By Jen Campbell
As I think of the upcoming New Year 2020, I can’t help but reflect on the past year, which was full of some ups and downs on a personal level, but on a travel level I was soooo very blessed.
Spring Break was a time for the ultimate relaxation on a 7 Night Cruise on board one of Royal Caribbean’s Top Ships: Allure of the Seas for both myself and my teenage son. We spent 7 glorious days visiting St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Royal Caribbean’s private island in Haiti, Labadee. We enjoyed the warm balmy tropical breezes. As my son was off meeting new friends all over this glorious ship, I took in some much needed rest in the hot sun, on a raft, with a nice, fruity, tropical drink in my hand. Allure of the Seas was a phenomenal ship and one I won’t forget many of their Top Must-Do’s on this ship like: ice-skating, surfing at sea, the fun themed carnival ambiance (think carousel and yummy food), gorgeous gardens in the center of the ship (called Central Park), many of the wonderful on board pool's, the captivating cantilevered hot tubs, a 3-d theater, amphitheater complete with water acrobatics, the numerous live shows/entertainment and always the funny family friendly and slightly risqué late night adult comedy on board. It seems this ship's party never stops. For me, it was never a dull moment on board this simply incredible ship! I can't wait to get back on board one day.
This Fall came an Amazing trip to Italy for me and 16 other lucky, small group travelers! This trip had been in the making and planning stages for 2 long years, so you can imagine my own anticipation of this European Vacation finally arriving. We all began our trip in the middle of September beginning in the bustling, ever so busy fashion capital of Milan, wove slowly down near the oh so quaint seaside shores of Italy (Cinque Terre and Portovenere), on to ancient, historical Assisi, the small, idyllic village of Gubbio, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Venice and few other small villas. At the end of the journey, we finally ended up in incredible Rome. The town of Rome was where ancient civilization began and it was full of many crowds, bustling museums, ancient columnar ruins, old cathedrals, gorgeous gardens and finally the Coliseum. We enjoyed 10 Days spent in Italy…where wonderful memories were made by all. We started out as friends, but by the end of the tour, it felt more like a great big, fun, rowdy family!! The wine was delicious, the food was spectacular and the scenery was absolutely breath taking! I can't wait to go back again to Italy one day.
This year (2019) has been a great blessing for me: travel wise. I was able to see wondrous new places, meet awesome new friends and enjoy parts of this Great Big World that we live in. I'm not sure what 2020 may bring (and I'm in complete anticipation) but I've already planned part of the Summer of 2021, with an incredible 9 night small group trip to tour England and Scotland on the books.
Want to join us? MORE DETAILS CAN BE FOUND HERE! This trip is bound to fill up quickly, so sign up today! Call us today to Book this Private, Small Group Tour: 910-379-4033,
I know, I said it before, but to me it bears repeating! I only have a little over a year left with my teenage son, Austin, so I want to maximize the amount of quality time we get to spend with each other. One way this Mom can capture his undivided attention, is to plan fun trips together where we get to see new countries, within Budget, having a BLAST!
Our next trip happens to be Spring Break 2019, taking a cruise together! We are flying out of Raleigh to Miami, stay in a hotel, then board the amazing Allure of the Seas, out of the Stunning Miami port, for an exotic 7 night trip to Puerto Rico, Labadee (Royal Caribbean's Private Island) and then on to very beautiful St. Maarten!
Neither of us have ever been on any of the Largest Ships at sea (Aside from Carnival's Vista last Christmas Break) so we are both super excited to see what this LARGE City at Sea has in store for us.
Some of our options we cannot wait to experience are: Aquatheater, Zip Lining across the highest ship decks, Ice Skating at Sea, Flow Rider Surfing at Sea, Dancing, Exciting Broadway Type Shows, Tons of Awesome Restaurants, Comedy Night, and soooo much more! With a little over 3 months away, we're already counting down til our Vacation at Sea.
Does this sound like fun and you'd like to JOIN US? This is our Special Group Cruise we've organized for our very own Friends and Family! Check it Out!
