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Issue #81 May/Jun, 2005

Arrests in Timeshare Sales Scam

Authorities say that after people sent in service fees, they would get the runaround or find the company's phone had been disconnected.

By JOSH ZIMMER, Times Staff Writer (Copyright St. Petersburg Times, 2005)

TAMPA - Martin Kane got the first call in 2000. Recently diagnosed with cancer, he wanted to unload his time share property in Myrtle Beach to pay mounting medical bills. Then, out of the blue a man from a company called Timeshares Unlimited phoned offering to link him with a buyer. All Kane had to do was pay a $300 processing fee. When the sale was completed, he would get the money back along with the proceeds.

Timeshare Rentals: Whose Space Is It?

Timeshare weeks available for use are a form of inventory. Like airplane seats or movie tickets, timeshare inventory that is not sold, rented, or committed to an exchange is wasted space and lost income. Unused inventory doesn't generate revenues to cover its expenses, so whoever owns that inventory must pay maintenance fees and real-estate taxes. Rental companies like to make this point when describing units available for use as a source of income for developers and owners' associations. Inventory becomes available for use in various ways, including: · Units in a new or expanding resort that haven't yet been sold. Often developers will offer great deals on such rentals to potential sales guests, who may be required as a condition of the deal ­ or merely invited ­ to attend a sales presentation while they're in residence. · Remnant units in quiet seasons, left over after a resort's marketing effort ends. · Units abandoned by their owners and foreclosed upon, or surrendered through a deedback in lieu of foreclosure, and turned over to the developer or association. · Units offered by their owners for rental through the resort.

Marketing the Inventory

Someone has to market and advertise the existence of this inventory. A variety of traditional and online firms offer it for rent, including exchange companies and their subsidiaries, and entrepreneurial firms independent of the exchange process.

(Continued on page 24)

"We were in pretty bad shape at that time," said Kane, 69, of Shelby, N.C. "I sent him the money he requested, like a dummy." He still is trying to find a buyer. There are legitimate companies that help people sell their timeshares. But Timeshares Unlimited wasn't one of them. Kane never got his money back. Apparently he wasn't alone. Authorities say two local men, Jeremiah C. Peyton and Andre D. Bustamante, scammed at least 1,150 people around the country out of an estimated $350,000. Following an investigation by the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency, the state Attorney General's Office has arrested Peyton, 26, of Tampa, and Bustamante, 24, of Temple Terrace. They face first-degree grand theft and money laundering charges. Peyton already was in the Citrus County jail on federal drug charges. Temple Terrace police arrested Bustamante at his father's home. He is being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on $100,000 bail. The two men face up to 60 years in prison if convicted, Assistant Attorney General Mark Campbell said. The ruse continued for years, but in

(Continued on page 24)

TimeSharing Today

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May/Jun, 2005

Arrests in Sales Scam

(Continued from front page)

2003, complaints started trickling in, said Rob Robillard, an investigator with the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency. The pair worked from at least two locations in Hillsborough County, targeting out-of-state victims they found through listings for time share owners, he said. The scam involved an ever-changing array of companies - none of them legally registered in Florida, Robillard said. Many people are eager to unload their timeshares because they are too old to travel or, like Kane, have bills to pay. After people sent their service fees - anywhere from $299 to about $350 - they called to find out about the sale only to get excuses or find the phone disconnected. Their money had been transferred to bank accounts set up in other people's names around the country, Robillard said. Authorities think they know at least two of the locations where the scam operated. Peyton's home on Vista Point Drive in Tampa may have been the most recent one. They may also have worked out of The Marquis apartment complex off Bruce B. Downs in New Tampa where Peyton once lived, Robillard said. The investigation is ongoing, and more arrests are "very possible," he said. Kane is glad for the arrests, but it doesn't ease the sting of his loss. He said he got another unsolicited call, and this time he asked for a written contract before sending in a $325 fee. After that, nothing happened. He has told investigators about this episode as well. His cancer is now in remission, and Kane finally believes he's found a legitimate company to sell the time share. He's asking $11,500. It can't happen too soon. "I'd take $8,000 if I can get it," he said. "I need to pay some bills." Editors note: A written contract is no assurance that a company will perform its obligations, as Mr. Kane discovered after getting stung a second time. Even if the company is still around, it is not practical to start a suit to collect $300, especially in another state. Know who you are dealing with. Be especially wary when a telemarketer asserts that your timeshare will fetch a price that you know is unrealistically high.

rent its exchange inventory. Interval was recently acquired by InterActive Corp., (Continued from front page) which also owns several Web sites Should you care what corporate offering hotel and resort reservations, relationships underlie a unit you want to including vacation rentals offered at rent for a week? Probably, at least to the vacationspot.com, hoteldiscount.com extent that you want to be sure you're and hotels.com. VacationSpot.com dealing with a reputable firm. specializes in rentals for people who want If, however, you're renting in to enjoy extra space and the flexibility of conjunction with an exchange or the use kitchen facilities. Though it offers some of your own timeshare, what you rent, timeshares, its extensive rental inventory where, and from whom can become highly consists largely of condos, suites, bed & relevant. Consider these scenarios: breakfasts and private homes in hundreds · You want to extend your vacation of destinations worldwide with with additional nights before great avail-ability even during and/or after the week you What you rent, peak seasons. Detailed own, or the week into which descrip-tions, pictures, quality where, and you're exchanging. ratings and hotels.com · You want to take add- from whom can affiliation help renters make the itional weekend trips to your become highly right choice. Clients can book home resort. online or call 24/7. · You want to take relevant. Other Independent friends and family along on Sources vacation, which means you'll need extra Resortdeals4u.com provides direct space at your resort at the same time you'll access discount rates through its direct be there. contracts with resorts/hotels. The · You want to organize a reunion ­ an company emphasizes personal service extended family gathering or affinity to assure that clients get the correct group such as a high-school graduating property to suit their needs. Renters can class ­ at a timeshare resort. select and book accommodations online The best way to find out about the after checking full property description, firm from which you are renting is to ask and all reservations are confirmed by who owns it, and what linkages it has phone. Extra days can be arranged to within timesharing and the hospitality coincide with clients' travel plans. industry. ResorTime.com obtains its rental Exchange Company Rentals units from inventory space provided by For years, Resort Condominiums resorts. Because many of its smaller International (RCI) has actively offered participating resorts lack the space to rentals from within its exchange book large groups requiring dozens of inventory, prompting would-be exchangrooms, ResorTime specializes in renting ers to ask: "How do those rentals affect to individuals and small groups. It also my ability to get an exchange for the resort has some inventory from larger resorts, and the calendar week I want?" including timeshare brands owned by RCI has always responded that its Cendant. Resortime offers a membership rental operations don't adversely affect plan with discounted rates, and gives would-be timeshare exchangers, but I still discounts to timeshare owners who wondered what prevented renters from mention what week they own and at which competing with timeshare travelers for a resort. They need not offer their time to place to hang their hat. Now, Cendant acquire rental accommodations. Corporation, RCI's owner, also owns Like other timeshare rental several major timeshare development companies, ResorTime, companies (such as Fairfield and VacationSpot.com and Resortdeals4u Trendwest) that provide access to allow customers to plan full vacations additional rentals unrelated to RCI's months in advance of their planned exchange inventory, making protestations of fairness to all somewhat more travel dates, or to take advantage of believable. late offerings for full vacations or quick Interval International swore never to weekend getaways.

Timeshare Rentals

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TimeSharing Today

Page 3

Jul/Aug, 2004

TIMESHARING TODAY (ISSN 0000-1069) is published bimonthly at $24 for 12 issues by TimeSharing Today, Inc., 26 Franklin St., Tenafly, NJ 07670. Periodicals postage paid at Tenafly, NJ. and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to TIMESHARING TODAY, 26 Franklin St., Tenafly, NJ 07670. Distribution is primarily by mail to subscribers, with limited distribution at newsstands. Subscriptions are promoted through various media. All contents are copyrighted by TimeSharing Today, Inc. DISCLAIMER TimeSharing Today makes no independent investigation of the properties, products or services advertised or of the people placing advertisements in this publication. We accept all ads that are submitted with the appropriate fee. Accordingly, we cannot accept any responsibility for any direct or consequential damages arising from these advertisements. ARTICLES AND LETTERS All published articles and letters become the property of TimeSharing Today and may be republished by it in any format without further compensation. Contributors of articles and letters published in TimeSharing Today will be compensated as follows: articles 10 issue subscription, a 4-line classified ad or a logo product; letters - a one issue subscription extension. HOW TO CONTACT US TimeSharing Today can be reached by mail at 26 Franklin St., Tenafly, NJ 07670, by telephone at 201/ 871-4304, by fax at 201/871-4305 or by email to staff @tstoday.com. Website: www.tstoday.com. Access to Online Edition, Resort Ratings, Resale Value Tracker, etc. is through the Subscriber Only section. Current username: timeshare Current password: cheryl

Thieves and Scoundrels

We are pleased to see agency crackdowns on fraudulent telemarketing schemes. It is still bothersome, however, that thousands of timeshare owners continue to be victimized without law enforcement intervention. To our dismay, one complaint to the Nevada Real Estate Commission about a former real estate broker's activities was dismissed with the mind-boggling response: "The company in question is not licensed and we only deal with complaints about licensed real estate brokers." At this time, we are fairly confident that our subscribers are educated enough to ward off the efforts of scam artists. Unfortunately, we get many comments from new readers who say that they were "taken" by a company mentioned in one of our articles and were sorry they weren't aware of TimeSharing Today beforehand. Ripping off timeshare owners is a profitable endeavor. So, owners have to prepare themselves. We previously advised to register your phone numbers with the Federal Do-Not-Call Registry and to report any violations. If you receive a pitch that you suspect is fraudulent, you should gather any written documents provided by the company in question, notify your state department of consumer affairs and your state attorney-general. Please send us a copy of your correspondence for our further review and investigation.

Timeshare Rentals

This segment of the marketplace is growing and here to stay. The availability of rentals can have several advantages, especially when you need to augment a stay, at your home resort or exchange destination, with extra days for yourself or accommodations for guests. Rentals are a major plus for potential buyers because they provide a method for potential buyers to sample the benefits of the resort before they buy. Buyers can avoid an impulse purchase and buyer's remorse; they can really get to know the quality of the resort, to research its management and to get input from existing owners. It's a benefit to resorts because rentals bring in potential buyers and rental revenues can offset operating costs. There seem to be only positives associated with timeshare rentals, except for the concerns expressed by owners who suspect that the weeks deposited with an exchange company that are being rented, deplete the number of weeks available to fill exchange requests. No matter how this activity may be rationalized by the exchange company, we do not see this as a positive for their members. It's our opinion that a week that is banked should only be available for exchange, or returned to the owner to use however the owner wishes. There was a time, perhaps 15 or 20 years ago, when RCI actually did just that: If the deposited week was not picked up for exchange within two weeks before the date of usage, the week was returned to the owner.

Survey

It's been quite a few years since TimeSharing Today surveyed its subscribers. In view of divergent views concerning Points versus Weeks, rentals by exchange companies, secrets for getting good exchanges and the continued success of the "alternate" exchange companies, it's time for another survey. You'll find it at page 21. We urge you to complete and return your answers as soon as possible so we can start tabulating the responses. We are targeting the Sep/Oct issue for publication of the results; they should be interesting.

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May/Jun, 2005

Letters to the Editor

Fond farewell

I have enjoyed your magazine immensely, however, I finally found a buyer for my Kona Coast II condo and will be discontinuing my subscription whenever it runs out. I told the buyer about your superb magazine and gave them copies of the last 2 issues. They are first-time buyers and did not know of you. Incidentally, the Hawaiian Document Service that advertises in TimeSharing Today did a fine job with all the paper work for the sale. Thank you for a your valuable publication. Persis Hamilton and they should be commended for the wonderful job they do in keeping information posted. The review section has a number of reviews for the most common resorts, including many written by myself. Usually there are several people who have provided their e-mail address in order that one may contact them for information that isn't found in the reviews. As always, one must read between the lines on some of the comments, but the overall sense of what a resort is about can usually been found. I highly recommend this site to all timeshare owners to supplement TimeSharing Today. By the way, TimeSharing Today has been uncanny over the years in printing articles about timeshares that we have booked just before we have vacationed at them. The articles have been very much appreciated. I still read each issue from cover to cover and recently renewed my subscription. Keep up the good work and let's get the word out to as many owners as possible. Bruce Johnson Another potential victim spared Thank you for your article on "Time Share Collectors, LLC" in the Jan/Feb 2005 issue; it saved us a great deal of stress. The update is that the company now is "Vacation Solutions, LLC,, but the managing partner is still Kenneth LaBossiere. An additional note to the article is that they also tell you that by 2006 all time share owners will have to convert to the point system and, of course, it will cost thousands of dollars to do that, so another reason that you should give them money to take your property away from you. Again, thank you for giving us the information we need to deal with some of the companies out there that are out to scam us. Dan Nordberg

Plug for TUG

I've been reading your magazine for many years and am puzzled by the lack of references over the years to the Timeshare Users Group at tug2.net. I also found this site a number of years ago and have used it frequently as a reference and often while I have been in the actual process of deciding where to book a resort. The annual fee of $15 is well worth the money and there is a wealth of easily accessed information. The site is maintained by volunteers

Call Jerry Nisker!

