Monday, December 09, 2019

Stocking Stuffers for the Cruiser


I love shopping for and opening up stocking stuffers!  And when they're something useful, all the better! This list of suggested gifts is the result of a poll of Direct Line Cruises staffers.

Luggage Tag Holder
Plastic luggage tag holders come in different shapes and sizes depending on the cruise line.  Amazon has a great selection.

Sunblock
Sold year round in the supermarket or neighborhood drug store it’s quick and easy to pick up. Might as well throw in a SPF 30 lip balm while you’re at it.

Portable Charger
Good to have when you’re in port all day taking pics with your phone or using google maps.  Nobody wants their cell phone to die halfway through the day.

Lounge Chair Clips
Either poolside or at the beach these colorful clips keep your towel from blowing away, plus, they make your lounge chair easy to identify.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

MSC Cruises Announces an Accessible Tours Program


MSC Cruises announced that they will roll out an accessible shore excursions program with tours available in 20 destinations across the Caribbean and Mediterranean.


These MSC  tours and excursions have been created with careful consideration for safety and accessibility, allowing all guests to explore each destination in total comfort, guaranteeing that:
• Tour routes are completely step-free
• Accessible to wheelchairs wherever possible
• Only short distances are covered
• Timings are run at a slower pace
• Accessible restrooms with wide doors are planned along the route

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What’s Cookin’ in Carnival’s Kitchen?


Carnival Cruise Line has announced plans to debut a new hands-on culinary experience called Carnival Kitchen on the new Carnival Panorama when she launches in December. I have to be honest, I was a bit surprised! Cooking classes are an activity I equate with other cruise lines …like Holland America… not Carnival. But after thinking about it a bit longer I'm now thinking, wow I love that idea!  Why not?

The Carnival Kitchen program will offer more than 15 classes, mostly during sea days. Each class can hold up to 18 guests, and the price will range between $30 and $59. Sample Carnival Kitchen offerings will include:

Friday, November 15, 2019

Reasons to Arrive to Your Cruise a Day Early


Maybe I’m just a Nervous Nellie, but the thought of flying to my cruise embarkation port on the day of the cruise causes me to break into a cold sweat! I think all the agents here at Direct Line Cruises will always advise their clients to do the same thing. Here’s why…


Flight Delays
Possible flight delays are probably the number one reason to always try to arrive to your cruise port city early, preferable the day before.  I know it’s not my imagination in thinking that these days that flight delays are more prevalent than ever before. My husband flies domestically every week and I have become accustomed to text alerts from the airlines notifying me that his flight has been delayed…or worse, canceled. Best solution is to book your flight for a day earlier than your cruise. Then you are essentially building a buffer against the chaos flight postponements or cancellations can cause.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Family Reunions at Sea


You can’t flip your calendar over to November without thinking about the family gatherings ahead. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends! There’s no better time to suggest a family reunion and no better place to hold a family reunion than on a cruise ship. There are so many reasons why multigenerational cruising has never been more popular!


Economically speaking, cruising is a good fit for all budgets because there are so many variables that allow you to tailor the pricing to your group, allowing more people to attend. Since your choice of cruise line, departure port and cruise length will all affect pricing you can adjust these variables to find the perfect itinerary that everyone can afford. Plus, the inclusive nature of a cruise helps keep everyone on budget. There are no worries about who is going to pay for this dinner or that activity, given that almost all meals, entertainment and activities are included in the basic fare.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The “NEW” Oasis of the Seas


It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that the entire cruise industry was abuzz with excitement over Royal Caribbean’s evolutionary Oasis of the Seas! Back in 2008 the debut of Oasis of the Seas set a new capacity record of carrying over 6,000 passengers, as well as introducing a unique
neighborhood concept; seven main themed areas providing guests with a variety of experiences.

However, it hard to remain revolutionary for long, so this fall the Oasis began her $165 million Royal Amplification dry-dock. Over a period of two months the ship got a BIG refurbishment including many new attractions coming from other Royal Caribbean ships.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Are you Real ID compliant?


Heads up... beginning October 1, 2020, (that’s one short year from now), you will need a Real ID
compliant identification card to board domestic flights.

