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Travelers' Testimonials

Find out what previous travelers had to say about their unforgettable pickleball vacation in Spain. 
Scroll down to see written reviews.
Shawn Luedke's Experience on the 2015 Madrid Tour
Harvey Harris' Experience on the 2022 Málaga Tour
Pete Sepetanc's Experience on the 2022 Málaga Tour
Chris Thomas' Experience on the 2014 Madrid Tour
Tour Director Mike Hess with Hall of Fame Tour Pro Jennifer Lucore
Jacque Smith's Experience on the 2022 Málaga Tour and 2016 Barcelona Tour
Brian Bowman's Experience on the 2014 Madrid Tour
Rich Karakis' Experience on the 2015 Madrid Tour
Janet Reed's Experience on the 2015 Madrid Tour
Gerri Rella's Experience on the 2022 Málaga Tour
Peter Grahams Experience on the 2014 Madrid Tour
Shelley Jacob's Experience on the 2015 Madrid Tour

More Travelers' Testimonials

Let me begin by saying that I had not done any traveling in ten years, circumstances at home prevented me from doing so. I was introduced to Pickleball in December of 2021.  My game had reached a level where I had some skills but I had plateaued. A fellow player sent an email about a Pickleball tour in Spain. I had never been to Spain, or Europe for that matter, and I thought why not. 

Mike Hess, the tour organizer, did a fantastic job in putting this tour together. The accommodations in Málaga were 5-star, situated perfectly with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. The arranged meals were outstanding and memorable. Our Pickleball instructor, well, she was first class, a Hall of Famer. To have someone of her caliber with eyes on you is so valuable!  The tours that Mike organized were so inspiring and educational with an expert tour guide. The folks I met on the tour, from around the globe and the U.S., were the best! 

Thank you Mike Hess and staff, I am so grateful for this life-long unforgettable experience!  

P.S.  My Pickleball game has so improved since coming back stateside!

 Robert Covarrubias, Los Angeles, California

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“The Spain Pickleball tour in Barcelona is FABULOUS!  Everything was planned perfectly and we felt so well cared for.  Our hotel was gorgeous and included a wonderful buffet breakfast that had everything you could ever ask for.  All the meals included with the tour were fantastic and then some.  I thought the food would never stop coming! Our flamenco entertainers were so very talented. I was mesmerized by their performances. We had our own special tour guide who was with us throughout the visit and introduced us to the architecture and sites in the beautiful city of Barcelona and the surrounding area.  It was fascinating.

We played pickleball 5 days on the tour and learned so much.

Mike and his staff were very professional, warm, courteous, kind, caring and efficient.   I have been on other tours and none has impressed me like this one. I am hoping to be able to go on the Madrid tour possibly next year.  I am hooked on SPAIN PICKLEBALL TOURS!”

Jacque Smith, Eureka, California

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“This tour far exceeded our loftiest expectations. While pickleball was certainly the common denominator that got everyone together, there was enough packed into the rest of the tour to satisfy everyone’s tastes and interests. If people were interested in Spanish cuisine, then the dinners that were included gave them that; if it was the culture of the region that they were interested in, then events like the flamenco dancers or city tours gave them that; if a historical perspective was what they wanted, then the day trips were spot on.”

Rich Karakis, Vice President
Tellico Village Pickleball Club, Loudon County, Tennessee

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“I took the Spain Pickleball Tour in June of 2015. Mike Hess was the director who organized this tour. To say that this turned out to be the most incredible and memorable trip is an understatement. The reservations were at the hotel NH Paseo del Prado which was right across from the Prado Museum and near a historic park with pickleball courts. The accommodations at the hotel were luxurious with a walk-in shower, plush beds and any amenity you could want. Mike gave our group an itinerary of the week, which detailed the plans, and day trips. We had walking and bus tours of Madrid, and ate tapas at local eateries. We had four to five course dinners from the various Spanish regions. One day we visited the walled city and the original capital of Toledo. We saw castles, and a Roman aqueduct in Segovia. We were entertained one night at the theater with the national ballet, and another evening we took in a flamenco dinner show. We saw the massive palace (Palacio Real) where the current king and queen hold official functions.

Because Mike has lived in Madrid for 20 years, he has pride and knowledge of where the best places are located. I could spend another paragraph describing this tour, but I want to tell anyone reading this to please take this trip. You’ll not only improve your pickleball skills, but you’ll see scenery, artifacts and antiquity that you’ll never forget. This is a trip of a lifetime, and I’m already starting to save my money again so that I can return ASAP.”

