Monday, October 19, 2015

Owners at Legacy Timeshare Resort in Lake Tahoe Deny Diamond's Bid to Gain a Majority Seat on the HOA Board

By Jeff Weir

In a stunning setback for Diamond Resorts, timeshare owners at Tahoe Beach and Ski Club defiantly denied Diamond Resort International's bid to place a senior vice president on the HOA's board of directors. Instead, they reelected two board members who constitute a 3-2 majority opposed to Diamond's unannounced plans for the resort.

Frank Goeckel's defeat was a first on many fronts. He is Diamond's liaison and board relations consultant to 31 resorts and currently serves on four timeshare HOAs, including the nearby Tahoe Seasons resort. All he wanted to do, he told owners repeatedly, was serve on the board to protect Diamond's investment in Tahoe Beach and Ski Club and create a richer vacation experience for all owners. Diamond's investment is substantial: it has aggressively bought Tahoe Beach and Ski Club units at tax sales during the past two years and now owns 25% of all Tahoe Beach and Ski Club timeshares. To many outsiders, Diamond's ownership (including $1 million in maintenance fees this year alone), is viewed as a very positive key to the legacy resort's long-term financial survival.

But the 200 owners who assembled on the Tahoe Beach and Ski Club beach for the HOA election on Sept. 26 did not embrace Goeckel's pitch, or his sometimes combative personality. He finished a distant third out of four candidates, collecting 1,719 votes, including 1,604 he cast for himself as Diamond's proxy holder. In their rejection of Goeckel, Tahoe Beach and Ski Club owners voted to maintain their resort's independence in the face of a company with very acquisitive designs on older but valuable resorts across the country.

Jake Bercu and Alfred Fong after their reelection
Bad as the results were personally for Goeckel, the HOA vote was a triumphant victory for President Alfred Fong and Treasurer Jake Bercu, who were reelected to new terms on the strength of their campaign pitch that Goeckel, and co-challenger Cathy Ryan were bad for the board and bad for the resort. In effect, they portrayed Goeckel as a Trojan Horse whose ascension to the board would enable Diamond, over time, to take over the resort at the expense of longtime deeded week owners. Citing Diamond's and Goeckel's record at other Diamond resorts, Bercu-and-Fong supporters at the HOA meeting predicted that Diamond would increase maintenance fees, open up the resort's coveted private beach to non-owners, and pressure longtime owners to convert their deeded weeks into Diamond's point-based travel club.

Many owners also distrust Diamond's motives because of Diamond's decision, last February, to sue the current board for its refusal to recognize Diamond's purchase of 241.5 vacation units last December. As one irate owner pointed out at the HOA meeting, "Did you know you're being sued by this man? He [Goeckel] wants your vote!"

The candidate's forum at the HOA meeting was rancorous. The candidates aggressively challenged each other while members of the audience heckled Goeckel and complained about Diamond's corporate behavior at other resorts. Bercu and Fong beseeched owners to protect their vacation experiences and preserve the spirit of the resort by rejecting Goeckel and Ryan. Goeckel vowed that he would never open up Tahoe Beach and Ski Club's private beach to Diamond owners at the Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort, located right next door, but with no beach of its own. Ryan, a bit player in the drama, said she just wanted to work with all owners and improve the financial stability of the 140-unit resort.

200 Tahoe Beach and Ski Club owners gather for the vote
Goeckel answered every accusatory charge (and boos) from owners with as much reasonableness as he could muster. But he was also obviously upset at the hostility he absorbed from Tahoe Beach and Ski Club owners at the candidates' forum. He even told a story about how his wife and children, at home in Florida, got hateful and threatening phone calls from owners at The Point in Poipu, a Diamond resort on Kauai that went through an owner class-action lawsuit several years ago (over a $6,000 one-time assessment to repair ocean-water damages). The case was eventually settled --- with Goeckel calling the experience one of his proudest achievements as a board member at Poipu --- but still left a bad aftertaste among many Poipu owners. To this day, they complain loudly, and bitterly, on online forums (including this one on about their alleged mistreatment from Diamond.