The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 to increase security measures concerning state-issued personal identification cards, mainly driver’s licenses’ that are often used to board domestic
flights. Compliant documentation includes passports (which are still required for international flights), passport cards and trusted traveler identification like Global Entry. But the majority of Americans use their driver’s licenses to pass through security for their domestic air travel.

The U.S. Travel Association is urging Americans to check their Real ID status at their state’s motor vehicle department. People should upgrade their license sooner than later. The last thing you want is to put it off and forget about it, only to find that you’re denied boarding for that Florida bound flight that is taking you to your cruise embarkation city!



Thursday, October 17, 2019

Goodbye Grandeur of the Seas


Royal Caribbean announced today it will be transferring Grandeur of the Seas out of its fleet in the spring of 2021.  She will join sister brand Pullmantur Cruises.  Other ships that have been moved to Pullmantur in the past are Monarch of the Seas, Sovereign of the Seas and Celebrity's Horizon.

For the many passengers who return multiple times to Baltimore-based Grandeur of the Seas, she will be very much missed. Built in 1996, Grandeur of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean's Vision class of ships. Past guests cite the vessel's manageable size and personable crew as the reason for their loyalty.

Enchantment of the Seas, will return to Baltimore to replace Grandeur in spring of 2021.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Introducing Oceania's Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center


As part of Oceania Cruises’ “OceaniaNEXT” initiative, the cruise line will replace the fleet's existing onboard Canyon Ranch spa and introduce a brand of their own. The new Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center will be the most unique and comprehensive spa and wellness center at sea.

Services at Oceania's Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center extend well beyond a traditional spa, offering a complete and original collection of holistic wellness encounters both on board and ashore that supports all dimensions of wellness while encouraging a lifestyle of health and longevity.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Why I’m a Fan of Packing Cubes


Years ago my family took a road trip vacation to several national parks.  We were changing hotels every few days so there would be no proper unpacking of our suitcases. Thank goodness I read a tip on a travel forum that suggested I pack each day’s outfits in clear oversized plastic bags so I could pull out what we would need on a given day without disrupting the rest of the contents. It kept me and the suitcases very organized that trip.


Fast forward to just a couple years ago when I discovered packing cubes.  What a game-changer! Packing cubes are fabric containers used for packing clothing. They zip closed and are small enough that you can fit several into a suitcase. You can purchase them in a range of sizes and are often sold as sets.  Here’s why I love them.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Viking Cruises Presents "Great Homes, Gardens & Gin"


I was a big fan of the Downton Abbey, the British period drama series that aired on PBS for six seasons. And when I recall watching Downton Abbey, it brings to mind Viking River Cruises…  I dare to say that due to its sponsorship of the series, Viking River Cruises became a household name! So I was not surprised to see that Viking has partnered with Focus Features, Universal Pictures and
Carnival Films for the release of the new full-length film Downton Abbey, which by the way, was wonderful!

For years Viking has offered a variety of ways for its guests to experience life at Highclere Castle, the filming location of Downton Abbey. In celebration of the movie, the company developed a new Pre/Post Cruise Extension, “Great Homes, Gardens & Gin”  which was designed to give guests an exclusive look at several country estates that have served as the settings of the Downton Abbey series.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Azamara Pursuit…a Short Review


Last Saturday we returned from our cruise aboard the AzamaraPursuit. It was a country intensive voyage that stayed in Israel for 5 nights, as well as a visit to Limassol, Cypress and Heraklion, Crete.  This was probably the best cruise vacation we ever had!  Here's why...


The Ship…this 30,000 ton ship is small in size but large on style and hospitable service. The warm and elegant décor very much resembled a boutique hotel that we once stayed at in Venice.  There are several public spaces filled with groupings of deep comfy couches in which people naturally gravitated to for pre-dinner cocktails or after- dinner conversation.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Why I Chose the Azamara Pursuit


I am the vacation planner in our household. My husband has no real interest in where we go…he just happily tags along.  I have to say, I like it that way! Last week we were chatting about our upcoming cruise aboard the Azamara Pursuit and he asked, “With all the different ships and itineraries that are available, what made you pick the Azamara Pursuit for this cruise vacation?”  Here are my top reasons.