Melody Childs – Sandia Park, New Mexico

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“I heard about this tour through my local pickleball club and really did not know what to expect. To start with, our hotel, the NH Paseo del Prado, was a luxurious hotel situated on a beautiful, green boulevard directly across from the world renowned Prado museum. This hotel provided several amenities, best of which was the extensive daily breakfast buffet included in our package. Shortly after arriving, our entire group met together for introductions and we were given an itinerary that outlined the entire week of pickleball play and touring.

Each day was full of new experiences such as tasting the local cuisine at nearby restaurants including famous tapas and churros dipped in chocolate, enjoying a performance of the National Spanish Ballet and a flamenco show. More extensive day trips took us to the unbelievable towns of Toledo and Segovia. In Toledo, we walked through this ancient walled city which was once the capital city of Spain, visited a beautiful cathedral, viewed a famous painting by El Greco, and learned of the region’s history from a knowledgeable guide, eager to share his love and pride of his town and country. Another day trip included the city of Segovia, north of Madrid and famous for the breathtaking Roman aqueduct, a 2000 year-old feat of engineering that continues to amaze visitors to this day.

Our tour coordinator, Mike Hess, made use of his many years living in Madrid by sharing the best restaurants to visit as well as local lore that added an extra flavor to the visit. His interns catered to our every need with much patience and shared their own experiences of the area. They were well versed in English which made communication interesting with the Americans keeping score in Spanish while the Spanish wanting to show off their skills, used English to announce the score.

My advice to anyone that is considering whether or not this is the trip for you. I would ask yourself how many people can say that they volleyed a pickleball both on a central plaza in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and beneath a double arch of the best-preserved ancient Roman monument on the Iberian peninsula. I can!”

Mary Pruess – Sandia Park, New Mexico

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“The Spain Pickleball Tour was SUPERB. It was a pleasure getting to know and playing Pickleball with the other members of the tour. I enjoyed learning the drills and will put them into practice to improve my game. I am so happy that I took time out from learning Spanish to join the Spain Pickleball tour!

Mike Hess (Tour Organizer) is a “ROCK STAR” in promoting the sport of Pickleball in Spain. Mike and his team did a wonderful job of making me feel welcomed in Madrid. The welcome dinner was a treat and a great introduction to the Spanish cuisine. Upon initial review of the tour schedule, I thought 3 days of not playing Pickleball was too many. However, the tours to Toledo and Segovia were welcomed respites, diversion and great tours. The pickleball playing, the instruction, the people, the dinners, the Flamenco shows, the tours (museums, castles, villages and city walks) all amazing. All in all this Spain Pickleball Tour was simply marvelous!”

Denise Smith – Phoenix, Arizona

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“Mike Hess and his team put together eight wonderful days of playing pickleball in the beautiful and vibrant city of Barcelona! Coupled with pickleball were all the cultural events, from tours within the city with all its sights and sounds to trips exploring Spanish and Catalonian history, art and architecture on to experiencing the many culinary treats Barcelona has to offer. The organization of the trip was superb. Whatever we did, Mike and his team planned and executed everything perfectly. We always felt at ease, be it in the hotel, the bus rides or the visiting. I am definitely looking forward to booking my next trip through Mike!”

Ray Schiele, Herzogenaurach, Germany

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“You know it’s funny when you get back from a vacation time passes and all you are left with are some photos and fleeting memories. I must say the “Spain Pickleball Tour” still puts a huge smile on my face and at times I still laugh out loud when I think of my time with everyone on the tour. What a great experience – one I will never forget.

Very well put together, never a dull moment, we were all busy from morning to night. The day excursions to Segovia & Toledo were inspirational thanks to the tour guides. I will never forget the fabulous restaurants, people, dancing – what a party time it was.”

Shelly Jacobs – Phoenix, Arizona

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“The Barcelona Pickleball Tour was an incredible journey of learning, laughter and exploration. Mike Hess has the ability to put together a world class package of adventure, attending to every detail. If you love pickleball and you love exploring other cultures, then this trip is for you!”

Cathy Higgins Rochester, NY

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“Lots of good pickleball. Our tours in Madrid, Segovia and Toledo were special in so many ways. Sumptuous palaces, world class museums, a magnificent Roman aqueduct, flamenco, ballet, bullfights – almost more than we could take in.

Special memories are setting up our temporary nets in the main plazas at Segovia and Toledo for an impromptu pickleball game. Mike told us “If the police come, everybody run in a different direction.”

AND for our last night’s dinner Mike had a guitarist/singer to entertain. It ended with our group and our new Spanish friends dancing wildly around the room.

