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Travel Advice

Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 3

April 13, 2015 • By

Now that you’ve actually booked your cruise, it’s important to make sure that you take care of a few things before leaving.  Here’s a handy checklist to assure that you will be ready before the ship leaves:

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  • Check with your medical and renter’s/homeowners insurance to see if you and your belongings are covered by your current policies when traveling abroad.
  • Check with your cell phone carrier for international rates; beware of exorbitant roaming charges.
  • Notify your credit card company and your bank of your travel plans.  They will usually deny suspicious transactions from foreign locales if they weren’t forewarned about your plans.
  • Make from 2-3 copies of your passport, birth certificate and identification. Have one copy of the documents on your person separate from the actual documents when in port cities, place a copy in your luggage and if you opt to utilize a stateroom safe, place a copy within it as well.
  • Make sure your passports are 6 months or more before expiration when traveling.  Most countries will not allow you entry otherwise.
  • Be sure to purchase travel insurance.  It truly buys peace of mind in the event that you find yourself unable to travel after booking airfare, car rental, hotel stays, cruise fare, etc.  If you do not have it, if you have to cancel, you will lose any monies that you’ve spent.
  • Your Cruise Line will probably send you self adhesive luggage tags that will have your stateroom number printed on them.  Be sure to affix them to your luggage as instructed before leaving home.  

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 2

February 20, 2015 • By

Alright.  You’ve decided that you want to give this cruising thing a go.  You’ve determined where you’d like to go and have already booked your cruise  with your preferred cruise line.  What should you expect the day of the cruise?

How do I check in?

Each Cruise Line is different but Celebrity allows you to check in well before your sail date.  If it’s possible,  I would recommend that you do that.  If you are familiar with flight check- ins at the airport, this works the same way.  You will go to the cruise line’s website, create an account and put in your information.  This in effect, pre-registers you for the cruise.  You will be able to print out your guest ticket which will give you pages of info on what to expect during your cruise, your cruise itinerary, etc.

We received luggage tags via regular mail with our stateroom number stamped on it and were advised to affix them to our luggage before leaving home.  One can only imagine the logistics involved in keeping up with the luggage of thousands of passengers, so we made sure that we followed their instructions to the letter.

I’ve heard that it’s best to arrive one day before your scheduled cruise departure.  Why?

Most cruises, particularly, Caribbean cruises depart in the late afternoon.  That might lead most people to think that it’s a safe bet to fly in on the day of the cruise.  My advice is to plan on flying in the day before, this will allow you breathing room to be prepared for embarkation the next day. Can you imagine booking a flight on cruise day and something happens to delay the flight?  Trust me, the cruise lines will not wait for you, so save yourself the stress and fly in the day before.

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What if I choose to drive directly to the port from my home?

This has become such a “thing” that you will find that hotels located close to ports will offer “Park, Sleep and Cruise” specials.  If you pay for one night’s stay, they will allow you to park your car on site for free and reclaim it at the end of the cruise.  They will usually provide a complimentary shuttle from the hotel to the cruise port.

This might be the most desirable option should you choose to drive in because port parking fees are high (approximately $20.00 per day).  I rented a car during my last cruise and after dropping it off at the rental agency, I was shuttled to the port by the agency for free.

What can I expect when I arrive at the port?

We flew into Fort Lauderdale (FLL) because the flights were cheaper but our port was in Miami.  We hired a shuttle service to drive us to our Miami hotel and the next day we took the hotel’s shuttle to the port.  It cost $10.00 pp but it was worth it to assure that we’d get to where we needed to be on time.  As soon as you reach your particular cruise line, the driver will remove your luggage and you will then turn it over to the porter who works for the cruise line.

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Cruising, Part 1

January 26, 2015 • By

 

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When you consider how busy people are these days, it’s no surprise that Cruising is one of the most popular modes of traveling.  Think about it.   Literally, you will have 3+ days of pure bliss on a floating resort, practically any type of food you’d like, be treated like royalty by staff, participate in daily activities like Zumba, volleyball tournaments, trivia games, try your luck in the casino, enjoy nightly entertainment from singers, ventriloquists, dancers and musicians, be pampered in the on-site Spa, eat till your heart’s content or burn those same calories at the full service gym. What’s not to like?

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Add on the fact that cruise ships visit different ports and it’s easy to see why this would be a very cost effective way to get away from it all. I will admit that previously, I’d decided that my first cruise would be my last and only  recently realized that perhaps, I’d been too hasty.

