Here2there Travel Blogs

Journal of our Journeys

  • Cruising 2.0

    8/28/2017 6:38:24 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    casino, cruising, dining, entertainment, family travel, group travel, Travel Tips, vacation

    Have you been on a cruise lately? If so, you have experienced some of the great new innovations that have been introduced by the cruise lines.  Of course cruising is not a new experience; it has been used for centuries to transport people and products. But the invention of the steam engine made the process much faster and the passenger ship industry began to flourish.

    If you watched television in the 1970s you’ll remember a weekly series called “The Love Boat” that was set aboard a Princess Cruise ship. Each of the episodes included several story lines that revolved around the cast and crew. It provided an inside look at what vacationing onboard a cruise ship was like. It was also a great marketing tool for cruise lines.

    Fast-forward to 2017 and you’ll find that cruising is no longer just a way to travel from point A to point B. The cruise game has changed completely. In the last 20 years cruise lines have continued to build bigger, more innovative ships – they have become floating cities!  Onboard activities include IMAX theaters, zip lines, ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, world-class spas, designer shops, waterslides and much more. Here are some examples:

    In 2009 Royal Caribbean introduced the world’s largest cruise ships; the Oasis Class. They can carry more than 5000 passengers and 7 different neighborhoods, a 5-deck high Central Park with lush tropical gardens, a boardwalk with a full-size working carousel. Entertainment options are many and besides the usual casino and main showroom, guests can enjoy the comedy club, aqua theater, ice shows, and several nightclubs. Active cruisers can zip line, rock climb, ice skate or hit the waves on one of the FlowRider surf simulators. There is also plenty onboard for the little ones since Royal Caribbean has partnered with DreamWorks so you never know when you’ll run into someone like Shrek or Fiona. 

    Carnival has expanded their fleet to include activities like an IMAX theater, an onboard waterpark and even flying bicycles.

    On the newest ship, the Vistaguests can enjoy SkyRide at SportSquare. It is a twin-track suspended bike course — strap in and race around for the win or just cruise for great views.

    Celebrity offers modern luxury cruising and its newest ship, the Edge, is advertised as “a ship to leave the future behind”. It does exactly that with transformative spaces. As the sun sets, the groundbreaking spaces on Celebrity Edge transform to deliver completely new experiences. By day, outward-facing ocean views, ever-changing abstract artwork, and unexpected entertainment create a luxurious resort-style atmosphere. At night, ambient lighting, unique al fresco dining, and live music set the scene for energy, intimacy, and elegance.

    Custom-built for the spectacular, the Norwegian Bliss will cruise Alaska and the Caribbean seasonally beginning Summer 2018.In addition to the aqua park you can also burn rubber on the largest racetrack at sea and then challenge your friends or family to some friendly competition on the Aqua Racer. Dare to whoosh over the side of the ship on Ocean Loops before dodging lasers during an exhilarating game of laser tag.

    Bellissima is the newest flagship of the MSC cruise line.The two-deck inside promenade features a spectacular 260-foot-long LED dome, and is lined with places to shop, eat and drink. There are 20 bars and 10 restaurants to choose from, including specialty restaurants. For entertainment, you can enjoy 2 brand new Cirque du Soleil® shows designed especially for MSC Bellissima, and relax in the desert themed Water Park - an oasis for kids and families.

    Princess, the original cruse line of the Love Boat continues to expand its fleet with its new Medallion class ships. Its latest ship, the Regal Princess will debut in November 2017. Enjoy sweeping views from one of more than 1,400 balconies on Regal Princess or stroll on the SeaWalk®, a glass-floor walkway extending 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship! From the tranquil Sanctuary, a retreat reserved for adults, to the dazzling Princess WaterColor Fantasy light and water show and more, there are diversions for every mood.

    If you’re looking for an all-inclusive luxury cruise experience, look no farther than Crystal and choose from 3 different cruise types -  ocean, yacht or river cruise. The award-winning Crystal Serenity has a contemporary style with a bright, modern décor. Guests can shop at chic boutiques or dine under the stars at Trident Grill, a light and airy courtyard beneath a retractable glass roof. Most striking is the lush greenery - variegated "living walls" and live olive trees under-planted with lavender.