There will be under 800 guests aboard the Pursuit and these days a smaller ship really appeals to me. I was aboard the Pursuit last year with girlfriends and I have to say that cruising aboard a small ship creates a sense of camaraderie with the other passengers that you won’t find on larger ships. It’s a warm and friendly environment and it was so easy to meet people and become friendly fast. There are multiple public spaces with comfortable conversation areas in which people gather for pre-dinner cocktails or after- dinner cordials. I look forward to us spending evenings chatting with travelers from all over the world and sharing stories of exotic ports and exciting adventures!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Surviving the Long Flight to Your Cruise


Cruising around Europe is my favorite type of cruising!  I try to plan a cruise to the Mediterranean or to Northern Europe every year.  In two weeks hubby and I head out for a cruise on the Azamara Pursuit (reports to follow when I return) and I am beyond excited! What I’m not looking forward to is that nine hour flight to Athens. Here’s some helpful hints I’ve gathered to minimize the discomfort of a long flight.

Wear something comfortable: 
For me that will be a dark rinse, looser fitting pair of jeans or joggers, a t-shirt and a cashmere cardigan. I will have a light-weight, soft scarf in my tote for extra warmth or to roll up as a pillow. Once I’m seated I will swap out my shoes for a pair of compression socks.  I wear them to keep my feet warm and to decrease the risk of blood clots.   I’m aiming for comfy chic here and I don’t want to look like a wrinkled mess after hours of squirming in my seat trying to catch a bit of sleep.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Two Perfect Days at CocoCay?



Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? RoyalCaribbean doesn’t think so.  The cruise line announced it is adding second call to Perfect Day at CocoCay on nearly 40 sailings, saying that's what people are asking for.  I’m not surprised since those stops at a cruise lines private island have always been a cruiser’s favorite port-of-call.

Royal Caribbean has revealed new, four-night itineraries that now offer two visits to the private island. Itineraries include nearly 40 sailings beginning Sept. 30, 2019 aboard the Navigator and Mariner of the Seas.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Cruising With John Heald


Did I hear somebody ask, “Who is John Heald?”  If you are a loyal cruiser with Carnival Cruise Line then I’m sure you know John!  But if you haven’t sailed with Carnival Cruise Line (and dare I say you are certainly missing out on a great deal of fun), let me fill you in a bit. 

Today John Heald is the Brand Ambassador and senior cruise director of Carnival Cruise Lines as well as a blogger for the cruise line.  However, he actually began his career with Carnival in 1989 in the Food and Beverage Department! It became pretty obvious early on that this is not where John’s talents lie and in 1990 he became a Carnival cruise director. By 2004 he was named the senior cruise director of Carnival.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Making the Most of Embarkation Day


People often ask the Direct Line Cruises'  consultants what time they should get to the port on embarkation day.  They unanimously answer, “As early as possible! Arrive by noon to settle in and enjoy lunch onboard!”  Its good advice that I, myself follow…sometimes!  If I’m cruising out of a U.S. port, particularly one that’s driving distance from my home, I often arrive at the pier by noon.  However, if the ship is leaving from a foreign port, I rarely arrive before the mandatory time that the cruise line requires for guests to check-in.

At a minimum, I land in a overseas port the day before sailing.  When there are so few hours in a foreign port it’s important to make the most of every minute. I check into my hotel and then “hit the ground running, trying to see and experience as much as I can without it feeling too crazy.  Then after a good night sleep I’m ready to head out again bright and early.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

River Cruising for the Young and Active Passenger?


The thought of a river cruise has intrigued me since the days when I would watch “Downton Abby” on PBS and Viking River Cruises was their sponsor.  However, I was apprehensive since my husband and I (60 years young) consider ourselves to be active travelers who likes to get out and about, hike, bike and be on the go from morning till night.


I remember a couple of years ago we were on a European cruise with Royal Caribbean and in several ports I crossed paths with a group from a river cruise shore excursion, moseying around the city, following a guide who was holding a flag high so as not to lose any participants. No way, we thought! This wouldn't be a good fit for us.  These passengers we're significantly older and the pace a bit slow. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Princess Cruise Line’s Phantom Bridge


Are you part of the “escape room” obsession?  You know, that pastime in which you pay to get locked in a windowless room and have to solve a series of puzzles in order to get out? Escape rooms are everywhere, cruise ships included. You can find them on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and soon they will be on Princess’ ships too!