Unlike Poipu, the HOA election at Tahoe Beach and Ski Club ended peacefully, with all candidates retreating to the best wishes of their supporters while owners milled around, excited and nervous, about whatever history they were about to make. An hour later, they found out.
With two seats open on the board, the referendum on Diamond's investment in Tahoe Beach and Ski Club was:
  • Bercu, 2,217 votes
  • Fong, 2,207.5
  • Goeckel, 1,719 (including Diamond's 1,604)
  • Ryan, 1,624.5 (including Diamond's 1,604)

Saturday Night Pizza Party Puts the Vote into Perspective

The night before the election, Goeckel probably knew what was coming. He had dinner, by himself, at the end of a long bar at the Pizza Hut located right next door to the Tahoe Beach and Ski Club. His only visitor was a reporter who stopped by to say hello and engage in small talk. Goeckel was not in the mood for pleasantries. In response to several questions, he just stared back, stone-faced, like he was looking through a mirror.

While Goeckel munched on his lonely pepperoni, 50 or so Tahoe Beach and Ski Club owners held a pre-election party in a dining room just 20 yards away. With college football game TVs blaring overhead, they didn't know Goeckel was in the same room, and they didn't care. They were celebrating an owner-movement in its infancy: people taking charge of their timeshare destinies by getting involved in mundane things like HOA elections. For these folks, getting involved felt good --- very, very good.

Diamond Resorts' Goeckel takes the mic
Compared to the newby activist owners, Goeckel's been deeply involved in timeshare issues for 25 years. He has more board member experience than all of the Tahoe Beach and Ski Club members, combined. He also serves on the board for the American Resort Development Association and its owner-affiliate, ARDA's Resort Owners Coalition. But Goeckel, despite a resume that spans six pages, hit a rocky speedbump at Tahoe Beach and Ski Club. Owners, including other board members, routinely refer to him as a 'bully.' Goeckel claims to be baffled by all the hostility he's received from owners at Tahoe Beach and Ski Club, but he knows the truth of the situation. Bottom line: the owners that know him don't like him or his company.

The enmity is understandable. At an owners' meeting on the beach a month ago, Goeckel matter-of-factly told owners that if he did not get elected to the board this year, he'd get elected NEXT year. Diamond, he said, "is not going anywhere."

Owner Activism in Tahoe Starts a Movement?

The showdown on the beach at Lake Tahoe beach illustrates, in one isolated case, what can happen when legacy resort owners communicate and get organized to defend their perceived interests. It also opens a window into how major companies view the future of timeshare --- where big companies gobble up units at smaller resorts in high-value destinations like Lake Tahoe. It seems to be a natural part of the ongoing consolidation of the industry where big companies survive and smaller independent timeshares teeter on the brink of insolvency as owners age-out and go delinquent on their maintenance fees.

Across the country, a similar owners' rebellion sparked a civil and criminal investigation of The Manhattan Club timeshare resort by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. As part of that investigation, Schneiderman obtained a court order in 2014 that terminated all sales at the club and froze the company's assets.

But those kinds of moments are few and far between. Most timeshare owners are concerned about their reservations and vacations, not the people who run their resorts.

In the aftermath of the vote, as the calm waters of Lake Tahoe lapped quietly at Tahoe Beach and Ski Club's private beach, Bercu and Fong were proudly optimistic about the challenges that still must be addressed --- Diamond's lawsuit, dealing with delinquencies and launching a new resale program to put foreclosed units back into circulation --- and creating revenues.

They also have to prepare for another election, next September, when two other board members, Steve Williams and Shannon Krutz, who back Goeckel, stand for reelection. The board has already asked Krutz to resign because of her role in approving Diamond's purchase of Tahoe Beach and Ski Club timeshares last December (without board approval), but she has not responded. Other owners, full of energy from their victory in reelecting Fong and Bercu, are openly debating whether to launch a recall election, immediately, to unseat Krutz. So the situation remains fluid, despite the election.
Bercu says that Goeckel, communicating with other board members through back channels, has already agreed to engineer Krutz's resignation --- in return for his getting an appointment to serve out her term.