    If ocean cruising is not your thing, consider taking a river cruise. It’s a great way to experience the beauty and scenery along the world’s greatest rivers like the Danube, Rhine, Yangtze or Nile. Traveling by river, beyond the reach of roadways, you’ll discover the true nature of these fascinating lands and the people who call them home. You’ll travel with ease, unpacking just once and enjoying the ever-changing scenery along the banks as you are gently carried aboard an elegant, intimate ship to your next destination.

    Disney fans that want a “magic included” cruise experience can find it on one of Disney’s world-class ships. There is something onboard for everyone with activities for children and adults-only areas as well. They even offer convenient Wave Phones that let you call and text your fellow passengers while you're onboard or at Castaway Cay (their private island) so you can always keep in touch.

    World Cruises

    If time and money are no problem, consider taking a world cruise. Sail from Los Angeles to London (120 days), Sydney to Vancouver (Australia, Asia & Alaska, 79 days), or Athens to Hong Kong (50 days). If you haven’t made vacation plans for 2018, it’s not too late to book the Princess Cruises 2018 world cruise, sailing round-trip from Fort Lauderdale where you can spend 111 days visiting 5 continents and 28 countries. However, the ship only holds 672 passengers, so it’s very likely that it is already sold out.

    As you can see, there are LOTS of different cruise experiences to choose from. Cruise ships have become floating resorts. There is so much to do onboard the larger ships, that it can be difficult to experience everything. We have taken transatlantic cruises on Royal Caribbean’s mega ships, the Oasis and the Allure of the Seas and even with 12 days on the ship, we didn’t manage to do or see everything.

    It goes without saying that cruising is not everyone’s cup of tea – there is no “one-size-fits-all” vacation. But cruising comes pretty darn close. Here are some of the benefits:

    There is something onboard for everyone. Whether you’re a party animal who wants to be in constant motion, or a loner who prefers “me time”, there are spaces and activities for you. Even the ships that carry 5000 passengers are so well designed that there are always private nooks and crannies.

    Cruises are a great way for families to travel together. There are age-specific areas and activities for all ages, so it’s a great way to vacation with the kids and still enjoy some “grown folks” time too.

    Cruising offers the best value for your vacation dollar. Although many are not all-inclusive (you have to pay for alcoholic drinks, sodas), it’s still a good value. The cruise fare includes unlimited dining (in dining room, buffet and snack areas), 24 hour room service, nightly shows (we’ve seen Grease, Hair Spray and Cats with actual Broadway casts), nightclubs (no cover charge), and of course transportation between ports. The total for those activities for a 7 day vacation would be much higher than a cruise fare.

    Cruising also offers an element of safety. A solo traveler who might be hesitant to stroll around a big city after dark would be perfectly safe going to dinner, a show or nightclub on a ship.

    Are all cruises wonderful? Absolutely not! It is important to choose the cruise line and itinerary that fits your travel style and budget. As you can see from the list of ships and activities they are all very different. The experience depends on the ship and the itinerary that you choose. I’m not a fan of old or small ships, so I don’t book cruises on them. It’s also important to book the right cabin. I’ve heard people say that the cabin doesn’t really matter since you don’t spend much time there. Maybe it doesn’t…..to them. For me the cabin is a very important part of my cruise experience. So I want to be as comfortable as possible. I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to be “cooped up” on a cruise ship. That can happen if you’re in an inside cabin with no windows or outside light. But a cabin with a balcony provides an entirely different experience. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the ocean in complete privacy, and enjoy beautiful scenes like this

    If your idea of a vacation is a nonstop pool party, I wouldn’t recommend taking a river cruise – they tend to draw a quieter, more elderly crowd (#no turn up).  Or if you are a senior who prefers to vacation with people in your age group, a spring break Caribbean cruise would not be the best choice for you.

    What’s the best way to decide? Talk to an experienced travel advisor who has cruised and is familiar with all of the cruise lines. They can help you make the best choice.

