• Introduction of Virgin Voyages Cruise Line

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    On February 13th the newest entry in the cruise business, Virgin Voyages flew a select group of travel agencies to New York City for the introduction of their trend setting cruise line's first ship (one of 4 planned), the Scarlet Lady.  As in everything Virgin, we were guests in the trendy Moxy Hotel in Manhattan.
     
    The following day the event (a high tea in the fitting British tradition) was held on the 102nd floor of the One World Trade Center Observatory with commanding 360 degree views of the city.  The choice of February 14th (Valentine's Day) was significant as red is the theme color for the line and consequently the ship's name, Scarlet Lady.  The elevator ride from the ground level to the Observatory took 47 seconds with the history of New York projected on the walls from it's beginning to current day.  It was very impressive.
     
    We were met with champagne and tables set with a variety of petits fours surrounding the center stage.  A one hour very humorous and totally casual presentation was given by Richard Branson (Founder) Tom McAlpin (President and CEO) and Stacy Shaw (Vice President).  Several short videos were shown with renderings of the ship on monitors strategically placed around the room.  Much of the conversation involved the innovative design of the ship and the efforts to reduce her footprint when operational.  Her unique hull design and sleek exterior will make her stand out anywhere.
     
    Virgin's goal is basically to take traditional cruising and turn it upside down.  Its 2750 all adult guests will be called Sailors (instead of guests) and will not be hassled with such traditional things like gratuities, dining reservations (20 different free dining venues), unlimited wifi, all basic drinks including soda, bottled and sparkling water to name a few.  Geonbae is a Korean barbecue where diners can cook their own meals over flameless grills.  Razzle Dazzle focuses on vegetarian and vegan fare as well as a juice bar. There are no set dining times.
     
    It appears the cruise line is directly targeting the young at heart.  Those who just want to have an unstructed and unreserved good time.  The dress is casual.  Featured on the ship is a tatoo parlor and drag show brunch.  Spa and fitness are an important part of the ship and features the largest sun bed at sea as well as very unique pools.  Fitness classes are included in the fare.

    The standard cabins (86% balconies) feature "sea beds" that serve as couches for entertaining during the day and beds at night.  The balconies also feature hammocks.  The top four Rock Suites even feature guitars and turntables.

     
    The first sailings in 2020 will begin with four to five day cruises featuring Cuba and Costa Maya and Virgin's private island Bimini in the Bahamas where she will be able to dock.
     
    To finish off the introduction of Virgin Voyages, we were invited to a massive party at the Playstation Theater on Broadway.  The event featured DJ Mark Ronson, a moveable dance floor, countless bars, a huge variety of hors d'oeurves, and of course, Richard Branson.  After showering the crowd with a bottle of champagne, he took to the dance floor with the professional dancers.  The show also included acrobats and gymnasts.  The music never stopped and neither did the party.  We were exhausted.
     
    In reflecting on the whole event, two things were obvious.  One, Richard Branson is a radical who loves to be different and have fun.  Two, Richard's commitment to both the planet and the travel agent community is quite evident.

  • Club Med Yucatan - Food and Entertainment (Part 2)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    We enjoyed both La Hacienda and Taco Arte. Each offered a broad selection of gourmet and regional specialties. La Hacienda is located by the main pool area on the second floor so it offered a nice view of the lagoon and the large pool. I also enjoyed the view beyond the pool facing north towards the ocean. Club Med’s international staff contributes to the variety of cuisine offered. It was a great opportunity to try new combinations of seasonings. I felt most at home at the more casual Arte Taco with the wonderful GIANT PALAPA where you sit right by the ocean looking East. We could watch the water sports in the distance and we had a nice view of one of the quaint and quieter beaches.

    We had a lovely experience at the steakhouse named La Estancia. It was included yet we still had  to make a reservation. We dined there one night and we enjoyed the menu and the genuine service.  JADE’s accommodations are rated 5 Trident within Club Med (as opposed to the previous 4 Trident in Aguamarina area where I stayed). Jade is great for those who want more personal service and a higher level of attention.

    Night time parties are popular at Club Med Yucatan. They have themed attire like “White Night,” and “White and Jeans Night.” We enjoyed all 3 of our evenings that were appropriate for all ages. The music was a mix of Spanish, Mexican, and French. All were welcome to follow and join in dancing upfront with the crowd or in back by the tables and seats. Each night there was a vibrant blend of international sound that went on strong until 11pm and then it scaled down and quieted towards midnight.

    In summary, my short time at Club Med Yucatan was a comfortable, active, and a “Fun in the Sun” experience. I was very impressed by the amount of lush vegetation and large mature palm trees all around. The staff was very friendly and welcoming. I recommend a minimum of 4 nights so that you have time for both activities and relaxation. Give myself or anyone at CTC Travel a call if you would like help in setting up a Club Med vacation.

  • Club Med Yucatan - All-Inclusive Resorts (Part 1)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Club Med Resorts (U.S. website)

     

    Hilda SpillersThe next 2 editions of the Wanderluster, our blogger, Hilda Spillers, will be by a travel advisors that joined our in-house CTC Travel staff a couple of years ago but started in the travel industry decades ago as representative of Holland America & Windstar Cruises.
     
    Hilda was recently chosen by Club Med Resorts to experience all that they have to offer at their all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, Mexico. 
     
    To learn more about Hilda Spillers and her travel expertise & passions, please Click Here.  Please remember to follow us on Facebook & Instagram if you would like to see more details & photos of our experiences.
    Club Med is global and it has been around since the 1950’s. They started in Europe where they invented the All-Inclusive resort concept. There are over 65 resorts in 5 continents. Many are nicknamed Sun Resorts or Ski Resorts. The Sun resorts are located in carefully selected paradise locations and the Ski resorts are generally located in the European Alps. Some resorts are All Adult and many resorts are for All Ages.

    My trip was to Club Med Cancun Yucatan. This was THE FIRST resort developed on what is now called the Cancun hotel zone. It is an awesome location situated between the ocean to east and a lagoon to the west in the Northeast region of the Yucatan Peninsula. This beautiful property has several beaches both large and small, the main large pool, the medium size infinity pool that overlooks the ocean, and a petite pool in the children’s area for the little ones. The lagoon offers a quiet area for those enjoying the spa and different area for water skiing.

    We had a short and pleasant drive from the Cancun airport. Our check-in was very welcoming. We stayed in the Aguamarina area where many families stay. This area is newly renovated and it is beautifully complete with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. You take a few steps down and you are on one of the smaller, quieter beaches. Our room had a balcony with a front view of the blue ocean and palm trees swaying in the breeze. The large room had a Queen sized bed facing the wide window wall for a wonderful morning view. The main bathroom had 2 sinks and the best feature were the 2 mirrors that slid to the side leaving a great outdoor view. It was a pleasure to brush teeth with a view of sailing catamarans and the palm trees! The second room had 2 twin beds and a half bathroom that is great for families.

