Looking for a romantic resort with a Caribbean vibe but don't want to worry about passports? No fear, the US Virgin Islands have you covered.
Check out this article from Bridal Guide for some of the most romantic resorts in the USVI.
Ready to book? Fill out the New Client Travel Preference Form and I can help you plan the destination wedding of your dreams.
We've all heard of wine-related travel. More and more companies and wineries are partnering up to offer travelers some fantastic travel packages. Wine regions are some of the most sought-after destinations in the travel market right now.
Heck, even cruise ships are getting in on the wine craze. Several ships, luxury and mass market, are offering wine pairing classes and bringing in wine experts for lectures and as guides in ports-of-call.
Wine travel has a new competitor though, and it's one that may surpass wine travel in the flash of an eye.
It's Beer Travel.
You read right. Traveling for beer. (You know Al Bundy would be all over this in a heartbeat.) While there are those Al Bundy types that you might find touring your local Coors factory, I'm speaking of a more refined Beer Experience: The Craft Beer market.
As the popularity of craft beer has exploded over the past decade, brewery-driven travel is increasing all the time. Destinations, suppliers, and breweries quickly realize the monetary possibilities this tourism market represents. They are now developing more products to cater to the new demand for "beercations."
Hello beer-centric culinary experiences, beer pairing courses, beer tastings, you get the point.
I must say, I am thrilled to see this market exploding and excited to partake in offering my clients these unique experiences. I have family members that are involved in their local craft beer clubs and organizations and I know several friends who love to try local beers when they travel. I, myself, tried a fantastic lavender lemon ale with the Lambowski at the Riff Raff Brewing Company while on vacation in Pagosa Springs, Colorado this past summer.
That's the great thing about Beer-Travel, it can be almost anywhere. Most wine travels concentrate on where the wineries and fields are located. Craft beer is being brewed in every part of the US and all over the world. Pick almost any destination that you've wanted to visit, and there's sure to be some great local beer, just like with food travel.
Combine food travel with beer travel and that, my friends, will make for one great getaway in my opinion! Partake in some craft beer, experience local flavors through food and then take in the local sights and hear about life in the area from people who live there. THAT is what travel is ultimately all about. EXPERIENCES.
Want to start experiencing life? Contact and me, I'd love to help you see what the world has to offer.
While updating and revamping this website, I realized it has been a year since I last wrote anything? How is that even possible? I guess because most of my updates have been made via my Facebook Page.
My promise to you in 2017 is to update the blog at least once a week with a variety of travel topics.
2016 In Review
Well I will give you a brief rundown of what I've been up to. Not a lot of traveling right now, that's what I've NOT been up to. My husband's business has been a one job after another (I'm not complaining I promise), so that has put a slight damper on any major travel.
Last October (2016) we did visit Cancun for a few days and stayed at the Finest Resort in the Excellence Club 2 Story Plunge Pool Suite. It was totally amazing and worth every single penny paid. My introvert inner self was absolutely loving the fact I didn't have to go to the pool area to cool down in the water. Sun bathing on the 2nd story deck and then cool off in the plunge pool! The amenities were top-notch as well. Premium full-size liquor bottles in our room and we could request any kind or brand we wanted if we didn't like what was pre-stocked.
If you are worried about safety in Mexico, this resort is in the Playa Mujeres area located in a gated community. You can relax and enjoy the your Mexican vacation.
We had to cancel our Eastern Caribbean cruise this past January because of my husband's work. Thank goodness for travel insurance. (I don't offer it to you just for the heck of it. We've actually had to use it a few times.) Trust me, when you need to cancel last minute, you'll be so overjoyed that you spent that couple hundred dollars so you don't lose thousands of dollars.
What's Happening in 2017?
In August the husband and I will be going on a 12 day Alaskan Cruisetour. If he has to work, I will go without him. ;) This is a total bucket list trip for me. We will be touring by land for 5 days starting in Fairbanks and making our way down to Seward. In Seward we will board the Norwegian Sun and for 7 days sail south to Vancouver. We booked an Aft Mini Suite so I can take full advantage of some of the best views the ship has to offer. I can't wait to get up in the morning, wrap up in a blanket and go have my coffee on our balcony while taking in some of the most beautiful scenery on this planet. THAT right there is Heaven on Earth if you ask me.