    The cruise industry continues to innovate and re-invent the cruise experience. It’s a great way to vacation and a great way to see the world.

     

  • Family Matters

    10/9/2016 3:50:46 PM Link 6 comments | Add comment

    adventure travel, cruising, family travel, sanfrancisco, travel tips, vacation

     - Waking up at a campsite to the delicious aroma of bacon frying and seeing the morning rays of sunshine filter through the redwood   trees

     - Being fascinated by the exhibits and immersive experiences at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

     - Taking in the wonders of the Grand Tetons, Mount Rushmore and Old Faithful during a summer road trip

    All these are fond memories from traveling with my family as a child – and all occurred before I even turned 16. My parents didn’t have much money for travel, but they planned strategically and exposed my siblings and I to some memorable experiences. 

    With my brother and sister in Washington, D.C.

    Dad was an amateur photographer, and this was long before digital photography, so his camera bag, stuffed with film, lenses and several cameras, always laded him down. He took beautiful pictures and we made beautiful memories.

    Golden Gate Bridge

    We lived in the San Francisco Bay area, so many of our journeys were road trips around northern California. We’d ride up into the redwoods, or drive to the coast and dip our toes into the chilly Pacific Ocean. Anyone who visited San Francisco in the 60’s may remember Playland and Ocean Beach. It was an amusement park located along the Great Highway in what’s now known as the Richmond District. It closed Labor Day weekend in 1972.  I can still remember the Funhouse with its mirror maze and it’s Barrel of Laughs (a rotating walk-through wooden barrel).

    Laffing Sal

    And I can still hear Laffing Sal, the automated character whose cackle echoed throughout the park. In those days the attractions were much simpler than those in today’s high-tech amusement parks. I’ll admit that my 7- year -old mind was convinced that Laffing Sal just might be real (scary thought). But we had great family fun there.

    Travel provides the perfect way for families to explore, enjoy and make memories that will last a lifetime. However, one primary consideration is always cost. Years ago a trip to an amusement park like Disneyland was fairly affordable, even for a family with several children. Now that same trip to the Magic Kingdom could easily cost a king’s ransom just for entrance to the park – and that doesn’t include any meals or souvenirs.

    However, cost doesn’t have to prevent families from traveling together. They just have to be creative about how and when they do it. A family vacation doesn’t have to be a round-the-world trip in a private jet. It can be as simple as a short road trip to a neighboring city. The goal isn’t so much about racking up miles as it is about spending quality family time. That camping trip might be just an overnight campout in the backyard. As long as everyone is there and there are some good eats (and hopefully no cell phones), it can be a memorable experience. Children don’t ask for much – just their parents’ attention.

    Not all of my childhood family vacations were cross-country journeys. Some of those “trips” were really only daylong road trips with a picnic lunch. But I have such fond memories of the times that we spent together.

    It is important for families to travel together. Not only is it a great way to bond, it’s an opportunity to expose our children to other cultures and ways of life. It also teaches them basic social skills like how to go through security at an airport or how to order in a restaurant. Our son was 11 months old when we took our first family vacation. We stayed at a vacation rental in Nassau, Bahamas. We enjoyed the convenience of having a little kitchen and other home comforts with our toddler.

    When he was a little older we began to cruise and took several Caribbean, Hawaiian and Mediterranean cruises. It was great since there were always activities onboard for his age group and lots of other children his age; and my husband and I were always able to enjoy some “grown folks” time.

    Lee Family onboard Majesty of the Seas 1995

    Since dinner in the main dining room is always a fine dining experience, he learned to order from the menu and use the correct silverware for each course of the meal. But there were always foods that he could enjoy during his “I only want burgers & hot dogs” phase. One of the ports of call on our Hawaiian Island cruise was one of the islands of Kiribati. It was a beautiful island that evoked memories of the Swiss Family Robinson. There he observed the simple way that the island children lived with no video games or fancy toys.

    He was in high school when we took our first Mediterranean cruise. Visiting the Acropolis in Athens brought his world history lessons to life.

