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Florida’s Newest Timeshare Bill Stirs Up Controversy

A new bill has made its way through Florida Congress that spells quite a few changes for timeshare owners. Known both as House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 932, the controversial legislation makes a great deal of technical changes to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act. The bill’s passing
has ruffled some feathers among both individual owners and industry leaders who fear the vague language can be abused. Others hold a more optimistic outlook and believe the bill will provide more stability and inherent protection for timeshare owners. As an owner advocate, RedWeek is committed to providing you with the entire rundown.

The bill was conceptualized with the best of intentions – to streamline and simplify ownership for owners. HB453/SB932 introduces changes like eliminating doubled-up interest fees and providing ways for a contract to end or be extended when the plan does not specify a way to do so. In addition, backers of the bill hold that the changes will provide consumers with more protection and freedom in regards to the fate of their timeshare plan, as well as bring the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act up to speed with modern real estate law.

State Representatives Eric Eisnaugle and Kelli Stargel have spearheaded the crusade for the introduction of HB453/SB932, fervent in the belief that the changes will help owners. The bill is also backed by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee (RPAC) as well as Florida-based developers Orange Lake Resort Alliance (Holiday Inn) and Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. – all of whom contributed monetary donations to the bill.

This endorsement of HB453/SB932 has many skeptics raising their eyebrows, fearing the legislation only gives more sway to developers who already hold the lion’s share of power in a timeshare contract. Others are not as concerned with what the bill does say, but rather what it doesn’t. Neither compliance nor materiality are adequately defined, giving developers the ability to define exactly what these terms mean in regards to mistakes or omissions in a given contract. Additionally, “nonmaterial” errors would not grant the purchaser cancellation within ten days, as is permitted now.

It’s not just owners who are concerned with the implications of HB453/SB932. Industry figureheads like Gregory Crist (CEO of the National Timeshare Owner’s Association) are also expressing their concern, stating that the bill is designed to protect developers who have no intention of following the law and that the technical changes will strip away mechanisms intended to protect consumers. Others like Scott Smith (assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina) only see removing property taxes from the 125% cap on annual increases in assessment fees weaken the allure of timeshares as an affordable vacation option.

So what’s an owner to do in midst of such changes? If you find yourself wary of the implications of HB453/SB932, we encourage you to check out and sign the Change.org petition to veto the bill. Also, be sure to keep an eye on our partner blog Timeshare Information and our Facebook page for more updates as we hear about them. And of course, let us know your thoughts on the issue!

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Welcome to the New RedWeek!

Have you had a chance to explore the new RedWeek yet? With a sleek new look and improved functionality, the RedWeek redesign is packed with changes that we’re sure will make posting and searching for timeshares easier than ever.

One of the biggest changes is one you’re bound to notice if you’re browsing RedWeek on the go – mobile functionality! Whether you’re viewing from your phone or tablet, the RedWeek site is perfectly adapted to fit your device. No more pinching and zooming, or scrolling sideways to read minuscule text. Vertical scrolling, slick menus and quick loading times ensure that mobile RedWeek is every bit as great as the “full site”!

You might also notice the improvements to our search features when looking for a timeshare. After you type in a general location (think city, state or country), you’ll have the option to refine your search on the results page. You can choose to specify results only within a certain date range or price range. Additionally, you can refine by unit size, RedWeek user rating or even features – perfect if you’re looking for just all-inclusive resorts, or just resorts with internet or a pool, for example! Your results can also be arranged into list or grid views and sorted by user rating.

If you commonly post your own timeshare for rent or sale; rejoice! Our posting creation process has been greatly streamlined. Instead of navigating page by page, your posting is created on a single page with clean, expandable menus guiding you through each step. Photos are easier than ever to upload; drag and drop or upload them in bulk, with the option to review and caption them before your posting goes live.

Certain major pages were brought out of their more obscure locations into the limelight. The Timeshare Companies page – a hotspot for those looking to buy or sell a points system – is no longer just tucked away on the resales page, but rather accessible directly under the “Find a Timeshare” tab near the top of the screen. There’s no need to visit the account page in order to view your postings, either. The “My Postings” link at the top of the page (left of the RedWeek banner) will instantly take you to the page where you can view and edit your postings.

While not active yet, we also have some great community features planned in the coming months! If you encounter any bugs, issues or something that just doesn’t seem to be working right, please let us know at support@redweek.com. We hope you’re every bit as excited as we are to experience the new RedWeek.com!

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How to Speak Cajun

(A tip of the hat to my niece who calls up and says, “…Hi Annie (Auntie) Helen, how ya be darlin’?”)

If you are “fixin to” go to yo (your) timeshare in “Looziana”, (Louisiana) you need to understand the local dialect in order to communicate yo (your) needs clearly. Here’s a quick guide…

In Hotels

1. Mash not push: When stepping into an elevator at your timeshare, don’t ask a local to “push” the button of the floor you want, you ask to mash it, like “…Mash number four please!”

2. Fixinto: Most sentences begin with fixinto mean “I was going to do it eventually” or “I was getting around to it”, such as “I was fixing to begin dusting, or fixin to go to the pool.” ...So when your wife says, I want to go shopping, remind her that she is fixinto go shopping.  