As for family travel this summer, we now have a motorhome. You guessed it, we are going to Griswold it up and take off for 10-14 days. The travel agent in me wants to get everything preplanned and make reservations at certain RV parks I've researched. The adventurous part of me just wants to jump in and go even if we have to dry dock it or camp out in Walmart parking lot (not really.......I hope). Now the only big decision is, do we go South along the Gulf of Mexico? Or do we travel North through the Rockies?
Continuing The Quest For Travel Knowledge & To Serve My Clients
Other than the above, I have used this time to help numerous clients plan everything from Destination Weddings, Honeymoons, School Senior Class Trips, Disney Christmas Vacations, and too many Mexico and Caribbean trips to count. I've been trying to stay on top of the latest travel trends. I have also been working hard on getting certified in Honeymoon & Destination Wedding travel as well as certified in Luxury Travel. I already hold specialty certificates in these areas, but I want to go the extra mile and get certified so I can better serve my clients. I will also be taking some tours of top resorts for Romance Travel and Luxury Travel within Mexico and the Caribbean.
So now you are all caught up.
December 31, 2015 we boarded the Norwegian Pearl for an 11 night cruise that took us to Columbia, halfway through the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya, Mexico. It was a bucket list trip and we were blessed to enjoy it with family and friends.
The Norwegian Pearl is a smaller ship, but we had excellent service while onboard. Keith, our waiter by the pool, never let us go without drinks in hand. He was by far the best waiter I have encountered in any of my travels (and even at home). He made it a point to call each of us by our names every time he saw us on the ship. He gave us advise on excursions, what nights are best to eat at certain restaurants on the ship and even made us special drinks in the morning as he was training to be a bartender as well.
We had a midship balcony and it was adequate for the trip. Our cabin steward was friendly and took care of our needs within the room. I liked the bathroom configuration on the Pearl. Within the bathroom, the left side had the enclosed shower, the sink area is in the middle and the right side is an enclosed toilet room. This makes it possible for 2 people to be in the bathroom at once if the need arises.
We purchased our excursions through Norwegian for this trip since some of our travel partners did not want to book using a private company. The excursions were priced higher of course, but they were well organized. The only thing I did not like about the excursions was in Panama. Passengers that did not book an excursion through Norwegian were not able to get off the ship that morning in the lake. They had to wait until the ship passed back through the canal before they could go ashore. My group had booked the cross-country train excursion so we were able to get off the ship that morning, but I totally empathized with those passengers that wanted to get off and get a better look at the canal without paying a lot of money to do so.
Everyone in my group loved Norwegian's freestyle way of cruising. There were nights we wanted to get dressed up a little, but most nights we were too tired from our excursions and enjoyed being able to attend dinner in a more casual atmosphere.
We took advantage of the spa and purchased the hydrotherapy package. It was nice to get away from the crowds at the pool and relax in the adult only area. The pool area on the Pearl is fairly small and it was crowded on this sailing. I would think on the Alaskan sailings that it is much more quiet.
If you are looking for a party ship, this is not the ship for you. While they do offer nightly entertainment, a disco and a few nightclubs; most activities start slowing down around 11pm. Keith told us this ship's average passenger is in their mid 50's so a much more quiet experience.
In June my husband and I took a quick 5 day trip to Cancun while the kids were at church camp. I surprised him with a limo pickup which helped ease the joys of sitting in the plane for almost an hour after landing due to a tropical storm. Gotta love this time of year...lol Thankfully that was the final push of the storm and it was off to Texas while we were not in Texas. :)
The Sun Palace did not disappoint from the moment we arrived. We were taken upstairs for a private check in and then we went back downstairs where they explained the $1500 resort credit and how we had access to the other Palace resorts in the area.
We had an ocean front concierge suite with amazing views of the pool and the ocean. Our suite also had an extra large balcony with a couple of chairs and a table plus two lounging chairs.
The food was amazing at every place we ate within the resort. The breakfast crew at El Alamo was outstanding. They referred to me as "Yoga Girl" because of a t-shirt I wore my first morning there. When I asked a chef if they had arroz con leche, he said no but took down my room number and said he would the next morning. Sure enough, he came out the next morning with my very own bowl of arroz con leche and even brought me sugar and cinnamon to top it off with. AMAZING attention to details and customer service!!!