    It was time to explore and experience the activities! Club Med has an excellent reputation for sports and activities and it is all included. The difference is that the Club Med staff is there for instruction for first timers or for those who want to fine tune their skills. We loved our time kayaking. It was my first time paddle boarding and learning archery. I highly recommend trying something new as it is a great way to bond with your family or friends. We loved snorkeling. At Club Med Yucatan, it was so easy to walk to the snorkeling hut, sign in, get the gear, and take some steps to the beautiful clear water. It was my daughter’s first time snorkeling and she spotted a sting ray out of the corner of her eye. She excitedly got my attention and we gently followed it for a short while. We of course enjoyed the colorful fish as well! As we returned to the beach, we felt refreshed and exhilarated!  We decided to rest on the beach on chase lounges under a palapa - - it was a dream come true.   And to add to that dream, we then walked to the spa for our appointment. It was amazing to snorkel in the morning and by noon we were showering to prepare to be pampered. After our appointment we relaxed overlooking the quiet lagoon sipping cucumber water; how wonderful.

    Club Med Yucatan is big on sailing, windsurfing, tennis and flying trapeze; something for everyone in your travel clan.   There were hammocks for those who wanted to relax while watching travel mates climb up the ladder to bravely swing on the trapeze- very cool. We stopped by to watch water skiing and that was very popular.  I walked away thinking … “what a great set up for multi generations traveling together.” There are activities for all types of interests.

  • Pre-Inaugural: Experiencing the Cuisine aboard Celebrity Edge (part 4)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    The options for dining on Celebrity are one of my favorite explorations and the Celebrity Edge did not disappoint.  There are familiar venues like the Oceanview Cafe for the buffet experience, but there is a new concept for main dining.

    I was confused about the main dining venues until I experienced it on the Celebrity Edge.  Instead of having one multi-level dining room (that is so beautiful on all their other ships) there are four more intimate restaurants.  You still have the main and late dining times along with the Celebrity Select option that allows more flexibility.  However, depending on your initial choice, you experience different venues.

    If you choose the traditional dining times when you reserve your Celebrity Edge cruise, you will be assigned a specific table at your designated time in one of four restaurants and you will dine in that restaurant nightly.  Don’t worry, you will still have some options on the menu.  One section of the menu is some longtime favorites of Celebrity guests.  Another section will feature dishes for the restaurant in which you are dining.  Then the last section will offer a dish from the other restaurants.

    If you choose the Celebrity Select option, you can move between the restaurants, but I highly recommend that you make a reservation nightly.  This option allows you to change your dining time nightly based on your excursions or personal choice.  I like this option so I don’t have to rush to dinner after a long day on shore.  Or I may want to dine early to allow more time in the casino afterwards!

    The Normandie Restaurant features French cuisine.  The decor of glass sculptures is beautiful and fits the feel of the modern dishes.  The Cyprus Restaurant Mediterranean food was delicious.  You walk through a wine display at the entrance of the Cosmopolitan Restaurant for your American cuisine.  The Tuscan Restaurant serves fresh made pasta and Italian fare.  You also have some very unique options that are just on the Celebrity Edge.  These are optional specialty restaurants and charge a fee.  I recommend you purchase a bundle of restaurants when you complete your online check-in so you can get them at a reduced price.  All specialty restaurants -- At this time the Eden Restaurant is $65 per person.  This is not just a dinner; this is a dining experience.  The Eden performers are present during your meal.  The menu is inspired by nature and is served as a tasting menu.  This is an adult only meal.  Fine Cut Steakhouse offers an upscale steak and seafood meal for $55 per person.  Meals are made to order so always hot and fresh.  The Fine Cut was inspired by a jeweler and is a warm and inviting space within a wine installation. Le Grand Bistro on deck 4 is reminessent of a French Bistro serving soups and salads, pasteries, sandwiches and entrees.  Breakfast is $10 per person and lunch is $20 per person.  But for dinner, it all changes to a new and innovative experience.  The technology created by Skullmapping and presented by TableMation presents Le Petit-an animated character who appears beside your plate and prepares each course before the actual dish is presented to you.  Nothing like it!  It is entertaining, fun, and delicious. This is $55 per person. The Rooftop Garden Grill is a serene outdoor venue that serves lunch ($25 per person) and dinner ($45 per person).  Think of eating in your backyard under the stars. And we can’t forget that one-of-a-kind Magic Carpet.  Lunch on deck 5 is an extension of Raw on Five and pricing is a la carte.  Seafood appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and sushi are offered alongside coffees, desserts, and a kids menu.  Match your meal with wine or champagne.  But if you want to dine with a view like no other, choose the Magic Carpet on deck 16 for brunch ($50 per person) or dinner ($75 per person).  A reservation is required and this will be in high demand so be flexible with your time and reserve early.  The cuisine is contemporary. Note before you go:  these prices are per person and are subject to change.  An 18% gratuity will be automatically added to your stateroom account. If you reserve a suite or AquaClass stateroom, your dinner is served in exclusive restaurants.  Suite passengers can indulge in Luminae @ The Reserve.  This is an intimate restaurant with menu unique to on Luminae and it changes daily so you won’t get bored. Blu Restaurant is exclusive to AquaClass guests.  This elegant dining space is fresh and crisp with tall glass allowing beautiful views.

    There is something for every taste bud on Celebrity Edge.  Service does not disappoint whether you are in one of the specialty restaurants or dining in your assigned restaurant.  Bon Appetit!

  • Pre-Inaugural: Unveiling the Suites & Staterooms aboard Celebrity Edge (part 3)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    I want to take some time to acquaint you with the various accommodations on the Celebrity Edge.  Overall, all staterooms are comfortable and well planned.  Regardless of how you travel, Celebrity Edge has something for you.

    Celebrity Cruises is introducing new suite categories on the Celebrity Edge.  In addition to the Sky Suites, Celebrity Suites, Royal Suites, and Penthouse Suites they offer Edge Villas and Iconic Suites.  Every suite includes amenities not offered in other stateroom categories, like personal butler and onboard Destination Concierge.

    All suite passengers have access to the exclusive Retreat venues.  The Retreat includes the Retreat Lounge for complimentary drinks and socializing.  The Retreat Sundeck, The Retreat Pool and The Retreat Pool Bar are secured with card-access only.  The Edge Villas has direct access to the Retreat area.  Luminae @ The Retreat offers exclusive breakfast, lunch (on select days) and dinner for suite guests only.

    Suite guests also enjoy other services.  You get priority check-in and debarkation as well as priority embarkation in all ports.  Love the evening show in the theatre?  Suite guests have reserved seating on chic nights.  

