Author: Richard Telling

Plan For The Perfect Cruise Vacation

  • First you need to know what a typical cruise package contains. Most often your cruise will include ship accommodations, meals, activities, entertainment and most standard facilities on the ship. Your cruise ticket will often not include the airfare or other travel arrangements needed to get you to the cruise ship and back home again, or the extra amenities on board like massage facilities and internet access. It also does not usually cover any guided tours arranged for the ports of call that the ship visits on the cruise. And you will be responsible for all tips and gratuities on the trip.

It’s important to know all of this to be able to plan your vacation cruise correctly, because you will need to bring along sufficient funds to cover any extra expenses needed on the trip if you expect to make it a pleasurable trip. Some folks that all they have to do is just show up for the cruise and everything is already paid for from then on, but this is often not the case, especially with discount cruise vacations. So be sure to check with your cruise line and get very familiar with all that is and is not included in your cruise fare.

  • Having the right documentation while you are sailing is important too, especially if you happen to be visiting ports outside of your own country. So get any necessary visas, passports, and other important papers that may be needed well before you leave in order to comply with the laws of the countries that you will be visiting.
  • Bring along the appropriate attire for the weather that you will encounter on the trip and also for the various activities that you plan to engage in while on the cruise. All cruise lines encourage casual attire during the day, but on some luxury cruises certain cruise lines have dress codes for the evening that can range from elegant casual to formal, so be sure to find about these in advance and have the right clothes ready if you choose to join in.
  • Seasickness is a worry for a lot of people, but actually this is one area that does not usually present a problem these days as the cruise ships are so large and stable that you really can’t even detect much motion as you sail along. On the off chance that you do develop seasickness though, just bring along some dramamine and that should easily take care of your needs.

Puerto Escondido Oaxaca

Puerto Escondido has something for almost every type of traveler. It has gorgeous beaches, and tons of activities to engage in. Some of the popular activities include sport fishing, diving, snorkeling as well as whale and dolphin-watching. Puerto also offers a vibrant nightlife, made possible by its plethora of restaurants, cafes and bars blasting live music. One of the best spots to party at night is El Adoquin, which is the town’s main pedestrian street. El Adoquin is frequented by revelers who love to hop from one bar or club to the next.

One of the beaches to look forward when visiting this Mexican town is the Bacocho Beach, which lies on the northwestern end of the town. Bacocho is very relaxed and has a number of hotels to choose from. At the heart of town is another sandy stretch called Playa Principal. This beach is more a favorite among families. If you would like to go fishing or sightseeing, there are boats moored on Playa Principal ready to take you.

Zicatela is the cosmopolitan beach, which is arguably, the most popular among all Puerto Escondido’s sandy spots. It lies in the southeastern end of Puerto Escondido. Zicatela is an excellent surfing beach that challenges international surfers to conquer its gigantic waves. And even if you are not a surfer, you can still enjoy strolling along this beach while watching experienced surfers expertly maneuvering their boards through the angry ocean.

If you would like to learn how to surf but are not ready to tackle the humongous waves of Zicatela, you can head out to the smaller beach of La Punta. Here, you will easily find an instructor to guide you through the beginner-friendly waves of La Punta. Other lovely beaches with calm waters include Angelito and Manzanillo.

Those who enjoy the company of nature do not need to go very far. Just a few kilometers outside of town, there is mangrove forests and lagoons, waiting to be explored. Some of the wildlife inhabiting these areas includes spoonbills, pelicans and hawks. One ecological reserve worth visiting is called Ventilla, and it is just a 15-minute drive away. Puerto Escondido is also rich in culture and tradition. Just around the town are indigenous communities, who have successful kept their traditional way of living. You can easily visit these villages, and sign up for eco-tours.

Holiday to Salzburg

With a multitude of activities to take part in, you will probably want to spend as little time as possible thinking about details like transfers from your flight and back. However, a clever booking plan can save you time, which can be spent on breathing in the atmosphere of the city.

