San Juan and Celebrity Summit – Day 1


Beth at airport

Preparing to Take off on a Jet Plane

11/4/15 – It’s finally here.  The day Pam & I leave for our big vacation.  We have been planning this for over a year, put our deposits down in January and finally, we are heading to SeaTac airport tonight for our 10:15 PM flight.

My neighbor, Mark, is going to care for my cat Mango,  

and drive me to the airport.  He comes downstairs for some Mango instructions and asks me up for a pre-trip glass of wine.  I do some last minute packing, then head upstairs.  His wife, Lisa, is suffering from knee pain and won’t be taking the ride with us so I want to say goodbye and thank her for helping with my cat.

We got out of the house about 5 minutes later than planned, and I’m just buckling my seatbelt when my phone buzzes with a text from Pam “I’m here at the airport at the Sports Page bar by gate D4.  What??  It’s only 7:50.  I tell her I’m just leaving but being TSA pre-checked I should be joining her about 8:30.

It’s an uneventful drive, and Mark get’s me there right about 8:15 as planned.  Check my bag, through security and sitting with my first Bloody Mary in front of me just after 8:30. 
Our flight starts boarding right on time, and by 10:15 we are taxiing down the runway – on our way to sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico for 2 days before boarding Celebrity’s Summit.

(I promise better pictures in my next post.  Most of mine are being held hostage in my digital camera, I can’t find the cord)

Ruby Princess – Day 7 – At Sea


Our last day was at sea. I really do enjoy sea days and like to have the last day on the ship be at sea so that I can just relax.  I started out this day by going to a Culinary presentation in the main theater and then a galley tour.  It was really interesting.  Of course, I didn’t take notes, but besides demonstrating how to make a simple pasta dish and a Caesar salad with dressing, they also told us how many eggs, bread rolls and some other staggering statistics from the kitchen.  The galley we toured serves both of the main dining rooms.   

After this I headed out to the pool with my niece, her son and boyfriend.  We had some cocktails and got some sun.  They had a lot of fun stuff going on right next to us including a cocktail making competition and ice sculpting demonstration.  I won a free cocktail – yay!!  At some point we went up and played miniature golf – it’s a pretty lame course, but a way to kill some time.  We also found the “video arcade” with 4 ancient games in it that evidently eat your money.         

This day was pretty much like our other at sea day.  I’m going to finish this post with my overall review of the Ruby Princess.

I hadn’t cruised in about 4 years and this was my first time with Princess, and I have to say I was a little disappointed.  Since I’ve come back I’ve done some research and it seems that I am not alone – the overall cruise experience on the “mass market” cruise lines seems to have gone down in the last few years.  The Ruby Princess is a beautiful ship with a lot of great things.  I loved the International Café; Vines Wine Bar could have been more enclosed to make it feel more special, but the service was good; the Crown Grill was incredible; Princess Cayes was a nice alternative to having a 3rd sea day; the entertainment was good; the internet café had plenty of computer and the speed was much better than in the past; the Trident Grill made good burgers; the adults only Terrace Pool was a plus as well.  On the down side, I found the food in the main dining room to be uninspired – the preparation was good, but the choices were not very interesting; the overall service on the ship was lacking – although my room steward, Henry, was very friendly and did a good job; the Casino had a sign up one morning that it would be smoke free that evening, but when I went in people were smoking; I didn’t like the big screen over the Calypso Pool with movies & concerts playing all day – it was too noisy for me and this was where the comfy lounge chairs were – although I thought Movies Under the Stars at night was a great idea. 

I just did not feel the WOW factor that I’ve had in my previous 5 cruises.  I will definitely not set my expectations so high the next time I go cruising.

That’s it for the cruise.  We were back inFort Lauderdalethe next day.  We stayed over one night at theCrownePlazanear the port/airport.  It was really nice and comfortable and in a very convenient location.  I would recommend this hotel.  We rented a car and drove down to Miami to check out South Beach.  Had a little lunch and walked on the beach.  It was very windy and a little overcast, but still warm.  This was a nice relaxing end to our week.

