Last week Canada announced no cruise ships in Canadian waters until February 2022. This really is a big blow to Alaska since this could mean the end to the summer cruise season this year in Alaska. You might be asking why would that matter if the ships just went from Seattle to Alaska but there is a law that prevents foreign flagged ships from going from one US port to another US port without stopping at a foreign port. All of the big cruise lines are foreign flagged so that only leaves just a couple small ships that US based that can still sail Alaska if things do not change.
The cruise lines and Alaska representatives are petitioning to have that one law, which is 135 years old, either revoked or maybe just waived for this year. Alaska relies heavily on tourism so going a second year without cruises is just crushing to them.
None of the cruise lines have cancelled the Alaska sailings for this summer just yet. They are hoping to find a way to somehow salvage the season and I hope they are able to as well. I love Alaska really hate to see all of those people who depend on the tourists hurt by this.
There are a few small cruise lines that will be sailing Alaska for sure so if you have your heart set on Alaska this summer or you really love the idea of maybe getting to see Alaska with not as many other people you might want to grab a room on one of these soon!
Here are the 4 Cruise Lines that are not affected by the Canada Ban -
Uncruise - This one is my favorite! I sailed with them in Sea of Cortes last year (had no idea at that time it would be my last cruise for a long time). "Our Alaska adventure cruises deliver action, exploration, and the unexpected—paddling and hiking, calving glaciers, Glacier Bay National Park, bears, whales, and polar plunges. Nobody does Alaska better."
American Cruise Line - This one offers more of a river cruise experience onboard the ship vs the expedition style of UnCruise. So if you are looking for a more relaxed cruise this might be the right choice. "Onboard the newest small cruise ships in the region, you will experience the breathtaking scenery and inspiring wildlife of Alaska like never before. Get up close and personal to the natural beauty of Alaska as we cruise to Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Bay and more. Choose from three unique and fascinating itineraries."
Linblad - This is another expedition style like Uncruise. They are partnered with National Geographic so you know you will get up close with nature. "You’ll hear the thunderous crack of calving glaciers. Sail alongside pods of orca; see breaching humpbacks and foraging brown bears on our small ship Alaska cruise. Hike verdant old-growth rain forests and kayak peaceful coastlines. In the 30+ years we’ve been exploring, we have provided the richest experience possible on our Alaska expedition cruises."
Alaska Dream Cruise - Like the name says they are truly Alaska focused. "Our all-inclusive, small expedition itineraries offer a mix of excursions in intriguing towns and Native villages and adventures in raw wilderness bays and glacial fjords. This approach to small vessel expeditions in Alaska offers travelers a comprehensive look at all the Inside Passage has to offer. Every experience is hand-picked for its value in immersing you in True Alaska."
If you want to be sure you don't miss out on the Alaska cruise season this summer or if you are want to plan for 2022 I would be happy to help you find the right ship and itinerary for you!
Did you know that Florida second highest number of islands of any state in the United States? There are 4,510 islands that have 10 acres or more. In case you were wondering Alaska has the most islands.
Now with new rules in place for anyone returning to the US from any international location it is easier to just stay in the US. If you are really in need of an island getaway don't worry there are lots of wonderful island options right here in Florida!
Here are my picks for top 7 luxury island getaways in FL -
#7 Amelia Island
Starting with the Northeast corner of Florida this island getaway is an easy drive for many East Coast states or just a short drive from Jacksonville airport. - My pick for luxury here is Ritz Carlton Amelia Island Unfolding along 13 miles of pristine beachfront, this luxury resort infuses the story of the land into nearly every guest experience. They even offer Field Trip packages Distance learning comes alive with instructor-led field trip packages designed to complement science curriculum and foster a passion for marine ecology and biology.
#6 - Destin
Moving West across North Florida on the panhandle is a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico where you will find Destin. This location offers an easy drive from many Midwest states or a short drive from Pensacola airport. My pick for a luxury stay on this island is - Henderson Beach Resort With it's stunning location on some of the most breathtaking stretches of sand in the world, and the tranquil jeweled waters of the Gulf of Mexico right at the doorstep, there is literally an endless list of activities and attractions for everyone to experience.
#5 - St Pete Beach
Staying on the Gulf Coast but moving South we hit St Pete Beach. Just below Tampa and also an easy drive from Orlando. My pick for where to stay here is - Tradewinds Resort two beach resorts on 31 acres of the soft white sands of Florida’s St. Pete Beach, rated a top 10 USA beach for six years running by TripAdvisor. They are even pet friendly! I have taken my dog there before and he loved it!
#4 - Gasparilla Island
Heading further south down the Gulf Coast you will find little known Gasparilla Island. The closest airport would be Fort Myers. You will feel like you stepped back in time when you stay at the The Gasparilla Inn The barrier island is a small on at only about 1/4 mile wide. Tarpon and other prized fish call the blue waters off Gasparilla Island home which makes this a fisherman's paradise.
#3 - Sanibel and Captiva Island
Just south of Gasparilla you will find my favorite barrier island of Sanibel/Captiva. They are a shell lover's paradise with tons of shells washing up on the white sandy shores constantly. It is a great way to get back to nature since more than half of the island is made up of wildlife refuges, the largest being J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I recommend South Seas Resort Originally a key lime plantation 100 years ago, South Seas Island Resort is now truly a destination.
#2 - Florida Keys
I am guessing when you think of Florida islands you automatically think of the Keys but I hope the previous 5 islands I listed made you realize there are islands all around Florida. Since the Florida Keys are just about as close as you can get to a Caribbean vacation without leaving the United States my top 2 choices are in the Keys. The #2 resort I have listed is Hawks Cay On the the small, secluded island of Duck Key, aquamarine waters sparkle under the South Floridian sun, bottlenose dolphins readily greet guests, and visitors and locals alike discover the best seaside dining, coastal living and aquatic adventures. This one is great for families.
#1 - Florida Keys
The number one resort I have listed is also in the Florida Keys and it truly is a private island escape! Little Palm Island Located off the fabled Florida Keys coastline, on a lush, private island dotted with crushed seashell paths amid verdant tropical foliage and exotic wildlife, rests Little Palm Island Resort & Spa – a destination like no other. Whether arriving by seaplane or our private boat, begin your journey with refreshing cocktails at our on-shore reception and lounge, the Shore Station, before making the short, scenic journey to your new island oasis.
Adventures by Disney is an 8 night package that includes 1 night on land and 7 on the ship.
You need to purchase round trip flights into Quito separately. Your adventure begins with 1 night stay in Quito and the following morning you will fly over to the islands to get on the ship. This internal flight is included in your cost along with transportation. Your ship the Galapagos Legend is a good size holding around 100 guests. As expected with Disney they chose a ship that will offer some rooms that will accomodate families. You will have the Disney Adventures Guides along with Naturalists and other special guests. It is a 7 night cruise around the Galapagos with lots of adventures like hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and wildlife viewing, included each day. After the cruise is over you will be flown back to Quito to catch your flight home.
There are 5 dates to choose from in 2022 for this Adventure and most are starting at $6279 per adult (thanks to a nice $750 early booking savings offer). There is a minimum age of 8 to travel to Galapagos.
Let's compare this to something very similar offered by another of my favorite vacation suppliers - Avalon Waterways.
Avalon offers a 7 night package but it is just a 4 night cruise with 3 nights on land. You would also fly round trip into Quito with those flights not included. You would spend the first 2 nights in Quito with that second day including sightseeing in Quito. Then fly over to the ship on day 3 (those flights included). The ship is the Treasure of Galapagos which holds just 16 guests (yes that does mean it is a nice small group on each cruise). You will have a tour director and naturalists onboard which will also lead your excursions doing things like hiking, snorkeling, and wildlife watching (that are included). On day 7 you get off the ship and fly back to Quito to spend the night and fly out the following day.
There are 12 dates scheduled for this trip in 2022 but 2 are already sold out. Rates start at $5254 per adult for most dates. Avlaon also offers some add on options if you would like to extend your vacation into the Amazon or Peru.
Both options will include all meals on the cruise and some meals while on land. Both options include many excursions and both give you the VIP entrance into the must see stuff. Disney is one day longer and includes more time cruising but at about $1000 more per person. Disney is also on a much larger ship so there will be more people. I know that both companies will offer you a luxurious adventure that you will never forget but if I had to pick one I would go with Avalon mainly for the small ship experience.
I know the end of the world is on a lot of people's bucket list and I think it is great that Disney is offering an option now. I also love that they are doing it on Ponant which is a small ship cruise company that I think is the best choice for Antarctica!
This comparison will be a little different from the Galapagos because in this one I will compare booking the Adventures by Disney package vs just booking a regular cruise on Ponant.
Adventures by Disney will be using the Ponant ship and as far as I understand it Disney has chartered the ship for 2 dates so that means everyone onboard is part of Adventures by Disney. The ship has 132 staterooms so will have less than 300 guests onboard. It is a 12 day Adventure where you need to purchase round trip flights into Buenos Aires. Spend the first night in Buenos Aires and then the next day you will be flown to Ushuaia where you can ride the End of the World Train, experience the Tierra del Fuego National Park, and End of the World post office. Then you will board the ship for your 10 night cruise. At the end of the cruise you will be flown back to Buenos Aires where you can catch your flight home or maybe add the land package also offered by Adventures by Disney (3 night Buenos Aires Escape). During the cruise with Disney you will have your Adventure Guides and some special events that won't happen on the regular Ponant cruise but most of the rest will be the same.
