Cruisin’ with Kids

One of the first cruises I took (30+ years ago), there was nothing for kids to do aside from walking around on deck and maybe find someone who would play a game of checkers or shuffle board with you. But, cruise lines have finally figured out that kids influence their parents’ and/or grandparents’ decision on where to go and what to do on vacations. Imagine that!

Now, the cruise lines have created both structured and un-structured programs for different age groups giving them their own space and parents the opportunity to enjoy some adult time and be on vacation too. They even offer baby sitting services for a fee, of course. The Disney Cruise Line, for example, has the Flounder’s Reef Nursery for ages 3 months to 3 years, the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab is for ages 3 to 12, the Edge entertains tweens and teenagers from ages 11 to 13, the Vibe keeps 14 to 17 year-olds jumping and the Chill Spa is for teens only.  These cruise lines are also revolutionizing their cabin designs on new ships being built with configurations that are family friendly with staterooms that can accommodate 5 people comfortably like Carnival Cruise Lines’ Dream-class ships.

If you haven’t considered a cruise with your kids, you may want to take another look. Check out our website with the low down on what the cruise lines have to offer your crew.

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Filed under Cruises, Traveler Tips, Activities, Family Travel

Book online but keep your local support

There are so many options out there for booking that at times, it can feel overwhelming. That is why it’s great to use a travel agent. We can help narrow down what works for your destination, budget and travel needs. Plus, by booking your vacation package through us – you can put down a deposit and then your final payment isn’t due until 60-45 days prior to your departure instead of having to pay it all upfront. Of course, if you’re booking something within 60-45 days of travel, the total is due at the time of booking.

But, if you like doing your own research and booking things online; we have that too. Check out our BOOK IT NOW page on our website. It takes you directly to some of our favorite travel companies’ websites  – like Apple Vacations for example with flight/hotel packages to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico and more –  while keeping track of our agency information. This way, you can check out all the different aspects of your trip but still have our local support to help answer questions or take care of certain details. And, in the event of a problem with your trip, (the best laid plans and all), we’re there to help get things back on track.

If you have questions about any of these companies or their destinations, give us a call. Let us help you find the best deal for your dollar, needs and dreams. Or, book it online and have us as your backup should you need it. HAPPY LABOR DAY

 

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Filed under All-inclusives, Caribbean, Cruises, Family Travel, Florida, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico, Tour Packages, Traveler Tips, USA

Latin America’s Foodie Destinations

Most people visit Latin America for its sprawling coastlines, mountain vistas, spicy culture and lush rainforests. However, it’s the vibrant, bold, down-right-delicious food scene that keeps them coming back. From piping hot empanadas plucked from a street cart to tart ceviche enjoyed with an ocean view, these cities provide inspiring cuisine. Take these great ideas from our Travel Tips Quarterly. Give us a call for you next Foodie Adventure.

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Buenos Aires derives its incredible cuisine profile from a mix of Latin and European influences. Mostly known for beef, its world-famous Argentinian steak can’t be missed. Pick up a breaded meat fillet, known as a milanesa, from a street vendor or sink your teeth into the perfect cut of tenderloin at Cabaña Las Lilas, one of the city’s famed eateries.

Cartagena, Colombia – Any visit to this great walled city must include ample samplings of the street food, starting with the arepa. These soft baked corn pancakes are packed with a dazzling array off luscious fillings, ranging from melted cheese and steak to sweet dulce de leche. Along with arepas, the street food scene is buzzing with out-of-this-world dishes like chorizo kebabs, fresh squeezed juices, fried green plantains called patacones and tart, zesty ceviches.

Lima, Peru – Arguably one of the top culinary destinations in the world, Lima blends Incan, European and Japanese influences to create dishes with a seriously intense flavor profile. Visit the best-rated restaurant in Latin America, called Central, where you can enjoy beef ribs with blue-green algae or a coca leaf Pisco Sour. Thanks to the influence of Japan, make sure to try taradito, the city’s take on sushi, or succulent noodle bowls.

Mexico City, Mexico – To get a taste of everything the City has to offer, take a food tour with Eat Mexico – which will introduce you to antojitos, the “little cravings” street vendors hawk, as well as take you through the culinary hub of the city, the Mercado de San Juan. Definitely try a traditional taco, which will be the best you’ve ever had, but also step outside your comfort zone with a soft corn tortilla filled with grilled or fried bugs – it’s a Mexico City staple!

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Mexico, South America, Traveler Tips

Jamaica’s Intimate All-inclusive Resort

Let the sea breezes and the calming sounds of a lush, tropical forest lull you into a state of serenity at Sunset at the Palms. While providing all the amenities of an all-inclusive resort, the size of it (at 85 rooms for a maximum of 170 guests) will leave you feeling pampered within this quiet and serene backdrop. Adjacent to Jamaica’s largest and best-preserved wetlands, the most common sounds are frogs and birds.

Their accommodations only enhance this immersive experience with luxurious tree houses made from local wood with king-size beds, stocked mini-fridges and private balconies. These tree-top suites offer two floors with two outdoor spaces – one has a hammock.

They have a pool with a swim-up bar, an open-air spa, tennis courts and exceptional dining. There’s an outdoor buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If buffets aren’t your thing, they have the elegant Lotus Leaf for a multi-course Caribbean-fusion-feast. There’s also the Chef’s Showcase where the chef presents 4 courses of locally sourced and inspired dishes – all under the stars.

