the thrills they experience at Atlantis’ Aquaventure, a 141-acre water park that features near-vertical water slides and 11 pristine pools.

Finally, when the adults want time to themselves, kid-friendly programs at many Nassau resorts help children enjoy the Caribbean while their parents relax on the beach or dine at gourmet restaurants. Thanks to its family-friendly nature and beautiful beaches, Nassau was also a winner in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice® 2012 poll, in both the best Caribbean beaches and best overall Caribbean destination categories.

You’ve already made a great choice by picking the exotic islands of the Caribbean as your next vacation spot – now you just need to decide the perfect Caribbean locale! Book your stay at one of these fantastic destinations and experience the vacation of your dreams.

About the Author

As International Social Media Manager for Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts (Unique Vacation, Ltd.), Tiffany Mullins leads a team that creates new strategies for global, multi-brand social media. In addition to managing Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts’ online community, she also oversees the direction of Sandals and Beaches social media, including the Sandals Wedding Blog, which brings brides and inspiration together to truly create “Your Wedding. Your Style.” Tiffany now resides on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. For more information on Grand Pineapple’s all inclusive resorts, please call 1-800-327-1991 or visit

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Language Learning in Class and on Your Own

At present I am practicing 20 languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Haitian Creole, Guadaloupan Creole,
Papiamentu, Catalán, Italian, German, Quechua, English Creole, Pennsylvania German, Chinese, Korean, Basque (aka Euskara), Gallego, Sicilian, Japanese and Guaraní. I list them more or less in the order that I know them, with everything starting with Quechua at a very basic level. I had started with Spanish, which I learned in the conventional way in school and then had the good fortune to study in Mexico and Colombia. Afterwards, I dabbled in Portuguese and French with cassettes and books. However, I had an "aha" moment about five years ago when I realized that, after listening to Dutch tapes in the car for two months, I knew that I had made progress. Then I figured out that with just a little time each day, I could do several languages as long as I was consistent. As I have a busy work schedule, I knew that I didn't have time to take classes and would have to do this on my own. 

However, if you do have time to take a class, it's definitely a good idea. Even if you do take classes, there are things you can do on your own to supplement the classroom practice. Here I present what I have learned about my own quest in learning languages; it's in rough form now but I hope to edit it in the coming weeks and months into a "philosophy of language learning." These are principles that you can apply to your own language study, though you may find that certain things don't work for you and may have to adapt them to your own learning style. If you Google "language learning," you can find several websites and blogs on the subject. There is also a book by Barry Farber called "How To Learn Any Language," which still has good tips though it was written before the Internet really took off and made language information a lot easier to find.

Language Learning Principles:

Best advice from others:
Talk to oneself in target language. Soliloquies in the long run become repetitive; it's best to get in a situation to respond to recordings as if one were having a dialogue with the speaker.
Listen to normal speech in the language even if you don't understand it, so that your ear will get accustomed to it. However, it's not a substitute for the slower grammar and vocabulary building exercises.

Use several methods (collectively they cover more vocabulary)

Things I have discovered useful:
Practice speech and writing with dictionary in front of me; write initial thoughts in English or Spanish if I'm really stuck and then
Repeat phrases to build vocabulary
After listening to text for which I have a transcript, schedule regular times to review
Create dialogues when speaking to myself
Put transcript close to where I listen; if it's buried in text, make photocopy that's easier to read
Integrate the language info into my daily routine; one tape player in the kitchen, another where I do my exercises, etc.
Listen in the car at least 5 minutes/day/language, ideally with myself speaking and responding to the recording

In speaking or writing to others: Act like I'm walking a tightrope without looking down. Assume that anything is possible. Be fearless or at least control fear. (However, I do like to wait until I feel prepared before diving in completely to speaking or writing to others. Writing is a good start because one has a chance to correct some errors before sending.)

Mixing languages in the beginning is not a crime, as vocabulary gaps are natural.
Wrong guesses aren't bad either. As a matter of fact, mixing languages in speech, normally taboo, is not so bad as long as I continue to build vocabulary that will gradually allow me to wean myself off the other languages. Fluidity in speech is preferable to stopping because I can't think of a word. Fluidity builds confidence, and practice in fluidity, with feedback when possible, gradually strips away the rough spots in one's speech.

No matter how many times I listen to something, when I go to create my own phrases I will need to draw on vocabulary that is not part of the scope of the method (book, tape, CD, computer software).

Pimsleur's principle of "graduated interval recall" is good, but a lot of methods are not structured that way, particularly vocabulary building lists. Repeating the same method will approximate graduated interval recall to a certain extent.

Studying similar languages at the same time reinforces some of the vocabulary of both languages. E.g. French "fromage" reinforces the Italian "formaggio" (cheese), Catalan "vuit" reinforces the French "huit" (eight). Confusion with similar languages happens, but not as often as I thought it would.

Mark down your accomplishments, such as if you successfully wrote an e-mail in the language you're trying to learn; this builds confidence and provides a mental payback.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What to Avoid When Traveling to the Caribbean (guest post by Tiffany Mullins)

What to Avoid When Traveling to the Caribbean

Your Caribbean vacation is sure to consist of sun, sand and incredible memories that unite your family for many years to come. However, any time you travel to another country, you must remember a few pointers in order to keep your loved ones safe and happy. Thankfully, you can avoid a variety of potential mishaps by checking out the tips below – allowing you and your family to enjoy the vacation of a lifetime!

·        Unclean water and raw foods: Tempted by that friendly street vendor with the sumptuous-smelling jerk chicken? No matter how mouth-watering the local fare may appear, you should still exercise caution to avoid illness. Here’s a tip: only eat cooked foods and fruits that need peeling.
·        Painful sunburn: You may have gotten away without using sunscreen (tsk! tsk!) during that trip to the Jersey shore, but let’s face it, the Caribbean’s a little closer to the equator. Many travelers don’t realize that sunscreen is of the utmost importance, and wind up with painful burns or even worse, sun poisoning – so bring lots of SPF and reapply often.
·        Noisy festivals: Looking for a relaxing and quiet getaway? Make sure that your chosen destination isn’t celebrating a large festival during your vacation. Antigua parties it up for two weeks each summer during Carnival, and the normally-sleepy town of Negril hosts the JamFest concert series for spring breakers during the month of March.
·        Pickpocketing: If you plan on leaving your resort, remember to keep a close eye on your property and to limit the amount of cash you carry. While many locals are friendly and welcoming, others may want to take advantage of naïve tourists. Don’t give them the chance!

Keep these tips in mind while you prepare for your island getaway to guarantee a worry-free tropical escape. Travel safely and wisely, and you and your loved ones will have the time of your lives. Now that you’re ready, what are you waiting for? Hit the beach!

About the Author
As International Social Media Manager for Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts (Unique Vacation, Ltd.), Tiffany Mullins leads a team that creates new strategies for global, multi-brand social media. In addition to managing Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts’ online community, she also oversees the direction of Sandals and Beaches social media, including the Sandals Wedding Blog, which brings brides and inspiration together to truly create “Your Wedding. Your Style.” Tiffany now resides on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. For more information on Grand Pineapple’s all inclusive resorts, please call 1-800-327-1991 or visit