A little about me!

I’ve been a travel agent for almost six years. And I’m new to blogging, this is my first one ever, so bear with me. Previous to this, I was (and still am) a Licensed Customs Broker.  I spent 30 plus years working at JFK Airport, assisting customers with the clearance and delivery of their international packages.  I thought, if I could move cargo, I can move people and it has to be more fun!!!

And it is!!!  There is nothing more satisfying then planning the perfect adventure for someone.  Convincing them to use a travel agent, instead of doing it on their own can be a daunting task.  Most people think they can get it cheaper on the internet.  And maybe so, sometimes!  If your just booking air to visit grandma, go ahead do it on your own, nothing difficult or special about it.  You may even think if your booking something like “just a cruise” you can do it on your own.  Yes, you can!  But did you know that a travel agent may have special deals, fares, amenities that they can offer you.  Sometimes, even upgrades are available through a travel agent, that you wouldn’t be able to secure yourself.  It would never ever hurt you to ask a travel agent for their help.

Most (not all), but most agents, in most cases do not charge a planning fee or research fee (more on this topic later).  Travel Agents are paid by the cruise line, hotel, resort, wholesaler, tour operator.  It does not add to the cost of your vacation at all!!!  Again, I must say – that using a travel agent will get you more bang for your buck then you can get on your own.  Travel Agents, in most cases, are not paid until your trip is completed.

I’ve made mistakes (as all travel agents have) but my clients would never know it, well except for my son –  when I first started I booked him and his wife on a trip from New York to Florida –  he was extremely perplexed while on his flight TO Florida, why he was getting text’s from JetBlue telling him to check-in for his return flight.  Well, his mother (the travel agent) booked his flight going and coming on the same day!!!!  Luckily, I was able to fix it without any costs.

So, here’s my plan with my new blog –  every week I will share something new – it maybe about a destination, it maybe travel tips, it may some interesting Travel Agent stories, but it will be new and entertaining and I hope you will enjoy it

 

 

Princess

I’ve only sailed on Princess once, it was my graduation cruise for becoming a Princess Commodore (Princess has an intense training program, and the reward at the end of completing the program is a cruise).  It was the first time my husband and I cruised together.

We had an inside cabin, which is only the 2nd time I’ve ever been in an inside cabin (the first was my very cruise).  It was very spacious, I loved the way it was set up and I did not feel claustrophobic at all.

One of the highlights of this cruise, for me – was afternoon tea.  We choose to have it in our cabin and it was wonderful.

Carnival

Let me start by saying – I like Carnival!!!  There I said it.  My first cruise was on Carnival and besides cruising on spring break (with 1100 kids on the ship) I have thoroughly enjoyed every single Carnival Cruise.  I hear all the time, oh it’s to much partying or there are just to many kids.  Like I said, except for that spring break cruise it hasn’t been my experience at all.

I like the itineraries they offer, I like the ships and I like how they take care of their guests.

I’ve sailed Carnival from New York, Tampa, Ft Lauderdale, Miami and Long Beach California.

Here are some photo’s from our Carnival Inspiration out of Long Beach

We did the Chef’s Table, and it was amazing (that photo of the 4 of us, Joe, myself and our friends Diane and Charlie) where from the night of the Chef’s Table.

It was held in the Library and was absolutely wonderful

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I have a story about Carnival – we sailed on the Carnival Breeze (yes, this was during spring break – don’t know what t he heck I was thinking).  We had a cove balcony (wasn’t really pleased with it, just a personal preference) it felt very claustrophobic to me – it was very cool being close to the water, but that was the only positive about it. It’s on Deck 2 – so everything was far away and traveling during spring break – it was difficult to get an elevator. Besides that, the ship was great, the food was great – we enjoyed our cruise immensley.  It was a Southern Caribbean itinerary (which I really like).

Two things happened on this cruise – first I got sick – not sea sick – I ended up with an absolutely miserable cold.  When we got to Aruba, I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed. Joe was diving, so he went off to his dive and I stayed in bed for the entire day.  Before he left, he found our cabin steward and let her know that I wasn’t feeling well and would be in the cabin.  Well, she was amazing –  she took care of me the whole day – checked on me a few times, even brought me soup for lunch.

The second thing that happened was when we got off the ship when we arrived in Miami. We got off the ship and headed up to Ft. Lauderdale.  We stopped at Denny’s for breakfast and when we sat down, I looked down and realized that I had left both my engagement ring and my wedding ring, in our cabin on the ship in a shot glass.  Now, these rings belonged to my mother-in-law, family heirlooms.  I was in a major panic – first I had to tell my husband I lost his mothers rings, and then I had to pray and hope that I could get them back.  Back in the car, on the phone with Carnival – mad dash for Miami.  Carnival told me to find security at the port and explain what happened. And I did (let me tell you I wasn’t alone – there were 3 other girls who had left their jewelry on the ship as well).  I stood there for about an hour, panic setting in – Joe was waiting in the car and I was praying I didn’t have to tell him they were gone.  Well, they found them – I got my rings back.  I’ve heard so many horror stories about people doing this and never getting their items back. It was just amazing!

