Friday, January 30, 2009

You're Invited!

Join my husband Michael and me on a Windstar Cruises sailing from Turkey through the Greek Islands to Athens. Come aboard our ‘private yacht’ and enjoy the treasures of the Aegean Sea! We chose the perfect ship to explore these fascinating destinations.

The Wind Star departs Istanbul on June 13, 2009, for a 7-night cruise to Athens (arriving June 20, 2009). Ports of call include Kusadasi (tour the ruins of Ephesus), the Aegean beach resort of Bodrum in Turkey, and the Greek Islands Santorini, Rhodes and Mykonos.

Our tall-masted sailing ship accommodates a maximum of 148 guests, while the crew of 94 will pamper us onboard. She offers luxurious stateroom amenities (including iPod Nanos and Bose SoundDocks), and a Water Sports Platform with complimentary equipment. We’ll enjoy excellent cuisine with open seating and no dress codes. Of course the ship also has a pool, Jacuzzi, fitness center, casino and wireless internet access (so I can stay in touch with those of you not able to come along).

Our role is to make sure you have a wonderful time, host a “Welcome Aboard” cocktail reception for our Virtuoso traveling companions, and join you on an exclusive shore experience in Bodrum, Turkey. Special group pricing is available, please call or email me for more information.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Celebrity Cruises

I inspected the Celebrity Constellation in October 2008 and am finally posting the review (click here for slideshow). The truth is that I liked this ship but didn’t love her. The staterooms were attractive with decent design, the public areas were very nice and the space was well utilized. So why am I lukewarm? It looks like a lot of other cruise ships, and there were no distinctive elements to impress me.

In fairness, Celebrity is one my favorite Premium Cruise lines and I loved sailing on the Celebrity Century (before the big stretch and refurbishment in 2006). That ship had a very boutique hotel design with delicious color, space-age furniture, great tile work (especially in the spa) and fabulous carpets. Aesthetically she had a very distinctive personality, which I loved.

The Celebrity Constellation was the last of the four “Millennium Class” sisters (Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Infinity); she began cruising in 2002. Nine hundred and seventy five staterooms accommodate a little over 2,000 passengers. Perhaps the ship designers were trying to appeal to a broader demographic without sacrificing Celebrity’s reputation for sophisticated cruising.

As I said, the staterooms are attractive with lots of wood, and blue/grey/beige colors. The minimum room categories are much larger than any Royal Caribbean stateroom (and for a similar price) and the suites are quite nice (and come with extra concierge class amenities). The Royal Suite is very spacious, with a great layout (538 sq. ft. room with 195 sq. ft. balcony) and two whirlpool tubs (in bath and on veranda). The Penthouse Suite is ideal for entertaining (1,432 sq. ft. room, 1,098 sq. ft. veranda) with a butler’s pantry, wet bar on veranda and baby grand piano, plus there’s a connecting Sky Suite for your entourage (or your kids).

Tha AquaSpa facilities were extensive with Solarium, Thalassotherapy pool and Persian Gardens (fee to use the spa facilities). The Conservatory was special with lovely greenery. The San Marco Restaurant (traditional two seatings for dinner) is grand, and Michael’s Club is always sumptuously comfy. The other public areas were nice, but not unique or sensational.

Which is why I’m so excited by the Solstice Class ships. The Celebrity Solstice debuted in November 2008 with much fanfare after months of hype, and by all accounts she deserves the accolades. Click here for more details on the Celebrity Solstice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Coolest travel gadget ever!

My dream has come true! They have finally invented an audio phrasebook that can download to your iPod (or iPhone). No need to struggle when asking for the time, just click and the properly pronounced phrases are whispered in your ear to repeat at will. Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and German are currently available. And they’re only the cost of one song: 99 cents!

Lonely Planet
offers audio phrasebooks too, including Cantonese, Czech, Japanese, Mandarin, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese. They’re $9.99 each.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 Service Fees

Happy New Year!
After careful consideration, I have decided NOT to increase service fees, at least for the first half of the year.

Here is a summary of the current service fees:


TICKET PROCESSING


• Advise best price, times, routing, connections, and seat options.
• Inform you of airline fees (baggage, etc) and security procedures.
• Arrange car rental, hotel reservations, and travel insurance with no extra service fees.
• Monitor schedule changes until departure
• Negotiate with airlines on your behalf if schedule changes are unacceptable, and re-accommodate you, including re-issuing tickets.
• Provide assistance during travel if flights are delayed or cancelled (24 hour hotline available for clients).

$25.00 Domestic Ticket Processing Fee
(capped at $75 for family traveling together on the same itinerary)

$50.00 International Ticket Processing Fee
(capped at $150 for family traveling together on the same itinerary)

$15.00 Hotel and Car-only Reservation Fee


VACATION PLANNING


I don’t believe vacations are one-size-fits-all commodities, nor I do believe my responsibilities end once the sale is “closed”; it is just beginning. Your leisure time is precious, and vacations should create memories that last a lifetime. Destinations, hotels/resorts, cruise lines, and ships are not interchangeable, and price is only one factor of many to consider. Let me help you make the right choices and make your travel dreams come true. My expertise and inside knowledge are at your disposal and every detail will be considered. I will make all the vacation arrangements (including airport hotels before departure, sightseeing, and travel insurance) with no additional service fee. I can also arrange private tours and unique experiences to make your trip more memorable (cooking lesson in Tuscany, private guide in Hermitage, the possibilities are endless). Every question you have will be answered and we will review all trip details before departure so you know exactly what to expect on each step of the journey.

$50.00 Vacation Planning Fee

$100.00 Complicated Vacation Planning Fee
(Customized journeys, multi-stop independent itineraries, etc)

Group Service fees are available upon request.