Ponant runs these cruises November - March so you do have more dates to choose from if you are Ok without the Disney touches. They do offer the same itinerary as Adventures by Disney along with some other longer options as well. The pricing seems to come out very similar to what Disney is showing as starting rates so price shouldn't be a factor in choosing.
Here is how Ponant describes the 10 night cruise -
PONANT invites you on a polar expedition cruise to the heart of the icy realm that is the Antarctic Peninsula. Embark on an unforgettable 11-day voyage and succumb to the enchantment of the breathtaking landscapes inhabited by astonishing wildlife.
The start of your cruise will be marked by the crossing of the mythical Drake Passage, during which you will probably be escorted by several albatrosses and Cape petrels, the sentinels of these often-choppy waters.
Your ship will then reach the White Continent, realm of the unexpected. Weather and ice conditions permitting, this extreme environment where nature reigns supreme will reveal to you its most beautiful secrets through numerous discoveries.
On this uninhabited land, which wasn’t explored until the 19th century, your encounters with the wildlife will no doubt be one of the highlights of your experience. The Gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguins, humpback whales, seals and seabirds will provide you with cherished lifelong memories.
Each day, whether on land, aboard your ship or during a Zodiac® outing, you will be surrounded by a grandiose decor ranging from icebergs to ice floe and ancient glaciers.
We have only seen Disney's starting price as of now and I am sure there will be higher price points for upgraded rooms but until Disney opens these for booking next week this is what we have to go on. The starting price for Adventures by Disney's 2 dates is $12,459 per adult (that is for the January 30, 2002). The December 20, 2021 starts at $12,769 per adult. For many dates Ponant is already sold out of the lower priced rooms so the Adventures by Disney option might allow you to get one of those rooms that can be harder to get this close in. Of course if you might need more than a year to save up you can always look to book for 2023 or later too with Ponant. The earlier you book with Ponant the better your options for rooms will be as this one does sell out early. You could also hope that Disney will keep up the partnership and start saving now for when they open booking for the next year.
Either way on this one I think you will have the most amazing adventure! If you would prefer a cruise that will have less families than going with a Ponant booking might be better for you.
6 years ago Brad and I took our first cruise together and it was a Disney Cruise. As you can imagine there were a lot of kids onboard. While we loved the cruise and Disney does a great job of offering adult only areas we thought wouldn't it be great if there weren't any kids onboard LOL. Our next cruise was a river cruise so we did get to enjoy a kid free ship on that cruise and it was wonderful! Almost a year after that we took a 30 day cruise on Holland America and there was just 1 kid onboard. We realized that there were a lot of poeple that prefered a cruise without kids, not just without thier own kids but without anyone else's kids too.
I am working on www.cruisewithoutkids which also has a facebook page and instagram with the same name and I will be posting more information so please feel free to check them out and follow them if you also like the idea of a vacation without kids.
This week I want to talk about 2 cruise lines that are always adult only and they are Virgin Voyages and Viking.
This is the new kid on the block - or should I say new no kid on the block. Virgin Voyages was suppoed to start sailing March of 2020 but as we all know that didn't happen. As of now it looks like May 2021 will the first voyage of this brand new ship. Richard Branson wanted to create a new way to cruise and I think he might have done it. The ships are adult only they also inlcude a lot of things many other cruise lines do not. Ever thought about getting a tattoo on a cruise ship? Well now you can do it! They also have no buffets and include over 20 eateries in your cruise fare. They also include tips and wi-fi in your cruise cost. I am very excited to try this new experience and am looking forward to my cruise in May! I will be sure to tell you all about it!
You have probobly seen the commercials for Viking River Cruises but they also have Ocean Cruises too. They are also coming out with a river boat for the Mississippi and an Expedition ship too so there is a lot going on with Viking. They are always adult only on all of thier ships and like Virgin they include more in your cruise cost than the usual cruise line. The Viking Ocean ships are smaller than your typical ocean cruise ship holding under 1,000 guests which also allows you to get into smaller ports.
After the year the cruise lines have had it is nice to know that we will still get to see 12 new ships start sailing in 2021! Below I have listed them in order of when they should be starting to sail but that is subject to change. Feel free to sign along!
On the 1st ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - a Ship With No Kids!
1. Viking Venus - scheduled to sail January 2021 she will be the 7th Ocean Ship for Viking with 2 more on the way in 2022. All of the Viking ships are identical and offer only verandah rooms and are adult only. Viking has one of the youngest Ocean fleet with the 1st ship debuting in 2015. Venus will sail the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. All of the Viking Ocean ships do carry less than 1000 passengers putting them in the Small Ship category.
On the 2nd ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - a 2 Story Red Frog Tiki bar and a Roller Coaster!
2. Carnival Mardi Gras - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will bring us the first roller coaster at sea. Yes that is Santa taking a spin on it in the photo at the top. Mardi Gras will be doing Caribbean sailings out of Port Canaveral and she is a mega ship carrying over 5,000 guests.
On the 3rd ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - a 300 Hundred foot North Star, a 2 Story Lime and Coconut bar, and a Glow in the Dark Laser Tag!
3. Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will be the first in the Quantum Ultra Class to sail in the US and Europe. Odyssey of the Seas will sail out of Rome and Fort Lauderdale offering Mediterranean and Caribbean sailings. Holding up to 4,200 passengers she is another mega ship.
On the 4th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 16 Indoor bars, 5 Unique pools, 2 Cirque shows, and the Longest LED Dome at Sea!
4. MSC Virtuosa - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will be the second Meraviglia Plus class ship for MSC. This will stay in Europe offering cruises in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the Middle East. Another mega class ship that can carry 4,800 passengers.
On the 5th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - A LUXURY YACHT EXPERIENCE, 4 Dining rooms, Aft marina, Infinity pool, and All Rooms Are Suites.
5. Ritz Carlton Evrima - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will be the first the Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection.
She will offer sailings in Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Canada/New England, and the Caribbean. That does also mean there are opportunities to do Atlantic crossings on this amazing ship! Evrima is an all suite, all balcony, all inclusive ship. With only about 300 passengers onboard it is a luxurious small ship.
On the 6th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 6 fine dining restaurants, 100 Suites, 2 Story solarium, Fold out marina, 2 Helicopters, and a Submarine!
6. Crystal Endeavor - scheduled to sail May 2021 she will be the first Expedition ship for Crystal. Endeavor is a purpose built Polar Class yacht, all suite, with attentive butlers and an expedition team. She will sail all over the world but she was built for Antarctica. Just 200 guests onboard means it is a luxurious expedition on this small ship.
On the 7th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 8 Dining options, Rolling Stone Rock Room, Lincoln Stage Center, BB King's Blues Club, BBC Earth Concert, World Stage theater, and Club Orange!
7. Holland America's Rotterdam - scheduled to sail August 2021 she will be the 7th ship to bear the name Rotterdam. Holland America recently sold the previous Rotterdam as part of the downsizing many lines did during this shutdown. Rotterdam will be the new flagship of Holland America sailing the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mediterranean, and Northern Europe. Carrying just under 2,700 guests I consider her a Mid Size ship.
On the 8th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 20 bars and lounges, 5D Cinema, Largest interactive water park at sea, a LEGO themed kids club, Full size bowling alley, World's first digital cruise assistant, MSC Yacht Club, and F1 Simulators.
8. MSC Seashore - scheduled to sail August 2021 she is the largest ship to be built in Italy and the 1st of MSC's EVO class ship. This is one of the MSC ships that will sail in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. With over 4,500 guests Seashore is a mega ship.
On the 9th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 8 Dining options, S.A.L.T. Lab, Cigar Lounge and Bar, Arts Cafe, Live jazz and blues, Zagara beauty spa, Observation library, Fitness center, and a Casino.
9. Silver Dawn - scheduled to sail September 2021 she is the 10th ultra luxury ship to join the Silversea fleet. She will be sailing the Mediterranean and South America. Did you know that Silversea was part of the Royal Caribbean family? With just less than 600 guests onboard she is a small ship.
On the 10th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - The Largest balconies at sea, Only jazz theater at sea, Princess's largest ever thermal suite, The Voice of the Ocean singing competition, Salty Dog Gastropub, Ultimate Balcony Dining, The Princess Luxury Bed, the Sanctuary, Sleep by Princess, and Chocolate Journeys!
10. Discovery Princess - scheduled to sail November 2021 she is the 3rd vessel designed from the ground up with Princess Medallion Class and also the final Royal-class ship. Discovery Princess will sail the Caribbean, Mediterranean, California Coast, Mexican Riviera, and South America. Carrying over 3,600 guests she is a Mega ship.
