You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

At the beginning of May, I traveled to the wonderful country of Ecuador.  I was invited by the Tourism Board of Ecuador to be part of a delegation to tour the 3 major cities of their country – Quito, Cuenca & Quayaquil.  Now Ecuador seems to be really far away, but it is not as far as you think…It is only a 4 hour flight from Miami! 

The journey began at one of the highest cities in the world – Quito.  It sits at 9,300 feet above sea level.  It is also located close to the Equator (can you guess how the country got its name?)  Now, during the first breakfast, the group was given Panama Hats to wear.  Each day we were told what about the crime has been committed – the hats should be called the “Ecuador Hat”, since they are made there and only exported to Panama.  I am not a huge hat person, so I ditched my hat rather quickly.  Much to my dismay, I did not clearly think through the reasoning behind why the Ecuadorians gave the kooky Americans the hats…bottom-line – I burned my scalp the first day!

CIMG2338

Whoops, sorry for the divergence –Back to Quito…

Quito is the capital of Ecuador and has a population of 1.5 million people.  Quito has been declared an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage City.  $400 million has been spent in restoring this colonial city.  The city is 30 miles long and 5 miles wide – just imagine a very large hot dog…  It is the gateway to all of the wonders of this country – Amazon Rain Forest is 1 hour flight, Cloud Forest is ½ drive, Galapagos Islands is just a 2 ½ flight. 

We started off on our first day with the introduction breakfast at the new convention center, which is the site of the old Hospital Eugenio Espejo, built in the early 1900’s . What a great venue!

CIMG2337

From there we spent the day touring the Old Colonial City, which included several churches, including the country’s oldest church which dates back to 1535 – San Francisco.  We even got to see a real live monk!  We lunched at a restaurant that completely overlooked Quito. Food was great (filet mignon), but the view was even better! 

Lunch in Quito

Wherever we traveled within Quito, the Monument of the Virgin Mary was evident.  It was like she was following us…

CIMG2360

We ended our day by attending an evening party in our honor.  The people of Quito truly opened their hearts and their city to us. Not to mention, they really know how to paarrrtyyy!

Quito Ball 3

There was plenty of food and drink.  I was even able to avoid one of the Ecuadorian’s delicacies – Guinea Pig!  Yes, I said Guinea Pig. 

Bright and early the next morning – 4:30 a.m. (remember we were partying the night before…)  we headed off the airport for our trip to Cuenca.  I will forego the comments on the CHAOS of transporting 165 buyers & travel agents, plus suppliers, event coordinators, tourism board members and press (330+).  All is forgiven because one of the BENEFITS of flying from Quito to Cuenca is you get to fly over the Avenue of the Volcanoes!  Honestly, I am convinced the pilots are use to the entire plane congregating onto one side to get the incredible pictures!  Yes, I was waiting for the plane to tip!  However, it would have been worth it, given the incredible views we had!

 Volcano from Airplane 2

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Cuenca!

Advertisements

I know this is not as fun, glamorous or as exciting knowing that The Count coming to the Beaches Resorts…However, traveling without travel insurance is like leaving home without any pants on!  Huh?  I move on –  Just like any other professional (lawyers without wills, doctors that don’t take their own advice), I too am a victim of traveling and not having Travel Insurance, when I truly needed it!!!  Neil reminds me all the time of our trip to the Mediterranean for 18 days and we started out the first 3-4 days with any of our luggage.

OS24012

Travel insurance is more than just coverage for those bags that decide Paris is much more suited for them, than Barcelona.  Many of us don’t truly understand our own health coverage when we are at home, let alone if we are outside of the State or even the Country.  Many HMO’s do not cover you when you travel.  YIKES!  Same could be said for PPO’s, as well.  You might have the BEST coverage, but cross over a Stateline…fuggedaboutit.”