So, besides liking Carnival for their ships and itineraries, returning my jewelry to me was over the top!

Next up Princess Cruise Lines . . .

 

 

A little rant (then back to cruising)

I’m a full time travel agent, I also have a full time job –  I spend a lot of time putting together a trip when you request one.  Time you do not see.  I research your destination, look for the best prices, and try my hardest to make it everything you expect it to be (and more).  There is a tremendous amount of behind the scenes things that I do for you.  I reach out to my contacts at the resort, I request added amenities for your trip. I prepare at least (3) options for your trip.  I do all of this technically for free.  Until you book and travel I receive not a penny.  Most vendors pay after your trip is completed.  I am not bitching about doing any of this,  here’s what I’m bitching about –  I do all of this, I send you the information and you never reply.  I follow up 2 or 3 times, waiting for a response – nothing!!!!

So, here is what I ask – for myself and for my fellow travel agents –  just a quick reply – sorry, not interested – plans changed – out of my budget – found it elsewhere for $5.00 less than you quoted to me.  Something!  Don’t feel bad about letting us know that your not going to book, and you don’t need to tell us a big story – thanks, but no thanks is fine.

Okay, rant over, thank you for listening.

UP Next . . . . . NCL!

Norwegian Cruise Line –  we’ve been on a bunch of these – on our own and on Seminar at Sea’s (these are cruises that travel agents are invited to attend to learn about the product and experience it first hand.  A lot of At Sea time is spent in training)  I also sell a lot of NCL Cruises to my guests and I’ve never had a complaint come back to me.

There is plenty to do on the ship and the restaurants are really good.  We’ve done both the Breakaway and the Getaway a number of times.   Here’s a big secret (well, probably not so big)  the fish on the floor swim towards the front of the ship.  Sounds a little silly, but really helps so you know which direction your walking in.

Specialty restaurants – they have a bunch – our absolute favorite has been Teppanyaki-it’s a Hibachi Restaurant and the food was really very good.  I highly recommend adding on the specialty restaurant package (or upgrading your cabin to one that includes Specialty Dining).  Didn’t really care for the Italian Restaurant, but every thing else was very good.

We again, did the Chef’s Table on our last cruise, which was absolutely amazing – it was served in the Haven (which is the “Private” suite section of the ship).  It was a little over $100.00 per person – could not be booked in advance, had to wait until we were onboard the ship.  I heard, but haven’t been able to verify, that they may not offer this anymore or it just maybe on select ships/sailings. I would be disappointed if they no longer offered it.

On our last cruise, our ship spotted a small boat jammed with people – it ended up being a refugee boat, I believe there were 18 people on board.  We circled that little boat for about 3-4 hours waiting for the coast guard to show up to rescue them.  While we were going around in circles, we went to the Cuban Restaurant for lunch –  had a great lunch – and as I went to get up I pushed my chair back (it was a wicker chair) and the legs collapsed and next thing you know, I was laying on the floor, in the chair – with my legs in the air and couldn’t get up.  Within seconds of course, a little group of people were helping me up and I just wanted to run to my cabin and hide cause I really felt like a dufus –  I was so embarrassed.

I have tons of pictures of our NCL adventures –  GETAWAY ,  GETAWAY 2

Great Stirrup Cay – Norwegian’s Private Island –

GREAT STIRRUP CAY

Depending on which ship you are on, will depend on some “specials” that maybe offered – when doing the Breakaway or the Getaway we do the Illusionist show on the first night. It’s is usually on sale and the show is very good. I won’t ruin the surprises by telling you here, but it is very enjoyable and entertaining.

Joe loves the Walk the Plank (not me, that darn fear of heights), I’ll stay planted on deck and take his picture – works for me

plank

 

Cruising Continued – Royal Caribbean

We recently experienced Royal Caribbean.  It was our first time with this cruise line.  We sailed on the Independence of the Seas from Ft. Lauderdale to Cozumel.

She is a slightly older ship, built in 2008 and her passenger capacity is 4375 guests.  Our voyage was sold out and the ship didn’t feel crowded.  It wasn’t during spring break, so there weren’t a lot of kids on this voyage.

Embarkation was a breeze,  it took less than an hour from arrival to boarding and we arrived a little after noon.

Balcony cabin, deck 6 – good location – easy to get to everything – no long waits for the elevator. On the floor in the elevator they put the day of the week (it’s an insert into the carpet), which was pretty cool – except when they didn’t change it and that caused all sorts of confusion on what day of the week it was.