While on the way to the centre of Salzburg, airport transfers afford you the time to revel in what lies ahead of you. A historic Alpine citadel, the birthplace of Mozart has seen various transformations from the Middle Ages until the present time, and its famous skyline and heritage has so much to offer the tourist. You can see it as a base for Alpine explorations, as a haven of Baroque beauty and serenity, as a historic testament to central European culture in its Alldstadt, or as a means to dive into Austrian culture on the banks of the Salzach. The key to booking your accommodation so as to make the most of your time in the city is to select which of these delights is to be your priority. Then you can book your transfer and settle yourself in a location that means you spend as little time stuck on the roads as possible.

When travelling to Salzburg, airport transfers can deliver you into the city at any time of the year. The season will, of course, influence the ease of travel and time consumed when getting to and from your flight. Whether you want to see the Hohensalzburg fortress glow purple during an autumn sunset, or enjoy a music festival ring against the backdrop of pristine snow, you should be smart and take the weather into account when booking your trip.

Salzburg airport transfers give you more options than the obvious. The obvious is, of course, a trip to and from the terminals in the city. Located just four kilometres from the city, the W. A. Mozart airport is a capable hub that will link you to many major European centres. But while this local hub is the second largest in Austria, Munich’s Franz Josef Strauss Airport is the seventh largest in Europe by number of passengers. Being only 28 kilometres away from the Salt Fortress and needing only an hour an a half worth of driving to take you there, it may be more convenient for you to book your shuttle from here.

There are many affordable flights to the city, and there are also various companies offering Salzburg airport transfers. Once you have determined your trip and route, the next matter is to pick a reliable company. This comes down to price, experience and versatility of service. The best companies will give you a chance to organise much of your ride online. Being clever about your choice can save you from hassle and give you more time to enjoy this iconic Alpine centre.

Ghent Belgium

Due to its small size, Ghent is easy enough to explore and partly exudes that cozy feel that provincial towns possess. These days Ghent is a vibrant university town, equipped with lovely cafes, reasonably-priced restaurants and accommodation. But during the Middle Ages, it was one of Europe’s most powerful and among the richest cities. As you walk around town, you can still see imposing and exquisite structures that remind you of Ghent’s glorious past. The cosmopolitan and dynamic energy that the student population brings seems to mix well with the medieval look of the city.

Get to know the city quickly by checking out its most notable attractions. The Castle of the Counts, also known as the Gravensteen Castle is one of the impressive buildings Ghent is proud of. This formidable medieval fortress mostly intrigues its visitors with its torture chamber and the battlements which are perched high on the keep. The Castle was rebuilt in 1180 under the direction of Philip of Alsace. During your visit, you will learn more about the history of this powerful structure through a unique and interactive movie guide.

After visiting Ghent’s famous castle, you have the choice of exploring any of the city’s hundreds of historical buildings, 13th century Gothic churches and 18 museums! At Saint Bavo Cathedral, you will find the priceless polyptych (panel Painting) called The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. In the middle of Saint Bavo and Saint Nicholas Church lies the Belfry, which symbolizes the city’s independence. Just beside it is the Cloth Hall, which shows off the Brabant Gothic design. When you walk to the corner of Cloth Hall, you will encounter another historical landmark: the old jailer’s lodge.

You can stroll around Ghent freely, especially in its lovely center where cars are not allowed to enter. But if there is one place in the city that will take your breath away due to its picturesque setting, it will be the Graslei. This medieval port features a row of historical buildings, whose structure is famously reflected on the long river.

It is truly a distinct and very atmospheric place that locals and tourists make their way to enjoy one of the several cafè patios to just enjoy the scenery. Some of the prominent historical houses in Graslei include the Guildhall of the Free Boatmen, the Spijker and the house of the Grain Weighers. Just on the other side of the water lies another scenic neighborhood called Korenlei.