Truly, when paying for a hard earned vacation that you worked all year for, isn’t the small investment to protect that trip well worth it?  I now do!  I tell all of my clients about my personal experience and then of my poor sweet bride…She was at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for her Bachelorette Party – Woo Hoo, Party!  They were all at the pool with their foot long sized margaritas and low & behold as my bride was stepping out of the pool, she slipped and landed directly on her knee!  Of course, she crushed said knee, requiring surgery to reconstruct it and was on crutches for 2 months – yes, she walked down the aisle with them!  She and her groom were booked to go to the Hilton Waikoloa on Big Island and I know you can guess – NO TRAVEL INSURANCE!  All she wanted to do was to snorkel in the Hawaiian waters…The change fees for the air and hotel were pricey!  Far more than what the insurance would have cost.  Lesson learned!

So what prompted this post today was a story I received from my Travel Insurance Supplier that I work with.  WOW!  I am so glad these clients had the coverage! 

Honeymoon Heartache

Alfredo and Anne of Pennsylvania were on their honeymoon in exotic Riviera  Maya, Mexico. The honeymoon hotspot, which boasts ancient Mayan ruins and a spellbinding view of the water’s edge, seemed like the perfect place for a scuba diving excursion. The experience should have been breathtaking. Instead, it took Alfredo’s breath away – literally – when he dove into a wave, struck his head and his whole body went numb. He needed help immediately.

Though he was quickly rescued from the sea, local medical personnel soon found that he had a severe spinal injury and lacked movement in most of his body. Even worse, Riviera Maya lacked an adequate medical facility to treat spinal injuries. Thankfully, Anne had purchased a travel insurance plan. While doctors attempted to stabilize Alfredo at the local hospital, she called Travel Assistance Coordinators assessed the situation and ordered an air ambulance evacuation to the closest medical facility qualified to handle Alfredo’s complex diagnosis.

The Travel Insurance company coordinated the evacuation to Miami, where Alfredo underwent successful surgery. Anne and her family members were thankful that the Travel Insurance Company was able to keep them informed of Alfredo’s fragile condition during this difficult time. And, Anne was pleased at how quickly they were reimbursed for their medical expenses!

So when planning your next trip that I book for you 😉  whether for business or pleasure, I know that mishaps are the furthest from your mind.  Fortunately, when the worst does happen, having Travel Insurance Coverage will be worthwhile!  I will tailor your coverage to your needs!

 

 

Last month I discussed the good, the bad & the ugly in regards to the Sea Princess.  Feel free to re-visit the post, but let’s just say I was less than impressed.

After having a telephone conference with my rep for Princess this morning, I think there might be hope for the Sea Princess after all!  She is going into dry dock in September for about 2 weeks.  Oh my, what in the world could this mean?…. Well, let me tell ya:

A new piazza-style atrium with an inviting street cafe atmosphere and a new dining option – The International Cafe which will serve up specialty coffees, fresh baked cookies, pastries, panini sandwiches and tapas;  an adults-only Sanctuary aka, the “pocket of tranquility” (see below for more details).  For the Staterooms – Flat screen TV’s; new mattresses; new bedding; and new lampsoms.  There will be a revamped menu in the main dining rooms. Of course new carpet paint and varnish, where needed.

For those moms out there who need a little get-away from cruising with the family, there is a place to hide –  The Sanctuary!   Guests will lounge amidst lush greenery, with the presence of gentle breezes, ocean waves, and softly piped-in spa music combining to further insulate the area with relaxation sounds.  Guests can relax on plush outdoor furniture including double loungers for couples (yes, bring the hubby along and check the kids into the Youth Program), as well as, deluxe chaise lounges and chairs. Passengers also enjoy the personal attention of Serenity Stewards in The Sanctuary, who are on hand to provide everything from a chilled face towel and Evian water atomizers, to a menu of healthy beverages and fare. Serenity Stewards also have personal MP3 players with noise canceling headphones available loaded with themed playlists focused on relaxation for those who want to escape with music.

3523615474_699be78903

Guests can also refresh with a variety of special drinks and snacks created exclusively for The Sanctuary.  Each day Serenity Stewards will be on hand to offer guests an array of drinks and snacks.  Signature Sanctuary beverages include healthy smoothies, energy drinks, iced flavored waters and freshly made lemonade.  A menu featuring a selection of light bites such as refreshing fruit skewers, lettuce wrapped spring rolls, and spicy tuna pate with baked pita wedges will also be available through the Serenity Stewards.

Half-day passes for The Sanctuary are available for $10 per person, for 8 am to 12:30 pm or 1 pm to 5 pm.

