Carnival and Cruising are Back

Cruising has started up again after a prolonged absence and ever-changing challenges due to the evolving Covid-19 pandemic.  Are we there yet?  No, but one should hand it to the ownership and management of the cruise lines for stepping up to the plate and doing all they possibly can to get back to business-as-usual.  We are enduring challenges in the travel and hospitality industry like at no other time in our history and with the overwhelming consumer demand for ways to get away we will persevere and find a new normal.

Carnival Mardi Gras

A very recent opportunity presented itself to be one of the first to sail on a 7-night Caribbean itinerary cruise on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest and largest vessel, the Mardi Gras.  Departing Port Canaveral on August 7, 2021 we were on the second ‘official’ sailing offered to the traveling public.  With Covid-19 vaccination cards in hand and our masks securely fastened we began our adventure of the first cruise we have been on since November 2019.  After sailing on well over 100 cruises over the past 25 years we were looking forward to this experience but, perhaps, a bit apprehensive since we had no idea how different it may feel to us.

Port Canaveral in Florida has made some major improvements and expansions to better accommodate passengers including covered parking, convenient baggage drop-off and a covered walkway from the parking garage to the cruise ship terminal.  Carnival was well staffed to greet passengers, however, due to the Covid vaccination requirement screening it took close to an hour from the time we entered the terminal to stepping onto the ship.  Everyone was very helpful, pleasant and patient which certainly made the slow process acceptable.

Balcony Stateroom

What does one usually do after boarding the ship and getting settled?  Eat, of course!  Since it was rather late in the day when we boarded we looked for what we knew to be open which was the Lido Marketplace.  Many good options were available for a light lunch and then it was time to sample the pizza at Pizzeria del Capitano.   Always tasty with a light crust and just the right balance of tomato sauce and cheese. 

Lido Marketplace
Guy’s Pig & Anchor Brewery Smokehouse

During our 7-night stay on the Mardi Gras we did not dine at every venue available (I don’t know how anyone could!) but we did make our way several times to Guy’s Burger Joint and Big Chicken and repeated our quest for excellent pizza on numerous days, and also tried Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse, some samplings from Street Eats, and the Lido Marketplace almost daily, plus dinner at both Cucina del Capitano and Chibang!. 

 Chibang! is a complimentary dining experience and I highly recommend this to be part of your plans.  This beautifully appointed dining room serves both Mexican and Chinese cuisine and it appeared that most people ordered Chinese which was absolutely delicious with an impressive presentation.  On the other hand, we were sadly disappointed with the quality of the food served at Cucina del Capitano.  The service was excellent and the restaurant was tastefully decorated but the food was not quite up to par with previous experiences on other Carnival ships. I was disappointed when Carnival decided to stop using table cloths in their main dining rooms several years back and the experience we had in the Flamingo Restaurant reaffirmed that I do miss that touch!  The tables were made of a faux-wood material and the chairs were almost a retro red vinyl to match the 70’s style carpet.  With the low ceilings and tables situated fairly close together, it felt a bit like cafeteria dining.  I do want to note that the servers were all quite pleasant and worked very hard!  Something to keep in mind, is that if you don’t particularly care for a dining venue on the ship there are always more to choose from! 

Rudi’s Seagrill was the dining highlight of our cruise!  At $38 per person it was well worth it due not only for the ambience of the restaurant – you have your choice of inside or covered patio – but the fresh choices of appetizers and well-prepared entrées.  We started with a richly prepared scallop dish topped with a creamy parmesan sauce.  The lobster bisque and my husbands’ cioppino were artfully presented and tasted amazing! 

And bread, did I mention the bread?  Wow, such perfectly seasoned toasty bread with a garlic butter spread!  I am forever on a search for fresh halibut and I found it at Rudi’s and it was outstanding!  I highly recommend that you spend a little more and enjoy a leisurely meal at Rudi’s Seagrill, but make your reservations early as they book up quickly.  Check out Rudi’s menu:  https://www.carnival.com/-/media/Images/explore/dining/menus/rudis-seagrill-menu.ashx

Let’s move on to life onboard the Carnival Mardi.  Applause goes to Carnival for creating a fun Grand Central ‘zone’.  One of 6 uniquely designed areas on the ship, Grand Central boasts a new concept for the atrium.  As Carnival describes, “Mardi Gras has turned Carnival’s atrium concept inside out – or rather, outside in, with three-deck-high-floor-to-ceiling windows bringing breathtaking ocean views into the ship’s social hub.”  During the day there is plenty of entertainment activities and at night it transforms into an impressive theatrical venue with live music.  From singers, to jugglers, to magicians to great bands the Center Stage seemed to be the heart of the ship during the day and well into the evening.  At night you will see what the enormous high-resolution LED monitors create – each measuring 70 feet wide by 23 feet high – and they swivel down in front of the windows to transmit the live entertainment, creating different looks for the stage depending on the entertainers. 