On the 11th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - More than 20 Specialty eateries all included, At Sea Tattoo Parlor, Private karaoke rooms, Onboard record shop, Immersive entertainment experiences, All fitness classes included, Gentleman's Barber shop, Boxing Ring, Rockstar Suites, No Buffets and No Kids!
11. Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady - recently rescheduled to sail starting November 2021 she will be the second ship for Virgin Voyages, neither of which have had paying guests sail onboard yet. Valiant Lady will sail the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Even though she does have 17 decks only up to 2,770 passengers makes her more of a mid-size ship.
On the 12th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 24 Zodiacs, 2 Submarines, Double sea kayaks, Mountain bikes, E-bikes, Landing Zone, Expedition Lounge, Constellation Lounge, Near water level Bow Lounge, Guest Experts onboard, All Verandah Suites, and a Discovery Center!
12. Seabourn Venture - scheduled to sail December 2021 she will be the first Ultra-Luxury purpose built expedition ship for Seabourn. Did you know Seabourn is part of the Carnival Corporation? She will stick to mainly polar areas in South American and Northern Europe. With only 132 suites that means just a max of 264 guests onboard this ultra luxury small ship.
Just like the Righteous Brothers said about losing that loving feeling I am losing that holiday feeling this year!
If you are like me and just cannot get that holiday feeling this year or you just want something really festive to look forward to you might want to join me next year on a holiday markets cruise. I chose one that goes through Austria and Germany but there are many wonderful options to choose from. You can see them on our site - https://www.travelwithoutstress.com/festive-season-river-cruises.html
I have always been wanting to do this cruise but have put it off because I usually end up with too many trips already planned each year. After this year I will never think it is possible to have too much travel planned! If 2020 taught us anything it is not to put off doing those things you have always wanted to do!
If you are not feeling the holiday spirit right now check out he highlights of this cruise and I have a feeling it might help:
This holiday river cruise takes you to many beautiful and historical cities of Germany and Austria. And the views along the way can’t be outdone—towns and villages decorated for the holidays and beautiful views as you cruise along the Danube and Main Rivers, and the Main Danube Canal. Your Christmastime river cruise begins in Vienna, the capital and treasure of Austria, and ends in Frankfurt, Germany. In Vienna, see the sights with a Local Guide, or opt for a culinary walk through the Christmas markets to taste some of the traditional fare. Cruise through the picturesque Wachau Valley to Melk, and visit the Benedictine Abbey, one of Europe’s most architecturally-breathtaking monasteries—sure to be truly magnificent during the holiday season. In Regensburg, one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval cities, see the sights with a Local Guide and savor local sausages and beer at one of Germany’s oldest restaurants, Historiche Wurstkuche (Old Sausage Kitchen). On to Nuremberg where, after your guided tour, you are free to visit the Christmas market, one of the most famous in the world. A full-day excursion to Munich shows you the Bavarian capital. The traditional Christmas market is located on the Marienplatz, with aromas of toasted almonds, roasted chestnuts, and gingerbread filling the air! Continue your Christmastime river cruise to Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the many nativity scenes exhibited throughout the town are sure to delight. In Würzburg, on the River Main, visit the ornate Bishop’s Residence—home to the largest ceiling fresco ever painted, then stroll through the Christmas markets while you sip Glühwein (hot mulled wine). Your last stop is at one of the charming small towns dotted along the river—sure to be even more appealing illuminated with Christmas lights and decorations.
Here are some links to check out that relate to this cruise and could also help you get that holiday feeling:
I recently flew out to Colorado to visit family. Now that the holidays are approaching I know more and more people are asking the question - should I stay or should I go? I do think there are many things to consider when it comes to visiting family over the holidays and the choice to fly or not is a big one. I felt safe flying last week but some things are changing which might make you reconsider which airline you choose. Here are 3 things to keep in mind if you are planning to fly -
Smaller might be better
This flight to Colorado was my first time flying since we moved so it was the first time I wasn't going to fly out of Orlando airport. We now live close to a few smaller airports with Fort Myers (RSW) being the best option for this flight since Southwest offered non-stop to Denver (and I also had expiring credit with Southwest). Fort Myers is a much smaller airport than Orlando which I actually found to be a bonus right now. We walked right up to check bags and made it through security with barely seeing another traveler. Walking through the terminal we saw people waiting at their gates but everyone had plenty of space to social distance. Another bonus of a smaller airport is that we didn't have to get on any kind of train to get from security to the terminal like you do at bigger airports. When we arrived in Denver having to get on the train that takes you to bag claim was when I noticed the most people bunched up. If you have the option to fly out of or into a smaller airport it might be a better way to go for awhile.
You might have to sit next to someone
Airlines are starting to change the policy for giving you more space on the plane. We flew Southwest which at this time is only selling enough seats to allow for the middle to be empty in each row. I love this and am sad to hear they are planning to stop doing that as of December 1. Many other airlines were also keeping capacity limited to allow travelers more room but are also pretty much ending that by the end of this year - many of them even before the holidays. Delta recently announced that they will keep the middle seats open through March which I think is great! I am hoping maybe the other lines will change their minds and do the same however since American and United have been selling every seat since summer so I am not sure the other lines will want to match Delta. If you want to check on what all the airlines are doing here is a Forbes article that looks to be updated often. I understand that the airlines really cannot afford to leave seats empty but right now I do think having that extra space between people helps and might play a big factor in people flying at all.
Don't be that Hangry person
Most of the airlines have either completely shut down in flight food and beverage service or they have a very limited service. When I last flew in May Southwest wasn't offering any food or drinks onboard. This time around they did offer a cup of water and a snack which was nice but might not be enough for you. Packing something to eat is a good idea to avoid paying those higher airport prices but just make sure you pack something that can go through security. There is no way to bring a drink with you through security but you could bring an empty bottle to refill. If you are planning to grab food at the airport keep in mind not all of the places will be open. Not only does that limit your choices but it also means longer lines at the places that are open. If you don't have time to eat what you bought before boarding don't worry you can bring it onboard and you are able to remove your mask on the plane while actively eating or drinking.
If you do decide to fly this holiday season it will be different than any other year and I hope that I have helped you be better prepared.
I am so excited to finally have a trip report to do! Even though I do live in FL and can drive to the theme parks this is still a trip since we did stay in one of the resorts and spent 2 days playing in the parks.
I will admit I have put off visiting the parks mainly because for me it was just too hot to be wearing a mask. My birthday is in November and usually it actually gets a little cool here in FL around that time of year. This year being what it has been of course we are still in the upper 80s in November. I had already booked the hotel and it was my birthday so we were going anyway. At least it wasn't feeling like 100 like it had been all summer.
First I will start out saying I chose Universal Orlando for my birthday for a few reasons but mostly because it was easier than Disney. Universal is not requiring you to make an advance reservation for the parks and they still allow park hopping. I also chose Universal because I hadn't ridden Hagrids yet and knew that staying at a Universal resort would really help make riding that easier. Staying at a Universal resort meant I could get into Islands of Adventure an hour early which was key to avoiding a long line for Hagrids. We got up and were at the park entrance before opening. They did a good job of keeping everyone spaced out and in the right lines based on if they were resort guests with tickets or not. As soon as the park opened we walked directly to Hagrids along with pretty much everyone else but still never felt crowded or too close to anyone. The line sort of formed naturally at first with everyone going in the same direction anyway and then as we got closer they did start a queue but it was long enough snaking through other parts of the parks that you pretty much just kept walking and it helped avoid any long time standing. When we got to the lockers we did have to go in and do that before we could continue in the line since we did have a bag with us. It only took a minute to do and they were keeping everyone well spaced out in there as well. One thing I realized too late was that these lockers used your park ticket not your finger to open and I had already put my bag with my ticket in it and shut the locker before I realized that. No worries you can get a cast member to open for you when you get back. You just need to describe what is in the locker to prove it is yours.
You might be wondering what it is like to visit a theme park now. There are of course some changes due to Covid and I will admit I wouldn't mind if some of them stuck around. All in all I felt very safe during my stay and wouldn't hesitate to go back. I do highly recommend staying at an on-site resort for the added conveniences.
By now we have all gotten pretty used to the idea of social distance. There are markers placed all around the parks and hotels reminding people to keep a 6 ft distance.
It was nice to be in line and not feel squished in with 100 other people breathing down your neck so I wouldn't mind if that stuck around. Everyone was good about respecting social distance in lines and pretty much all around. Even better are those attractions where you would normally be packed into a pre-show room with what feels like a 1000 other guests, thanks to social distance that doesn't happen now. Those pre-show rooms now have boxes marked out on the floor where each party will stand to watch and then go on to enter the attraction. That also means if there are attractions where you would normally be seated with other parties that doesn't happen either. For example if you ride the Simposon's attraction you will have the car all to yourself. The drawback to this is that it can make wait times a lot longer with less people experiencing each attraction at a time. Again this was when being a resort guest with Express Pass included was a nice bonus. You can also purchase Express Pass if you are not a resort guest.