Ruby Princess – Day 6 – Grand Turk


I was excited to visit Grand Turk because I had not been to the Turks & Caicos before.  I’ve read about it and knew that the water was beautiful.  We rented a golf cart to explore the island on our own.  We just had to walk out of the cruise terminal and there was Nathan’s golf carts (and jeeps).  We got a quick lesson in how to drive it and we were off.  There was a man on a bicycle following us – I thought he was going to overtake us for awhile, but then we started up a slight incline and pulled away.  Whoo, that would have been embarassing.  We passed the airport.  Our hope was that we would find a great beach where we could do some swimming and hopefully see some fun fish.

We came to Landfall Beach and stopped and looked around.       There were some great shells and the view was nice, but we couldn’t swim because it was very rocky (big rocks) and it looked like it got deep pretty quickly.  When we got ready to leave, we had trouble getting the golf cart started.  It seemed to be flooded.  The good thing was, it was so light weight we could just push it into the shade and relax while we waited for it to recover.  Soon we were on the way again. 

We had a lot of fun riding around.  There were a lot of burros grazing around the island. 

We saw a group of about 8 – 10 horses just walking down the street. Lot’s of dogs – most of them looked pretty healthy, but there were a couple that were so thin they just broke my heart.  We went to the lighthouse – what a view from this spot.        

We drove through some neighborhoods and got chased by a couple of dogs – my niece and I were worried about losing a couple of toes.  Floor this cart, get us out of here!  There were some really nice houses on Grand Turk, and some that were not so nice.  The island itself is very flat and dry – I wouldn’t go out of my way to go back. 

After touring the island for a couple of hours, we headed back and dropped off the golf cart.  Then we headed to Jack’s Shack for our free shot of rum and a late lunch. 

Everyone in our group was pretty tired and not into the party atmosphere here, so after lunch we headed back towards the ship.  As we were heading back the sun was starting to go down – I was a little disappointed because there had been a couple of souvenir stalls on the beach that had closed up. 

I stopped and did a little shopping at the pier – I still needed a couple of things to bring home, like rum cake and cooking sauces (that reminds me, I still have a rum cake – need to take a quick break).  By the time I finished it had started pouring rain.  Oh, well, it’s warm rain.

A lot of people just stay on the beach near the cruise ships – there is a big Margaritaville with lots of beach chairs.  If I was on a cruise that stopped in Grand Turk again, I would probably just spend the day at the beach – probably Jack’s.

I’ve posted more pictures on my Facebook page if you’d like to see more scenery.

Ruby Princess – Day 5 – St. Thomas


I’ve been to St. Thomas several times before, but I do love it so was excited to go back again.  This time the plan was pretty much the same as in the past – a little shopping, then head to the beach.  I woke up not feeling great – a little too much rich food, I think – so I decided to skip the shopping and just meet up at Lindbergh Beach.  It was nice to sleep in a little, have a light and leisurely breakfast, and get off the ship after most people had already gone.  It was a little strange when I was walking out of the port area (which always has some shops and such for those who don’t want to venture too far) to see all the Christmas trees and decorations.  It just didn’t feel like Christmas was approaching with the sunshine and 80 degree weather. 

I had a little trouble getting a taxi because I was alone and the trip to the beach was only $4 per person.  In the islands it often costs so much a person and the drivers weren’t going to make anything off of me.  Finally one driver said he would take me – and he had a full size van.  It’s a quick trip and most people were already off the ship so he was good with it.  By the time I got there the family was already there.  Dennis (or Jacques as I’d started calling him) was out swimming with his goggles on looking for fish.  Danielle was at the bar ordering Red Stripes – thank goodness she saw me in time to add one to her order.  I pulled a chair up next to theirs, paid my $6 to the gentleman who was in charge, drank a little beer, then headed into the water. 