One thing we try to do on every cruise is the Chef’s Table.  If you’ve never done it, you really need to.  It’s really a pretty cool experience.  So, on this ship it was 12 guests at a private table. The table is located in the Main Dining Room on a balcony overlooking the entire dining room.  It was a cool location.  Dinner took about 4 hours from start to finish and the food was delicious. There is a cost for doing it and this one was $85.00 per person and well worth it.  It’s done with a wine pairing for every coarse.

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The couple we sat next to during the dinner where originally from New York (well, the husband was – the wife was from New Jersey).  Really nice couple and we enjoyed getting to know them.  It seemed from this point on we followed each other around the ship at ran into them at almost every meal.

We ate in the main dining room on the first night – it was okay –  I wasn’t impressed with our meal.  The table next to us never received their appetizer.  We did the Chef’s Table on the 2nd night.  They have a two specialty restaurants – Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table.  Chops Grille was good, but Giovanni’s Table was excellent – from the service to the food, we enjoyed every moment of it.  Remember that couple from Chef’s Table – at both restaurants, we ended up sitting next to each other.

We also made it a point to have lunch at Johnny Rockets –  good burgers, good fries, good onion rings- great shakes!!  20180304_125018

Lot’s of shops on the promenade, the usual liquor and smokes and jewelry.  Plus a few extra’s like the Cupcake Cupboard and Ben & Jerry’s.  So, one of the things I don’t really like is these are all extra’s –  Johnny Rockets, Cupcake and Ben & Jerry’s are an upcharge.  It should be included if they are offering it on the ship. Just my opinion. 20180301_164217

So, they do have the Flow Rider, the rock climbing wall, miniature golf and the Ice Rink.  We only saw one show, it was the Motown Show and it wasn’t very good at all.

I stayed on the ship in Cozumel and Joe went scuba diving (more on that later).  We have been to Cozumel many times and our usual go to is Mr. Sancho’s (another day, another post).

We did have some issues on this cruise that I think are worth mentioning –  I didn’t find the staff not to be very friendly or accommodating.  They all seemed to be a bit grouchy to say the least – we were on deck and a waiter walked past and I asked him if he had any napkins – his response – NO and continued to walk.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but he should have said, no, I’m sorry – they have them at the bar, No, I’m sorry let me get you one – something other than just NO! This was a  typical response when asking the staff a question. Just a bit rude.

The second issue we had was in the Casino.  We spent sometime there (LOL!) I played slots mostly and Joe was playing Roulette.  It was the last night and he was at a table playing with $5.00 chips and everyone else had colored chips.  The gentlemen next to him lost all his colored chips and the dealer gave him $5.00 chips.  Well, if you play Roulette you certainly know that there is absolutely no way to tell whose bet is whose if your all playing with the same chips.  When Joe realized the player next to him was putting down $5.00 chips on the table, he brought it to the dealers attention –  the dealer proceeded to remove $5.00 chips from the table, not knowing whose was whose, before you knew it, he rolled the ball while Joe was trying to get him to stop what he was doing.  Of course, the number he had been playing all along hit – and his chip had been removed by the dealer.  The dealer realized his mistake and kept apologizing – we got the manager, who had to get another manager, who had to watch the tape and then have a meeting.  A few hours later, the manager called our room and they decided that the dealer did make an error and would pay off on the bet.  They did the right thing, my issue was the dealers weren’t very trained at what they were doing.  This was our issue, but there were others who were having similar issues at other table games.

The last thing I was very unhappy about is we booked an excursion for arrival back into Ft. Lauderdale as our flight was not until 7 pm.  The last night of the cruise, we received a notice in the room that our excursion was cancelled.  Oh good, what now – go to the desk – so sorry, no other options available.  Now, I need to figure this out and make plans – oh, wait first I had to pay for WIFI at the cost of $30.00, so we could now rent a car for the following day. It was just handled very poorly.

All in, it was a good cruise, we enjoyed ourselves, the ship was nice, the food good (for the most part) and we were on vacation!

 

Cruising ???? Should I or Shouldn’t I?

So, at one point in time I would have said – Yes!!!  Go on a cruise, it’s amazing, it’s wonderful, you’ll have the best time ever.  Now, not so sure – please remember this all about your own personal preferences (and they change). I’ve been on over 30 cruises and enjoyed all of them (some more than others).  There are cruises that I still want to experience –  would love to do Norwegian’s Hawaiian Island Cruise and I really want to do a Mediterrean Cruise and I will eventually do both.