We have owned at timeshare on Kauai Pahio Ka'Eo Kai for several years. Much to our dismay, I was looking through our RCI Year Book, and I discovered that our timeshare was no longer a 5-star resort!! We were wondering what this does to our trading power. Our maintenance dues keep on rising at this beautiful resort, but feel a bit put out because we never heard from the resort that they lost their 5-star rating. Is there anything we can do about this situation! I read your article "Defending Points" by Jerry Nisker. We do not belong to RCI point system and trade "week for week." It sounds as if we did belong to the point system, we would not lose any trading power, but the resort charges $2500 to join their point system. Mr. Nisker says that he knows a person who sells resorts that are in the point System for $1200. Where can we find out more about these resorts? Mary Taylor, [email protected] **** I read Jerry Nisker's article and hope he or some one there can give me some guidance. I own a week in a 3-bedroom unit at Embassy Vacation Resorts at Grand Beach. They have sold to Sunterra and I would like to convert my week to Sun options since I have Sun options at Sedona AZ. I taIked to the sales people at Sedona

©The New Yorker Caroon collection 2004 Alex Gregory from cartoonbank.com. All Rights Reserved.

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TimeSharing Today

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May/Jun, 2005

and they will work out a trade if I will buy more Sun options. This sounds wrong to me. Is there some way to trade with out buying more options? If not could I trade the week for RCI points? I didn't know they were on the point system. I don't suppose RCI points and Sun options are interchangeable? Any ideas from anyone would be appreciated. Robert E. Wallentine, Ogden, UT Email: [email protected]

Old-fashioned service

It is called "Good Old Fashioned Customer Service." You know what I mean; the way tradespeople would meet and greet you, then go out of their way to please you in those "good old days." I know where to find it in this day and age, and it is right in Myrtle Beach, SC at the Country Club Villas Timeshare. Now that name alone makes you think of the royal treatment. But wait, you still have another surprise in store by the name of Cathy Taylor This most pleasant and helpful lady has been a breath of fresh air in an all too busy and impersonal industry. We joined timesharing in 1983 and have accumulated five timeshares that we use mostly to travel around the good old USA. Several times in the past 3 or 4 years we have had some special needs and, as always, Cathy did everything she could to accommodate us; and always with an attitude that she was doing us a favor instead of the reverse. Country Club Villas are lucky to have this great lady; I only wish she could train many others at RCI and its member resorts in how to be helpful to its timeshare Customers. Vincent and Elizabeth Marcalus, Edgewater, MD

we headed to the car-rental and next to the grocery store, and then on to the condo where we planned our week's itinerary. At the end of a busy week, but always a very enjoyable one, we added up all the bills, divided by four and were usually surprised at the small amount of money for an eventful week. For sight seeing attractions we paid individually. One year, we headed to the beach in Florida. As my cousin got off the plane in Fort Lauderdale, she was accompanied by her mother and had not even bothered to ask if it was okay with us. She explained that she could not find anyone to look after her mother while she was away. Her mother is my aunt, a nice 84 year old lady, but I wasn't sure she would fit in with our plans for the week. We wanted to see Key West, tropical gardens, take a day boat cruise, to mention just a few attractions. They found a medical equipment store in Fort Lauderdale and rented a wheelchair for a week. My cousin's husband pushed it everywhere we could even think about going. And it was a very good vacation. If an elderly person is usually in a good mood and could probably go for a week without seeing their own doctor, why not go for a timesharing vacation. They would make good traveling companions. Melvin / Betty Adams, Aurora, CO

Open letter to RCI Weeks users

This letter is in response and in addition to the editorial of Mr. Rader, the letter of C.D. Jones, and the response of Mr. John Barrows, RCI vice president. I was a member of both RCI Weeks since 1987 and points since 2002. I realized, after RCI was taken over by Cendant, that exchanges in the Weeks program were nearly nonexistent during peak times, e.g., Christmas and New Years weeks, Presidents week, Easter, Memorial Day to Labor Day (all Summer), Columbus week, and Thanksgiving week. I decided to get into Points. RCI changed from RCI, your exchange company, to RCI your rental company. RCI now concentrates on rental and also on its points program. I found much more availability in the Points program, and less and less in the Weeks program. RCI now switches its resort

Travelling companion

We started a family tradition about six years ago; it was with my cousin and her husband living near Omaha, Nebraska. We live in Aurora, Colorado. Every year, we would choose a location from the RCI book and put in a request for a condo in the area we were interested in. We would always meet at the airport near the resort, having arranged the schedules via e-mail, phone or mail. Then

availability to its Points program and its rental programs, including, RCI Holiday Network, RCI Global Points program, Armed Forces Vacation Network, Government Employees Travel Opportunities, Resortime Reservations, Extra Vacations Network, RCI Travellers Network and more. In the fall of 2003 and spring of 2004, I had several personal problems. Since I make my reservations 10 months in advance for RCI Points, when these situations occurred, I was stuck with several vacations I could not use. (I am a teacher and usually travel a great deal of the time). I decided, rather than return the resort vacation to RCI and lose $139 exchange fee, I would advertise to rent the resort vacation time at modest fees. To my amazement, I found some very angry RCI Weeks members who wanted to know how I could ask money for these weeks, when they wanted to exchange. They called RCI to complain. First, RCI swore there was no availability at all, then they said if I had not taken these resort vacations, they would be available for their exchanges; this is a lie. The vacations are available only as either rentals or through the Points program. RCI did not and does not want to "take the rap" for not providing Weeks exchanges and instead renting these weeks or placing them in the Points program. In September 2004, I received a letter from RCI cancelling both my Weeks membership and my Points membership, stating that I was using these membership vacations for "commercial" purposes. This is totally untrue. I only rented the units I had already reserved and due to personal problems could not use. Further I was informed that all the weeks and points in my accounts would be forfeited (without compensation) due to, as they put it, my breach of contract. I am sure Mr. Barrow will tell you the rentals are excess space. This again is a total fabrication. How does RCI know a year in advance what members don't want? Or even 6 months ahead? Or even 3 months? I remember when RCI was "the exchange company." I am sorry it has become RCI "the rental company." Barry Skolky, Bridgewater, NJ

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May/Jun, 2005

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

Shell acquires Canadian resort, builds in CA

Mountainside Lodge was one of the first hotels to open in Whistler Village in 1981. After operating as a suite hotel for 12 years, 41 of the units were converted to timeshare. The resort has been operating as a hotel and timeshare since 1993. Shell Vacations has recently acquired the property and will presumably convert most of the remaining 37 hotel suites into timeshare units. The resorts 1600 timeshare owners will be given an opportunity to convert their weeks to the Shell Vacation Club. Mountainside Lodge features a 35-foot pool and spa tub on a large deck, sauna and a highly-rated restaurant within its "alpine ski lodge" exterior. Further down the West coast, Shell has commenced construction of the first 64 units of Vino Bello Resort in Napa Valley, California. The resort is planned for 100 units featuring one- and two-bedroom units. Completion of the first phase should occur later this year.

Cendant leads in owners, resorts, units

According to the just-published report of timeshare sales leaders for 2004, in Vacation Ownership WORLD, Cendant corporation has over 700,000 owners of its timeshare properties. Cendant's timeshares are concentrated in two branded resort groups: Fairfield and Trendwest. Fairfield is reported to have 495,000 owners and Trendwest has 233,468. The other American-based companies with large numbers of owners include Westgate with 350,000, Sunterra with 302,000 and Marriott with 279,000. Cendant also leads with numbers of resort and timeshare units: 139 resort and 15,261 units. Fairfield and Trendwest each have about half of those resorts, but Fairfield's larger resorts account for more than two-thirds of the Cendant units. The other "big three" all have approximately the same number of units: Marriott leading with 9,167, followed by Westgate with 8,500 and Sunterra with 8,298. However, there is a sharp divergence in the number of resorts. Westgate, with its large resort complexes, achieves its 8,500 units in only 24 resorts, while 93 smaller Sunterra resorts have 8,298 units. Marriott's 9,167 units are in 49 resorts, putting its average resort size about midway between Sunterra and Westgate. However, in terms of dollar sales, Marriott led with 2004 sales of $1.49 billion, trailed by Cendant at $1.26 billion. No other company, American or foreignbased, even came close to those figures. Sales by these two companies accounted for over a third of all sales reported by the industry companies featured in the annual survey. In his overview of the year, Scott Burlingame, editor and publisher of Vacation Ownership WORLD, pointed out that the industry's annual growth rate of about 15% has been maintained for the past ten to fifteen years. In addition, sales of fractional ownership increased dramatically, with 2004 sales in excess of a billion dollars.

Fairfield active in FL and Louisiana

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Fairfield Resorts has opened the newly-renovated Beach Street Cottages across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in Destin, Florida. Acquired by Fairfield last year, the cottages were built in 1997. Each of the 24 cottages contains two one-bedroom units which have been extensively renovated and refurnished. Guests will have private beach access. Prices for the units have not been announced. The company has also announced the purchase of a hundred-year-old former printing plant in New Orleans, Louisiana, with plans to convert the building into a 119-unit timeshare resort. The resort will be called Fairfield New Orleans at La Belle Maison and feature studio, one- and two-bedroom units. There will also be 12 Presidential suites. Three floors are to be added to the five-story building. Units will surround a skylit atrium.

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TimeSharing Today

Page 7

May/Jun, 2005

Who would have thought that a timeshare resort along an oceanfront beach, surrounded in snow, would be anyone's dream winter escape.

By Andrea Delmont Every morning we took a walk along a private beach, hand in hand, with our hooded jackets, gloves and heavy sneakers while the sunshine sparkled like diamonds off the water. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. Gurney's Inn Resort and Spa in Montauk, NY, only 2 1/2 hours from NYC, is one of our favorite escapes, both in and off-season. Living in New Jersey, my husband and I decided to run off for a "get unfortunately for some, we discovered that most are not handicapped accessible and must be approached by outdoor steps. We have always found our rooms clean and decorated in relaxing seaside colors, having all the basics. A coffee pot and refrigerator are provided, but there are no kitchens. Most rooms have private decks with an amazing view of the ocean, so close that the sounds of the waves helped put us into a peaceful sleep at night. Montauk, known as the "fishing capital of the world." is reflected in the menus of the renowned Sea Grille Restaurant. Three beautiful oceanfront dining rooms allow you to choose from their world-class spa cuisine menus. If this whole experience is starting to sound too sedate, in the evenings, the Port o' Call Bar offers a wide range of live entertainment, DJ's, and dancing along with top shelf beverages! I also want to point out that if you are not familiar with this part of the country, Gurney's is located on the East End of Long Island, just minutes away from other activities. As you walk through this beach town, you're bound to spot t-shirts or sweatshirts boasting "Montauk ­The End". In season, you can arrange to play

away from it all" weekend and picked Gurney's in the month of February. What a great choice. Comfort and relaxation are enhanced by the gracious service provided by the professional staff throughout the Inn. There are two complete spas, a mens' pavilion and a ladies' pavilion which are independent of each other, providing needed privacy. The invigorating specialty massages, heated indoor Sea Water Pool, Sea Water Roman Baths, Russian steam rooms and Swiss showers are my personal favorites. For the ladies reading this, you should know that the salon offers an extensive variety of facials, manicures, pedicures, skin and hair analysis and makeup applications among the many services. I have been to many salons throughout the northeast and Gurney's staff is particularly a notch above the everyday so-called "pampering." On this trip, I also returned to get another great haircut by the skilled and talented Donna D' Antonio who cut my hair 6 months ago. The rooms are newly renovated but,

a round at Montauk Downs (one of the top 50 rated public golf courses in the country), go fishing on a charter boat off Montauk Point, go biking or horseback riding on the beach at sunset. In or offseason, you can catch a movie or shop in an exclusive boutique in East Hampton, and if you are watching carefully, you may see a celebrity among the crowd. Well, this trip did it for us. After years of exchanging there, we discussed buying a week at Gurney's. Thank goodness for TimeSharing Today; we found a great unit at a good price. We just signed the papers! If you have an interest in buying at Gurney's, an active on-site resale program is managed by licensed broker Lila Schwell and her husband, Howard Schwell, who is also knowledgeable about RCI Points. The Schwells, who are owners at Gurney's, often have several listings at reasonable prices and can be reached at 631-668-1748. Most of the units would be considered as studios for 4, with a queen bed (some have a king) and a sitting area with a pull-out queen sofa bed. The resort's website is www.GurneysInn.com.