3. Lights and Lightbulbs: You don’t turn them off and on, you “cut them off and on”.  To the hotel clerk, “I was fixin to cut on the light above the desk in my room, but it won’t work. Can you send me a new bulb?”

Driving Around

1. Fresh air: You “crack” a winder (window), not “open it.” Try, “It’s hot in here, crack yer winder wouldja?”

2. Asking for directions: Don’t ask how many miles it is to the nearest bait shop. It’s all in minutes – “Bill’s Bait shop is 5 minutes down the road. Or, you can go to Fontaineau’s which is about six minutes the other direction.You fixinto go fishing?”
3. Backwards and Forwards: When a local says he knows you backwards and forwards that means he knows everything about you.  “Oh you fixinto go fishin today? Well that new reel and pole tells me backwards and forwards how experienced you are. Wan a book guide to fishin in Louisiana? Or a guide on how to rig yo line, or if y’all can wait about an aire (hour), I will be yo guide!”

In Cafes

Be aware that two types of “food” exist in Louisiana: Cajun and Creole. A common joke among the locals is that a Creole mama feeds a family with three chickens, whereas a Cajun family feeds three families with one chicken. Gator is a most delicious substitute for chicken, and most of the meals include okra. Creole’s were generally looked on as the “rich” folks, who had access to markets where fresh foods were displayed and purchased but Cajun families often ate off the land and grew their own vegetables – usually onions and okra (the “french fries” of Louisiana). Single women, when assessing a male partner for the future, ask “is he a creole or a cajun boy?”


Another major difference between Creole and Cajun food is the type of roux that is used as the foundation of most food – which is usually in a “sauce”. Butter and flour are the basis for Creole roux, while Cajun roux is made from lard and flour.  Cajuns often didn’t have access to butter so they slaughtered their pigs and other animals and made lard from the skin.  
Gumbo is found in both cuisines. Creole gumbo has a tomato base (usually ketchup) and is more of a soup, while Cajun gumbo is more of a stick-to-your-ribs type of stew. Most everything has a distinct red base color.  

There are only three flavors in Louisiana: hot, hotter, and hottest. These are powered by Tony Chacherie’s spice mix (right on the tables with salt, pepper, Tobasco, chili pepper and ketchup. It’s not “cha-cherry” but “sash-er-ee”. Pepper comes in colors in Louisiana: black, red, white, green and pink.  There is hot food, hotter food and “just the way I like it”. Tourists can be identified wiping their foreheads as they eat, and locals will punch each other in the arm and snicker when they see these “sissies” eating their food. 

Favorite Phrases in Local Cafes

1. Jeet: Meaning, “you are hungry and want something to eat?” You will hear jeet a lot – this is short for “did you eat?”

2. Hey darlin’/bon ami: the waitress calls everyone darlin’ in her café – “jeet here bfo (before) darlin’?” Men call you “bon ami” – meaning good friend. “Ayyy bonami… jeet? Yo ere to camp? (spend some time in a vacation home or timeshare)?”  

3. Buster: A buster is a soft shell crab that just shed its shell. Don’t be surprised to hear, “ay ave a good buster for lunch today!”

4. The other white meat:  Fried catfish is considered the “other white meat”. Pork and gator are numbers one and two, and often accompanied by fired okra. Mudbug is another tasty delight served in many cafes – it’s crawfish, boiled or fried.  

5. Food preparation:  “Ay mon ami, we have fried, bolled (boiled) deep fried, brolled, (broiled) or baked, which ya want?  The Chef was fixin to make a new pot of bolled coffee if y’all can wait for it!”

Local Activities

Major local activities involve gator hunting, crabbing, and “fais do do”.  Gator heads mounted as trophies on the wall are not prevalent in the Bayou – instead, they’re often used for various purposes. Many Cajun families make necklaces of gator teeth to sell to tourists. It used to be that you could take a boat down the bayou to see the gators. Guides would stick marshmallows on the end of a stick and gators would fly up out of the water, grab the marshmallow and fall back into the bayou. That was until a gator landed in the middle of a boat and then the tourists became gator food.  It is now against the law to “marshmallow” gators.  


Cajun families often feed their families by crabbing – they stick a piece of bacon on a string and lower that into a crab mud hole to entice it to come out for “dinner”. 

 If you are invited to attend a Fais Do Do, be sure to go!  It is a wild party that lasts until morning. 

 “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”  


This article is by guest author Helen Sabin. Helen Sabin is a timeshare traveler and RedWeek member from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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April Resort Spotlight – Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows

After months upon month of heated rumors and speculation, Disney Vacation Club’s newest resort – Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows – opened its doors to guests on April 1st! DVC resorts consistently rank highly among vacationers, and the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows appears to be no exception! With an immersive ambiance, premiere Orlando location and that classic Disney magic we all know and love, this South Seas-themed resort is poised to become your next go-to for an unforgettable Orlando vacation!

Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows lies along the Seven Seas Lagoon and offers up first-class views of Magic Kingdom’s “Wishes” fireworks display as well as the Electrical Water Pageant. Walt Disney World’s iconic monorail system sweeps right through the resort, providing quick and easy access to the Magic Kingdom park, Epcot park, the Transportation and Ticket Center and several other resorts directly bordering the Seven Seas Lagoon. Other parks can be easily reached via bus.

The resort’s grounds are shared with Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – the standard, non-timeshare sister resort. Swathed in palm trees and tropical flora, dotted with tiki torches and koi ponds, Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows feels every bit as exotic as its namesake. These “longhouses” are shaped in the classic oceanic style and embellished with deep, red woods and exotic patterning. The lobby and shared interior areas are every bit as tropical and bright as the exterior – breezy, open-air areas and indoor greenery add life and vibrance.

The resort’s distinct facade is immediately recognizable.

Even if you never plan to hit the parks, the DVC division of the Polynesian is set with enough to packed with more than enough to keep you busy. The Lava Pool winds around a faux-volcano and includes a waterslide, and the Polynesian East Pool is quieter, ideal for a relaxing swim. Lilo’s Playhouse gives kids the opportunity to participate in a myriad of activities while the adults enjoy time to themselves. Several different dining options can be found on site – character dining at the ‘Ohana restaurant, casual Asian-infused fare at Kona Cafe and snacks and drinks at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and the Tambu Lounge.

Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows’ new Deluxe Studio unit elevates the average studio with more storage space, “longer” rooms and a kitchenette. The Deluxe Studio isn’t the only new concept to be found, however – the Bora Bora Bungalow unit is set to become a hit for guests with large parties! These free-standing units are built right over the lagoon and feature two bedrooms, a full kitchen, separated living and dining areas, gorgeous lake views and even a private plunge pool that overlooks the lagoon. Whether you choose the Deluxe Studio or Bungalow for your trip, count on the warm colors and custom-crafted Polynesian decor that made the original Polynesian Village Resort so iconic.

Bright, vibrant and perfectly Polynesian!

Staying at a Disney Vacation Club resort often goes hand-in-hand with experiencing all the entertainment offered by Walt Disney World. However, Orlando has so much to offer beyond just WDW. Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows is just a drive away from other major area theme parks, such as Universal Studios, Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld and Wet’N’Wild.  Orlando is also home to a staggering array of shopping experiences – The Mall at Millenia, Orlando International Premium Outlets and The Florida Mall all lie within reach by car. For a more cultural experience, Orlando proper is quickly blossoming with a multitude of specialty museums and galleries as well as upscale dining.

The wait for the opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows has been a long one, but now the door is open to both DVC owners and guests! Are you excited to give Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows a try – perhaps even have a trip of your own planned? If so, don’t forget to leave a review on RedWeek!

That’s right – a picture-perfect beach in Orlando!

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Is it Time to Sell Your Timeshare?

Timeshares are a fantastic, reliable investment for many vacationers. But sometimes – after the initial honeymoon period has ended – owners might decide they no longer wish to keep their timeshare, or that it’s not as useful as it once was. So many owners remain locked into a timeshare that they’re no longer getting their “money’s worth” from – how do you know when it’s time to sell your timeshare?
An owner’s interest in their timeshare might decrease for any number of reasons. One of the most common we hear about it an inability or decreased ability to travel. Be it for health, financial or personal reasons, reduced ability or interest in travel saps much of the usefulness out of timeshares. if the problem is temporary and you’d plan to resume travel after its resolution, you may consider renting your timeshare out instead – this can be an excellent way to recoup the year’s maintenance fees and ensure that your week doesn’t go to waste.
Many owners may find themselves struggling with the financial burden of a timeshare. Timeshares are definitely a luxury product and demand quite a bit of payment both upfront and on an annual basis – even more so if you made your purchase directly from the developer! Factor in the additional costs of travel (such as airfare, gas and food) and you’re committing a very significant amount of money to that yearly vacation. Again, renting your timeshare can help mitigate annual maintenance fees, but if you find yourself gritting your teeth every year, trying to work your timeshare into your finances, it may be worth reconsidering if you want to keep it around.
A lack of flexibility might also be a cause for decreasing interest in a timeshare. While points systems and vacation clubs that allow owners a multitude of destinations are growing in popularity, the limited nature of many ownerships can be off-putting. Perhaps wild summers in Cancun are no longer your thing, or you’ve just seen all Orlando has to offer. If you find yourself a feeling bored on your next timeshare trip and own at a singular resort, it may be best to sell and use that time and money to explore new destinations. If you’re the type who lusts after a new vacation spot every trip, you can also consider renting out other owners’ weeks after you sell for incredible discounts.
Should you decide to take the leap and give selling a go, it’s best to make sure you’re prepared and have all your bases covered. RedWeek’s “Posting and Selling Your Timeshare” guide gives you an idea of how to get things started, and you can use the free “What’s My Timeshare Worth?” tool to feel out the pricing of your sale. If the resale process seems a bit overwhelming, RedWeek’s full-service resale option takes all the stress of out of the process and puts your resale in the hands of full-service agents and licensed brokers. 
If you’ve sold your timeshare, ring in with your experience below – how did the process go, and were you happy with your decision? What was your motivating factor? 