    Lees Family on the Amalfi Coast 2005

    Now he’s all grown up, on his own and a serious globetrotter. But he still loves to travel with us when his schedule allows. Our latest family trip was to China where we climbed the Great Wall of China together.

    That’s an experience that we’ll never forget.

    I advise everyone to get out and discover what the world has to offer…as a family. Whether you go near or far, you’ll make lasting memories.

     

  • 10 Ways to Play Around the Bay

    9/18/2016 4:41:12 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    dining, entertainment, family travel, sanfrancisco, Travel Tips, vacation

    There is no city quite like San Francisco. As one of the world’s top tourist destinations, it welcomes an average of 24.6 million visitors each year from all around the globe. With all of the activities, beauty, culture, shopping and dining that the city has to offer, it’s easy to see why Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. However, those who venture out side of the city will find that there’s even more to see and enjoy in the surrounding areas. Here are just a few options:


    1. VISIT WINE COUNTRY - The word “Napa” evokes visions of vineyards and scenic wineries. However, there are many more wine regions to enjoy without venturing very far from San Francisco. One of my favorites is the Livermore Valley Wine Region. Located just a 49 minute drive away, this picturesque valley is the perfect place for wine enthusiasts to taste, tour and spend the day.

    2. EAT DRINK AND BE MERRY - To say that the Bay Area is a foodie’s paradise would be an understatement. There are literally thousands of restaurants, serving every type of cuisine imaginable. The freshness of the California produce and the cultural diversity combine to make eating around the Bay Area a true culinary adventure. Whether you favor fine dining, or just want to grab a bite from a food truck you won’t be disappointed.

    3. GO TO A GAME - No matter what the season, sports fans can always find a game to go to since the Bay Area is home to teams like San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s (baseball), Golden State Warriors (basketball), Raiders and 49ers (football), Sharks (hockey) San Jose Earthquakes (soccer). Just pick a season, grab a ticket, and go.

    4. CATCH A WAVE - The northern California coastline is called the “Frontier of Surfing” and surf spots are scattered northward along the coast. Some of the most popular are Ocean Beach (San Francisco/Marin), Salmon Creek (Sonoma) and Point Arena (Mendocino). It’s not recommended for beginners since Northern California’s water is cold, rugged, and sharky, so be prepared to battle against big waves and strong winds. It is also the home of Mavericks, a winter destination for some of the world's best big wave surfers. An invitation-only contest is held there most winters, when the waves come.

    5. SHOP TILL YOU DROP - Shopaholics can definitely satisfy their shopping cravings at designer boutiques, humungous shopping malls and outlet malls. For high end shopping try Stanford Shopping Center (Palo Alto), Santana Row and Valley Fair (San Jose). Premium outlets can be found in Livermore, Vacaville and Gilroy. If you’re in the mood for haggling, try the Berryessa Flea Market (San Jose) with more than 2000 vendors selling arts & crafts, clothing, produce, furniture, tires, bicycles and much more. It is a bargain hunter’s paradise.

    6. CATCH A CONCERT - The Bay Area is an entertainment mecca where every musical genre and the world’s top performers can be enjoyed indoors and outdoors. Larger venues include the Oracle Arena, Levi Stadium and the Shoreline Amphitheater. There’s nothing quite like taking in a concert under the stars at the Mountain Winery or the Montalvo Arts Center. For more intimate performances try a venue like Yoshi’s (Oakland).

    7. MONTEREY/CARMEL - No trip to the Bay Area would be complete without spending time in Monterey. Only 2 hours (possibly 3 depending on the traffic), the beautiful coastal scenery of this region is not to be missed. There are jaw-dropping coastal vistas on the way and especially along the 17 Mile Drive, location of Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach is a resort destination and home to the famous golf courses of Cypress Point Club, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and of course the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Spend a few hours strolling around Carmel a charming city - more like a picturesque village – and enjoy world-class restaurants, quaint boutiques and art galleries.

    8. GO SEE THE REDWOODS - Some of the  tallest trees in the world are located in northern California. With a million visitors per year, Muir Woods is the world's most-visited redwood park. Since it's just a 30-minute drive from San Francisco, visitors to the city can drive here, experience a little of California's unique natural beauty, and be back in time for lunch.Then there’s the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic 31-mile drive with 51,222 acres of redwood groves. Imagine the picture-taking opportunities.

