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With our cruise quickly approaching, we are trying to decide which excursions we want to do. Our first stop is Panama. I have read that the Grand Tour is supposed to be good. I think seeing the Panama Canal might be interesting…for about five minutes. I live five minutes away from the Erie Canal, and cross over it every day. I have seen a canal. They are not that interesting. I didn’t find anything about beaches or snorkling there. And it is not supposed to be very safe to g out on your own. So I guess we will end up taking an excursion.
Costa Rica is next and Belize is after that. There are cool things in both Belize and Costa Rica. Both have zip lining. Belize has a cave tubing thing that sounds fun. Costa Rich has a white water river rafting thing. Belize also has a lot of great snorkling. My brother wanted to do snorkling, which I think would be cool. But I also wanted to do the cave tubing, and zip lining. When we go online to Carnival’s web site, it shows the zip lining in Costa Rica, but when we enter our boarding number, it does not show as available anymore. So we don’t know if the zip lining is Costa Rica is even a possibility. Belize has so many cool things to do, and we can only pick one. If in fact we can do zip-lining in Costa Rica, that would narrow the choice on Belize. I called Carnival, and the guy I talked to didn’t have information on the availability of the zip lining. I suggested I send an email to Carnival’s excursion people. I did, and they emailed me back that the vendor didn’t supply them with availability info. So we just don’t know what we are going to do yet.


The Island With the Most Return Visitors by Linda Thompkins

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I visited the island of Barbados on a cruise ship. Barbados is the farthest island of the Caribbean chain, and once we stepped off the ship, our love affair with the island started.

Being a travel consultant, I had read up on the island, and the images of “flying fish” and “green monkeys” stirred my imagination. Also the fact that there is nothing but water separating Barbados and the coast of Africa meant we were going to truly be in the West Indies, and close to the equator. That alone was enough for a sun and beach lover!

When our ship docked, we opted to take an island cruise via taxi. Four hours later, we had covered the island’s coastline from the calm waters of the west coast on the Caribbean Sea, to the raging Atlantic coast on the east, and the lively south coast. You just have to love an island that offers a completely different experience on all coasts. When the cruise ship pulled out to sea, I can remember having a longing for an island that I had only experienced for a day.

Upon returning home, we started planning a land based trip to the island. Being a beach lover, we made reservations for the next year on west coast of the island. I remembered the water being glassy calm, and longed to spend lazy days at the beach. The west coast attracts the rich and famous, and is home to fabulous homes, hotels and villas. This coastline is located on the Caribbean Sea, and the water is perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Fine dining is a fact of life, and Barbados is known for some of the best restaurants in the world.

As we started to meet other vacationers, we quickly learned that most of them had been to the island many times before. I found this unusual, since most Caribbean vacationers opt to experience new islands. What was even more surprising, many of the English and Canadian visitors spend the entire winter season on the island every year. It certainly made us “short termers” with our two week vacation.

My curiosity about these long term repeat vacations prompted me to ask why they returned year after year. Their answers centered around the friendly locals, variety of lodging that caters to long term visitors, sunny weather, great food and a standard of living that is conducive to making the island a second winter home.

After a week of being beach bums, we ventured out to the southern coast, and found the St Lawrence Gap. As we walked the mile long Gap area, I knew this would be our future spot on the island each year. The west coast is rather sedate, and spread out compared to the lively south coast. We found more than 20 restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, shopping, and a great beach all in one area. We could hardly contain ourselves til next years vacation. The love affair with Barbados was in full swing.

Thirteen years later, we are still in love. The same driver picks us up at the airport each year, and welcomes us back home. As timeshare members, we have made many friends over the years. Who would have thought that fourteen years ago we would have English, Canadian, Danish and Bajan friends that we keep in touch with throughout the year, and can’t wait to see each winter season.

As soon as winter hits here in the Midwest, I have thoughts of eating flying fish and seeing the green monkeys playing outside our balcony in the morning. Do the fish really fly? Well, they skim over the water, and they do have wings. Are the monkeys really green? Their color could best be described as a combination of green, brown and yellow.

The real reality is the sun shines brighter, the water is like a warm bath, and some of the most friendly people occupy this 160 mile paradise. I feel safe there, and unfortunately gain weight each year eating great food from one side of the island to the other. And when I get a travel request for Barbados, I can hardly contain my excitement telling a client all the inns and outs of the island.