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Page 8

May/Jun, 2005

The Bad and the Good in the Yucatan

By Paula King Tyner, Sumner WA Editors note: The RCI website has this note for the Casa Maya: "Resort will be remodeled from August 21, 2004 to June 30, 2005; this may cause some inconveniences to the members staying at the property." We recently made our second trip to the Cancun/Playa del Carmen, Mexico area. We had visited the prior year and still had a lot of exploring to do. Plus, we found the area there very inviting; we love the water there. It is of multiple hues of blue and green. Very inviting. Let me start with the bad! I want to finish with the good, so it is preferable for me to begin with week 2. Through an exchange with RCI, we visited Cancun. On our previous trip, we had stayed south of Cancun and had never made it to this world-class destination. Last year, I booked us into a resort in Cancun since we had so easily by-passed it last year. The exchange was an easy one. I found out why. We stayed at the Casa Maya in Cancun. It is a large resort set on the beach and has access to all Cancun through buses and taxis. There is no need for a car rental. The taxi fares are pre-set; they are not cheap. The buses are the cheapest mode of travel. Entering through a large lobby, I found a reception desk. Staff was quick if not overly friendly. We were paired up with someone from the resort staff to escort us to our room. Our room looked on the pools and the ocean. It was large. I hated it! The furniture was 1950s motel and the kitchen was behind a bamboo curtain/separator. Kitchen utensils were sparse and the work area non-existent. The floor was tile in every room; the bathrooms had tile around the sinks and the tub. I could not determine when last the tile had been scrubbed! It was god-awful ugly! It screamed, "I am a left over from another time!" There was a smell in that unit. Perhaps it was a musty smell of dis-use. And the floors looked unscrubbed! Although we overlooked the beach and Cancun was sunny, the place seemed like a cave. It was dark in the unit. Perhaps the cave-like feeling was the reason (or result?) of the cave like lighting and architecture! Deciding to make lemonade, we made plans for each day. At least excursions would keep us from that room! The buses were cheap and timely. We were sorely disappointed in Cancun. Despite reading about the wonders of Cancun, we simply found it large, uninviting, over-commercialized, and expensive. Maybe young people find the resorts fabulous. They can beach it all day and party later. For us, it was not a pleasure. We did find several wonderful shopping experiences. We followed the advice of several guidebooks and just hopped off the bus when we found a destination. I had been seriously reading a guidebook and took its comments to heart. On one of our later days in Cancun, I decided that we would eat at one of the recommen-

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dations. That turned into one of the trip adventures! Although we tried to follow the book instructions, we found ourselves lost. Finally, a very kind woman helped us and then a kind gentleman drove us to the destination. The turn-off we needed had been obscured by foliage. Our destination was Rio Nizuc. It is at the south end of the hotel zone, located on the outskirts of the Laguna Nichupte. That destination was quite an adventure, more so for my husband. We walked to a mangrove swamp and then encountered a pier. The pier looked as though it would not hold any weight! I ventured forward as my spouse watched. I was thinking that maybe the restaurant no longer existed and had been swallowed by jungle. I yelled at him to come along as I hit land and saw people. I walked to a table where the patrons were laughing and smiling. We encountered an American couple enjoying their 50 th wedding anniversary. They had brought their son and his wife on a cruise. From that cruise, to Cozumel miles south, they had hired a driver to find them a beach. They had ended right there and had spent a delightful afternoon and had enjoyed a delicious lunch. Based on that, we sat down and eventually ordered lunch. It was fish fresh with awesome fresh guacamole for the chips. As we left, we encountered more mangrove trees but no alligators. My husband just sighed from relief when we were out of there.

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TimeSharing Today

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May/Jun, 2005

Our best find out of Cancun, was Isla Mujeres. You can catch a ferry for this lovely desination. We went twice. The ferries are fast and modern with indoor and outdoor seating. The price was reasonable and got us out of Cancun. Isla Mujeres is touted in the guidebooks I have read. I was skeptical. Being stuck in an ugly timeshare in a city I found unattractive, we tried it. We loved it. We walked the width of it and enjoyed the downtown shops. On the advice of the Hunter guidebook, we caught a cab. We found beach. We found a restaurant. We found vendors. We found Playa Lancheros south of town. This was just a splendid recommendation from the Hunter guidebook. Both times there, we enjoyed the quiet beach, the yummy food, and the vendors. Both times, we ordered fresh fish for lunch, grilled with Mayan spices. The first time, we were unable to finish our entrees. The second time we split an entrée. The food was wonderful. The setting on the beach was wonderful. The vendors were there to make a deal. Week 1 was a delight. We stayed at an exchange: Fishermen's Wharf in Playa del Carmen. This resort is all-inclusive, as are most of the RCI-affiliated resorts in the area. Most ask daily sums way beyond anything we can eat or do in a day! We tried Fishermen's Wharf because of the fee: $35 per day per person. We wanted to stay in Playa after our trip the previous year. It is everything Cancun is not: small, charming, and Mexican. In Playa, we had found an incredible beach, plenty of good restaurants, excellent fish and Mexican dishes to eat, an international clientele, and children who played at the plaza while their parents looked on. Our room was overlooking the water. We suspect that the room had originally over-looked a beach before the storms and hurricanes, which had hit and left our room with an amazing vista just over the water. Just to the right of our room was the spa. Above us was one of the sales rooms and their sample for the sales pitches. The bar sits in the lobby and was populated at all hours. The restaurant has seating both inside and outside. Another room, the sales room, was also converted for meals several evenings. I didn't like that room for meals. It was too closed in for me. We found breakfasts better than

the evening meals. Breakfasts included fresh omelettes with numerous fillings available, hot entries such as chiliquilles, bacon, a table of breads and pastries, juices, yogurt, cheeses, fruits such as pineapple. Papaya, melons. Dinners were mostly buffets. Mediocre. Housekeeping was superb. As we have often found in Mexico, each day our housekeeper made the time to leave us a figurine of towels. I love that. Concierge services were actually quite helpful. The sales staff was the sales staff: shocked when we couldn't/wouldn't make a deal. The "gifts" given for participating in the sales presentation were quite good. There were 50% off of activities (you can compare these prices pretty easily to see if they are good or not), and certificates towards spa offerings. I personally used the spa for massages. I met a number of visitors who did like wise. Imagine a massage from an experienced masseuse in the fresh air with the lapping of the ocean as the backdrop: a: must. While there, we took the bus tour to Chichen Itza. This was our second visit.

It is a not to be missed excursion. One of the different experiences from last year was a rain shower towards the end of the visit. It was funny to reflect how we all scampered for cover when the weather was so hot. A new experience for us was a visit to Excaret, the much-publicized eco-park. We skipped a tour and simply took cabs to and fro. The park is actually quite amazing. Within the park are many things to see, plus restaurants throughout. Outstanding views were of the tropical birds, the monkeys, the dolphins, the panthers and the beach area there. From the resort, we walked and viewed many resort rentals. We also walked into Playa del Carmen. This year at Playa, the people playing volleyball on the beach, the local people at the plaza enjoying the surf, the restaurants and the shops again enchanted us. Playa del Carmen is a destination. For me, Cancun was missable. I love Playa del Carmen and other smaller, more authentic destinations. Whatever your choices, go. The Yucatan of Mexico offers so much.

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May/Jun, 2005

Fixed or Floating?

By Byron Wiegand, President Timeshare Resale Alliance, La Jolla, CA In the beginning of timesharing, the only availability was fixed weeks in fixed units. That is, you bought week 37 of the year in unit 212 or the like. That was it. Every week in every unit had its own price based on the desirability in the Developers eyes. You were going to vacation at that resort in that unit on that week forever. There were some advantages. You didn't have to worry about making reservations. It was always there for you. You knew your unit and what to bring. You got to know your neighbors and would develop friendships that simply wouldn't have happened any other way. Kind of a "Same time, Next year" arrangement. Many owners who purchased that way have been happy ever since, and wouldn't have it any other way. The problem was, what if you couldn't make it that week? Resort Condominiums International (RCI) and Interval International (II) came into being to solve that problem. Their primary function was to arrange internal exchanges and they charged a reduced fee for doing so. After they had attained a sufficient number of resorts, they proceeded with exchanges among different resorts. About that time, I developed a small resort in Lake Tahoe, California called Paradise. Having neglected a market study until the project was well underway and having trouble selling the property, I finally determined to find out what the patterns of the Tahoe visitors really were. What turned up was that few visitors came for a whole week. Visitors to Tahoe prima-

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rily came from the Bay Area, Sacramento and Reno. They would come up to catch some shows, see the sights or gamble and would leave after they had lost all their money. This process usually required no more than three days. So the pattern was shorter, more frequent visits. One night while having some wine with several of the initial owners, we came up with the idea that a better schedule would be an open floating schedule. The owners could come up when they wished. They could call a year ahead but could not make multiple reservations. They had to use the last one before they could reserve the next. This prevented the "creaming" of the schedule where one owner would reserve all the holidays. Since very few people would make the trip to Tahoe for just one night, we made it a full open schedule where they could come up for as many nights as they wished whenever they wanted, even as little as one night. Thirty-five years later, this system is working just fine. The floating system was really started by Vacation Internationale in Seattle, one of the first practitioners of timesharing in the U.S. Too, it took some time for the timeshare people to figure out that a timeshare was really more of a suite hotel owned by the guests. In the early days, we thought that we had to have "Maintenance Weeks" where no one could be in the resort to provide for maintenance. Have you ever heard of a hotel closing for maintenance? Of course not. They just accomplish it on the fly. As a result, all timeshare projects now sell 52 weeks a year of occupancy and it works just fine. Many timeshare properties are sitting on a gold mine in that they could go back and sell their maintenance weeks and really enrich the Owner's Association. Few will though, as the registration and marketing setup would discourage all but the hardiest. Now what about floating units? The floating unit, floating season arrangement is probably the most common. It is much more convenient to be able to place the next guest to show up into the first unit that is all cleaned up, rather than make them wait until "their unit" is ready. The exception is those who have really adopted a most favorite unit. At one of our resorts, one family wants a specific unit (it really is the best

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TimeSharing Today

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May/Jun, 2005

of its 1-bedroom class) and is willing to take it any time of the year they can get it. They always do get it, although some years it is not in the best of seasons. I have seen little downside to floating units unless a family really has a favorite unit. In that case they must just put up with whatever it takes to get in, like a late check-in time or that unit not being available when they want it. Really, how much time do you spend in your unit when you are on vacation? It is usually just a place to have meals and sleep. In order to respond to the seasonal desirability, we came up with floating seasons, where you could purchase the time of the year that was most desirable to you -- like winter in a ski resort or summer at the beach -- at commensurate prices of course. Your reservations would float within your season whether it was high, swing or low. Don't be fooled by the marketing hype that will name those seasons premium, high, or platinum, gold or silver. One problem was the way in which the reservation system was put together. Some Developers favored a "starting pistol" approach where all the reservation requests were all handled on the same day. This resulted in an unhealthy competition between the owners where they were vying for the same unit for the same date. In some cases, owners would come early and camp out overnight to be the first in line. I have actually seen fist fights in the parking lot over who was first in line. Furthermore it is a nightmare for the staff. They normally have to pull in volunteer owners to help handle the onslaught. Even so, I've never seen one of these systems overturned. It seems like once it is established, it is there to stay. The most successful floating reservation system that has emerged is the one now used by most of the major hotel timesharing regimes. Calling the front desk or reservation center, you may make reservations a year ahead. In the case of multiple ownerships, you may call 13 months ahead so as to be able to make concurrent or consecutive reservations for your multiple weeks. It seems to be the smoothest and most satisfactory of all the systems. If you really want a given unit for a given week, you simply have to mark your calendar to make sure that you are the first one to call early in the morning of the first

day of eligibility. So which is best for you? Only you can decide. Are you locked into certain weeks for vacation or simply desire to be there those weeks? If so, a fixed system will probably be your best choice. If you want flexibility, go with the floating system. We had a customer who initially bought into an excellent floating system resort but just got tired of the "starting pistol" reservation process. He eventually sold all of his weeks there and moved to a lesser resort but one with fixed weeks in fixed units. Also, your needs might change with time. That is where a good resale system will serve you well. You can move forward in accord with your new situ-

ation. Now, the most flexible system is resort points, where you can use any size unit at any time based on your needs at the time. I don't like `em. They are difficult to understand, hard to resell and have exceptionally low resale value. (Not uncommonly, 20% of the resale value of a deeded week in the same resort for the same unit and time.) Furthermore, with points, you will not usually get ownership by means of a deed. You get a piece of paper telling you what a good time you are going to have. That's O.K. as long as the Developer stays in business. Hopefully this discussion will give pause to really consider what will work the best for you. Our desire is that you get the most out of your purchase and that you join the ranks of the millions of really pleased timeshare owners. When you purchase on the resale market, in addition to saving money, you have a choice of all properties and can select the one that has the best system for you. When you go to the Developer, you are looking only at its property.

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May/Jun, 2005

TST Website Now Ready for 2005 Resales

The staff at TimeSharing Today, after noticing a severe drop-off in Resale Value Tracker submissions, discovered that the form for online submissions of recent resale transactions had not been updated to accept sales that occurred during 2005. That has now been corrected. If you have sold, purchased or acted as a broker in a resale transaction recently, you owe it to yourself and other owners to report the resale price on Resale Value Tracker. The Resort Report Cards have value to all timeshare owners who want to exchange into a particular resort because those ratings are compiled from numerous recent exchanges. And as the Resale Value Tracker database lists more resales, that information will be even more valuable to buyers, sellers and brokers. You can use the form below or, even better, go to our Website at www.tstoday.com. In the Subscriber Only section, you'll find a link to the Resale Value Tracker. On the Resale Value Tracker page, you will see another link to the form, which is essentially an online version of the form below. Just fill it in and hit the Submit button. It's easy, and you'll be a hero to other owners.

TimeSharing Today Anywhere

Show Timesharing Today to the world, but don't be as shy as this young subscriber. While at a timeshare vacation, take a picture of someone in your party reading TimeSharing Today. The more exotic the locale and activity, the better. Send us your photos and we'll give a ten issue subscription extension or free classified ad for every one that is published. The front page must be visible and legible. The best way to submit an entry is by attaching the image file to an email. If you don't know how to do that, We're sure that your computer savvy son or daughter can show you how.

Resale Value Tracker (tm) TimeSharing Today has launched a service to provide readers with valuable information about timeshare resale selling prices. Owners, resale brokers and resort managers are invited to participate. Resale Value Tracker is only for completed transactions that have closed. All responses are now being posted on our Website at www.tstoday.com.