As I sit here pondering another amazing cruise quote for a new client, I was contemplating the wonderful options out of the Charleston, SC Cruise Port, for the next several months!! Since it's practically a hop, skip and a jump from NC, VA and GA, it makes it super convenient for any of us Southerners to leave out of this port, and definitely more cost effective for us local folks.
For My Family: We usually head down the night before, then rent a nice hotel room in the area to take advantage of the hotel's Special "Park and Cruise Package." Why pay for expensive parking at the port when you can get to Charleston, SC the night before, and take a wonderful stroll downtown to the historic areas and relax in your hotel room (without having to worry about making it to the ship in time). With the price of cruise port parking, it's well worth it to pay a tad bit more, to have a decent hotel room the night before (to ensure you get there on time for your cruise) and then snag a Cab, Shuttle or Uber to the port. Once your done with your cruise, you simply head back to your hotel (via a local Cab, Shuttle or Uber) to grab your vehicle and then head home. How easy can this be?
So...lets get back to my review of Carnival Ecstasy vs Carnival Sunshine.
Here's my Personal Input:
Out of the two ships (I have had the wonderful opportunity to sail on both of these) my personal opinion would be to ABSOLUTELY Sail on Carnival Sunshine!! It has an absolutely beautiful, relaxing waterfall cascading down into a Small Pool in the Quiet, Adult Only SERENITY AREA (this was where I spent the majority of my days relaxing and soaking up the sunshine and cool vibes). The ship is much newer (I hear Ecstasy is the oldest in the fleet, so unfortunately, its quite dated) and has wonderful amenities as well! In my humble opinion, it's worth paying a tad bit more to be on the Carnival Sunshine. I thoroughly enjoyed the Red Frog Pub Bar...where Every Evening I enjoyed the special beer brew on tap, for a fraction of the cost of those expensive Fruity Beverages! The bartenders got to know us, as we returned each day for a cold, frosty drink in a beer mug. We even enjoyed the frog balls....which were actually very lightly battered and deep fried chick peas (for free).
If I had to choose between both cruise ships, my choice would be Carnival Sunshine, all the way. But hey....as long as you're sailing on a cruise ship out to sea (to the destination of YOUR Choice) it's worth it's weight in gold.
How to Budget for Your Dream Honeymoon!
By Jenifer Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Did you know that the average Honeymoon is 7 nights in duration and will cost over $5,000+! Your budget may be higher (or lower) than many others. Setting your budget up (ahead of time) will help you in the decision-making process, as you will be able to discover what may be dreams and what’s more realistic.
We have a detailed spreadsheet where you can add up these costs (actually it auto calculates it all for you) based upon what you add into the budgeting sheet. Request our Free Honeymoon Budget Planning Form today!
*Our Secret Honeymoon Tip:
Did you know you can use a free honeymoon registry (such as HoneyFund) where your friends and family can actually contribute towards your dream honeymoon as a wedding gift? More details can be found on our website.
Here’s a few Budgetary Questions You may want to Consider when Planning Your Honeymoon Vacation:
Think of your “must have” items needed for your Dream Honeymoon, and then consider prioritizing from there. Don’t forget the romance, fun (and budget) at the same time. You want to have the Honeymoon of your dreams, but don’t want to spend the next year after that, eating Ramen Noodles and Boiled Hot Dogs every night for dinner!
Our quick travel tip is to not “over-plan” Your Vacation.
If you’re anything like me (I’m definitely a "type A" person) who likes to plan everything down to the last detail- this may be hard to do. Planning all the details may seem like the logical way to go about your travel prep, but trust us, over-planning can ruin a trip, and make it seem more regimented than it needs to be. Learn from me and- RELAX….
We recently experienced the downsides of this, when trying to "be prepared" every single day of our 9 night small group tour to Germany with plenty of activities to keep us busy. Then came the last day, and we thought we were boarding a flight home from Germany. Well.....both our flights were cancelled and we were “stuck” in Germany for an extra day. So, whatever would we do with zero “plans” in one of my most favorite countries? Well…. we were spontaneous!! We quickly settled into our hotel rooms. My sister and I hopped on a bus to the train station, then took the local commuter's train to drop us off in the middle of downtown Frankfurt, so we could explore on our own. Help from a friendly, local German man, sent us on our way to get off at the best spot to experience downtown Frankfurt.