Thanks, Mike!”

Joan Gillespie, USAPA Ambassador, Ahwatukee Phoenix, Arizona

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“Pickleball can be played anywhere but Spain’s beauty and culture can only be experienced in one place. The tour pairs something familiar that you love with something new and exciting.”

Timothy Nelson – Everett, Washington

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“The tour far exceeded my expectations. It was more than a typical tour. It was a cross-cultural sport tourism experience. When we were not on the pickleball courts, Mike arranged for enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable guides to show us why Madrid is so special as well as to take us on tours of several nearby UNESCO world heritage sites. Their explanations made Spanish history come alive.

Throughout the trip, Mike went out of his way to take care of our needs and to find ways to share the best of Madrid and the surrounding area. His organizational and people skills are outstanding. I highly recommend the tour!”

Helen White – USAPA Ambassador, Northern Virginia

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“I would repeat (and certainly will) this experience at the next opportunity.

I would recommend this tour to pickleball playing couples, siblings, or room sharing friends, interested in a pickleball playing experience coupled with an in depth exposure to the magnificent city of Madrid, and several day trip destinations that are world class. Playing PB every morning in Retiro Park with others that love the game as much as I do, was thrilling. Camaraderie and new friendships are easily established when our great game is the medium.

Mike Hess’s love of Spain and pickleball, combined with his discerning selections of activities, restaurants, guides and staff, and in depth comments and observations, distinguished this tour from all other travel possibilities known to me!!”

Peter Graham – San Diego, California

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“Congratulations on a fantastic Pickleball Tour. I had the time of my life! The excellence of every phase of the 8-day experience was the result of Mike Hess’s attention to detail, fine taste, love of Spain, and his sincere desire to bring us the best that pickleball and Madrid had to offer.

Four-star NH Collection Hotel del Prado was located close to the courts, served a great breakfast (included), had a computer for our use, and was an elegant former palace remade into a lovely, comfortable small hotel.

The pickleball was great! There were all levels of play. Free play, clinic, then more free play filled the morning.

Private restaurant rooms, excellent seats at the optional National Ballet of Spain, charming and knowledgeable guides who brought the Prado, Toledo, Segovia to life, front seats at the Flamenco dinner show, comfortable coach tours to sites outside the city, and at every moment Mike Hess was with us making sure everything ran smoothly.

And there was enough free time for exploring the pedestrian-friendly Madrid neighborhoods, discovering restaurant gems, just sitting at a patio at lunch to watch the world walk by us.

Thank you, Mike! Sign me up for next year.”

Virginia Graham – San Diego, California

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“One word, – WOW! I had never been to Europe before and was pleasantly surprised by the culture and the fun we had in Spain. I had a blast with the locals.

We had excellent tour guides… Sylvia, Monica and Adolfo showing us things I have never seen before in my life.

So, even if your spouse doesn’t play pickleball, I would still recommend this 5-star trip. The restaurants, museums, and sites were spectacular. Book this tour and you will not regret it!”

Bill Gerczak – USAPA Ambassador, St. Pete Beach, Florida

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“The whole experience far exceeded our expectations. Everything from the incredible hotel, the great Spanish people, the delicious meals, the spectacular professionally guided tours of the surrounding cities of Toledo and Segovia, the monasteries, palaces, Prado museum, the list just goes on. If you LOVE playing pickleball AND love incredible history/culture you can’t go wrong with the tour.”

Jeffrey Shank – USAPA Ambassador, The Villages, Florida

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“Our trip to Madrid will always be a treasured experience. Our centrally located hotel was the perfect starting point for each day. Shopping, restaurants and historical sites were all within walking distance of our new front door. Travel details were relegated to Mike Hess, all that was required of us was to show up and enjoy. A short walk through Retiro park brought us to the pickleball courts, where we enjoyed playing with the locals. Not speaking Spanish was never an issue.

I wish I could pinpoint what made this trip so special. Was it the locale, the people, the pickleball, the touring , the food? All I know is I’m ready to go again!”

Anita Shank – The Villages, Florida

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“Just returned from a 5-star pickleball tour to Madrid, Spain. it is unimaginable how much we experienced in 8 days. Enjoyed touring with U.S. Pickleball enthusiasts to Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial & numerous sites and restaurants in Madrid. What a vibrant city!

The pickleball was unforgettable. What a great venue in Buen Retiro Park to play pickleball.

I highly recommend this tour. It totally exceeded my expectations!”

