My pre-cruise adventure: the Luberon region of Provence.
When time and budget allows I always try to add a few days before and after a cruise to explore the surrounds, especially when traveling overseas. Flights are a big investment, so you might as well take advantage when you can. I did just that on my recent Rhone River cruise, with a self-drive trip exploring Provence and the Loire Valley.
My pre-cruise adventure: the Luberon region of Provence.
Longing to explore France's waterways for a while, I recently had the opportunity to cruise the Rhone on an itinerary from Avignon to Lyon. The three major rivers in France offer very different experiences, and this one intrigued me with the combination of Roman history, scenery and wine country.
The itinerary did not disappoint.
I have to admit that am biased towards cruising. I love being on the water, love knowing the captain takes me to the next awesome port of call (meaning I'm not driving or trying catch another mode of transport), love not packing up every day, love not having to search for a great restaurant. You get the idea.
Cruising is just plain simple a great way to vacation. It also makes for great honeymoons (very stress free) and perfect for wedding vow renewals too. My top four recommended cruises are:
This article originally posted October 2018 has been updated to include the newest program, CLEAR.
You know the airport security routine. Take off your shoes, belt and jacket and put them in a bin. Remove everything from your pockets. Place your computer and liquids under 3 ounces in another bin. Go through the security scanner and hope you don't beep. And hope that you aren't one of the lucky random checks or that one of your items doesn't look suspicious on the x-ray.
I am all for this security, especially when flying. But I'll be the first to admit that it can be very inconvenient, the lines frustrating. So when I discovered TSA Pre✓® , I was elated!
You book a ticket. Then the airline changes the schedule. I've seen this happen often enough I consider it "normal" procedure (in the US anyway). There might be new departure or arrival times, new flight numbers, changed or discontinued routes. I'm sure there are other reasons I'm missing.
Why do they do this? Airlines make these changes for a number of reasons, including switching aircraft (which may equate to faster flight times or different seat configurations), or removing a flight from the schedule. The majority of cases I have seen had very minor changes (for example flights leaving 5 minutes earlier or arriving 10 minutes later) with little to no effect on travel.
Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest land, sea and air invasion in history, when more than 160,000 allied troops landed on the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy. A significant and historical milestone, with much attention.
As it should have.
As I watch the stories of all those involved, the history, the incredible heroes and heroic actions, I find myself yearning to walk these beaches, to pay tribute to those who fought so bravely for our freedoms. My parents were teenagers during this war, and I imagine families with a direct connection to D-Day feel the same, if not more strongly, as I do.
A few fun facts about the Czech Republic:
Prague is by far the main reason people come to the Czech Republic. The City of a Hundred Spires
I was first introduced to Dubrovnik when it was still part of Yugoslavia. I remember walking along the ancient city walls that overlook the Old Town and shimmering Adriatic Sea, fascinated by the canons that once protected the city from invasions from the sea.
Switzerland has been in my memory bank for a long time, having lived near Zurich for a brief time in the 60's (yes, I'm dating myself), and having visited numerous times while living in Germany. I truly believe that my early introduction to the Alps with my family is why I have such a deep love for mountains.
The Swiss of course are well known for their watches, cheese and chocolate, but the mountain scenery, in my opinion, is the deepest connection. The Matterhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau - all iconic sites, and worth seeing. A few years ago we went up Mount Titlis and Mount Pilatus. Also worthy. Just beautiful.
With popularity come the crowds. The day we went up Mount Titlis was beautiful but took 4 hours waiting in line for the cable car to reach the top. The wonderful thing about Switzerland, though, is there is no shortage of mountain scenery, from a distance or up close. To enjoy an area less crowded is not difficult.
An area we discovered oh so many years ago is Meiringen - Hasliberg, a perfect spot to explore and enjoy in all seasons, as we did. These pictures are in June, but it's also a fabulous winter resort - in fact its where I learned how to ski.
Whakatane Ohope International Golf Club - photo courtesy of NZ Tourism - taken by Strike-Photography
Despite being a relatively small country (about the size of Oregon or Colorado), it's quite easy to spend months exploring New Zealand's north and south islands. So much to see, experiences to take in, food, wine and people to meet.
One special touring route is a drive down the beautiful east coast on New Zealand's Pacific Coast Highway. Check out this itinerary between Auckland and Napier.
When I think of Japan, Tokyo is generally the first image that comes to mind. A fascinating place, modern yet traditional, always changing, always on the move.
However, it is the world's largest metropolis, with over 37 million residents (9 million in the city alone). It goes without saying this means lots of crowds. And just imagine trying to cross the street at major intersections!
International travel allows people to gain a new appreciation for other cultures of the world, and a big part of any culture is the cuisine. The food of a region is a reflection of their history and geographical location and the resources they have available to them.