When we found this beach 5 years ago, it was pretty unknown and deserted.  More people have found it, but it’s still much less crowded than some of the more popular beaches on the island.  Last time there were 2 vendors, this time none.  The area we sit on is in front of the Island Beachcomber hotel.  There is a great little bar there for drinks and lunch.         

Right behind the beach is the airport, but there are not a lot of flights so the noise is not a problem. 

This hotel is adjacent to the Best Western Emerald Bayand the beach on that side is a little more crowded.  I would definitely consider staying at the Emerald Bay in the future.  I have had clients stay here and after seeing the beach the first time I understood why they enjoyed it so much.    

One of the great things is that this is a nice little cove which is great for swimming.  You can go quite a ways out and still touch bottom – it’s all nice and sandy with no drop offs.  We spent several nice hours here drinking beer, swimming, sunning and having a little lunch.  The only fish we really saw were close to shore – there were a bunch of silver fish about 4 – 6 inches long, when one would come up to you suddenly there would be a bunch of them.  Kind of freaky.  There were a couple of sailboats moored in the cove – I seriously considered swimming out and stowing away on one so I wouldn’t have to come home.              

The taxi drivers on these islands are great.  They know when the ships leave and they start coming around to the beaches an hour or so before you really have to leave to make sure that everyone gets back.  I guess they know that we are going to lose track of time.  We rode back in one of the open air jitneys – this is my nephew wearing the cool sunglasses he bought in town that morning.     

Although we had a fabulous day at the beach, we were looking forward to that night because we had reservations at the Crown Grill.  I’ve always been one of those people who couldn’t understand why, when there is so much fabulous food included with the price of the cruise, anyone would want to spend $20 – $30 to eat in the specialty restaurants.  I decided that as a travel consultant I should try it so that I could advise my clients as to whether it was really worth it. 

We started with the appetizer – most of us had scallops and foie gras.  I’d never had foie gras before, and frankly didn’t like it so passed it off to Dennis.  The scallops were fabulous though!  I had the goat cheese salad which was really tasty.  For the main course my nephew ordered a 22 ounce Porterhouse, my niece and I ordered the Maine Lobster Tails (we didn’t notice the plural and thought we were getting one 4 ounce tail).  This is what we got! 

Amazing.  And we still had dessert to come.

We were at the restaurant for 2 ½ hours.  The service was wonderful – we really enjoyed this experience.  I am a believer now!  This was a fabulous dining experience.  For $25 per person ($12.50 for my 12 year old nephew), you can’t beat it.  I will always recommend that my clients try the specialty restaurant at least one night during their cruises from now on.

I think I’m going to need to spend a week on St. Thomas so that I can see some other beaches, take the ferry over to St.  John and see what else it has to offer.

Ruby Princess – Day 4 – St. Martin


I went up on deck, with my camera this time, as we sailed into St. Martin/ St. Maarten.  I had forgotten how hilly and beautiful this island is.        

As we came closer to the pier, I could see the other ships in port, including Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.  It was next to one of the Carnival ships and it is HUGE!            

I tried to get a shot from the side, but could not fit it into on frame.  We had decided to go to Orient Beach because Pam wanted to do some parasailing.  I remembered Orient Beach from my first trip toSt. Martin years ago.  When you exit the port area, there are waiting areas for the various destinations you might want to visit while on island.  You just find the appropriate sign, get in line, and soon you are in a taxi or little bus and on your way.  Very well organized.  The drive was about 30 minutes through the countryside and neighborhoods of St. Martin.  I always enjoy seeing the local houses and businesses along the way.