Diamond's Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort behind TBSC
It's a risky proposition, since owners have already spoken about their position about Goeckel.
"Diamond is still trying to buy our inventory, so we don't want Goeckel on the board," Bercu said. Krutz declined to comment.

Goeckel also sidestepped comment after the HOA vote. In an email, he said, "I am unable to comment on issues relating to the pending litigation at Tahoe Beach & Ski Club in South Lake Tahoe, California."

Like all litigation, Diamond's lawsuit against Tahoe Beach and Ski Club will have a life of its own. The next status conference before a local judge is tentatively set for mid-November. That judge has already opined that Diamond will lose the case because Krutz had no authority to authorize the sale on behalf of the board. The Tahoe Beach and Ski Club board is actively fighting the case and, in a recent maneuver, filed a countersuit against Diamond and VRI, the club's former management company, over the December sale.

So what will happen next?

"The owners want more blood," Bercu said. "They are feeling empowered. We want to keep them engaged but channel the energy into something positive."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RedWeek's Casting Call Visits Hilton Head!

RedWeek's latest Casting Call features long-time RedWeek members Michelle and Bill at Marriott's Barony Beach Club on the beautiful Hilton Head Island! Featuring vibrant work by Hilton Head Island-based Kellie McCann, these photos truly capture the laidback, beachy spirit of Hilton Head. Check out more of the photoshoot on our exclusive Facebook album, and you can view more of Kellie's work and book a session of your own on her Web site

Don't forget that RedWeek's Casting Call has been reopened! If you're traveling to a timeshare resort in the next few months and are willing to work with a professional photographer, check out the details and apply here. You'll receive all of the digital photos from the shoot, a $50.00 printing certificate and you'll be featured on the RedWeek homepage for all of our 2 million+ registered users to see! Casting Call registration closes on December 31st of this year, so be sure to enter as soon as possible.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Exclusive Photography Opportunity for RedWeek Members!

Looking to travel to Orlando soon? We've partnered up with an Orlando-based photographer to offer a special deal to RedWeek members who are planning a vacation in the area.

For $350.00, you'll receive an hour-long session and over 30 professionally edited digital photos - a $50 savings compared to standard pricing. On top of that, RedWeek has a special offer of our own - for the first ten participants, we will match the discount and $50 back to you if you let us use your photos and a quote on the RedWeek website. A great deal and RedWeek fame - what's not to love?

To see if you qualify and get started, contact us with the details of your trip, including your dates, where you're staying and how you booked. We'll be back in touch to let you know if you qualify and the next steps. In the meantime, check out some of the photos from our photographer's previous shoot with RedWeek members Gillian and Trevor for an idea of what you can expect on our Facebook page!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Manhattan Club Case Approaches One-Year Anniversary with No End in Sight

Manhattan Club ongoing legal troubles

The Developers Fight Back: Seek a Court Hearing June 22 to Partially Lift Injunction and Dismiss Eichners from Case, Claiming that Investigation by New York Attorney General has "Essentially Destroyed" Timeshare Business 

By Jeff Weir, Chief Correspondent for

MANHATTAN --- If you like heavyweight fights, shootouts in old Westerns, or bare-knuckle courtroom dramas, you should covet this upcoming showdown in the Big Apple.

And if you are a timeshare owner at The Manhattan Club, this is what you've been waiting for.

After laying low and saying nothing of substance for many months, the embattled developers of the Manhattan Club are fighting back, with a vengeance, against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's highly publicized investigation of alleged fraud and misrepresentation in timeshare sales at the mid-town resort.  The primary target of the inquiry, New York developer Ian Bruce Eichner and his wife, Leslie, and brother, Stuart, now claim in court papers that they are victims of an "overbroad" and overlong investigation that has "caused severe financial and reputational harm." That's a lawyerly way of saying the case has already cost them millions and damaged their

"The Attorney General's investigation ad infinitum has become an investigation ad absurdum," said Gerald Shargel, the Eichners' lead attorney, in a new court filing.  During an interview with RedWeek over the weekend, the soft-spoken but defiant Shargel added: "There comes a time when this has to stop.  If they have a case against the Eichners, file it, and you can count on the fact that we will defend it."