Name of Resort: ___________________________________ Date of Transaction: Mo._____ Yr._____ (after 1999)

Resort Location: City: __________________________ State/Prov/Island: __________ Country: _______________ Price of Unit (USD): $________ Unit size: ( )Studio ( )1 BR Fixed Week number: _____ or Floating Week season: ________ ( )2 BR ( )3 BR ( )4 BR Lockout: ( )No ( )Yes

Number of Bathrooms: ___

Kitchen: ( )Full ( )Partial ( )None

Maximum Occupancy: ____

If this report is being submitted by the seller or buyer, please provide contact information for our internal use only. Name: ________________________ Email address: ____________________________

If this report is being submitted by a broker, resort manager, etc, please provide the following information: Name: _______________________________ Company: _________________________________________ Address: ____________________________________ Phone: _______________ Email address: ________________________________ Want your contact information published? ( )Yes ( )No Mail completed form to: RVT, Timesharing Today, 26 Franklin St., Tenafly, NJ 07670 or post online at www.tstoday.com

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TimeSharing Today

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May/Jun, 2005

Kitty on the Go

By Kitty Nagy, Scottsdale, AZ

Lawrence Welk Resort Villas, Escondido, CA

We had planned to attend the Pageant of The Masters held annually in the Summer months in Laguna Beach and were able to get a week of timeshare at this RCI Gold Crown resort. This was my third time at the Lawrence Welk Villas which is a rarity for me as I hardly ever re-visit a resort; however, this one really warrants multiple visits! The resort is inland, about 38 miles from San Diego and the clustered units are set very prettily on rolling hills overlooking the two golf courses and several lakes. From our balcony -- which was very large with a table and chairs and a couple of loungers - we had a lovely view of both. My friend thought it so beautiful that he said that he wanted to be "chained to the balcony railings" so that he wouldn't have to leave! The timeshare is really efficiently run, the office staff could not have been more helpful and they have pre-printed maps with directions on how to go to every nearby beauty spot, movie houses, supermarkets, etc. There are several shops on site for grocery supplies and other necessities and a beauty parlor. The lovely restaurant overlooking the well-manicured golf course grounds is adjacent to their own Lawrence Welk theater which always has a Broadway musical playing. There are activities galore to appeal to all ages from golf clinics to barbeques and all sorts of escorted tours to Hollywood and even Mexico! There are 6 swimming pools scattered over the site, four lighted tennis courts, two exercise rooms and these are just a few of the amenities! Everything is perfectly maintained and looks lovely. The large two bedrooms unit was approached by a very short flight of exterior steps and was spacious and well-equipped. The roomy kitchen had a cupboard with the laundry inside and a breakfast bar with two upholstered chairs. There was a formal dining area and a comfortable living room. The two Master suites were on opposite sides of the living room and were self-contained, each being approached by a small hallway which had a door one could close off from the living room. Both bedrooms were light and overlooked pretty views and had plenty of closet space The original furnishings are still in fair repair, but I understand that there are plans to refurbish the older units once the construction on the brand new ones is complete. The bathrooms could do with "facelift" too, but they are functioning just not totally modern-looking. There is definitely something beguiling about this place; every time the weather has been perfect, the units have been comfortable and quiet. At night, we have been able to go wherever we wanted without hitting the notoriously bad traffic that we hear about, and the people are delightful.

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My/Jun, 2005

We visited Laguna and San Diego and explored Escondido and Temecula too. We also lunched at some of the surrounding golf clubs, as there are many other courses in the vicinity. All in all, we both thought it one of the best timeshare holidays we had enjoyed together as there was such a wide variety of activities at one's fingertips and yet the atmosphere was so totally relaxing. I even think I might be bull-dozed into going again!!!

Carriage Hills Resort, Barrie, Canada

This is a Gold Crown RCI resort situated in Barrie about 90 miles from Toronto. It is a large fairly new resort offering many amenities and activities and has well trained helpful staff. We attended a really enjoyable horse-drawn wagon ride and a terrific barbeque with entertainment that was great fun. The units are like apartments, built on several levels above one another, painted different colors for ease of recognition, and have only outside staircases to access the upper ones. We had a ground level two-bedroom, two-bath unit. These are spacious and comfortable timeshares with their own laundry facilities in each one and a large kitchen with all modern conveniences. The bedrooms were roomy, with lovely well-equipped bathrooms; the view from the bedrooms and living room were over the well-manicured gardens. There were walkways and bike paths everywhere and the facilities were excellent We played pool in the clubhouse. There were several swimming

pools, a playground for the children, a minimarket for supplies and countless activities for guests to go to on a nightly basis. A golf course was adjacent to the resort. Many pretty places were easy driving distance from the resort. We visited Kleinberg, which is renowned for the McMichael Collection, and enjoyed wandering around this lovely old town. We had a particularly good Sunday brunch here at the well-known Doctor's House. The resort is also not too far from Stratford, where there is a wonderful Summer Theatrical Festival. We drove there and spent the night after seeing both a matinee and evening performance. The shower was broken in one of the bathrooms but the maintenance staff fixed it pronto and we had no other problems. The staff was wonderful and could not have been more helpful regarding both suggestions as to what to see in the area and directions on how to get where we were going. All in all, Carriage Hills truly deserves its Gold Crown designation.

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May/Jun, 2005

From Civil War to civil rights Loreley Condominiums, Helen, GA

By Don Thompson, Long Beach, CA Our destination over Spring break, 2004, was a make-believe German town, nestled in the foothills of the Chattahoochee National Forest in the northern Georgia mountains. It is about 100 miles north of Atlanta and our intention was to see natural and historical sights in and around Georgia, using our time share exchange as base camp and headquarters. We managed the traffic in and around Atlanta fairly well since we flew in during daylight hours. We found State Highway 400 and made our way north to that little bit of Germany, called Helen. I'm searching for a word to describe my initial reaction to the town. DISAPPOINTED will suffice, I guess. The buildings had the appearance of movie props that might be dismantled and taken away. It was as if an inept artist tried to copy the master's works and didn't get it right. But we spent little time in town, so the facade worked its magic after a few drinks on the balcony of our unit at Loreley Condominiums, which was located on the banks of a pleasant, gentle stream, where we watched people fish (and catch some) at cocktail time. Check in was smooth and friendly, and our two bedroom unit was quite nice. The living room had a big stone fireplace and the kitchen was big enough for two cooks to work at the same time. The cooks raved about the good supply of kitchen utensils, so often lacking in exchange units. Our partners took the bedroom just off the kitchen and we took the upstairs one. It was a loft type arrangement, with an internal walkway to a balcony overlooking the river. We also could look down into the living room, the dining room and the kitchen. This arrangement allowed us to patrol for midnight snackers and levy appropriate fines! The grounds were quite large and well kept. The indoor/outdoor swimming pool next to our unit was well used, as was the gazebo/clubhouse. This looks to be a family type resort and we saw what we think

were volleyball courts on the premises. Management had organized an Easter egg hunt for kids that seemed well attended. But back to the town itself. This hamlet of 430 people had once been a thriving lumber town. But over time, the wood chopping got ahead of the tree regeneration and the local businessman knew they had to reinvent themselves or vanish like the trees. In 1968, they met to discuss ways to revitalize their town. They came up with the idea of an Alpine look. They painted the faces of the buildings with scenes from Bavaria, added Wilkommin to the city limits signs and morphed into a thriving tourist community, jam packed in the summer with tubers, fisherfolk, and carnival goers. The tubing company had painted its busses pink! A little garish? Yes. The next day was Easter, and we enjoyed the way people decorated their yards for the occasion as we made our way to Unicoi State Park, which was once part of the Cherokee Indian Territory. A short hike of about a mile, round trip, took us to Ruby Falls, which is really twin falls that cascade 153 feet down the face of rock

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May/Jun, 2005

th

to the Chattahoochee River. (We love the names of places here.) For the next four days, we traveled the secondary and tertiary roads, looking for the pulse of northern Georgia hill country. We saw lots of local color and came back to our condo each day with the satisfaction of knowing we had filled our dance card. We started each day as early as we could shuffle down the stairs, hands full of maps, brochures, picnic supplies and cameras We loved the charming, little college town of Dahlonega, although we couldn't pronounce it correctly. A great find was the Old Sautee Store, established in 1872 as a post office, now an upscale store. The view from the store's front porch was enchanting: a lazy herd of Holstein cows, plodding across a pristine, narrow valley. The owner of the store told us to make a slight detour to stop at the Stoval Mill covered bridge. It spans the Chickamauga Creek, and was good for some pictures. This part of the state has many waterfalls and we enjoyed the one at Toccoa, which is higher than Niagara Falls. We missed Camp Toccoa, home of the origi-

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nal "Band of Brothers." The 506 parachute Infantry Regiment trained here during WWII. We left Toccoa and drove north to Tallulah Falls. This is a deep gorge cut by the Chattooga River over millions of years. The movie "Deliverance" was made here in 1971. There is a nice state park here now, with one of the better visitor centers we have seen. Next stop was Mountain City, population 829, and the famous Foxfire Museum. In 1966, a high school English teacher helped his students publish a magazine dedicated to recording Appalachian folkways. Called Foxfire, after a lichen that glows in the dark, that publication has grown into a popular series of books. Students have built a collection of historic log cabins, including a chapel, school , blacksmith shop, gristmill. We had a wonderful stroll around the "village of the past". The next morning, the local weather people were talking about snow at the higher elevations. I looked out the window and saw sun. Liars! I had mapped a route that would take us via the Richard Russell Scenic Highway, through the mountains. The access road had a big barrier across it, which said: "Road closed snow and ice." We turned back and rerouted our journey. On our way back down, we stopped at the Walasi-Yi Center, a solid, stone building built by the CCC in the 1930s. It is located at a crossing of the Appalachian trail, and now provides hiking and camping gear. It was lunchtime and we stopped at Vogel State Park for a picnic and had one of those little serendipitous occasions that make a trip memorable. We met a woman in the office who was a gypsy camp host. She and her retired husband travel from park to park and act as camp hosts. She told us that this park had a modest museum dedicated to the CCC program. When we showed interest, she gathered her keys and gave us a private tour of the two buildings that house pictures, tools and mementoes from those hard working young men who did so much for this country (and themselves) during the Depression. Close to home again we stopped at a small Baptist church. Its tall steeple was an easy landmark. People wrote in the guest

Indoor pool at Loreley

book of the peace and serenity. One asked to be married here. There is a small cemetery out back. Across the street was the Naccoche Indian burial mound, where more than 50 Indians were buried over a hundred years ago. An odd juxtaposition, these two cemeteries. Different Gods? That evening, we spread out our maps and decided we had seen enough of Northern Georgia. Off to Chattanooga Choo Choo country! The next morning we waved "Auf Wiedersehen" to Helen and "Guten Tag" to Tennesssee. Chattanooga has plenty of Civil War history and we sampled a National Cemetery which contains the remains of 2,000 Union men who died in the area. A short drive south took us to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. We could have spent the whole day there walking/hiking, riding horseback, or driving the trails. There are more than 1,600 markers, monuments, cannons and tablets recounting the story of the area. We moved on south, but not much faster than General Sherman. Our next stop was at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, located only 15 miles from Atlanta. Our last day was spent in Atlanta. First stop, Margaret Mitchell's house, the one where she wrote Gone With the Wind. After visiting all the Civil War sites it seemed only fitting that we conclude our trip with a visit to the champion of Civil Rights. Our last stop was the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. It's located on 23 acres, only a couple of miles from the Capitol. It includes King's birthplace, church and grave. It's a very middleclass looking place, well preserved so as to give visitors a flavor of this middle-class Black neighborhood 50 years ago.

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TimeSharing Today

Page 18

May/Jun, 2005

RESORT REPORT CARDS ®

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the

Report Card ratings for each resort are averages based on a significant number of reports received from readers.

CLUB CALA DE PALMAS Humacao, PR 7.5

Amenities and activities at resort: Pools, golf, beach, horseback riding, bicycles, casino, hiking, game room. Amenities and activities nearby: Rain forest, water sports, boating, fishing, historic sites, sailboat rentals, restaurants. Unit: Furnishings: 7.4 Cleanliness: 7.2 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 6.7 Maintenance: 6.9 Construction quality: 7.4 Amenities and activities: At resort: 8.0 Nearby: 8.1 Suitable for: Young children: 6.4 Pre-teens: 6.8 Seniors: 7.9 Teenagers: 7.6 Handicapped: 5.3 Resort: Restaurant facilities: 8.6 Convenience store: 8.0 Grounds and maintenance: 8.0 Security: 8.2 Staff: 8.4 General hospitality: 8.7 Exchange affiliation: II Comments: Washer/dryer in Unit. This resort has been around for a long time and it needs updating. Nearby restaurants expensive. Located near a nice beach.

FAIRFIELD SEDONA Sedona, AZ 9.0

Amenities and activities at resort: Pool, spa, internet, game room, gym, library, welcome breakfast, VCR rentals. Amenities and activities nearby: Shopping, hiking, jeep tours, railway, casino, fishing, golf, helicopter rides, red rocks, Indian ruins, tennis, restaurants, camping, horseback riding, balloon rides, mountain biking, live entertainment, theater,. Unit: Furnishings: 8.9 Cleanliness: 9.3 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 9.0 Maintenance: 9.0 Construction quality: 8.9 Amenities and activities: At resort: 8.1 Nearby: 9.7 Suitable for: Young children: 7.9 Pre-teens: 8.2 Seniors: 8.8 Teenagers: 8.5 Handicapped: 7.1 Resort: Restaurant facilities: NA Convenience store: NA Grounds and maintenance: 8.8 Security: 7.9 Staff: 8.8 General hospitality: 8.9 Exchange affiliation: RCI Comments: Spacious units with fully stocked kitchens. Staff is attentive. Red rock scenery is beautiful.