Yes masks are required to be worn and they are being strict enforcing the masks are worn correctly. I will just say it isn't the most comfortable thing but you do sort of get used to it after a few hours. I recommend bringing multiple masks and also testing out your masks before traveling to be sure you find it comfortable for long periods. There are places around the park designated as rest zones where you can take your mask off even if you are not eating or drinking. Speaking of eating and drinking you really are not encouraged to wander around eating and drinking wherever you want. They really do try to keep you in the eating areas to finish if you buy food. Depending on where you choose to get food some counter service locations might require you to sit at a table they assign to you for eating - so that might mean you cannot take it outside to find an outdoor table or walk with your food. I get that they don't want people using food as an excuse to walk around without a mask but making people stay inside isn't great either.
As a resort guest our temperature was taken as we arrived at the resort and we were given a colored band to wear that showed we were clear for the day and no more temperature checks needed. The color changed each day so you do need to have your temperature checked each day but being able to get that done at the resort was quick and easy.
There were plenty of places pointed out for hand washing and sanitizer. Plus before boarding any attraction you are required to get a squirt of santaizer. While I understand the idea that this way they are not having to wipe down each attraction between riders I wasn't a fan of always being slathered in sanitizer.
You will notice that there are places that didn't used to have plexiglass that now do. Again I get it for safety but on some attractions it takes away from the experience.
Crowds were not bad but probably more than I had expected. You notice more people mostly in the Harry Potter sections. We also popped over to Disney Springs for dinner one night and quickly realized that with all parks pretty much closed by 7 pm means a lot of people flood into Disney Springs. I would highly recommend avoiding Disney Springs after 7 pm.
I was so happy to get in some park time and see how things are being handled first hand. If you have any questions about my visit please let me know.
While I am excited to see the No Sail Order lifted I also quickly realized after skimming the 40 page CDC Framework for Conditional Sail Order that lists all of requirements to resume sailing that mostly likely cruising would not begin again until January 2021. That is because there is a condition that mentions 60 days so I figured that meant if they cruise lines started all this November 1 they should be good to go January 1. Shortly after the CDC posted the information the cruise lines started announcing December cancellations and as of now looks like all of them have confirmed no sailing until after 12/31. While I am bummed about no December cruises I am happy to think that we finally have some sort of really good timeline for restarting.
A few key things I noticed:
It looks like sailings will have to be kept to 7 days or less
Testing and masks are going to be part of the requirements
Shore excursions will have strict rules
Social Distancing rules will change things like dining and entertainment onboard
The rules and procedures required by the CDC encompass everything from extensive testing of crew already onboard ships; arrangements with ports and local health authorities; testing of new crew and passengers boarding; securing (by cruise lines) of local housing for isolating any people who test positive and don’t need hospital treatment, as well as their close contacts; simulated voyages with no passengers and more.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing," said Robert Redfield, M.D., the CDC's director. "It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live." He added that the CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers and communities, and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.
I will be staying on top of all the news and hope that ships will be sailing come January 1!
Last year I just happened to be in Jamaica for Halloween and the year before that I was on a Mediterranean cruise and was in Italy for Halloween. When we were in Italy I had wondered how or if they really celebrated so I was happy to see kids walking around dressed up and out trick or treating. In Jamaica we were at an all inclusive resort so they did offer some Halloween events for guests and I did see a good amount of adults that actually brought costumes on vacation.
The past 2 years I ended up traveling on Halloween not with the purpose of being in those places for Halloween it just happened that way. Now that this year we are all sort of stuck at home I wondered where in the world are the best places to celebrate Halloween. I did some research and here's what I think are the Top 6 Places to be on Halloween ( I know I plan to add them all to my bucket list!)
Did you know that Ireland is actually where the Halloween holiday originated from? It still remains one of the best places to celebrate too, although it is known as Samhain Night here. This medieval Irish festival originated when it marked the end of the harvest, which brought shorter days and the dark half of the year. It was at this time that the dead are believed to revisit the mortal world. Derry is the place to visit if you are looking for the country's best celebration. Normally it is a 9 day event with things like parades, fireworks, ghost tours, haunted houses, workshops, scary movies, and even a Dragon Safari.
So who doesn't think of Dracula's castle when thinking of probably the best place to celebrate Halloween? The entire country of Romania has a spooky yet amazing reputation for its breathtaking Gothic architecture and spooky forests. It is the impressive Bran Castle that draws most visitors here. The castle was once said to be the home of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula. The castle is where tens of thousands of enemies were impaled on stakes. Today for brave visitors the castle is open to the public and nothing seems scarier than touring through here on the night of Halloween and learning the truth about the terrifying legends. You can choose to book a guided tour and stay in nearby accommodations or you can join one of the specialty Halloween tours.
Halloween is called the Day of the Dead in Mexico. It is a three-day celebration that begins October 31st each year. It’s a celebration of the dead and it is believed that spirits return each year on these three days to spend time with their loved ones.
Each city and town offers a different way of celebrating Day of the Dead. If you head to Oaxaca, near Acapulco you will find the streets transformed into a huge street festival where people dressed in costumes visit cemeteries and the town gets decorated with skulls, skeletons, and flowers. The main square is where the biggest party happens with an abundance of food, drinks, and dancing all night long. And if you head to the small island of Janitzio, you will find elaborate rituals which include folk dancing, fishermen in their rowboats with torches, and a gathering of families in the cemetery at night to sing and chant. Nonetheless, you’ll certainly have an unforgettable experience wherever you go in Mexico.
There are a lot of creepy Halloween events that usually happen in London. If you’re looking to be frightened there is no better place to head than the popular Dungeon, which has been giving panic attacks to visitors since 1976. An elaborate, interactive experience takes visitors face to face with notorious villains such as Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. Actors escort participants through 14 shows and three terrifying rides. Might be a little too scary for a wimp like me so I will probably go for something more like the ghost walks that happen throughout the city that are a bit less intense.
Sleepy Hollow, NY
The famous grounds of Washington Irving’s timeless legend of the Headless Horseman are the perfect place to get a little spooky. Halloween celebrations take place throughout the entire month of October. One of the most popular events is when the 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor is transformed into a terrifying landscape that features vampires, witches, ghosts, and state-of-the-art special effects. Other activities in town include haunted hayrides, live music, street fairs, parades, and lantern tours. Don’t miss out on visiting Old Dutch Burying Ground which is one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States and of course the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where the legendary Washington Irving is buried.
I don't know about you but when I think of witches I think of Salem. It was here that twenty-six people were once tried and put to death for being witches. Halloween is when the town celebrates witches in the most interesting of ways. Normally you can visit Salem anytime during the month of October and get the full Halloween experience but this year they are asking tourists to please stay away. If you put this on your list for next year you can expect guided tours of haunted and infamous spots, trial and hanging re-enactments, fireworks, parades, and a witch’s circle. Don’t miss out visiting the Witch House Museum, which was once home to Judge Jonathan Corwin — one of the judges in the trials and one of the remaining buildings left in Salem that has direct links to the trials.
Now I just have to wait a year and also figure out which one I am going to go to first!
Going to the beach is the perfect remedy for winter blues, especially this year! There are so many wonderful beaches within just a few hours of most US cities. Right now there are some that no longer require a quarantine (subject to change at anytime). Even if you usually plan your own beach vacations now more than ever using a travel agent to keep you informed of all new rules is a good idea (yes I know self promotion but I we really do come in handy).
There are plenty of beaches in the continental US that are great to visit year round. I am of course partial to Florida beaches but there are also times when I just want to go somewhere else.
Here are the Top 5 Beach destinations outside the continental US that are no longer requiring you to quarantine upon arrival
#5 - Costa Rica
Known for the ‘Pura Vida' way of life, unlimited outdoor adventure activities, lush national parks, super-chill beaches, and affordable prices, its no wonder Costa Rica welcomed over 1.3 million American tourists last year.
As of November 1st, all Americans may travel to Costa Rica as long as they present a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate.
Jamaica has reopened for tourism and is known for its world renowned all-inclusive resorts, white sand beaches and laid back culture. Over 1.8 million Americans flocked to the island in 2019 to escape the cold and enjoy the tropical warm weather.
American travelers are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate no older then 10 days from the time the test was taken to arriving in Jamaica.
Mexico had over 32 million U.S. visitors in 2019. Although numbers will be much lower due to the pandemic, U.S. travelers will still flock to the country due to its easy entry requirements and beautiful tropical weather.
The white sand beaches and all inclusive resorts of Cancun have already seen a large rebound in U.S. visitors since reopening back in June. I cruised in the Sea of Cortes last winter and we went to the most amazing, basically totally private beaches, in Baja!
With no testing or quarantine requirements, Americans will continue to choose Mexico this season as their vacation destination.
The Bahamas has reopened for tourism and is now accepting American tourists after initially banning them when the islands first reopened.
With beautiful white sand beaches, surrounded by incredible deep blue and turquoise waters, this tropical paradise is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
There is no quarantine but all travelers must present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test when completing their ‘Travel Health Visa'.
Surf's up! Hawaii just reopened to tourists this week and over 8,000 said Aloha that first day!