Karla Gerczak – USAPA Ambassador, St. Pete Beach, Florida

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“What a great experience. Tour coordinator Mike Hess does a first-class tour. Outstanding hotel, great restaurants with LOTS of great food, great tours in the afternoon after pickleball in the morning. Great instructions, lots of drills and open play.

When you sign up for the tour, Mike is in touch with you from the beginning until the end letting you know about every detail of the tour. He truly cares about the people attending and you will feel safe no matter where you are on the tour. We got shirts, a cute little bracelet, a pickleball pin, a fan for the courts for when it was hot, and a water bottle to boot. Snacks at the court. He thought of everything. GREAT GUY. Everything went smoothly and right on schedule.

Our tour guide Mariona was awesome. So knowledgeable on all these wonderful old buildings and sites and museums we went to. She gave us each a little electronic device with ear buds so we could hear everything she said. So much history in this beautiful city of Barcelona.

Then there were, WE THE PEOPLE. What a great group from all over the country and even from Germany. We had a great time playing pickleball, eating, touring and just getting to know each other. I think we are all lifetime friends now. That’s what pickleball does for you. Pickleball people are the best.

It was such a memorial trip. My friend Jacque and I are still talking about it to our friends and bragging about Mike and the rest of the crew. If you are having second thoughts about signing up for a Spain Pickleball tour, go back to your FIRST thought and sign up to go. You will be happy you did. Spain is a wonderful and beautiful country.”

Nita Vallerga, Eureka, California

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“The Spain Pickleball Tour was the ultimate combination of pickleball and the best of Madrid. Mornings consisted of several hours of pickleball divided into open play, then clinic/drills, followed by more open play. This allowed enough time to mix and play with the local Spanish players.

Rest of the day usually consisted of guided tours not only of Madrid highlights but also of nearby cities of Toledo and Segovia. Tour guides were outstanding in their knowledge of the sites as well as being very personable.

The hotel in Madrid was new and centrally located. It was an easy walk to Retiro Park for the pickleball courts, and restaurants, shops and attractions, such as the world famous Prado museum, were in walking distance. Group dinners and entertainment activities were in the evenings.

This tour was an excellent value for the price.”

Chris Thomas – USAPA Western Region Ambassador

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“The tour surpassed any and all expectations. This is a review of the tour thru the eyes of a “not so competitive pickle ball player”. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the sport immensely, but I’m not coming all the way to Spain, just to play pickle ball. Hell, I could easily enjoy the game and its social aspects and exercise just as well in California. I came to Spain to be a part of a cultural exchange. I came to Spain to experience warmth and friendship with people across the pond. I came to Spain to learn, to live and to understand a world that was different than mine. Pickleball served as an excellent vehicle to make this happen. But, we didn’t stop there. Each day began by making new friends on the courts, then, afterwards, an excursion to a historical or cultural site that enhanced our appreciation of Spain, most notably of Madrid. In hindsight, I can’t think of a better way to create a vivid 3D travel experience. Experience the people thru sports, experience the culture thru professional guidance and finally experience the inevitable and unforgettable pleasure of Madrid. Everything on this trip was first class. Never in my life, have I wanted to “do the same trip twice!” Sign me up for next year Mike, please. Thank you sincerely for your efforts. Your team is ‘top of the mark’.”

Joe Dziensuwski – San Diego, California

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“Out of the ballpark trip! When I signed up for the trip, I had no idea who Mike Hess was…but my good friend, Audrey Phillips, assured me he was going to do a first class trip and I would be happy. Fast forward to my first day in Madrid, at the Pickleball courts and meeting Mike for the first time. Mike greeted me with a smile that went from ear to ear…and that smile remained for the rest of the trip. Every detail of our 8 days together was perfectly planned and orchestrated and each day just got better and better. The hotel he chose was fantastic…well located, central to everything and easy to find with the most amazing and delicious breakfast buffet (including a Nespresso machine in each hotel room). There was the perfect blend of Pickleball, with touring all the important sights in Madrid and other famous cities such as Toledo and Segovia. We had cultural events that were the top of the mark, including the National Ballet, Flamenco dinner show, tours of the Prado and the National Palace, dinners in typical restaurants, tapas and a going away party complete with medals for all, flamenco guitar, dancing and more. Mike was always there to give us suggestions for our free time or to take us to his favorite places.

Going back to the Pickleball part of the trip…the Spaniards we played with in Madrid, became our friends and you could see how much they all loved Mike. He was at the courts early every morning, preparing things so that when we got there everything was perfect for us. This is a trip to remember for a lifetime and new friends to meet again and again.”