Princess Cruise Line will debut the first digitally enhanced escape room they call Phantom Bridge.  It will have guests traveling through time and space while racing to solve the puzzles presented. The really interesting aspect of Phantom Bridge is that the entire room will transform and respond to guest actions, enveloping them in the story.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Carnival Cruise Line Doing Its Part to Clean the World


Carnival Cruise Line announced it will partner with Clean the World, a global health organization committed to improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities around the world.  Clean the World provides sustainable resources, programming and education focused on water, sanitation and hygiene for areas affected by poverty, homelessness or natural crisis.

So how will Carnival Cruise Line assist in this endeavor? Carnival will start collecting discarded soap from guest and crew staterooms throughout the fleet and send it to a Clean the World recycling center where the soap will be sanitized, melted down and reprocessed.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Luxury & Science Aboard the Celebrity Flora


If a trip to the Galapagos Islands is on your bucket list it may be time for you to check out the Celebrity Flora. Celebrity Flora offers the largest and most luxurious accommodations of any ship sailing that particular itinerary... and then some!

Every stateroom on board the Celebrity Flora is a suite that includes an unrivaled array of indulgent design features, services, and amenities. There are exciting dining venues, an open-air stargazing platform, expert-led ecological seminars, and custom-designed Novurania yacht tenders, which create a seamless sea-to-shore experience. However, looking deeper, it is apparent that the Celebrity Flora is much more than a gorgeous luxury mega yacht.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Azamara Expands its Land Programs


Land or sea? This is a question I ask myself every year as I plan our following year’s vacation. There are advantages to both but our love of cruising almost always wins out.  Whenever we cruise to Europe we stay a few days pre or post-cruise to explore the city of embarkation but it is often not enough.  That’s why I was so excited to hear that Azamara has expanded its land programs (note the name change…they dropped “ Club Cruises” to better define the additional land offerings).


Since Azamara was ALWAYS about destination immersion, the addition of the specially curated land packages is a natural fit. Each Azamara land program showcases the culture, natural wonders, wildlife, food and wine of a region. You can expect that accommodations and tour operators will be reputable, four to five star affiliates. With the seamless transfer to an Azamara boutique ship, you get a perfectly blended land / sea vacation experience.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

It's Time to Cruise to Bermuda!



Bermuda…pink sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, pastel colored houses…as if that isn’t enough of an excuse to immediately book a cruise to Bermuda, we’ve compiled a few more reasons as to why we think a Bermuda cruise should be a part of your summer plans!


It’s so easy to cruise to Bermuda from the northeast United States.  There is probably a departure port closer than you think; New York City, Bayonne, Boston, Baltimore, and Charleston.  It’s likely one of these ports is a short drive from your home.  In addition, there’s a good chance your favorite cruise line has a Bermuda itinerary on this year’s calendar. Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line all have multiple sail dates.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Cruising Millennials


My husband and I are “Baby Boomers,” parents to a young man considered a “Millennial.” A well-known research center estimates that by the end of 2019 Millennials will overtake Boomers in population size, 73 million versus 72 million. It is no wonder then, that many businesses including the cruise industry are making changes to gain the business of this age group.

So what exactly is the cruise industry doing to woo this generation to the sea? Here’s what I’m reading in the trades…

Twenty- and thirty-somethings don't just want to just sit and relax by the pool.  They want more to do than a traditional sports court can offer. Could that be why cruise lines are incorporating ziplines, indoor skydiving, rope courses and race tracks to their upper decks?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Why You Should Be Cruising to Cuba NOW


I just returned from a 4-night cruise aboard the NorwegianSun that included an overnight stay in Havana, Cuba. Some people have no interest in going to Cuba. Maybe they don't agree with the politics or aren't going because they think the regulations and required documentation are complicated (they’re not). Maybe they think it will be oppressive and there’s nothing to do there (that’s so far from the truth). My visit to Cuba was interesting and insightful and I recommend you consider it asap…before regulations and legislation change and you won’t have that opportunity!

