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Archive for the ‘travel talk’ Category

 

 

Wow!  March Madness is upon us with college basketball teams getting ready to compete for the national title and bragging rights.

But I believe there is other March Madness in the air too!   Spring breaks, celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, pollen in the air, warm sunshine, and lots of cabin fever blues to be shed!

Even here in the South it has been an interesting and long winter season.  Spring couldn’t come soon enough – minus the pollen though. I know it is crucial to the success of a wonderful blooming spring but does it have to cover everything in sight?!

Personally, I’ve been busy planning last-minute spring break vacations for families who decided it was time to get away.  The cruise ships and resorts will be at capacity for the next few weeks!

But on a much sadder note the madness could not have been predicted when an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.  Mother Nature at her fiercest.   My prayers go out those in need.

Do you have March Madness fever?   Hope you find a cure – even if it is getting outside for a moment, taking a deep breath and enjoying the sunshine!

Happy Travels!

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Happy New Year to everyone!  My goal is to write more on this blog in 2011.

So it is Day 5 of being snowed in (more like iced in).   While the family time has been wonderful – great crock pot meals, watching movies, playing games – the gray days have not been so nice.    But there is sunshine today which brightens my day and we are going out later today. 

But during this time I’ve had time to get organized for the year and begin to think about adventures that are to come for 2011.    A big birthday on the horizon, some summer time fun, maybe a trip to see the leaves change.

What’s on your horizon?  There are some wonderful new cruise ships on the seas now, great resorts opening in the Caribbean and beyond and some fabulous new shows in Las Vegas.  You name it, there is a travel destination in mind!

So dream big in 2011!  Make this the year to enjoy travel with friends and family.   Start checking off items on your Bucket List.  Simply travel.

Happy 2011 and here is to happy travels!

Oh sunshine, it is so nice to see you today!

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It’s been too long since I posted on this blog!   Life certainly gets in the way.   During my hiatus I was blessed to travel with some family members on a 7-night cruise.   While being with family and escaping to tropical destinations was wonderful, the service experience before the cruise and while onboard was disappointing.  It seems this particular cruise line has cut corners (even for a new ship) that greatly impacts the satisfaction of their guests.  Without going into boring details, I will say that our family will think twice before sailing with the cruise line again.

This situation was one of few lately that makes me doubt if customer service is alive and well.    Polite tones of voice, finding answers to questions, not getting disconnected, actually following up when promised, doing what you say you will do.   These are not outrageous requests for a customer.  Correct?

This is indeed a busy time of year and everyone seems to be a little more stressed, over worked and simply crabby. Maybe we should all take a deep breath.   We could all use a ray of sunshine every now and then too.  I think what I have learned from the events of the last few weeks is that I don’t wish these stresses on my customers.   I smile more often when talking to my clients now and have been reminded of why I love what I do.

So thank you cruise-line-that-shall-remain-nameless (unless you ask me directly) for reminding me that human connections and customer service (yes it is alive!) are more important than the bottom line!

May you and your family have a happy holiday season!

Happy Travels!

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Things are busy this time of year as we prepare for the end of the year.   Travel specials are plentiful like the season.

This is also the time of year when the leaves are changing and the air is getting crisp.  Football is in full season.  Apples are ripe and pumpkins are ready for picking too.  This is my favorite time of year!  

Along with this season, comes Halloween and Thanksgiving before winter sets in and Christmas is here before you know it.  Whether you take a hay ride with the family at your favorite pumpkin patch or sip apple cider at a bonfire while making smores, this is the season to explore the outdoors.   Maybe take a road trip to New England or the Great Smoky mountains for leaf watching or make your favorite Halloween costumes from scratch.  Travel local or travel far and wide.  One of my favorite fall memories is a Canada/New England cruise out of Boston we took years ago.

Whatever you choose, enjoy this season as the weather cools and winter nips at your heels.  Spend time with the ones you love and be thankful for each day you have together.    Enjoy the season!

Happy Travels!

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A good question lately!  Once there was a rather large dust-up when it was disclosed that a major cruise line had given away some free cruises to a core group of its fans who posted regularly on a large cruise community site.  There were many cries of “foul” and “reverse censorship”.  While this may have been blown a bit out of proportion, it does open the door to a question lots of novice cruisers ask.  And the question is “Should I trust the reviews I read on sites like Cruise Critic?”  The answer is Yes and No.

Why the ambiguity?  Because the most important thing to remember that what you are reading is just one person (or couple’s) opinion about a particular ship, cruise line or service amenity.  Have you ever gone to a shore side restaurant that a friend raves about and found it to be very disappointing?  I think we all have.  And what about that fabulous plumber who was recommended strongly?  The one who broke the pipe and flooded your new carpet?  Oops.

So, it is best to consider these reviews with a note of caution.  They are good for general trends and recommendations and certainly provide some insider tips.  Generally, if there are a large number of reviews and all or most of them are negative on a topic, there is likely to be some underlying cause. 

