Monday, October 3, 2011

Carnival Pride Review

On September 25, 2011, I embarked upon Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Pride at its homeport in Baltimore, MD.  The check in process was pretty simple and smooth.  My bags were taken care of upon arrival and the only thing left to do was board the ship.

The Carnival Pride, a mid-size Spirit class ship, was constructed in 2002 and weighs 88,500 tons. It can hold up to 2,124 passengers. There are 11 bars and lounges, 4 pools, and 5 hot tubs. It also houses David Steakhouse.

For those who have not sailed, to board the ship, you must walk through what seems like an endless enclosed ramp.  It’s fairly simple for the able bodied person; however, for those who have physical challenges, this may pose a problem.  Once on board, I was hit with some minimal chaos and fairly little direction on how to proceed.  Plan to walk quickly to grab an elevator up or down to your room or do what many decided to do – have a few drinks and wait by the bar.

If you’re familiar with ships, locating your room should be fairly simple.  After spending a day or two on board, you should be able to navigate the ship.  I booked a balcony room on the Verandah deck.  It comfortably fits two people but don’t expect much in terms of space.  When entering the balcony and the bathroom, be mindful to step up.  My suggestion to all would be to inspect your space.  Make sure every necessary item is available to you and, if not, give the stewards enough time to assist other guests before making requests.  Carnival has not fully stepped into the era of flat screens and still has some updating to do to improve upon space and aesthetics.  

The staff on board is exceptionally friendly and absolutely works for every penny of the $10 per day gratuity charged per person.  They make a conscious effort to attend to the smallest of details and consistently manage to place a smile on your face.  The cleaning staff will attend to your room twice a day, in the morning and during dinner.  They will restock your linen if need be, make the beds, clean, and leave little treats behind.  The young lady who cleaned my room throughout the week took a liking to me and would always leave a little extra.

The dinning staff is wonderful and definitely entertaining.  Dinner in the Normandie, the dining hall, is filled with many surprises.  On some nights guests were encouraged to stand up and dance in the dining hall, participate in a conga line, and laugh hilariously at the host dancing on a table.  The food is prepared well and many should be able to find something that will meet their individual tastes.  If  guests do not like something, all one has to do is notify his or her waiter and the matter is resolved.  For guests who prefer a larger selection of items, a buffet style dining hall is open and ready.  One can choose from an array of food choices.
Also on the top deck, guests can find the ships pool and outside bar areas.  Mixed alcoholic drinks on board range from $7-$8.75 and refills are $6-$7.  Guests can also purchase items like non-alcoholic Pina Coladas $4.75.  Guests had to exercise some caution while in deck because it is slippery when wet.  Guests are encouraged to take some time on deck to enjoy the scenery and the bands.

The ship also houses a fitness and spa area.  If you would like a spa treatment, be mindful that the price tag is not like your local day spa.  A 50 minute facial or massage could cost $119-$169.  Hair services along with manicures and pedicures are also available and are reasonably priced.  The fitness area is pretty small but meets the needs of those guests who want to get in some good cardio and strength training.  It houses roughly 8 elliptical machines, 6 or 7 treadmills, two row machines, and 4 bikes, and a single stair climber.  Also available is a outside track on the top deck and a basketball court.

The ship’s staff has come up with some creative activities to keep guests busy, especially while at sea.  Activities are designed for every age – ranging from a 80s and Motown music battle, comedy shows, bingo, a mixology contest, a hairy chest contest, arts, crafts, and games for children, slot machines, a sports bar to catch the games, a disco, a meet and greet for singles or LGBT guests.
The Carnival Pride docked in three locations, Grand Turks, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport, Bahamas.  It would be my suggestion to clients to book a tour in Freeport only.  Grand Turks is pretty small and not unless you don’t mind spending $30 to see a few historic sites, you may prefer to save your money.  Personally I wouldn’t mind because I am not sure when I would be able to return.  The highlight for many guests in Grand Turks, aside from the beautiful crystal clear water, was Margaritaville.

Half Moon Cay appears to be a man-made island.  Guests were shuttled over on small tour boats where they can relax, enjoy the warm water, sand, and food supplied by the ship.  Excursions are available for Half Moon, however, one would be better off enjoying the waves.  

Freeport was a delightful place to dock.  The guests had the opportunity to finally engage with natives and learn the island’s history and cultural facts.  Excursions consist of swimming with the dolphins, sightseeing, horseback riding, snorkeling, and a culinary tour at the Junkanoo Beach Restaurant.  It is here that guests can grab some conch soup, salad, fritters, coconut cake, fries, jerk chicken, and a beverage and delight him or herself in conversation with the chef, while relaxing on the beach.  If you are familiar with jet skis, they are also available for rental.