The Punchliner Comedy Club proved to be an extremely popular entertainment hot-spot and we found ourselves there most every night.  Talented comedians were always on tap and pleased the crowds.  For a more relaxing atmosphere we would head over to the French Quarter zone for a drink at the Magnolia Bar to listen to a talented trio of electronic violinists.  Carnival, as always, did not fall short offering a wide variety of entertainment. 

BOLT – The Ultimate Sea Coaster

For those of you looking for thrills and action check out the Ultimate Playground outdoor zone.  From SportSquare and Carnival WaterWorks to BOLT, The Ultimate Sea Coaster.  If you are an adrenaline junkie you have to try this super fast and super fun roller coaster!  Unlike on land-based roller coasters, here you’re in the driver’s seat controlling the speed as you dip and curve along an 800-foot-long track.  Put the pedal to the metal to race up to 40 mph.  It is fast and great fun but it is a short ride – less than 1 minute on the track.  Cost is $15 per person.  Are you up for it? While up in SportSquare don’t forget to take in a fun round of mini-golf or shoot some hoops. There is great fun for everyone in the family, no doubt about it!

For our readers who sailed on the original Carnival Mardi Gras back in the 70’s there is certainly nostalgia in the air but you will be absolutely amazed by the impressive innovations Carnival Cruise Line has brought to the ship.  She is one of the world’s most eco-friendly cruise ships and the first cruise ship in North America to be powered by liquified natural gas so big kudos to Carnival! 

Cruising in the time of Covid is a bit different but I must say that I don’t feel it changed our experience by a significant degree. No one likes to wear masks but the majority of passengers onboard seemed to abide by the guidelines. As long as cruises are limited to fully vaccinated passengers and crew I would not hesitate to recommend getting back to what you love to do and that is to cruise the high seas and seek adventure, excellent dining, exciting and fun entertainment, relaxation and pampering.

Beyond Beautiful – Norwegian Bliss

The last several decades have brought the traveling public an almost overwhelming number of new and spectacular cruise ships. With over 100 cruises taken and more than 75 cruise line sponsored inaugural events attended since starting in the travel industry back in 1993, my husband and I have seen plenty amazing ships but our impression of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest vessel, the Norwegian Bliss,  far surpasses most of the typical descriptive adjectives used.

NCL Atrium
Eye-catching star of the vessel – the Atrium

Luxury is not often a word used to describe an NCL ship but the Norwegian Bliss offers a delectable taste of elegance.  Just take a look at this absolutely breath-taking atrium focal point with changing colors and hues of a 3-deck high stunning glass and light design.

Another notable area of the ship which displays lovely décor is the well-planned 180-degree Observation Lounge located on Deck 15.  Expansive floor to ceiling windows in the lounge provide passengers with the perfect spot to enjoy the scenery.  What a perfect spot to take in the beauty of Alaska!  Passengers will appreciate the tasteful design of the lounge, complete with cozy groupings of soft and cushiony furniture (like you would have in your own home) in striking but subtle colors of grey, black, silver and touches of blue.  From the artwork to the delicate glass vases carefully placed on open shelves which divide the sitting areas, it is obvious that great care was used to design and place every little detail.  This welcoming area of the ship is a 20,000 square foot oasis – a first for Norwegian Cruise Line.

ncl observation lounge
Observation Lounge

A generous amount of the ship’s design are her views from within the ship looking out and among the most spectacular are the two 2-deck high sets of windows in the bow as part of The Haven’s exclusive Horizon Lounge.  And speaking of The Haven, it is heavenly.  This is where true, non-stop luxury lives and breathes for cruise guests occupying one of 80 Haven suites.  The most luxurious accommodations on-board the Norwegian Bliss are The Haven Deluxe Owner’s Suites, complete with electric fireplaces and cushy wilderness cabin furnishing.  Guests will experience all the amenities one might look for at a high-end resort including an elegantly appointed living room and dining area with wet bar, dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows for viewing the seascape, and spacious balconies.  Beautiful fabrics, textures and colors adorn the 2-bedroom/2-bath suites.