Northern Coasts of Sardinia

Northeastern trails

The northeastern trails of the island are a great place to start your outdoor adventure on your holidays to Sardinia. The area around Supramonte is the best place to start, and the rugged region is one of the least populated in Europe. You will come face to face with chalk walls and stunning gorges and, at the Supramonte di Oliena, you can follow the trails of Stone Age tribes who fled to a hidden cave near Monte Tiscali. If you are feeing energetic, take on the challenge of the highest peak in the range: the Monte Corrasi, stretching up 1463 metres. If you enjoy a bit of a hike but still want your beachfront within reach, plan a trek that begins or ends on the Costa Smerelda. These trails won’t take you up any huge mountain peaks, but they will give you a chance to experience some truly breath-taking natural beauty.

The Northwest

For a spectacular hike taking in the very best of the island’s interior, head to Monte Limbara. The abundance of trees, streams, waterfalls and undulating trails often makes the experience a highlight of holidays to Sardinia. As you ascend you can visit the lovely mountain church, Madonna of the Snow, and if you fall in love with the region you can even stay in a hotel situation up the mountain.

Another excellent hike is along the pink granite cliffs of Garulla. The cliffs here spill on the beaches lapped by the most beautiful waters in the Mediterranean. You can enjoy a leisurely swim, diving off the boulders, before carrying on to the cove at Tinnari – where you’ll get an unequalled view over the ocean (don’t forget your camera). This is an area that is mostly untouched by tourism and, at times, it can almost seem like your own private beach.

Galley Slaving on a Yacht

The toilet isn’t the only thing that’s primitive on this 36 foot bath toy we’ve hired for the weekend. Before we left port yesterday, a bloke with a grey beard showed us the ropes.

His language was so archaic it was like watching a foreign film. Why call it a cleat when “thing you wind the rope around” would do? He kept trying to scare us with stories about people getting beached and having to be rescued. Silly old barnacle.

I didn’t much like the way he smiled when we waved him goodbye and motored away from the wharf without pulling the rope off the thingee he called a bollard. We weren’t trying to demolish the wharf.

Nautical door heights haven’t changed since the Battle of Trafalgar – which accounts for the huge lumps on my head. Not that I’m complaining. Nothing worse than a belligerent sailor.

I don’t mind being stuck down here really. I much prefer roosting in the woody womb of the vessel to being up there white knuckling the wheel and screaming.

But I only did that once yesterday. Sailing’s like war, I’ve decided – long periods of boredom interspersed with brief moments of life threatening terror.

I was steering through a stretch of perfectly empty water, when suddenly hundreds of little yachts started whirling around us like angry bees.

The famous camaraderie of the seas went right out the porthole. You’d think the Anglo Saxons had invented only one word.

I can still see the faces of the yachtsmen I nearly sliced in half – pale and open-mouthed like portraits of the damned in a medieval painting.

A miss is as good as a mile, I said. But they told me go downstairs and cook dinner. All they think about is their stomachs.

Soon after, my husband visited me in the galley saying he needed the radio. Well, the boat does have a nice cd player. No, he said, we’d run aground.

The man with the grey beard’s smile seemed to have widened an extra few centimentres when he turned up in a yellow rescue launch. He told us to sit on the far side of the boat while he tied a rope around the mast and hauled us out of the mud.

The yacht leaned on such a sharp angle as he roared off into the distance we were heaved into the air like acrobats from Cirque du Soleil.

Cenote Dos Ojos

Cenotes, ultimately, became the only water source for the Mayan civilization. Thus, the people consider them sacred spots. Perhaps the most prominent cenote in the region is the Cenote Dos Ojos (two eyes). It earned its named because of the two rivers that unite in a big underwater cavern. Dos Ojos is also very famous because it is, at the moment, the deepest known cave passage in the Yucatan. It is estimated to be more than 415 meters deep.