If you prefer a relaxing, care-free vacation where you only need to show up and have the time of your life or just opt to relax, lounge around the pool and do nothing, cruising may be the ideal solution for you.

That sounds lovely, but everyone knows that there are a billion cruise lines.  How do I go about choosing the right one for me?  

If you asked three people that same question, you would get three different answers.  The answer is highly subjective and truly depends on the type of cruise you are looking for.   Take Carnival Cruises, for example.  They have a reputation for being a ‘party’ cruiser, however, when I was aboard the Carnival Liberty, there were 4,000 kids there.  The lovely thing is that I saw maybe two of them.  Carnival has a very good program for the youngsters that keeps them well occupied for the length of the cruise.  Therefore, families should not be wary of booking with them and singles should know that they will feel that they are almost on an adults only cruise.READ MORE


North America, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

A Salute to Fall from Prince Edward Island!

September 29, 2014 • By

 

I first fell in love with Prince Edward Island through the narrow view of a photo lens.  Its’ vast beauty shined through whether it was the picturesque countryside or pensive seaside.   I was enamored with its quaint architecture, beautiful seashore and knew that one day I would have to bear witness to it to make sure that it was all real.

I was fortunate to get that chance around this time last October.  Fall was upon us.  The leaves had begun to change, the air was crisp and the island was only occupied by the people left behind to brave the cold weather that was yet to come.  Tourist season was well over which is what made this trip all the more appealing.

While there was public transportation, it was imperative to rent a car so that you could spend time exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the island.  There was always something incredible waiting just ahead and our impatience wouldn’t have been able to bear the constant interruptions of the leisurely island trams.

We wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and just relax and enjoy the wonders of nature.  We were not disappointed.  Now, a full year later, I want to share what makes PEI such a special place to visit.  Come along with me and explore the first installment of discovering the miraculous natural aesthetics of this wonderful island, won’t you?

 

 


Travel Advice

I have decided to give cruising another chance

August 9, 2014 • By

Roughly six years ago, I took my first cruise and I can distinctly recall declaring that it would be my last.  As luck and life would have it, I am eating my words.   I think sometimes when we have time to look back on things and the resulting decisions, your vision becomes a little less myopic.

You began to realize that your position on certain things may need to be challenged. I’m a planner.  I like to make lists and stick to them.  This is not to say that I am rigid, but I like to have a set itinerary that matches the goals that I hope to accomplish while I am traveling.  I’ve been known to take copious notes about my destination and transplant them to an Outlook calendar that span the length of said trip.

Thankfully, the invention of Tripit! made my life a whole lot easier, so I was finally able to say goodbye to Outlook.  This is not to say that I can’t be spontaneous just because I’ve plotted out the perfect time to do just that on my calendar.  I can be.  I just need to make sure that I don’t miss out on important things to do while I am there.

Now, back to the cruise dilemma.  I had come to the realization that I am indeed a control freak.  I like to make my own plans when I travel and I felt the cruise director was overstepping his bounds.  Alas, I was a captive audience, so I had to participate in whatever he had planned for said cruise.  If I am honest, I have to admit that I did enjoy myself.

There was also an inexplicable relief in not having to arrange, plan and execute every aspect of my trip. I could just sit back, relax and (egad!) do nothing!  I wasn’t familiar with that reality and I didn’t quite know where to turn.  I think I was kind of mad that I did enjoy it and couldn’t really give myself credit for it.  The Carnival Liberty wasn’t half bad.  The food was ubiquitous and really good, the shows were top notch, the slot machines paid off (most of the time) and the crew was friendly and very helpful.

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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to booking a place to stay

September 16, 2013 • By

Today marks the beginning of a three part series that breaks down the choices one has in selecting accommodations for vacations or holidays. We will begin with our most economical offerings and work our way to the more expensive options.

 

courtesy- treehugger.com

When it comes to finding accommodations while traveling, I’m somewhat of a pragmatist.  I don’t require 5* stays mostly because I see it as a colossal waste of money.  When I travel, I see my hotel room as somewhere to lay my head at night.  I didn’t travel so that I could stay in a room, I plan to spend as little time there as possible!  But this is just my budget conscious opinion and when it comes to securing accommodations, preferences are never one size fits all.

Still, half the fun of searching for somewhere to stay is in realizing how many strange and unusual places to choose from that will make your visit more enjoyable.  Hotels are the default accommodations of choice, but how interesting would it be to stay in a monastery, an igloo or even a log cabin?