The all-new contemporary décor of the ship compliments the artwork carefully placed throughout and is unusual, eye-catching and sometimes whimsical without being tacky.  It seems everywhere you look there is something new and fun to look at.


There is so much to tell about the Norwegian Bliss and what she has to offer.  In addition to our love of the overall beauty of her design, we are in awe of her seemingly endless array of dining options (27 to be exact); her entertainment options; her lounge experiences; her pampering spa services; her fun to be had (can you image an actual race track and laser tag onboard a cruise ship?)  And water slides and aqua fun galore!


The 4,004 passenger ship is a large one – 168,028 GRT – yet her public areas do not feel crowded.  This is a ship you could easily call ‘home’ for a least a week if not longer for any of her planned itineraries which include Alaska, Pacific Coastal, the Mexican Riviera, the Panama Canal and the Caribbean.  She is revolutionary.  She is unique.

The Norwegian Bliss is definitely Beyond Beautiful.

Bliss Theater on Norwegian Bliss


6 Must See Cities in Europe

For those of us fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore some of the world’s most fascinating cities, we don’t always appreciate how wonderful and eye-opening those escapes have been until we stop and think….. we’ve been there!     And yes, many of you reading this blog may have also traveled to these great cities but have ventured on to many more.  For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to experience these destinations, we hope this introductory taste will be enough to inspire you to book your next adventure in 2018.

Paris, France

“What an immense impression Paris made upon me.  It was the most extraordinary place in the world!”  – Charles Dickens

Paris can be many things to many people.  It is romantic.  It is beautiful.  It is rich in history.  It is elegance.  It is extraordinary cuisine.  It is nightlife.  It is lovely streets, lanes and impressive bridges.  It is worth spending time exploring all this amazing European city has to offer.   Of course, you cannot miss the iconic Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum but explore more to appreciate her intrigue – Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysées, the Hôtel des Invalides…just to name a very few.  And, whatever you do, don’t miss a river view of Paris on a boat ride on the Seine.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

With over 50 museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam attracts several million tourists worldwide annually.  The visual impact of seeing Amsterdam for the first time is remarkable with more than 6,800 houses and buildings protected as monuments.  Amsterdam also boasts the largest historical inner city in Europe.  Don’t forget to take in the seemingly endless canals and bridges this magical city offers – try a canal cruise during the day or night, or both.  This may be a city which will require several return trips.

 London, England

“When a man tires of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  – Samuel Johnson

What comes to mind first when you think of London?  There are so many iconic destinations to put on your ‘must see’ list!  Buckingham Palace with its crowd inspiring colorful guard and also where the queen resides in regal splendor; the Tower of London (well worth an entire day) where you will be entertained and educated by the Beef Eaters, hear tales of the ravens and the demise of many political prisoners;  Big Ben – you simply cannot miss looking at this towering jewel of London; Westminster Abbey, where Britain’s monarchs are crowned, some are married and many buried; the London eye which is an enormous ferris wheel measuring 394 feet in diameter sitting on the banks of the Thames.  Our advise for those travelers for their first trip to Europe – check out London first.  You will not need to worry about learning new words in a foreign language to get along on your adventure there.

Venice, Italy

“She is the Shakespeare of cities – unchallenged, incomparable, and beyond envy.” – John Addington Symonds

Celebrated art and architecture are just two reasons to whisk yourself away to the winding canals of Venice.  The 2-mile long Grand Canal, which is shaped like a large question mark, marks the heart and soul of this place like no other in the world.  Places of interest not to miss include Piazza San Marco and all this crowd gathering spot has to offer such as the Doge’s Palace, the sidewalk cafe’s and restaurants, and the famous pigeons hungry for hand-outs; the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge, Palazzo Ducale, Bascillica Di San Marco, the San Giorgio Maggiore Church and the Guggenheim Museum.  Consider going to Venice in the off-season (November through April), which means smaller crowds and cooler temperatures.  Not everyone falls in love with Venice, but if you do you will keep going back.