    The 2 new Iconic Suites are luxurious 2 bedroom 2 bathroom suites on deck 12 above the bridge.  The suite is 1892 sq ft and the veranda is 689 sq ft.  Utilizing the sofa bed, the suite can accommodate six guests.  The veranda has a daybed, loungers and a private hot tub.  There is even a Butler’s pantry off the dining space.  Enjoy the 65” interactive TV in the living space.

    A new concept for Celebrity is the 2-story Edge Villa.  There are six of these one bedroom 2 bathroom suites.  There is a sofa bed that allows this suite to hold 4 guests.  The villas’ open space layout easily blends the indoor and outdoor spaces.  This suite is 739 sq ft and the 211 sq ft veranda has a three-foot-deep plunge pool.  The green accents in the bedroom coordinate with the plants adorning the veranda walls.

    Celebrity continues to offer the Penthouse Suite on the Celebrity Edge.  It is slightly larger than on previous vessels at 1378 sq ft with a 197 sq ft veranda.  This suite has 2 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms so it, too, will accommodate six guests.  This is a bright and airy suite with a separate living and dining space.  The master bathroom is very large and offers a whirlpool tub with a view of the ocean separate from the large walk-in shower.

    The four Royal Suites are beautiful 1 bedroom 1 bathroom suites with 687 sq ft and a veranda of 72 sq ft.  There is a living and dining space separate from the bedroom.  The luxurious bathroom has a soaking tub and walk-in shower.  Windows galore offer a view of the ocean.  This suite will house four guests.

    The Celebrity Suite* is a warm comfortable suite with a separate bedroom and split bathroom.  This suite is 401 sq ft and the long veranda is 100 sq ft.  The split bathroom makes family travel easy and this suite will accommodate four guests.

    There are three categories of Sky Suites*.  The only difference between the S1, S2, and S3 categories is location.  Some of the S1 and S2 suites will accommodate four guests while all of the categories have suites that are double occupancy.  There are two S2 suites that are accessible-adapted rooms with roll-in showers with handrails, wider doors, and other features required for wheelchair use.

    *New on the Celebrity Edge, and only offered seasonally, are the Celebrity Family Suite and the Sky Family Suite.  Celebrity will configure a limited number of suites to connect with other staterooms to make a larger suite to hold multi-generational families.  For example, the midship S3 suites can be connected to the inside (category 12) stateroom OR the veranda stateroom next door.

    Celebrity continues to offer AquaClass staterooms on the Celebrity Edge but has added the infinite veranda.  These are Edge staterooms with infinite veranda but with added features and amenities.  In AquaClass you will dine in the exclusive Blu Restaurant for a healthy continental breakfast and a contemporary dinner nightly.  Having experienced this, it will be difficult for me to sail without it in the future.  I love the free, unlimited access to the SEA Thermal Suite and heated tile loungers.  Best place to read on the ship.  The priority check-in helps too.

    The Concierge Class staterooms are very popular with my clients.  These are Edge staterooms with infinite veranda but you get to dine in the Main Dining Room on the day of embarkation after having priority embarkation.  You have access to a personalized Concierge Service and are invited to an exclusive destination seminar.

    Most of the veranda staterooms have the infinite veranda, but there are a few Deluxe Ocean View staterooms with veranda that you will recognize if you have sailed Celebrity before.  They also continue to offer the Sunset veranda staterooms that are aft of the ship with a view of the horizon and sunset.  

    New the Celebrity Edge is the Edge Single stateroom with infinite veranda.  Yes, single occupancy without the single supplement.  This room is 131 sq ft with a veranda of 45 sq ft.

    Stay tuned to learn about the food, entertainment, and new venues that the Celebrity Edge offers.  It is an amazing ship and I am having a blast sharing my experience with you.

  • Pre-Inaugural: 1st Impressions & Highlights aboard the Celebrity Edge (part 2)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    I was honored to be chosen to pre-view the new Celebrity Edge. Before leaving for Florida, I downloaded the Edge app on my phone and did my online check-in. Part of that process is to scan your passport and to take your own selfie to serve as your onboard identification. This makes the pier check-in process fast and easy. The Edge app also enables you to unlock your stateroom door with your phone. I’m less likely to forget my phone than my room key so this was a no-brainer. You can also track the activities on the ship like the pop-up entertainers in different venues. Getting from the Fort Lauderdale airport to the pier is fast and easy. We used a ride share driver, but a taxi is also very easy. I prefer these over the cruise transfer.

    The first thing you notice is the Magic Carpet. This cantilevered “floating” carpet serves as a lounge, a specialty dining venue, and the tender station. Its orange color is a stark contrast to the blue and white ship colors of every Celebrity ship. You will be able to identify the Celebrity Edge in every port and while at sea. The overall feel of the ship is very pleasant.

    We were assigned an AquaClass stateroom with the infinite veranda. The crisp white linens against the dove gray and deep purple accents were eye-catching. The infinite veranda is new to Celebrity. The added space makes the room larger. You have a table and 2 chairs in what initially appears to be an alcove. But you close the folding doors and push a button to lower the upper window and you are now on a private veranda. There is a privacy shade that lowers at the touch of a button too. I really enjoyed the clear view of the ocean from our room. The stateroom lighting was unique. You can turn the lights on “bright” when you need to get ready for dinner. There is a morning setting that is bright and cheerful, and evening setting that is more somber, and movie setting for ambient lighting. When it is time for bed, turn on the sleep setting and the bedside lamps will stay lit long enough for you to get into bed before they dim and go out. No more bumping my shins! Remember that Edge app? You can change your stateroom settings on it too. You can set the lighting and the room temperature from anywhere on the ship. The bathroom is spacious and the shower is my favorite. The shower is a large square glass shower with a rain showerhead. It even has a foot bar for us ladies so we can comfortably shave our legs. You will find shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and body lotion in the bathroom. You won’t find a hair dryer here; it is in a drawer in the dressing area of the stateroom. A lot of my clients tell me they don’t spend a lot of time in their stateroom. Even if you don’t, you want to be comfortable when you are. I enjoy down time in my stateroom when I am cruising. The beds and pillows are comfortable for a good night’s sleep

  • Exclusive: Pre-Inaugural - Celebrity Cruises - Unveiling the Celebrity Edge

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Celebrity Cruises (Facebook)

    Ruth Daniel
    The next several editions of the Wanderluster, our blogger will be the one of our most tenured travel advisors of CTC TravelRuth Daniel.

    Due to Ruth's knowlegde and expertise with Celebrity Cruises, she was chosen by Celebrity Cruises to attend what is referred to in the travel industry as a "pre-inagural" sailing aboard the Celebrity Edge.  Sailing abouard this highly anticipated innovative ship on a 2-day sailing with other travel industry colleges & national press.

    To learn more about Ruth Daniel and her travel expertise & passions, please Click Here.  Please remember to follow us on Facebook & Instagram if you would like to see more details & photos of our experiences.