In a blistering blizzard of motions and memoranda filed since May 28, Shargel is petitioning the New York Supreme Court to jettison parts of the July 29, 2014 injunction that shut down the club's $400 million timeshare business and threw thousands of owners into limbo and turmoil.  The court order also froze the club's assets and blocked foreclosures, which pinched the club's operating capital.  A hearing on the motions and arguments is scheduled for June 22. But given the history of the case,
postponements are possible.

Eichner's legal team is making four basic requests, including one that will probably make many Manhattan Club owners cringe.  First, they want a judge to dismiss the Eichners from the case on grounds they committed no personal wrongdoing.  Second, they want to lift the ban on sales for 21 buyers (out of 64) whose purchases were halted by last July's court order.  Third, they want an Aug. 1, 2015 cut-off date for further discovery and depositions (legal Q and A interviews conducted under oath).  Finally, Eichner's attorneys are asking the court to prohibit the AG from sending "mass mailings" to Manhattan Club owners (for a survey about their experiences at the club).

"The Attorney General's investigation...and the related preliminary injunction have essentially destroyed the Manhattan Club's ability to operate as a viable business.  They have forced the termination of 90 of 93 employees and independent contractors (97 percent of the staff) and have pushed one of New York City's premier timeshare organizations into an almost-insurmountable financial deficit," Eichner's motion stated.

It did not take long for the AG's office to respond in kind.  "Although the investigation is ongoing, to-date we have found evidence indicating a widespread pattern of wrongdoing including but not limited to sales misrepresentations, numerous practices that violate the terms of the Manhattan Club's statutorily-required offering plan, the failure to properly register as broker-dealers of securities, and the misclassification of employees." This summary of the investigation comes from one of New York's top timeshare regulators, Andrew H. Meier, deputy bureau chief for the AG's Real Estate Finance Bureau, in a June 5 letter to Justice Jeffrey K. Oing.

The outcome of this slugfest will impact the vacations, and pocketbooks, of thousands of Manhattan Club timeshare owners.  Maybe a political career or two, as well, since Schneiderman, a Democrat, is frequently mentioned in the media as a likely candidate to challenge Gov. Mario Cuomo in 2018.

Welcome to the OK Corral of Timeshare Legal Disputes

The Manhattan Club case is a painful example of things gone wrong in the timeshare industry, which relies on high-pressure sales tactics, including first-day discounts, incentives and gifts (shows and meals) to persuade customers to buy weeks or points in vacation clubs. In this case, however, the overall buyer experience soured when hundreds of owners started complaining publicly, including in forums, that they could not get reservations to use their high-value timeshares. Instead, they discovered that many intervals were simultaneously available for rent online to non-
owners --- and at prices that were LOWER than their annual maintenance fees, which
average $2,000 or more per unit.

Schneiderman's office started investigating the club two years ago --- cautiously at first, aggressively in the last year --- after receiving more than 100 formal complaints from owners who said, in effect, that they had been defrauded and/or duped into buying expensive timeshares they could not use.

By July 2014, Schneiderman's team had collected enough potential evidence, including undercover video-taped transcripts of wildly misleading sales presentations at the club, to secure a court order that shuttered the timeshare operation, immediately, while the AG continued investigating the club's sales practices, rental policies and public offering statements.

Now, 11 months later, the investigation has turned into a tortured legal battle pitting some of the smartest lawyers in Manhattan against each other.  Eichner's legal team specializes in white collar criminal defense and negotiating complicated business litigation.  Schneiderman's team, representing New York taxpayers, appears to have unlimited resources to pursue the Eichners, indefinitely.  If someone made a TV crime drama out it, they'd call it "CSI: Manhattan."