 Barcelona, Spain

An extremely popular destination for Europeans and Americans alike, Barcelona is a sophisticated and trendy city which overflows with fashion, music, food and dance.  Often referred to as a walking piece of art travelers will be richly rewarded with  impressive architecture such as Gaudi’s Catedral de la Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell which appears to have stepped out of a fairy tale and emulates an English garden city.  300 days of sunshine a year makes this remarkable place an ideal getaway during most any season.  Barcelona is another city which can be quite crowded, especially on days when large cruise ships are in port, so aim to visit this popular destination in the spring or fall.

 Prague, Czech Republic

“Prague doesn’t let go.  This old crone has claws.  One has to yield or else.” – Franz Kafka

Although known as the ‘city of a hundred spires’, Prague actually has nearly one thousand spired buildings and include gothic cathedrals and baroque palaces.  This historic and colorful destination takes time to explore and to get a feel for the pulse of the city.  One of the first must see highlight for your list will be the Charles Bridge, Prague’s signature stone bridge complete with buskers, food, entertainment, and a perfectly framed view of Prague Castle.  Prague Castle is a rambling castle complex that can be enjoyed by simply walking the grounds or taking a tour of the inside walls.  Petrin Hill, a lovely hill in the shadow of the castle complex offers sweeping views of the city.  Either wander up on your own or take the funicular to see the 299-step faux Eiffel Tower, the mirror maze and Stefanik Observatory.  And don’t miss the focal point of the Stare′ Mesto district, the Astronomical Clock which has chimed since 1410.

10 Reasons to Become a Home-Based Travel Agent

There are many reasons why a career in the travel industry can be fulfilling, rewarding and fun. 

Here are our Top 10:

1.  You Have Always Wanted to Travel – Now is the time to start!  You can see the world.  Take time to study destinations, learn about cruise lines and tour operators, hotels & resorts and then put it to work for yourself.  Take advantage of travel agent discounts, upgrades and perks when you travel.

Adventure Awaits

2. You have a passion for travel – If you are already fortunate enough to have the lifestyle and freedom to travel, what better way to continue but with far less cost to you.  Travel agents are provided intriguing travel opportunities at discounted rates so you can continue to travel but also increase the number of trips you take and expand the types and number of destinations you explore.

3. You are already helping your friends and family with their travel planning – We estimate that at least 50% of the new home-based travel agents who join the Prestige Agent Network are ‘pied pipers’ for their group of friends and family members.  So many possibilities –  family reunions, weddings, class reunions, graduation cruises, honeymoons, Quinceanera’s, family vacations and get togethers!  It is always more fun traveling with those you know so why not make money for your efforts, too!

smiling friends taking selfie with smartphone

4. You are interested in applying your social media and technology skills to a fun business – Gain a competitive advantage by promoting your travel business with a savvy technical approach and a hands-on, personal social media marketing campaign.  Are you on Facebook?  Twitter?  Instagram? Pinterest? LinkedIn?  The list goes on and on.  Most people out there are on as many as 30 different social media platforms and the point is we are all using social media.  If you are good at this, you can do well.  If you don’t know social media, there are many ways to learn about it.Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere

5. You are seeking new opportunities for growth and enjoyment – Feeling a bit bored with your usual routine and lifestyle?  Looking for a new passion and reason to get excited and motivated?  Travel may be the answer as it will broaden your horizons and your view of the world while inspiring you to live a more fulfilled life.

“Who lives sees, but who travels sees more.”  –  Ibn Battuta

6. You are tired of your 9 to 5 job – Developing your home-based business as a travel agent with Prestige Travel Network can provide you the option of saying good-bye to the drudgery of your 9 to 5 job.  Set your own hours, work at your own pace and be your own boss.  The fact that you can make your decisions, mistakes and successes is very rewarding compared to having your work life dictated by someone else.

Happy african woman working from home on laptop

7. You would like to earn additional income – Whether you are working at a full-time or part-time job or perhaps you are taking a break from the work force, becoming a travel agent can be a rewarding and profitable home-based business.  You research travel, work with your friends and other travelers you know, you book their travel and then you wait for your monthly commission checks to start flowing in.


8. You enjoy people and would like to expand your own personal network – If you are social, genuinely enjoy talking with people, and more importantly, place value on your services and knowledge, you will be admired and much appreciated by your clients.  You will meet and speak with all types of people and learn to make the perfect ‘connection’ so you can guide them to the best vacation offers.  If your clients are happy you will be happy as well!