When you travel to Cuba you are visiting a truly authentic destination.  Due to decades of political isolation, Cuba has remained largely undiscovered, particularly by Americans. Although Europeans and Canadians have traveled openly to Cuba for years, the country has never experienced a tourist boom. You can stroll the streets with locals instead of hordes of tourists. There are no street vendors hawking t-shirts and the island is still untainted by a Starbucks and golden arches on every other corner.  There aren’t many other cruising destinations that can boast the same.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Cruising to Key West, Florida with Kids


I’ll be cruising to the Bahamas and Florida next week and one of the ports of call is Key West.  I’m looking forward to finding a restaurant for an al fresco seafood lunch, an afternoon of strolling in and out of the many specialty boutiques and a quick visit to the Hemingway house.  It will be just my husband and myself but it got me wondering, if we were traveling with children would there be kid-friendly things to do? The answer is yes, absolutely!


The Conch Train:  Most people take this wonderful little train to get a better lay of the land, and become acquainted with everything in Key West. The "engineers" are entertaining and have so much interesting information to share.  But kids just love the ride while waving to people they pass along the way!

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Cruising to St. Maarten / St Martin with Kids


The last time my Eastern Caribbean cruise visited the French / Dutch island of St. Maarten / St Martin I dragged my husband and son around on a food tour.  I loved it but both my “boys”, being picky eaters did not have fun! Here’s some suggestions if you’re traveling with kids…of any age!


Tijon Perfume Creation:  Perfume and France (or in this case, a French Caribbean island)…the two just go together. That’s why this is such a fun experience for girls aged eight and up to enjoy. During this hands-on class, participants are encouraged to smell the hundreds of different oils and then using the droppers and beakers to create that perfect scent.  The next step is naming and bottling the fragrance. Everyone goes home with a gift bag filled with the personally created perfume or cologne, a second sample of a fragrance you’ve chosen, a moisturizer, lip balm and other goodies.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Cruising to Cozumel, Mexico with Kids

Cozumel, Mexico my favorite port of call on a Western Caribbean cruise!  I’ve been there a dozen times and I still haven’t seen and done everything (probably because I’m notorious for returning to the Mayan ruins each and every visit)! So here are some places I intend to check out in the future, and maybe you’ll want to visit too.

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park: The park is a quick ten minute taxi ride from the cruise ship terminal. Tickets include a slew of activities that the whole family will love… sea lion show, dolphin Caribbean / Mexico!
presentation, manatee exhibition, crocodile exhibition and eco archaeological tour, and of course huts, hammocks and chairs on the beautiful beach!  For an additional charge guests can take part in snorkel tours, scuba diving tours, snuba tours, seatrek tours, spa treatments, or swim with dolphins and manatees.This is one of the best adventure parks in the

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Cruising to Nassau, Bahamas with Kids


A day in the Bahamas seems to be synonymous with Atlantis or the straw market.  Looking for something different that will keep the kids occupied and happy too?  Here’s some suggestions.

The Pirates of Nassau: This is great interactive museum that your kids will really enjoy. It provides a great mix of entertainment and history of the Golden Age of Piracy in the Bahamas. Your adventure begins as you step onto a moonlit dock complete with the sounds of lapping water and pirates celebrating in a nearby tavern. There’s a replica of the pirate ship “Revenge” that everyone can board and get a feel for life on the ship. My husband loved the museum as much as my son!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Cruising to San Juan with Kids


My family has always enjoyed our time in the Caribbean, especially San Juan, Puerto Rico. We love strolling the old city, and of course the beaches.  We have also visited and enjoyed two of the three activities I’ve cited below, with hopes to try the third. I hope your family enjoys them as much as we did.
 
The Forts-There are two historic forts in San Juan, about a mile apart from one another; Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) and Castillo San Cristobal. Spain built these fortifications to secure their position in the Caribbean and protect the city of San Juan. El Morro is the larger of the two and you can either take the free trolley between them or walk. Special note…there’s a big lawn in front of El Morro fort and locals and tourists enjoy flying kites there and picnicking on the grass.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Cruising to St. Thomas with the Kids


When your Eastern Caribbean cruises stops at St. Thomas what are your plans? Many families head straight to the beach for those hours that the ship is docked, and that's always a good plan because those beaches are beautiful! However, if you and your family are looking for something else to do, here are a few suggestions.