The taxi dropped us by Bikini Beach and we headed off to get some chairs and umbrellas – $18 for 2 chairs with an umbrella which I think is pretty reasonable.  Pam was anxious to get to parasailing, but I wanted a beer or 2 first.  I got a bucket of beer, and by the time I had half Pam had convinced me to just go check it out.  We went over to the closest Parasailing place and were told they only had room for 2 more that day so if we could pay now we’d be next out to the boat.  We understood that to mean that they were booked up for the day, and if we wanted to go we had better go now.  So we went back for our money and got the life jackets on and were told that we would be taken to the boat by jet ski.  Alright!  Parasailing and a jet ski ride with a hunky guy for $50 – seems like a deal to me.  It was really windy this day and the waves were pretty big.  Pam got motioned out for the first jet ski and she managed to get up on it and one big wave hit her, she rode that one out, when the next wave came in the ski had turned sideways and over she went.  Oh, boy, it’s funny when it happens to someone else, but I’m going to be next.  Finally both she and the driver were onboard and headed out to the boat.  Another guy motioned me out and he got me on the back, gave it a little gas while he pulled himself up, which seemed to work a little better.  It was a pretty bumpy ride out to the boat, but having owned my own jet ski years ago, I always enjoy the ride.

When I got to the boat I realized that there were about 3 parties ahead of us still to parasail.  Ok, so we get a little boat tour along with our jet ski ride and parasailing excursion.  It turned out to be fun though because everyone on the boat was happy and fun, and we got to watch several people before our turn which made me a little more comfortable.  Unfortunately, our friends who were taking pictures from shore had no way of knowing when it was our turn so the pictures are of random people parasailing. 

Pam went first, I felt it was a good sign that she was still smiling when she came back onboard.  Finally it was my turn.  I’d been told by a friend years ago that parasailing is fun going up and coming down, but kind of boring when you’re up there.  That is pretty accurate.  It an interesting sensation going off of the boat – a little scary.  When you get up in the air, it’s interesting to look around at the surrounding islands and you can see a lot.  I felt sort of suspended in the air – like I wasn’t moving, but I could see the boat moving below.  Then they are reeling you in.  This is a little nerve racking because you can hear the harness creaking, it makes you think about what you’ve been hanging from for the last 10 minutes or so.  The 2 guys running this operation liked to give us a little dip into the water before bringing us all the way in.  There was a father with his teenage daughter who went a couple of people before us who lifted their feet and ended up going almost under the water.  This seemed to encourage our guys to dip us all a little more than they had been doing.  I definitely got wet – but it was fun and very refreshing.  Finally I was back on the boat and before long back on the jet ski heading back to shore.  My driver this time was a little better at threading his way through the waves so it wasn’t quite so bumpy most of the way in, but when we turned towards shore it got pretty rough again.  Getting off that jet ski was a challenge and I even hit the edge a bit with by behind as I got into the water.  I’m glad I finally parasailed, but don’t think it is something I need to do again.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the water, drinking beer and relaxing.  There were quite a few vendors on the beach.  I did buy a blouse that I could use as a bathing suit cover up, but I have plenty of tote bags and island jewelry from previous trips.  There was a water trampoline a ways out.  Pam and I swam out to it.  My niece and great nephew soon joined us and she commented that she hoped no one came out to collect their $5 (or was it $10?).  What?  On the side of the trampoline in big letters there was a $ sign with either 5 or 10 after it so apparently at some time someone was charging for you to use this.  We hung out there for awhile, but it got a bit hot, and I basically rolled off back into the water and headed back to shore.  That was a pretty good swim with that rough water, but I LOVE the Caribbean water.  This was a great day – just what I want when I’m cruising theCaribbean.

Eventually we decided we should head back to the ship.  No problem getting a taxi (in fact, we had 2 drivers almost come to blows over us). 

We did not do any shopping, although the driver did stop so people could get off and go intoPhillipsburgand shop.  We opted to go back to the ship, rinse the sand off, and enjoy the ships amenities.