Smiling travel agent presenting his hand in the office

9. You have time on your hands and you want to fill the void with a rewarding activity – Maybe you are out of work temporarily, on short or long-term disability, you just had a baby, you are recovering from surgery, or you are in-between jobs and you can’t stand sitting at home all day on the sofa….you are getting bored!  It would be a perfect time to learn about becoming a home-based travel agent and start reaching out to your friends & family to offer your advice, services and travel planning expertise.

10. You want a home-based business which is relatively easy to develop and grow – It’s easy to find customers.  Customers are the most important asset of any business and getting them is a challenge many small businesses face, however, when you own your own home-based travel business the world-at-large is your customer base.  This makes finding customers infinitely easier than in other types of businesses.  You can develop clientele without ever meeting your customers face-to-face!  You can take reservations from local customers, from national customers, and from international customers.  And, you can do it any time of the day or night.

Have a great trip

And there you have it – 10 Reasons why you should consider becoming a home-based travel agent.    Just call Prestige Agent Network at 800-940-8801 or visit www.PTSTravel.com today!  We’ll tell you about our ‘Quick Start’ program and how you can realize enjoyable Income Opportunities, Tax Advantages, and Travel Industry Benefits.  Why wait…..?

PAN - Correct World is Waiting

PAN FB Boosted Post(1)

Capturing Travel Memories with Photography

Zurich, Switzerland

Taking pictures while traveling has never been so easy, so inexpensive and so popular.  Gone are the days when we must be selective on what shots to snap in order to ‘ration’ our film, thanks to digital photography.   Most travelers, with few exceptions, make their goal to capture the ambiance of where they are and what they are seeing during their adventure and exploration.  Of course, there are those who feel that photography takes away from what they are experiencing when traveling.  I, on the other hand, want to collect those visual memories from each and every special destination and experience to re-live in years to come.

A photo is a purposeful attempt at taking a beautiful image and capturing the moment.  Taking the right amount of time to take quality photos can greatly enhance your travel experience in several ways:

  1. Photography makes you more aware of your surroundings and the overall experience of who you are with and what you are seeing and observing.  Look for the perfect picture.  Look at different angles, framing, lighting, and content.  Look at buildings, colors, faces on people, the clouds and sky highlighting an object or setting.   Look how differently nature appear at sunrise or sunset.  Once you begin looking for photos, you see much more of the world than if you are just ‘walking through it’.
  2. I want to remember my trip. Photos help you remember.  The undeniable test of a photograph’s ability to help you remember doesn’t come the day after you take it; it comes years later.  It may be a year, it may be 10 years but looking through your journey in photographs to a destination will be a very welcome and satisfying experience where you can rekindle many remarkable moments.

    Venice, Italy
  3. People will actually want to see your vacation photos. They may not necessarily want to see you in front of landmarks throughout your entire ‘album’ but they will be interested in the destination itself.  They may not want to see ALL of your photo collection, but they may become inspired, or simply awed by what you have seen and are now sharing with them.  Keep in mind that the better pictures you take the more interest will be shown by friends and family, plus you will enjoy them far more in the end!

    Cairo, Egypt

    Travel photography is not about owning the largest, latest and greatest, most expensive camera.  You can do it successfully with nothing more than a smartphone or a small size pocket camera.  The key to quality and meaningful photography is paying careful and close attention to your surroundings.  Take your time, enjoy, frame and shoot!

    Falkland Islands

If you love to travel and you enjoy taking pictures and saving memories, travel photography is one of the most gratifying hobbies out there.  Not only do you get to show off your skills, but you also get to relive your travels whenever you want.

So on your next trip, take the time to pay attention to your surroundings and take those shots which inspire you and you will be rewarded for many years to come.

Happy Travels!


Passport Requirements When You Cruise

This can be a confusing topic for most travelers , so here is information which provides  you with guidelines and recommendations the next time you plan to cruise.

