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The whole schmear
by Jacky Runice

Twenty years ago, the phrase "having it all" meant enjoying a fulfilling, successful career as well as a happy, loving family life. We didn't know that meant five to six hours of sleep a night tops, anti-depressants, double skim lattes with extra shots and an incalculable amount of schlepping from soccer games to the office and back just to collapse after making another pb&j sandwich for tomorrow's lunch boxes. “Having it all — as in a fancy schmancy job and perfect little offspring — is a fallacy and we all have dark circles under our eyes to prove it. That doesn’t mean the concept is completely elusive because you, dear reunion guru, can have it all and double it, if you choose resorts that deliver the gathering goods.

The sun-splashed oasis that is Naples, Florida, offers unrivaled sport fishing, beauty, boating and beach combing that attracts visitors today just as it did more than a century ago when journalists described its bay as "surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy" — thus, its name. Golfers might call Naples nirvana when they discover that, with nearly 40 golf courses, Naples has the highest ratio of golf courses to golfers in the nation. Although the inevitable real estate development has changed the landscape, there are still plenty of natural attractions that harken to old Florida. Throw in excellent shopping, art galleries, theater and family-friendly attractions and all you need is the perfect place to gather your group. Enter the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, a 125-acre beachfront resort with over 300 guest rooms and suites, onsite championship golf, an award winning tennis center, beachside swimming pool, fitness center, a world-class spa, four restaurants, beach bar, retail shops, welcoming function space and a complimentary children’s activity program. “Talk about having it all.”

Originally built in the 1880s and recently undergone $50 million in renovations to bring the historic property into the new millennium, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is an ideal choice for reunion groups. “We do about ten reunions a year, mostly families,” explained Bob Loughran, Director of Sales & Marketing. “Perhaps the most unique characteristic is that we have everything onsite: the beach, golf, tennis and our world-class spa, he continued. Guests appreciate this and it translates into savings for the reunion planner, who doesn’t have the expense or inconvenience of transporting attendees all over the place.

The ocean side playground so captivated the Richardson Family Reunion they’ve convened three times at the hotel and expect more to come. Naples resident Ann Helmsdorfer is one of four siblings who take turns planning annual Thanksgiving weekend reunions. “We’ve been to many different places,” Helmsdorfer explained, “but the family likes Naples the best and they always say why can't we come to the Naples Beach Hotel every year.” The 2004 gathering checked in at 40 family members who braved the busiest travel weekend of the year to get together at their favorite place. “The first few times we stayed at the Hotel we did the Nature Conservancy, took side trips for air boat rides, kayaked and took nature walks, but this time we stuck together and enjoyed the pool and beach,” Helmsdorfer said. The youngest family members took in the nature walks, crab races and other fun activities offered at the complimentary Beach Klub 4 Kids which entertains the 5-12 year-old set. “The Hotel’s staff is very nice to work with,” Helmsdorfer went on. “They block out the rooms we want, they always give us the hospitality center to use if the weather turns (although November is a very good month for Florida) and they even saved our Thanksgiving menu from four years ago. We couldn't improve on that so we had the same menu. The Hotel is very accommodating - if some of us come early or leave late, we still get the group rate and this is at the very busiest time of the year,” she explained.

The hotel offers all kinds of services — you can have a bar set up outside, they’ll schedule tee times or anything they do for business groups. The hotel offers 23 meeting rooms and beachfront options including the picturesque Sunset Terrace, which can accommodate 350 for a reception or 250 banquet-style. Golf fans enjoy an on-site 18-hole, par 72 course that was voted the Best Public Golf Course in Southwest Florida by Gulfshore Life Magazine. Indulge in a treatment or two at the spa, work out in the complete fitness center, large beachfront swimming pool, award-winning Tennis Center with six Har-Tru courts or stroll through the Orchid House, home to over 5,000 tropical plants. Then, there’s always that gorgeous white-sand beach. Naples Beach Hotel soldiered through the 2004 hurricanes virtually unscathed. Accommodation choices range from guest rooms to suites, with kitchenette, living room, bedroom and refrigerator and efficiencies offering a bedroom and kitchenette with refrigerator and microwave.

Despite the dreaded Thanksgiving weekend airport headaches, Helmsdorfer declared, "Very seldom does anyone miss the reunion when it's at the Naples Beach Hotel." As the golden orb kissed the western horizon at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, the Richardson Reunion vowed to return yet again to their favorite reunion haunt.

Begin planning your perfect having-it-all beach reunion by surfing over to www.naplesbeachhotel.com or call group sales at 800-866-1946.

About the author
Journalist Jacky Runice pens the “Family Travel” column for Chicago’s Daily Herald as well as hotel/spa and restaurant reviews for AOL. She is a member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and mother of three young adventurers who love travel as much as she does.

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