THE FLAGSHIP RESORT Atlantic City, NJ 7.3

Amenities and activities at resort: Indoor pool, exercise room, hot tub, cocktail lounge, organized activities, game room, shuttle to casinos, restaurant, covered parking, tours. Amenities and activities nearby: Casinos, shows, beach, fishing, boating, boardwalk, restaurants, museums, golf, art galleries, winery, lighthouse, Smith Village. Unit: Furnishings: 7.3 Cleanliness: 7.1 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 6.5 Maintenance: 7.3 Construction quality: 8.0 Amenities and activities: At resort: 6.8 Nearby: 8.5 Suitable for: Young children: 5.2 Pre-teens: 5.1 Seniors: 8.3 Teenagers: 5.2 Handicapped: 7.6 Resort: Restaurant facilities: 6.0 Convenience store: NA Grounds and maintenance: 7.1 Security: 7.1 Staff: 8.0 General hospitality: 8.0 Exchange affiliation: II Comments: Elevators are slow in this 32 story building with ocean views. Efficiency kitchens. Friendly staff, but guest services slow in response to problems.

HORIZONS BY MARRIOTT VACATION CLUB Orlando, FL 9.2

Amenities and activities at resort: Pool, Jacuzzi, exercise room, basketball, miniature golf, planned activities, water park, fishing (small lake), concierge, playground. Amenities and activities nearby: Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, golf, fishing, theaters, beach, Kennedy Space Center, boat rentals, Discovery Cove, malls. Unit: Furnishings: 8.7 Cleanliness: 9.6 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 9.6 Maintenance: 9.7 Construction quality: 8.6 Amenities and activities: At resort: 8.0 Nearby: 9.9 Suitable for: Young children: 9.4 Pre-teens: 8.7 Seniors: 8.4 Teenagers: 8.1 Handicapped: 8.0 Resort: Restaurant facilities: 7.8 Convenience store: NA Grounds and maintenance: 9.7 Security: 9.5 Staff: 9.5 General hospitality: 9.5 Exchange affiliation: II Comments: New resort, still under construction. Focus is young families. Resort is convenient to major highways. The pool and water park area are popular with children.

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TimeSharing Today

Page 19

May/Jun, 2005

RESORT REPORT CARDS ®

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best.

Report Card ratings for each resort are averages based on a significant number of reports received from readers.

MAYAN PALACE NUEVO VALLARTA Nuevo Vallarta, PR 7.9

Amenities and activities at resort: Beach, pools, fitness center and spa, child care, golf, lake, live entertainment, playground, daily activities, game room, kayaking, night club, daily maid service, tennis, shuttle bus, bikes. Amenities and activities nearby: Fishing, water sports, restaurants, clubs, shopping, tours, golf, horseback riding. Unit: Furnishings: 7.8 Cleanliness: 9.0 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 7.5 Maintenance: 8.7 Construction quality: 8.5 Amenities and activities: At resort: 8.1 Nearby: 7.5 Suitable for: Young children: 7.8 Pre-teens: 8.0 Seniors: 7.5 Teenagers: 7.8 Handicapped: 7.2 Resort: Restaurant facilities: 7.4 Convenience store: 7.4 Grounds and maintenance: 8.8 Security: 9.3 Staff: 8.3 General hospitality: 8.2 Exchange affiliation: RCI Comments: Large resort complex with excellent pool and beach. Timeshare presentation has extremely hard sell. Spacious rooms.

PLANTATION FALL CREEK Branson, MO 8.9

Amenities and activities at resort: Indoor/outdoor pools, tennis, miniature golf, lake, playground, shuffleboard, planned activities, spa, concierge, marina, basketball, volleyball, live entertainment, fishing, fitness center, beauty parlor. Amenities and activities nearby: Music shows, Ozark Mountains, Silver Dollar City, horseback riding, water sports, fly fishing, malls, golf, amusement parks, camping. Unit: Furnishings: 9.0 Cleanliness: 8.6 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 8.7 Maintenance: 8.2 Construction quality: 8.9 Amenities and activities: At resort: 8.4 Nearby: 9.5 Suitable for: Young children: 7.6 Pre-teens: 8.1 Seniors: 8.6 Teenagers: 7.8 Handicapped: 8.3 Resort: Restaurant facilities: 6.9 Convenience store: NA Grounds and maintenance: 7.9 Security: 7.2 Staff: 8.4 General hospitality: 8.6 Exchange affiliation: RCI Comments: Car is necessary to get around area. Quiet resort a few miles from the city. Washer/dryer in each unit.

OAKMONT RESORT Pigeon Forge, TN 8.1

Amenities and activities at resort: Indoor/outdoor pools, hot tub, kid's crafts, sauna, social activities, playground, video rentals, grills, exercise room, discount show tickets. Amenities and activities nearby: Dollywood, outlet malls, golf, Gatlinburg, Smoky Mountains, live entertainment. Unit: Furnishings: 7.5 Cleanliness: 8.8 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 7.6 Maintenance: 7.8 Construction quality: 7.4 Amenities and activities: At resort: 6.9 Nearby: 9.8 Suitable for: Young children: 7.7 Pre-teens: 8.9 Seniors: 7.5 Teenagers: 8.3 Handicapped: 5.4 Resort: Restaurant facilities: NA Convenience store: NA Grounds and maintenance: 8.1 Security: 7.8 Staff: 9.0 General hospitality: 8.9 Exchange affiliation: RCI Comments: Although resort is older, it has been well taken care of. Resort is in a hilly area and there are many stairs (no elevators) to deal with. Central location within walking distance to town.

RESORT ON COCOA BEACH Coca Beach, FL 8.5

Amenities and activities at resort: Beach, heated pool, hot tub, exercise room, game room, spa, tennis, snack bar, playground, movie theater, basketball, video arcade, live entertainment, day care, covered parking. Amenities and activities nearby: Kennedy Space Center, golf, shopping, air boat rides, restaurants, shopping, movie theaters, horseback riding, Brevard Zoo, casino cruises. Unit: Furnishings: 8.6 Cleanliness: 8.9 Kitchen inventory/appliances: 8.8 Maintenance: 8.6 Construction quality: 8.6 Amenities and activities: At resort: 8.3 Nearby: 8.4 Suitable for: Young children: 8.5 Pre-teens: 8.1 Seniors: 7.5 Teenagers: 7.8 Handicapped: 7.8 Resort: Restaurant facilities: 7.8 Convenience store: NA Grounds and maintenance: 8.9 Security: 7.6 Staff: 8.4 General hospitality: 8.6 Exchange affiliation: RCI Comments: All two bedroom units. Car needed to get around area. Clean, enjoyable beach. Washer/dryer in units.

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Page 20

May/Jun, 2005

Spotlight on Telemarketers

Many timeshare professionals and consumers have expressed concerns about increased activity by telemarketing companies who are aggressively targeting timeshare owners. Every timeshare owner should aware that the National Do Not Call Registry is open for business, putting consumers in charge of the telemarketing calls they get at home. The Federal government created the Registry to make it easier and more efficient for you to stop getting telemarketing calls you don't want. You can register online at www.donotcall.gov. or call toll-free, 1-888-382-1222. Violators may be subject to severe penalties. Injunctions issued TimeSharing Today has secured court judgments barring a number of companies from soliciting owners who advertise in its classified ads. To date, judgments have been entered against the following companies: · Timeshare Globe · Crossroads Advertising and Marketing · Advert marketing · International Resort Promotions · Vizion Marketing · Worldtimeshare.net · Sunrise Vacation Concepts In addition, a suit is pending against Timeshareexpress.com. Please notify TimeSharing Today if any of these companies solicit you for a listing fee after you have advertised a timeshare for sale. We will take steps to have them held in contempt of court for violating the court injunction.

300+ Reviews Online

More than 300 resort reviews published in TimeSharing Today during the past five years have now been consolidated on the Website at www.tstoday.com, making them easier to locate. The new reviews are in the Subscribers Only section accessible through a link labeled "Articles on Resorts." All of the 314 resorts are listed alphabetically. Clicking on the adjacent issue number takes you right to that online issue where the review was published. All resort reviews are current through 2004. At the end of this year, we will add the 2005 resort articles. Other changes have been made at the Website. The older reviews, which had been in a "Focus" section, have been eliminated since their comments may no longer represent current conditions at a resort. The message boards have been reorganized. Several of the message boards have been consolidated and less active ones have been removed. The Resort Report Cards, continuously updated, remain the most popular and oft-visited part of tstoday.com.

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TimeSharing Today

Page 21

May/Jun, 2005

Reader Survey on Exchanges

Please complete this survey on exchanges and mail before July 1st to Survey, TimeSharing Today, 26 Franklin St., Tenafly, NJ 07670,

How many weeks per year do you vacation? ______ How many people usually travel with you? ______ Which form of transportation do you tend to use: ( ) Car Do you have: ( ) Points ( ) Weeks ( ) Both ( ) Plane ( )Train

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Which exchange company(s) have you used in the past 5 year? ( ) RCI ( ) I.I. ( ) Donita's Dial An Exchange ( ) Trading Places ( ) Hawaii Timeshare Exchange ( ) Platinum Interchange ( ) SFX Rate your overall satisfaction with your exchange company experience within the past 5 years. Consider exchange success, customer service and fees. Rate from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest: ( ( ) RCI ( ) I.I. ( ) Donita's Dial An Exchange ( ( ) Platinum Interchange ( ) SFX

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Within the past 2 years, what has been your overall experience in getting exchange requests filled? ( ) Easy ( ) Somewhat difficult ( ) Very difficult ( ) Impossible

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Do you plan to continue or discontinue your exchange company membership within the next year? ( ) Continue ( ) Discontinue Which company?_________________________ Are your exchange company fees: ( ) Reasonable ( )Too high ( ) Too low

Have you rented a timeshare week as an alternative to exchanging? ( )Yes ( )No Have you lost deposited weeks in the past 2 years because of unfulfilled exchange requests? ( )Yes ( )No What do you intend to do with your Unit(s) within the next year? Check as many as applicable. ( )Use ( )Exchange ( )Sell ( )Donate ( )Rent ( )Gift of usage or ownership Comments: (Use additional sheets if necessary.)

Survey results will be published in the Sep/Oct, 2005 issue.

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TimeSharing Today

Page 22

May/Jun, 2005

By Gilbert Mashburn, Virginia Beach, VA Lake Tahoe is a one hour drive from Reno, NV. It is unique at 6259 feet elevation and 1645 feet deep, so it never freezes over. It is approximately 35 miles around. There are two population centers, North Lake Tahoe, mostly residential, and South Lake Tahoe, referred to as State Line, which is the town. South Lake Tahoe is only a few blocks long. The airport is on the south end, along with a long stretch of motels and fast food restaurants. The California side is primarily a small

mall containing a large grocery store and food and clothing shops, with a variety of casual restaurants. On the Nevada side are several large casinos and a championship golf course. The Marriott Grand Residence Club has approximately 200 units, and includes a variety of shops; it adjoins the Timber Lodge, also by Marriott, with approximately 400 units. Both occupy the equivalent of about three square blocks. The Lake is about 4 blocks away and

A Grand Time in Tahoe

has a small beach. Allow about 4 hours for the drive around the lake. Tour boats are popular and reasonable and last about two hours. Their buses will pick you up at your accommodations. The Ponderosa Ranch is a popular attraction about eight miles north of State Line, past another strip center with a large grocery store. The road to Truckee is on

the north end of the lake as well as the scenic road to Reno. Truckee is a small tourist town and Donner Pass is at the West End of its main street. That is where the infamous Donner Party were trapped in 12 feet of snow in 1846/47. To survive, some resorted to cannibalism. Off the mountain is the State Capital, Carson City and a few miles Northeast is Virginia City, another small tourist town on the top of a mountain overlooking Reno. Virginia City shops and architecture are both very interesting. We bought lots of souvenirs and took a picture of me with "Mark Twain." There are two roads up to Virginia City. The old road is more scenic, but keep your eyes on the road; it is steep, narrow and no guard rails. Marriott has two Grand Residence Clubs. The second one is in London, England. This is their new fractional ownership concept. They sell for over $200,0000 and include five weeks in four seasons, roughly speaking. No two units are alike; they have studios to four bedrooms. The Grand Residence is just that: GRAND! Very large! Our residence was a two-bedroom on the fourth floor. We had a large living room/dining area adjoining the kitchen. The bedrooms were on opposite sides of the living room. Our selected master bedroom had a king sized bed, fireplace, huge bathroom with shower, jacuzzi, and steamer in the glassed in shower. The balcony overlooked the courtyard shops and ice rink. The other master bedroom had two king sized beds, a glassed in shower and that balcony had the same view of the courtyard. The kitchen was well equipped with high quality utensils and appliances. The entire residence was exquisitely decorated and the furnishings were superior. All future ventures will be judged by this luxurious stay. The Grand Residence had a full service spa, heated pool, 2 whirlpools, an owners club room, shops, a huge fitness center, and a variety of fast foods. The Timber Lodge had one and twobedroom units, heated pool, 3 whirlpools, on site restaurant, private balconies and other facilities. Very nice! Both facilities have the same ski storage area and valet parking.

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May/Jun, 2005

The Heavenly Gondola is in between the resorts. The ride to the top is about 2000 feet, and costs about $16. Reportedly Lake Tahoe will become the ski destination of the west. There is plenty of recreation nearby such as golf, fishing, boating, skiing, hunting, biking, gambling, etc. One does not need a rental car but they are available and perhaps cheaper than in Reno. A shuttle bus runs every hour from Reno Airport to your hotel of choice for $20. This is a real plus as valet parking is $14 a day. There is no public parking. A trip to Tahoe should include a side trip to Yosemite National Park which is

about 6 hours south and about 40 miles north of Fresno. US 395 is a decent road but once you leave it heading to Yosemite, the remainder of your days(s) will be mostly in low gear up and down mountains, often on narrow steep roads with no guard rails. Yosemite Valley has breathtaking views including El Capitain which is unmarked so you may not realize which spectacular rock it is. I was disappointed to learn the falls could be seen only when the ice is melting in the Spring. We were told that if you could not see both Yosemite Valley and Half Dome at Glacier Point, to see the latter. We totally agree; what a sight -- WOW!!! We took CA49 and US50 back to Tahoe, which was very scenic and also required many miles in low gear up and down mountains, sometimes behind logging trucks or school buses. No matter which side you enter Tahoe from, on US50, it is breathtaking, especially from the South. A trip to remember!