Basically, whether you are cruising the Caribbean and Bahamas on a popular ship like the Carnival Vista or taking a cultural European river cruise on the Rhine River with Avalon Waterways you SHOULD bring your passport.  On a Caribbean cruise you don’t necessarily have to have a passport but you MUST have a passport when you travel to and throughout Europe and other parts of the world.  Let’s explain:

U.S. Citizens on a closed-loop cruise, one that begins and ends at the same U.S. port, can use a driver’s license or government –issued ID card and a certified and/or notarized birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship.  Destinations on closed-loop cruises that permit passport-free travel for U.S.citizens include Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

So here’s the catch and why cruise lines and travel agents strongly recommend that all guests travel with a valid U.S. passport during their cruise:

  1. If you have a medical, family, personal or business emergency and need to fly back to the U.S. before your cruise ends a passport is required or you could experience significant delays and complications.
  1. If you need to fly to meet your ship at the next available port should you miss your scheduled embarkation in the U.S. port or if you miss a ship’s departure from a port of call. (i.e. too many margaritas in Cozumel and you just could not make it back to your vessel!)
  1. Some ports may have their own entry requirements. Each individual cruise line can provide this information if there are exceptions.

Keep in mind that if you are cruising outside of the Western Hemisphere you definitely need a passport.  If your itinerary includes ports of call in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Eastern Med, Australia or New Zealand you’ll need a passport.  Depending on where you are headed you may also be required to fill out additional visa or reciprocity paperwork.   For example, when cruising to the Baltics with a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia allows cruisers to enter without a visa as long as they remain on official shore excursions, but requires a complicated visa application for those who will tour on their own.  Another example is when individuals enter Argentina or Chile as part of a South America departure, they are required to purchase a Reciprocity Fee for the country they will fly into prior to traveling.

Passport pic for FB

So there you have it. Although it is acceptable to travel without a passport in some instances we highly recommend that you have your valid passport in hand.  Why give yourself added stress if you have an emergency and need to get home with only a driver’s license?   For more detailed information, passport applications and renewals you should visit https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html

One more passport travel tip:  Keep a copy of your passport separate from your actual passport in your hand-carried luggage, wallet, etc.  This applies whether you are cruising or taking a land-based vacation.

Keep Calm and Travel On!

Grapes to Crepes

Enjoying Fine French Traditions

A recent vacation to France took us to Paris for Bastille Day, and then on to the Champagne Region, Normandy and parts of Brittany.  We experienced the sophistication and architectural beauty of Paris, gained intriguing knowledge of how true Champagne has been lovingly developed and is being produced in this unique region of France, were reminded of the historic significance to the United States and Europe of the Normandy region and became immersed in the pleasingly delightful French countryside as we drove from one small village in northern France to another.

I would love to share with you an adventure from our perspective of two French iconic traditions – Champagne and Crêpes, so here goes…

grapes to crepes

When you take a sip of ‘champagne’ at a special occasion such as a wedding, New Year’s Eve or romantic dinner are you really drinking Champagne or is it sparkling wine?  Chances are you are not enjoying the ‘real thing’!  Did you know that for a sparkling wine to be labeled “Champagne” it must be produced from within the regions’ border?  Champagne is a legally controlled and restricted name.  The region we speak of is France’s most northerly wine region, due east of Paris. In this kind of cool climate, the growing season is rarely warm enough to ripen grapes to the level required for standard wine making.

Vilmart Champagne

The all-important fine and delicate bubbles which make it stand out from less ‘exciting’ wines and the high prices that Champagne commands make the consumer feel special, pampered and exclusive.   Compare for yourself – try real Champagne in a taste test against a domestic sparkling wine – and you will notice the difference in one sip.

Champagne crop

On our visit to the Champagne region with FestivalPros.com we learned that one of the area’s greatest assets is its chalk soils, which provide incredible drainage, forcing the vine to “stress” as it searches for a supply of water making the root system stronger.  The stress from this movement helps preserve acidity in the grapes.  The  chalky soils have also proven a beneficial natural element for another reason and it is fascinating!

Veuve Cliquot Cellar 2

Roman soldiers created elaborate systems of caves that now lie beneath many Champagne houses (wineries) in the Reims, France area.  These caves maintain a cool temperature year round, approximately 12 degrees Celsius, which is ideal for Champagne production and storage.  As the city of Reims was being bombed during World War I, the Champenois lived in these same caves as their bottles of Champagne while transforming some of this hidden space as hospitals and schools.  During a private dinner in the Cellars St. Petersburg at the massive Veuve Cliquot limestone cellars, we learned that over 90 million bottles of Champagne are stored there in the seemingly endless cave system.  A massive and very impressive presentation of history, pride, and a stunning atmosphere left us in awe about what was and what is.

