I was talking to my friend and rep from UnCruise this past week. What a wonderful way to see the world with really small ship cruising. UnCruise has ships ranging in size from 22 – 90 passengers. With their headquarters located in Seattle, Washington, the Northwest is their home and it shows in how they want us to experience the world and in their Northwest range of itineraries from Canada, Alaska, the San Juan Islands and even the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The idea of sailing the San Juan's has always intrigued me. I’ve definitely got this one on my spreadsheet of places to go. (yup, I’ve got a spreadsheet, no mere list for me.)
UnCruise also sails to Alaska, Hawaii, the Sea of Cortez, Costa Rica and Panama, and the Galapagos. It's a great itinerary for trips with friends, multi-generational families or even clients or employees traveling together. It would be fun to charter a whole ship, don't you think?!
Where would you like to UnCruise?
If you have questions about Vacations Inspired or are interested in a trip for yourself or with a group, please get in touch.
Classical music is probably something you think about when you think about Vienna.
Vienna is home to more composers than any other city in the world. Vienna is the music capital at the heart of Europe. Some of the famous composers that called Vienna home include, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Brahms and his famous Brahms Lullaby, otherwise known as Op. 49 Number 4. (I think about my mom when I hear that song. Does that song have a memory for you?) And Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, just to name a few. There are so many more! I’ve been listening to some of these composers while I’m writing this. Music can really set the mood! When you’re in Vienna, you can search out some of the places where they lived or performed. And even experience a concert, maybe even at the opera house, if you’re lucky.
Maybe Classical music is not your jam. But Billy Joel is. Do you think about that Billy Joel song, Vienna? Maybe you remember that song from earlier times of listening to Billy Joel. Or you’re still listening to Billy Joel. Perhaps you remember that song from that heartfelt scene in the romantic comedy with Jennifer Garner, 13 going on 30. True confession – I love that movie. I’ve watched it many times. 😊 But that movie has nothing to do with Vienna, the city, so let’s move on.
Architecture and art go hand in hand in Vienna as there are more than 100 museums in the city! You’ll find all eras of architectural style from baroque, Romanesque, art nouveau and modern. You can take a walking tour of the architecture of the city – great for those Instagram posts - and stop at some museums along the way. The Albertina Museum and Palace, which was once a residential palace for the Habsburgs, now houses one million prints and 60,000 drawings! On permanent display are works of French impressionism to Russian Avant Garde. Find Monet’s Water Lily Pond, Degas’ Dancers and Renoir’s Girl in these halls. Renowned Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt’s, The Kiss, is on permanent display at The Belvedere Museum.
“Do this. Not that.” Tip ahead.
Something I think about when I think of Vienna is coffee and wooden toys. I was on a Danube river cruise my first time to Vienna. In the evening we were treated to a wonderful concert of ballet and opera in a Viennese concert hall. Just imagine being there for that! The next day we took a tour of the city and also out to the Schonbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (I have a story to tell you about Schonbrunn Palace, but maybe for another time.)
One thing Vienna is known for is Viennese coffee and strudel, right? Imagine sitting in a Viennese coffee shop, where you look over the menu and see Mélange. What is a Mélange? A Mélange is a long coffee (quite a bit like an Americano – which is an espresso with hot water) with milk and milk foam. Ah, so maybe like a Latte. Some say like a cappuccino, but I think maybe more like a latte. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll probably mention it again. I love drinking cappuccinos when I’m on vacation. Anywhere. Something so vacation-esque about them. Warm, comforting, relaxing, contemplative. Anyway, onto your surroundings at this Viennese café. Imagine your surroundings with baroque and modern buildings around you, in the center of town near St. Stephens Cathedral in the car free zone, also known as Stephansplatz. You are just relaxing, taking in the sights and sounds, people watching and thinking, “I am in Vienna drinking a Mélange and having a Strudel. How cool is this?!” Doesn’t that sound great? I think so.
Next time I’m in Vienna, I’m going to do that. ⇧ Not this. ⇩
Instead, imagine racing around the streets, googling on your phone and looking for a toy store where they have little wooden toys. You want to find one for your little grandson. A darling car that you’re sure he’ll just love playing with. You finally find one. You’re so happy. But, as it turns out, it was made in Germany!