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March Resort Spotlight – Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club

Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club is undoubtedly one of RedWeek’s most popular and active resorts. Boasting over 700 active rental postings, this Palm Beach-based resort proves to be a perennial favorite among both Marriott owners and renters looking for accommodations in Aruba. And with
that many postings, there’s no doubt that you’ll have no trouble finding the dates you need! So what is it that makes Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club such a hit and the topic of this month Resort Spotlight? It all begins with the location…

Palm Beach is, in every way, a perfect tropical retreat. Year-round sun and warm temperatures make Aruba the perfect getaway to close in more continental climes, and Palm Beach is particularly renowned for it’s proximity to the capital of Oranjestad as well as the award-winning Eagle Beach. The Palm Beach area has quickly blossomed into a mecca with with a vibrant, beach-centric culture, a newly completed shopping area and a host of nearby activities ranging from golf to water sports. The resort itself makes quite an impression – a massive, towering facade painted in shades of warm caramel, tan and cream.

The amenities offered at Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club are unrivaled by surrounding resorts. A sprawling pool and lazy river wind around and among palm trees and blossoming gardens, feeling every bit the tropical oasis. The resort is also home to the glitzy Stellaris Casino – 10,700 square feet of high-stakes fun where you can try your luck. Or perhaps a relaxing spa day is more your style? Surf Club guests have access to the neighboring Aruba Ocean Club’s Mandara Spa, complete with VIP treatment rooms, and extra-large Jacuzzi bath, steam room, nail salon and more. And off course, no one wants to let their workout routine fall by the wayside on vacation. The Surf Club’s state-of-the-art fitness center is equipped with free weights and cardio equipment. Equipment and area for tennis, volleyball and table tennis are also provided.

The Surf Club’s winding pool is a blast for all ages

The Surf Club is divided into three distinct towers, each with their own unique properties. The Lighthouse building is typically the most sought-after, with every unit being of the “oceanside” designation. Oceanside designates the units with the closest location to the beach, and is coveted by those looking to walk right outside the building and onto the sand. The Compass Tower houses the Surf Club’s spacious three-bedroom units as well as the resort’s lobby and marketplace. The Spyglass Tower is the newest addition to the resort, with envious views of the property’s colorful gardens and lazy river.

Colorful, bright and breezy rooms accented with vibrant redwoods perfectly epitomize the resort’s island spirit. Rooms ranging in size from studio units to three-bedrooms makes finding the perfect size for your group easy. In the one-bedroom and up villas, enjoy full kitchens, spacious living and dining areas, flat-screen televisions, high-speed internet, upscale bathrooms and private balconies. Studios trade the full kitchen and separate living and dining rooms for a kitchenette and combined living/dining area, providing all the necessities in a compact area.

Open, airy rooms match the carefree attitude of Aruba

While the white-sand beaches and turquoise waters might be what makes Aruba famous, this paradise has countless other opportunities awaiting visitors, and Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club is perfectly positioned so you can take advantage of the best. The Tierra Del Sol Golf & Country Club and The Links at Divi Aruba are no further than two miles away, providing excellent opportunities for those looking to enjoy golf. Red Sail Sports is the go-to for water sports, including kayaking and jet-skiing. De Palm Tours NV is the one-stop shop for exciting island tours by boat, bus, RV and more! Or, just enjoy an afternoon in downtown Oranjestad enjoying bountiful shopping and dining opportunities.

Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club’s popular reputation is well-earned, and the perfect option for anyone looking for the perfect Caribbean getaway. An enviable location, plentiful amenities and activities, luxurious accommodations all under a much-beloved name in the lodging industry have all contributed to this Palm Beach success! If you’ve enjoyed a stay at the Surf Club, let us know what you think – is its reputation among RedWeek members deserved?

Sunset at the Surf Club is a beautiful thing!

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Maximize Your Chances to Rent Your Week!

You have a desirable week up for rent and an attractive price, and yet you’re still having a hard time moving that week you have up for rent – sound familiar? If you’re just not seeing those inquiries roll in, we have a few tips and tricks that will help you maximize the chances of renting out your week!

1. Details Count!

Unless your potential renter is familiar with the resort in question, it falls upon you as the owner to “sell” the resort to renters if you want to rent your week. Think back to when you purchased ownership – what made you buy at your resort? Does your resort boast particularly amazing room views? Do they have a fantastic pool or restaurant on property? Is it ideally located next to major area attractions? Does your resort go the extra mile to make guests happy? Any and all of these qualities are fantastic additions to your posting’s “Details” section. If you’re advertising a fixed week, you can also advertise any events and activities that are going on during the rental period. Remember, as an owner, you’re the expert on your resort!

2. Make Sure the Price is Right!

Even if you think the price you have listed for your week is an absolute steal, it never hurts to compare pricing. Check your prices against other owners advertising similar weeks at the same resort – is your price still attractive in comparison to these other owners? Also, make use of RedWeek’s “What’s Your Timeshare Worth” tool. This allows you to enter your resort to view a history of all of its rental data on RedWeek. Prices, week number and unit size are displayed. Green dots indicate the week was rented, yellow dots indicate the week was deactivated with no reason given or expired and red dots indicate the week was not rented. This provides you with a more visual breakdown of what prices have been successful in the past.