    There’s no doubt that a Celebrity Cruise is a distinctive experience on every ship, every time.  Your modern luxury cruise experience is a combination of intuitive service, culinary excellence and stunning design.

    Celebrity’s shore excursions offer you more time to immerse yourself in some of the world’s most unforgettable destinations.  With more than 160 overnight stays and almost 400 stays of 12 hours or more in port, Celebrity gives you a more authentic and in depth experience in all the worlds you explore.

    The Celebrity Revolution will begin with the launching of the Celebrity Edge in December, 2018.  With a $400 million dollar modernization of all their ships, Celebrity will transform their amazing fleet to incorporate many of the features introduced on the Edge.  The Edge will completely redefine modern luxury travel.

    The Celebrity Edge is designed to make your cruising experience more unique than ever before.  It focuses on the Sea and stimulates your senses with Edge staterooms with infinite verandas, the Magic Carpet with its mood and function changing-a floating exterior platform reaching heights of 13 stories over the open ocean and more.  From embarkation platform to an intimate restaurant, this world’s first cantilevered platform at sea, there is nothing yet conceived like the Magic Carpet.

    Everywhere you look there are grand expanses of glass inviting nature in.  Eden, encompassed in stories of glass, changes throughout the day and night creating feast for every sense.

    Join us on the Celebrity Edge-cruise travel will never be the same again.

  • Exclusive: Pre-Inaugural - Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    We recently traveled to Miami for a 2-night pre-inaugural on Royal Caribbean’s new largest ship in the world: Symphony of the Seas.  This sailing was only open to members of the industry and media.

    It was a special sailing because it was the official christening and naming of the ship.  Unlike other ships who traditionally had a significant person designated as the ship’s Godmother, the Symphony had a God Family-actors Carlos and Alexa PenaVega and their one year old son, Ocean.  Ocean actually pushed the button that sent an appropriately huge bottle of champagne crashing on the ship’s bow.  Speeches and fireworks followed.

    At 228,081 gross tons, the Symphony is the largest of the Oasis class ships. Royal Caribbean built a state of the art new $250 million port facility in Miami to accommodate her.  The goal of the new terminal is to board the Symphony’s 5600 passengers so quickly you can get from “your car to the bar” in under 10 minutes.  Features like facial recognition for customs on debarkation makes the entire process seamless.  No more filling out forms or stopping for interviews.

    While the newest of all the Royal Caribbean ships, the Symphony has all the features one has learned to expect from Oasis class ships like automated bartenders, zip lines, Aqua Theater and ice rink.  It has refined and improved all the experiences. While there are a dozen specialty restaurants, there are 11 complimentary venues with excellent food.  Cafe Promenade is a great alternative to the pricey Starbucks on board.

    The ship will be doing alternating 7 night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries from Miami.  There are also several classes of suites with different inclusions like the Royal Suite Class with gratuities, stocked mini bars, high speed internet, and more. Speaking of suites, the 2 story Ultimate Family Suite is unlike any other suite at sea with an indoor slide, fully equipped game room and expansive balcony and sleeps 8.

    Whether it’s shopping on the promenade or non-stop entertainment, you could easily spend a week on the Symphony and never get off.  It’s incredible! 

  • Traveler's Tip: How to Pick the Right Vacation

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    So often we hear stories of people who return from a vacation disappointed that it really didn’t meet their dreams. This is especially true of people who book online without the help of a good travel advisor. IBM did a study that showed better than 50% of people who book online were dissatisfied with their vacation experience.

    There are several questions to ask yourself when planning a vacation. The most important (and often overlooked) is “what kind of experience do you want to have.” A family reunion or a honeymoon is an event. The real question is what kind of experience do you want to have during your event.

    Why: What do you want to experience?
    Where: Where do you think you want to go?
    When: When do you want to travel?
    What: What type of budget do you have in mind?
    How: How many people are traveling & their ages?


    Picking the right vacation combines all of the questions above. Where and when are critical concerns when it comes to making your dream vacation a reality within your budget-Say you are looking for a beach vacation for a little R & R. There are many locations to consider. The more flexible you are in terms of location can make a big difference. The same is true with “when.” Flexibility is the key to saving money in the travel business.

    There are traditionally better times to travel during the year to get the best value when the demand (crowds) is less. Pricing is a supply and demand game everywhere.

    Jan. 2 to Jan 16 : Low Season
    Jan. 16 - April 1 : High Season
    April 2 - June 7 : Shoulder Season
    June 8 - Aug. 15 : High Season
    Aug. 16 - Dec 20 : Low Season
    Dec. 21 - Jan. 1 : high Season


    Avoid holidays and be mindful of the public school calendars when demand can be unusually high like Spring Break. Remember Aug. until Nov. 1st is usually hurricane season.

    The key to the perfect vacation and the right price is a good travel advisor. He or she will match you with the right product and has the expertise to help you spend your money wisely.

  • Caribbean Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas (part 2)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Royal Caribbean Youtube

    In this last edition, we are focusing on Royal Caribbean Cruises and their incredible experience as of the Caribbbean by our president and founder travel advisors, John F. Krieger, as he sailed aboard the Majesty of the Seas' Caribbean itinerary.
     
    Cozumel
    This was not my first visit to Cozumel.  Cozumel has a great deal to offer for a small island off the mainland of the Yucatan Peninsula.  It is one of the world’s top 10 places to dive and snorkel and has beautiful beaches…but not near where the ship docks.  There is a wide array of shore excursions from ATVs, island jeep tours, a day at Chankanaab Park with swimming with the dolphins or a visit to Mayan ruins.
     
    Cozumel is one of the best places to shop in the Caribbean.  Dollars and credit cards are accepted everywhere and prices are often negotiable.  The ship actually docks right in front of a major shopping center selling everything from jewelry to Cuban Cigars.
     
    I like taking a cab downtown where there are countless shops, restaurants and bars.  Good food and great drinks offer a great break from non-stop shopping.
     
    Cozumel is a lot of fun and a great place to party at Senior Frogs or Carlos & Charles.
     
    Cuba
    My visit to Cuba was very interesting.  If you are a history buff, Cuba has a rich history with the discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492.  There are forts, cathedrals and many colonial buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.  The architecture is amazing.
     
    I took a private independent excursion starting with a walking tour of old Havana and then a tour in one of those famous classic cars (‘53 Ford) to see sites too far to walk.
     
    In Cuba you must exchange US dollars into the local currency called CUCS.  Cash and Credit cards are not accepted.  It’s a very easy process to exchange money right on the pier with banking hours from 7am to 6pm so you can exchange money into CUCS and from CUCS back into dollars easily.
     
    You must have a Cuban Visa to enter Cuba.  Royal Caribbean makes it very easy and a $75 per person Visa fee is charged to your onboard account.  Cuban immigration can be very slow so being patient.
     