The spa services were great as well. We had our 25 min back massages that came with our concierge package and then also added the fish spa to this. Every one of the spa professionals were great at their job and very friendly. We also took advantage of the romantic dinner on the beach and it was fantastic. Our waiter was amazing and very attentive. (The massage and dinner was included in our concierge pack)
The wait staff during the day on the beach was also great. We never ran out of anything to drink as they were always right there asking if you'd like another. We hung out at the beach most of the time while at the resort since both pool areas are a little of the small side and can get cramped.
The only part that I felt the resort may be lacking on just a little is at night. The beach and pool areas clear out quickly towards evening. There is really only one main nighttime area which is at the Lobby Bar. They have a dance floor and there are also different events scheduled during the week. They also use the ballroom for some of these nightly events.
You just have to remember that this resort is more for the traveler that isn't looking for a constant party scene or late nights at the club. If you want that kind of experience with the quiet atmosphere, you can take advantage of the resort sharing program and visit the nightclub at the Moon Palace which open way later.
My husband made friends with all of the bell boys and valets. They all had a great time learning from each other and laughing at some of the differences in our cultures. Every one of these men greeted us as Mr & Mrs Osborn no matter where we were within the resort during our entire stay.
We took an tour to Cozumel that we booked using some of our $1500 resort credit. Our tour guide was Pablo and he was excellent. He was very informative about the island and it's history. The first stop was snorkeling. Pablo showed everyone how the equipment worked and how to properly put it on. He gave hand signals to the participants to show if they were in danger or doing OK. The group was in the water about 30 minutes. My husband said there were some cool fish, but no colorful reefs, just sand. When we asked Pablo about this, he admitted that the best area for this was on the other side of the island and it was best viewed while scuba diving since it was a little further down under water. We appreciated his honesty.
Next we got on the open-air bus towards the beach. It was very windy on the bus, but yet a cultural experience as well. Pablo pointed out it was the start of turtle season and had the driver stop to show us some new turtle nests which was an unexpected treat. We stopped on the bridge and saw two crocodiles for a few minutes. When we arrived at the beach, I thought it was a great location and good facilities. There were restrooms, showers, vendors, massage table, and of course the buffet and bar. The buffet consisted of fruit, salad fixings, chicken or beef for fajitas, and some great fish which we made fish tacos from. Soft drinks or beer were included in the excursion, but they offered mixed drinks for an additional cost. May I suggest the Coco Loco......excellent and served in a coconut they cut open right in front of you.
After about 1 1/2 hrs at the beach off we went to the lighthouse. This was OK and had some great views. Not too much time to tour the museum on site, but I did take tons of pictures in it to go through. Had a couple of good vendors on site as well, one of which had some really cool black coral items. On the way out of the park we stopped at a small Mayan ruin on the side of the road. He explained this was the top of a ruin that actually had 2 additional levels under the ground. It was some type of lighthouse for the Mayans during their time.
Our last stop was a tequila shop near the ferry pier in town. I was under the impression, it was at a larger place outside of town, but I think it was closed. The guys at the shop had several varieties of tequila set up for tastings and explaining the difference in quality and taste. Overall, they did a good job explaining. My husband was able to negotiate a lower price on the best tequila at a substantial savings. (Remember, always bargain with the vendors and store owners. Very few of them will stick to the listed price) About 30 minutes for shopping near the ferry and then back to Playa del Carmen and the ride back to Cancun.
Overall, I was impressed with the knowledge of our guide and thought this was a great excursion for someone like myself that has never been to Cozumel. This is also good for those with limited time but that want to experience what Cozumel has to offer. I think there are definite areas that could be improved upon. Maybe cutting out the tequila tasting to give more time snorkeling or the beach would be great. You can basically go to tequila tastings all over Mexico, so this is nothing that is really special to just Cozumel. For the money paid, I felt we did get a good value. You get the most out of this tour by interacting with the guide though. Pablo sat down by our little group and we asked him tons of questions and he answered every one of them. Just go in knowing it's going to be fast and furious and you need to take advantage of any down time if you have questions to ask.