So next year, when I stop on by and take a gander at her new fresh look, perhaps my review of her will be much better!

HIGHRES-The%20Piazza

The Olympics are coming!  The Olympics are coming! 

I don’t know about you, but my life is not complete unless I can go through the winter and pretend I am the expert judge (not a Russian one!) on what is a proper or improper Triple Lutz Jump or even if that was a full and complete Biellmann Spin…

Just when you thought it was too late to reserve accommodations in Vancouver this coming February/March for the Olympic Games…Here’s a deal you cannot pass up:

untitled

You want to see the Winter Games in Vancouver, but every hotel in the area is sold out!

EXCEPT ONE!

Receive $200 in Onboard Credit on
3 & 4 day Vancouver Winter Games
packages, starting at $350 pp/day!

Receive an additional $200 in onboard credit when you book back-to-back packages!
Offers valid on bookings made on or before Sept. 30, 2009.

NCL’s luxurious Norwegian Star—a magnificent cruise ship filled with restaurants, bars, a spa and more—will be docked across from Vancouver’s famed Stanley Park during the Olympics.

Reasonably-priced three and four-day packages are available, featuring daily transfers to the city’s SeaBus Terminal, free meals, nightly entertainment and much more.

Base your Olympic adventure onboard the Norwegian Star for a unique vacation experience you will never forget.

 

This exceptional offer is available only through –   

LAUREN LIEBERT – TICKET TO TRAVEL  

Contact us today at (650) 906-6000  

 
3 & 4 Night Olympic Packages—
February 10 – March 2, 2010—include:

  • Meals while on board including 24 hour room service
  • Airport transfers
  • Captains cocktail reception
  • Daily transfers to SeaBus Terminal
  • Nightly entertainment
  • Daily activities
  • Special concierge desk

Starting at $350 per person, per day – Plus port charges, taxes & gratuities

4-Day cruises before and after
the Winter Games

Los Angeles to Vancouver
Feb 6 – 10, 2010
Starting at $25 per person, per day
Receive $50 in onboard credit!

Bon Voyage Cruise
Vancouver to Los Angeles
March 2 – 6, 2010
Starting at $50 per person, per day
Receive $100 in onboard credit!

Just when you didn’t think the wonderful dining experience on a cruise can get any better!   Princess Cruises now takes gourmet to a new level -Chef’s Table!   In putting together today’s blog, I found my tummy grumbling…

Designed as a unique treat for “foodies,” Princess Cruises has introduced a new Chef’s Table experience on select ships, and will expand the program across the fleet. Chef’s Table offers a select group of gourmands the rare opportunity to be welcomed into the ship’s galley to enjoy a full evening of memorable sights, tastes and conversation hosted by the executive chef.

While many passengers are able to enjoy galley tours during the quiet off-hours, the Chef’s Table experience takes interested diners behind the scenes during the height of dinner preparation where they’ll also enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a special multi-course tasting dinner paired with selected wines at a special table in the dining room. 

Chefs_Table05

The chef previews the details of the menu he created for that evening, and the group is welcomed to their special table in the dining room.

Here’s an example of what your dinner menu can be for the evening:

Hors d’oeuvres and Champagne in the Galley

  • Blue Crab Margarita with Avocado and Mango
  • Foie Gras Terrine on Toast, Apple Chutney
  • Fontina Mini Quiche with White Truffles
  • Buckwheat Blinis with Caviar and Creme Fraiche

Dinner, accompanied by Red and White Wine

  • Asparagus Risotto with Lobster Tail and Claws
  • Lip-Smackin’ Bloody Mary Sorbet (topped with a splash of Grey Goose Vodka)
  • Trio of Beef, Veal, and Pork Tenderloin on Medieval Spiked Flambe Roastie
  • Jus, Salsa Verde, Bearnaise Sauce, and Cafe de Paris Butter
  • Dirty Rice with Corn and Pine Nuts, Grilled Asparagus and Charred Cherry Tomatoes
  • Potted Stilton with Port Wine and Walnuts, Rosemary Biscotti
  • Iced Amaretto Parfait, Vanilla Plums and Brandy Snap Tuile
  • Coffee or Tea and Homemade Gourmandises

The multi-course menu is specially created by the chef, and is not offered anywhere else on the ship. During the dessert course, the chef rejoins the group at their private table to participate in a discussion about the evening’s meal, answer questions, and share culinary secrets perfected during many years of experience at sea and on land.