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THIS ADVERTISING MATERIAL IS BEING USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF SOLICITING SALES OF TIMESHARE PERIODS.

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This is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation to buy to residents of states in which registration requirements have not been met. This offer is made in compliance with the law of jurisdiction in which the project is located.

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TimeSharing Today

Page 25

May/Jun, 2005

RESORT VIEWS

Massanutten Village: Another Opinion

By Allen H. Sinsheimer, Arlington, VA This is to offer another opinion on the timeshares at Massanutten Village, in contrast to the article in your Jan/Feb, 2005, issue, where Mr. Jason Farlam, evaluated his week at Shenandoah Villas at Massanutten. While I think he has accurately characterized the resort in some respects, I think he has somehow missed some of the essence of the various timeshares at Massanutten Village. Originally built beginning in the mid 1960's, the various timeshares at Massanutten have won numerous awards as being the best timeshare facility in the State of Virginia; I personally agree with this assessment. The first problem is that Mr. Farlam stayed at Shenandoah, which is one of the highest elevated timeshare groups, so it isn't an easy walk to the numerous activities offered at Massanutten. My own unit at Mountainside Villas is within easy walking distance (1 to 1 ½ blocks) of "Le Club," the main recreational center and the 18-hole golf course clubhouse and restaurant. A host of activities take place daily at Massanutten; also Mr. Farlam may have failed to notice that persons using any of the Massanutten timeshares can use the facilities at both recreational centers ("Woodstone" is the other one), the second golf course and the set of tennis courts. With respect to my own unit at Mountainside Villas, one could do pretty good without driving a car for several days, since it is so near to the recreational center. In my judgment, there are an overwhelming number of activities and, if one purchases the special discount card for about $100 for the week, there are combined discounts worth in excess of $1,000. For example, the free golf for the entire week is worth close to $200 all by itself. Almost every night, there are activities at the summit conference center, such as a country music show, a karaoke night, and other activities. I would say that there are at least 10-15 separate activities each day at Massanutten Village. Also, within the area there is the Luray Caverns, the largest cavern of its kind in the Eastern United States, and other major caverns as well. Also nearby are the sites of a number of famous battlefields, the Appalachian National Trial and the Shenandoah National Forest and Parkway. In my judgment, Mr. Farlam did accurately identify one situation (problem?). Now that some secondary school systems are beginning to start before Labor Day, the final week in August has become a much slower week during the past few years. Accordingly, this week is closer to an "early fall" week and the number of daily activities has been somewhat reduced.

When I first began going to Massanutten annually during 1997, the final week in August was red hot and almost every unit would be full. So, it is true, the place is not as hopping during the final week in August as in the past; but that is not really all that terrible. Another item which I think is signifi

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Page 26

May/Jun, 2005

cant deals with value. The basic Mass-anutten Village townhouse unit is around 1,850 square feet and easily sleeps 6-8 persons. There is no way one could rent a facility like this with the Massanutten amenity package for less than $250 per night or $1,750 per week. Yet my own cost, since I bought my unit used for around $3,500, and an annual maintenance fee of $335 is around $550 to $600 per year (considering the capital costs on the investment), plus whatever you spend on the recreation once you get to the resort. I don't think you can beat this. Finally, I think that what is really important is that people at Massanutten on vacation are really happy and enjoying themselves here. Be it older couples playing golf, touring the area, doing the gourmet dinner, or even just sitting around inside and outside their units enjoying the mountainside fresh air and nature, or families with younger children enjoying the indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the mountainside hot tub, the miniature golf, the skateboard park or the many other things, everybody seemed to me and to my fiancée, to be truly happy there. It is also a memorable experience for entire families to be able to get together and spend time in such a recreational situation. Articles in TimeSharing Today Magazine have repeatedly referred to this special treasure of being able to have extended families or several couples being able to vacation together in a single facility. The large size of the individual Massanutten units makes this easily doable. Just a slightly different point of view from an owner at another of the timeshare villages at Massanutten Village.

Changes at Melia Cabo Real

By Mr. & Mrs. Gary Lauricella, Clark, CO I am writing out of frustration with our resort as well an attempt to provide information to others regarding the Melia Cabo Real in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We have been owners since 1996 and although we have traded our weeks for many wonderful places, the reason for purchasing in Mexico was we loved the location and wanted to return often. At the time of our purchase, the resort was an RCI Gold Crown resort and owners were treated like royalty. Owners had a specific wing that included the typical amenities found in timeshare units; the resort is also a hotel. Every Friday evening, owners were treated to a welcome buffet with drinks and music. A person on staff handled every aspect of the owners visit; things were pretty much first class. This past April we returned to our resort to learn that it was now "all inclusive." It was no longer a Gold Crown resort, not even a resort of International Distinction. We were treated poorly because we did not have a wrist band designating the "all inclusive;" we didn't matter anymore. Pool servers passed right by us and restaurants had increased prices to the point of outrageous. Gone was the staff member who had been there for us; that office was now a computer center. Of course, the welcome party was long gone and the area dedicated to owners had been

turned into another outdoor restaurant and bar. Gone also was the refined pace and family friendly resort we had come to love.

Melia Cabo Real

When we raised a concern about our treatment and prices we were told we could purchase the all inclusive wrist band, again an outrageous price. We spoke privately to the few staff members who have remained at the resort and were told candidly that the resort had lost its charm and friendliness. The name of the game now is the three to four day visitor who uses all inclusive as an excuse to over indulge. Large groups with parties every night, is definitely not a childfriendly vacation. Sol Melia management has not answered any of my correspondence and we feel they have broken a contractual agreement by losing their RCI status. Is changing to all inclusive a growing trend and what, if anything do you recommend to owners of resorts that lose the Gold Crown or buyers of Mexican timeshares in general?

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Changes at Costa Vida Vallarta: Two views

By Robert Hammond So, you think your timeshare contract is secure ? Think again. Here's what's happening at what used to be Costa Vida Vallarta, a timeshare in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, thought to be "secure" for over 25 years now. The first thing that happened is that it was sold last year to the Playa Del Sol (PDS) Group. We Owners were all assured that they would "honor all of our contracts." (Alarm bells began going off; why did they have to even say it? Isn't a con

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tract a contract?) Background: Costa Vida was one of the first timeshares in that area, and people bought time under an Exclusive Right to Use Contract. This gave each of us this exclusivity for a specific Unit and for a specific Week. Most of us enjoyed coming, to renew our acquaintances from prior years, which we looked forward to. Some people traded them out, some would send family/friends instead, and there were even those who (for their own reasons) just couldn't make it on a particular year, and their room remained empty. That was the true meaning of "Exclusive," and all there, Management and Owners alike, understood it. We were "secure." Alas, our little corner of Paradise came to an abrupt end. It began with changing of the name from Costa Vida Vallarta to Costa Sur. And then, came in the new rules. New "Rules" You can read them for yourself on www.costavida.com; they've still kept that website URL. But, here's a brief summary of their stated changes to our Contracts (they're careful to put these under the category of RULES): · Unit's occupancy plans must be confirmed 60 to 180 days in advance · If no confirmation, PDS will rent it out, and pocket the rental monies. · If confirmed, but "no-show," owner will be fined $150. · The new Owners' Management Committee list came out with people unknown to us; many are alleged to be PDS Owners, and ResortCom Owners. The Fox now owns the henhouse. There are other rules, but these pretty much show what's happened. And, what's around the corner is still of concern; e.g., declaring our specific rooms, or weeks no longer valid ? So, we have a new definition of "Exclusivity." When one Owner told them she was going to the Mexican authority, PROFECO, and taking other owners with her, she was threatened with physical eviction by the policia! Many of us who ex-

tended our contracts to 2030 a year or so before the sale certainly regret our action, but it was so "secure." So that your readers don't just think we are defeated at this point, a growing group of people has been banding together and has hired legal assistance. This won't just "go down." **** By Stuart Kurtz Having just been there (week 5), I can assure you that Robert Hammond is overreacting to the rules changes. I attended a weekly meeting sponsored by the "new owners" at which they addressed the concerns of timeshare owners. All or most of what your reader says is true, but with modification. The key word in all of the new "rules" is that they CAN do any of the things mentioned but that they WON'T necessarily do anything to change what "old" owners have come to expect. Leaving a unit unrented is economically wrong, and if an owner plans to use his or her unit, it is not too much to ask that he or she confirm that use 60 days before expected arrival. Revenue derived from units that would be empty otherwise, will be used to maintain the high standards that Costa Vida has always enjoyed. High occupancy is the key to success for any resort; the new management realizes this and is taking steps to improve the occupancy rate, which can be dismal in the off season. The property must be staffed and maintained 12 months of the year. I know there will be "changes" at Costa Vida (Costa Sur), but I am glad that the new owners have the vision and desire to maintain and improve a property which is already a gem in the timeshare world. Most of the staff remains the same as it was 25 years ago when we first purchased our unit, and we were assured that those people would continue to be employed by the new management.

Roundhouse Redux

By William & Judi Snively, Mesa, AZ In May of 2003, there was an article written by Nina Nelson about the Roundhouse Resort in Pinetop, AZ. I had also heard about the resort because ILX has some time slots there. Being from the Phoenix area, I was anxious to give them a try last Summer. I traded my wonderful week at Lagonita Lodge, for a week at Roundhouse Resort during the 4th of July week. Upon arriving, I noticed the driveways needed to be repaired. After checking in, I was informed that there might not be enough parking spaces in our area because they lost a lawsuit with the neighbor and he put logs on the spaces he owned. I drove around until somebody left and took that space. Upon entering the room, I smelled mold and mildew, and the chairs did not match. I went to the front desk to get another room. Since there were none available, they gave me a fan to try to air it out. After using 2 days of my week and feeling nauseous, I wanted to get out of there. After the whole experience the front

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desk found a room for me but I declined. The restaurant they named the resort after was also closed. I don't want to scare people off from the Show Low, Pinetop area. I have camped there and it is a nice area.

Viewpoint: Waterside by Spinnaker

By Thomas & Carol Arend, Fairfield, OH This letter gives another opinion about the Waterside by Spinnaker and quite different than that of Alex Horowitz in your Mar/Apr 2005 issue of Timesharing Today. We exchanged our timeshare for Waterside by Spinnaker and stayed there during the last week of September 2004. Our unit was a nicely furnished two bedroom unit and one of the nicest exchanges we made so far. The furniture was nice with no wear or tear; the unit was clean. A washer and dryer was included, with more than adequate dishes, cookware and silverware, plus paper towels, liquid dish soap and dishwasher soap. Shampoo and bath soap were furnished. I don't know if December versus Sep-

tember affected the activities, but we were pleased with the activity program. A spaghetti social dinner was offered for $5 a couple that included meatballs, spaghetti, salad, drink and cookies plus we were entertained with some nice music by a local musician and door prizes. Waterside offered other planned activities. Bicycles were also available to guests at Waterside. There were two swimming pools and hot tubs. Tennis courts adjoined the property. The beach was about one quarter mile from Waterside and metered parking was available. From the public parking area there was a board walk to the beach. We took a tour bus trip to Savannah. The bus picked us up at Waterside and brought us back which was great. We enjoyed a walking tour of historic Savannah and spent a couple of hours down at the waterfront. The Waterside staff was quite pleasant and professional. We can't speak for the staff at the Players Club because we had no contact with anyone there. If we remember correctly, if one were interested in golf or the exercise facility, that was at the Players Club; since we were not golf-

ers and did not use the exercise area we had no interaction with that location. Since Mr. Horowitz was building a home at Hilton Head, it was surprising that he did not take into account all the greenery close to the road, with establishments built back from the road, and find out exactly where Waterside was located before his trip in the dark. We would definitely stay at that resort again. **** Southwind Management Corporation manages the 550+ units of Spinnaker Resorts that comprise in excess of 30,000 timeshare owners. I think Mr. Horowitz was off base in labeling it the "poorest trade" because they happened to come in the lowest occupancy months on Hilton Head, when we consistently have poor weather. Waterside by Spinnaker continues to be an RCI Gold Crown resort with a location that is within walking distance of our outstanding beaches. Waterside also features full golf membership privileges for all our owners and RCI exchangers. Thomas. P. Williams, Chief Operating Officer

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The Big Island: Kona Hawaiian Village and the Bay Club at Waikoloa

found that this helps to prevent a lot of leftovers and waste at the end of the trip as well. Costco prices in Hawaii are similar to the prices on the Mainland ­ an incredible savings! We have also bought boogie boards, snorkel sets, books and chocolates at Costco to use and take back as gifts. They sell wine, beer and other liquor as well ­ if traveling with a group, this is a wonderful way to enjoy your daiquiris and pina coladas on your own lanai (patio). We made our way to the Kona Hawaiian Village, 1 mile south of the town of Kailua-Kona. The property as a whole does not sit on the ocean; it is across the street from the ocean and does not appear to have a view. However, it has wonderful lush and landscaped grounds which make it a very pleasant place, and quite unlike the apartment-complex-like places that usually sit on Alii Drive. It is a Fairfield property, so I must admit I had some reservations after reading of some of the problems Fairfield has had in TimeSharing Today but was pleasantly surprised. We made this match by trading our week at Cliffs Club in Kauai through Trading Places. We had called prior to coming to see if we could pick the unit and were given many confusing messages about whether or when we could get our unit assignment. In the end, we ended up in 5B. We had learned from the Internet that buildings 8, 9, and 10 are desirable, but we were told that these are reserved (appropriately so) for owners. The unit was a 2-bedroom (which we did not need as there are only two of us). The staff was extremely friendly and