That’s my story. I have a funny way of finding things in countries that seem like perfect authentic gifts that were actually made in other places. So next time I’m in Vienna, I’m going to sip and savor the coffee and strudel. Or a Glühwein. I guess, a coffee and a Glühwein, would be what will actually happen. And I suggest you do the same.
You might want to check out this special coffee house when in Vienna - Vollpension
What will you experience in Vienna on the Magical Markets of Christmas River cruise?
You’ll have your choice of two included options.
The cruise begins in Vienna, but you can include another night or two pre-cruise. I recommend arriving early because of weather and flights. And there’s so much to see and experience in this magical European city!
What excites you about visiting Vienna?
Want to know more? Check out this magical itinerary!
Contact me to get started on your magnificent river cruise journey!
It’s not hard to imagine, since we’re on the tail end of winter, the cozy feeling of being indoors with a hot cup of cocoa, or hot spiced wine when it’s a bit chilly outside. Now imagine that when you look out your balcony door, you see the magical twinkle lights of centuries old European towns and their Christmas markets. What an enchanting time of year to cruise Europe.
Traditionally held in the town square, Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas Markets, have festive food, drinks and seasonal items from open-air wooden stalls while you are being serenaded and entertained with traditional singing and dancing. The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in Europe, and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire - which you’ll learn a lot about on your daily walking tours and are a part of the included excursions in most river port cities. In fact, Vienna, Austria’s "December market" goes back to 1298 with up to a dozen different markets in any given year—most of which are located around the famous Ringstrasse (ring road) that encircles the city’s historic core.
If you’re lucky, (in my opinion), snow will be falling down just a little bit as you sail along the river and will blanket the villages along the way. And you won’t have to worry about driving in the snow or being able to get your Christmas shopping done because you finished up your Christmas shopping before you left for your cruise. For those last-minute items, there’s time to bundle up and just walk off the ship right into the middle of the village or town where you’ll join in the town’s Christmas market experience and enjoy a cup of “gluhwein” and maybe a wurst or very large pretzel, or even a gingerbread cookie. And then after all of that, it’s back to the ship where you will simply love your four-star accommodations, with an amazing staff that addresses you by name from the 2nd day on, and you set sail overnight and arrive by morning for another day of enchanting experiences.
Be mesmerized by the Christmas markets of Nuremberg & Regensburg. Marvel at the small clay figurines representing the people of a typical village—the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker in Linz. Visit four amazing Christmas Markets in Vienna. Wrap yourself in holiday spirit, in the place, where so many Christmas traditions began.
If this excites you, and even sounds exactly like what sugar-plum dreams are made of, then contact me to find out more and secure your spot on a Magical Christmas Markets Cruise.
DAY DESTINATION ACTIVITIES
Day 1 Vienna – EMBARKATION
Vienna - Morning city tour with Town Hall Christmas Market or Alte Donau bike tour
Artisans and Schönbrunn Palace Christmas Markets
Melk - Benedictine Abbey tour or Danube bike tour
Wachau Valley - Scenic cruising or Melk to Dürnstein bike tour
Dürnstein - Walking tour and wine tasting or Apricots and Sweets tasting
Krems - Wine tasting or Evening walk
Linz - Walking tour or Full-day Salzburg or Castle and “Culture Mile” bike tour
Half-day Salzburg or Český Krumlov
Passau - Walking tour and Christmas Market or Passau bike tour
Regensburg - Scenic cruising; Walking tour or Bavarian specialties tasting or
Walhalla bike tour
Thurn and Taxis Royal Christmas Market
Nuremberg - City tour; Nuremberg Christmas Market
Cruise Main - Danube Canal
Nuremberg - DISEMBARKATION
OPTIONAL PRE & POST-CRUISE LAND PROGRAM AVAILABLE.
Many people don’t know if or how their current medical insurance policy will cover them when they are out of the country. One family found out the hard way. If you’ve been watching the news in recent weeks, maybe you’ve seen the story of the young man who was cruising with his family. He wasn’t feeling well and went to see the ship’s doctor where they found out that he had appendicitis.