Hawaii had more than 10 million visitors to the Islands in 2019, setting a new all-time high, according to year-end data by Hawaii Tourism Authority. The increase in total arrivals reflected growth from U.S. markets — air arrivals from the U.S. West were up nearly 10% and arrivals from the U.S. East were up 4.2%.
The state’s pre-travel coronavirus testing program requires travelers to produce a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival in order to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine in effect for arriving passengers.
Hopefully more beaches will be added to the list of destinations that allow US visitors without a quarantine so if your favorite isn't on the list yet it might be soon. I cannot think of a better place to social distance than on any beach with the waves gently lapping the shore!
I don't know about you but I cannot wait to get back on a cruise! The CDC announced last night that the no sail order will expire 10/31. I do hope that means cruising in the US will get started again in November! Some cruse ships have been sailing the Mediterranean since August and has been pretty much smooth sailing so far. There are new rules in place to cruise but there are new rules everywhere now so I am OK with that. One family on the first cruise to start up in the Mediterranean learned the hard way that these rules are strict and put in place for everyone's safety. They were told if you go on shore you have to stay with the tour group and if you don't you will not be allowed back onboard. They didn't follow the rule and wandered of so therefore not allowed back on the ship. I totally agree with this policy and glad to see the cruise line stuck to it.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)—the industry association representing 95% of all ocean-going cruise capacity globally—announced that its member lines have agreed to a common set of mandatory health protocols.
Here is a list of the new protocols that will most likely be put in place when cruising in the US does start again -
Universal Studios which always goes all out for the extremely popular Halloween Horror nights which is celebrating 30 years had to cancel this year's Horror Nights. Normally Halloween Horror nights require a separate ticket to get into the park on select nights for all the scary Halloween fun. Since they had to cancel Universal is trying out a smaller version of the event and are including it in regular park admission. From the Universal website -
There are two heart-pounding haunted houses in Universal Studios—Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives—so you can get your scream on. You can take your kids trick-or-treating in Islands of Adventure. Plus, you can all dress in costumes throughout the resort to get in the sinister spirit of the season.
This past weekend was the first test of this new version of Halloween Horror and the 2 houses reached capacity very quickly. Hopefully this means they will conture to offer it every weekend. There are also 2 other Halloween things to check out while in the parks - The Horror Make-up Show and the Halloween Horror Nights Tribute Store. Plus if you are not able to make it to Orlando this year you can still pick up some of the horrific items from the online tribute store.
If really scary isn't your thing or you have young kids then Sea World's Spooktacular might be more your speed. As in year's past this event is offered on weekends and included in your park admission. The park has made some adjustments but for the most part it will seem similar to last year. Over the summer Sea World added a Drive-in Movie Experience that was available most weekends and offered a flat rate per car to attend. They are extending this experience and now calling it Flicks and Frights The schedule features lots of classic scary movies along with some kid friendly ones too. From the Sea World website -
It’s the perfect season for a spooky movie under the stars at SeaWorld. Drive in for a nostalgic experience that starts with enjoying locally sourced food trucks and ends with watching a classic Halloween feature from the comfort and safety of your car.
Disney World cancelled all of the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween parties this year and of the 3 main parks in Orlando they seem to be doing the least Halloween themed stuff. Disney is calling it Fall into Magic They are allowing all guests to dress in costumes thru 10/31 (normally only children are allowed to dress in costume to visit the park on a regular day). They are still going to have Fall decor, Halloween themed merchandise and seasonal treats along with some special entertainment and photo opportunities throughout the park. From the Disney website -
I would be happy to help you plan your Halloween theme park adventure! All 3 of Orlando's Theme Parks offer on site accommodations and are running some fall special offers right now. Please keep in mind all parks are limiting capacity and most require an advanced reservation.
*photo from last year that's why no mask
I love doing research on travel - which is really why I became an agent. It isn't just guidebooks and facts about the locations that I enjoy but I also love finding good fiction books that include the destination I am traveling to. Or in reverse I love to travel to a place I read about in a great book. My love of books played a big part in me starting the non-cruise portion of my agency called Pop Culture Vacations. I wanted to focus on some places that play a big role in popular books and help others plan vacations to visit those places so they really feel like they are walking in the footsteps of their favorite character.
I recently came across a fun website - https://www.tripfiction.com/ If you are looking for a book that is based in the destination you are planning to travel to you can easily search this site for recommendations. They offer both fiction and non-fiction. They even break it down by genre so you can search for just the type of book you prefer. I personally like to look for something with a little bit of legend or myths about the destination. My husband prefers the historical fiction.
If you are not sure where you want to travel next maybe you could be inspired by reading. If you are looking for some good travel fiction check out - www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/travel-fiction
I think not be able to travel is starting to take a toll on my brain - I am actually looking at moving as a fun distraction right now! I know I must be going crazy if I think moving sounds like fun. That got me thinking about the health benefits to travel and travel does wonders for your mental health. I think I am in need of some travel ASAP!
For the past few months we have been staying home for the overall health of everyone but let's not forget all the actual health benefits of travel. There have been many studies that prove that travel benefits not only our physical health but our mental health as well.
Here are 4 proven ways that travel is good for our health
#1 Planning Travel Makes You Happy
When we look forward to doing something fun, it triggers a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. This helps explain why simply having a vacation on the horizon tends to make us happier. A study in 2014 from Cornell University discovered that people get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience than from anticipating possession of something they’re going to buy or acquire. Now is a great time to start planning your next trip because I am sure we could all use some happiness right about now! Personally I am planning about 4 of my own trips - sure they were all ones that had to be rescheduled but just being able to keep planning for them helps.
#2 Travel Is Good For Your Heart
Tourists can walk as much as ten miles a day sightseeing! I know from experience we had a day in Rome where we walked over 30,000 steps in a day (there are about 2,000 steps per mile so that means we walked about 15 miles). Travelers are also more likely to try new activities while on their trips, such as hiking, paddleboarding and snorkeling. These activities boost physical and mental health.
According to the World Heart Federation, moderate exercise lowers your risk of heart attack by 30% to 50%. So, yes, science agrees that you are doing yourself a big favor when you embrace travelling.
Another study found that women who vacation at least twice a year show a significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack than those who only travel every six years or so. The same is true for men. Men who do not take an annual vacation show a 20 percent higher risk of death and 30 percent greater risk of heart disease.
#3 - Travel Relieves Stress
Travelling isn’t always about seeing new places. Sometimes it’s about escaping old ones. According to a 2013 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association, vacations can help manage stress and negative emotions by removing us from environments and activities that are the sources of our stress.
Getting away from the stresses of everyday life is important to protect your overall health. Stress is a silent killer. It raises your blood pressure, and your whole mental health will be affected. The stress hormones cloud the judgment and affect the release of happy hormones. When you travel, you are boosting the release of happy hormones to take over the stress hormones.
#4 Travel Helps Your Brain
Travel has been shown to help improve the brain health. There’s the ability to challenge yourself daily, making you think of alternate options and learn new things. You constantly expand your horizons, meaning that your brain is constantly on the go. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, training your brain regularly helps to improve its longevity.
In Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, Dr. Michael Merzenich — known as "the father of brain plasticity" — explains the importance of getting outside our comfort zone and embracing the unfamiliar. People who travel to new places, keep learning languages and continue to experience new things into old age, are far less likely to develop cognitive decay, according to Merzenich's weighty body of research. Want to maximize your brain's neuroplasticity? A change of scenery wakes up your brain and takes it off autopilot. You have to think about small things when you're in an unfamiliar place, which is entirely the point. Learn a few words of a different language, take a walking tour, or even something as simple as trying a new food can get those neurons firing.
All of these studies and more just prove that travel is important for our mind, body, and soul.
I cannot wait to cruise again! Believe it or not social distancing is so easy on a cruise! For me vacation is all about relaxation so I am always seeking out the quiet places to relax and just get away from people. You could say I was researching social distancing even before it was required. I know some people might think that there is no way you could find quiet uncrowded places on a cruise ship but I have always found lots of quiet options on my cruises. Yes even on mega cruise ships with over 5,000 people onboard I was able to find quiet places away from lots of other people.
So if you are like me and ready to jump onboard as soon as the ships start sailing again -
Here are 4 Easy Ways to Social Distance on a Cruise
#1 - Your Room - I don't always think it makes sense to splurge on a balcony room but right about now it seems like a great way to get your own outside deck space. If you really want to splurge go for a suite to give yourself even more space to enjoy without other guests. Some cruise lines also offer special areas onboard just for suite guests so you get even more places to be able to social distance.
Sure you could go to a hotel or all inclusive resort and get a nice room but your view will never change while you are staying in that room whereas on a cruise you could see something new out your window all the time.
#2 - Room Service - Want to avoid the dining room? Most cruise lines offer free room service so eating in the comfort of your room is easy. Again this is where having the balcony comes in handy so you can even enjoy eating outside from your own room.
#3 - The Spa - I cannot think of a better place to social distance and relax! Either with a spa treatment or if the ship offers a relaxation room you can buy a pass to it is always quiet and not crowded.
#4 - Extra Charge Private Areas - Many ships now have some exclusive areas just for guests that choose to pay a little more to access these areas. These might be a private cabana or a private area on deck. I tried out the Sanctuary on Princess Cruise and it was totally worth the cost!