3. Show the Value!

Part of what makes timeshare rentals so popular to travelers is the massive savings compared to making arrangements with the resort directly. Consider doing a bit of research to highlight the price difference. Visit your resort’s website and work out what the same week would cost guests if they booked through the resort. Subtract your week’s asking rental price, and add the equation into your posting’s ‘Details’ section. Show other members the value in renting through you!

4. Be Flexible in Payment!

It may be tempting to request full payment up front, but we recommend being a bit more flexible with payment. As a show of good faith, recommend using a licensed escrow service – this can help put a renter at ease. Or, if your renter has another preferred payment method that you’re comfortable with, consider giving it a try. As always, have a rental agreement in place so that both you and your renter feel safe and secure.

5. Post at the Right Time!

RedWeek research has shown that most members tend to book their accommodations about six months out from their date of travel, and this is why our rental postings run for six months. If you have the extra time and funds, it doesn’t hurt to advertise a year out from check-in and renew again in six months. If you don’t want to worry about renewals, however, we recommend posting an even six months out from your check-in date. Those 1-2 months before your rental starts are invaluable; it’s at this point the resort is often booked solid, and last-minute vacationers are on the hunt for availability. Your renter gets a reservation and you’ve successfully rented your week – it’s a win-win!

With these five tips, renting your timeshare doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark! Have you rented out your week through RedWeek, and have you had success? What tactics have worked for you? Or, if you rent from owners, what are you looking for in a posting?

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Pets Need a Vacation Too!

As any pet-owner can attest, their critters are more than just furry companions – they’re part of the family! Vacationing with your pet can be an enriching experience for owner and pet alike, but it can be intimidating. Before setting off with Fido or Fluffy in tow, review these tips to ensure that your pet stays happy, healthy and can enjoy the trip with the rest of the family!

1. Be sure your accommodations are pet-friendly.

Pet-friendly resorts are becoming more common, but it still can be tough to locate pet-friendly accommodations in all major travel areas. Consider checking out RedWeek’s Pet-Friendly Timeshare list to start. Also, be sure to clarify all details with the resort prior to making arrangements – some have size limits or rules on what kinds of animals are permitted on property.

2. Make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations.

Just like with people, traveling to unfamiliar areas can expose your pet to health hazards that you never expected. Be sure that your pet is up to date on their vaccinations, and be sure to bring confirmation and your pet’s medical history along with you. Also, if your pet is on any medications, ensure that you have a full supply before setting out.

3. Take care if traveling internationally.

Traveling internationally with your pet can open you up to quite a headache. Depending on your destination, your pet may be quarantined. Thoroughly research the regulations on animals in your destination and if in doubt, instead consider leaving your pet in the care of a friend or family member or a trusted boarding service/kennel.

4. Help your pet relax.

Travel can initially be very stressful for animals that are accustomed to staying in their familiar home. To help ease their nerves, bring along a favorite toy or a blanket that smells like home. If your pet is very prone to travel anxiety, consider investing in a ThunderShirt for dogs or Feliway for cats. Both are designed to help your pet feel safe and secure.

5. Bring along a tagged collar and a photo.

In the event of an emergency where your pet escapes, you want to take every precaution to be sure that your pet finds his or her way back to you. Be sure that your pet is wearing a collar with identifying tags and have a quality photo or two of your pet on hand. Being able to ensure that others can identify your pet can make finding them much more likely.

6. Have a supply of your pet’s preferred food.

Not all pet food is available everywhere, and many specialty brands are much tougher to track down than you may think. A sudden, hard switch to an unfamiliar brand could cause stomach issues for your pet – not something you want to deal with on top of the stress your pet is already experiencing. Keep things familiar and consistent and pack a food supply that will last your pet the entire duration of the trip.

7. Research your destination.

Be it a nearby dog park, a pet supply store or a local veterinarian, having a good idea of what’s in the area might turn out to be a lifesaver. If you need to pick up any forgotten supplies or in the event a medical issue arises, knowing the area can save quite a bit of time. Don’t be afraid to ask the resort for local references either!
Travel with your pet at your side can be fantastic experience, but some extra effort is needed to make sure everything goes seamlessly. Do you travel with your pet and have any tried-and-true tricks when hitting the road with your furry friend? 

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Attorney General Launches Outreach to Manhattan Club Owners

A new chapter — among many — has opened in the New York Attorney General’s investigation of possible fraud and securities violations at The Manhattan Club. This week, lawyers for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a direct outreach campaign to club owners who previously filed complaints about the Manhattan Club’s sales-and-reservations practices.

