Category Archives: Action/Adventure Travel

Whale Watching

You catch the bubbles out of the corner of your eye. As you turn, you see the churning sea water smooth out for a quarter of second before the behemoth surges upwards, higher than its bulk should allow, arcing into the air with its white throat pleats glistening in the sun. As it lands with a roaring splash, a massive, forked tail flips up, hovers momentarily as if waving, and then slides back into the deep waters with a whispered gurgle.

Whether your name’s Ishmael or not, watching a whale surface is an unforgettable experience. Luckily it’s an experience you can enjoy in nearly 120 countries, yet these are our favorite spots.

Alaska – Like humans, whales love to sail through the cold, glacier-fed waters of the Last Frontier. While more than 20,000 Gray whales will swing by on the way to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas of Northern Alaska, Humpbacks are the real draw here. You’ll see quite a show when groups team together and form large circles to trap vast shoals of herring, and then propel themselves upwards with mouths wide open.

Australia – Whales, apparently, can’t get enough of Australia’s stunning coastlines and tropical waters. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s whales can be found here, more than 45 species, including Southern Rights, Minke whales, Blues and Orcas. Unlike Alaska, they come down under to breed and raise their young in the shallow, sheltered waters of the Whitsundays and Hervey Bay, where you can spot the grand creatures from viewing platforms placed along the coastal roads.

Dominican Republic – Christopher Columbus noticed whales in the DR’s Samaná Bay and Silver Bank areas back in 1493, and visitors have been returning ever since. In the clear, Caribbean waters, you can watch the gentle giants swimming peacefully among the corals, or, if you’re feeling brave, you can snorkel besides the 40-ton Humpbacks and peer into their dark, dinner-plate sized eyes.

South Africa – Watching Humpbacks and Southern Rights line up for an endless buffet of krill and sardines on the nation’s southern coach is, to some, even more rewarding that seeing African elephants and Cape buffalos on a game drive. You can often spot whales easily at outdoor cafes in the delightful company of a glass of Pinotage from Stellenbosch. For closer observation, head to Hermanus, the self-proclaimed whale-watching capital of the world, where your clothes may get soaked by whales breaching just a few meters from the seaside footpaths.

This excerpt is taken from our Travel Tips Quarterly. Check out our website and sign up for these informative newsletters along with alerts on specific sales to your favorite destinations. Or, give us a call at 618-687-2100 to find your dream vacation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Africa & Egypt, Alaska, Asia & South Pacific, Caribbean

Caribbean but no passport required!

Puerto Rico beaches     Did you know that Puerto Rico has the only tropical rain forest listed in the U.S. Forest Service? El Yunque has the best hiking with dozens of trails leading to peaks, waterfalls and streams cascading into pools. But besides all the caves, wildlife, spelunking, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, cave diving, body rafting down the Tanama River and scuba diving, it has so much more to offer. Ponce is a town with Mediterranean style buildings that have been white washed. The scenery reminds me of sailing into Greece and the shopping is great too. For history buffs, there is no better place than El Moro, the Spanish fortress built to protect San Juan, which has been standing guard for over 400 years. Not to mention, Old San Juan with it’s cobblestone streets, 17th century churches, and historic buildings. The largest radio telescope in the world is at the Arecibo Observatory for all you science nuts. There is so much to pick from  – relax, play in the sand and turf, go sightseeing, get active or go for the spectacular nightlife after the sun sets – maybe even do it all. Call us for a price on your biggest adventure yet and best of all – you don’t need a passport!

Leave a comment

Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Caribbean, Destinations, Family Travel, Travel News, Travel Trivia, Traveler Tips

Cruise ship extras and how to keep money in your pockets

Avoiding cruise ship extra charges can be a bit tricky but can be done with due diligence. You’re not going to get out of tipping the maitre ‘d, your waiter and cabin steward. However, you can save some cash and even avoid some of these additional activities by planning and booking ahead of your arrival at the port. For cruise newbies, this is where a travel agent can really help you out. We help tell you about what’s coming and where you can save time and money.