Like most TV and real-life dramas, the Manhattan Club investigation is all about following the money.  Disgruntled owners want their purchase money back; the AG's Office wants to find out where the club's money is, or went; and the Eichners want to lift an injunction that, for now, prevents the club from using its bank accounts.

In an odd twist --- again, perfect for a reality TV script --- the Eichners claim to be the injured parties of an overzealous investigation from the AG that should never have been approved by a New York judge on July 29, 2014.  Their court pleadings are silent, however, on the underlying question --- who are the real victims in this case?

Straight from the Court Files: the Eichners Plead Their Case

Here are excerpts from the Eichners' pleadings, drafted and filed by Shargel's team, as they seek to overturn big chunks of the 11-month-old injunction.  Some of the excerpts merit an introduction.  Others speak for themselves.

  • "There was no proper basis for a preliminary injunction.  There was no allegation that the three Eichner respondents personally engaged in any wrongful conduct."

  • "The Attorney General has had ample time to investigate Ian Bruce Eichner, Leslie H. Eichner, Stuart P. Eichner and Urban (the company that manages the Manhattan Club's HOA) after the order was issued.  Yet no further action has been taken.  Rather, a preliminary injunction remains in place, and the business interests and personal and professional reputations of these respondents continue to (unjustly) suffer.

    "Urban" is legal shorthand for New York Urban Ownership Management LLC, which is majority owned by Ian and Leslie Eichner.  The company has managed all aspects of the Manhattan Club since its inception.

  • "The Attorney General's primary allegations relate to a single group of salespeople at the Manhattan Club. Each of the alleged misrepresentations was made by one sales representative and the sales team he supervised.  There is no allegation that this alleged course of conduct went beyond that sales team." (The sales person is named in the Eichner pleadings --- which are public documents --- but RedWeek sees no public benefit in publishing the man' name.)

    "There is not one drop of evidence, or proof, to suggest the Eichners had any knowledge of that (sales) conduct," Shargel added, when questioned by RedWeek.  "You cannot blame the general for the unsupportable conduct of privates that are engaged in conduct not known to the general."

  • Sixty-four timeshare purchases were under contract but not finalized when the AG's court order terminated all timeshare sales at the club last summer. Forty-three subsequently rescinded their contracts. Purchase deposits from the remaining 21, ($423,793 - an average of $20,180 per timeshare) were put into an escrow account. These owners, while aware and informed of the AG's investigation, have chosen to keep their Manhattan Club timeshares. As a result, the Eichners are asking the court to allow those sales to proceed. Just as important, they also want permission to use the money from those sales, including deposits and maintenance fees, to fund ongoing operations at the club (including, presumably, the legal fees for this case).

  • The Eichner pleadings about discovery limits and mass mailings are straightforward but strange.  They're also related. "On May 19, 2015, the Attorney General demonstrated that the reasonable and productive lifespan of its investigation has reached an end.   On that date, the Attorney General caused a mass-mailing email to be sent to hundreds of current and former Manhattan Club timeshare owners from a company named 'SurveyMonkey.' The email contained a link to a customer satisfaction survey with 36 suggestive questions clearly intended to provoke after-the-fact complaints from owners."

  • "The Attorney General's reliance on 'SurveyMonkey' to build a case that has already consumed nearly a year demonstrates that this case will clearly drag on into the indefinite future and beyond any reasonable bounds...Many of the questions, taken together, were structured to suggest that a recipient may have been the victim of fraudulent sales practices by the Manhattan Club...This is not an appropriate or effective method for New York State's highest law enforcement agency to gather information.  We intend to move at an appropriate time (if necessary) to exclude the results of the Attorney General's SurveyMonkey and any leads generated by the survey."

    Shargel, in his interview with RedWeek, said the AG's questionnaire to owners is full of leading questions that would not stand up in court.  "They are just flailing around trying to make a case out of no case," he said.