With his mom with him, they checked him into a private hospital in Cancun, that asked for the admission cost of $6,000 and possible surgery cost of $25,000, which is standard procedure in many locations throughout the world. Because they did not have the funds to pre-pay for the $25,000 operation that the young man might need, they were sent to another hospital where they paid the $6,000 deposit that the new hospital required. And the young man was able to get the care he needed.
Happy ending, except they now have an unexpected $30,000+ bill, including the ship's doctor charges, and the hospital bill.
Why I always recommend travel insurance.
And some generally less expensive reasons, but still nice to have covered. Flight delays, flight cancellations, and lost luggage.
In the case of the young man above, what would have been the situation if he had travel protection insurance?
Depending on the details of his particular policy, it could’ve looked like this below scenario.
He feels ill and goes to ship Dr. They tell him he has appendicitis. Cruise ships charge for doctor visits. So, there’s a fee for that. Travel insurance comes through either through direct payment or reimbursement.
He calls his Travel Advisor, who reassures him and directs him to call the Travel Insurance 24-hour 800 number and give them the ship doctor’s report. The insurance company sends him to the hospital that they work with. He is admitted and the travel insurance company arranges and confirms with hospital that payment will be made through them up to the coverage limits of the policy. (If he had a hospital of choice rider, it might look a bit different.)
The family doesn’t have to go to multiple hospitals trying to find one where they will admit him and one that preferably speaks English. The travel insurance company takes care of that.
The family doesn’t have to worry about paying the $30,000, contacting their favorite uncle or long-lost relatives for money, or even making a GoFundMe page for that. It’s taken care of according to the coverages of the policy.
I’ve had clients have to cancel trips because their doctor said they couldn’t travel. Without travel insurance, they would’ve been responsible for thousands of dollars of non-refundable costs. And clients who lost luggage and the insurance company came through with reimbursement. Or had flights cancelled and had to spend an extra night, incurring additional out of pocket costs. I've been on trips where a traveler twisted her ankle and had to see a doctor. Travel insurance was there to help.
Every travel insurance policy is different, so it’s very important to read the fine print, inclusions and disclaimers. Some credit cards offer trip insurance. Does yours? But again, compare and read the fine print, even make some phone calls to find out what it actually covers. Check the pre-existing conditions clause on your credit card policy against the one you might be purchasing elsewhere. Be informed in the beginning stages of your vacation planning process because this is where early purchase benefits come in.
Just like I reduce the stress of your vacation planning, having travel insurance reduces the stress and burden of travel mishaps and unexpected expenses.
Have you purchased travel insurance? What was the main reason you did? I’m curious to know what your experience was. Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. If you need help planning your next trip, start here and we’ll work together to create a trip that will bring you beautiful memories and refreshed relationships.
VISIT THE LAND OF FIRE AND ICE
If you're going to be cold, you might as well have some adventure! Let's head out for 4 nights/5 days in Iceland, the land of Fire and Ice.
Day 1. Arrive Iceland.
Your tour starts at Keflavik International Airport. From there you will drive through the harsh landscape and head for the Blue Lagoon. The lagoon is a unique geothermal spa situated in the youngest lava field in west Iceland. Take in the Blue Lagoon's spectacular surroundings or bathe in the milky blue-green water. For a unique experience indulge yourself with an outdoor massage or one of the spa treatments available there. Food and drink can be purchased at a restaurant, cafe and a bar. Before you leave, be sure and stop by the Blue Lagoon shop, showcasing Blue Lagoon skincare products made with geothermal seawater.
After this stopover, you will be delivered to your hotel in Reykjavik, which will be your home base for 4 nights. You might choose this 3-4* hotel surrounded by fantastic views of the sea, glaciers and city of Reykjavik, just a ten-minute walk from the city centre with its wonderful shops, restaurants and museums. Snuggle into your cozy room, stylishly decorated with vibrant colours, Icelandic artwork and Scandinavian designs. Each room provides a luxury bath amenities, coffee and tea, and free Wi-Fi.