We booked an EARLY morning tour of Chichen Itza on our own instead of the resort. I am aware of the heat and the "cattle drives" of the afternoon tours and boy I am soooo glad we booked this tour instead of the ones that are in the afternoon when Chichen Itza is so crowded and hot.
Frank was our tour guide and he was awesome and made the 5:20am pickup time much more agreeable. We were provided with a small box lunch which consisted of a sandwich, banana, cookies and apple juice. Not the greatest, but decent for the money paid.
During our 2 1/2 drive there and back, they did stop each way for a bathroom break. After the bathroom break there, Frank begins to explain the Mayan culture, both the history and the myths. He explains the meaning of Chichen Itza and some of the other ruins.
While on site, you have 1 1/2 hrs with the guide and then the same amount of time on your own. We spent an additional 30 minutes with Frank as he explained a few others parts of the site. Then we explored for about an hour. We didn't see near what we wanted to, but we were very glad to have beaten the crowds and the heat. We will go back again one day and explore some more on our own.
Be sure to call the number listed on your reservation to confirm your pickup time for that morning. There were a few in our pickup van that missed the pickup either because they overslept or they didn't call to see what time the pickup is. It clearly states on the receipt to call to confirm your pickup time from your resort. I think this is the best way to view Chichen Itza before it gets so crowded. We had some awesome pictures with nobody in the background. It was great!
We tried to balance fun, relaxing and touring in 5 days. Didn't do too badly, but we sure didn't see near enough of the area on this trip. We are planning on taking all the kids to the Riviera Maya next summer for a week in a villa. Hopefully, we'll get to experience more of this area during that trip. And who knows about us.......there may be another quick trip before then if my husband and I can sneak away. ;)
Talk about an elegant ship....WOW!!! From the moment you step foot on this ship, you know you will be pampered!
There is marble and mirrors everywhere , but tastefully done. The décor, including Swarovski crystal-covered glass staircases, glass elevators and dramatic lighting, is simply amazing. Highlights include the breathtaking atrium, glitzy Pantheon Theatre and sophisticated Black & White Lounge.
Another big hit is the Yacht Club. Once travel in this category, you won't be able to imagine traveling anyway else! It includes larger cabins, butler & concierge services, a private restaurant, lounge & pool area. Spaces within the yacht club are both elegant and relaxed. Butler service there is excellent; somehow, butlers seem to anticipate your every need without being overbearing. Perks include complimentary beverages and access to an ultra-private pool area.
The gym and spa are very big for a ship, with first-rate equipment and services. There is also a well-stocked sporting goods store in case you forgot something vital for your trip. With five pools, the ship has more than enough space for taking a dip and plenty of loungers for sunning. Divina also has the closest thing to a true infinity pool that I've seen at sea. In my opinion, it's one of the best spots on the ship.
In November 2013, Divina began sailing full-time Caribbean itineraries from its new Miami homeport. To get the ship and its crew ready for the change, MSC made some modifications to appeal more to the tastes of its North American market: enhanced entertainment, a movie screen poolside, a sports bar, a more restrictive smoking policy. The crew also went through some massive training as well. There are major differences in the way North Americans and Europeans view vacation and what is expected of the staff and facilities. While the ship and crew maintain a Mediterranean feel, the new touches are certainly noticeable.
Passengers onboard MSC Divina are generally North American. All announcements are made in English, which is the primary language spoken onboard. (This differs from MSC's other ships, which usually offer all announcements in five languages to cater to a variety of European passengers.)
I'm sharing my album from my personal page from this past weekend. There's really no other way for me to describe just how awesome the ICE display at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center really is. You just have to experience it for yourself. These pictures really don't do the 2 million lbs of ice sculptures justice. (Be sure to click on each pic to see the full picture.)
We were lucky enough to get a room the last day of the Christmas displays and ICE. Neither one of which disappointed. I would highly suggest that if you can make it down to Grapevine, Texas during Christmas, a stop at the Gaylord Texan is a must! Prices were about $30 per adult and I think a little less than $20 for kids. We purchased a package that included a room plus 4 tickets, so not 100% sure about just the ticket price alone.
