Touring the Carnival Pride

As a travel agent, it’s my responsibility to keep with all the constantly evolving word of travel.  That’s done through constant continuing education.  On a day to day basis, that means taking one of the vast variety of courses available through my suppliers.  However, that never, ever can replace actual, hands-on experience with a travel product.

Living within driving distance of many different cruise ports, I’m lucky enough to be able to tour some of the many ships that call the East Coast home.  Last Sunday, I headed to Baltimore to tour the Carnival Pride which sails year round from that bustling port.

What a great ship for a convenient getaway!  Perfect for a group of families wanting to get together.  Itineraries include the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean as well as some Bermuda sailings.  You can check it out yourself by taking a look at some of the pictures I took.  Have any questions?  Please feel free to call or email me.

https://www.facebook.com//#!/media/set/?set=a.194738443907484.48916.144318172282845

Cruise close to home! Take a cruise from Baltimore!

Imagine this. You wake up on a dreary Saturday or Sunday morning. It’s been raining for days, and the temperature has been hovering around the mid-40s. Yet, in a matter of hours, you are on your way to the Caribbean or Bahamas. And the best thing? You haven’t set foot in an airport.
How is that possible? By taking a cruise from Baltimore! With over 30 cruise ports in the United States, “cruising close to home” is easier than ever. What better way for Maryland residents to try out this dynamic style of vacationing than leaving from a port right in their own backyard?
According to the Cruise Lines Industry Association, 14 million people cruised in 2010. 210,549 of those passengers left from the Port of Baltimore on 91 cruises last year, besting the 2009 record, says the Maryland Department of Transportation. Why not add yourself to that statistic?
In 2011, there will be 112 cruises leaving from Baltimore on 2 different cruise lines. Carnival will operate the Carnival Pride to the Bahamas, Bermuda and Eastern Caribbean, while Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas will sail to New England/Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. These sailings operate year round with departures every week, so there is an itinerary for all possible dates. With amenities such as water slides, mini-golf, rock-climbing walls, children’s programs and more, both cruise lines are convenient and offer family-friendly options and activities for all ages.
Think about it. You are on your way to a tropical destination without enduring pat-downs, flight delays and cramped seats. And let’s not forget about the difference between cruise food and airline food (or the lack of it). You will only have to unpack once, but get to experience several different destinations on one trip without the hassle of flying. The opportunities for fun and adventure on your cruise getaway are endless. You can be as active as you want – snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing are all waiting for you on your tropic vacation. Or, you can just lounge by the pool or on the beach doing absolutely nothing.
All of that can be achieved right from your own backyard. So cruise close to home and check out a vacation right from the Port of Baltimore!

This article can also be found at http://www.examiner.com/family-travel-in-baltimore/cruise-close-to-home-take-cruise-from-baltimore

Time to Get Back In the Saddle

I am so ashamed and mad at myself.  I joined the Travel Agent Blog Project with every intention of doing regular blog posts here.  And what did I do?  Fizzled out in February. 

Well, it’s time to get back in the saddle and get moving!  If ever you see that I am slacking here, feel free to contact me to let me know!

Thanks!

Ilisa

A Family Vacation For a Very Special Family

The thing about family travel, is that you quickly realize there is no such thing as a typical family.   The concept of a family vacation sounds generic, but it’s anything but.    The key to planning a successful and memorable trip for my families is qualifying them and LISTENING to their needs.  While I like to say I plan a trip as if I am planning one for my family, I have to remember that it is not my family, and that I have to put my needs, wants and budget aside.

Last year, I received an email from a family that found me in the phone book.  The mother was in the military and was getting ready to deploy to Iraq for at least a year.  She and her husband had a 6 year old daughter and they wanted to plan one last vacation before she left.  In asking them a series of questions, I learned they had a healthy budget and that the destination/locale was not as important as the actual accommodation.  Meaning, they didn’t care which country they were in as long as they could find a resort that had plenty of activities for their little girl, and ensured that they had nothing to do enjoy the trip.  They wanted to relax and just enjoy the last time they had together for a while.

Beaches Turks and Caicos fit the bill.  A cruise was my first, instant thought, but that wasn’t truly all-inclusive and would require the family to concern themselves with things like onboard accounts.  Of course, Disney – the favorite vacation for so many of my clients – is simply not relaxing.   The only solution was an all-inclusive, and not just any one.  At Beaches, the family did not have to lift a finger.  They were pampered and relaxed.  Their daughter had the vacation of a lifetime and Mom went to Iraq with priceless family memories.