After you check into your hotel and freshen up, then head out for a mysterious trip on this dark winter night. Any time from the onset of autumn darkness until the light nights of spring one can witness nature's most spectacular display; the Northern Lights. Far from the glow of the city lights, hunt for the exclusive Aurora Borealis, known as the Northern Lights. You may be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights swirling in a wild and carefree dance across the sky in dramatic shapes, colors, patterns and sizes. The Northern Lights are visible from September through April on clear night.
Day 3 - This morning enjoy a leisurely Icelandic breakfast at your hotel or at one of the nearby restaurants. What's on the breakfast menu?.. meats, hardboiled eggs, cheeses, breads, jellies, BUTTER, even paté… . Or try Iceland's own thick, creamy yogurt, skyr, with a bit of honey and granola. Then you're off on a Reykjavik Quad Bike Tour. Elevate your experience of Reykjavik’s natural splendor on an-hour quad bike tour of the Icelandic countryside. After pickup from your Reykjavik hotel, travel through the scenic surroundings and climb aboard a powerful 4x4 vehicle to begin your 60-minute quad bike adventure. Drive to the stunning Hafravatn Lake; ascend the side of the impressive Mount Hafrafell; and marvel at incredible views of nearby towns like Mosfellsbær, stopping at a traditional Icelandic farmstead on your way back to your hotel.
In the afternoon experience the city of Reykjavik with a Hop on Hop off 24 hour tour. You might choose to get off at the Maritime Museum where you'll explore the world of Icelandic fisheries and Coastal Culture. Or Hallgrims Church, designed by the late Guðjón Samuel in 1937, who was inspired by the fascinating shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock. Step inside to see the magnificent pipe organ nearly 50 feet tall with 5275 pipes! Or experience a fish pedicure with the Garra Rufa Fish at Fishspa Iceland. Of course, there's always shopping to do and if you're there on a weekend, you can stop in at the Kolaportid fleamarket - the biggest fleamarket in Iceland.
This evening, explore the Reykjavik nightlife. Reykjavik is a town for foodies. Get your reservations in early for Fiskmarkadurinn - The Fish Market, one of Reykjavik's most expensive and sought after dining venues where delicacies such as puffin and whale are served. Be sure to start with the freshest and most beautiful sashimi. Then later join up with a small group for a Local Pub Crawl in downtown Reykjavik where you can try the wonders of what Reykjavik has to offer on a night out! Make new friends, create lasting memories and party like a Viking.
Day 4 Wonder what's beneath Iceland's lava landscapes? Head off this afternoon for a caving trip under a lava field in Iceland's Blue Mountains. Put on your caving gear, and explore the Leidanrendi cave, an ancient lave "tube"tunnel, with an expert guide. Absorb and explore the fascinating lava formations as you learn how they formed from different eruptions through the centuries. Great for adventure seekers and geologists! Not for people that are claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. Are you?
Day 5 - Your last morning in Iceland savor your coffee and breakfast and maybe experience your hotel onsite gym, spa and health center offering lava massages, sauna, and a seawater Jacuzzi before your transfer arrives to take you to the airport for your flight home.
I'm excited to see the Northern Lights and experience this beautiful land. What is the most exciting part about this trip to you?
If you'd like to go to Iceland this year, contact me now, to get started on your personalized getaway.
Can you believe it's fall already?! Less than one full week and it will be the first official day of fall. Fall is definitely in the air. Warm sunny days, cool nights.. and even a bit of rain. Want to use those vacation days before year's end? Here's a couple of ideas to help you achieve that goal.
Short & Sweet - Why not enjoy a quick getaway to Victoria, BC. Take the train up to Seattle, hop onboard the Victoria Clipper and in a few short hours, you're there. You can experience the amazing city of Victoria for a long weekend. For a special stay, check into the Fairmont Empress. Or if you'd like a more moderate hotel, we have options for that.
While you're there you can enjoy the beautiful Butchart Gardens, a wine tasting tour up Vancouver Island, the British Museum and even some whale watching. And oh, so many wonderful restaurants to choose from.
