Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 10 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent

1. You've Googled "Mexico vacation," and come up with 17.8 million responses. Need a little help editing those choices?
2. Remember when you used that obscure website to book your hotel, and when you got there you spent your beach vacation overlooking a parking lot?
3. How many hours were you on hold with the airline when your flight was canceled because of a snowstorm?
4. Did you really mean to spend your honeymoon at that resort whose one tiny pool was filled all day with 12 screaming children?
5. Who knew that when you booked that "villa" in Tuscany, it would be a small room with a kitchenette and no air conditioning? Funny, it looked much better on your computer screen.
6. No one explained to you that in July, it's winter time in Rio, and so you showed up there with nothing but five Hawaiian shirts and three pairs of swimming trunks.
7. How about the time you really needed a restful vacation, and you ended up in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and someone threw up on your shoes?
8. Yes, I guess that hotel must have used a telephoto lens when they took a picture of those guest rooms that you saw on their website.
9. I suppose contacting the Attorney General to resolve the fact that that Internet site has billed your credit card three times instead of once is the only route to take at this point.
10. It was definitely odd that there were no cab drivers at the airport at 3 o'clock in the morning when you finally landed in Costa Rica, but booking a transfer to your very remote hotel would have been a good thing to remember when you purchased your airline ticket and hotel online.

(Thanks to Ruth Terrero)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!
Still need a special Christmas gift? How about one that will have lasting memories? Give the gift of travel. Contact me for a gift certificate either for a certain destination or you can decide on where you want to go later in 2013.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Disney Dream Cruise

Here is your chance to experience one of Disney's newest ships at a reasonable price!

 Cruise on Disney's Dream on Dec. 13 for 3 nights to Nassau and their private island, Castaway Cay.
The Dream was new in 2011 and is 40% larger than Disney Wonder or Disney Magic and offers many new experiences onboard.

Prices start at $399 per adult plus $52.74 taxes and fees on Dec. 13. Kids are even less!
Or cruise for 4 nights on Dec. 9 for only $499 per adult plus $46.74 taxes. Same itinerary with a day at sea.

You will love the Disney experience!  Call me for prices on other dates - 336-922-1837.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Vacation Checklist

Before you leave home here is a checklist to help you prepare:

1. Purchase travel insurance and make sure you keep contact info with you as you travel.
    This will protect your investment in case you need to cancel due to illness or death in the family. It will also cover expenses up to a certain amount if you should lose your luggage or it is delayed. Your insurance will also protect you if you should get sick on your trip and need medical attention or to fly home (and that can get very expensive). I ALWAYS buy this for myself. It's a small price to pay for piece of mind.

2. Make sure you have your passport and required I.D. Your passport must not expire within 6 months of when you are traveling.  Also if required obtain necessary visas and immunizations.

3. For a cruise pre-register your guest information online and print out your edocs.

4. Don't forget to call your credit card company and let them know you will be out of the country and the dates. Otherwise if they see charges on your credit card which look out of the ordinary they may put a freeze on your card.

5.  Leave a copy of your credit card and passport with a family member or friend. I also take a copy with me and put it in my safe.

6.  Remember to stop mail and newspaper.

7.  Reserve any shore excursions. You can do this online or your travel agent will be happy to help you with this. Many times I can reserve an excursion which has fewer people and costs less. I can also give you some recommendations of can't-miss sights based on my experience as well as the experiences of my past clients.

8.  Print out any hotel or transfer vouchers which your travel agent emailed to you.

9.  Go and enjoy!

I will cover some packing tips in an upcoming blog.
Happy travels!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wow! Look at this January cruise!