This cenote lies 13 kilometers north of the town of Tulum, juts a kilometer south of Xel Ha. The dirt road, which stretches 4 kilometers, off Highway 307 leads to the entrance of the cenote. This journey is an adventure in itself as you may most likely come across some interesting flora and fauna along the way. There are two hardwood decks that are set up at the entrance that serve each river. The left side (eye) is usually where the divers enter, while the right side is where more swimmers and snorkelers go.

Cenote Dos Ojos dazzles visitors with its large cave system, which features large columns and clear water. There are many ways to explore Dos Ojos; the first one being scuba diving. By doing so, you will be able to marvel at the deep cave walls up close. With miles and miles of extensive cave systems that connect to more than 25 cenotes, you have a lot of freedom of which direction to dive through. Take note that you need an open water diving certification to be allowed to dive.

If you don’t have the needed certification, you can always to snorkel, which is also fun. There are even tourists who just swim or look around the cenote. If you intend to snorkel, climb down the stairs from the right entrance or second eye. From here, you can explore the secret passageways made of stalagmites and stalactites. The passages can bring you different caves. One of them is called the Bat Cave, which is part of the cave system called Hidden Worlds.

Cenote Dos Ojos receives the same water that flows into the large Caribbean cove called Xel Ha. This water is believed to have healing powers and is considered very pure as it comes from a massive area pristine jungle. To protect the pureness of the water, divers and snorkelers are highly discouraged to not use sun tan lotion, which may pollute the water.

Otway Sound Penguins

Otway Sound (Ping¸inera de Seno Otway) is home to a penguin sanctuary, which is considered to be the most easily visited area on earth to visit these amazing creatures. The Spheniscus magellanicus or Magellan penguins are relatively small penguins that thrive in slightly warm weather. Almost 10,000 penguins migrate to Otway Sound during the month of September, which is the beginning of the Patagonian summer period. All of the penguins come here in couples! Why? They choose Otway Sound as a place to build their nests and lay most of their eggs.

The penguin couples usually have 1 or 2 offsprings. The male and female penguins take turns to feed and watching over their young. If you want to see baby penguins up close, plan a visit to Otway Sound in November and December, which is also the most common months for tourism. During this time, the adults are fishing for food for their babies. The fishing time takes most of the day so the best time to visit the sanctuary is after 5 pm, when you can witness how the penguin parents come back from the sea to feed the little ones.

The Otway Sound penguin colony is situated northwest of Punta Arenas town, which sits on the Straights of Magellan. Punta Arenas houses the Carlos Ibanez Airport (PUQ), which facilitates direct flights from key cities. From this airport, you need to travel approximately 40 miles or 65 kilometers to reach the sanctuary. You can easily catch a bus from Carlos Ibanez to Puerto Natales, which is the prime gateway to Otway Sound.

There are also a couple of tour operators that conduct visits from Punta Arenas to Otway Sound. The tours are usually conducted from 4 pm to 8 pm. Both Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas are equipped with the usual tourist facilities. You can opt to book an accommodation in either of these towns as they have a wide range of lodging options.

Sumaco Volcano in Ecuador

It is only 50 kilometers east of the Andean Mountain Range and is within the country’s western Napo province. The Sumaco region’s isolated location makes it a rarely visited site and results in its excellent preservation. The park that houses it covers about 200,00 hectares or 500,00 acres of land area and is representative of about 8% of the Ecuadorian Amazon area.

The hike to Sumaco promises to be an incredible jungle adventure. Before you even get to the peak, your eyes will be treated to the beauty of an untouched jungle landscape, packed with diverse flora and fauna like monkeys, giant anteaters and tapirs. Such a memorable trip can only be rightfully culminated by reaching Sumaco’s summit.

Once you reach the top of the rim, you will get to see the extinct crater and marvel at the group of snowcapped mountains of Cotopaxi, Antisana and Cayambe in the distance. If you look towards the south and east, the extensive landscape of the Amazon basin unveils itself for admiration. Because of the difficult up and down trek, and forested and muddy terrain, the ascent to the summit usually takes about 4 days to complete. You will need to be physically fit as well mentally sound to make it to the end.

