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 RedWeek.com) 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 RedWeek.com


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
reputations.

"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 RedWeek.com 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 RedWeek.com 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 RedWeek.com 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!

Monday, May 04, 2015

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!

Monday, April 20, 2015

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!

Friday, April 10, 2015

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 cafĂ© - "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.

Monday, April 06, 2015

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!

Monday, March 30, 2015

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? 

Monday, March 23, 2015

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!

Monday, March 09, 2015

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?

Monday, March 02, 2015

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? 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

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."

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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.