Hawaii Calls - Fall is a great time to experience Hawaii. It's less crowded season for the islands, so pricing can be to your advantage. For luxury, check into the Fairmont Orchid on the magnificent Kohala Coast. Enjoy their scrumptious breakfast beachside or in the privacy of your own room. Then head out to explore Hawaii Island's microcosm of environments and activities. Shopping in Kona, historical and cultural tours, stargazing, and of course, beaches and golf. See the night glow at Kilauea Volcano National Park. Kīlauea Volcano continues to erupt at its summit flowing right into the ocean at Kamokuna. A rare sight to see.
Which one of these wonderful vacations sound enticing to you? For more information and to book, contact me and you'll be fulfilling your dreams before you know it!
A few years ago we went to Riviera Maya in Mexico and took a catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres. Not wanting to get sick on the open sea, I took a non-drowsy Dramamine the night before our tour and one the morning of. Well, I didn't get sick, but I did sleep through most of the ride.
Just a few months back I was on the beautiful island of Hawaii, aka The Big Island. I was with a group and had the chance to go on the Manta Night Swim. I chose the Luau. Though I oh, so wanted to do the Manta swim. As luck would have it, another person in the group that had signed up for the Manta swim changed her mind and didn't want to go. Would I change places with her and let her use my luau spot? Yes, I would and did.
I took a non-drowsy Dramamine and some ginger chews, and then we walked over from our hotel, The Sheraton Kona, to the boat dock. (You can watch the manta rays from there at Rays on the Bay.) I boarded the boat with my 4 companions, one of whom didn't even know how to swim. After some quick instructions and a glass of ginger-ale, we slipped(?) into our wet suits and life vests, grabbed our snorkel gear and climbed down the ladder into the Pacific Ocean at Keauhou Bay and swam out to Sea Paradise's floating manta viewing set up. My friend, the non-swimmer, and I were one of the last off the boat. Lights turned on. We have our "pool noodles" under our legs, hands hanging onto the floating viewing contraption and we're waiting for the manta rays to come.
At the first sight of the mantas, there is a chorus of "oohs" and "aaahs." It's like an underwater ballet or gymnastics show as they swim up towards us with mouths wide open and then turn back toward the bottom of the bay gathering Plankton all along the way.
About 15 minutes in and I'm not feeling so great. Am I getting sea sick? Dang it! Yes. I struggled to keep from heaving my lunch which was to no avail. I hung on and enjoyed the Manta Ray show as much as possible, trying to fully appreciate every moment of this amazing experience of "swimming with the rays." Climbing back on the boat there were a few others that were sick, too. But I was feeling better. You know how you feel better after you throw up?
Would I do it again? A resounding yes! But next time, I won't eat a big late lunch! And the Molokini Snorkel tour? Maybe I'll do that next time I'm in Maui. How about you? Do you let motion sickness hold you back or do you jump right in?
1. Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta has all that you could want in a vacation destination; water, adventure, culture, ecotourism and gastronomy. And the weather is still enjoyable during the North American spring. Sitting on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is a favorite getaway spot for many a traveler. Get a feel for the area by taking a city tour that will take you into the old town and then past the early Hollywood spots of Mismaloya and out into the countryside to a tequila factory. See how the agave plant is harvested to make the different types of tequila. Enjoy a tequila tasting and purchase a bottle to bring home to sip, enjoy and reminisce about your wonderful vacation in this romantic Mexican town.
For a little less than $2000 with air from PDX*, you can enjoy 5 nights for 2 at the newly refurbished and rebranded 4.5-star Hyatt Ziva. Located less than a 10 minute cab ride from Old Town Puerto Vallarta on a quiet cove. Enjoy all-inclusive amenities that include:
2. Cruise Like a Norwegian
Norwegian’s Freestyle Choice Spectacular gives you more choices than ever before! Choose sailings where your 3rd & 4th stateroom guests are free PLUS choose one of the following; Free Specialty Dining, Up to $300 Onboard Credit, Free Stateroom Gratuities or Reduced airfare when booking flights with NCL.
This is a great value for families wanting a spring getaway. Looking for a west coast cruise? You can choose from Mexican Riviera sailing out of Los Angeles, Pacific Coastal 3, 4 or 5 night itineraries, or Alaska. Book by April 6.