Cruising on the Ruby Princess – Day 3


Not only did I not take pictures, I also didn’t keep a journal of my trip like I usually do, so I can’t remember everything I did.  During our first day at sea, I spent some time on deck reading.  I took a nap.  I had some cocktails.  I ate in the buffet.  I explored the ship.  I went to Vine’s Wine Bar before dinner.  The Ruby Princess has a lot of amenities and there is something to do all the time.  If you want to eat you have the choice of the buffet; the International Café which has salads, sandwiches, desserts, cheese trays, and gelato; the pizza and ice cream bar; Trident Grill for very good burgers and hot dogs; and more.  As for cocktails, there are numerous bars including Vines, Crooners Martini Bar, Wheelhouse Bar; Explorers Lounge, Club Fusion and of course Skywalkers nightclub; you can try your luck at Gatsby’s Casino; Movies Under the Stars – they actually show movies and concert footage most of the day so you can enjoy entertainment by the Calypso Pool; music by the Neptune Pool; you might prefer an adults only atmosphere at the Terrace Pool or the Sanctuary; there is entertainment in the Atrium area – jugglers and musical entertainment; maybe get a Spa Treatment – I didn’t, but Pam & Rosanna did and said it was fabulous; a not great mini golf course, but a way to spend some family time; and much more.

This was the first of 2 formal nights during the cruise, so I did dress up and met up with my niece and her family for pictures before dinner.  They actually came out pretty good and we all bought one.  My scanner is not working or I’d post it. 

I decided to go to the show after dinner.  No one else was up for it, but I got there about 20 minutes early.  I always look forward to their big musical productions – I can’t remember the name but it was kind of a Broadway tribute with lots of singing and dancing.  The boat was rocking pretty good again.  The good thing about the rocking was it made me sleepy which was great at night.  The bad thing is it made me sleepy so I was having trouble staying awake anytime I sat still for very long.  I was seriously having trouble staying awake until the show started.  It was a really good show and I’m always amazed that the dancers can manage to dance in heels and do lifts and all on that rocking ship.  Unfortunately, I only made it through about a half hour before I had to head to my room and bed. 

I love sea days because it is so relaxing if that’s what you want, or you can be busy all day if you want.  Personally, I like a good, lazy day at sea.

Cruising The Ruby Princess – Day 2


One of the things I enjoy most about cruising is that it’s so easy to just head out to eat whenever you are ready and I don’t have to wait for my travel companions or try to decide where to go.  This morning I decided to just order room service and got a breakfast sandwich, banana, juice and milk.  No charge except for a tip to the delivery person.  I love that!

I met up with my group to get off the ship and take the tender ashore.  Pam had gotten a clamshell (little cover with 2 chairs) and we were renting aqua chairs and snorkel equipment.  When you get onto Princess Cayes (their private beach area on theislandofEleutherain theBahamas) you head left for the free, unreserved chairs or right for the clamshells and beach bungalows.  We headed to the right and dropped our stuff at the clamshell and Dennis and I snorkeled up and headed into the water.  The others got a cocktail and headed out in their aqua chairs.  I was somewhat surprised at how many fish we saw in the roped off swimming area.  There were not a lot of swimmers on this side so the water was pretty clear.  We saw some fairly big blue fish with yellow stripes on the side, some flat blue fish that looked like the kind you see in aquariums (one turned on it’s side and waved at me), some yellow & black fish, plus more.  I also enjoyed looking at the plant life on the bottom of the sea. 

This is really a great place for a beach day.  They have some shops so you can do some souviner shopping; a couple of bars so you can get drinks – as well as waiters on the beach which I loved; you can go just outside of the Princess property for some more shopping (we didn’t do this because everything we needed was inside); they serve lunch (no charge – just like on the ship) on both sides – hotdogs & hamburgers, with salads and desserts on our side and a BBQ on the other side; watersports rentals; even a few excursions.  You can go back and forth to the ship if you need to.  I think the last tender back was around 3:15.  Here is the one picture I took this day – our ship from shore.

