Category Archives: Caribbean

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.

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

Visiting Cuba

For decades, Cuba has been a forbidden fruit to many travelers, geographically close yet so far away. Now, thanks to restored diplomatic relations and lifted travel restrictions, the iconic island’s landscape, culture and economy is finally accessible. Keep in mind that at this time, most of the packages involving Cuba are “educational” tours which means traveling with a group. Before too long, I’m sure it will open up to more independent travel such as we have to Mexico and other parts of the Caribbean. And while there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for the enriching and multifaceted cultural experiences you’ll have while on the ground, these tips can help you plan ahead and navigate the country more easily.

You’ll be off the grid The best way to describe Wi-Fi access in Cuba? A novelty. Though there are places throughout larger cities that provide internet access, the signal will be sparse at best, and you’ll spend more time trying to connect than being connected. So just enjoy the freedom of being disconnected.

There are Other Options than Hotels Keep in mind, hotel rooms across the country – even in Havana – are limited. To broaden your options, talk to our agents about a vacation rental, a private home or a cruise. At this time, these choices are limited and restricted.

Driving can be time-consuming Many of the roads between cities are challenging to navigate. A drive between Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba could take as long as 14 hours, and driving at night is nearly impossible since no street lights exist. So plan your route carefully and give yourself plenty of time. We would recommend going with a group for your first time.

It’s key to learn some Spanish If you want to see lesser-visited cities like Varadero or Trinidad, it helps to have a basic understanding of Spanish, since English is not widely spoken among locals. Plus, it breaks down language barriers when you can speak a few key phrases.

Most places only take cash Many vendors, restaurants and cab drivers don’t accept credit cards. In addition, ATMs are few and far between, so stock up when you get a chance.

The Easiest Way to Explore is by Cruise On a cruise, you’ll not only get to experience the charms of Havana with a local guide during a shore excursion, you’ll also explore other highlights around the island, such as Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Plus, Cuba’s coastlines are stunning when viewed from your private balcony. And, rather than packing and unpacking with each city you visit – why not take your hotel with you?

Give us a call when you’re ready to visit Cuba at 618-687-2100 or send us an email at tbirdtvl@msn.com. You can also visit us at http://www.tbirdtvl.com.

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Filed under Bucket List Ideas, Caribbean, Cuba, Miscellaneous News

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!

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

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

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

Book Online with Us

Without a travel agent, you're on your own.We know there are lots of you that book online and we want you back. We want your business. Our updated website now has a BOOK IT NOW page. If you’re looking for a package deal with air and hotel plus car or a shuttle – I would take a look  at Funjet Vacations or Apple Vacations and get ‘er done. They can get you to almost anywhere here in the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, or Central and South America. Looking for a DisneyWorld vacation to Florida or heading to California to visit DisneyLand? Funjet has you covered – from flights to hotels to shuttles along with theme park tickets. Both Funjet and Apple have charter flights (non-stop flights) to Mexico and islands in the Caribbean. There are so many wonderful places to discover. Book your vacation online on our website and have the local support you need in case you have questions or need help making a booking. Plus, in the event you need help while on the road – you have a familiar name to call on. Keep your peace of mind with our online convenience and local support.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, All-inclusives, Bahamas, California, Caribbean, Central America, Costa Rica, Disneyland, DisneyWorld, Europe, Family Travel, Florida, Hawaii, Holidays, Honeymoons, Jamaica, Las Vegas, Mexico, New York City

Online convenience, Local support

We’ve done some updating of our website. And, for those who enjoy online convenience for booking your vacations, we have a special page called BOOK IT NOW. It’s available 24/7 for us night owls who can’t sleep but want to dream about our next trip, find the prices and book it. When you already know your dates of travel, destination and hotel, you don’t need us to help you figure out where to go. You can access our preferred suppliers and book it yourself. But, by booking it on our site, you have the added benefit of local support and an agent that you can contact for information when you have questions or assistance with your booking (during business hours, of course). Plus, even the best laid plans hit a snag now and then. So, if you have issues while you’re on your trip, you have someone you can call – a person you know and trust. That gives you peace of mind. Check out our website for online convenience with local support.

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Filed under Bahamas, Caribbean, Family Travel, Hotels, Tour Packages, Travel News, Traveler Tips