3. Don’t worry, be happy at the Happiest Place on Earth
Disneyland® Resort will kick-off the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration on May 22, 2015. Celebrate 60 years of magic at Disneyland®Resort with exciting new experiences, including the “Paint the Night” Parade, “DisneylandForever” Fireworks and “World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.”
Visitors to Disneyland can choose from moderate accommodations at Good Neighbor Hotels to the Disney Resort Hotels including Disney's Paradise Pier, The Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa . 3 Day (and up) Park Hoppers include admission into Disneyland and California Adventure Parks on each day of your ticket. Plus, you'll receive one Magic Morning at Disneyland Park.
What's your favorite spring getaway?
Craft beer. Lots of chatter this week on the web. Twitter accounts and blogs are lighting up with a backlash of comments and campaigns about the recent Super bowl Budweiser commercial. To give you some background the Budweiser commercial was promoting its product by taking a jab at beer connoisseurs and the craft beer movement. Well the craft beer peeps didn’t take that lying down and have started their own campaigns in response to Budweiser.
I think you should drink whatever beer you like; Bud, Bud light, Full Sail, Ninkasi. Hey, even if you like Miller lite... well, there’s no accounting for taste, but go for it. :)
If you enjoy craft beer and craft beer tastings, I've got some travel options that you’re gonna’ love!
1. Uncruise, a Seattle based Adventure Cruise company, offers a Coastal Washington Cruise with a craft beer theme on selected sailings. This cruise aboard the 60-guest Wilderness Adventurer expedition vessel explores Washington’s Puget Sound and Salish Sea from South Hood Canal to Olympic National Park and the San Juan Islands. Along with the craft beer activities, you will experience kayaking, paddle boarding and skiff exploration in glacial fjords and the San Juan archipelago. 2015 craft beer themed cruises depart round trip from Seattle April 25 and October 3 and start from $1995.
2. Evergreen Escapes, offers small groups, local food, wine and brew tours on their group or custom itineraries throughout Washington and Oregon. Experience Portland and Seattle from a beer-lover’s perspective. Learn about the Pacific Northwest brewing history while sampling stouts, ambers, ales and other handcrafted beer at select breweries throughout the Northwest, leaving the driving to their friendly guides. And for a truly unique experience create a private tour with your own itinerary ideas or combine some of their regularly scheduled tours.
3. New for 2015, Amawaterways is offering an itinerary showcasing a variety of Dutch and Belgian beers, regional cuisine and delicacies, special excursions, a beer pairing dinner, brewery tours (including a Dutch windmill brewery), as well as on-board discussions & tastings hosted by beer connoisseur and author, Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack) embarking from Amsterdam on March 31. They are also offering a holiday beer themed cruise sailing on December 14.
4. Fly Alaska. Alaska Airlines proudly serves local (as in local – northwest/west coast) wine and beer on their flights. When you fly Alaska/Horizon, you can enjoy a complimentary wine or microbrew. Microbrews on board this month and next include: Alaskan Brewing Icy Bay IPA, Silver City Ridgetop Red Ale, Pyramid IPA and Saint Archer’s White Ale. Select flights feature one wine and one beer.
5. Create your own custom group. Let’s work together to create your own custom group. Where do you want to go? How do you want to travel? Who do you want to go with? The possibilities are endless.
What could be better than combining your passions; travel, friends and beer?! And when you’re ready to plan and book, Vacations Inspired will get you where you want to go. #123goinspired
Let's have a little #vacationfun. People are always asking me if I get any "perks" as a travel agent/advisor. Here's one perk I'd like to have a little fun with. I won this Alaskan grey wolf hat at a trade show the other night. If you book your vacation with me, I'll let you take this hat with you on vacation. (pending availability). You take a picture of yourself wearing the hat on vacation and post it on FB or Twitter or Instagram tagging Vacations Inspired and these hashtags. #vacationfun #123goinspired I will also donate $1 for every post to the National Wildlife Federation. Sound like fun to you? (I do want you to know that I enjoy working for every "perk" I get. I spend hours researching, studying, learning about destinations and resorts, booking and taking care of your reservation, and taking care of you, my client, from our first contact until your "Welcome Home." Cause that's what I do. It's my job. I'm your travel advisor, vacation consultant, dream planner. And I love it!)