This is a brief story about a love affair with an island, and its people. At times I feel guilty about not having the same feeling about the other islands I’ve visited in the Caribbean. After all, I am a Caribbean travel consultant, and I am not supposed to be partial to just one island. I love all of the Caribbean islands, but I’m in love with Barbados.

If your curosity is peaked after reading this article, then be advised after one visit, your future travel plans may head you back to the island with the most return visitors.

About The Author

Linda Thompkins is a Caribbean Travel Consultant and owner of Travel 2 the Caribbean Online Agency. Linda has been in business for over seven years, has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, and also manages two travel blogs.

Visit the site at: http://www.travel2thecaribbean.com.


Cruising Alaska by Ferry by Mike Miller

Here’s an all-Alaskan suggestion for cruisers who would like to:

• travel at their own pace;

• choose their own ports-of-call;

• lay over in any port for as many days as they desire;

• share their travel with Alaskan locals;

• have the option to bring along the family RV or auto; and

• cruise to Alaska one way and drive home by highway.

If this sounds good to you, Alaska’s state-owned ferries may be just the ticket for one of life’s most memorable cruise vacations. The Alaska Marine Highway System, as it is called, is composed of 11 modern ferryliners, all with motor vehicle decks, observation lounges, and food service. Most have cabins and cocktail bars.

The ferries cruise Southeast Alaska’s protected Inside Passage waterways in a region speckled with more than a thousand big and tiny islands, alpine and sea-level glaciers, imposing snow-capped mountains, lush forests, and picturesque towns and villages. They serve, as well, the glacier-rich waters of southcentral Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Passengers with or without vehicles may embark from Bellingham, Washington for Alaska’s southernmost port, Ketchikan, or they can embark from Canada’s Prince Rupert, which is British Columbia’s northernmost port community. (Motorists can reach Prince Rupert via BC’s modern highway network or by BC Ferries; see below.) Once they arrive in Southeast Alaska passengers can lay over along the way as long as they wish in the panhandle’s major port cities — Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Haines and Skagway– or they can connect via smaller off-line ferries to more remote towns and villages.

Larger stateroom-equipped vessels of the fleet are the Columbia (931 passengers), Matanuska (745), Malaspina (701), Taku (370), and Kennicott (748) — all of which serve the Southeast Alaska panhandle. Depending on the season, one or two ships extend their range on weekly schedules to/from Bellingham. The others turn around at Prince Rupert.

The Kennicott connects Southeast port cities to Southcentral Alaska destinations Cordova, Valdez, and Whittier via the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound. The 220-passenger Tustumena, another stateroom-equipped ferry, sails regularly from ports on the Kenai Peninsula to Kodiak and (less frequently) westward along the Aleutian Islands chain as far as Unalaska Dutch Harbor.

Smaller ships, operating “bush” routes from mainline ports to smaller towns and villages are Aurora (300), LeConte (300), and Lituya (149). Newest additions to the AMHS fleet are the Juneau-based sleek catamaran Fairweather (250) and a similar sized double-hulled sister ship, Chenega.

Here’s another option: If you want to mix a little “foreign” travel into your plans you can book passage from highway-accessible Port Hardy on the northern end of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island and sail BC Ferries’ Queen of the North to Prince Rupert. More information and schedules at http://www.bcferries.com.

Family Travel by Ferry

If you’re interested in taking the whole family on a cruise through Inside Passage waters, the Alaska Marine Highway System is made-to-order. Depending on which vessel you’re aboard youngsters will find onboard play areas, casual meals and snack bars for any age, movies, and nature talks by U.S. Forest Service naturalists plus expansive glass-enclosed solariums. These are ideal for spotting orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, playful porpoises and sea lions in the water plus mountain goats on towering cliffsides. The fortunate observer may well observe black and brown (grizzly) bears on passing beaches. Everywhere you’ll see soaring eagles.

British Columbia’s provincial ferry system, BC Ferries, demonstrates its kid-friendliness even before a family boards ship. Computer-savvy children or their parents have only to surf the web to http://www.bcferries.bc.ca/kidzone/establishing_shot.html and they will meet cartoon characters Samantha (“Call me Sam”) and Cal, two seagoing canine characters who introduce young viewers to three online activities – an electronic coloring book, a “Match the Ferries” memory game, and a virtual bridge tour.