Kona Hawaiian Village

By Radhika Breaden, Portland Oregon. My husband and I recently traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii in February 2005. We have been here several times in the past, staying at Kona Coast Resort (which we have loved) and stayed at two new timeshare locations on this trip. For anyone who has not been to Hawaii before, make sure you get "The Big Island Revealed" by Andrew Doughty and Harriett Friedman, published by Wizard Publications. (www.wizardpub.com). This is the true insiders' guide and will direct you to the best beaches, the most economical but great local eats, and great tips for all the activities. They also publish guides for Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. For the most part, their advice was 100% right on the money. The only recommendation that they made which we do not agree with is that one needs a 4-Wheel-Drive vehicle to get to the best beaches. On this trip, several of 4WD roads to the beaches were closed off, making our 4WD useless. Also, most of the "real gem" beaches are easily accessible by car. Unless you are absolutely sure that you want to 4WD to specific locations, it is not worth the extra money. Our first stop after landing in Kona was the Costco, which is very close to the Kona airport. The price of food in Hawaii is fairly expensive, so over the years, my husband and I have developed the habit of making a rough plan of what meals we would want to make during our trip prior to coming. I then pack some of the nonperishables at home and we get the rest at the local Costco and supermarket. I have

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helpful. The units are decorated with a rustic Hawaiian-style feel, which we have found extremely relaxing. I had noted the use of the word "rustic" in descriptions of the complex on the internet prior to coming, and had been concerned that this would be a code-word for old or stripped-down. Not in this case; the condo had all amenities with updated appliances including a jetted tub and lovely tiled showers. The "dining room" is actually a large table on the lanai (patio) which was nicely sheltered from most surrounding unit lanais by lush and thick foliage. The only problem with this setup was insects (ants, etc.) which were easily attracted by the food, and the occasional roaming feral cats that jump onto the lanais. The unit was right by the pool, which was a very pleasant area with rock waterfalls in both the pool and whirlpool areas. There were many activities available including hula, ukulele lessons, lei making and walks. We had never stayed so close to Kailua-Kona town itself, and found it extremely enjoyable to be within walking distance of the downtown area. We took several walks downtown to have lunch and enjoy the view, the shops and the other sights. After a week of staying at the Kona Hawaiian Village, we moved on to two nights at the Bay Club at Waikoloa. We wanted to stay at the Bay Club at Waikoloa because we were thinking of buying at the Bay Club. After 10+ years of timesharing, we have found that the beautiful, deluxe, units with fantastic views that are shown during presentations are rarely the same ones that the owners or exchangers eventually get to use. We decided that we would like to see

what the "average" unit in a complex would be before considering a purchase. Although it is somewhat costly (since you have to pay the going rate of the condos rather than getting the week price as a timeshare owner), I personally think it is worth it because, in our case, it helped us make the decision easily. We rented the unit through the Bay Club at Waikoloa website ­ we were told that this unit was available through the owner's rental pool. It was only available for reservation 30 days prior to arrival. Waikoloa is in the northwest part of the island, in the Kohala district, which is known to be more luxurious and more pricy. This was certainly true ­ the Kings' Shops, full of designer shops and a small grocery store, sold groceries at unbelievably high prices (one 8-oz container of flavored yogurt for $2.45!). Luckily, there was a much more reasonably priced grocery store about 4 miles away in Waikoloa Village. The Waikoloa area is full of beautiful resorts including the Marriott, the Hilton, and a few others and is very close to some of the most beautiful beaches of the Big Island. The Bay Club at Waikoloa is part of the Hilton Grand Vacations network. However, visitors to the Bay Club cannot use the nearby Hilton pools and facilities without an additional fee. Check in was easy and quick. We requested a unit with a view but were told that all one-bedroom units had only parking lot views (I do not know if this is actually true). I was quite surprised that the pools of the complex were very plain, square, standard swimming pools, rather than the usual lush and beau-

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tiful pools that I have seen at many highend resorts on the Big Island. There was a small café next to the pool, which was not open during our stay. Multiple activities were available, with arts, crafts, music and ice cream socials. The one-bedroom unit that we were given did indeed face the parking lot, although it did have a distant view of some palm trees and a neighboring condo complex. There were a very large lanai (patio) which was pleasant to enjoy dinner and drinks on. The unit itself was surprisingly small ­ although it was mentioned that it slept 4, that many people would not be comfortable in my view, since the only shower and bath were in the master bedroom, with only a very small half-bath accessible from the sofabed in the living room area. The appliances were on the older side and the kitchen cabinets were a bit older; some were chipped and needed repainting. However, it was stocked with the appropriate utensils and was otherwise a standard timeshare kitchen. All in all, we had a very pleasant time at the Bay Club at Waikoloa and would certainly stay there on an exchange. However, spending a few hundred dollars on a short stay there helped my husband and I save thousands of dollars. After our stay, we did not feel that the accommodations at the Bay Club were worth the expense to purchase a timeshare there, especially since some of the units would need updating/refurbishing (which we all know as timeshare owners will probably result in special assessments and additional maintenance fees!). Although the Bay Club has an incredible location, we felt that the maintenance fees and cost of purchase were out of proportion to other timeshare properties on the Big Island.

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Insuring Your Timeshare Vacation

any additional fees. Now those sympathies are gone. The exchange firms figured out that indemnifying their members against hurricanes and other catastrophes constitutes a new source of revenue. Now they will sell you a timeshare vacation-interruption or cancellation-protection insurance policy covering some or all of your travel-related costs. Today, if you don't buy this insurance and you lose your exchange because Mother Nature throws a temper tantrum, the onus is on you to absorb the loss. The exchange firms say they have to charge you an additional exchange fee to cover their additional operating costs, but they never say how much giving their electronic database a few extra tweaks actually costs them, and how much of the additional fee is pure profit. In the Beginning No one recalls when timeshare vacation-protection insurance began. Initially, RCI referred its members who wanted such insurance to independent agencies, says David Jimenez, RCI's senior manager-corporate communications. Beginning in 1977, RCI offered its members vacation insurance provided by BerkelyCare in Jericho, New York, and underwritten by Virginia Surety Company, Inc., of Chicago, Illinois. Interval International began offering "resort accommodations insurance" to its members in 1998, provided by Travel Guard Group, Inc., reports company spokesperson Chris Boesch. Interval also offers other types of travel insurance, including coverage for replacement costs of travel packages and reimbursement for medical expenses and airline tickets. Other exchange organizations sell a variety of vacation-insurance programs, and timeshare owners, exchangers, and renters also can purchase coverage on

By Rosalie E. Leposky Since I began writing about the timeshare industry two decades ago, more than a dozen hurricanes have ravaged portions of the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States. When this occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, everyone sympathized with the affected timeshare owners, exchangers, and resorts. The exchange firms worked hard to find alternative lodgings and vacation experiences for their members at no extra cost, waiving

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TimeSharing Today Owners Groups

Baltimore, MD area - Contact Ed and Mary Lou Hastry, 2003 Fernglen Way, Baltimore, MD 21228 Phone 410/7190064 [email protected] Northern California - Contact Jess Centeno, 2479 Diamond St., San Francisco, CA 94131. Telephone 415/239-1729. Email [email protected] Southern California - Contact Glenn Bailey, 5926 Hesperia Avenue, Encino, CA 91316. Telephone - 818/585-2212. Email [email protected] Cape Cod - Contact W. R. Chandler, 790 Old Fall River Rd., North Dartmouth, MA 02747. Telephone - 508/676-0693. Cayman Islands - Contact Carol Blair - 6879 Mossvine Circle, Dallas, Texas 75254 972-661-9119 or 214-533-9945 email [email protected] Chicago, IL - Contact Joe Tragesser, 1057 Partridge lane, Lake Zurich, IL 60047. Phone 847/438-6795. Email [email protected] Columbia, MO - Wayne Behymer, 3201 Rolling Hills Rd, Columbia, MO 65201. 573/442-6783. Denver, CO - Contact Melvin and Betty Adams, 71 S. Grandbay St., Aurora, CO 80018. Telephone 303/341-7147. Email [email protected] Mid-Atlantic - DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV - Contact Bill and Marty Giggard, 410/437-8377. Email [email protected] Midwest - Contact Nancy and Jake Seth, 28306 290th St, Henderson, MN 56044. Phone 507/665-6358. Email [email protected] New York Metro Area - Contact Amy Sien, 71-17 Manse St., Forest Hills, NY 11375, (718) 261-7677, email [email protected] or Caroline Lindholm, Scarsdale, NY 10533, (914) 723-5657, email [email protected] or Ben and Dorothy Catanese, Hicksville, NY, (516) 822-5912, Email: [email protected] optonline.net or Betsy Hurley, Hoboken, NJ Email: [email protected] Portland, ME - Contact David and Alison Bjork, PO Box 499, Old Orchard Beach, ME 04064. Email [email protected] San Diego - Contact Bill Cranna, 10411 Oroxco Rd., San Diego CA 92124, Telephone 858-565-0500 Southern California - Contact Glenn Bailey, 5926 Hesperia Avenue, Encino, CA 91316. Telephone 818/585-2212. Email [email protected] Southeastern States - Contact Jack English, P.O. Box 2121, Acworth, GA 30102-2121. Telephone - 678/445-6761. Email [email protected] Tampa Bay/Sarasota/Ft. Meyers, FL Area - Contact Frank Debar, 7339 Kensington Ct., University Park, FL 34201 (941) 351-1384. Email [email protected]

their own, independent of any exchange program. Some timeshare-insurance products are sold directly from the provider to the timeshare consumer; others are sold through the exchange company's call center. Read the Fine Print Before you buy travel or vacation insurance of any kind, do some research. You'll find that costs vary widely. Some programs cover more than others, and some are a better value than others. When you read the small print, pay particular attention to what is covered, what is not, and what you must do to make a claim. To begin this research, look at your exchange company's resort directory. RCI's latest directory contains three pages of relevant information. Interval, by contrast, offers a brief summary in print and details in the members-only section of its Web site. Then do an online search to compare your exchange company's programs with various independent offerings. Some of these companies post the actual policies to their Web sites; others will mail a policy to you for inspection on request. Never purchase any form of protection without reading the entire policy form ­ including the small print ­ ahead of time. Never assume that you are entitled to anything until you read and understand the forms. Selecting the best timeshare or travel insurance for yourself and your family isn't a simple task, but it's as important as any other financial decision you may make and requires as much care and concern. "Insurance is a transference of risks," says Brian Rock, national director of VacationGuard, Inc., in Bellevue, Washington. "We buy it to protect our assets. The owner of assets has a choice in selecting the level of insurance to acquire. "Before you purchase insurance," Rock advises, "ask for the name of the policy's underwriter and carriers and investigate the underwriters' financial stability." What Works and What Doesn't Rock says timeshare-insurance shoppers should look for a flexible, comprehensive "cafeteria-style" insurance policy that contains everything they want. "The newest generation of timeshare insurance covers, in a single policy, maintenance and exchange fees as well as vacation interruption and cancellation, car breakdown and unit property damage as well ­ an all-purpose policy," he says. "When a vacation is interrupted, travelers lose their vacation time. Time is a commodity, and when it is impaired or impacted, that's something the would-be traveler has to deal with. Consumers have a hard time identifying what works and what doesn't." Some of the insurance programs include trip-interruption coverage and emergency medical assistance. "Many things can go wrong on a vacation," says Fullerton, "including emergence medical expenses while traveling; accidental death; repatriation or evacuation (transportation of a dead or injured traveler); anything to do with lost or damaged baggage; maintenance or exchange fees for timeshare owners; and vacation cancellation or interruption because of illness, weather, or other reasons including flight cancellation, and flooded roads; and other timesharerelated out-of-pocket expenses."