    9. GO BACK TO SCHOOL - Pay a visit to one of the beautiful college campuses like Stanford, Santa Clara or Berkeley. Stanfordis a thriving residential campus and community sitting on 8,000 acres of gorgeous foothills and flatlands. You can even take a free student-led walking tour of the central campus.  Berkeley and Santa Clara also offer campus tours.

     10. GO FOR THE GOLD - California is called the golden state for a reason. Even though the original California Gold Rush is over, you can still try your luck at gold panning and prospecting. Places like Murphy's, Angel's Camp, Sonora, Calaveras, and Sutter's Mill all have places where you can pan for gold. Many of the small towns' hardware stores sell basic gold panning supplies if you want to hike into the hills and give it a try in a stream.Who knows, there still might be some gold in “them thar hills”.

    So the next time you visit San Francisco, take time to get out and enjoy what the rest of the Bay Area has to offer.

     

  • If it Sounds Too Good.....

    9/3/2016 5:40:14 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Travel Tips, vacation

    No doubt, you’ve heard this old adage many times in your life. And it’s true; especially in the travel arena. If you’ve tried to book travel online recently (and who hasn’t?) you know that there are literally hundreds of websites advertising thousands of “cheap travel deals”.  Are they legitimate or are they scams? How can you tell?

    As a travel professional who only works with reputable vendors – and vets them thoroughly - I was curious so I decided to check out one of these fantastic deals.

    It was a 4-night getaway to Paris (round-trip airfare, 4 nights in a centrally located hotel) all for the low, low price of $699 (per person, based on double occupancy). Sounds good, huh? Maybe too good….This particular deal could only be booked by telephone, so I contacted the call center to make sure that $699 was the actual cost. As it turned out, there were a few more charges that had not been included in the original advertisement. They included a Paris city tax ($3 per night), seat selection fee ($98), checked bag fee ($149), 2% credit card processing fee.

    TOTAL PRICE: $977 (a far cry from the low, low price of $699)

    Hold on, it gets worse. This particular vendor had some very interesting clauses in their terms and conditions.
    One stated: Airfare costs and availability are subject to change at any time prior to payment. Even after you have paid, trips with scheduledair transportation within or from the United States are subject to supplemental price increases that may be imposed by the supplier and/or government. By agreeing to these terms and conditions you consent to any such price increase.

     

    Another stated: Fares and prices advertised on this site are accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, on occasion, inadvertent errors in relation to prices and flight details can occur. We will inform you as soon as reasonably possible of any such errors and we reserve the right to charge you the correct fare or, as appropriate, correct any inaccurate information in the contract between you and the carrier or ourselves.

    So apparently if I booked the trip through them I was also agreeing to pay “unforeseen” price increases due to “inadvertent errors”. Are you kidding me?

    Since they would only complete the booking via telephone, once they had my credit card number, who knows what the total charge would have been?

    When booking travel arrangements for our clients, our agency always requires them to complete a written credit card authorization form. It shows the exact amount that will be charged to their credit card. It provides protection for them from unauthorized charges, and protects us against fraudulent accusations.

    To add insult to injury, I found that I could book the trip online myself for almost the same price – without all of the “interesting” terms and conditions.

    I’m not saying that discount travel deals don’t exist, but it is important to check them out thoroughly and read ALL of the fine print.

    Here are some tips for vetting those great deals:

     

    1.    WALK THE DEAL ALL THE WAY THROUGH. The advertised price is a lead-in price that does not include all of the taxes and fees. So don’t expect that $299 cruise to be only $299. Even when cruise lines or hotels advertise, “kids go free” it only refers to the base fare, but you’ll still have to pay taxes and fees for that free person.

    2.    CHECK THE DATE: The advertised price may only apply to a particular date. I recently saw an example of this with a cruise fare where the fine print stated, “*Fares from $499is based on 12/11/16 for 6-day Caribbean sailing only Fares apply to minimum lead-in categories on a space available basis at time of booking. So if you and your BFF are thinking about taking a cruise on any other date, the $499 price will not apply.