I can’t say I saved them money as I don’t compete.  I get my clients the best price I can get through reputable sources without compromising quality and service.  My goal for all clients is to make sure all they have to do is go and enjoy their trip.  Were they happy with my service?  Well, when mom had an idea of when she would have her mid-tour leave, they contacted me again.  That trip proved to have some more challenges because leave time is not set and stone and because it can take up to 3 days to get home.    But, we pulled it off, booking them a relatively last minute trip at the Azul Sensatori in Mexico. 

Mom is home now and we’re working on the next trip.  I am eternally grateful for her service to our country.

Food, Glorious Food

When traveling with kids, the one thing that always preoccupies us is food (ok, so maybe you don’t have to travel with kids to be preoccupied with food, but I digress).  It’s natural to go away and worry ourselves about what our kids will eat, what they will like, etc.   We’d all love to say our kids have no pickiness whatsoever, but in reality, that’s not always the case.

My husband and I have instituted a rule when traveling.  Our kids must try one new taste every day.  It does not mean they have to like it.  It does not mean they even need to order a whole plate of it.  But, they have to be open to trying new things.   In doing this, we’ve gotten our kids to taste alligator, rabbit, cactus, rattlesnake (thank you Cowboy Cafe in Sedona, AZ!), escargot, and more.   In most cases, they have liked what they tried and they’ve developed a bit of pride in themselves for trying something different and living to tell about it.

While there is an entire world out there of delicious food, I have found that cruising offers up some of the best opportunities for the picky eater.  Besides the fact that there is the sheer variety of food and choices, you have already paid for the food in your cruise fare.    So, you shouldn’t be afraid of ordering something out of the ordinary, because the ordinary is readily available.    Our last cruise is when we did the great escargot experiment.  My husband and I already love it.  But the test was to see how our kids reacted.  As we were on a cruise, I had no problem ordering a generally pricey appetizer as a test.  My 8 year old son?  Scarfed it down and asked for more.   Our 11 year old daughter?  Thought she was going to die if she had to swallow it.    And that was ok.    Because we weren’t paying any more, we had no problem in letting her choose another appetizer to satisfy her.   

In short, it’s so important to have our little travelers step out of their comfort zones and try new things.  You never know, they may actually like the rattlesnake (which, incidentally, is quite tasty).

Interior Staterooms Have Never Been Better!

So, unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve heard that Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Dream, was recently christened and ready to set sail on it’s maiden voyage.  Disney, always an innovator when it comes to technology, has reached new heights with the ship’s interior staterooms.

What’s so special about a cabin without a window?  Well, this interior most certainly has a window and it’s the most awesome window at sea.  Why?  Because these are virtual portholes.  Each of the interior cabins on the ship has this virtual window to the world which shows you what every oceanview and balcony stateroom on your side of the ship seas (thanks to strategically placed cameras on the ship).   Now every Disney guest has a ocean view!  What those other staterooms don’t see, however, is the parade of Disney characters stopping by your stateroom via your most awesome porthole.

Have no idea what I’m talking about?  Check it out here!

http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2011/01/how-do-we-give-every-disney-dream-guest-an-ocean-view-its-magic/

Bundles of Fun in Southern California

A few years ago, my husband had to go out to Anaheim to help organize a national soccer tournament there.  Naturally, there was no way he was going anywhere near Disneyland without the kids and me.  So, that year, we decided our family vacation would be a Southern California adventure. 

Oh, the things to do and see!  Besides having the most perfect weather, Southern California has no shortage of family-friendly activities.  Disneyland aside, there are more theme parks, beaches and gorgeous landscapes than we could every possibly imagine.   We had a list as long as my arm and then some of what would appeal to the kids.  How could we do it all?  How could we do it all economically?  Well, I found the most brilliant creation – the Southern California CityPass.  This little pass represented hundreds in savings.  It gave us admission to Disneyland (including California Adventure), Sea World, Knott’s Berry Farm (that’s since been replaced by Universal), San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park.  One purchase prior to leaving home gave us the freedom to see the attractions that would appeal to the whole family.   We didn’t do Knott’s Berry Farm, but even so, we saved a bundle off the admissions had we purchased them separately.

Since then, I’ve learned to look for similar savings in other cities around the world for my clients.  When traveling with kids, every parent wants the most bang for their buck, the best value around.  I’ve since found that such passes exist for most major destinations.   As a family travel specialist, I always recommend such options as a way not to break the bank and for ease and convenience.

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