The outreach, confirmed by owners and representatives of the AG’s office, follows many months of deliberate silence during which the AG continued its yearlong investigation without meeting or communicating with owners who had bitterly complained about their inability to secure timely reservations at the club. Over the past six months, in fact, many owners expressed outrage on RedWeek.com and other internet forums about the AG’s seeming disinterest in keeping owners apprised of the inquiry. During this period, FYI, the AG also declined a direct offer from RedWeek to post occasional announcements about the case on RedWeek as a service to the many Manhattan Club owners who follow the case on RedWeek forums.

Now, however, despite the cold snap back East, the AG has warmed up to the idea of getting detailed testimonials from owners about their purchasing experiences with the club. The lead contact — the gatekeeper — for owner complaints and related communications is Brenda Heredia of the Real Estate Finance Bureau, based in Manhattan. She can be reached at 212-416-8956; her fax is 212-416-8179. Her e-mail is: Brenda.Heredia@ag.ny.gov.

RedWeek talked to several owners this week who have already been contacted by the AG. They told similar stories. They filed written complaints with the AG’s office after learning that the AG had obtained a court order July 24th that temporarily (and indefinitely) shut down timeshare sales, stopped foreclosures, and froze spending at the club. The owners heard nothing for months, then recently received written confirmation from the AG that their complaints had in fact been received. Then they were contacted by an assistant attorney general (one of many) who interviewed them about the details of their ownership: the who, what, when, and where of what they bought and, most importantly, what they were told compared to what was in the public offering documents they received after purchasing their timeshares.

One owner, Greg Hyer of Florida, purchased a Metro Suite timeshare at the Manhattan Club in 2007 while living in Connecticut. At the time of purchase, he said he was told that his maintenance fees would be $990. Within a few months, however, he learned that the actual fee was $1,600, and that it was due and payable in April, eight months prior to the beginning of his first usage year. When he complained, he said the club told him that the sales people had given him “bad information.” Like many other owners, Hyer also said he had a difficult time getting reservations and, as a result, started converting his ownership to RCI points so he could stay at other resorts. His complaints to the club, he said, went nowhere.

“I’m encouraged by my contact with the AG,” Hyer said, “even though they told us they have no idea how this will all fall out. I told them I’d like to see owners who want to get out of their timeshare, get their money back.”

Hyer’s sentiments seem to be shared by the army of owners who have posted notes on RedWeek’s forums and other sites. All talk of restitution, however, is extremely premature, because the investigation is nowhere near a conclusion, according to the AG’s office and outside attorneys who are familiar with securities cases.

Manhattan Club Must Disclose Assets, Bank Statements, Electronic Files

This month, for example, the AG went back to court to compel the club to disclose more documents about sales and reservation policies, training documents, bank statements, tax returns and contracts with other travel-and-vacation companies. It also requested electronic files dating back several years. The first group of requested documents was turned over Feb. 13. The club has agreed to turn over a second group of documents to the AG by Feb. 27. These procedural steps will be followed up by a status conference March 6 with New York Court Referee Steven E. Liebman. That conference will be private, not public, the AG’s office says.

According to attorneys interviewed by RedWeek, the electronic files may turn out to be more valuable than bank statements and check stubs, for the following reason: digital documents provide complete detail about the date and time when documents were originated, edited, revised and/or deleted. So even if a paper trail no longer exists for some documents, the original digital trail still lives, buried in the electronic files — unless the hard disk drives are erased or destroyed.

In the midst of these discovery moves, other aspects of the case appear to be changing as well. The Feb. 11 court filing, for example, shows that the Manhattan Club recently switched attorneys. Developer Ian Bruce Eichner and his affiliate companies are now represented by the high-profile firm of Winston & Strawn LLP. The club’s new lead attorney is Kelly A. Librera, a partner in the firm’s litigation group who, according to her online biography, “advises clients in white collar criminal matters…complex commercial litigation, fraud and securities,” among other specialty practice areas. The club’s former attorney, Patrick Smith of DLA Piper US LLP, told RedWeek this week that he would not talk about the case without authorization from his client. RedWeek also tried to reach Librera but, according to her office, she was unavailable.

It is common for people to change attorneys. In high profile cases, substitutions are even more common. But in this case, the substitution follows a decision by the AG, in a Dec. 31, 2014 letter, denying the club’s request to withdraw money “for the payment of legal fees and related costs.” The wording of the letter makes it extremely clear that the AG is unhappy with the level of cooperation it has received from the Manhattan Club.

Here is a Key Excerpt of the AG’s Dec. 31 Letter to the Manhattan Club

“As you know, over the past several months you [the Manhattan Club’s attorneys] have repeatedly asked to modify the [July 24th] order, citing the need to pay employees’ salaries, immediate construction costs, and trade payables, resulting in seven prior stipulations. As you also know, we consistently received misinformation or incomplete information in connection with the prior stipulations. Moreover, despite repeated requests, we have not received information sufficient to identify the amount of funds in the accounts [of the Manhattan Club companies], or all of their current sources of revenue, income or other receivables. We cannot agree to further stipulations until we attain an understanding of these issues.”

When asked to provide additional information about these issues, the AG’s office offered a succinct NO.

