Travel Blog

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Travel, Economics and Anxiety
excerpted from Mark Murphy in Travelpulse.com - August 10, 2011

As economic malaise sets in for the long haul, and believe me it will be the long haul, where is the anxiety about travel? To be frank, there really isn't any...the reality is the value of most portfolios is way up since the market crash of 2009...

...The concerns today seem to stem from emotions and not on a rational approach to the market...

...the hype surrounding the latest market drop is just another news cycle that raises everyone's anxiety when most people are far better off today than they were just two years ago...

What should a traveler or an investor do during the interesting times we live in today? How about just learn how to live? Be greedy about life and all the experiences you can garner since there is no second act - you are either all in not in at all.

Life is simply too short and the time you spend worrying is time spent not living. As each of us gets older, we realize that we only have so many good years left to travel and get the experiences that only this industry can provide.

...More than any other area, the experts say the money will be spent on travel...

So leave your anxiety at the door and get out there and enjoy life...

Be One of the First to Visit Cuba with A&K & PT CRUISES
 

For nearly 50 years, Cuba has been off-limits to U.S. citizens. Beginning in September, join A&K on Cuba: The Forbidden Isle Revealed, a landmark opportunity to discover our enigmatic neighbor.

Working with a registered not-for-profit group – and thanks to our years of experience operating in Cuba through our UK office – we have created an itinerary that reveals the heart and soul of this island nation. Walk the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, savor the unspoiled beauty of Trinidad, meet families in culture-rich Matanzas and experience Hemingway's Cuba with a visit to Finca Vigia, his seaside home.

Don't miss this chance to visit one of the world's most alluring – and misunderstood – destinations with a company that knows it inside and out.

Only with A&K:
 
•  Explore the historic city of Trinidad
•  Travel in executive coaches featuring first-class seats and air conditioning
•  Pay a visit to Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia before it opens to the public
•  Discover culturally rich Matanzas with a stop at a nineteenth-century pharmacy
•  Go behind the scenes at the famous Teatro Sauto in Matanzas
•  Lunch al fresco and to the tune of a live local band at the opulent DuPont House
 
Cuba: The Forbidden Isle Revealed
Prices begin at $4,325 per person, plus charter international air ($449), visa ($55) and a non-profit partner fee ($200).
Marco Polo Club members can save $255 per person on the inaugural September 30, 2011, departure.
 
Cuba Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Cienfuegos
Days 2-3: Trinidad
Days 4-5: Havana
Day 6: Viñales
Day 7: Havana
Day 8: Matanzas
Day 9: Las Terrazas
Day 10: Havana
Day 11: Depart Havana
 
  2011 departures
Sep 30, Oct 14, Oct 17, Nov 23, Dec 12, Dec 21
  2012 departures
Jan 6, Jan 13, Feb 24, Mar 5, Mar 23, Apr 9, Apr 20
 
Contact us to plan your journey
 1-888-310-8355

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WHY IS A SHIP CALLED A SHE?

 

A ship is called a “she” because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about, she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her good looking; it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly; and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable.  She shows her topsides, hides her bottom and , when coming into port always heads for the buoys.


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Many families buying less, but doing more...
 
"Psychologists have been saying for years that shared experiences like vacations lead to more long-term happiness than the latest bauble."
from a New York Times article by Damien Cave - 1/3/2010
 
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QUOTES ON TRAVEL...
 
Wherever you go, there you are.  Ed Buryn, et al
 
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.  James Michener
 
Airplane travel is nature's way of making you look like your passport photo.  Al Gore
 
An airplane is a great place to diet.  Wolfgang Puck
 
I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.  Susan Sontag
 
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.  Yogi Berra
 
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.  Mark Twain
 
Not all those who wander are lost.  J.R.R. Tolkien
 
When preparing to travel, lay out all of your clothes and all of your money. Then take half of the clothes and twice the money.  Susan Heller
 
Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.  Charles Kuralt
 
If God had intended men to fly, he'd make it easier to get to the airport.  George Winters

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Crystal Serenity - December 2010

For our (purely subjective) money, Crystal is about as good as it gets when it comes to cruising (or any vacation for that matter!). Some lines may have larger staterooms, fewer passengers or better food (debatable!), but when you add it all up Crystal Cruises is #1 in our humble opinion. The ship, food, service, variety of things to do, entertainment (the best at sea) all spell QUALITY.