January is a great time to head for warmer weather but you must act now to take advantage of this low price. It is on the Caribbean Princess departing on Jan. 19 from Ft. Lauderdale. Ports of call are Aruba, Curacao and Princess Cays. Usually you have to book a 10 day cruise or depart from San Juan to visit Aruba and Curacao but now you can cruise there on a 7 day cruise from Florida.
Not only is this a different and interesting itinerary but look at these prices! Inside cabins start at $633.47 per person including all taxes and govt. fees. Ocean view is only $50 more pp. and balcony cabins are $883.47 pp.
Call me soon to reserve this and I will also give you $50 shipboard credit per cabin to use as you wish.
Contact me at 336-922-1837 or email

Monday, September 17, 2012

Last Reflections of My Med Cruise

This was a really awesome cruise and I feel we did most things right. There is not much I would change. I chose this cruise for the itinerary. I wanted to see a fair amount of Italy but also wanted to experience Greece, Turkey and Spain and I got to do all that  in 12 days. Yes I would have liked to stay longer at many of the places but then I would have a had a 30 day cruise. Perhaps somdeday I will make it back to some of these places to see them more in depth.  We only had one day in Barcelona and that was not enough. I would also like to go back to Venice to spend more time. All of Italy was heavenly.

The Princess Ruby seemed to have the best itinerary and it was a nice ship and at the right price. I also considered Azamara for this cruise because I like the smaller ships for Europe but the price difference drove me back to Princess. I found myself eating at the International Cafe many days rather than go to a restaurant. They had some great salads and gelato.

If you can swing it I would recommend a balcony cabin for Europe. The scenery going into and out of the ports was breathtaking and I was too tired at the end of the day to go up on deck. I also saw some very pretty sunrises and sunsets from the balcony. And when you consider you are in your room for 12 days the little bit extra cost for a balcony room is really not that much more.

I used euros or my credit card everywhere I went. The ship had machines onboard to change our dollars to euro which was quite easy to do. I did have to get some euro at the airport in Barcelona when we landed at the beginning of the trip in order to pay the taxi to the hotel but after that I just exchanged my money on the ship. When I used my credit card I did make sure they swiped it in front of me and only once as I have heard of instances where people have been double charged. I had no foreign exchange fees with my card as I had a Capitalone. And of course call your credit card company before you leave the country to tell them or they may put a freeze on your card.

I had heard alot about pick pockets so I carried my money in a belt under my shirt although I still carried a bag for other essentials such as water. sunblock, camera etc. Our group had no problems at all and never did we feel at all threatened or unsafe.

I think the best thing I did was to reserve some drivers for us before we left. We had drivers pick us up at the ship in Florence, Rome, Naples and Kusadasi and then take us back to our ship late in the afternoon after our private tour. Our drivers also got us "skip the line passes" at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and Colosseum.This worked out really well. We got to see what we wanted and did not have to wait for 50 other people on a bus to go to the restroom etc. Because we divided the cost of our driver between 8 people the cost was less than booking a shore excursion on the ship. We also had a driver take us directly to the airport on the last day in Venice which was very convenient.

In the entire 12 days we did not experience a drop of rain which I'm sure must be unusual. However, I would recommend taking a rain poncho just in case. There is no going back to the ship to get something once you leave it in the morning.

We started our trip on May 30 which worked well too. The only place we had huge crowds to deal with was in Rome. It was a holiday so I'm not sure if Rome is always that crowded but I understand that July and August are more crowded and hot too. Spring and fall are the best times to go.

Because this was a destination cruise we had only 2 days at sea and we needed those to rest up. The Ruby is a big ship and I thought it might be nice to have walkie talkies if you were not in your room and wanted to find someone but we managed without. I really can't think of anything much we would have done differently.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this and email me at if you have any questions or comments.
Now it's time to plan that next trip! Where will that be? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gorgeous Venice

After spending a day at sea and traveling 849 nautical miles we slowly cruised through the canal network on this Sunday morning. At about 11 am the 8 of us met on our balcony and had a short worship service as we cruised into our port in the center of Venice. What a beautiful memory!

We had the best view from our balcony.

After disembarking our ship we took a water taxi to Piazzo San Marco aka St. Mark's Square. This was $17 roundtrip.

It is a huge piazza. St. Mark's Basilica is the primary tourist attraction. Although there was a line it did not take long to get inside.

There were signs to not take pictures inside. It was beautiful with alot of gold and the church is still being used today.

A clock tower with moving parts was fun to watch.