    For sightseeing you must either take a Royal Caribbean shore excursion or thru a 3rd party provider approved by the Cuban Government.  You can tour and then go off on your own.
     
    There’s some good shopping in Cuba at the government approved stores.  Prices are not negotiable.  Cigars and Rum are considerably less expensive than in the states.  The typical Cuban food is good and always includes rice and beans and very reasonably priced.
     
    I found Cuba to be very clean and the people were very friendly and helpful.  It’s different from other Caribbean ports because of it’s rich history.  Cuba is definitely worth a visit.

  • Caribbean Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Royal Caribbean Cruises
    John F KriegerOver the next 2 installments, our blogger will be the founder and owner of CTC Travel, John F. Krieger, who participated on a familiarization trip aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas on a 5-night Caribbean cruise visiting the hottest Caribbean port in several decades – Havana, Cuba  To learn more about John Krieger and his travel expertise & passions, please Click Here.
     
    Please remember to check back for next week’s edition when I will discuss the ports of call.  Check out the itinerary & info about each port of call HERE
     
    Despite all the hurricane concerns, our flight to Tampa was smooth and the ship left on time for our adventure to Key West, Cuba and Cozumel.  No rough seas and partially cloudy skies in every port.  Hot as usual in Cuba and Cozumel. 
    Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas is currently sailing from Tampa on 4 and 5 night cruises.  At 26 years old, the Majesty is one of Royal Caribbean’s oldest and smallest ships at 74,000 tons carrying 2700 passengers.  I was actually on the pre-inaugural sailing 26 years ago.  
     
    The check in process was very smooth and efficient-only took 10 minutes including paperwork for your Cuba Visa that you filled out in advance to get the actual visa on embarkation.  This is one of the advantages of a small ship.  Disembarkation was just as simple and no U.S. customs form was required.  Once you board the ship, I suggest you eat lunch in another dining room other than the Windjammer to avoid the crowds.  Try the Compass Café or Johnny Rocket’s.
     
    Don’t let the Majesty’s age or size concern you as the ship was refurbished in 2016 and will be again in February, 2019.  She has been updated with everything from a rock climbing wall, Johnny Rockets soda fountain, and Boleros Night Club.  The ship is in excellent shape thru out.  The staterooms are small by today’s standards but still comfortable.  Your flat screen TV is not interactive as on the newer ships so you can’t check your shipboard account, etc.  I was surprised to have a shower with a shower curtain which you don’t find on newer ships.  I had an outside stateroom with a porthole on deck 2.  I had never sailed on the bottom deck before.  There were 2 real advantages: easy debarkation and embarkation for shore excursions and easy access to the dining rooms. 
     
    The daily newspaper, the Cruise Compass was filled with all the traditional shipboard activities from napkin folding to karaoke as you would expect…Impossible to do it all. The Centrum (the center lobby) was always busy with sales and entertainment virtually all the time.  There were some good discounts on everything from watches to t-shirts from the surrounding stores.  The small number of passengers (comparatively) made it easy to navigate all areas on the ship.
     
    The food was good in quality and variety always including a choice of beef, poultry and fish in addition to other items.  The dining room felt cramped to me but that maybe the result of eating at a table for 11 agents.
     
    Entertainment was good and featured an excellent song and dance troop.  Additionally, there were specialty acts featuring jugglers and unicyclists presented with great humor…very entertaining.  There were two comedians-one family oriented and one for the adults.
     
    I have saved the best for last and that was the crew.  The Majesty has the reputation for being the happiest ship in the fleet and the crew reflected that everywhere-even on shore.  They were engaging, smiling and always willing to go the extra mile.  Service was excellent and the best we remember on a ship.
     
    If you like the smaller ships with a more intimate feel, the Majesty could be the ship for you.
    Viking River Romantic Danube Itinerary

    Tampa, Key West, Havana & Cozumel

     

  • Traveler's Tip: Become a Savvy Shopper

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    In order to be a savvy shopper when it comes to planning and buying your next vacation, there is a great deal of information you need to know.  The avalanche of new products, the complexity of the offers and huge amount of information available on the internet can make vacation planning a stressful full time job.

    In planning a cruise alone, every cruise line, ship and itinerary is different.  There are over 250 ships to choose from and 97 new ships scheduled for delivery between 2017-2025.  In the lodging sector, there are currently 1400 new hotels under construction.  How can anyone make good judgments on their own?

    Many people still think the internet is the answer.  The average person spends over a week planning a vacation online making 32 visits to over 10 websites.  An IBM study revealed that fewer than 50% of people booking online feel they’re getting their money’s worth.  In 2017, internet travel buying was down 58%.  Those people left and went to a travel agent. The internet is a great place to shop but not to buy travel.

    Call a travel advisor to get the care and advice you are looking for.  You’ll save time and money.

  • Traveler's Tip: Value of a Travel Advisor

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    How does a travel agent save you money?

    Many people think it costs more to use a travel agent.  The reality is that the majority of our services are FREE.  We are an extension of the supplier and not a middle man. We are paid by our suppliers.  It doesn’t cost you less to go direct to a supplier or cruise line.  Often it will cost you more and you won’t get the same service.  We have thousands of negotiated rates that the suppliers’ reservationists don’t have access to.

    Contrary to popular belief, travel agents book 80% of all travel.  We have:

    *

    Product and destination knowledge

    *

    We match you with the right product at the right price

    *

    We are an unbiased source for product comparisons

    *

    We do problem resolution and re-pricing

    Making your own reservations online?  Your numbers are declining every year while the use of travel agents is growing by leaps and bounds.  The average person spends over a week of time planning a vacation online and makes over 32 visits to over 10 websites.  An IBM study shows that 50% of online travel buyers don’t feel that they got their money’s worth.  You have to ask yourself what is the value of your time and your precious vacation dollars?

    It’s simple.  Develop a relationship with a travel agent and reap the rewards of working with an expert and no stress travel planning.  Your CPA, attorney and financial planner manage your assets.  A good travel agent manages your travel experiences for a life time.

  • Alaskan Inside Passage Aboard the Celebrity Solstice (Part 2)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Celebrity Cruises

    Alaska – the Last Frontier
    This was my first time in Alaska and it will not be my last.  It is a destination not to be missed!  It is one of the top-rated domestic destinations for a reason.  It is relatively easy to get to and full of adventure, natural wonders, rugged beauty and lots of wildlife.  You get everything from warm sunny days hiking in the rainforest to exploring on a glacier and you’ll have some of the best fish and seafood you’ll ever taste.  The towns you visit are small and quaint and the people are happy.  You can do everything from hang out in town with locals eating & shopping to zip lining or whale watching.

    I visited Tracy Arm/Sawyer Glacier, Ketchikan, Juneau Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia on my Alaska cruise and enjoyed each one immensely.  They each had their own special character that you admire first from the ship upon arrival to the port and then on land visiting the town or taking advantage of the many excursions offered by the cruise line or other reputable companies like Shore Trips.