This was a 10-night trip out of Miami with stops in St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Barts, St. Marteen and Turks & Caicos. These were all new ports for us and we did all of the touristy things - snorkel, shop, beach - but ultimately this trip was about getting away from the cold and rain and experience a truly remarkable product (actually, we have been on Crystal many times previously, but this was the first time on this particular ship).

The alternative restaurants (no surcharge) Prego (Italian) and Silk Road (Asian) are spectacular. We love the Bistrot (coffee, tea, wine & casual buffet dining), the Trident Grill by the pool is tops for lunch (they occasionally serve casual dinners there too), the Fitness Center, Computer Lab, Avenue Saloon, Movie Theater (with popcorn! I don't know about you, but I like to go "out" to a movie rather than watch a DVD in the cabin)...aw hell, we loved it all!  The service was awesome from our cabin stewardess to the dining room staff...add in a congenial group at our dinner table and you have a recipe for a great vacation!

The negatives - there are always a few - the Internet service was spotty, slow and expensive, plus we had a few cell phone issues.

There is a reason why Crystal costs more than most other cruise products, but if you can afford it, it's well worth the price
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Sandals and Beaches Resorts - Luxury Included!  Oct. 2010

We were fortunate enough recently to have the opportunity to visit a few of the Sandals-owned properties in the Caribbean. If you are looking for all-inclusive, luxury vacation destinations in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, Turk and Caicos and St. Lucia, check out these properties: 

Sandals Resorts are couples-only in concept and all have a very romantic ambiance, although each property has a different feel. Our first stop was Sandals Emerald Bay in the Bahamas on Great Exuma - for you golf enthusiasts, think Big Break Sandals Resorts. This property used to be a Four Seasons, which should speak volumes about the level of elegance...all-suite accommodations with Butler service, 5 Gourmet Restaurants, Red Lane Spa, Greg Norman-designed golf course, 3 pools, a yacht marina, etc. Very refined and all-inclusive (as are all of these properties).

Next, we visited Beaches Turks & Caicos. Beaches are for everyone (singles, couples and families) and this resort had it all...four separate and individually themed "villages," 6 pools (3 with swim-up bars), 12-miles of white sand beaches with loads of diving and water sports activities, lots (!!) of options for kids of all ages, 16 restaurants, game rooms, a great waterpark...just an excellent property!

We also spent a fantastic day at Sandals Royal Bahamian in Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas. This is an elegant resort with a beautiful private off-shore island, an awesome spa, close to casino gambling and shopping.

As a result of this adventure, we are now Certified Sandals Specialists (and I have a certificate to prove it!). Rather than go on ad nauseum in this forum, I suggest that you call discuss these or any vacation options. 1-888-310-8355 

We are not just about cruises anymore!

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ZIHUATANEJO - Feb. 2010 

We love discovering new vacation spots. Having often enjoyed the beaches in Mazatlan and Old Town in Puerto Vallarta, we decided to expand our horizons and try a new destination in Mexico.

Located on the Mexican Riviera between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco, Zihuatanejo has the feel of a fishing village, which is essentially what it is. If you want a luxury hotel experience with all of the bells and whistles, the resorts of Ixtapa are a 10-minute cab ride away. We especially enjoy immersing ourselves in the culture, so we chose to stay in Zihua. There are numerous attractive hotel options with various price points. A friend suggested Hotel Irma (www.hotelirma.com.mx)
and it proved to be an excellent choice: economical and very clean with fabulous views of La Madera Beach from our balcony and a friendly, helpful staff. We were easy walking distance from town and 2 additional lovely beaches, although cabs were plentiful and affordable. We did have the opportunity to preview a true 5-Star property Le Casa que Canta (www.lacasaquecanta.com), which was absolutely stunning, but be advised that there are lots of steps!

We took a side trip to Troncones, a very small beach town about 40 minutes North of Zihuatanejo. This is paradise for surfers and folks who really want to get away. There are a few B & B's and beachside restaurants and we found a couple of totally awesome properties...Present Moment Retreat, lovely beachfront spa and excellent, healthy restaurant (www.presentmomentretreat.com) and Punta Pelicano www.puntapelicano.net . The owner, Bob Sickler a surfer/contractor from New Jersey has created a true oasis for the mind, body and soul.

Ah Zihuatanejo, we will certainly return to this relaxing, incredibly beautiful place...sweet people, cheap cerveza, great beaches...heavenly!

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FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...