Cruise ships have been adding new technology that will help too, like being able to order a drink or food from anywhere you are instead of having to go up to the bar or get in line for food.
I also find if you explore the ship you can find lots of other corners of quiet either on an upper deck away from the pool, or maybe the library. One of my favorites is if the ship has a middle deck that that is open to the outside where you can sometimes walk around the whole ship outside. Do you have a favorite spot you have found while cruising?
Yes there are some areas or times on a cruise where social distance might be a challenge and I will talk about those next week.
Souvenirs are a wonderful way to remember past vacations and also the fun you had finding that souvenir. Sometimes finding that perfect memento becomes part of your vacation adventure and sometimes you might just happen upon the perfect thing accidentally. I have noticed there tends to be a few different types of souvenir shoppers. Which one are you?
#1 - The collector. If you have a specific item you like to bring back from every vacation then you are a collector. Your shopping is a little easier because you know what you are looking already. Although I guess sometimes being a collector can get tricky if you just cannot seem to find the item you collect at your destination. Collections can be a good way to easily look back at all the many places you have traveled but does it become more about the collection than the memories of the places you went?
#2 - The tacky tourist. Sorry to say it but if you love those cheap souvenir shops where everything sold in that store is plastered with the name of the city or country everywhere then you are tacky. Sure the cheap junk makes it easy to bring back lots of stuff but does any of that really have meaning and will it make you remember anything from your vacation? Will the people you bring it back for even keep it for long? All that being said I will admit I still go on those stores too.
#3 - The it has to be authentic shopper. If you only want to bring back authentic, locally made, responsibly sourced items you are this type. You do your research before your trip to find out what your destination is most known for and you plan to track that down. While I do think these type of souvenirs have the most meaning they do also take a bit more work to find and they will cost you more. I do try to be this type of shopper but I am not set on only buying this type of stuff.
When in Camargue, France last year I loved that the Camargue Cross was very similar to my logo. While we were shopping that day we came across a shop selling porcelain art, including some in the shape of the Camargue Cross. The shop owner explained the meaning of the symbol - the anchor means hope, the heart means charity, and the cross means faith. She also explained that a local artist makes all the porcelain right in town and mentioned a little on the history of French porcelain. I hadn't sought out to buy something porcelain in France because it is authentic to the region but was glad I ended up with something very local. It is hanging in my office and it a great reminder of a really fun trip.
#4 - The I will know it when I see it shopper. If you tend to just happen upon something while traveling that you just think oh that is it, then you are this type. Your souvenirs might seem totally random to anyone else but to you they have meaning. I tend to be this type of shopper and sometimes it stinks when you just don't find anything that really speaks to you. I really want to find something I love and will remind me of the vacation even if it might not totally be something that has any connection to the area.
I have this keychain I bought on my first visit to Holland. We were shopping in a little local shop and they had one of those displays with keychains that have names. All the names were Dutch so it wasn't like I was looking for one but for some reason one just popped out at me. It seemed kind of silly to buy a keychain with a girl's name that wasn't mine or even in my language but it spoke to me so I bought it. After we came out of that store a group of school age girls came up to us asking if we spoke English. When we said yes they asked if we could help them with a school assignment to practice English. We of course were happy to take part. 5 years later I still have that keychain on my keys and it always reminds me of the group of girls we helped with their English.
No matter which type of shopper you are it is just nice to have some reminders of your past vacations around especially right now.
If you think you might be all of the above and just really love shopping of any kind let me know and I might be able to suggest some shopping tours for your next vacation.
I think breakfast might be my favorite meal, well that is unless you count dessert as a meal. I am the type of person that really needs at least a little something to eat before I can really start my day. I always love when a hotel that has breakfast buffet. I was worried that Covid might have killed the hotel breakfast but I am happy to say that from my past 3 hotel stays it is not dead yet!
Part of my job is staying on top of everything travel related and right now a big part of that is knowing how things in the travel world are changing to deal with Covid19.
Most of the big Hotel chains have been advertising what steps they are taking to keep guests safe during their stay. While it all sounds great I wondered how it would be in person and how they are making sure each individual hotel is doing the same things. In the past 90 days I have stayed in 3 hotels in 3 states that were all all part of the same big chain. I can say even though I felt safe staying in them, all 3 were doing things a little differently. The interesting part is that the breakfast area was the one that had least uniformity among the 3 hotels I stayed in.
The first hotel I stayed in was in Colorado and this was back in May so things probably have changed a bit since then. Back in mid May Colorado was not yet allowing any indoor dining so the hotel had closed the seating area but they were still offering some of the breakfast options. Everything was pre-packaged and ready to just take back to your room. If you wanted coffee you did have to wait for an employee to serve that for you. My guess is that once indoor dining was allowed to resume in the state the hotel probably returned to allowing guests to sit and eat in the dining area but have spaced the tables out.
Our second hotel stay was in North Carolina in June. Funny thing here was that North Carolina was not yet allowing indoor dining but the hotel did have the seating area open for you eat your breakfast or any other food and drink you might have brought in during your stay. The breakfast offerings here were also very surprising to me as it looked almost as if nothing had really changed here. They still had out the hot dishes for self serve like the eggs, bacon, and oatmeal. The cereal was also still the large canisters where you turn the handle to dispense the amount you want. I have to admit this was the one time of all the hotel stays where I felt like it was more up to the guest to use their judgement as to what they felt was safe or not.
Third stay was in upstate New York and this one was probably most like what the hotel chain is aiming for. Tables in the dining area were very well spaced apart and it was obvious that they had removed some tables. Breakfast was limited to just pre-packaged options where even the cereal was the type that was already sealed in a bowl. Coffee was self serve which I think makes more sense than having to talk to someone to explain how you want your coffee. While we were having breakfast we did see someone come out and clean everything multiple times.
I am very happy to see how the hotels are adapting to the changes and doing everything they can to keep guests feeling safe while still being able to provide something similar to what we are used to getting.
I don't know about you but when I hear road trip I always think of National Lampoon's Vacation (the original with Chevy Chase of course). As a kid we packed up the good old Dodge Van and headed south from Philly to Florida many times. It was always an adventure and I fondly remember those South of the Border billboards. Luckily for us we never had to worry about the theme park being closed when we got there back then but now is a whole different story, There actually is a pretty good chance that your favorite summer destination might have some closures or new rules. While up in Lake George recently we noticed that Six Flags park there was not open yet and from what it sounded like it might not open at all this summer.
Now with everything going on, driving to your summer vacation destination is a bit easier and less stressful for most people than flying. Having done both recently I will say the drive was better. Sure flying was faster but having to deal with all the new rules and worries about who might be too close to you and getting stuck somewhere just isn't fun.
Recently we packed up the car and headed north from Florida all the way up to Lake George, NY for my mother in law's 80th birthday. We did make a few pit stops along the way to break things up though. You might not be planning to go 1500 miles for your road trip but either way here are some tips to help you navigate the new rules of the road this summer.
#1 - Be sure to check and recheck the current rules for the states you plan to visit and also just drive through. Google maps can help with this. When we left Florida we checked all of the states we would be going through just to see what the polices were for dining and things like that. When we left Florida New York didn't have any rules about visitors from Florida but as we got closer to NY we started hearing about the possibility of requiring a self quarantine for visitors from Florida. Luckily we got there before that rule went into effect but that is why you need to always check again.
#2 - Plan out your rest stops as best you can in advance. Yes there is an app for that - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.insofttech.reststops&hl=en_US We did a quick search just to know if any along our route might be closed so we could plan ahead. Gas stations might also be a good place to combine your rest stop with a fill up for the car as well but not all gas station bathrooms are created equal. Here is a link to a 2018 article on best gas station bathrooms by state. Personally I have found Wawa, Racetrac, and Cumberland Farms to have nice bathrooms.
#3 - Don't count on being able to dine inside everywhere. Not all states have opened indoor dining yet so you might have to plan to eat either at an outside table or in the car while eating on the road. This also goes back to your rest stop planning as well since you might not even be able to enter some dining locations so that also means no bathroom break at those. We ran into this in North Carolina on our way through and we really hadn't thought of that in advance.
#4 - Book your place to stay in advance. In the past you might have been able to just pull off and find a hotel when you got tried but that isn't a good idea this year. Not all hotels have reopened and others might be limiting the rooms they have available to allow for new cleaning procedures and social distancing. If you are used to camping in the summer be sure to check on that as well as some parks are only open to guests traveling in an RV that has its own bathroom because they are not opening facilities. Some campgrounds might not be opening at all this summer.
#5 - Pack more than what you think you might need. If you want to try and avoid your chances of coming into contact with people while on the road, plan to pack more than you might usually, this way you lessen your chances of needing to stop for something. For example if you don't want to worry about needing to stop for something to eat along the way, plan ahead and pack some sandwiches and drinks to have in the car. The nice part about traveling by car is there are no restrictions on what you can't travel with, well except for maybe the size of your trunk.