    Tracy Arm Fjords & Sawyer Glacier
    While this is your first “stop,” this really gave me a grand first impression of what Alaska is all about.

    Tracy Arm Fjords (a fjord is the magnificent valley left behind by retreating glaciers) was absolutely lovely and verdant green-very picturesque.  When viewing Sawyer, the ship rotates so everyone gets a great view of the glacier and calving-large chunks of ice cascading off the glacier.  It’s hard to believe how large glaciers are 48-70 miles across!

    Ketchikan
    Know as the Salmon “Capital of the World” because of its salmon hatcheries and great fishing, there is much to see and do in Ketchikan.  It is also the totem pole capital of Alaska where totem poles are still made today by the Indian tribes that settled the area.

    The town is small but very interesting with salmon swimming in Ketchikan Creek right thru the middle of town.  Don’t miss Creek Street-the famous red light district from the 1900’s perched on wooden pilings which is a picturesque boardwalk now made up of gift shops.

    My favorite tours here were an excursion to Tongass National Forest.  You might even see a black bear or two.  Since I am a big animal person I took the Neets Bay Bear Cruise and saw black bears catching salmon.  Very exciting.  A salmon fishing excursion was really tempting since you can take your catch home.

    Juneau
    The State Capital and second largest city is unique because it is the only capital city only accessible by water and air.

    Mount Juneau towers above the city’s downtown area, giving Juneau the atmosphere of being surrounded by mountains and the serene waters of the nearby channel.  The water front bustles with water craft of all types including cruise ships.  Above it you will find 1,500 miles of glistening glaciers know as the Juneau Icefield.

    Juneau has something for everyone from shopping to adventuresome shore excursions.  If you are into glaciers, Mendenhall Glacier is the world’s only drive up glacier not far from town.  Don’t forget to visit the Red Dog Saloon-a real institution in Alaska and a lot of fun.  I really enjoyed the whale watching and Salmon Bake Combo.  Saw whales and never had salmon that good at home.  While it’s very pricey, my clients love the Ultimate Dog Sled Experience by helicopter.

    Skagway:
    Skagway is an important town in the history of Alaska and the Yukon, Canada.  It was the starting point of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98 when miners flocked and countless died in search of gold. 

    The town is small (mostly gift shops) and can be easily seen by foot or by Skagway’s unique taxis.  It is known as the Garden City of Alaska with very fertile soil.  It’s also the beginning of the 33 mile Chilkoot Trail-the beginning of the path to the Yukon Goldfields and is great for spectacular hiking.  You can actually see Harding Glacier from town.

    Since it doesn’t take long to see the town, there were 2 tours I really liked: The White Pass Railroad which takes you up in the mountains tracing the footsteps of the Gold Rush Miners.  You can take the train up and either go down by train or motor coach.  Glacier trekking by helicopter was incredible and very educational.  How often in life do you get to walk on a glacier?

    Victoria, British Columbia
    Due to limited time in Victoria, the place to visit is Butchart Gardens.  Lovely Victoria is “Canada’s City of Gardens” and Butchart Gardens is the grandest of them with over 1 million budding plants.  You’ll enjoy a scenic drive thru historic downtown viewing Victoria’s various sites as well as the Parliament Building and the iconic Empress Hotel.  The Gardens are fantastic virtually year round and are not to be missed.

    Summary
    Overall, my first time to Alaska and on a Celebrity Cruise was amazing.  I was expecting it to be good but not this good and I can’t wait to go again and experience a cruise tour this time.  You really get to see and experience so much more when you can include a few days of a land tour.

  • Alaskan Inside Passage Aboard the Celebrity Solstice (Part 1)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Celebrity Cruises (Pinterest)

    Sandra RubioIn the next 2 editions, we will be focusing on Celebrity Cruises and their “Modern Luxury” delivery of the Alaskan cruise experience as observed by one of our in-house travel advisors, Sandra Rubio, as she sailed aboard the Celebrity Solstice thru the Alaskan Inside Passage itinerary.. To learn more about Sandra Rubio and her travel expertise & passions, please Click Here.

    If this blog is of interest to you, I would urge you to attend our Celebrity Cruise Wine Tasting event on Wed. Oct 10, 2018 from 6:30-8:30pm in Plano.  RSVP required so please call 214.206.4488

    Announcing the Celebrity Edge
    The newest Celebrity ship, The Edge, will begin sailing in the Caribbean in December, 2018.  In late November some of our staff will be inspecting the ship on a special pre-inaugural sailing before she goes into service.  Be sure to watch for blog editions focusing on all the incredible innovations and advancements aboard The Edge.  She will be a real game changer in the cruise industry.

    Alaskan Inside Passage Aboard the Celebrity Solstice (Part 1)
    I sailed on the Celebrity solstice for 7 nights to Alaska round trip from Seattle.  Seattle is a great destination in itself so I suggest going in a day or two before sailing to enjoy it.  It’s also more economical to fly in and out of Seattle.

    The Solstice was the first in a series of 5 ships Celebrity refers to as the “Solstice Class” built in 2008 and extensively refurbished ($11 million) in 2016.  The ship felt as good as new to me.  At 122,000 tons and just 2850 passengers she is a premium mid-sized ship by today’s standards a perfect size for the delivery of Celebrity’s Modern Luxury experience to each guest.  Eight out of ten staterooms have balconies for guest to enjoy as well.  I strongly recommend a balcony stateroom for Alaska because there is always something to see while sailing the Inside Passage. . .eagles, whales, dolphins & even an occasional bear.

    The Solstice has many unique features beyond all the Modern Luxury touches you’d expect on a premium ship.  How about the Lawn Club - over an acre of natural grass on the top of the ship is perfect for picnics, lawn sports like bocce ball and even an outdoor theater with a Hot Glass Blowing Show.

    There are new stateroom categories as well like Aqua Class which will have spa lovers rejoicing.  These staterooms, located adjacent to the Canyon Ranch Spa Club have unlimited Spa access as well as exclusive dining room called Blu-the most coveted place to dine on the entire ship.  There’s also the concierge class with special features and amenities.  Combine this with a wide array of restaurants and cafes and you’ll experience Modern Luxury at its best.

    Celebrity is always famous for its food and this sailing was no exception.  The food choices seem endless & wine is delicious.  The ship’s sommeliers are there to help with food pairing suggestions which is great for a novice like me.  Everything I had was delicious and I only ate in the dining room, with so many choices there isn’t really a reason not to but I understand the desire for a more intimate evening in a specialty restaurant.  They are all fantastic and you will eat too much so plan on taking the stairs only and enjoy dessert every night!