AG Forced Club to Put $525,000 in Escrow Account to Safeguard Assets

In December, the AG’s office compelled the Manhattan Club (with the backing of Court Referee Liebman) to deposit $525,000 into an escrow account to safeguard the club’s assets. In a stipulated agreement approved by both sides, the club also agreed to cancel “amnesty agreements” with 37 owners who had tried to turn in their units to cancel out future obligations and fees. Now, with the club barred from participating in any buy, sell or exchange agreements on timeshares, those owners get their usage rights back (along with the bills to pay current maintenance fees).

Since the Dec. 10 court filing, the AG has had many back-and-forth exchanges with the club to identify additional assets, including rental income, new accounts, investments and debts. In political circles, this pursuit is known as “following the money.” The club’s next deadline for filing additional documentation to the AG is Feb. 27.

Club’s Contracts with Bluegreen, Disney and RCI Under Scrutiny

In addition to chasing the paper and electronic paper trails of the Manhattan Club’s finances and programs, the AG’s lawyers are seeking full disclosure of the club’s contracts with Bluegreen Vacation Club, Disney Vacation Club, and exchange company RCI. The limited amount of documents filed to date show that Bluegreen had an “ownership interest” in several, if not many, units at the club. The court files also reveal that Disney had two contracts with the Manhattan Club. The first was signed Feb. 1, 2013 while the second is dated Feb. 4, 2014 — during a time when the club was actively being investigated by the Attorney General’s investigators. The club also had an extensive ongoing relationship with RCI, its preferred exchange company. According to an Oct. 31 e-mail from one of the Manhattan Club’s former attorneys, Jeffrey Rotenberg, 5,917 Manhattan Club owners participated in RCI week exchange, 2,311 enrolled in RCI’s points program, and 4,943 owners had no RCI membership.

The AG is seeking information about these third-party relationships to determine how many of the club’s 286 suites were actually made available for owner reservations — compared to the number of units that were sold to other clubs and/or rented to the general public. The answers may be critical, because a key question in the entire investigation is whether the club deliberately oversold memberships in the club, then denied reservations to owners while renting out rooms to non-owners.

All three companies appear to have ongoing relationships with the Manhattan Club. Disney added the club to its online Concierge Connection in February 2013. Bluegreen’s website lists the club on its resort collection. RCI not only handles exchanges for Manhattan club owners, but maintains a “Welcome Desk” at the club, offering two free luggage tags to owners who drop by during their visit.

When contacted by RedWeek, none of these timeshare companies wanted to discuss any aspect of their relationship with the Manhattan Club.

“We have no comment other than to say that Bluegreen is not a party to the matter involving the Manhattan Club and the New York AG’s Office,” said Michael Kaminer, senior vice president and general counsel for Bluegreen Corporation.

Rebecca Peddie, a spokeswoman for Disney Vacation Club, and Steven Alessandrini, a senior PR director for RCI Wyndham (RCI is owned by Wyndham), also declined to offer any comment about the Manhattan Club investigation.

Other observers of the Manhattan Club puzzle aren’t so reticent.

Next Steps? What Lies Ahead for Manhattan Club Owners

New York attorney Douglas F. Wasser, who specializes in business and real estate litigation, was hired recently by a group of owners to jumpstart owner talks with the AG’s office. “I am communicating with the AG and still signing up owners,” Wasser said this week. “We are offering our support, but they are already doing a bang-up job seeking documents and investigating.” The AG’s office confirms communications with Wasser, but won’t discuss details. For owners who may be interested, Wasser can be reached at info@wasserruss.com or 212-430-6040.

Gregory Crist, chairman and CEO of the 10,000-member National Timeshare Owners Association, has written and talked publicly about the Manhattan Club investigation — not as a case expert, but as to how it hurts the overall reputation of the timeshare industry. This month, Crist met with a group of Manhattan Club owners at NTOA’s regional meeting in Florida. He has also communicated directly with the AG.

“The Manhattan Club owners deserve to understand what happened and how it started,” Crist said. “And as an industry, we need to ensure that this does not happen again with another developer.”

Crist is guardedly optimistic that the Manhattan Club investigation will trigger positive changes in the timeshare sales process. “I think we’re going to see the industry make real changes in the way timeshares are sold, accounted for and managed as a result of the outcome of the Manhattan Club issues. The public offering statements, for example, have to be front and central and covered in detail, not glossed over as a diminished document. That’s the only way to return trust and transparency back to this industry.”

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick on all sides in the Manhattan Club case. The AG’s investigation, now more than a year old, is based on a withering paper trail as well as video-and-audio tapes of sales presentations at the club recorded by undercover AG investigators. Those tapes, AG Schneiderman said publicly last summer, show a classic “bait and switch” pattern where potential buyers were repeatedly misled about the details of their ownership, including the ease with which they could reserve nights or weeks at the club. Manhattan Club lawyers denied these allegations at the outset, but have said nothing publicly, or substantively, since. The club’s PR team is also silent.

Many Manhattan Club owners, at the same time, are fretting about upcoming deadlines for maintenance fees. Given the uncertainty of the club’s long-term future, many members told RedWeek they’d rather hold onto their money until the AG’s case is completed. Unfortunately, neither the AG’s office nor outside attorneys consulted by RedWeek were willing to offer any specific legal advice to owners about paying maintenance fees. The only ones who are providing input, in fact, are the maintenance fee staffers at the Manhattan Club, who are already sending out dunning letters to owners who have not paid their current fees.