#6 - Don't forget to pack the new items that were not on your list previous years like face masks and hand sanitizer. It is a good idea to pack extra masks in case you lose one or get caught out in the rain.
#7 - As always it is best to have your car checked out by a mechanic before hitting the road to be sure your car's health is good as well.
Many things will be different for awhile when it comes to travel but different doesn't always mean bad. A couple good things are smaller crowds and cleaner places. Today I am focusing on how Disney Theme Parks will be different for awhile.
Disney has made many announcements over the past few days and it can be hard to keep up with them all. If you are thinking of a Disney vacation in the near future you will need to weigh a few things to decide if it is the best for you to go now or wait until things return to more like they used to be. There is good and bad to both options.
Here are 5 things you will need to keep in mind when planning your next Disney vacation.
#1 - Disney is limiting the number of guests allowed in the park each day. They have implemented a park reservation system in the My Disney Experience where you can log in to reserve your park days. These will be required for awhile so best to log in as soon as possible to book your days. The good part of this is there won't be huge crowds in the parks for awhile. As of right now Disney is taking park reservations through 2021.
#2 - Not everything will be coming back when the parks reopen. For the foreseeable future there won't be extra magic hours, fastpass, parades, or fireworks. As of now there will not be any dining plans available to add to your vacation package (I have heard there is a good chance dining plans will come back sometime in 2021 though). Park Hopping is not available for 2020 but looks to be coming back in 2021 at least as of now but all things Disney are always subject to change. Disney also has not made any announcements for the water parks reopening yet so they might also stay closed for the rest of 2020. While most of the Disney resorts will be reopened by the end of 2020 there a few exceptions. The three All Star Resorts along both of the Port Orleans and Wilderness Lodge are currently not scheduled to reopen before 2021.
#3 - Masks and temperature checks are here to stay at least into 2021. There will be places designated that you can go and remove your mask and take a break around the parks. You also will not have to wear a mask while swimming or eating. Taking more breaks at the resort will be a good way to avoid mask fatigue. One tip is to bring multiple masks since you will want fresh ones and also might need a replacement if you get caught in the rain or lose one while riding an attraction. Disney will of course also be selling some fun themed masks as well.
#4 - Going contactless is going to be big. Whenever possible Disney is making things as contactless as possible. That does mean we will all be relying on our mobile devices for a lot more things. Disney is pretty much going to require you to have the app on at least one mobile device per travel party. The app will let you do things like check in for your resort and go right to your room without having to visit the front desk. You can chat with guest services via the app. You can use the app for getting into the parks (no more free magic bands starting 1/1/21). You can order food for many counter service locations via the app. Some menus are even going digital where you scan the QR code to get the menu on your phone. You can also use your phone to tap to pay for things. One tip I have for this is to always make sure your phone is fully charged when you head out to the parks and having a portable charger will be a big help too.
#5 - Now more than ever it is a good time to enlist the talent of a Disney Travel Specialist like myself and my team at Pop Vacations! I have been booking magical Disney vacations for almost 19 years so I know how to stay on top of all the information you will need to make your visit as stress free as possible.
I don't know about you but I cannot wait to be able to travel again. I will of course use commonsense and caution when we are given the green light to move about the world again. Travel is something that won't go away but it will change after all of this. Just like after 9/11 some changes were made in order to keep us safer and most are still with us today. As we slowly start to reopen in phases we will start to see some of these changes and ideas come out and some will work and some won't. Some of these changes may end of being permanent while others might be just around until there is a vaccine. No matter what the key is to start getting back to somewhat normal.
Here are 7 changes to the way we used to travel:
#1 Face Masks
JetBlue was first to announce that as of May 4 all passengers will be required to wear a face mask in order to fly. I have a feeling other airlines will follow and Canadian authorities have already mandated that anyone flying through Canadian airports must cover their nose and mouth. As much as I am not a fan of the face mask I would wear it if it means I can travel. Here is a link to each airline's current policy
#2 Social Distancing
This one could get tricky at places like theme parks but there are already talks of how the theme parks could start using virtual lines and then when you do have to actually enter the attraction line there will be places marked on the ground showing you where to stand so that you are staying far enough apart.
Another way to distance will be allowing less people into the parks or onto cruise ships. I have heard that when cruising starts again the ships will be sailing with a lot less guests in order to give everyone more room. I have also seen theme parks talking about limiting the number of guests per day.
Airlines are saying they plan to do things like leave the middle seats open and try to keep passengers as spread out as possible. I have even seen an idea for how airplanes might change seating configurations so that the middle seat faces the other direction and there are some sort of plexiglass partitions. I don't know if I see that happening anytime soon but maybe flying will somehow become a little more comfortable after all this.
#3 Relaxed Cancellation and Change Policies
This is one I would like to see stick around but doubt it will. At least for now the airlines, cruise lines, and most hotels are offering much better cancellation and change policies. This way you are able to book now and if things are not better or you are feeling sick you can cancel or change without losing all your money. Cruise lines have already said that if a guest is not feeling well even the day the cruise is to start they can cancel and won't lose everything. They would rather people didn't travel while sick just because they don't want to lose their money. I really like this change because it allows us all to plan something to look forward to but at the same time know we are not going to be severely penalized if it doesn't work out.
#4 Temperature Scans and Health Checks
Before the cruises stopped sailing many had started to take guest temperatures at boarding and would deny anyone with a fever. I have heard that most will continue this practice when cruising starts again. I have even heard plans for the ports to be set up with a scanning feature that you walk through as you enter to check in for the cruise. Both guests and crew will be checked before boarding. I have heard this could be something that goes beyond just cruising but also to the theme parks and maybe even the airports. We might also have to fill out a heath questionnaire similar to what we had to do before boarding a cruise but that could now apply to all forms of travel.
#5 More Cleaning and Sanitizing procedures
Everything from cruise ships, airplanes, theme parks, hotels, and really anything where people will come and go needs to step up sanitizing plans.
I think we will see a lot of high touch points changed into something like guests using an app or something on their own phone to do certain things like check in and even opening their room door. Princess Cruise was already ahead of the game on this with their Ocean Medallion, which I tested out in December. It really allows guests to avoid a lot of high touch things and even avoid standing in line for food. I am sure we will start seeing new technology for other things too.
Airlines and hotels are already using things like electrostatic sprayers or ultraviolet-light technology to clean. Hilton has started placing a seal on room doors that will tell when a room was clean and that it hasn't been opened since. Hyatt is planning to add a hygiene manager to each hotel to oversee cleaning and make sure everything needed is available to both employees and guests.
#6 More Hand Sanitizer and Hand Washing Stations Everywhere
Let's face it a big key to this virus is we touch something that has the virus on it and then we touch our face so if both surfaces and our hands are cleaned often that is a big way to get rid of this. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be much more readily available. I can see things like these popping up all over and can see many places requiring guests to wash before they can enter a line or something like that. Cruise Lines were already ahead on this one as they have had hand washing stations and wipes set up before any place you would eat or when you would return to the ship from port for a long time. I can already picture the sanitizing stations being added to Theme Park entrances just the way security bag checks were added. I can even see it added at airports in the same way TSA check was added. Who knows maybe someone is working on the new airport scanning machine that both looks for the bad things people might be hiding on themselves and at the same kills any germs that might be hiding too.
#6 Bye-Bye Buffets
I have never really been a fan of the way most buffets work where anyone and everyone is touching everything so I will be glad to see this change. In places that will still be sort of like a buffet I think we will see more servers taking over all parts for us so the only thing we do is hold our plate and food is placed on it.
#7 Immunity Passports
This is one I really do not agree with but some countries have started what is pretty much an immunity passport which says you already had the virus and recovered so they are assuming you are now immune so you are free to travel. I think there are too many variables in this one for it to make sense so I hope this one doesn't happen.
Some of these are already happening and others are my speculation. Some might stick around for good and others might not but either way I am glad to see us making steps to get the world back open!
It used to be that a staycation was something you did when you wanted a quick, cheap getaway without going far from home. So maybe you stayed within a couple hours drive from home and maybe got a hotel for a night or maybe it was just a day trip. Now that we cannot really go anywhere, a staycation literally means staying at home but trying to feel like you are taking a mini vacation.
Let's go with a beach or cruise theme for this staycation. Next week I will post ideas for a Theme Park type of staycation.
Let's get your 5 Senses involved -
1. Sound - check out spotify for sounds of the ocean or if you want more than just the sound tune into the live feed from one of my favorite island stops - Soggy Dollar Bar live.
2. Sight - If you want to go one step further, bring your beach chair or beach towel into the living room and if you have a smart tv search for something like ocean sounds on you tube and now you have your beachfront view.
3. Scent - Lighting a candle is an easy way to get a beach scent in your house. When I think of what the beach smells like I think coconut but there are quite a few other options for beach scented candles - check out amazon to find your favorite beach smell. If you don't have any candles but have a bottle of sunblock handy break that out and put some on even if you are staying inside since that usually has a beach scent or at least makes you think of the beach.