    There is plenty of entertainment onboard - the shows are unique in style and very well performed.  There are some truly talented performers onboard.  I saw a show called Amade which was a musical acrobatic production set to the music of Mozart and other more contemporary music as well, done in 17Th century costumes.  It was beautiful.  They have special guest onboard from time to time as well.  During my cruise Mark Preston direct from Las Vegas performed one night.

    The Silent Disco was a big hit although everyone seemed a bit baffled at first by this concept of only hearing the music through the headphones you’re wearing.  After a while everyone really got into it and the drinks were helping as it was late at night after the show.  By the 2nd time they had it, everyone really had the hang of it and were looking forward to it.  I mostly enjoyed watching from the 2nd level down on unsuspecting, slightly inebriated cruisers honing their dance moves.  Good people watching!

    Because the Solstice is not a mega ship the crew believes in going the extra mile with customer service.   The staff’s pleasant smiles and dedication to superior service shows.  You feel welcome everywhere you go and it’s apparent the crew loves their jobs.  It was a great home away from home for 7 wonderful nights.

    Please stay tuned for next week’s blog where I’ll share my experience of the Inside Passage itinerary and shore excursions that are favorites of my clients.

  • Traveler's Tip: Travel Insurance

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    When people start planning a vacation, they often overlook one of the most important parts of the process: trip cancellation and interruption insurance.  Nobody ever wants to think of what might go wrong before or during their trip.  The reality is that with tour and cruise cancellation penalties you can lose all your money should something unforeseen happen to you or your family.  Statistically, seniors and children (including grandchildren) are the greatest risks for cancellation.

    The best way to look at travel insurance is that you are insuring your hard earned vacation money.  Medicare and Medicaid offer extremely limited (if any) coverage outside the United States.  Insurance coverage costs approximately 10% of the value of your trip.

    Trip insurance coverage has become so important that some countries may not allow you to enter without proof of insurance.  A good trip insurance policy should cover the following:

    *

    Trip cancellation and interruption

    *

    Pre-existing conditions

    *

    Trip interruption

    *

    Accident and Sickness Medical Expense

    *

    Emergency Medical Evacuation and repatriation of remains

    Most tour and cruise companies offer insurance.  There are many other insurance companies and credit cards that offer coverage.  Be smart and compare coverages.  No matter what…Take Trip Insurance and have peace of mind.

    Click on the Logo for a Travel Insurance Quote Buy travel protection from Travel Insured International

     

  • Viking River Cruises (Romantic Danube) - Why You Will Love It! [part III]

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Viking River Cruises

    Staterooms:
    Viking Long Ships have a variety of staterooms cabins, from Explorer Suites (only 2 per ship) at 445 square feet with wrap around verandas to standard staterooms with small windows near the ceiling.  We prefer the balcony or French balcony (you cannot step out on a French balcony) because both offer the best views thru floor to ceiling glass with sliding glass doors.  There is also great sightseeing from the sun deck if you want to save money with a standard stateroom.

    Unlike ocean ships where your stateroom’s position in the ship is important, river boats only have 75 to 90 staterooms and location really doesn’t make much difference nor does which side you are on.  There is virtually no motion on the rivers so motion sickness is unheard of.

    On average river cruise staterooms are slightly smaller than on ocean ships.  They are however just as nice with ample storage, flat screen TVs, mini fridges, glassed-in showers and heated bathroom floors.

    Stateroom prices vary by date of sailing.  Always book as far in advance as possible to get the best offer and availability.

    Dining:
    Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily at both the restaurant and on the Aquavit Terrace.  If you are not sure how hungry you are or where or what to eat, do a walk thru-Dining room for a full meal or the Aquavit Terrace for lighter al fresco fare.  Dining room menus are always posted outside the dining room.  Remember on Viking, beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner.

    Viking River Cruises DiningThe restaurant menu and wine pairings are often based on the region you are in.  Sometimes there will be a special evening or two when they’ll do a theme and will not have a regular menu.  We had a Bavarian Night with lots of meats, cheeses, beer and bread including giant pretzels and local entertainment.  If you can’t find what you want on the chef’s choices on the menu there is also standard fish, chicken, and beef you can order anytime.

    Unlike ocean cruising, there is no assigned seating for dining and everyone eats dinner at 7pm.  Try to join different tables every night so you have a chance to meet many amazing new friends.

    If you can’t make it until meal time, cookies are available at the self-service coffee bar but only in the afternoons.  Grab a couple extra for a midnight snack.

    Throughout the ship the food was varied and very good.  If they don’t serve a wine you like just ask.  Service was always excellent.

    Silver Spirits Beverage Package:
    If you want to have alcoholic beverages whenever you want them from the bar, we suggest buying the beverage package.  It covers cocktails and wine up to $15 per glass.  It costs $150 per person for a 7 night river cruise and includes a 15% gratuity.

    Tips:

    1 Book early for the best stateroom availability
    2 Book a balcony or French balcony
    3 Sit with different people in the dining room
    4 Buy a Silver Spirits Beverage Package

     

  • Viking River Cruises (Romantic Danube) - Why You Will Love It! [part II]

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Viking River Cruises

    The Crew:
    Viking really understands that the crew can make or break a wonderful river cruise.  This may be why all the crew are full time Viking employees.  This is different from typical ocean cruise ship that hire staffs of contract staff.  They might be on one ship for 6-8 months and on a completely different line at the end of their contract.

    On Viking you can really tell the difference from the warm greeting at the airport and every time you embark or disembark as well as onboard. The waiters will remember what you like to drink in the morning with breakfast (I suggest the eggs benedict) as will the bartenders during the day and at night.  Your program director and concierge are always around to answer questions.  When they announce to let them know if you need anything they are serious about it.

    It’s easy to get to know the staff who come from all over the world.  They have great stories to tell and are genuinely interested in you.  Staff members will bend over backwards to meet your needs.  Just ask and the staff will make it happen.

    Shore Excursions:
    One of the real advantages of river cruising is that the boats dock in the heart of every city making it easy to take the provided shore excursions, explore on your own or both.  Viking includes one shore excursion in each port (usually at 8am in the morning) and optional excursions in the afternoon and some evenings.  On Viking you can pre-book some of the sought after excursions before your cruise.

    We would take the complimentary morning excursion, return to the ship for lunch and then set out on our own or take an optional excursion like a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In Vienna for example we attended an optional Mozart Concert in the evening.  It was fantastic!

    Viking tour guides are always friendly and live in the area they are showing you.  They are very knowledgeable and often seen over qualified for the job.  That gives you confidence that they are doing something they really enjoy.  Gratuities are not required but are certainly appreciated.

    Every evening the Viking Daily Newsletter is put on your bed so you can see everything that’s going on for the next day.  Every evening in the lounge there is a brief presentation covering the port and excursions for the next day.