One such owner letter, shared with RedWeek, says: “Your account [for $2,584.72] is past due. Late fees and finance charges [$422.90] have been applied…The Timeshare Association has the right to institute foreclosure action against you in an effort to collect your past due charges.”

That Jan. 8, 2015 letter, all by itself, is a puzzling document in a case full of puzzles. Why? Because, as of July 24, 2014, the Manhattan Club was specifically prohibited from foreclosing on any timeshare owners. When asked about whether this letter was in keeping with the spirit of the July 24 court order, the AG’s press office said, “We don’t comment on ongoing investigations.”


This latest report is brought to you by Jeff Weir, RedWeek’s Chief Correspondent. Please visit RedWeek.com for more articles and information on the ongoing Manhattan Club investigation.

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Is All-Inclusive Right for Your Vacation?

All-inclusive. Just the word conjures up thoughts of delicious meals, tasty desserts and as many martinis as you can drink. But before you sign up for the plan offered by your resort, understand what is really included.

Many resorts today offer all-inclusive plans that include the entire property.  All of the amenities, entertainment, tours, activities, plus all food and drink – wine, liquor and beer – you would consume are included.  

For other resorts, especially those in the Caribbean areas, all-inclusive is a derivative of the European-tyle plan. This means that you can have all the food and drink you want for four days out of a week while three days are left for you to eat at various restaurants in the area where the timeshare is located.  

Some of the larger resorts are now offering an all-inclusive food and drink option in addition to offering another dining plan like a Full American plan. The Full American plans include all you can eat for three meals a day and unlimited water, tea, soda, hot chocolate or coffee, but liquor are snacks are not included and do come at a cost.

Not to be outdone, some resorts are offering families with children an all-inclusive plan that include kids’ clubs and babysitting while mom and dad are dancing the night away.  

Or, at some resorts that are geared toward adults only, if you choose an all-inclusive property resort you might be enjoying activities such as golf. Deep-sea fishing, nightly shows, gambling, and even motorized water sports are included in some of these plans.

If you’re not sure what your resort’s all-inclusive plan offers, it never hurts to ask or do some research. Some questions you might consider are…

  1. Which meals or how many meals are included?  Your all-you-can-eat food plan may be only for breakfast and dinner with lunch not being included in the offer. Or, like in some college meal plans, you may be offered eighteen all you can eat or drink meals and you pay for the remaining ones in the time you are there. This plan gives you a lot of flexibility to plan days out for shopping, sightseeing, etc. and it allows you to eat at the various cafes and restaurants in the area to soak up a bit of the local “culture and cuisine”.
  2. Are meals served at specific times or available 24/7?  If you pay for meals, you don’t want to miss them. If you are a night owl and breakfast is only offered from 7:30-9 a.m. you might miss this meal for which you have already paid.  
  3. What is meant by “drink”?  Does this include all types of beverages?  Coffee, tea, water, soda, hot chocolate, milk, etc? Does it include wine, liquor and beer? 
  4. Are all restaurants onsite included in the plan?  Or are the specialty restaurants not included in the all-inclusive?  
  5. Does the plan also include transportation to and from the airport?  Resort-offered transportation is becoming more common, and if such a service were offered, you wouldn’t want to miss out!
  6. Will there be additional resort fees such as tips for service?  When you are doing your research, be sure to get offers in writing so you know for sure exactly what is included.  
  7. Are different units rated at different amounts?  The view of the ocean will be different from the fifth floor as opposed to one from ground level.  Is it more costly to stay in a unit on the higher floors?  
  8. Does your all-inclusive plan allow you to choose what size unit you want?  Be sure to ask how big each unit is, how many beds and the size of the beds are in the unit.  Be careful…many resorts today call a “double bed” or one that is around fifty-four inches wide a “queen”, whereas a typical queen bed is usually sixty inches wide.  Being able to sleep comfortably is important when on vacation.
  9. Are upgrades available?  If you are unhappy with the unit or its location, can you upgrade once you arrive? 
  10. Is the all-inclusive price a good deal?  Sometimes, plans are cheap for a reason. Always check online to see what reviews are posted about the resort where you will be staying.  
  11. What’s high season at your resort? If you are going at high time or during a holiday, the all-inclusive vacation may not be relaxing.  Will you have to fight for a lounge chair at the pool?  Will there be enough towels so you can have one to sit on and one to wrap up in?  Do you have to wait at meal times for a table?  
  12. What is the goal for your vacation?  Do you want to go to a resort where you are busy most of the time? Or do you want a resort that is relaxing, restful and quiet?  

Remember, a travel agent or a brochure are not going to tell you want you want to know about the resort. Be sure to check online or get recommendations from someone that you trust to be honest with you about their all-inclusive vacation experience. Which ever you choose, enjoy!  


This article is by guest author Helen Sabin. Helen Sabin is a timeshare traveler and RedWeek member from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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