Veuve Cliquot cellar

We learned of Madame Cliquot  the fascinating woman behind the iconic yellow label: Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin.  One of the world’s richest women at the time, she arranged perilous champagne deliveries to Russia one day and entertained Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte on another. She was a daring and determined entrepreneur and remains an important port of the history of Champagne and its’ development.

Dom Perignon Sign

We also learned about Dom Pérignon while visiting a small village of 800 residents, Hautvillers, which is also his final resting place.  Although considered an extraordinary champagne, Dom Pierre Pérignon did not invent champagne.  He worked in Hautvillers as a monk and perfected the process that created champagne as we know it.  Hautvillers is still home to many small Maisons de Champagne.  An astounding fact we learned about the Champagne region of France:  there are over 35,000 champagne producers in this fairly small region and over 2 million wineries in the country of France.   83,000 acres of vineyards produce an average of a million bottles of Champagne a day!

Leaving the Champagne region  behind us, we now discover French crêpes.  France’s Crepes flatBrittany region is where the techniques and tools were created and perfecting the crepe to the art it is known for.    Crêpes were originally called galettes, meaning flat cakes.  Crêpe making has evolved from being cooked on large cast-iron plates heated over a wood fire in a fireplace to today’s hot plates that are now gas or electric.  The batter is spread with a tool known as a rozel and flipped with a spatula.  Crêpe lovers use their imagination what to add to their dessert treat – drizzles of chocolate, fresh fruit, powdered sugar, or delicious flambé sauces.


In Brittany, crêpes are traditionally served with cider.  On February 2, crêpes are offered in France on the holiday known as Fete de la Chandeleur, Fete de la Lumiere, or “jour des crêpes”.    Crêpes are popular not only throughout France but elsewhere in Europe where the  usually thin and delicate pancakes are known by other names and adaptations, including the Italian crespelle, Hungarian palacsintas, Jewish blintzes, Scandinavian plattars, Russian blini, and Greek kreps.  We ran across a few ‘less quality’ crêpes that were very large, doughy and thick – perhaps a fast food version!

By and large, France offers an impressive array of dining temptations, fine wines and Champagne.  We experienced many outstanding meals but even when the food was not quite as expected, the bread never fell short and was always amazing. Add a bite of Brie, a chilled glass of Champagne and that may be all you need!

With this statement and this photo, we say

  Bon appétit and bon voyage!








How Do You Choose Your Next Destination?

Everyone has a destination, but we all have a different way of getting there.Muir Woods (2)

How you choose your next destination is not always an easy process although it can be wonderfully satisfying as you take the steps to decide.  We live in a special world which contains endless historical, beautiful and awe-inspiring memory-making places.  Whether you plan just one ‘vacation of a lifetime’ or are in the position to travel for pleasure often, planning the journey is many times ‘half the fun’!

You may not be aware of your travel ‘passion’ until you start experiencing the myriad of possibilities for travel.  Look at what you already know you like to do and then be open to additional suggestions, recommendations and options.  Talk with friends, family and co-workers, fellow-professionals, conduct online research.  Be open to most anything!



The ultimate in stress relief.  The destination is about relaxation, no schedule, no worries.  The destination takes care of you.  Think all-inclusive resorts, Hawaii, the Caribbean….



This type of travel  could be so many things, you just need your imagination, the drive and the energy.   Hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, trekking, canoeing, rafting, zip-lining, paragliding, mountain biking, diving and yes, the list goes on!


World Wonders

A relative handful of mankind’s creations possess the enduring worth to inspire us – generations of us.  Most world wonders stand as icons to which we are drawn such as the pyramids and Sphinx of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu and the Roman Colosseum to name just a few.

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History & Culture

Explore the timeless treasures of Europe, from Italy’s art and architecture and the breathtaking scenery of Croatia and Iceland’s dramatic geological features to enjoying the festive music and colors of Spain and Portugal and the multitude of iconic sights and sounds of jolly old England.  Wear comfortable walking shoes, have your camera close at hand and dive into rich history and culture which may change the way you look at your world forever.