  • In addition to challenging the AG's communications with owners --- many of whom had voiced frustrations, for months, about their inability to get direct information from the AG about the investigation --- Eichner's legal papers shed light on the raging financial successes of the Club's timeshare operation.

  • "Before the order was issued in this case, the Manhattan Club and the Timeshare Association had enjoyed 17 years of success.  Between 1997 and 2014, the Manhattan Club realized a sales total of approximately $400,000,000...Since the order was issued...lost revenue opportunities are estimated in the tens of millions of dollars."

The AG's Not Talking, But Others Are, Including Owner Advocates

Representatives from the Attorney General's Office declined to talk about the case, choosing, instead, to let their own voluminous court filings speak for themselves. Other interested parties, however, are not so reticent.  Owner forums on and other online discussion groups are on fire with generally hostile commentaries about the club's owner services and reservation problems, the Eichners, escalating maintenance fees and, in some cases, the AG's office (over the pace of the inquiry).

Douglas F. Wasser, a New York attorney hired by a group of Manhattan Club owners to work directly with the AG's office, scoffed at the Eichners' attempt to get themselves out of the case.

"I can't imagine that the court will take this seriously," Wasser said.  "The subjects of an investigation by the New York Attorney General should not get to dictate the scope, length and people subject to the investigation. The law doesn't work that way."

Warming up to the subject, Wasser added: "Eichner's attoneys may brag in their memo of law that over $400 million in TMC units have been sold to the public between 1997 and 2014. But we simply view that assertion as an admission that $400 million in publicly owned equity has been wiped out by TMC operations.  What purpose does the New York Attorney General serve but to police against such a grievous public harm?

"The sheer number of TMC owners who, prior to the New York Attorney General's current proceeding, tried to simply surrender their units to TMC for little or no money begs the question as to the current value of TMC units,"  Wasser said.

Greg Crist, CEO of the National Timeshare Owners Association, has monitored the case for many months, and written about it in trade publications.  While aware of the details of the investigation, he'd rather focus on its significance for owners and the overall industry.

"I don't want to see another Manhattan Club scenario anywhere," said Crist. "This case is quite unusual, but it does not bode well for the good operators in the industry, ecause it disturbs consumer confidence about the industry's sales practices. Fortunately, there's no real pattern to this kind of activity."

Shargel, for now, gets the last word.

"We look forward to a hearing," Shargel said. "The discovery is substantially complete. We have no more to give them.  The Eichners did not engage in any acts of wrongdoing. There is no case against the Eichners.  If they (the AG) think the resolution here is to bring a complaint, then bring it.  But I am frustrated, because this should come to an end.  At some point, this has to end."

One thing is certain.  Barring a miraculous change in strategy and tactics, the case will go on.  Beyond the June 22nd court hearing, both sides have already agreed to participate in another private status conference on July 10.  So it goes.

Interested in following this case? Visit for much more information on the Manhattan Club investigation and how you can get involved.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Is North or South Tahoe Right for You?

If you're looking for a destination that offers a bit of everything, look no further than Lake Tahoe. Whether you're looking for outdoor activities, water sports, a strong cultural scene, vibrant nightlife,  gourmet dining or just a beautiful retreat, Lake Tahoe is not easily beat. However, planning a trip does take a bit of research and some decisions. The first question on any Tahoe-seasoned traveler's lips will be "North Shore or South Shore?".

Lake Tahoe lies cleanly between California and Nevada, the state border running directly through the center of the lake. While both states have communities and resorts in North and South Shore, the North Shore is often considered the Californian side while South Shore is primarily associated with Nevada. Even though both halves of Lake Tahoe boast beautiful views and many of the same activities, the North and South Shores have taken on clear identities of their own. Knowing the differences between the two are paramount to having an enjoyable vacation that fits your needs.