Coral World Ocean Park: This 5 acre Eco Marine Park is located on the North East side of the island at Coki Point and is really amazing! There’s a variety of activities and attractions with aquariums, underwater viewing of the Caribbean Sea, touch pools, reefs, nature trails and more. Plus, Coral World also has many activities you can add to your visit, such as SNUBA, sea lion, turtle and shark encounters and the semi submarine ride. My family loved Coral World!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cruising to Grand Cayman Island With the Kids


Are you cruising to the Caribbean and looking for something to do with the kids when your ship docks in Grand Cayman? Well obviously there’s the gorgeous Seven Mile Beach, but if you’re looking for a different type of activity here’s some suggestions.



Stingray City:  Visit the Stingray City sandbar, a long, raised ridge in the ocean that enables you to stand in three to five feet of water. During the many tours that are available through the cruise line or booked independently, you can swim with, feed, and take memorable photos with these friendly rays. Even small children will enjoy petting the rays. It may be the highlight of your Caribbean cruise.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Caribbean Hot Spots…and I Don’t Mean the Beach


Every Caribbean island has that one place that you just have to check out while you’re there. That spot that even the locals love to visit. Here’s some of my top picks.  After all, there’s more to a Caribbean island than just gorgeous beaches!


Arikok National Park on Aruba: I visited this park by taking an all-day shore excursion via jeep.  The ride was a blast but dusty and bumpy.  Still, it’s a really fun way to see the area. Covering almost 20 percent of the island, Arikok National Park is home to a variety of unique attractions and cultural heritage sites, including spectacular caves, original Indian rock drawings, and unusual land formations. Bring a swimsuit to splash around in the Natural Pool.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Been There Done That…Barcelona, Spain


Barcelona is my favorite city in the world!  The food, the architecture, the art, the people… all keep me heading back there time and time again. If you have been to Barcelona multiple times (which may be, since there are so many cruises that leave from Barcelona) then I’m sure you’ve strolled Las Ramblas, explored the Gothic Quarter and admired the best of Gaudi (Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera).  So where do you head next?  Here’s some suggestions…


For Art Lovers: Fundació Joan Miró is a museum of modern art honoring Catalonian artist Joan Miró. It was designed by Miro himself and traces his development through multiple periods and forms. Let me say that I visited this museum knowing nothing about his work. A two hour visit was enough time to make my way around and introduce me to his art.  The museum is located on Montjuic so be sure to take the funicular up the hill so you can enjoy the amazing views!

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

A “New” Norwegian Joy Heads to Alaska


The Norwegian Joy, launched in 2017 and built specifically for the Chinese market, will be refitted for a primarily North American market.  The goal of the $50 million refurbishment is to make Norwegian Joy as close to resembling sister ship Norwegian Bliss as possible.


There’s to be a swapping out some high-end designer boutiques and dining venues, adding the go-karts and laser tag, shrinking the casino as well as adding a beer-themed bar and a Godiva shop.  In addition, Norwegian Cruise Line is supplementing their always excellent entertainment with some additional shows!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Samantha Brown Sails the Danube aboard the AmaMagna


Years ago, when the Travel Channel’s programming was all about traveling, I became a Samantha Brown fan.  I booked hotels and activities based on her recommendations and was never disappointed.  So when I saw that she had been asked by AmaWaterways to be godmother of the new AmaMagna, I took notice!


Samantha Brown will actually sail aboard the AmaMagna on the Romantic Danube departing July 14, 2019 from Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. The Danube journeys through the very heart of Europe stopping at some of the world’s most elegant, and influential cities. Multiple capitals including Budapest, Vienna, and Bratislava makes this an extraordinary itinerary for both first-time river cruisers as well as seasoned cruisers.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Cunard’s "Event Cruises"


A theme cruise can be a bit tacky (I shudder at the thought of an Elvis cruise filled with a ship of hip-gyrating impersonators of the “king”) or it can be tasteful (maybe a week dedicated to outer space that doesn’t involve dressing up like r2d2). For the latter experience look no further than Cunard’s unique event cruises.