BONUS: we ended up at a small, wonderful wine festival that we weren’t aware of, and it was absolutely fabulous!! We ended up enjoying Gluhwein (hot spiced wine), yummy food, great music, neat little shops, incredibly amazing architecture and lots of fun German locals.
Planning is always good, but remember to leave some room for changes and especially times of spontaneity. We'll always cherish our extra day in Germany for years to come.
Interested in an amazing small group tour to Germany with us, then CONTACT US now to get a trip of a lifetime planned to Germany in the near future!
30 Items People Forget on Their Cruise-
1. Highlighter & Pen-
We always like to plan ahead what we want to do on the ship the next day. This is a quick and easy way to ensure that you have your tentative schedule for the next day ready and that it’s easy to see on the schedule since you’ve highlighted it.
If you’re traveling with kids who may be used to sleeping with a nightlight, or an adult that likes to be able to see where they’re going when they get up in an interior cabin to hit the restroom in the middle of the night, this small nightlight can be a very crucial item you definitely don’t want to forget.
3. Power strip-
Every seasoned cruiser knows that there is usually a huge lack of available outlets in the stateroom. Last cruise we counted exactly 2 outlets in the entire room. So, consider bringing a small power strip for extras. They even have some with a USB plug on it.
4. Towel clips-
Who wants their towel flying away? Not me! We love the BOCA Clips and use them each cruise to hold our towels firm on the lounge chairs. We don’t want a large gust of wind to whisk our towels out to sea.
5. Bug spray-
This is especially important for any tropical ports you may be visiting, because there’s bound to be a lot of little insects begging for a piece of you. With all the latest insects causing problems, it’s always best to be safe.
Whether you claim you “never burn!” or you’re trying desperately to come back home from vacation with a sunny glow, bring the sunscreen. In the tropics, the sun tends to be much hotter and stronger, even those who easily tan can burn quickly. You don’t want to burn in the beginning of your vacation and be miserable your entire trip because you forgot to slather on!
7. Small fan-
Many, many people need a fan blowing to sleep soundly and help out with the white noise. If you’re one of these people, or you tend to get hot during the night, bring a small compact one on board.
8. Seasickness patch, pills or bracelet-
There are many forms of seasickness relief available. We swear by the patches you place behind your ear, and are prescribed by your Dr. Some people use ginger, others purchase Dramamine, and then there’s the SeaBand bracelet that others use. It’s always good to have some form of seasickness help that works best for you, in case the rocking of the ship ends up getting to you and making you nauseas.
9. $1/$5 Dollar bills for tipping-
Often the porters at the port would like a tip for taking your bags at the curb for you. The shuttle driver to the port is also hoping for a tip for loading/unloading your luggage. Make sure you’re prepared.
10. Water shoes for various excursions/a rocky beach-
Depending on the ports you visit and excursions you plan, you may want to bring some water shoes. No one wants to walk on rough, rocky beaches and be uncomfortable the rest of your day.
11. Wrinkle release spray-
For the clothes you packed carefully but somehow didn’t survive the journey onto the ship without wrinkling, purchase and bring along some wrinkle release spray. It’s a quick, easy way to have your clothes looking decent. Remember: Irons aren’t allowed on the ship and even though they have ironing stations on each floor of the cruise ships, you may have to wait in line to use it.
12. A jacket/sweatshirt-
Even on a Caribbean cruise it can get a bit chilly in the evenings! Always a good idea to have it on hand, even if you never use it.
13. Reusable water bottle-
Instead of buying water bottles each day you head into port or for your stateroom, bring a reusable one from home. This way, you’ll always have a container for some thirst-quenching goodness if you happen to pass by a drinking fountain, and can even refill it in your stateroom.