The bigger communities in South Shore are South Lake Tahoe, Meyers, Stateline, Zephyr Cove, Emerald Bay, Kirkwood, Homewood, Tahoma and the Heavenly ski resort. Between the two sides, South Shore tends to be a bit more crowded and with a distinctly more "tourist-y" scene. For those looking for an exciting and action-packed vacation, South Shore offers much more to "do" - beyond the ski resorts and outdoors, there's countless opportunities for entertainment. Uniquely themed shops, restaurants and spas can be found in abundance. There's also far more of a nightlife along the southern shore - if you're looking to hit the bars, clubs or casinos after dark, than South Shore is definitely your go-to!

It's also worth mentioning that South Shore might be the ideal choice if you're vacationing without a car. Many major attractions are within walking distance of one another and shuttle service is available to many areas. The South Shore also tends to be a bit more popular with families - many of the ski resorts and casinos have licensed daycare services, allowing the adults to have some time on their own to experience all Tahoe has to offer.

North Shore exudes an entirely different vibe - one of relaxation and tranquility. Included along the North Shore are the communities of Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach, Incline Village, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Diamond Peak, the Mount Rose ski area, Truckee and Donner Lake. The focus here is not on constant excitement, but rather enjoying what nature has to offer. Tahoe's best skiing can be found on the North Shore, as well as the most beautiful nature trails. The relaxed atmosphere has led a different breed of business to flourish - North Shore is your destination if you're looking for upscale spas, gourmet dining, boutique shopping and museums.

Unlike South Shore - where most major communities are tightly packed and easily navigated - North shore is more open and near impossible to experience by solely foot. Sprawling communities with a woodsy and rustic ambiance are definitely beautiful, but best experienced if you have a car available. If the aim of your vacation is to get away from the fast-paced stress of everyday life and enjoy Tahoe on your own time, North Shore cannot be beat.

No matter which side you choose, you can look forward to the ski-prime 396 inches of annual snowfall and almost 300 days of sunshine. Of course, the two halves aren't mutually exclusive. If you have a car, jumping between them is easy and there is transportation available to take you to the other side. No matter whether North or South is your choice, Lake Tahoe is sure to be one of your most beautiful and memorable vacations yet!

Monday, May 25, 2015

May Resort Spotlight - Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club

Las Vegas is a vacation destination unlike any other - there's so much to do, see and experience that it can be tough to cram all the excitement into one trip! One thing is for sure though - you'll be very, very busy! And you'll want somewhere plush, luxurious and utterly relaxing to come back to after your day in Sin City. The perfect choice? Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club!

HGVC's Elara towers over the center of the Strip in the very heart of Las Vegas, providing convenient and easy access to the area's best attractions. The 52-story is right across the street from the Cosmopolitan and adjacent to the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino complex. Adjoining access to Planet Hollywood makes exploring the hundreds of shops and restaurants along the Miracle Mile easier than ever. Traveling with a car of your own? Elara is conveniently located near I-15 and just four miles from McCarran International Airport.

Even with so much to do in the city, Elara is packed with a bounty of amenities to enrich your experience. Looking to kick back and relax after an exciting day on your feet? Cool off in the outdoor tropical complex, complete with whirlpools, private cabanas and a pool bar. A fully-equipped, modern fitness center ensures that your fitness routine won't suffer even on vacation. Before hitting the town, enjoy a cocktail or beer in the lobby bar. For an extra-indulgent experience, enjoy a massage and other spa services at the Mandara Spa right next-door at Planet Hollywood, also home to nine exclusive restaurants that cater to nearly any taste.

You'll enjoy every moment on Elara's sundeck!
Elara's studios, one, two, three and four-bedroom suites are undeniably luxurious. Each is decked out in ultra-modern, bold colors and prints while the decor is sleek and striking. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer breathtaking views of the city - especially at night! Studio units can sleep two individuals and offer all the essentials in a slick, attractive package. A well-furnished kitchenette, 42" plasma televisions, jetted bathtub, automatic curtains and a spacious seating area lend a luxe edge to the standard studio experience. Meanwhile, the larger rooms come with even more to make your trip as perfect as possible. Full kitchens equipped with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops are perfect for whipping up your own meal. Large living areas are furnished with leather sofas and even an eight-foot wide screen, projector and home theater system for serious entertainment. As for the bathrooms? Enjoy a whirlpool tub, separate shower and even a TV in there too! Every one-bedroom and larger suite includes in-room laundry facilities.