The only access area to the Sumaco Volcano is a community of approximately 300 people called Pacto Sumaco. Despite its small size, the community has been successfully running sustainable ecotourism initiatives to preserve the cultural and natural value of the volcano and the park. This Sumaco region has been declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. There are some simple lodging facilities within the village. Spending some time here guarantees you an invaluable cultural experience.

The route to this Ecuadorian volcano is challenging and presents some real risks. That is why it is mandatory that you hire a local guide to help you reach Sumaco safely and on time. Fortunately, there are many guides that reside in Pacto Sumaco and other villages along the Loreto Road, which crosses path with Tena-Quito Road. The estimated daily guide fee is 38 USD, and also covers the use of the shelters. You will most likely do the hike with a group of people.

After exploring the volcano, consider trying out birdwatching! After all, you are in Sumaco Park, one of the places with the highest number of bird species to land area in the world. In fact, there are about 830 species that populate 66 square miles of land. So there are plenty of chances to see some of the fascinating birds within the park vicinity and some that you have never seen before.

Cruise Ship Dining Explained

CRUISE TIPS: There is usually open seating for breakfast and lunch in the main dining room. Be adventurous with the menu because if you don’t like something you can send it back for a replacement. And if they have two things on the menu that you like ask for both of them. My husband, John, always orders the Filet Mignon and the Lobster Tail when they are served on the same night. Many times he tells the waiter to bring what the waiter recommends for that evening.

This means you don’t have to choose first or second seating. (First seating is 6:00 to 6:30 and Second seating is usually 8:00-8:30). There can be more than one restaurant where you just walk in when you are ready to dine. Every ship will ask for your dining preference when you book your cruise. You can indicate first, second or flexible dining, whichever will make you more comfortable. The newer ships have a 24 hour dining spot which is always casual so if you don’t want to do the formal nights you don’t have to, although I find dressing up to be quite fun.

You will have many options for each meal. You may have any meal delivered to your room, taken in the buffet restaurant or in the dining room. There is usually outdoor dining around the pool with hot dogs and hamburgers, pizza, salads, even Tacos.

There are also alternative dining rooms available on some ships that require an additional fee but the service and food are generally 4 to 5 star and worth it if you want to splurge.

In my experience families with young children and people who go to bed early usually dine in first seating. But if you don’t want to be on a schedule or want to meet new people every night, go for the alternative dining option. Of course you can always ask for a table for two, but be aware that there are only a few of them.

If you make a special request one night, John always asks for blue cheese, your waiter will bring it every night. They pride themselves on remembering your tastes. (This only happens when you choose traditional dining). On one cruise we asked for Melba toast, and you bet, every night we had Melba toast. There is one thing I always make clear to the waiter. I am not a big eater but I like to taste everything. I tell this to them the first night so they don’t think I am unhappy with the food. It is their job to keep you happy and they take it very seriously.

If you don’t want to eat in the main dining room almost all ships have a Lido café where it is casual but you order from a menu and are served by a waiter. It’s one of the many choices if you don’t want to participate in a formal night or if you just want to eat by yourselves. On Carnivals single cruises they encourage this style of dining so the singles can meet more people. There are exceptions to this but not many. On some of the newer ships the Lido is open 24 hours a day.

On most of the cruise lines they offer the food of the region that you are visiting. While on Hawaiian cruises expect to be served Hawaiian food. When on an Alaskan cruise you will be given the choices of salmon and Alaskan king crab legs. It makes more fun to dine on the local cuisine.

All of the cruise lines offer healthy alternative menus or what they call spa menus. So if you want low-fat, low-salt, low cholesterol, vegetarian or any other type of diet, they are available. It is best however to inform your travel agent of any special needs so they can notify the cruise line ahead of time. If you have special dietary needs make sure the cruise lines knows before hand. For example, Royal Caribbean cruises cater to food allergy, Kosher, Indian, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Diets.

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