    3.    CHECK THE VENDOR’S TERMS AND CONDITIONS THOROUGLY.Once you complete the transaction, you have agreed to those terms, whether you read them or not. If there is a dispute, you will have no recourse, after all….you agreed.

    4.    THERE AIN’T NO FREE LUNCH. Airlines, hotels, cruise lines, tour companies and all travel vendors are in business to make money. They may offer discounted rates, or extra amenities, but FREE? Forget about it. Even if someone offers your free show tickets or buffet vouchers, you’ll only get them after setting through a high-pressure presentation.

    5.    YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. If you’ve ever shopped at a swap meet or street market you’ve probably seen some great deals on Rolex watches….or cheap designer purses. Guess what? They’re not authentic. Neither are many of those unbelievable travel deals. There are times when hotels or cruise lines will offer discounts on unsold inventory and those are good deals. But if you see a deal like “stay at the Ritz Carlton for $49/night” or “take a 7 day cruise for only $199”, be skeptical, very skeptical.

    6.    BOOK THROUGH A REPUTABLE TRAVEL AGENT. An experienced travel agent can recommend reputable travel vendors because they have vetted them and have relationships with them. If there is a problem you have an advocate to help you sort it out.

    Those unbelievably low travel deals are going to continue to flood your inbox and pop up on your computer screen. Just be sure that you check them out thoroughly before booking any travel. And if it sounds too good to be true…..

     

     

     

  • Now Watch me Zip!

    7/25/2016 8:14:17 PM Link 10 comments | Add comment

    adventure travel, jamacia, montego bay, trip review, vacation, zipline, zipline canopy tour

     

    To zip or not to zip? That was the question that we had to answer on a sweltering day in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had gone there with a group of other travel professionals to familiarize ourselves with what that island paradise has to offer. We drove around the island touring many of the beautiful resorts, dining on sumptuous Jamaican cuisine, and enjoying many of the activities like Green Grotto Caves and Dunn’s River Falls. One morning we split into smaller groups and our group leader suggested going up to zipline after lunch. I had never done it before, so I had some serious reservations. But I figured what the heck, how rough could it be? I soon found out. Our merry band of 10 loaded into a van and began the trek up the hill, into the rain forest to begin our zipline canopy tour. Even the ride up the hill was a bit of an off-road adventure and we kept climbing, and climbing and climbing. Once we arrived at the destination we were ushered to a covered platform where we met our tour guides/canopy specialists.

     

    They gave us a thorough safety briefing and instruction on how to stop and where hands should (and should not) go. It was a lot of information to absorb, but I did my best. Then they outfitted each of us with a helmet, leather work gloves and the safety harness that attached to the overhead lines.

    I was getting more apprehensive (actually I was downright scared), but there was no turning back at that point. I wondered how fast I’d go, zipping along at the speed of my own body weight. I soon found out.

    Our guides led us out of the open shack and I figured that it was time to zip….not quite. First we had a LONG trek through the rainforest.  There were more than 300 uneven wooden steps to traverse, some uphill, some downhill, and all slippery from the humidity. That was quite a workout, to say the least.

    By the time we finally reached the first of 10 platforms/launchpads, I’d kind of lost my notion to zip. Then, the adventure began. They attached the first person’s harness to the line and off he went. I was number 6 in line, right behind my husband.

    I figured I could watch him and see how he fared. Or maybe he could catch me if I got into trouble. He took off like a champ and before I knew it, it was my turn.

    Actually, my harness got reversed around and I couldn’t figure out how to turn back around. Let me tell you, zipping backwards is a serious rush.

    Just about the time I was really getting the hang of it they “upped the ante” with a vertical drop. Yep, straight down for ~40 feet. That was a real surprise.  There was always a slight feeling of danger since I was so close to the trees on both sides; at most 2-3 feet on either side.

    It kept getting better. The grand finale was a 1,265 foot long traverse where it’s possible to travel at over 35 mph – and I did.  What a kick!