Your cruise experience will be what you make of it.  You can relax or you can be an active participant.  Rarely will you miss an opportunity to enjoy yourself.  All in all, Carnival provided a wonderful experience for large ship cruisers.  Additional word of advice: If you must utilize the internet while on board, be aware that wi-fi is costly.  You have the option of paying as you go or purchasing a bundle of minutes.  Pay as you go will cost $0.75 per minute and a bundle of 100 minutes cost $55.  There is also a one-time connection fee of $3.95.  

Just a note: Debarkation upon returning was not organized like Carnival said it would be.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Galapagos Islands

What’s approximately 600 miles off the coast of Guayaquil, one of the most popular sites in Ecuador, and is home to giant turtles, prehistoric iguanas and a variety of other unique species found nowhere else on this planet?  If you guessed The Galapagos Islands and the Galapagos National Park, you’re right.  This unique island is home to some of the most diverse and almost out-of-this-world creatures to ever walk the planet, and was a heavy influence for Charles Darwin’s controversial book, The Origin of Species.

The islands, which are heavily vegetated, are comprised of 13 large volcanic islands, 6 smaller islands and roughly 107 rocks and islets.  For most, including the creatures that inhabit it, it is considered a true paradise, its natural beauty running rampant, white-sand beaches lining the coast with lava tunnels and animals dispersed throughout.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, they are also well known by their nickname of “The Enchanted Isles.”

You’ll have a hard time finding creatures any more interesting (or with stranger names) than you will in the islands.  With marine iguanas basking on the rocks or blue-footed boobies flying overhead, you’ll feel as if you are a visitor on a foreign planet, one that has not been influenced by mankind.  It is the closest you will ever get to pure wildlife, and that reason alone is more than enough justification to see it.  Reachable via a short flight from Quito, Ecuador, the combination of the isolation and late discovery by humans, adding in the historical lack of predators, sets the stage for a unique environmental experiment, developing into arguably the greatest showcase of evolution in the world.

There are many islands that should not be missed, with the island of Floreana (Charles) Island leading the way.  With a surface area of 67 sq. mi., the island was named after the first president of Ecuador, Juan Jose Flores, whose administration took possession of the archipelago in 1832.  Ideal visiting time for this island is between December and May, when pink flamingos and green sea turtles nest.  Deeper into the island, the “Devil’s Crown” underwater volcanic cone is where visitors can observe unique coral formations.

Stretching over 5.4 sq. mi., Genovesa (Tower) Island is what is left of a large submerged crater.  Also known as “Bird Island” due to the population of swallow-tailed gulls (which are the only nocturnal hunters of the species), visitors can also witness blue-footed boobies, lava gulls, swallows and other tropical birds.

Baltra (South Seymour) Island covers an area of roughly 10 sq. mi. and is the site of the island’s main airport, which was built during World War II by the U.S. Military, branches of which can still be seen there today.  The island is also extremely arid, populated with wild desert flora, predominately cactus, and is a perfect location for surfing, snorkeling and diving.

Spanning over 381 sq. mi., Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) Island is home to the archipelago’s largest settlement, the town of Puerto Ayora.  Famous for their lava tunnels and one of the area’s best beaches, Black Turtle Cove, the clear waters are ideal for surfing and snorkeling.

Bartolome (Bartholomew) Island is a tiny 0.4 sq. mi. across.  Its most distinguished landmark is Pinnacle Rock, which is a stone tower in the shape of an obelisk reminiscent of the archipelago itself.  Visitors can also see seals and the Galapagos penguin, along with lava formations and recently formed volcanic cones.
Finally, Isabela (Albemarie) Island. Another home to the Galapagos penguin, it also provides shelter to marine and land iguanas, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, Salty Lightfoot crab, Galapagos hawks and Galapagos doves, all of which thrive in the lush vegetation.  The third largest human settlement, Puerto Villamil, can be found on the southernmost tip of the island.

The Galapagos Islands are a unique experience, and one that should not be missed by a traveler who appreciates nature in its purest form.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Royal Caribbean Announces 2012-13 Caribbean Cruises

Royal Caribbean International has announced its 2012-13 Caribbean cruises schedule. Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ships at sea, as well as Freedom of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas will continue sailing a range of Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries year-round from five convenient drive-market ports, the line reported.