The fact that 80% of all people who cruise indicate they will sail again points out that if you work with a knowledgeable travel agent and he or she matches your needs with the most suitable ship, it is almost inevitable that you will have a great vacation!

How relevant to you find cruise reviews to be?

Happy Travels!

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I was thinking of these tips just the other day as I was planning a last-minute trip for a family of five including three teenagers!  

The family summer vacation has been planned, hotels picked out or maybe a family cruise, bags are being packed and anticipation of the travel is escalating.   But traveling as a teen in today’s world presents more challenges in years past.    Yet with the right guidelines in place, a fabulous vacation can still be a reality.

So here is my travel advice for teens:

  • Program into your cell phone an “In Case of Emergency” or “ICE” entry.  The entry can be your parent’s phone number or the person you are traveling with.  Apparently emergency workers such as the police are trained to check cell-phone address books for an ICE entry to find a person to contact.
  • There’s safety in numbers and no exploring should be done without a buddy. Before you take off on adventure though, also program the hotel’s number in your cell phone and make sure you have a hotel card or stationery with the address on it.
     
  • This is common sense but bears repeating.  Do not accept rides, drinks or food from strangers.
  • Don’t walk around listening to your iPod or chatting on your cell phone. In new surroundings, you need to be aware of what’s going on around you at all times.  Besides this way you can take in all the beautiful scenery around you as well as the local culture.
  • Be aware of the lack of privacy on most of the Wi-Fi free systems, whether in a coffee shop or in an airport.  Gmail uses a secure login page by default, which means that the username and password are encrypted. But the actual mail can easily be read by an eavesdropper. Yahoo Mail and Hotmail offer secure login as options.
  • Finally, set a protocol for the requirement of a password should a stranger say your parents have sent him or her to fetch you in an emergency.  The password remains the same for every trip and outing.

Keep these safety tips in mind, always keep the communication open with your parents, and most of all have a fun vacation.   Before long you will be off to college and these trips will be memories!

Happy Travels!

Do you have some travel tips for teens?

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I was pixie dusted at an early age and grew up near Walt Disney World.   When I was a junior in college I was accepted into the Walt Disney World College Program and my dream of becoming a Cast Member was realized.   I worked as a lifeguard during that summer and loved every minute of it!  When I graduated from college I packed my belongings and dreams and headed back to the magical place in hopes of becoming the next marketing guru for Disney.   Though I didn’t become the next guru, I had the most wonderful time working for Disney and love to share my experiences with others. 

As a Cast Member we see so many different sides of Disney and the parks than the regular guests.  I have many stories to tell but here are just a few insider tips:

  • Nothing cools a hot summer evening than eating an ice cream cookie sandwich on Main Street U.S.A. at the Main Street Bakery while watching the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom!  Fun fact – the windows on Main Street U.S.A. contain names of people who have contributed to Walt Disney’s dream.   Walt Disney’s name is above the Ice Cream Parlor.

 

  • Take naps!  I saw so many guests in the middle of a hot summer day with their children in tow who were obviously beyond tired.  Tickets are expensive and we all try to maximize our time.   However, take a break in the heat of the afternoon and take a nap – even adults too!  You will feel revitalized and ready for the evening parades and fireworks and a much a happier family.

 

  • Don’t forget Downtown Disney.  This is where I worked (at the time called Disney Village Marketplace).  It is home to Disney Quest as well as Cirque du Soleil but also shops, gardens and yummy eateries.  It is a great place to visit the first night you arrive in Orlando before you head to the parks for the rest of the week.  If you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter you can take a free water taxi to the complex too.

 

  •  Look for Mickey!   I don’t mean just the actual Mouse but hidden Mickeys in the rides and attractions. It has been told that there is a Mickey silhouette in many of Disney the attractions.  For example, on Splash Mountain he can be found near the steamboat as an outline in the clouds.
     
  • When you want to meet Mickey without fighting a crowd?  A must-visit place is the Judge’s Tent at the Magic Kingdom – a designated location at Mickey’s Toontown Fair where Guests of all ages can meet the famous mouse for autographs and pictures.

 

  • A bit of Disney trivia.  According to legend, Walt Disney first came up with the idea of Mickey Mouse while travelling on a train from New York back to California.  He had just lost his rights to Oswald the Rabbit and he came up with the idea for the mouse.  He originally named him Mortimer but his wife Lillian convinced him to change it to Mickey Mouse because it sounded cuter.

Most importantly, I so often saw families and individuals just enjoying time together. During the holidays, it made me miss my family more!  It’s not about the souvenirs, what rides you ride or where you stay, it is the time spent together that makes the memories! At a Disney destination, those memories are certainly more magical!

I will always fondly remember my years when I worked for the Mouse.  I look forward to sharing new experiences with my family as I hope you do too! 

Happy travels!

What are your favorite Disney vacation memories?

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