Sleek and modern - the perfect Vegas accommodations!
We could go on for days about everything there is to do in Las Vegas. Of course, the city is home to over 70 casinos where you can try your luck, each with a unique theme. But Las Vegas has much more than just gambling - there's literally hundreds of restaurants, a handful of malls and dozens of other shopping opportunities. Live entertainment is always in progress, whether you're looking for shows, concerts or something completely different. Don't think you're limited to the city, either - beautiful natural preserves such as Red Rock Canyon are just as exciting, as are attractions like the Hoover Dam!

Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club's perfect blend of convenient location, gracious amenities and breathtaking accommodations earns our May Resort Spotlight. But we want to hear about your experiences as well! How was your visit? And would you return? Sound off below!

Imagine waking up to that view!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Best Beaches for Your Summer!

The temperatures are rising, the days are getting longer and May is in full-swing. As summer draws closer, we begin to think "beach" - on those long, hot days, there's no better way to cool off than with some sun, sand and surf with your family and friends! But which beach is perfect for your summer getaway? This week, we're looking at five often-overlooked beaches that are perfect for making awesome summer memories!

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Eagle Beach is the picture-perfect Caribbean retreat!
If asked to picture the perfect tropical beach, this is undoubtedly the one that springs to mind! Endless stretches of velvety, white sand melt into sapphire waters and cool breezes coming off in off the water help to stave off the heat. Without a doubt, this is the picturesque Caribbean beach that will leave all your friends back at home jealous! Cabanas and beach chairs are available for rent and due to the sheer size of beach, crowds are often at a minimum. Best of all, Eagle Beach and the greater area of Oranjestad are home to some of Aruba's finest resorts, making your stay just as enjoyable as endless hours soaking up that Caribbean sun!

La Jolla Cove, California

Tucked between beautiful sandstone cliffs, La Jolla Cove is one of Southern California's most beautiful beaches. While a bit smaller than other nearby beaches, La Jolla Cove makes up for it with a gentle surf that's ideal for swimmers, snorkelers, scuba divers and kayakers. The beach lies firmly within the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve which means visitors just may encounter local wildlife - including the area's resident sea lions! While you're there, don't forget to visit the Caves, whether by foot or by kayak!

Sanibel Island, Florida

Every shell you collect on Sanibel is 100% unique!
Sanibel Island is a unique getaway, a retreat that's both relaxing and family-friendly. On Sanibel's pristine beaches, time slows down and you can appreciate the natural beauty around you. One of Sanibel's best attractions can be found right on the sandy shores - thousands of seashells, making shelling and beachcombing near-mandatory activities. Unlike many beach getaways, much of Sanibel is not lined with hotels, making for a clean and tranquil horizon. Rather, the island is packed with nature preserves, making sightings of rare Floridian birds and other fauna very common.

North Shore, Hawaii

If you're looking to catch a wave, Oahu's North Shore is the ultimate beach destination! With intense waves in the winter and gentler waves in the summer, North Shore proves to be an ideal beach for surfing regardless of skill level. During the winter months, visitors can also glimpse whales moving through the waters. Regardless of why you choose to visit North Shore, one thing is certain - it's a fantastic break from the crowded hustle and bustle of Honolulu!

Akumal, Mexico

Imagine swimming with wild sea turtles!
Akumal is a terrific alternative to Cancun for those who want shimmering, pristine beaches but not necessarily the party scene that comes with them. Indeed, Akumal's waters are sparkling-clear and ideal for snorkeling, where you can catch glimpses of rainbow corals, beautiful fish and even the sea turtles that are the area's namesake (Akumal is Mayan for "Place of the Turtle). When you need a break from the water, plenty of authentic restaurants and unique shops without the tourist spin are within easy reach.

Of course, these are just our recommendations! Which beaches are your annual go-to's? Have you visited any of our featured locations? Let us know!