Pat Nissan – San Diego, California

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“I had an absolutely fabulous time on the Spain Pickleball Tour. The highlights of my trip were the Americans the tour, the day trips to Toledo, Segovia and el Escorial and, finally, having Mike Hess as the host. Our bilingual tour guides, were amazingly knowledgeable about the many places we went with her. They made the tours fun and very interesting. Thank you Mike for spending every day and evening with us and making us feel completely welcome in beautiful, historical Spain.”

Genette Heinz – The Villages, Florida

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“I enjoyed the tours we took. It was my first time in Spain, & Mike Hess found excellent tour guides for each individual tour. I loved the history that we learned, the different architecture and how it was influenced by different countries, religions and monarchies. Pickleballing was so fun, combining with local Spaniards. What a great way to be social and test our skills. I have never had such a caring tour coordinator like Mike Hess. He was always aware of each person’s needs and tried to include and accommodate each person. Thank you Mr. Hess for a great get-away experience.”

Karen Gullo, Ogden, Utah

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“The Spain Pickleball Tour exceeded my expectations. This tour had many highlights, including: Prado Museum, Royal Palace, Madrid City Tour, National Ballet, Flamenco show. Tours of Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial were very well done. The selection of restaurants was exceptional (as well as entertaining) and never left hungry. Playing pickleball at Retiro Park with the Spanish people was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Overall credit for this memorable trip goes to the Tour Director and Clinic instructor. Attention to details was evident.”

Sandra and Brian Bowman – Westminster, Maryland

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“The Spain Pickleball Tour was a terrific pickleball vacation. You couldn’t ask for more. I would give it a rating of 5 out of 5. The trip was very well organized, and our host, Mike Hess, was extremely attentive. More than a host, though, Mike was one of us. We stayed in the heart of the city in a beautiful hotel, which provided us with an elegant buffet breakfast every morning. We enjoyed three hours of pickleball several mornings in a beautiful nearby park, with clinics and open play. We also enjoyed several tours with knowledgeable and friendly local guides. Among the memorable visits were the must-see Prado Museum, right across the street from the hotel, the amazing Royal Palace, the medieval towns of Toledo and Segovia, and the royal residence and monastery of El Escorial with its impressive Pantheon of the Kings. We also had front-row seats at an amazing flamenco dinner show in an intimate setting, and fantastic seats for a wonderful show by the Ballet Folklorico of Madrid. Our group also enjoyed several meals together, including a seemingly unending array of tapas the first night, a traditional suckling pig, complete with ceremony, in an award-winning restaurant in Segovia, an evening meal in a beautiful plaza, and, with some of the Spaniards we got to know, a final farewell dinner, complete with music and dancing. All in all, this was a fantastic trip. We made many good friends and will have wonderful memories for life.”

Karen Alfsen – USAPA Ambassador, Elk Grove, California

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“Overall we had a great trip, we played a lot of pickleball, we got an excellent approach to the history and culture of Spain and at the end we fell in love with Madrid and the Spaniards. Very good Hotel in a privileged location. Excellent tours to Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial and Madrid. A great experience playing Pickleball with the addition of a rich interaction with the Spaniards through the promotion of the sport. A lot of fun dining out and a good taste of the Spanish culture with the Flamenco Show and the performance of the Spanish National Ballet. Mike and his helper Alejandro were the perfect Hosts. Well-done Mike and Pickleball Tours!!”

Sergio Alfsen – USAPA Ambassador, Elk Grove, California

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“Kudos to Mike Hess for a first-rate pickleball/Spanish culture experience. Mike had my entire tour completely organized and followed up on the smallest details to make sure I had the best possible time, and he did this with everyone. He was flexible, knowledgeable, and had a good sense of humor. He arranged an excellent itinerary, including expert guides to local attractions. We all got more than our share of pickleball, too – from clinics to open play to even a round robin event, and learned some Spanish along the way! He continually checked in to see if our activity pace should be faster or slower and he was open to suggestions. Mike is dedicated and absolutely loves doing tours – that was clear to everyone. Mike has my highest possible recommendation.”

Andrew Leighton, Arlington, Virginia

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“First, I never had to wonder or worry about how to prepare for the trip; or, what we needed to bring; or, what activities we would be doing; or, what the hotel would be like; or, our purpose in the whole event. That’s due to the tour director, Mike Hess, and his professional expertise. He secured buses for day trips and tour guides; arranged lunches and dinners with local talent and color; provided translators when we needed them; and, kept us informed throughout by email, phone, and even a post card! We had plenty of pickleball courts and a wonderful instruction. I learned a lot and loved it all!”

Patricia Weiskopf, Carolina Shores, North Carolina

Travelers' Testimonials