How do you find not only standard hotel rooms but find unique places to stay while you are on vacation?

I’m on a strict budget.  What is the best type of accommodation for me? READ MORE


Travel Advice

Spotlight on: The Georgia D.O.T.’s HERO unit

August 12, 2013 • By
[box]Today, I wanted to write about one of our unsung heroes. Literally. like the old saying, you never miss your water until the well runs dry; you don’t realize the value of these folks until you need them.[/box]

 

It is inevitable that you will come across one of these bright yellow vehicles during the course of your rush hour commute if you live in Georgia. They are responsible for moving disabled vehicles from the highway onto the shoulder or clearing wrecks from the highways in order to facilitate a smoother traffic flow.

 

courtesy 11Alive news

courtesy: 11Alive news

 

The Georgia DOT Office of Traffic Operations Highway Emergency Response Operators (HERO) patrols Georgia’s highways 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The majority of their time is spent assisting stranded motorists who may:

  • have a flat tire
  • need a jump start
  • need transport
  • need fuel or water
  • need to use a phone

If they happen to see a car on the side of the road, they will pull up behind them to assist (providing that the driver hasn’t already left the vehicle to seek help at an off-ramp).  They are not a wrecker service, so they will not be able to tow you.  They can, however, contact a towing service for you.

There’s something comforting about knowing that should you experience a breakdown while traveling on Georgia’s highways, you can easily summon help by dialing 511, then press 1 to reach a HERO dispatcher. It’s nice to know that you will be taken care of whether you live here, visiting or are just passing through.  Caveat:  For obvious reasons, during major traffic incidents or severe weather, HEROs may not be available for routine motorist assistance.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to using the TripIt! Application

July 8, 2013 • By

Screen shot 2013-07-07 at 1.35.36 PM I’m a planner. I’m not the type A, OCD type of planner, but I like to keep things organized and in its place. Never is this more apparent than when I am planning the details of my vacation.

I like to have all of my flight, hotel and activity confirmations in one place where I can access them at any time.

I started out using the calendar feature of Microsoft Outlook. I could easily record all of my confirmations by keying them in on the appropriate dates; then the day before departure, I would print out each day’s activities and have them ready to go.

I really didn’t have an issue with preparing my itinerary this way. That is, until I found a quicker and easier way to do it. Enter the app, TripIt.   I found it while searching through apps on Linked-In, of all places.

It allows your linkedin connections to see where you are headed to next. This can be a bad and a good thing, I chose to disable this feature since I didn’t necessarily want everyone of my connections to know my complete schedule in real time.

However, you can input all of your information via their website by opening an account at TripIt . You can even give TripIt permission to auto import travel plans from your email inbox (this can be rescinded at any time). When you receive confirmations of your airline, hotel and tour bookings via email, TripIt will automatically scan your inbox and capture those bookings into your TripIt account. Each screen shot that you see below was automatically scanned into my account when TripIt discovered it in my gmail account.READ MORE


Travel Advice

Google Reader dies in t – minus six hours….

June 30, 2013 • By


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Hi Dear Reader,

As you may know by now, Google has decided to stop providing a way for all of us to read our collection of blog feeds.  If you are a subscriber and read my blog posts via Google Reader, you won’t be able to after midnight tonight.

So, do me a favor.  Take a second to go here to select another type of reader to use so that you won’t miss any critical posts of mine in the future: http://feeds.feedburner.com/aviewtoathrill

OR….USA Today has a review of five alternative readers that you can quickly switch to.  Personally, I settled on using Feedly, but you are free to choose whatever you desire.  Just don’t wait too long…….it will be gone before you can say, “July 1st”.

Hope to see you soon on the other side!

Renee


Europe, Reviews, Travel Advice

The 8 things that surprised me during my trip to Rome, Italy

June 25, 2013 • By

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Rome, Italy was my second sojourn into Europe. Having visited Paris the year prior, I thought myself very fortunate to be going back so quickly. I had been intrigued with Rome for awhile, mostly through the lens of a movie camera.

There were so many great films like “Three Coins in the fountain” and “Roman Holiday” that set the tone for my romanticized (pun intended) and lofty expectations.

As wonderful as the city is, when I finally got the chance to visit this beautiful country, some things were were not as I expected.  Not everything one envisions matches the fantasy, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have a fantastic time anyway.READ MORE