For the occasional cut, scratch, blister or small injury. You can ask the crew for one, but it’s always easier to have these on hand yourself.
If you have your cell phone turned off during your cruise, a watch can be very beneficial. Don’t forget to always have it set on the ship’s time. You don’t want to miss the ship because you didn’t keep track of the ship’s time.
A hat will help protect your neck and face from the sun, you’ll also lighten the load on your eyes if you forget your sunglasses on the ship. Plus, hats can just add so much style to a vacation outfit, especially while at the sea and you end up with tangled beach hair!
17. Conditioner and shaving cream-
Most cruise lines only offer shampoo, bar soap, and body wash in your stateroom bathroom. Be sure to bring your other essentials, like conditioner, shaving cream, any needed makeup remover, and various lotions.
18. Nail Clippers-
You may break a nail and desperately need these. Don’t forget to pack them in your cosmetic bag.
19. Laundry bag-
Instead of throwing all of the dirty clothes in the corner, bring a laundry bag to put them in.
So helpful, especially in the Sunny Caribbean. Be sure to bring some along with UVB protection.
21. Comfy walking shoes-
For long walking tours, shopping along cobblestone streets in Europe, you’ll want comfy shoes made for walking (definitely NOT Flip Flops).
22. Lint roller-
Bring a small, travel-sized lint roller for any lint you need to remove.
23. Over the door storage hanger-
Traveling with more than two people, this is really a must-have. All the little essentials, accessories, travel sized items can go in these pockets and help keep you organized and know where items are in a jiffy. Consider purchasing the see-through one.
You may want to consider bringing an umbrella. Some are small and very compact, and these would be the best for cruise travel.
On nearly every cruise line, your key to your room (and to buy stuff) is a card the crew gives you before you board, or such as with Carnival Cruise Lines, it’s outside your stateroom door when you get on board. Don’t lose it, simply purchase a lanyard. You can even ask the crew members on board to punch a hole in your card if needed.
26. Ziplock bags-
For soiled clothes (think pools or hot tubs the night before debarkation) extra outfits for excursions at port, keeping your cell phone dry –these handy ziplock bags have unlimited uses. Stash a few in your bag just to be prepared.
27. Pain medications-
Whether it’s a killer headache, stomach ache, intense cramps, or sore legs, you may need some pain relief medication. Bring your medicine of choice (and if it’s a prescription make sure you pack it inside the original bottle).
28. Sticky notes-
Sticky notes and magnets kind of go hand-in-hand. Sticky notes are great to have to leave little notes for your cabin-mates or kids mentioning where you’ll be, what time to meet for dinner, etc. Magnets are good for hanging the daily activities newsletter on your wall, as well as anything else you may find important. The cabin walls are predominantly metal, so your stuff can go on the walls easily.
This probably isn’t necessary to mention, but just in case anyone is likely to forget: bring a couple of razors! If your ship sells them, they will be pricy in the gift shop.
30. Disinfecting wipes-
For everything from your TV remote, to your bathroom counter, door handles, tables and more, sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. Yes stewards do clean the cabins, but it’s hard to know what surfaces they pay extra attention to. If a norovirus recently broke out on board, or you’re over concerned with this, spend a few minutes wiping down surfaces.
What would you suggest packing for a cruise vacation? Share with us in the comments below!
HOW DO I PAY FOR THE ON BOARD PURCHASES ON MY CRUISE?
Nearly all cruises operate on a "cashless" system, meaning your boarding card, (also known as your SeaPass Card), will be used as a charge card to make all of your onboard purchases. Normally to activate this SeaPass Card account, most guests will provide a credit card, (American Express, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and Diner's Club), to have all these purchases charged to at the end of their cruise. Typically an initial “hold” is placed on your credit card the morning you set sail for a set amount (determined by each cruise line).
Additionally, the SeaPass Card system may be activated with debit cards (beware of the hold placed onto your account) with a Visa or MasterCard, or cash.