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Costa Del Sol, Off Season

Comet cancelled their flight and booked us at no extra charge on Iberia Airlines from JFK to Madrid and then to Malaga. The flights were no problem. The outbound flight was not full and we ended up with two seats each. The return flight was also not full and we each had a row of seats to stretch out and sleep our way to New York. After talking to several other passengers on these flights, I found out that it was not uncommon for charters to cancel if they do not sell enough tickets and they had experienced flight cancellations with Air Plus Comet before, but they were always booked on Iberia at no extra cost. On arrival at Malaga, we picked up our intermediate size diesel rental car for the week, a brand new (we were the first renters) Ford Mondeo 6 speed standard shift sedan with all amenities. Standard shift and diesel engines are the norm for Spanish rental cars; an automatic requires a special request in advance. This was a good car, but if I were to rent in Spain again I would get a smaller car. All I can say about Spanish drivers is that they all drive just as fast as their vehicles will go no matter what the speed limit. In the mountains they think nothing of passing on blind hairpin turns and they will squeeze their vehicles into the tiniest parking spaces often backing a small two seat vehicle between parallel parked cars leaving no room to get out. I drove almost a thousand kilometers in Spain without any trouble despite the way the locals drive. When we finally made it to Club Marbella, the staff warmly greeted us and they took care of us for the week in an exceptional manner. I can't say enough about the staff and their attitude. The club itself is part of Crown resorts, an upscale chain of timeshare resorts in the Costa Del Sol area; you are welcome to use the facilities at any other Crown resort. Club Marbella offered full amenities, including indoor/outdoor heated pools, large Jacuzzi, saunas, tennis courts, restaurant, nightclub, on site mini mart, indoor and outdoor parking, internet room, children's mini club, van service to shopping, the other Crown resorts and more. There is, however, a downside. Our two-bedroom unit was the smallest two bedroom I've ever seen. It had a queen bed in one room and two twins in the other. There was no air conditioning, although it is not needed in Spain in November. Air conditioning is probably needed during the Summer. The weather was showery one day and sunny in the 70's the rest of the time. There were portable heaters if you needed them but no central heating. I would think you might need heat in the Winter there. The kitchen, while small, was ad-

Michael Frost, East Greenwich, RI This trip to Spain was the result of an extra bonus week offered to us by Dial an Exchange (Donita's) when we banked our week at the Quarter House in the French Quarter of New Orleans with them. Having owned several timeshare weeks for a few years now, we have given up on and dropped membership in both RCI and II and have had good luck making exchanges with Trading Places International and Dial an Exchange. I was scanning the Dial an Exchange website and noticed lots of availability in Spain, Portugal or the Canary Islands and we decided to try to use the bonus week in Spain. I gave Dial an Exchange three choices for the second week of November 2004 and they came up with our second choice, a two bedroom at Club Marbella in Sitio De Calahonda on the Costa Del Sol. After arranging for the timeshare week, we consulted several travel guides in our local library (a series called "Rough Guide to" had the best info.) We found that there are charter airlines that fly regularly from New York to Malaga, Spain and we were able to book flights at less than half the cost I originally found on several travel websites. Since our check in day was Friday, we selected a flight on Air Plus Comet out of JFK airport, non-stop to Malaga leaving Thursday night and arriving in Malaga on Friday morning with the time change. This flight was only six and half hours instead of the fourteen to eighteen hours that the scheduled airlines would need to take us to London or Paris and then to Madrid and finally Malaga. Alas, our good luck did not hold; a week before we were due to leave Air Plus

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equate and you could prepare a meal for four in it. There was a clothes washer in the kitchen, but no dryer. It took a couple of days for clothes to dry on the drying rack provided on the unit's patio. Our unit had one television in the combination living/dining area, which received 13 channels, with 4 in English. There were two full baths with what I first thought was a small extra tub for soaking your feet, but as my wife explained, was a bidet. The unit was set up for four people,

although it was described as being able to accommodate six. I would describe the unit as adequate but not luxurious. My main gripes about Club Marbella are the total lack of soundproofing and the many stairs. Club Marbella is built into the side of a steep hill rising from the coast. Although you are very near the coast, you cannot see the Mediterranean Sea from anywhere that I went in Club Marbella. You could hear normal conversation in the units around you and at night, if your neighbors snored, you knew it. The resort is set up to be handicap accessible and you could get to some of the units in a wheelchair, but I wouldn't want to be the person pushing the wheelchair up and down the steep inclines. There are just too many stairs and too many units crammed onto the space available. In fact, my overall observation of the Costa Del Sol is that it is too over built now, and the construction boom is continuing. The beautiful sea-view condo you purchase this year may have its view blocked next year when a new 30-story condo is built right in front of you. When offered, we declined the opportunity to purchase a luxury retirement condo. The area immediately around Club Marbella offers restaurants, drinking establishments, shopping, mini markets and supermarkets, real estate agencies, etc. This area is accessible by foot, but everything is down hill from the resort and you

will have to carry anything you purchase back up a fairly steep hill. You could actually spend a week at Club Marbella without a rental car if you utilized taxis, the resort van and shoe leather. The resort offers a full slate of tours to anywhere you want to go, including a boat trip to Morocco. Some of these tours are free, but most have a fee. We went on a free tour to the Barcardi rum factory (free sample) and the Columbus Diamond Cutting Center (no free sample) and paid for a tour to Grenada to see the Alhambra. All the tours offered, and there are several each day, are worth doing if you have the time. Since the cost of a rental car for a week in Spain is more than double the cost of the same thing in Florida, you could forego the car and spend the money on tours. We especially liked the tour to Grenada and the three-hour visit to the Alhambra (lots of climbing and many steps). The lunch offered after the tour was very nice. The tour bus took us high up into the mountains looking over Grenada to a restaurant that provided an elegant meal with wine included, plus a spectacular view. While eating lunch, a group of students from the local university, dressed

in period costume, serenaded the diners with typical Spanish music. This tour left very early in the morning, about six in the morning, and picked up at other resorts along the Costa Del Sol for two hours until the bus was full, before proceeding to Grenada. Of course, this meant another two hours to drop off on the way back. This makes for a long day that finally ended about 8:00PM. Since the Spanish do not begin eating dinner until 9:00PM or later, this left one hour after the tour to get ready for dinner. We used the rental car to visit beaches, shopping areas, historic sites and to just travel along the coast. One day, we

went to Puerto Banus where the beautiful people live in their crammed together elegant seaside homes overlooking their large yachts in the port. We sat in an outdoor sidewalk café to eat lunch and watch the beautiful people walk by while they looked at us. Another interesting trip we took was to the Southwestern tip of Spain, to Tarifa where we walked out on a pier with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other side; at the same time you can see Africa about 12 miles across the Straight of Gibraltar. Because of its location actually south of Gibraltar, Tarifa has a number of historic buildings and forts to explore. Another night we took in dinner and the Fortuna stage show at a nearby hotel/ casino. Dinner started at nine with the show starting at 10:30. The first hour was a typical Las Vegas style revue. However, the second hour featured a spectacular display of flamenco dancing. Language was never a problem along the Costa Del Sol. Most people speak some English and in a few days I picked up enough Spanish to make myself understood. Since so many northern Europeans vacation or are retired in the area, you will hear many languages being spoken. Everyone tries very hard to accommodate you. What is the biggest bargain in Spain? Tapas and wine. You can purchase a liter of good Spanish wine in the supermarket for .57 Euro (about 75 US cents) and Tapas is available everywhere for the price of a drink. Tapas (finger food) is available anytime and usually there are several choices including meat, fish, vegetables, cheese, bread, etc., in any establishment that serves drinks, even if the drink is just a Coke. Tapas is what you eat around 5:00PM if you can't wait for the usual Spanish dinner hour of 9:00PM or later. Would we go back to the Costa Del Sol? Yes, we would go back, as there are many things that we did not have time to see and there are many more parts of Spain to explore. Would we go back to Club Marbella? Probably not. We would try another resort that had more soundproofing and fewer steps, although the helpfulness of the staff at Club Marbella might tempt us to make a return visit.

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May/Jun, 2005

Two Resorts in South Carolina

By Vicki Raines, Liberal, KS Our 2-week South Carolina vacation began on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We would spend the first week on Hilton Head Island at Kingston Cove Resort and the second week in Myrtle Beach at Harbour Lights Resort. As we drove to Hilton Head, we arrived at I-95 exit 8 at about 4:00 p.m., thinking that we would be checking in just a few minutes later. We didn't know that lay ahead was 2 hours of bumper to bumper traffic to get onto Hilton Head Island. We finally arrived at the check-in office at 5:55 p.m., only 5 minutes before closing time. At the check-in, we began to panic; the desk personnel had no record of our reservation and the unit that was listed on our RCI confirmation sheet was already occupied. After rechecking with RCI they found our reservation and said that the only two units still available were both with a lagoon view and no golf course view. We were disappointed because our reserved unit had both golf course and lagoon views, but the people in that unit were owners of the previous week and were staying a second week, so we couldn't have it. We agreed to take unit 28 and got ready to move in for the week. Kingston Cove Resort, an RCI Gold Crown resort, is located in Shipyard Plantation on Hilton Head Island. The resort is small, only 45 units. The first 26 units are actually private residences, not timeshare units, which leaves only 19 timeshare units. Each unit in the resort is a free-standing, 2-story, 3-bedroom house. The ground level is a carport, shed, storage, and trash areas. The living quarters are all located on the second level, so climbing stairs is a must. The entryway leads to the dining room, which has seating for five, and a wet bar. The full sized kitchen is adjacent to the dining room and has a breakfast table with seating for four and also has a stacked washer and dryer in a small area behind a folding door. The living room has a sofa, loveseat and easy chair, which face the wood-burning fireplace and the TV with VCR. It appears that unit 28 had once included a stereo, as we saw speakers in the ceiling and some wires in the cabinet by the bar, but the stereo was gone. Outside the sliding glass doors of the living room was a large balcony of which 2/3 is carpeted and screened with a table and five chairs. The remaining 1/3 of the balcony serves as an open sun deck, with stairs leading down to the grassy area and the lagoon. The master bedroom is located on one side of the living room with its own bathroom including whirlpool tub. The other two bedrooms are located on the opposite side of the living room with a shared bathroom between them. The resort has on unusual policy of shutting off the power to the hot water heater at scheduled times during the day to prevent overuse. We always had hot water, but a larger group might have trouble with that. The unit we stayed in was quiet and peaceful. We enjoyed sitting on the balcony and watching the alligators occasionally swim past us in the lagoon. There were always lots of turtles in the lagoon as well, either swimming or sunning themselves on the grassy bank. There were a few fishermen throughout the week who were catching large-mouth bass from the lagoon. There is no resort office on-site. The check-in office is located outside the plantation and serves as the check-in office for several resorts. They have limited hours each day and aren't open on Sundays. The resort leaves a small supply of items (toilet paper, soap, paper towels, etc.) in the units and whatever you run out of, you must either do without for the rest of the week or go shopping to replace. There are no planned activities at the resort and the only amenity is a very small swimming pool. There is a large charcoal grill at the pool, but it was full of ashes from previ-

ous cook-outs and we weren't enticed to cook on it. Kingston Cove's landscaping and grounds are nicely maintained. The storage shed under each unit contains two bicycles for use on the numerous bike paths of Hilton Head Island. Shipyard Plantation has many miles of nice paths for walking or riding and there are also miles of public bike paths around the rest of the island. We found the widest and smoothest paths in Sea Pines Planta-

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May/Jun, 2005

tion. Vacationers can even ride their bikes on the packed sand of the beaches. We had an enjoyable week at Kingston Cove Resort and would gladly accept an exchange to the resort again in the future. The resort units are large enough to easily accommodate a family and it's nice not to have anyone else staying above or below you, either making noise or listening to your noise. For the second week of our trip we headed north to Myrtle Beach. Our resort for this Myrtle Beach week was Harbour Lights Resort, which is a Bluegreen resort. Harbour Lights is located in an area called Fantasy Harbour, on the intracoastal waterway, adjacent to Highway 501. A defunct outlet mall nearby is to be torn down and replaced with a new Hard Rock theme park. The Medieval Times castle is across the street from the resort. Harbour Lights consists of eighteen 3-story buildings, only eight of which have elevators. Each building has twelve 2-bedroom units, four on each of the three floors. The 2-bedroom units in the original six buildings are lock-off units that can be split into 1-bedroom and studio units. The new buildings are all 2-bedroom units only, with no lock-off option. Seven buildings have units with balconies that face the intracoastal waterway, while the remaining 11 buildings have balconies that face the resort's two lagoons. The lagoons each have two fountains in them to circulate the water, and have small fishing docks, but we never saw anyone use them. Our unit at Harbour Lights was a 1bedroom unit in building 13, one of the original six buildings. We asked for a waterway view room, but were told none were available, so we were in a lagoon view room. The entry way to each of the 2-bed-

room lock-off units is shared by the A (1bedroom) and B (studio) units. The washer and dryer ore located in the entry way, so we shared them with the family staying in the studio side of our unit. When entering the 1-bedroom side, you first step into the kitchen area, which is small but fully equipped. The dining table is located on the other side of the kitchen counter, and has seating for six. The living room area is adjacent to the dining room and contains a sofa, a podded wicker chair, a coffee table, television, and a portable stereo. The bathroom has separate shower and tub areas and two sinks. The bedroom has a kingsize bed, a television, and a small closet. The screened balcony is accessed by a sliding door in the living room and also by a door from the bedroom, and has a table and four chairs. Amenities at the Harbour Lights clubhouse include indoor and outdoor pools, a lazy river, kiddie pool, well-equipped fitness room, video rentals, pool table and Ping-Pong table. The resort activities desk offers bicycle rentals and also sponsors a

few activities throughout the week. There is also a 3/4 mile walking path that circles the resort. Along the waterway, there are charcoal grills, hammocks, and wooden swings. No housekeeping services are provided during your stay. Guests are asked to place their trash in cans located at the foot of the stairs of each building. We found that we liked the location of this resort because it's a little off the beaten path, but with easy access to U.S. 17. At the end of the day, being away from the hustle and bustle of the beach areas is very quiet and relaxing. The Broadway at the Beach shopping and dining area is only a 5-minute drive from the resort. We were able to drive to the various golf courses each day in a short amount of time.

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We look forward to our next trip to Myrtle Beach and to playing more of the dozens of golf courses in the area! We would definitely stay at Harbour Lights again. We liked its location and the units were nice. The staff members were all very friendly. We believe that Harbour Lights deserves its RCI Gold Crown rating. Our trip to South Carolina was wonderful. Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach are two distinct vacation experiences. Hilton Head is the smaller of the two, with smaller crowds on the beaches and fewer golf courses than Myrtle Beach. The Hilton Head pace is slower and more relaxed, especially when you travel by bicycle! Myrtle Beach has more glitz with the shows and night life, and also wins the award for most golf courses. We enjoyed both weeks, for different reasons, and look forward to returning in a couple of years.

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