How about an exotic river cruise in Africa?!! The recently launched 28-passenger Zambezi Queen takes guests on three- and four-day safari cruises along the banks of Chobe National Park in Botswana with daily game-watching excursions on skiffs or by land. Prices range from $800 per person for a 3-day cruise in low season, up to $2400 p.p. for a 4-day cruise in high season. This is a modern, luxury vessel with several eco-friendly features.

From December 2010 to March 2011, Greek-owned Variety Cruises will launch a river cruise program with a West African itinerary. The recently refurbished 46-passenger Pegasus will travel the Saloun and Gambia rivers for 8-days after embarking from Dakar, Senegal. Call for pricing and itineraries or check www.varietycruises.com

Luxury river cruise provider AMAWaterways also has a new itinerary for those out there who have "been there, done that." They will soon have 2 ships doing a Mekong River cruise in Southeast Asia. This is the perfect way to experience the prominent destinations and charming villages of Vietnam and Cambodia.

There are also fantastic river cruises throughout Europe, China and Russia (or if you are looking for something closer to home, how about a Columbia and Snake River cruise leaving from Portland, OR?). For more information, call us toll-free today @ 888-310-8355

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OASIS OF THE SEAS - Nov 2009
This past weekend many travel agents including Taylor and me, got a chance to see Oasis of the Seas, one of the most eagerly anticipated cruise ships in recent memory. In the words of Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the vessel is a “game changer” for its mix of traditional, evolutionary and revolutionary elements.

To say Oasis of the Seas is massive is a bit of an understatement. It quite literally dwarfed the other ships in Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades. Yet, because of its “neighborhood” concept, it doesn’t feel as large as it most definitely is. Those seven neighborhoods – which include Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool & Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa & Fitness, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone – help you navigate around the ship with greater ease. Multiple maps and interactive displays also help guests get to their destination. I can’t say I ever felt lost for long.

But let’s get back to that issue of size. The raw numbers are rather overwhelming. Oasis of the Seas displaces 225,282 gross registered tons, can carry 5,400 guests double occupancy (or whopping 6,296 when every berth is filled) and has 2,165 crew (more than half of whom are devoted to food and beverage). There are 2,706 staterooms, including 1,956 with balconies (some overlooking Central Park or Boardwalk), 683 with additional berths and 46 that are wheelchair accessible.

The ship has 16 passenger decks (though it goes up as high as Deck 18). Oasis is 213 feet high from the water line and 208 feet wide. Indeed, it is the width of the ship that really impressed me. From the starboard side overlooking the pool deck, I could see two pool areas (one H20 zone kids’ pool and one adult pool) separated by the massive channel cut through the ship for Central Park some seven decks below. The vessel seems large and rather squat, with a revolutionary split stack construction that allowed its builders to create such giant inner ship spaces as Central Park and Royal Promenade. This ship is far more than just a larger version of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom class vessels.

Beyond the width of Oasis, I only really felt the ship’s size in certain venues, such as looking down from the Viking Crown Lounge into the canyon formed by Central Park nine decks below. The jogging track that goes completely around the ship on Deck 5 also gives you a sense of how long the vessel really is (indeed one lap is 2,197 feet, and 12 laps is five miles).
Despite its size, Oasis seemed to have a good passenger flow and easy boarding from the massive new dedicated terminal at Port Everglades. It took us just 15 minutes to check in, go up the escalators to the gangways and board at the Royal Promenade on Deck 5. Disembarkation was equally smooth.

Central Park: Almost everyone has focused on Central Park, the open air park that runs through the center of the ship seven decks below the pool area (with stateroom balconies rising on both sides of the park). Walkways snake guests past trees, plants and vines running the center walls. But this is much more than a park – it’s a dining area and public gathering space. Three of the ship’s top restaurants are located around the park – 150 Central Park, Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table. These restaurants also open up onto the park itself to create open air cafes. But you can also experience more casual fare at Park Café, have a great glass of wine at Vintages or have a drink at Trellis Bar in the center of the park. At night, with the lights of the staterooms and the starlight above, this is a spectacular place.

Royal Promenade: This indoor shopping, dining and entertainment area, located on Deck 5, is really the heart of the ship. It’s also where Guest Services is located and where you board and disembark the vessel. On both sides of a very wide indoor boulevard are shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Here you can have a drink at Champagne Bar on one end of the boulevard, or dance to a Latin beat at Boleros at the other. You can shop for necklaces at Regalia Jewelry, have an espresso at Café Promenade (my vote for "Best Chocolate Cookie at Sea" is the Mudslide here), or buy a cupcake at the Cupcake Cupboard. You can sip a pint of Guinness at the Globe & Atlas Pub or have fresh pizza at Sorrento’s Pizza. And, if you get tired of the shops and dining, you can board the Rising Tides bar, a hovercraft like platform that slowly takes you all the way up to Central Park on Deck 8.