4. Taste - An umbrella drink totally screams vacation so check out this link for some Caribbean Cocktails. (Painkiller is the Soggy Dollar original so if you are tuned into their webcam might as well whip up some of those)
You cannot forget about the food - sorry but in this case you have to be the chef and server - check out this link for the Most Requested Cruise Recipes.
5. Touch - is a little harder since you cannot really bring sand or the ocean into your living room. If you have a yard, maybe a pool or sandbox will help. You might have to settle for pretending a fan is an ocean breeze.
A few extra touches you could add -
1. Do your own turndown service - add a little chocolate to the pillow and maybe even figure out how to make a towel animal. This could be a cute surprise for your spouse or kids.
2. Have a formal night - get all dressed up in your fancy clothes and enjoy a special dinner (maybe order take out from your favorite local restaurant).
3. Unplug! One of my favorite things about flying and cruising is that you are a bit disconnected from the world even if just for a little bit. No news, no phone calls, no emails. Even if you only do it for an hour I think it would really help. Grab a book or your kindle and find a "lounge chair on deck" (in other words your couch) to read or just take a nap.
Vacation is all about taking a break from reality so even though we are stuck at home doesn't mean we cannot do that for a little bit.
Share your Staycation to win!
Let's make this even more fun by adding a little contest to it. Take a photo of your staycation and post it to win a $25 Amazon gift card! Use #stressfreestaycation. Post your photos to instagram and tag me @coleentravel or on Facebook tag me @ColeenSwezey or @travelwithnostress. You can also email me your photo if you don't want to post it anywhere. This contest will run through April 30th and I will share the winners in the following week's newsletter. I will also offer $50 when you book your next vacation just for participating in this contest.
If you are like me you are tired of hearing about the C word- and no I don't mean the next Tuesday one or even Cancer which has been called the big C. Right now the C word is Corona-virus (Covid-19) from China and it has people going Crazy.
This C word is causing Chaos, Changes, Cancellations, and Closures.
Instead people should use a few other C words like:
People are freaking out and doing things like stealing face masks and hand sanitizer from hospitals or stocking up on things like this is the end of the world. A plane made an emergency landing over a man freaking out over a women sneezing and turns out it is just allergies. It can be hard to tell fact from over blown media scares so let's think back to some of these other scares in the past few years.
In the travel industry we have rode out many other things like this - do you remember Zika? SARS? Swine Flu (H1N1)? How about Ebola? They didn't happen that long ago but now if you were to do a Google search on what is Zika you will see a box on the right that says extremely rare. The others also say rare too and if you look at the number of people that die from those it is small. At the time they were in the news everyone was worried about getting it and doing things similar to now. Those all passed and we survived. You take more chances of dying in a car accident every day you go out of your house, so why let something that is just a flu make you think you are going to die.
Here is my personal plan on dealing with this C word:
Day 6 – Ensenada Grande
Today was the day we had been waiting for all cruise – the day we get to snorkel with Sea Lions. This was the main reason I was willing to brave the water earlier in the week to get the hang of snorkeling. It was a little choppy but at least the wind had died down and the sun was out. There was a dozen of us willing to get in the water with the sea lions while the others had an option to stay dry and just go around the sea lion island in a small boat. I suited up with my multiple layers and was ready. We had to take a skiff over to the boat from a company (Fun Baja) that takes people out to swim with the Sea Lions. The rookery is on the island of Partida in the Espiritu Santo Island Archipelago. Our guide Carlos gave all the details on what to do and what not to do. You really do not want to annoy the large male sea lions. We pulled up to the island it and really was covered in sea lions and also lots of birds. The rocks actually looked snow covered due to all the bird droppings. It was time to get in the water and you cannot help but be noisy when getting in because it was so cold but I waited a bit for my heart to adjust and then we started swimming closer. I kept my eye on Carlos as I didn’t want to lose him figuring he knew best what to do. As we got closer a big wave hit me and I drank a good bit a sea water and was about ready to say get me out of here but I took a few minutes to recover and calm down. After that I really did start to enjoy it and get the hang of it. I was floating along and a little sea lion swam right over to me. I wasn’t sure what to do but I laughed so hard I got a mask full of water. This little guy really had fun playing with us. He nibbled on anyone hands that were out or their flippers. He also thought Carlos’s orange life ring looked like fun and played around with that for a bit. We thought he might go through it like a sea lion at a show but he didn’t. He was also able to entertain himself quite well as I watched him dive down and he blew a few big bubbles and then he followed them up to the surface but right before they reached the top he would pop them with his nose. Again I was laughing and let me just say laughing and snorkeling do not go well together. We were out in the water about an hour and by then I was really cold so I was happy when Carlos asked who is ready to go back to the boat. On the short swim back Carlos told us to keep looking in the water as there are sometimes big rays out there. I looked down and decided I really didn’t want to see if there was one as it looked way too deep. I was better off keeping my head out of the water. I was glad to get back on the boat and sit in the sun and try to warm my fingers up again. When we got back on the ship it was right in the hot tub to warm up. This was the last excursion with wetsuits so we helped by dunking them in the containers of clean water and hung them up. We also rinsed the other borrowed gear and put in the piles for the crew to put away. We did all this before lunch! I had worked up a hunger and was happy to not have to wait long for lunch.
After lunch we headed out for one last guided kayak. The wind had picked up a bit so we mostly stuck to the coast but it was another fun paddle. We were than back onboard for one last happy hour. We also had to start thinking about packing the the procedure for the morning. Guests with an early flight were scheduled for the first bus back to Los Cabos while the rest of us went back to the hospitality area that we met at on the first day. After all the talk about what to do in the morning it was time for dinner but Jess told us to pop back into the lounge after dinner as there would be a slide show of photos that the guides took all week. We enjoyed one last delicious dinner and watched the show before heading back to pack.
Our Last Day
Our luggage had to be tagged and outside our door before we went to 7 am breakfast. We had one last time to say goodbye to our new friends and then it was time to board the buses. Most of the crew were out on the pier to say goodbye which was a very nice touch. We headed back to Los Cabos and walked around town for a bit before it was time for our shuttle back to the airport. We had a great time in Baja and would definitely do it again!
Day 4 - Magdalena Bay
Today is all about the Gray Whales. We had to be up early and ready to go as we needed to board vans that would take us over to the Pacific side of the peninsula. It was about a 3 hour ride over to the other side but we did make a pit stop to use bathrooms and have a snack. This time of the year mother gray whales come to Magdalena Bay to give birth so we are excited about the possibility of getting to see the babies. UnCruise only does this excursion during the birthing season. When we got to the bay we got into a panga boat with a local captain that took us out in search of the whales. The bay is pretty well protected so you can see why the momma whales like it. After just a few minutes we saw a spout and headed right towards it. Did you know that the spout from a Gray Whale is heart shaped? I didn't know that but I did get to see up close that it is true. We ended up getting to see quite a few whales and could tell some where pairs of mother and baby by how close they were together. We thought that at least one was having fun playing with us as she would spy-hop (vertically pokes its head out of the water). Then there was a pair that seemed to just be relaxing and would come up to float for a bit. It was a great 2 hours out on the water. After our whale watch adventure was over it was time for lunch at a local seafood restaurant. They served us a huge plate of food with shrimp, lobster, fish, rice, and salads. Then it was time to head back to Sea of Cortes side so that was nap time in the vans. We got back to port and boarded the ship for happy hour. Captain Shep came down to let us know that once we were out of “the waiting room” that we would be hitting a little bit of rough water so he was waiting until after dinner was over to leave port. We have been on many cruises with rough weather so we were not too worried. Turns out that to us it just seemed like some gentle waves which were nice to lull you to sleep. Since we were up so early I was ready for bed by 8 pm! Our brief time with wi-fi seemed to be coming to an end so we are guessing we not get wifi again until we return to LaPaz.
Day 5 – Bahia of San Francisco
This morning we woke up find us anchored out by a lovely crescent moon shaped beach. It was a bit windy but we had signed up for the morning hike. We grabbed some breakfast and then headed to the aft to board our skiff to shore. It was a really nice hike to a ridge that ran along most of the island so we got a lot of amazing views. Then we walked down in another spot where we were able to walk over and check out the salt flat. Our guide, Jenny, explained to us how the locals harvest the salt to use for the fish they catch and then they can trade. It was then back to the boat for lunch. After lunch the crew had set up a beach party back on shore for us so we were able to go back over and snorkel, kayak, paddle board and just enjoy the beach. We had fun exploring the beach but it was a bit too chilly for getting in the water. Tonight's Happy Hour was a little different since we had already signed up for Friday's adventures the day before. I guess they really needed to get an idea how many boats they would need for going over to the sea lions so they asked us to decide on that one early. Jess gave plenty of fair warnings about how the swimming with the sea lions might not be easy so they wanted to set the right expectations before anyone signed up. I was doing it no matter what. I figured that if even what she was saying was worst case scenario I could handle that. All of our desserts each day have been delicious but tonight's wasn't only delicious it was like a piece of art. Chase our server told us dessert was apple strudel but it was going to be a bit different than what we are used to. When it came out I think everyone ohhhed and ahhhed and of course took photos. It was almost too perfect to eat but it really did taste as good at it looked!
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