Later in the afternoon we heard many bells ringing in the square and there seemed to be a celebration of some sort. The bishops came out of the church carrying a canopy with the people of the church following them around the square. Some of it was blocked off. The tourists all stopped and watched the ceremony which lasted probably an hour. After we got home we read that it was an annual holy day called the Blessing of the Eucharist.

There are many streets off St. Marks Square with lots of shops. We bought some Murano glass pendants which are quite pretty.  I saw some artwork when we first arrived which I wanted but did not want to carry it with me. Unfortunately the artist had picked up his booth by the time we got back.
Of course there are canals everywhere. I took a picture of people on a gondola while she took a picture of me.

This is one city I hope to get back to someday and explore further. We had a very early morning flight out the next day for home. We had a driver waiting for us to take us to the airport which was very easy for us. It only took us about 20 minutes to get there and we had to wait for the airport to open at 6:30.

Next time I will share some reflections (and tips) from our entire trip.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ancient Athens

According to history Poseidon, god of the sea and Athena, goddess of wisdom had a contest over who would be patron of the city. Athena was declared the victor and the city of Athens was named for her. There are now 11 million people who live here in Athens, Greece.
After getting off our ship in the port of Piraeus we walked 20 minutes or so to the train station and bought an all day ticket for 4 euro. The train was not crowded at all and we easily made it to the Acropolis where we began the 80 steps to the top.

The Theater of Herodes is one of the largest surviving classical Greek theaters. It was dedicated to his wife in 161 A.D. It is still used today for concerts and seats 5000. The marble seats have been restored and cushions cover the seats for comfort.

Propylaea is the "gateway to Athens". It has the same proportions as the colums of the Parthenon but is not as large.

Erectheion and the Porch of the Maidens which are copies. Four of the original maidens are in the Acropolis museum.

The Parthenon was completed in 438 B.C. It has served through the years as a temple, church, mosque and storage for Turkish gunpowder from which it blew up and was badly damaged. It is being restored today.

Huge columns!

Two that lost their heads.

From the top of the Acropolis we could see across to Lycobettes Hill which is the highest point in Athens. There is a railway that goes up to a chapel, theater and restaurant.

On our walk back down we saw a hill which
is where Paul spoke to the Athenians.
I believe this is referred to in the bible as Areopagus
or "hill of Ares".

At the bottom we found a sidewalk cafe where we had souvlaki with rice and bread and the Acropolis in the background! Although we walked back to our ship we did see a hop on hop off bus which would be a good option also. This was our warmest day, in fact it was hot.
Tomorrow is a day at sea and then only one more day of this fantastic cruise!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ephesus, Turkey - A Step Back in Time

Wow! This day was a real highlight of our trip. Our ship was now in Kusadasi (rhymes with odyssey). We had a driver and a tour guide for today that met us at our ship at 8 am. Our guide spoke fluent English. We started by driving to the Virgin Mary's house which is on a hill a few miles outside of Ephesus. This is where Jesus told John to take his mother after his death so she could live out her life here.

Some believe the water here is holy and has healing powers. I filled a small bottle to take home.

There is also a prayer wall full of prayers written on paper.

After leaving this peaceful place we headed to Ephesus which used to be on the coast but is now inland about 5 miles. We saw fig, pomegranate, peach and orange trees and wheat fields.

Over time earthquakes have destroyed the buildings but we can tell where the buildings were and how they lived.

The men's potties were made of marble so they would send their slaves to warm them up.

The library was at the end of the street.

Street sign.

The theater where Paul spoke. We were fortunate to have a retired pastor with us who read to us from the book of Acts. It is awesome to think we were in the same theater referred to in the bible!

We saw the terrace homes which are being restored. The well-to-do lived here and reminded me very much of a modern condo. They had indoor baths and there were many steps to climb. In one we could see the large dining room which had a fountain. The purpose of the fountain was to drown out the voices so the spies could not hear them talk.

 We could see frescoes painted on the walls and mosaic tiles in the floors.  It is like putting together many puzzles to restore these houses.

After touring Ephesus we went to see the tomb where St. John is buried.