This day was Pam’s actual birthday so we went out and partied.  We stayed very late in the disco.  There was a lot of ship movement on this cruise so the dance floor was pretty interesting.  As time went on people seemed to adjust and when the ship rocked, we all went with it.  As a group we’d dance from one side of the floor to the other – almost like a line dance.   A good time was had by all.

Cruising on the Ruby Princess – Getting There


My friend, Pam, decided last year that she would like to take a cruise for her 40th birthday.  She chose the Ruby Princess because it sailed the day before her birthday and had a nice itinerary.  We hoped for a big group, but ended up with 6 of us which turned out to be a great number for doing excursions together and dining together.

Disclaimer: as soon as I left my house I went into extreme vacation mode.  I took very few pictures during this vacation which is odd for me.  Usually I have pictures of the hotel rooms from every angle, airport shots and lots of scenery.  I am hoping to get my travel mates to post some on my Perfect Paradise Vacations Facebook page so you might check there occasionally to see if they do.

I was traveling with 3 others and since our flight was at 7:30 Saturday morning we decided to stay near the airport.  We stayed at the Doubletree at Seatac and we had a really nice room (and yes, we got warm chocolate chip cookies on check in).  We had a suite – the main room had 2 queen beds, a little seating area, flat screen TV, good size closet and bathroom.  The 2nd room had a king bed, seating area, flat screen TV, and a sink – but no bathroom.  Very comfy beds, but we weren’t there for very long – just a short nights sleep.

We flew on Delta and since Dennis travels a lot for business we got to do VIP check in and boarding – I love that.  Our flights went well.  We did have a long layover inDetroit, but it gave us time to stretch our legs and get something to eat.  This is a large airport – we arrived at gate A2 and our connecting flight was at A65 or something like that.  As we were walking through the terminal my 12 year old nephew noticed that gate A55 looked like it said ass – we all got a chuckle out of that. 

We got intoFort Lauderdaleat about 10:30 Saturday night so we just had another nights sleep at our hotel.  We stayed at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina.  We are pretty sure our room was downgraded because the Oakland Raiders were staying there before their game withMiamithe following day.  Our room was tiny.  Barely room for the 2 double beds, and once we got a rollaway for my nephew we were wall to wall beds.  I did take a picture of the closet which didn’t even have room for us to put one of our suitcases in. 

The great thing about this hotel is that it is very close to the Port Everglades pier.  We dropped our checked bags and then went and did some shopping for bottled water, wine and a few things we had forgotten.  Got onboard around 1:30 I think.  Check in was very smooth, we walked right on and our rooms were ready so we dumped our carry ons and headed to the poolside bar.  We did a little wandering around the ship to sort of orient ourselves, and later in the afternoon we bumped into Pam and Rosanna and had another cocktail or two.  Enjoyed dinner in the main dining room and then some of us went out and listened to some karaoke after dinner.  It was a pretty early evening for me after all the traveling.

I booked an obstructed view room so that I could see what it was like – not bad on this ship.  What do you think?

         

What’s New with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines?


As part of my continuing travel education, I attended a breakfast seminar this morning put on by my local business development managers for Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club cruise lines.  Wow!  Do they ever pack a lot into 1 ½ hours.  There is a lot of cool, new stuff happening with RCCL and I’m happy to be able to share it with you.  I’m only going to hit the highlights. 

If you are into cruising, you probably have heard of the new Oasis class ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.  RCCL is doing Royal Enhancements on all of their ships, and so far have completed 3.  They will be rolling this out onto the rest of the fleet over the next 3 years until all the ships have the most popular features.  They even upgraded the Oasis of the Seas with the Dreamworks Experience which was previously only available on the Allure.  Plus they added a 3D movie theater. 