Here’s a small sample of what Cunard has planned for 2019 and 2020:
Big Band Ball voyages:  Saxophones, trumpets, trombones…music that calls for you to dance the night away. This is the cruise to strut your stuff!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Been There Done That…Athens, Greece


I have a Mediterranean cruise booked for the fall that will once again leave from Piraeus, the port city located within the urban area of Athens, Greece. I’ve been to Athens several times before, staying anywhere from a day to several, pre-cruise.  I’m at the point where I’m searching for some new things to see…places that don’t make the original “bucket list.” Here’s what I’ve found and plan to add to my itinerary.


Lake Vouliagmeni (Sunken Lake): Located just outside the city center, this is a small fresh water lake fed by underground currents seeping through Mount Hymettus. The lake is mineral rich; potassium, calcium, iodine, natrium…minerals known for the relief they give to hurting bones and muscles, eczema, headaches, arthritis and other ailments.  In addition, schools of small fish will approach swimmers and feed off of their dead cells, a practice that may seem a bit gross or weird, however there are many spas in the city that will charge for such a treatment!  Because of the year-round comfortable water temperature as well as the surrounding amenities (beach chairs, changing rooms, restaurants) Lake Vouliagmeni is thought of as a year-round spa visited by both locals and tourists.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Been There Done That…Venice, Italy


Venice is such a magical city I don’t think I will ever tire of visiting. Should it be included on any of my future Mediterranean cruise itineraries I’m happy to wander the city’s maze of alleys time and time again, yet it’s always fun to seek out a spot to explore that I’ve never been to before.  Here’s a few “off the beaten path” destinations I’d like to share from a previous visit.


Burano:  I’ve taken a water taxi to Murano many times in search of a lovely piece of glass, but never made time for neighboring island, Burano.  I rectified that on a recent “girlfriend trip.” Burano is a fisherman’s island with brightly colored houses lining its boat-filled canal. It is said that houses are painted in this manner because it made it easier for returning fishermen to find their homes in the thick fog of the lagoon.  Strolling the streets is a photographer’s (and tourist’s) dream! My friends and I admired the lovely lace in the shop windows and made time for a leisurely lunch of fresh fish over just as fresh pasta! Exploring Burano is a wonderful way to spend a day.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Been There, Done That...Florence, Italy


Is your Mediterranean cruise stopping in Livorno again?  You’ve already visited all the major sites in Florence, made side trips to Pisa and Lucca too.  No worries, there’s still some great places in Florence to explore that you may not have known about.  Here’s some suggestions.


The Oltrarno District

I always try to put aside some time for shopping when I’m in Florence. Strolling from booth to booth
at the San Lorenzo leather market, window shopping the jewelry stores along the Ponte Vecchio, and of course those chic designer shops! However, on my last trip to Florence this past October I was introduced to the Oltrarno district of Florence, just over the Arno, where lots artisans and independent workshops are located. I can’t believe it took me so long to discover this area! Here you will find artisans carrying on the genuine tradition of their ancestors; creating marble paper, handmade shoes, mosaics, ceramics, gilded wooden frames and so much more. There is nothing I enjoy more than chatting with the artist, taking a picture together, then bringing home his or her wonderful design.  A perfect souvenir from another amazing Mediterranean cruise!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Been There, Done That…Rome, Italy




Every city has those iconic sights that every traveler makes it a point to see on their first visit.  But what happens when you return to that city for the second or third time and you’ve already checked off the highlights on your bucket list?  Here are some of my favorite places that are a bit off the beaten path in Rome. 

Roman Aqueducts
My husband, a civil engineer, says the construction of the aqueducts in Rome (300 BC to 200 AD) was one of the most remarkable feats of ancient engineering. Consisting of conduits, tunnels and
pipelines, aqueducts used gravity to bring water from far-away springs and mountains into cities. The large arched stone structures that we associate with the systems were built to maintain an appropriate water height when the system crossed a valley or other land that dipped in elevation. To view a large, well preserved section of such a structure in Rome, we headed to Parco degli Acquedotti, located 5 miles outside Rome’s city center. It is just so amazing to see these beautiful ancient structures still standing! Although we had a driver for the day, you can get to the park using public transportation; take the metro line A to Lucio Sestio or Giulio Agricola and from there it’s a 15-minute walk into the park. The park itself is lovely, a nice place to step away from the hectic pace of a Mediterranean cruise. Even better, bring a picnic lunch!