    When the last of our group finished our guides led us on a nice stroll back to the van. It was along a smooth path lined with lush flora and fauna.

    It really was a wonderful, exhilarating experience that I recommend highly. Here’s a tip though. If you plan to go, take some latex gloves of your own to go inside of the leather gloves. Here’s why. Those leather gloves are used again and again by dozens of perspiring people everyday. The perspiration and the humid climate combine to make them quite mildewed and sour smelling. Even after washing our hands repeatedly with soap and hot water we couldn’t get rid of that pungent aroma.

    But it was well worth it and I’m really glad we did it.

     

     

  • Travel Responsibly

    3/16/2016 6:18:13 PM Link 3 comments | Add comment

    Travel Tips, vacation

    A few years ago one of the leading beer companies used the slogan “drink responsibly” to promote responsible drinking.  It was designed to save lives and remind people not to drink and drive. Hearing the slogan recently reminded me that it’s a good idea to encourage travelers to travel responsibly. Here are some of the ways that we can do that:

    LEARN SOME OF THE LANGUAGE– Knowing as much of the language of the country you’ll be visiting can make the trip a lot easier. Communicating with the locals is one of the joys of traveling. You can get great info from chatting with shopkeepers and vendors in markets. Cab drivers always have a wealth of information to share – but only if you can understand them. Even if you only know a few words, people are always happy that you tried. Since I can speak some Spanish, I struck up a conversation with a shopkeeper in Vigo, Spain. OK, I’ll be honest - I can only speak a “teaspoonful” of Spanish. So when she began to answer me, I realized just how little I really knew. I was translating madly and conjugating verbs in my head, as I realized that I only understood every other word….sbut she was so friendly that I enjoyed our conversation.

    FAMILIARZE YOURSELF WITH THE CUSTOMS– It is very important to know the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the country you’ll be visiting. Whether it is tipping, or hand gestures or dress code, it is important to know and abide by what is acceptable. When I was in the United Arab Emirates last October the temperature reached at least 99 degrees farenheit every day. Definitely shorts & t-shirt weather, if I were at home in California. But showing skin would definitely not have been acceptable. Make sure you know what is considered acceptable behavior. Loud shouting may be acceptable at a soccer match, but in a cathedral, not so much. So do your homework and keep an open mind. After all, travelling is all about new experiences. If you have problems with being flexible, perhaps international travel is not for you.  As James Michener said, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home”.

    PHOTO ETIQUETTE– Whether you’re visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal or any iconic sight, there will probably be hundreds – if not thousands – of other people who also want to take a photo or selfie in front of the monument. So please make it quick. Have your camera ready, take the shot and move out of the way so that other people can do the same thing.

     

    RESPECT THE ANIMALS – Animals around the world are hurt, and even killed when careless tourists insist on taking pictures with them and end up putting them at risk. A few weeks ago in Argentina a couple pulled a small dolphin up onto the beach to take a photo with it. Soon after others crowded around to do the same thing. The dolphin eventually died of dehydration. At the Unnan Animal Park in China 2 peacocks died after tourists picked them up to take photos. So no matter how cute or cuddly an animal is, take pictures….from a safe distance.  

     

    RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT– As citizens of this planet, it’s up to everyone to work together to safeguard its plants, animals and natural systems. So we need to keep that in mind when we travel. We need to dispose of waste responsibly. For example, when cruising on the high seas it can be tempting to throw a little trash overboard - don’t do it. When traipsing through the rain forest you may be tempted to pick a leaf or blossom – don’t do it. When visiting the Parthenon you may be tempted to pick up a small rock or stone – don’t do it.

    A trip can be a life-changing experience, but it is important to prepare, and expect the unexpected.  Every trip can be a great adventure if you’re prepared to take it in….responsibly.

     

     

     

     

  • Sailing Takes me Away.......