The resort is a hidden gem within Grapevine and close to the Grapevine Mills mall and across the street from The Great Wolf Lodge Resort. I believe there are 5 restaurants that include a Steakhouse, Italian, Mexican, and good old fashion hamburger and sandwiches. There is a variety of bars from wine bars to a sports bar and everything in between. There's a Starbucks located close to the meeting room areas and there's even a nightclub. No resort would be complete without an array of shopping areas and the Gaylord has many unique stores to choose from. PLUS this is the official Dallas Cowboy hotel before the home games. Sooo.....if you're looking to catch a glimpse, get an autograph or even a picture with one of Dem Boyz....this is the place to be the night before home games.
Overall our stay was great and the rooms were worth the price paid. The amenities are top of the line and they don't skimp on the cheap soaps and such. They give you plenty of boutique soaps and lotions plus a good variety of coffee and teas to make. My only complaint was it would be nice to have a microwave in the room and the walls were surprisingly thin. We were awakened by the sounds of an excited little munchkin next door that was having a blast hitting the BIG picture window at about 7am. I really would have thought the walls would have been a little more sound proof. I had been worried the sounds of the planes (VERY close to DFW airport) was going to keep me awake, but I really couldn't hear them that much. It was the inside noise that was a little bothersome.
We still had a great time and we will definitely go back. My husband and I are also looking forward to a kid free stay some weekend so we can really check out some of the bars the nightclub and splurge on a romantic dinner in one of the restaurants at the resort.
ICE at the Gaylord Texan
Gaylord Texan at Christmas time and the Cowboys Wildcard Game Against the Lions
The title may be a little misleading. I was in New Orleans and I'm sure somewhere in the city there was a Carnival taking place. I mean, this city needs no reason to throw a good party. Just stroll down Bourbon Street if you don't believe me. Even in middle of winter you will find people partying too much and street performers out by the droves catering to the tourists and their preconceived notions of what New Orleans is all about.
The Carnival I speak of in this instance is Carnival Cruise Line. I was in NOLA for the first time ever (that's an entirely different story) so I could inspect the Carnival Dream and the Carnival Elation. Another first, I had never stepped foot on a Carnival ship, although I do have a cruise booked on the Triumph in January.
I must say, I was pretty impressed. I wasn't prepared for the level of detail and luxury that Carnival puts into their ships. I mean, they are known as the 'fun ships' not the 'luxury ships'.
That is some massive detail in those lounges. And the themes are perfect for these ships to port in NOLA!
The cabins on the other hand were a bit bland, but hey how much time does one stay in their cabin anyway? Although the suites on both of these ships were smaller than what I've seen in the past with Royal Caribbean, they were very well appointed. I was also impressed with the size of the bathroom and dressing area in proportion to the Grand Suite itself. It rivals luxury ships any day.
The Elation just came out of dry dock in October and despite all the upgrades, the bathrooms in the regular cabins we were allowed to see, were still a little dated and worn looking. Hopefully this will be addressed in the next dry dock and it doesn't represent the majority of the bathrooms on the ship.
As for New Orleans, I didn't have too much time to sightsee. We had a vacation rental in the French Quarter just two blocks off of Bourbon Street. It was the perfect location. Close enough to walk to everything downtown (including the cruise port if I had wanted to) but yet far enough away from the action so when you ready to sleep it wasn't an issue. Vacation Rentals isn't one of my specialties for nothing. ;)
Of course we walked all around the French Quarter and ate AMAZING Cajun classics. We also took the St. Charles Street Trolley through the Garden District. If you are short on time, I highly suggest taking in the sights on one of the trolleys. Not only will you rest your feet for a bit or avoid dealing with traffic, but you'll meet some colorful people along the way.
I look forward to returning soon to NOLA and spending some quality time checking out the city and the surrounding area. In the mean time what is your favorite neighborhood in NOLA?
Michelle Osborn, Owner/CTA
Romance Travel (Destination Weddings, Honeymoons, Anniversaries, Vow Renewals)
Well-Being & Spa Travel
Premium/Luxury Cruise Expert (Certifications with 6 Premium/Luxury Cruise Lines)
Destination Specialist for numerous Caribbean islands
Mexico Destination SpecialistCST# 2011220-40