Besides the great location of a garden setting, their private beach club allows you to stroll Jamaica’s beautiful, undisturbed white-sand beaches. If that’s too sedate, they also offer water sports, free Wi-Fi service, tennis, live music nightly and weekly guest cocktail parties. For those needing more pampering, they also have an on-site SPA.

Rediscover the all-inclusive thing at Sunset at the Palms. Call us today to feel pampered at this hidden gem with an intimate ambience and it’s warm and gracious staff.

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Filed under All-inclusives, Caribbean, Couples Only Resorts, Jamaica

Stretching Your Euros in Europe

Not often touted as a budget destination, there are a surprising number of cities in Europe that cost far less than you think to visit. To stretch your travel euros further, we recommend you skip the traditional jaunts to Paris, Rome and London and visit one of these just as charming, slightly unchartered and equally breathtaking cities instead.

León, Spain – A far cry from the prices of more popular Madrid or Barcelona, León has some of the least expensive food in the entire country. After visiting the city’s famed cathedral, stop for a drink and enjoy tapas and a glass of Rijoa wine for as little as one euro. Experience the culture of the city with a self-guided tour to the picturesque old quarter, known as the Barrio Humedo, or through the Palace of the Guzmanes, a 16th-century palace now home to the City Council.

Krakow, Poland – If you’re into drinking and nightlife, Krakow is your place – featuring more pubs per square kilometer than any other city in the world. For perspective, you can sip on Belvedere vodka in one of the city’s trendiest nightclubs for less than four euros. Beyond drinks, there’s plenty of free sights and architecture to see in the Medieval Old Town, like the Royal Castle of Wawel, and in the Jewish quarter of Kazimerz, home to some 150 synagogues and churches and over two million works of art.

Budapest, Hungary – Built on a natural thermal spring, Budapest has long been a place people flocked to for spa treatments and soothing mud baths. Despite many luxury spas, there are quite a few that have bath tickets with cabins or lockers for as little as 17 euros, like the famous Szechenyi Baths or 16th-century Csazar Baths. Beyond mud spas, you can take an affordable bus tour through the hilly, historic Buda side of town and a self-guided walking tour through the modern Pest side to see the fascinating contrasts between old and new.

Prague, Czech Republic – Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the prices in Prague have remained reasonable, with four-star hotels costing around $100 USD per night. Plus, the city boasts a vast array of free activities, including a visit to the gothic St. Vitus Cathedral built in 1344, a Jewish Quarter with a fascinating history, the Vysehrad 10th-century castle, Moser Glass Factory and more. For locals, their favorite low-cost activity is packing a picnic and gazing over the city from Perin Hill.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Europe, Family Travel, Traveler Tips

Build-A-Bear comes to Carnival Cruising

Hosting 700,000 children a year as the family cruise leader, Carnival Cruise Lines just announced an exclusive partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop to further enhance the wide variety of family-friendly activities available on board their fleet. My kids are going to go nuts especially since we’re going on a Carnival Cruise next summer!!

Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea will provide children of all ages (that includes me too) sailing with Carnival an opportunity to make their own furry friend that can be customized with a variety of outfits and accessories. As with all the workshop’s cuddly critters, each one comes with its own “birth certificate” with the animal’s name and date they were created. They will also have their own “voice” with a built in sound chip containing a recording of a special message from the child that creates it! Also available will be a St. Jude Bear with proceeds benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Prices for the bears start at just $20 with outfits and accessories starting at $5.

Carnival Dream will be the first ship with a Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea. They expect to have a complete roll out of this initiative fleet wide by summer 2017.

For more information about your next Carnival Cruise, contact us at 618-687-2100 or toll free at 800-437-8747 or send us an email at tbirdtvl@msn.com.

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Filed under Cruises, Travel News, Traveler Tips, Water Adventures

World’s Most Unique Museums

Museums offer wondrous insights into culture, but sometimes it’s hard to get excited about shuffling quietly through yet another velvet-roped hallway, standing several feet away from prized artifacts while being closely watched by stern-faced security guards. If you’re ready to add a little shock to your awe, give us a call and consider visiting one of the following museums instead. Posted from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter.

El Museo de las Momias (Museum of the Mummies): Guanajuato, Mexico
Mortality is on full display at the Mummy Museum, where the decayed remains of hundreds line the walls to haunt your vacation for a few hours. Here, the line between life and death is glass thin, yet the resulting effect on visitors is dramatically inspiring.

Museum of Broken Relationships: Zagreb, Croatia
Heartbreak is a gripping storyteller, and those stories are artfully displayed at this award-winning museum. You’ll find such relics of emotional collapse as video confessionals, a garden gnome used to smash a car window, and an axe that helped one jilted lover dismantle her ex’s furniture.

Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA): Cancun, Mexico
Not only will you need a ticket to enter MUSA—you’ll also need scuba gear. While floating around this aquatic art gallery, you’ll find 500 sculptures up to 20 feet deep, all of which are slowly turning into coral reefs.

British Lawnmower Museum: Southport, England
Did you know that Princess Diana owned a lawnmower? You would if you visited the British Lawnmower Museum, which showcases the past, present and future of these landscaping yard cruisers.

Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments: Prague, Czech Republic
If “Iron Maiden” makes you think of the spiked body cabinet instead of the English metal band, then this is the museum for you. Sixty fascinating torture devices are on display, each with a useful tutorial on how they were used to extract top secrets from enemy spies.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Europe, Mexico, Traveler Tips, Water Adventures