Six additional ships—Adventure of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas—will offer even greater flexibility with four- to 12-night Caribbean itineraries, departing from four domestic U.S. ports in winter 2012-13.

Royal Caribbean’s 2012-13 Caribbean cruises onboard Adventure of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, and Explorer of the Seas are open for booking immediately, while 2012-13 sailings onboard Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas will open throughout next week.

In 2012, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas will continue to alternate between seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Every weekend, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, while Freedom of the Seas sails from Port Canaveral along the Space Coast.

Throughout winter 2012-13, Brilliance of the Seas will take over for Serenade of the Seas and join Adventure of the Seas to offer vacationers two ships to embark on a round-trip, seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Explorer of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas continue their year-round departures from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ, and Baltimore, respectively, to the Caribbean. Explorer of the Seas offers New York-metropolitan vacationers seven-night Bahamas and nine- to 11-night Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries. In mid-April 2013, vacationers also can choose a five- or six-night Bermuda or a nine-night Bermuda and Caribbean itinerary. Enchantment of the Seas, on the other hand, will sail seven-night Bahamas, nine-night Eastern Caribbean and 12-night Southern Caribbean itineraries throughout the season.

Gulf Coast vacationers will again have three convenient regional ports to embark on a Caribbean cruise in winter 2012-13. Sailing seven-night Western Caribbean itineraries, Navigator of the Seas will replace Voyager of the Seas as a new seasonal product from New Orleans, while Mariner of the Seas will sail round-trip from Galveston again. Jewel of the Seas will continue four- and five-night from Tampa, where the new five-night itinerary will alternate calls at Cozumel and Grand Cayman or Cozumel and Key West.

Liberty of the Seas also will offer four- and five-night Western Caribbean itineraries from Port Everglades. Additionally, Monarch of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas will continue to sail three- and four-night Bahamas getaways from Port Canaveral and Miami, respectively. These quick getaway cruises call at Nassau and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas.

Friday, March 25, 2011

We sell Value, Not the Price Tag

Often times as travel consultants, we receive requests from clients with a specified budget in mind. Sometimes a client’s budgetary requests are reasonable while others may have some unreasonable expectations. In today’s economic environment, we all need to have a financial budget in mind. In fact, I encourage my clients to state what their budgets are up front so that I may be able to make recommendations that will fit their expectations. Sometimes, what I’m able to recommend as a consultant comes in a little higher or below what a client has researched via Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity.

However, unlike Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, many travel consultants offer personalized services, expertise, and value through our extended relationship with vendors. In a number of cases, you will find travel consultants that specialize in a specific travel type or travel destination. Travel consultants spend hours researching destinations, educating themselves, and establishing relationships with hoteliers, cruise representatives, and airline reps to better serve our clientele; a clientele we hope are not mere window shoppers.

Often times, what we can’t beat in price, we can beat in value. You will never catch Orbitz, Expedia, or Travelocity, calling the general manager of a hotel requesting a little more in personalized services or discounts on spa treatments, wine and food tastings, or added amenities. It is very rare that you see Orbitz, Expedia, or Travelocity, continuously rewarding repeat clients with gift cards or gift certificates to their favorite restaurant or even tickets to an amusement park. I can never recall a time in which either online agency suggested that I not travel to places like Costa Rica or Panama during their rainy season or even advising on what type of travel documents I will need or how much I would have to pay in entry fees into a country. At the same time, we don’t utilize every vendor available on the market. We utilize trusted vendors that we believe will take care of our clients.  (Please read our previous post on why you need a travel consultant.)

Veteran travel editor and well known owner of Elite Travel International, Stacey H. Small, writes in Agent@Home magazine, “This year, I resolve to focus even more on getting my clients the best possible value for their dollar. This does not necessarily mean getting them the cheapest price, since what they expect from me is more for their money than they can get if they were to book direct” (p 36). This is the goal of any reputable travel consultant.

We are in the business of offering our clients the experience, not the price tag. We want to give our clients the gift of value, relaxation, and appreciation. We don’t want to just book you and send you on your way. That mindset short changes the client and is bad for business in the long run. We want to retain you as clients. We want to make you happy and we want to hear your lovely stories and view your photos upon returning from vacation.

I get excited when I know I’ve done my job well and pleased a client. If a client mentions that they have researched and spotted something cheaper than what I’ve offered, I always ask for a copy of what they have been able to find. I do this to ensure we are not comparing apples to oranges and to also see if a vendor can meet or beat a competitor’s price. It is always in a client’s best interests to share this information because we will go to bat for you. Hotels and cruise lines are constantly changing prices or marketing special promotional rates.