They have upgraded the Freedom of the Seas and the Liberty of the Seas with the following:

  • Dreamworks Experience (this does not include as much as the Oasis & Allure, but still a fabulous experience for the kids.)
  • 3D Theater with First Run movies.
  • Outdoor, Poolside movies.
  • The Cupcake Cupboard
  • Vintages Wine Bar
  • Royal Babies & Tots Nursery (for 6 mos. – 3 YO, babysitting for $8 per hour, 3 – 1 ratio kids/staff.  You know you want a romantic evening without the kids!)
  • Enhanced Wi-fi throughout the ship.
  • Digital Wayfinder System (touchscreen system – type in your room # and find out the quickest way to get there.  Find out what’s happening & where right now.  What restaurants have no waits and much more!)
  • Chefmakers Cooking Academy– classes such as Knife Skills, Small Bites & Cocktails, Quick & Easy Fish, Wine & Dine, Spa Cuisine, Kids with Kids Baking and more.  (This is one of my favorite enhancements, right after the Digital Wayfinder)

The next ship to be done is the Radiance of the Seas.  It will have many of these same features, but it will also have many new dining venues such as the Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse, Rita’s Cantina, Giovanni’s Table, Quill & Compass Pub and more.  They will also have a Chef’s Table experience for a maximum of 14 guests where the chef will create a 5 course meal paired with wine.  They’ve also added a few new cabins.  Next will be the Splendour of the Seas – and then the rest of the fleet. 

Azamara Club Cruises doesn’t have the dramatic ship upgrades that their sister Royal Caribbean does, but they WOW you with the experience.  They offer unique itineraries offering cultural immersion and experiences; an informal, country-club atmosphere; fabulous regional cuisine and wines; more overnight stays; 45% of their port stays are until 8PM or later; 694 passengers to 408 crew members with 70% of the rooms having balconies; few children because there are no childrens programs, and more inclusions and amenities in the price such as:

  • Gratuities (dining, bar & housekeeping)
  • Bottled water, sodas and specialty coffee & tea.
  • Select vintage red & white wine at lunch and dinner.
  • Self service laundry
  • Concierge service.

Suite guests get even more inclusions including Butler Service and Complimentary Specialty Dining.  They have some incredible new itineraries for 2012, and some fabulous specials including discounts for booking air with their Choice Air program (same, or better, rates as you will find published on other sites); 50% off select shore excurisions; some great single occupancy discounts and more. 

Azamara also offers great Golf  Themed itineraries where they have paired with PerryGolf.  You can play spectacular, challenging courses in countries such as Spain, Italy,France, Portugal, Wales and Ireland.  They even have a cruise planned to coincide with the 2013 British Open.  The Golf Package includes too much to list here, but some highlights. 

  • Green fees & Confirmed starting times (including cart and gratuities)
  • Practice range & range balls where available
  • All golf bag handling between ship & golf courses and onboard club storage in a secure location
  • Full time Golf Manager throughout the voyage
  • Cocktail parties, Golfer’s social events onboard, 2 special onboard dinners, and special events for non-golfing guests.

The package offers one price for golfers, and a reduced price for their guests who can still attend all the social events onboard.

Azamara also has cruises for Carnival and New Year’s Eve in Brazil, the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and more special events.  They will take care of tickets and transportation for you for these events.

Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises really can take you to the world – Caribbean, Europe, Asia and more.  Let’s get cruising!

The exciting life of a Travel Agent


As a travel agent, you probably think I travel all the time.  Oh, how I wish I could.  But who would take care of my clients and book their trips if I was traveling?  And my dog would miss me.  And then, there’s that pesky part time job that pays the bills during slow travel months.  Instead, I spend a lot of time reading travel magazines – both mainstream and industry publications; taking webinars and classes offered by tourist bureaus, hotel/resort companies, The Travel Institute, etc.; and of course, watching The Travel Channel.