One of the biggest ways the cruise lines help part you from your money is with drinks and especially, alcohol. At $5-7 per glass, a party on the Lido deck or some time to unwind and watch the sunset can rack up a pretty good bill at the end of a 7-day cruise for 2. You’re better off to buy a bottle of your favorite wine and enjoy it in your cabin. Or, bring along a 6-pack of your favorite soft drink. A word of caution – don’t advertise that you have it. If you must imbibe at the club while dancing or while enjoying some quiet time in the “adults only” area – keep your eyes peeled for “happy hour” or a special rate on the “drink-of-the-day”.

Another money drain can be the specialty restaurants. As delightful as the cuisine and atmosphere in these places are; stick to the main dining rooms or the self-service buffets unless you’re celebrating a very special occasion or just have money to throw away.

Shore excursions are probably the one area that you do want to spend some money on. Talk to your travel agent about what the ship offers and then plan and book ahead. If you wait until you’re at sea, most the of better ones are already sold out or the prices are higher than if you had made reservations online prior to sailing. Some people wait until they get off the ship and book excursions with a local company at the port of call. If you elect to do this, please make sure that there is plenty of time to get to/from your destination so you don’t miss the ship. The companies that the cruise lines work with are very aware of the arrival and departure times for each ship and make sure they get you there and back in time.

Check the ship’s daily program for offers, especially where spa treatments are concerned, as these are often reduced on port days. If you need to do laundry while on board, check into the self-service laundry mat instead of sending your stuff to the cleaners. You can save on staying in touch with folks at home via email by buying an internet package or wait until you get ashore and find an internet cafe.

Some cruise ship extra charges aren’t possible to get a way from but you can certainly reduce your losses by planning and booking ahead. Give us a call or book Royal Caribbean online at our website while keeping us as your local support.

Leave a comment

Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Cruises, Family Travel, Holidays, Honeymoons, Miscellaneous News, Travel Trivia, Traveler Tips

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!

Leave a comment

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

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.

1 Comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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

New at Theme Parks this Summer!

These theme parks have new rides, roller coasters and experiences just waiting for you and your family. Let us help you get your adventure started.

Beginning with Disneyland – California Adventure recently debuted Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. Miniature Italian roadsters move across a trackless dance floor. The Hyperion Theater now features an all-new, live musical with the characters from Frozen. And, the popular Soarin’ Over California will be replaced by Soarin’ Around the World.

You will also be able to experience Soarin’ Around the World at Walt Disney World‘s Epcot. And, their Norway Pavillion now has the Frozen Ever After boat ride which visits Elsa’s ice palace and you’ll hear songs from the movie throughout. The Animal Kingdom will come alive at night with their new Rivers of Light musical experience illuminating the night sky with animal images. Undergoing a transformation throughout the evening hours, the Tree of Life has magical fireflies bringing animal spirits to life. Not to be outdone, Hollywood Studios has added several “Star Wars” experiences including Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show with lasers, special effects and projections of characters and scenes from the films.

Legoland California welcomes Ninjago Land. It’s main focus being Ninjago The Ride with 4-D effects and 3-D imagery. You get to wield the superpowers of the main characters. Updates were made to the existing Legoland Hotel to include suites. Their Discovery Centers will begin showing a new movie featuring characters from “The Lego Movie” battling Lord Business’ brother – Risky Business.

SeaWorld Orlando has added a new roller coaster – the Mako, named for one of the ocean’s fastest sharks reaching speeds of up to 73 mph. It will be the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in Orlando. Similarly, Busch Gardens has added the Cobra’s Curse. Thrust into the middle of an Egyptian archaeological excavation, you will come face to face with an 80-foot long snake.

Universal Orlando welcomes Skull Island: Reign of Kong. This massive new experience on a new island at Islands of Adventure brings a powerful storyline to life with 3-D experiences and revolutionary vehicles. Accommodating up to 72 guests at once, one of the longest rides ever created by Universal navigates a jungle road through unpredictable terrain to meet none other than – Kong. Universal Studios Hollywood brings the park’s first outdoor coaster to life, Flight of the Hippogriff inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Fans of ” The Walking Dead” will be excited to know that the Halloween Horror Nights now have a permanent location inside a new structure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, California, Disneyland, DisneyWorld, Family Travel, Florida, SeaWorld, Universal Studios