A running tab of all your purchases will be kept under separate folio numbers for each guest and an itemized statement will be left in your stateroom the night before disembarkation. If you provided a credit card (and there are no discrepancies with your bill) the amount will be charged to your account on the morning of disembarkation (the day you leave the ship). If you have used cash to activate the account, you will need to settle the account at the Guest Relations desk (to either receive a reimbursement of the unused amount you originally left or to pay the balance of what you have charged over the amount of what you originally left). We recommend you do so as early as possible. On the last evening on the ship and even on the morning of debarkation, the Guest Relations Desk (customer service) tends to get very busy.
Guests to place a deposit if they are paying for their SeaPass Card account with cash. There is typically a $500 daily limit on cash accounts for 7+ night sailings and $300 for 2/3/4 & 5 night sailings (each cruise line is different, check with the cruise line your sailing on prior to setting sail). Once the daily cash limit is reached, Guest Relations (customer service on the ship) will call the guest and inform them that the limit on their onboard account has been reached.
Our Top 3 Reasons Why our Guests Love to Cruise:
1. Value - Your accommodations, meals, entertainment, the incredible opportunity to travel to several countries, all included in your one price. And just think, you can even make payments on this amazing vacation, SEE HERE for details.
2. Opportunity - Easily explore multiple destinations in one trip, experience fun, unique activities in ports and a variety of activities organized onboard that are high quality entertainment.
3. Variety - Theme parties and nightlife, Broadway shows, cooking classes, painting classes, educational seminars, Spa services or just relaxing in a lounge chair taking in the sea breeze, and so much more!
There is truly something for everyone!
Give us a call to book your next cruise. Escape Destinations Travel: 910-379-4033
Client’s Holland America Noordam Alaskan Cruise Review-
Below you will find the latest review from one of our clients, who just returned from an amazing cruise to Alaska, on board the Noordam, which is a cruise ship from Holland America Lines.
My apologies for the delay. I’ve wanted nothing more than to talk about the trip to anyone who would listen, but unfortunately getting back to reality at work and at home has taken a lot of time! And as you know traveling is hard work, so I kept putting this off “until tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow is now!
Simply put, I think I ran out of adjectives by Day Two! Even just the teeny, tiny part of Alaska that we were fortunate to see is simply breathtaking, and you can’t truly capture or describe its size or beauty.
The Holland America ship, Noordam was awesome too. We enjoyed wonderful accommodations, thought the ship was tastefully decorated, the crew was outstanding, the food was fabulous, but two things stood out as major reasons we had such an extraordinary trip:
1- The weather was amazing every single day! We were astounded how the guides or drivers would be gushing over how awesome the weather was, and how awful it was the day or days before, meaning we literally were in the RIGHT location at the very BEST time possible. That does not usually happen to me, so it was a welcome blessing. Not that you couldn’t have a great time in rain or clouds or cold, but knowing all that we could see in perfect weather of blue, dry skies was so thrilling! We spent as much time as we could on the verandah, especially during sailing times. Having that is a MUST, I think, when cruising Alaska. We didn’t miss anything, and we enjoyed afternoon tea or coffee out there a few times which was such a treat. We just couldn’t stop looking at everything in awe.
2- The second thing is seeing my daughter (who is a performer on the ship). Of course it was heavenly for me to be with her (and she was able to spend a great deal of time with us), but beyond that joy was how neat it was to be fussed over by everyone because we were her family visiting!” Goodness, Sue and I felt like VIP’s! The other crew and attendants just made us feel so special and were so personable and helpful. If you are with someone that everyone knows, it just adds another layer of WOW. Obviously, this isn’t going to occur for most cruisers, but it was so, so special for us.
I kept thinking about your parents and how they raved about their trip. They were not kidding! For me, as an infrequent traveler, it was truly a trip of a lifetime, which I think Alaska probably should be, right?! I can’t recommend it enough, and we quickly discovered that the best way to vacation in Alaska is a cruise for sure. Having the Holland America Noordam ship as the hotel, and not having to move and unpack in each city, was fantastic. It went so fast, but we had such a great time every single minute!