Additionally, each couple at the Chef’s Table will receive a personalized autographed copy of Princess’ best-selling cookbook, Courses, A Culinary Journey. 

The Chef’s Table experience can be reserved by up to 10 passengers per night, at a cost of $75 per person.  

Contact me about further details on planning your next cruise!

Ahhh Disneyland…My true childhood play-land.  Growing up in Southern California, Disneyland was the “Main Attraction” for us kids.  Yeah, we had Knott’s Berry Farm, Magic Mountain & Universal Studios, but none of them can compare to the magic of when will we got to see Mickey or Goofy or even those chipmunks.  (I can never remember their names????)

Now not to date myself, but when I was a kid and you went to Disneyland, you were given the Ticket Booklet.  The tickets came in different denominations, from A through E, with E tickets being the most expensive and reserved for the newest, most expensive or popular rides and attractions.  Of course all of the great rides such as the Matterhorn and Space Mountain were “E” tickets and we never seemed to have enough! 

WOW!  This brings back memories!

WOW! This brings back memories!

However, I do remember the abundance of those “A” tickets we never used!  Really?  You don’t get the opportunity everyday to go to Disneyland, so what kid wants to waste his/her time on King Arthur’s Carousel!

Now let’s leave Never, Neverland and talk about present day – Today you have 2 parks to choose from – Disneyland & California Adventure!  No more of those pesky tickets – now there are Park Hoppers!  Visit both parks in the same day – very cool!   Far more characters to look out for and you can even go to a restaurant where you are guaranteed to see them!

So those of you big & small kids alike, if you missed out this summer, there is a Fall Special in place!  Check it out and give me a call to get in your Disney fix before we enter 2010!

Now through Dec. 20, 2009, you can save $400* when they buy a 4-day/4-night Disneyland® Resort vacation package. That’s as little as $87, per person, per day.

Booking and Travel Window:
Booking Window: Aug. 12 – Dec. 19, 2009
Travel Window: Aug. 23, 2009 – Dec. 20, 2009

Each Package Includes:

  • 4-Night accommodations at one of the Hotels of the Disneyland® Resort
  • 4-Day Disneyland® Resort Park Hopper® souvenir ticket

Plus, These Special Benefits:

  • Mickey’s Toontown Morning Madness** – An extra hour in Mickey’s Toontown with everyone’s favorite Disney Characters
  • Preferred Seating – Available at select attractions in Disney’s California Adventure® Park
  • EXCLUSIVE! Collectible pin, lanyard and luggage tag (one per person)
  • Disney Character Calls – Get a complimentary phone call from Mickey, Minnie or Goofy. (This is an extra benefit for online bookings only)
  • Plus More!

*Ask me about the additional details…

mickey_minnie_disneyland_small

huge_79_397238

Sorry everybody, but I have been down for the count with one of the worst head colds I’ve had in years.  I just got this info from my Princess Rep and I thought I would share the info with you.  I love having San Francisco as a departure port for these cruises!   For those of us locally it does not require any flying.  For those out of town, it gives you the opportunity to come in a day or 2 ahead and experience this very cool city!

So drop me a line if you are interested in any of these itineraries!

ALASKA

  • May 22-Sept. 19, 2010 SEA PRINCESS  10-day round-trip from SFO.