    3/2/2016 9:12:27 PM Link 3 comments | Add comment

    cruising, dining, entertainment, family travel, vacation

     

    “Sailing takes me away
    To where I've always heard it could be
    Just a dream and the wind to carry me
    And soon I will be free”

    These lyrics are from the song “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. When he wrote it back in 1980, I don’t know if he was referring to cruising as we know it, but it serves as a nice cruise reference. Cruising happens to be one of our favorite ways to travel. We started in 1988 and since then have taken 18 cruises in locations all over the world. The cruise industry has evolved quite a bit since then, but it still remains one of the best values for the vacation dollar.

    Here are some of the benefits.

    Cruising is a great way to enjoy several destinations in one trip. For example, on Mediterranean cruises we’ve visited Venice, Dubrovnik, Naples, Florence, Athens, Santorini, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. We were in each city 1-2 days, so it was a good way to get introduced to those cities and decide if we’d like to go back and spend more time there. If we had booked flights to each of those cities the trip would have been REALLY expensive.

    Cruising is great for family/multi-generational travel. There are activities onboard for every age group – from infants to toddlers, to children, teens, adults and senior citizens – everyone can find something that interests them.

    Cruising is great for group travel. There are even themed cruises that are targeted to specific affinity groups: jazz cruises, blues cruises, crafting cruises, singles cruises, adventure cruises, Disney cruises…. the list goes on and on. So chances are there’s a cruise that caters to your interests….whatever they may be.

     “It's not far back to sanity
    At least it's not for me
    And if the wind is right you can sail away
    And find serenity”

    This verse from Christopher Cross’ song speaks directly to one of the best benefits that cruising has to offer….relaxation. The sea rocks you gently to sleep each night. And there is nothing quite as peaceful as sitting on your balcony watching the waves gently roll by. A cruise is a great place to refresh and renew.

    Cruise ships offer a variety of dining options. The main dining room offers a fine dining experience every day. But there are also buffets for those who prefer a more casual atmosphere. And there are many other options like burger spots, pizza parlors and so much more. Of course there’s always 24-hour room service available, so you can just pick up the phone and order whatever you like. The price of unlimited food is always included in the cruise fare. Many ships offer specialty-dining venues where, for a small cover charge you can enjoy an exceptionally fine dining experience with impeccable service. I’ll admit, I was doubtful that the specialty restaurants could be better than the main dining room….until our last transatlantic cruise when we decided to try it. It was FABULOUS!

    Cruises offer so much for one price. Unlimited food, excellent stage shows and Broadway caliber, entertainment, nightclubs, state-of-the-art gym facilities, designer shopping, duty-free shopping, beautiful swimming pools and Jacuzzis, housekeeping services from your stateroom attendant who will clean your cabin 2-3 times each day and turn down your bed every night.

    Is cruising right for everyone? Of course not. There is no one travel style that fits everybody – but cruising covers quite a few of the bases that make a vacation enjoyable. However, it’s important to remember that all cruises are not created equal. It is important to choose a cruise that fits you and will deliver what you want from your vacation. So here are a few tips:

    -        Consult a travel professional who is familiar with cruising and can help you plan your cruise vacation.

    -        Choose the right cruise style. There are huge ships that can carry in excess of 5000 passengers, and very small ships that only carry a few hundred people. There are ocean-going ships that sail on the open seas and there are river cruises that only sail up and down rivers. There are smaller vessels that do adventure cruises down the Amazon or to the Galapagos Islands. There are cruise lines that cater to young people and others who cater to an older crowd. There are Disney cruises So it is very important to choose the ship that fits you best. Choosing the right ship can make or break your cruise experience.

    -        Cruise at the right time of year. Be sure to research weather patterns in the region that you plan to cruise. For example, hurricane season can hit the Caribbean anytime between July and September. The Alaska cruise season goes from May through September.

    -        Choose the right cruise length. There are cruises as short as 3-4 days. FYI, the cruise lines tend to use their older ships for the short cruises, so they can be more worn and not have all of the modern amenities of the newer ships. But they are a great choice for a long weekend or an introduction to cruising. On the other end of the spectrum there are also world cruises that last from 89-132 days and visit some of the world’s most iconic destinations.


    I have logged quite a few travel miles during the last 30 years, and I’ve traveled by land, by sea, by air and by car. But cruising is still my favorite way to go……sailing takes me away.
     

     

     

  
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