Alaska ferry schedules are posted at the system’s website (www.FerryAlaska.com). Printed schedules may be ordered from the website or by phone at the Reservations office 1-800-642-0066. Fares and schedules are posted on the internet and are usually available in mid-December of each year.

For a more comprehensive look at cruising by ferry in Alaska, plus information about all the cruiselines and cruiseships scheduled for the Alaska trade during 2006, visit www.AlaskaCruisingReport.com.

# # #

Copyright (c) Mike Miller 2006 – All rights reserved

About The Author

Alaskan travel writer Mike Miller lives in Juneau where his current passion is publishing an information-packed website about Alaska cruising and ferry travel: http://www.AlaskaCruisingReport.com. Miller has authored a number of travel books (Fodors, Sierra Club Books, Globe Pequot, The Milepost and others), contributes to TravelAge West (for travel agents) and frequently writes for major newspapers and magazines.

muskegmike@gci.net


Five Family Friendly Vacations Ideas and How To Make Them Affordable by Patricia Kopp

Does the cost of travel have you wondering whether or not you can afford to take your family on a vacation this year? Your much needed and well deserved vacation should be a priority in your life and we are providing ways to make your family vacation time more affordable and more enjoyable.

1. Kids and Cruises –Traveling by ship is a way for families to visit several places on one trip without constantly having to pack and unpack which is a big benefit for parents with young children. Additionally most cruise lines offer children’s programs and kids will love the freedom of life on board a cruise ship.

Way to save on cruising: Travel agents specializing in cruises and businesses that book blocks of cabins can offer quite a savings on rooms. Cruising prices are also dependent upon the season you choose to cruise. Look for off season specials or cruises that include airfare as part of the deal. Many of the cruise lines offer a kid sail free program.

2. All Inclusive Packages – Look for family friendly locations. Family package destinations will offer activities for both parents and children. Entertainment for everyone plus food, drink and activities are all in one place.

Ways to save on packages: Mid week departure and arrivals will save you money on airfare. Also schedule your travels for off season.

3. Renting a House – Renting a house for your family vacation in the location you want to visit will provide the benefits of learning the local culture plus you get more for your vacation dollar. You can experience life with all its local flavors. If find out all the info about a location before the trip you will experience all the fun and excitement and not miss anything once you get there

Ways to save on rentals: The internet offers huge resources for finding a rental in the location you prefer. Local newspapers for the areas which are often published on line can help you find a great deal also. Look for coupons to save money on food and activities. It’s a great money-saving idea to split the cost of the house rental with another family whether it be family or friends.

4. Adventure Packages – Adventure vacations are designed to teach basic skills and how to respect the environment. Whether you choose white water rafting or hiking in the wilderness, your family’s safety will be a top priority with your nature guide. Most of the time all equipment is provided and often will include all meals for the day.

Ways to save on adventure trips: Book your trip with an adventure travel specialist. You will be sure to get the best price with the most features.

5. Camping Vacations – Outdoor vacations such as camping provide families ways to work together and play together. Campgrounds normally offer plenty of activities to keep children entertained. Camping can be either in a tent or many places even offer cabins. Additionally you can rent an RV to experience RV camping.

Ways to save on camping: Many national campground locations offer membership cards that offer benefits to its regular campers. Cooking your food at camp rather than eating out will help you save money.

Wherever you decide on the family vacation, whether it’s an airline ticket or a hotel room, never take the first price your quoted. Always attempt to negotiate for a better price. Ask about any available discounts. Be a flexible traveler. If you’re willing to give up your seats on a flight for someone flying standby, you’ll be rewarded with free tickets. Set aside the dates you want to travel and then watch for last minute deals. When on vacation skip the souvenirs and start a postcard or refrigerator magnet collection. If you plan properly you can be assured of your family having a fun and affordable family vacation.

About The Author

Article by Patricia Kopp. Please visit our site for more family vacation tips.. If you’d like to save money on your next vacation visit Cheap-Vacation-Guide.com.

patkopp423@adelphia.net




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