Thank you for all your support and assistance, especially when I had the change in travel partners. It was so nice to know we weren’t overlooking any documentations or planning pieces in the months prior to the trip. And also thank you for the nice goodie bag you sent to us before we left! We especially enjoyed the Nivea cream, thanks! I have hundreds of pictures, but I have included a few favorites with this message. I will go to your FB page and include a review, too.
I hope I have more opportunities to work with you in the future. Thanks, again, and good luck to you as you make other dream vacations come true for your clients!
Thanks Karen for your wonderful review of the Holland America Line Noordam ship review and Alaskan review. Your pictures are amazing! We're glad we could assist you on your Dream Vacation!!
International Vacation Tips & Tricks!
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Here are some tips, tricks and general guidelines that will help to make your international vacation very enjoyable.
When Planning Your Trip:
* Always use a Travel Consultant! Your travel professional will sort through any of your concerns or questions ahead of time, along the way to your destination, while traveling in the country, or when you’re headed home. Should you have a cancelled or even delayed flight, they are there being just a simple phone call away. Should you hotel have issues, be over-booked (yes sometimes it happens with a few), a medical emergency or other situations that can happen, they’ll be right there to assist you immediately and help you quickly get back on track to your destination!
* Do you have a group tour or cruise you’re trying to get to? Always plan on arriving to your destination in advance. We recommend at least a day before you need to be there. Let’s say you have a dream cruise you’ve saved up for a while for, and you chose to arrive the same day of embarkation. Should you inevitably get delayed due to weather, flight cancellations or a flat tire, you may not be able to board the cruise in time. Or, if your flight was cancelled and you were re-booked, your luggage may have gotten lost in transit. A 24-hour window allows your luggage to catch up with you, or a delay to not de-rail your dream trip. And always consider insurance, trip delay or luggage lost is normally covered by most travel insurance companies.
* Reconfirm all those fine details long before you depart on your vacation. If you are traveling over several time zones or even the International Dateline, remember to verify the arrival date(s) are the correct dates that you will be arriving at your destination. It’s imperative to pay very close attention to any overnight flight schedules regarding connections and arrivals that may interfere with your travel itinerary, group tours, cruises, etc.
* Booking your trip across several airlines can be confusing, is very stressful while traveling, and can even be potentially more expensive to your budgeted vacation dollars. It’s good to hire a travel professional who will be certain to review your itinerary when it’s first issued as well as prior to your date of travel. They can advise you as to whether it's really do-able as far as connection times, baggage handling, and other issues/concerns. The consultant can also serve as your one-call contact, should something unfortunately go wrong.
Packing For Your Trip:
* Don’t forget to carry your passport, important medication, emergency contact information (especially your travel professional’s contact info) and other critical information with you at all times. Never pack your important documents and medication in your suitcase that’s checked! Your carry-on, or on your person is the best option.
* When packing your suitcases for your vacation, consider opting for two smaller suitcases over one large suitcase. Many airports abroad are not equipped to easily handle a full cargo of luggage, and may be in a constant state of “catch-up”. Your luggage may not arrive with your flight (as it should) but could even arrive on a later flight, instead. This frequently occurs when you have several connections. When a flight is overweight, the first things to be off loaded are those heaviest bags. If your suitcase is not light, but is an overweight massive bag, it could be one to be off loaded first.
* Pack your itinerary, to include your travel professional’s full contact information and your own contact information while traveling in each piece of luggage you plan to bring on the vacation. This will help the airlines catch up with you and coordinate the delivery of your luggage during your trip, should this need arise.
* Pack everything that’s absolutely necessary into your carry-on. This could include the following: a full change of clothes, toiletries, and medication should your luggage not make it to your destination or be delayed. Pack items not readily available in stores at the destination and that you need. Also, some other items that may be handy: gum, candy, nuts, granola bars, that may help you with your energy in case a store/restaurant is closed whether in transit or when you’ve reached your final destination!
Have a Wonderful Vacation!!
What's essential to you when you travel Internationally? Comment Below.
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