Spain, a top food and wine destination, has six distinct culinary districts - the North, Pyrenees, Valencia, Andalucia, Central and Catalonia.
I'm always interested in learning about places my clients have been to, especially ones they rave about. So when they share their experiences with me, I am so delighted, especially when I have permission to share them with my readers.
One of the best questions I get from potential clients is 'Why should I book this cruise through you versus booking direct"? You're just going to cost me more money.
I love this question. It allows me to communicate my value and dispel a few myths at the same time.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
River cruising and barging has grown exponentially over the past few years, and options continue to expand. For those who have been on the rivers and love the experience, new and varying choices are exciting but can become overwhelming. For those new to the experience, all these options can certainly be daunting.
But selecting the right river cruise doesn't need to be any of this.
Following these steps will help narrow down your choices on finding a good match.
A cruise to Alaska is high on the list for many wanting to see this most beautiful part of the world. In fact, aside from the Caribbean, Alaska is the most popular destination for first time cruisers.
A cruise to Alaska is perfect for anyone new to cruising, not only for the exceptional scenery and adventure the area offers, but also because a large part of the itinerary is through the Inside Passage, the protected waters that stretch from northern Washington to Alaska's Panhandle. These waters make for much smoother sailing than on open ocean.
In fact, ALL Alaska cruises go through the Inside Passage.
This may have you concluding then, that all itineraries are pretty much the same. Not entirely accurate - you do have a number choices.
Having been through a good number of TSA checkpoints, I have a pretty good idea of what can trigger a secondary check after a bag has gone through the x-ray machine. This goes for checked bags as well.
Do you think a cruise just isn't active enough for you?
This may be true statement on some cruise lines, but certainly not all. A number of small ships have, as part of their "personality", fun and exciting ways for you to maintain your active lifestyle - ways well beyond the workout room.
You can certainly go for the treadmill or elliptical machine, but check out these options. They may have you rethinking your cruise choices!
The rivers of Europe have you experiencing a lot of old world charm in cities big and small. Amazing, photogenic old world charm, all with their own unique personalities.
For anyone wanting to explore ancient cities and historic castles, walk through charming wine villages, take in the lively city of Amsterdam or visit one of 40 museums in Basel, a Rhine and Moselle river itinerary is a great fit.
Plenty of picture perfect moments await you on itineraries that include one or both rivers. Following are my top nine most photogenic places to see.
With 6000 islands and islets, a great climate, safe waters and miles of sandy beaches, Greece has always been an ideal Mediterranean vacation destination.
While Santorini , Crete, Corfu and Rhodes are the most visited, don't overlook the other 220+ inhabited islands.
It can be hard to choose which ones to to visit. Hopefully these eight guidelines will assist with your decision.
It's been over 40 years since I lived in Hong Kong, and 28 since I last visited. I know a lot has changed over the years, but I also know the traditions and essence remain the same. It was in Hong Kong that I experienced my first Lunar New Year, and where my intrigue of Chinese culture began.
I have very fond memories of my time there, and look forward to making my way back to this vibrant city.
It seems that most everyone is experiencing "Where did the time go?" syndrome.
So my tip for today is for you to take a moment to think about any time sensitive tasks you have for your upcoming trips. Write them down (if you haven't already) and make sure you set some time aside to get them done.
One big example - if you are going on an international trip, check when your passports expire! You do not want to risk being denied boarding due to an expired or soon to expire passport. With how quickly time passes by, you may not realize how long ago you received or renewed your current passport. Best to double check.
If you don't have a passport, getting one isn't difficult. It just needs some planning.
IMAGINE yourself on the teak deck of a timelessly elegant clipper ship, a warm breeze blowing in your face as the crew unfurl 54,000 square feet of sails above you.
You begin to tingle head to toe.
As you sail into the sunset, you sigh when you realize this is one of the most incredible experiences you have ever had.
Earlier this year I wrote about all the new cruise ships being launched in 2018 and 2019. They included Seabourn's all suite ship the Ovation, Scenic's Eclipse Discovery yacht, Viking's fifth ocean cruise ship Orion and Ponant's new explorer class Le Laperouse and Le Champlain ships, the Celebrity Edge and Holland America's Niew Statendam which launched in December and the mega ships launched by Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
Not to be outdone, Amadeaus, AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, CroisEurope, Crystal, Emerald Waterways, Uniworld and Viking launched or will launch new river ships.
A lot of new ships. Very exciting!
This last week I had the opportunity to sail on Celebrity's newest ship, the Edge. Over the last 12 months I attended a number of webinars to learn more about what the ship had to offer, and hands down, she is impressive.
The build up to the inaugural was exciting, but seeing everything in person is an unmatched experience. Being one of the first to see this ship with everything brand spanking new was especially sweet!
From beautiful neutral colors and jewel tones to innovative staterooms and distinctive venues and experiences, the Edge is quite the ship.