Because of the individualized attention I give to clients along with the added value, many of my clients are more willing to purchase a package that may come in slightly higher than Orbitz, Expedia, or Travelocity because they know that they are safe in my hands. They know that I will go out of my way to address a problem if anything occurs during their travels. They are also aware that I will take care of them after their return. Your dollar is definitely stretched further with a dedicated travel consultant.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Travelers’ Philanthropy Handbook Issued by Center for Responsible Travel

A new how-to guide, “The Travelers Philanthropy Handbook,” created by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and written by 30 experts in the field, promises to bring new efficiencies to the important world of travelers’ philanthropy.

“Over the last decade, a growing number of travel companies have begun to channel corporate and guest contributions into local community and conservation projects,” said Martha Honey, co-director of CREST, the policy-oriented research institute based in Washington, D.C., and at Stanford University. “Yet many of these give-back initiatives are frequently ad hoc, uncoordinated, and unmeasured. Done effectively, travelers’ philanthropy can raise significant funds and have a considerable impact on a region, while making the donor feel better about their footprint and the company they traveled with. It’s a win-win.”

The purpose of the handbook, according to Honey, is to provide best practices, share success stories and realize the full potential of travelers’ altruism. With a foreword by Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai, the 250-page handbook includes original essays, case studies, and surveys by some 30 experts, including Toni Neubauer, founder and president of Myths and Mountains; Lars Lindkvist, director of Basecamp Explorer; Julie Klein, environmental affairs director at Vail Resorts; and Jane Crouch, responsible travel manager for Intrepid Travel. Other experts include tourism professors Sam Ham and Kristin Lamoureux; David Western, former Kenya Wildlife Service director; Mark Spalding, president of The Ocean Foundation; and David Abernethy, professor emeritus in political science at Stanford University. These writers describe the evolution of travelers’ philanthropy, and explore a wide range of success stories, challenges, lessons learned, and best practices.

The first study of its kind, the handbook has been praised for its timeliness and practicality by critics from the World Bank, Condé Nast Traveler, United States Institute of Peace and Tourism Cares. “It’s an excellent compendium of sound practical advice and should be considered essential reading for all of us concerned about maximizing the benefits of tourism for local communities and conservation,” said Erika Harms, executive director of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and senior advisor on tourism at the United Nations Foundation. Kevin Doyle, Condé Nast Traveler news editor, said he considers it to be “the most user-friendly and comprehensive assemblage of information I’ve seen on how the travel industry and travelers themselves can give back to the communities they touch.”

Travelers’ philanthropy has been one of CREST’s core focuses since 2003, when it launched, a website that accepts donation on behalf of travel companies looking for guidance, community and 501c3 tax-deductible status. CREST’s Travelers’ Philanthropy “tool kit” also includes a video documentary, training courses and an experts’ bureau. CREST is hosting its Third International Travelers’ Philanthropy Conference in Costa Rica, July 20 to 23, and is currently involved in two field projects in Costa Rica designed to strengthen travelers’ philanthropy in Monteverde and the Osa Peninsula. The handbook is available in a free, downloadable format on the CREST website, It can also be purchased in CD-ROM and book format. For more information, visit

Source: Travel Pulse

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spacation Anyone...It's Imperative that you Treat YOU!

Unfortunately there are moments when the ills of the world get the best of us.  It can be work related, a family or medical crisis, or even the results of another’s actions imposed upon us.  Sometimes these events get the best of us and knock the wind out of us.  I can definitely relate to this feeling.  Recently I was involved in a pretty bad hit and run car accident.  Though I can’t remember too many of the details involved, my body and mind can feel the results.  Unfortunately, it is paying a toll on my soulfulness.  L  Yeah I know.  I shouldn’t allow such things to get me down.  I won’t.  In fact I was just thinking, while resting at home, that it would be lovely to just book a flight and take a spacation.
I may be unable to take advantage of a spacation immediately due to physical therapy sessions but a date has been marked off on my calendar.  If you’re able bodied, why not take one yourself. 
Spa vacations, or spacations as I call them, are refreshing.  They renew the spirit and mind.  The primary purpose of a spacation is to feed one’s soul and rehabilitate one’s health.  There are over 12,000 locations within the United States in which you can take advantage of a spacation and even more abroad.  There are spas all over the world that can cater to your specific needs and desires.  From yoga and meditation to mud baths and massages; take your pick.  We are more than excited to get you there.
During the beginning stages of planning a spacation, consider your interests and what you would like to achieve.   Consider the location as well.  Together we can work on narrowing down your choices and begin to research locations and prices.  Our goal is to get you reacquainted with your peace of mind while also giving you the biggest bang for your buck.
It is imperative that you take a holistic approach in taking care of your wellbeing.  You will come out refreshed, energized, sharp, and happier.  Many nations are plagued with unhealthy bodies that have succumbed to stress related illnesses.  Please do yourself a favor and love yourself enough to take a break.
Feel free to visit us at or contact me directly at so we can begin designing your next travel experience.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Get moving with this set.