Boardwalk: This unique space in the stern of the ship on Deck 6 is built around a full-size working carousel. It is geared more to the younger set, while Central Park is more of an adult venue. Staterooms rise 12 decks on either side of the Boardwalk and the giant wing of the ship connects both sides at Deck 15 overhead (this is where the zip line takes guests across the canyon created by the Boardwalk). Back down on Deck 6, you can eat a hamburger at Johnny Rocket’s diner, have fish fry at the Seafood Shack or enjoy family activities on the Boardwalk. Just a short stroll to the stern you’ll find two of Royal Caribbean’s signature rock climbing walls (just as there are two signature FlowRider surfing machines up on the Sports Zone on Deck 15). Finally, at the very stern is the brand new Aqua Theater, an outdoor amphitheater, with two huge video screens on either side, where you can see two diving and synchronized swimming shows each day with Olympic divers and swimmers (they were still rehearsing those shows this past weekend).

There’s much more on Oasis to explore, but there were three other features of the ship that I really thought were standouts. First, the Solarium, located far forward on Decks 15 and 16, is an adult-only (18 and older) hot tub and sunning area. Normally this is where you might find an indoor observation lounge. But the Solarium is partly open to the air and partly covered by giant glass plates. It also features a bar, which doubles as a nightclub in the evening, and Solarium Bistro, a healthy alternative for dinner.

Back down on Deck 9 and 10 toward the stern, there’s Dazzles, a two-level bar and nightclub that overlooks the Boardwalk through a giant glass window. It’s built in the fashion of New York’s Rainbow Room, complete with a dance floor with colored lighting and a live band in the evening. Then, on Deck 6 far forward, there’s the giant two-level Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, the largest at sea with 29 treatment rooms and even a kids and teen YSPA, acupuncture, botox treatments, and a huge fitness area with the latest exercise machines (steps also make it access the jogging track on Deck 5).

Back up on Deck 17 in the stern is the Royal Loft Suite, a two-level suite measuring 1,524 square feet plus a 843-square-foot wrap around balcony. You enter into a living room complete with Piano, couches, a table and giant plasma TV screen. There’s a bedroom off the living room, but then the master bedroom is located up the stairs to the loft. It features a giant marble bath, including a double shower and double Jacuzzi. There are 10 distinct suite categories that can house 4 to 14 (the Presidential Suite) guests.

Yes, Oasis of the Seas is large, but it has more features, amenities and public spaces than any vessel at sea. It will be interesting to see what a cruise with a full complement of 6,296 guests is like, but I have the feeling this massive vessel will absorb them quite nicely. For more information on Oasis of the Seas, visit www.oasisoftheseas.com. Call us for the best rates (1-888-310-8355)!



Celebrity honors 'remarkable' AVC as Partner of the Year
By: Donna TunneyJanuary 04, 2010
Celebrity Cruises named America's Vacation Center its 2009 National Accounts Partner of the Year, based on AVC's "unparalleled sales performance, customer service and integrity and professionalism."

AVC, No. 49 on Travel Weekly's 2009 Power List, has been a member of the American Express Travel Representative Network for more than 20 years and is supported by a network of home-based, independent affiliates.

"America's Vacation Center continues to impress us with its product knowledge, remarkable sales accomplishments, revolutionary technology and marketing initiatives and professional network of independent affiliates that provide first-rate customer service," said Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises.

Hanrahan, along with Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales for Celebrity, and Cris DeSouza, channel strategy executive of the cruise line, presented the award to AVC co-presidents Brad Anderson and Van Anderson in Florida during the company's national conference in late 2009.

Brad Anderson explained his company's strategy, saying AVC "approached the year with the mindset that times of change are times of opportunity, and we focused on customer service, substantially increased our marketing, expanded our industry-leading technology and concentrated on helping our independent affiliates live a lifestyle of success."

 

 
 

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- Roundtrip San Francisco - 10-nights
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ALLURE OF THE SEAS (Royal Caribbean)
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from $1984 p.p.
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"Some restrictions apply. Fares are based per person double occupancy. Air is not included unless otherwise noted. Call for details."


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