    Gratuities:
    While a Viking River Cruise is pretty all-inclusive tips, to the staff, guides and drivers are not.  The ship operates on Euros so you may want to set aside Euros for staff tips or you can pay by credit card.   Save your Euro coins for tips to the guides and drivers.  Suggested tips are as follows:

    Tour Directors: 2 Euros per guest per day
    Staff: 12 Euros per guest per day
    Local Guides: 2 Euros per person per day
    Drivers: 1 Euro per person per day

    ATMs can be found almost everywhere if you need local currency and the ship may be able to do small exchanges.  Generally, Euros will be accepted even in countries like Hungary and Slovakia where they have their own currencies.

    To get the most out of your Viking Cruise Experience, please reference the tips detailed above.

    1   Engage the Viking Staff-it’s rewarding
    2   Pre-book optional excursions when possible
    3   Gratuities to your tour director, staff, guides and drivers are customary
    4   Euros are the most widely accepted currency

     

  • Viking River Cruises (Romantic Danube) - Why You Will Love It! (part I)

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Charissa Fay
    Viking River Cruises

    Sandra Rubio Over the next 3 installments, our guest blogger will be one of our in-house travel advisors, Sandra Rubio, who participated on a familiarization trip aboard the Viking Gullveig riverboat touring the Romantic Danube itinerary by Viking River Cruises.  Please note that the following insider tips apply to European river cruises. They may or may not apply to other Viking Cruises around the world (ie Viking Ocean Cruises, etc). To learn more about Sandra Rubio and her travel expertise & passions, please Click Here.

    Please note, that the experiences aboard the Viking Gullveig, were not because I am a travel advisor on a familiarization cruise. I thought the staff was especially overly courteous to my wishes but then I personally saw how they interacted with the other passengers and also spoke with many of the experienced cruisers during the meals or social activities and my conclusion is that they behave that way with everyone. That’s just the Viking way.

    Who is Viking River?  If you have a mailbox or a TV, I know that you must have received one of their brochures or seen their enticing commercials about "See Europe the way that Europeans Do".  Viking continues to win awards year after year by magazines like Travel & Leisure (ranked #3 as the World’s Best River Cruise Line in 2017). A river cruise is everything you dream it will be and more -- and Viking River Cruises makes sure that dream comes true!

    The Booking Process
    A travel advisor certified in “Viking River Cruises” can make your full travel experience that much easier by handling everything for you and making recommendations based on their experience.  I can personally attest to how much better a vacation of a lifetime can become by just planning extra nights (pre/post stays), sightseeing and other components such as air schedules and seamless transfers. Viking makes it very simple and uses a dedicated website called My Viking Journey that is utilized by the clients as well as the travel advisors to provide pertinent and optional information to make the trip as seamless as possible.  Once you are registered you can fill out the Guest Information Form which is your legal information and important information for the air department. You can also browse and sign up for the included and optional shore excursions. You’ll find the FAQs to help answer a lot of questions you may have especially if this is your first time cruising with Viking. Pre & post hotel packages can be found there as well as a beverage package to make sure you know what you’ll be getting once on board as well as an explanation about all the amenities available onboard. 

    The advice I give my clients is that most of my clients book one to two years in advance, so that they can take advantage of the reduced air offer by Viking (a lot of times it is FREE), which also includes the airport transfers.  Another item that I stress to my clients is utilizing the “Viking Air Plus” service for $50 per person additional.  Yes, Viking does offer “free airfare” but it will probably have two connections and may not be on the carrier of your choice.  When you upgrade for $50 per person more, you are able to customize your flights.

    Choose your stateroom wisely. It is true that the way river boats are designed, it is not completely necessary to have a veranda or French balcony but it sure does make cruising along the river bank sightseeing from your cabin more enjoyable than having to go up to the Sun Deck every time you want to view the beautiful surroundings.  And remember, they do have to close-down the Sun Deck anytime that they have to pass beneath low bridges.

    Consider scheduling your river cruise in shoulder or off-peak season. Without question, summer is peak travel season in Europe. Also during the summer, schools are still in session in Europeand many of the tour destinations are packed with students on field trips. Summers can also have low water levels on the Elbe and Danuberivers, leading to adjusted itineraries on a few cruises. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict rainfall with any accuracy. Viking has created an Update on Current Sailings page to keep passengers informed of any required changes.

    When you book 1-2 years in advance, you normally are able to receive some additional onboard credits and more options that are available for staterooms and itineraries.  When you are sailing onboard, there is normally a “Future Cruise” offer made available to all the passengers and this traditionally doubles the value of the vouchers you purchase and gives you ample time to use them for future travel.

    To get the most out of your Viking Cruise Experience, please reference the tips detailed above:

    1. Book Early
    2. Viking Air Plus
    3. Pre/Post Stays

    Please remember to check back for next week’s part-2 edition about Viking River Cruises when I will discuss the hospitality, staterooms and onboard amenities during my familiarization cruise.

    Romantic Danube River Cruise - Check out the itinerary & info about each port of call HERE

    Viking River Romantic Danube Itinerary

    Budapest, Vienna, Krems, Passau,

    Regensburg & Nuremberg



     

     

  • Your Bucket List Journey Begins Here – Welcome to our Blog

    4/9/2019 3:40:19 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    What is "wanderlust" and what can you expect to learn when you follow our philosophy?  To answer the first question, Wanderlust (a word from German origin) is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.  It may reflect an intense urge for self-development by experiencing the unknown, confronting unforeseen challenges, getting to know unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and behaviors.  At CTC Travel we incorporate this "Wanderlust" desire into assisting our clients to fulfilling their life-long travel Bucket List.  We started specializing in planning out multiply year Bucket List in the mid-2000s and it is our most popular advisory tool with our clients.

    In the coming editions of our blog, you will hear from multiple members of CTC Travel, not just from John F. Krieger, the founder and recognized& notable expert about the travel industry.  Since all of our advisors partake in exclusive travel familiarization trips, upon their return the details of that brand and destination will be explored in-depth.  Here are the current topics for the remainder of 2018 (published every weekend):

    * Viking River Cruising thru Danube River

    * Alaska Inside Passage aboard Celebrity Cruise's Solstice

    * China (Beijing, Shanghai, Xiian)

    * Butan

    * Cuba (Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos, Pinar del Rio, Camaguey, Holguin)

    * East Africa (Kenya & Tanzania)

    * South Africa (Johannesburg, Kruger Nat'l Park, Cape Town)

    * Australia (Queensland, NSW, South Australia, Tasmania)

    * Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas (sailing out of Miami)

    * Celebrity Cruises Edge (sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale)

    We will try to keep things fresh and lively with "Travel Trivia" to help you learn interesting facts about unique destinations.  We will also be sharing our unique "Travel Tips" that we have learned from over 100yrs combined travel experience in our office.

    We hope you'll subscribe to our blog, and encourage others to do the same. If you have something you're interested in, let us know and we'll research it for you. If you have questions about travel, ask away. 

  
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