My very first cruise was a gift from my brother. It was a short cruise from New York to Canada on Carnival.  There were 18 of us who went.  It rained almost the entire time, but it was great and I really enjoyed myself.  I had all the anxiety ever first time cruiser has – the biggest probably was “would I get sea sick”, I tend to get motion sickness and have had some pretty bad experiences with small boats (I went on one of those casino/gambling boats and was sick the entire time – I had to stay outside on deck to keep from throwing up and it was December)

So, that very first gift cruise started my fascination with cruising – I always booked an inside cabin (how much time was going to spend in there anyways) until the upgrade fairy shined upon me and I ended up with a balcony. No turning back from that point – it was now always a balcony (or better).

Then it was all about how many sea days?  I didn’t want more than one in the beginning and one at the end – what would I do all day at sea?  Well, that changed to after my first cruise out of New York – which had two sea days – and guess what – I found something to do – wasn’t bored at all and actually I now enjoy having more than one sea day back to back.  I find that with only one, I never really get to experience the ship itself, the restaurants, the shows, the silly games, relaxing, enjoying the pool – just seem to be enough time with only one sea day.

Itinerary – I prefer Southern Caribbean or Western Caribbean cruises.  Ports in the Southern Caribbean include Antigua, Aruba, Banana Coast (Trujillo), Barbados, Bequia, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Illes des Saintes, Martinique, Mayreau, Nevis, Pigeon Island, St. Barts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Tobago Cays.  Many of these destinations you cannot reach on a traditional cruise ship, some just by private yacht – but the Southern Caribbean is so diverse in what it offers, from beautiful beaches and clear blue water, to mountains, rainforest and volcanos.

The Western Caribbean is just as unique and varied – Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Playa del Carmen, Progreso, and Roatan.

To pick a cruise, you first need to determine what interests you more – the ship or the destinations.  You either pick the ship you want to sail on and then go where it goes or pick your destinations and find a ship that goes there.  There is no right answer; it’s all what you enjoy.  I’ve cruised with people who never ever leave the ship – they have no interest in the ports – they just really like to experience the ship.

People ask me all of the time, what is my favorite cruise line – I can honestly say I don’t have one single favorite (but I haven’t sailed on them all YET!) I’ve done Carnival, Princess, MSC, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.  Each of them has things I love, I like, I’m okay with and I don’t like.  I like Carnival’s itineraries; I like Norwegian’s food and beverage package and specialty restaurants, I like MSC ships and Royal Caribbean, and they have more on board activities.

Next up – some detailed info on the various cruise lines I’ve had the opportunity to sail with . . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Travel Bucket List

Let’s face it, we all have at least one place we really want to visit.  I have a few but my list changes ALL OF THE TIME!!!  

Every time one of my guests contacts me with a new destination, I always ask them if I can come along.  Of course, they always say YES!!!  When someone asks me about a destination I’ve never been to, or booked – my research hat goes on!!  I am finding out everything I can about that place – I ask my fellow travel agents- have you ever been?  What did you like? More importantly, what didn’t you like and why?

Let’s face it, everyone has their own travel style  – some are happy to go to the same place every year and have the same experience over and over again  (sounds a little boring to me, not my travel style).  I want to go experience something new and something different.  I try every trip I go on, to do at least one thing that is out of my comfort zone.  I have a fear of heights – so I went parasailing – scared the beeges out of me – but it was amazing!!!  I also have a fear of the water – well, not really the water – my fear is of water over my head!!!  So, I went to the Blue Hole in Jamaica and jumped off the cliff into rapidly moving water that was way way way over my head.  This was so funny,  everyone goes to Dunns Falls in Jamaica, a bit crowded and very much a tourist area.  So, after doing lots of research we settled on going to the Blue Hole – it was a bit of ride from the cruise port –  we finally arrive and get started to go –  we had a tour guide who accompanied us on the small hike to the water.  Seriously, when I tell you he was a young teenager and weighed about 90 lbs soaking wet.   They have two jump spots – the low one and the high one – of course I was jumping off the low one –  this skinny little kid grabs my hand and says okay JUMP!!!  In my head, I’m thinking – are you kidding me – there is absolutely no way this kid is going to be able to save my life – I weigh three times as much as he does – we are both going to sink!!! Obviously I survived!!!  So you jump into the first hole and then you climb up on rocks (with water rushing over them) and you grab a hold of this rope and swing out over the second hole.  No turning back, it’s the only way out!!!  It was way cool and I enjoyed every scary moment of it. 

So, back to my bucket list –  do I really have one?  I don’t think so,  there are so many places that I want to visit and then there are some that I simply have no desire to.  Such as, an Alaskan Cruise – everyone I have sent and everyone I know tells me how absolutely magnificent it is – just not on my list.  Not saying I will never go, who knows, but for now – other places I would rather go first.

Italy is high on my list – I want to see the Vatican  (my great grandfather was a brick layer and he worked at the Vatican before he came to the United States), Ireland is another place high on my list, my roots are in Ireland (I even have the address of my great grandmothers childhood home, wonder if it’s still  there).