Big City Immersion

The United States boasts some renowned big cities.  Some would argue that this would include only New York City and San Francisco, but others include Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles on the list.  And we can’t dismiss our cities with big personalities, like New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle.  No matter your preference, you can certainly become immersed in one of our big cities!


Event and Festival Travel

A growing segment of the travel industry is Event and Festival Travel designed for the discerning traveler looking for unique and highly memorable experiences in some of the great cities of the world.  Would you like a bird’s high view of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona?  How about watching the Bastille Day festivities from your private VIP Penthouse Terrace for the Military Parade and a Private yacht dinner cruise on the Seine while watching the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower?  St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin?  Il Palio in Siena?

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River Cruising

If you seek to explore our world through local cuisine, exposure to local talent and way of life, river cruising may be a good fit. Unlike ocean cruising, river cruise ships are much smaller giving you a more personal, relaxed experience.  But don’t think you will be bored on a river cruise!  Up early and off to see one, if not two towns or cities with the tours included in your cruise fare for itineraries on the rivers of Europe including the Rhine, the Moselle, the Danube and Douro to name a few.  Visit Provence or Burgundy in France.  Many choices, many ships!

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In closing, we would like to say that travel and destination selection is a personal choice requiring insight, a thorough thought process and time spent on information gathering.  Yes, it can be enjoyable because there are so many amazing options but can also be overwhelming for the very same reason!   Plan, dream and travel on.

As Hans Christian Andersen wisely said, “To travel is to live.”


Affordable Luxury Cruise Experience

The words affordable and luxury rarely go hand-in-hand but we recently experienced one such instance in our travels to Bermuda from Miami while on board MSC Cruises MS Divina. During our 7-night stay in the MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive sanctuary of refinement, we were pampered and catered to by attentive private butlers with white glove service and waist coat attire. Although our beautifully designed and comfortable balcony Yacht Club stateroom was not much larger than a standard contemporary cruise line balcony stateroom, we thoroughly appreciated the well-appointed marble bathroom, the memory foam mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets, the welcome basket of fresh fruit and bubbly, and chilled Champagne.

But, it was not all about the stateroom and butler! When we arrived at the busy and often hectic Port of Miami we were immediately escorted to a private, tented area and were greeted by a Senior Butler who checked us in and made sure our luggage was sent on board ahead of us. After he personally brought us into the cruise terminal and we passed through security, we received our stateroom key cards and were provided with a private room where we could relax with mimosas and refreshments while waiting for customs to clear the ship. During this time we had a great time meeting fellow Yacht Club guests, many who had been in the Yacht club multiple times and who “just keep coming back – because we love it so”!

Once on board the lovely MS Divina, we were escorted to our Private Concierge Reception where we met our own private butler and his assistant, the dining room Maitre’D to discuss and plan our dining preferences, and given a tour of new ‘home away from home’ for the next 8 days. At this point we knew the Yacht Club experience would be a ‘cruise within a cruise’! MSC Yacht Club has dedicated an impressive amount of space on the ship so we would have exclusive access to the Top Sail lounge offering complimentary cocktails, wine and beer throughout the cruise as well as tempting desserts, afternoon tea and tasty midnight snacks. During our cruise we developed a tradition of pre-dinner drinks and appetizers together and loved this relaxing time!

For breakfast, we liked heading up one deck to our exclusive pool deck. Not just continental breakfast, mind you, we had our choice of light fruit, eggs & breakfast meats or the European way – freshly baked hard rolls with salami or prosciutto with a selection of cheeses. Lighter fare lunch was also served in our private pool area (complete with bar, or course). We noticed that many of the Yacht Club members never ventured out to dine around the ship, but we must confess that we became addicted to the best pizza on the high seas so we would also visit the casual Calumet Buffet to feed that addiction!

For our evening dining experience, the MSC Yacht Club extends to our private dining room, Le Muse. Please note that the dining room is on the opposite end of the ship and requires a great deal of walking and although the experience is worth that walk, MSC Cruises has informed us that on their next ship, the MSC Seaside,
the private dining room will be located IN the Yacht Club venue.

As our 8 day/7 night cruise came to an end, it was so very fitting that we were personally escorted by our butler, Jacques, off of the MSC Divina through a private area away from the departing crowds. A delightful experience and we shall return!

Look for future blog posts regarding our insights from our enchanting Bermuda visit and also more on the beautiful vessel, the MSC Divina.

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