A small mosque across the street from the tomb which reminds us we are in a muslim country.

We saw so much today! I tried to absorb all the history but it is still hard for me to believe I walked in the footsteps of people like Paul and John.

Tomorrow it is on to Athens, Greece.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Highlights of Istanbul, Turkey

We took a shuttle from our ship to downtown Istanbul. (It was $10 roundtrip). This is a large city with many people. We headed for the Blue Mosque which was most impressive.

 Although there was a long line it moved quickly. Ladies knees and arms must be covered before entering. There was a woman handing out shawls at the door if needed. Everyone also had to take off their shoes.

The inside of the mosque with its many blue tiles.

From there we walked to Hagia Sophia which was the largest church in the world for 1000 years. It then was a mosque and is now a museum.

Harem skirts for sale.

 Nearby was the Topkapi Palace which used to be the home of the sultans.
We entered through the cannon gate.

The Ottomans while constructing this palace left great gardens in the middle and built palace buildings around them.

Anyone know what he was guarding? He was taking his job very seriously as one in our group tried to get closer to take a picture and this guy approaches him
with his machine gun.

We had a lunch of chicken crepes at an outdoor restaurant. While there we heard the call to prayer over the loud speakers from the mosques. They stop and pray 5 times a day.

We walked through part of the Grand Bazaar but one can easily get lost here. There are about 3500 shops with 18 gates to enter or depart through. It was very crowded and hot. They were selling carpets, jewelry and scarves as well as many other items. One of the popular items were the woven bookmarks as they were easy to pack.

A day here is not enough and I feel we only scratched the surface. But we are in for a real treat tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mykonos, A Diamond in a Sapphire Sea

Mykonos, Greece is an island about the size of Alabama. It's white buildings contrast with the dazzling blue of the sky and sea.

To protect themselves from pirate invasions the town and harbor was built compactly. The winding maze of streets was designed to confuse invaders and it also serves to break the effect of the winds coming in from the Aegean.

Few of the windmills still exist.

Petros, the pelican is their mascot.

Everywhere I looked seemed like a picture postcard.

Our ship was here from 9am-2pm. A little longer would have been nice but we walked around and shopped and really enjoyed our time here. Tomorrow we will
have a very full day in Istanbul,Turkey.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunny, Beautiful Naples, Italy

Mama Mia! What a great day we had here! As soon as we got off our ship at 8 am we met our driver, Ciro, who drove us through Naples to Pompeii. There we met our tour guide, Suzi.  Pompeii was destroyed and buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. It killed 2000 people but also managed to freeze an entire society at one instant of time under 23 feet of ashes. The discovery and excavation of Pompeii began in 1748. Some buildings have been carefully restored and you can see frescoes on many walls. Tons of ash and cinders destroyed any roof or canopy.

The roads in Pompeii are lined with sidewalks a foot or more above the street level. Stepping stones are placed to allow pedestrians to cross in wet weather but spaces were still left to allow wheels and horses to get by easily. We could still see deep ruts where chariot wheels have worn away the pavement.

They even had fast food restaurants! There were 27 in Pompeii. This is the counter and serving window of one. Business owners often lived behind the store or above on an upper floor.

The people of Pompeii lived rather well. The community bath was an important place and much visiting and business was conducted here. You can see the frescoes on the wall.

We also saw the brothel (complete with a picture menu). Here is one of the beds, made of rock.

Suzi talking to us in the theater.

We could see Mount Vesuvius in the background.

After our 2 hour tour Ciro drove us down the Amalfi coast. WOW! Pictures only give a hint of how beautiful it was.

There were many hairpin curves. I was really glad someone else was doing the driving. There was too much to see to try to drive at the same time.

We stopped along the way to eat pizza where it started. And of course I had to have gelato. Amaretto today - yum!

This was a very full but very enjoyable day. This is the pretty sunset from my balcony. We really enjoyed our balcony on this cruise. It was always so pretty watching us go in and out of port each day.

Tomorrow we get to rest and enjoy our ship and then it is off to Greece. Arrivederci!