Have you considered...

renting a villa for your next vacation? 

If you are like most travelers, you are usually content with purchasing a hotel room or a suite/condo with a kitchenette for family travel and easy access to a beach or pool that is shared by all.  These are budget friendly options that allow families to save on food costs while also maintaining comfort.  But why not go a little further and consider purchasing a villa?

Recently, I was tasked with the responsibility of designing a vacation for myself and friends.  It was my idea to begin with.  I would love to share my vacation experience with a wonderful group of people - dinning, laughing, playing games, and just enjoying their company.  Originally, I started looking into resort options, then condo options, but later thought a villa would be a stellar option. 

A villa allows families and friends to remain under one roof, provides separate bedrooms and bathrooms, and offers individual privacy as well.  Some are equipped with pools, Jacuzzis, and many offer a bit of separation from the typical touristy crowd.  A number of villa owners even provide a staff that consists of maids, butlers, cooks, etc.  If you would love to maintain a family atmosphere and experience a bit of luxury, consider renting one of our affordable villas.

We would most definitely do all the research for you and present you with a winning option. 

Feel free to take a look at our luxury villas and contact us directly at 1-800-928-0797 for more information.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Do you Need a Travel Consultant

Orbitz. Expedia. Travelocity.  We've all heard of them.  These venues allow you to book travel on your own with little to no advisement.   You're subject to purchase anything with pretty pictures and a few okay customer reviews.

With all of these travel resources on the internet, more and more people are booking their own reservations for both business and recreational travel. Is this a good thing?

Yes and No.  It is good that you, the consumer, have taken the time to research your travel options.  You are well informed and will  have developed an idea for what you would like to purchase.  But a travel agent, designer, or consultant can almost guarantee that a particular package fits your interests.
  • With a travel agent, you don't have to haggle with airlines, vendors, or hotels regarding policies or rates and fares.
  • A good travel agent has taken the time to study the product you are purchasing, along with the social, economic, and weather climate.
  • Travel agents have access to resources that are unavailable to the general public.  We have lists upon lists upon lists of contacts at all of the major tour companies, vacation destinations, and hotel companies. Because of this, they are likely to locate special deals and discount packages that you would not be able to find by searching on your own.
  • Travel consultants will do the research for you.  We will match packages that fit you.  And for a low cost one time consulting fee, we will present to you, the best deal possible.  Simply Pleasurable Travel does charge a one time non-refundable consulting fee of $50 for our research services.  This charge will be applied to your booking.  Why do we charge?  Because we are providing you with the best service possible.  Some object.  That's the breaks.  But just like your physician, wedding consultant, car technician, etc., charges a fee for their time, we do as well.
  • You are more likely to get upgrades or coupons through your travel agent because well established industry relationships
  • A good travel agent is aware of all travel restrictions.   Say you want to travel abroad do you know for sure whether or not you need only a passport or if you will also need a visa for a certain country? Or do you know if any inoculations are required for traveling? Your travel agent knows all of these things and will be able to make sure that you have everything you need. Also, your agent can let you know about airline restrictions, such as carry-on baggage measurements and items you are allowed to bring in your luggage.
  • Your travel agent is supportive and will go to bat for you.  Say you get to your hotel and find that the hotel has lost your reservation. Or maybe the airline has lost your luggage. If you booked your own travel, guess who has to deal with the problem?   You.  But if you booked through a travel agent, all you need to do is give her a call and she will take care of the issue for you.   That's a nice bonus, isn't it?
  • If you're traveling in a group, guess who minimizes the hassle for you.  Your travel agent.  Your travel agents will be the one to take late night phone calls, answer questions you're unable to answer, collect money, contact the vendor, etc.
See!  Travel made easy.  Let's start designing your travel vacation today.