This past weekend we had a rare, for us this summer, beautiful warm weekend.  Normally I would spend the whole weekend outside enjoying the sun, but this weekend I was suffering from a toothache and 2 sleepless nights.  I did get some pain meds from my dentist on Saturday (thank you so much, Dr. Fisher!) but still had very little energy by Sunday afternoon.  So, I turned on the Travel Channel and they had two great back to back episodes that featured beaches in the United States.  Since I specialize in tropical destinations and beach vacations I tuned right in, and took notes.  I wanted to share some of what I learned.

The first episode was on Extreme Beach Experiences and first aired in 2007.  Here are some beaches you might want to check out depending on your interests.

Sand Dollar Beach at Big Sur,CA.  This made the list for Surf Kayaking which utilizes a modified kayak to ride the waves like you would in surfing.  It looked pretty amazing and I would love to go to watch, but don’t think I would try it.  This is on a beautiful, long stretch of beach at Big Sur, and you find the entrance at Los Padres National Forest.  The best time to go is September.

Extreme Happy Hour can be experiences at Shooters Waterfront Café inFort Lauderdale on the Intercoastal waterway.  This sounds like a pretty happening place if you are into a party – million dollar yachts, fresh seafood, daily specials, entertainment, special events and best of all, great people watching!

How about some Extreme Snorkeling on the North Shore of Oahu.  North Shore Shark Adventures will take you out (best time is early morning) to “swim with the sharks”.  Don’t worry, you will be safe in the shark cage they put you in before they start throwing bloody bait into the ocean around you to attract the sharks.  I think this is something I might be willing to try.

Newport Beach, CA offers extreme body boarding at “The Wedge”.  The waves break at a depth of 1 – 2 feet so if you wipe out, you may seriously wipe out.  One of my friends told me the did this when she was a bit younger, and it is pretty crazy.  I might watch, but won’t partake. 

For extreme sports, Huntington Beach, CA has it all.  The Travel Channel said they have Beach Games during the first 2 weeks of July, but I can’t find it on their calendar.  However, there are tons of events going on all the time – surfing, volleyball, skateboarding contests, music & entertainment. Huntington Beachhas been known as “Surf City, USA”.  Definitely a fun place to spend a few days anytime.

You might also want to try some extreme swimming (read very cold) at the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska.  You can also do extreme salmon fishing on a river near here where your guide will be equipped with a loaded gun in case a brown bear wants to challenge you for your catch (this one you can do as an excursion from your cruise). 

The second episode I watched was about the 10 best Florida beaches.  This originally aired in 2003 so some things may have changed in the last 8 years.  But, I would still love to visit a few of these beaches.  I’ll just list them briefly:

#10,Daytona Beach– 23 miles long, best for activities such as surfing; rides and fun on the boardwalk; biking, ATV’s or golf cart rides on the beach; or just drive your car onto the beach til you find your spot and spend the day.  #9, Sanibel Island – one of the best places for shell collecting in the world – great sunsets, relaxing, and friendly people.  #8, Panama Beach – best for Spring Break – 500,000 come then – 26 miles long – 19,000 hotel rooms and the businesses cater to the Spring Break party crowd during March – the other 11 months it’s a quiet, cozy beach town.  #7, Sandspur Beach on Bahia Honda Key – secluded, quiet, relaxing – 3 miles of beach.  #6, Smathers Beach on Key West– this spot is closer to Havana than toMiami– it was built with imported sand from theBahamas– volleyball, sunsets, nightlife on famous Duval Street.  #5, Clearwater Beach near St. Petersburg on the gulf is a boaters paradise with soft, white sand.  #4, Lovers Key – secluded for romance – boating, canoeing, biking – outside Fort Myers.  #3, Palm Beach– the playground of the rich and famous – high end shops – rub elbows with the wealthy.  #2, Siesta Key Beach on the gulf coast near Sarasota– the white, sugary sand is the softest you will find – volleyball, swimming, watersports – and sand sculptures.  #1 is no surprise –South Beach, Miami.

So, that’s how this travel agent spend the last, beautiful, sunny weekend we had here in thePacific Northwest!