           (Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm/scenic cruising* &   Victoria)

            *some itineraries call on Glacier Bay, June 1, June 21, Jul 11, Jul 31, Aug 10   

MEXICO

  • Sept. 29, 2010  SEA PRINCESS  10-day round-trip from SFO (Catalina, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego)
  • Apr 8, 19 & 30, 2011 STAR PRINCESS  (3 voyages) 11-day round-trip from SFO (Acapulco, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas)

PANAMA CANAL

  • Sept.16, 2009 ISLAND PRINCESS 15-day SFO to FLL (Acapulco, Huatulco, Punta Arenas Costa Rica, Fuerte Amador for Panama City, Panama Canal, Cartagena, Aruba)
  • May 7, 2010 SEA PRINCESS 15-day FLL to SFO (Aruba, Cartegena, Panama Canal, Punta Arenas Costa Rica, Hualtulco, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas)
  • Oct. 6, 2010 ISLAND PRINCESS 15-day SFO to FLL (Cabo San Lucas, Punta Arenas Costa Rica, Fuerte Amador for Panama City, Panama Canal, Cartagena, Aruba)
  • Oct. 9, 2010  SEA PRINCESS 16-day SFO to FLL (Cabo San Lucas, Punta Arenas Costa Rica, San Juan del Sur Nicaragua, Fuerte Amador for Panama City, Panama Canal, Cartagena, Aruba)
  • April 25, 2011 SEA PRINCESS 16-day FLL to SFO (Aruba, Cartagena, 2-day Canal experience, Punta Arenas Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas)

EXOTICS

  • Sept. 22, 2010 SAPPHIRE PRINCESS 30-day SFO to SYD (Honolulu, Lahaina, cross the Equator, Bora Bora, Papeete, Moorea, Pago Pago, Apia, Fiji, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Fiordland Nat’l Park/scenic cruising) 

COASTALS

  • Sept. 20, 2010 SAPPHIRE PRINCESS 2-day Vancouver to SFO (no ports)
  • May 11, 2011 STAR PRINCESS  2-day SFO to Vancouver (no ports)
  • May 14, 2011 ISLAND PRINCESS 2-day SFO to Vancouver (no ports)
  • May 19, 2011 CORAL PRINCESS 4-day SFO to Vancouver (Victoria)

I have not discussed any Hawaii related travel, so when I saw this special today.  I thought I would discuss it briefly.

Resort View Room –  4th night free; American buffet breakfast daily at the Palm Terrace restaurant for a maximum of two guests per room; Daily Aloha Fun Pass per room, per day.

4 nights from $469 per person

hwv_signature_b

If you haven’t been to this resort, you are missing out!  It is Hawaii’s version of Disneyland.  Located on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, the extraordinary property offers an unforgettable experience shrouded in breathtaking gardens, rich wildlife, and tranquil waterways.

This complex stretches out for a full mile and embraces 62 acres of lavish gardens, lagoons and electronically controlled waterfalls. Guests chose between trams or the favored mahogany cabin cruisers to get around this huge site.  The village offers a dolphin lagoon, a saltwater swimming lagoon, two large pools, and an adults-only pool.

hilton-waikoloa-village-trains-and-boats
For those looking for a fantastic location for a Destination Wedding – stop looking any further!!!  Immerse yourself in island culture and tradition with a truly inspired destination, offering an authentic Hawaiian experience in an unforgettable oceanfront setting.  There are several wedding packages and a wide variety of reception venues to choose from.  The options are endless.

hwv_romance_justmarried_b

Book Now & Travel by 12/18/09

One of my favorite supplier’s is running a special for Panama.  What a great alternative to the usual Mexico.  Get a taste of both worlds – Rainforest & Beach!

pbonita

 

price $598


PROGRAM INCLUDES:

  • 2 nights accommodation at Gamboa Rainforest Resort – River View Room
  • 3 nights accommodation at the Playa Bonita Resort & Spa – Deluxe Ocean View Room
  • Daily breakfast buffet
  • Transfer from Intl. Airport – Gamboa Rainforest –
    Playa Bonita – Intl. Airport
  • All hotels and resort taxes

CHILDREN, 11 YEARS OLD OR YOUNGER, STAY FREE *
WHEN SHARING ROOM WITH PARENTS

foto_2_grande 

* Price is per person sharing double occupancy room. Max. 2 children per room.  Subject to availability.

Hi Everyone!

A real quicky today – Cabo.  It easy to get to, especially from the West Coast!  Some great all-inclusive resorts can be found there.  Even better – you can also find a tremendous amount of Villas to rent there, as well.  Great idea for families!

I was sent this clip from one of my wholesalers that rents Villas.  You have gotta watch it to the end.  AMAZING!  Who wants to go?  I know I do!!!

http://vimeo.com/5679213