Travel expert sharing tips and tricks of the trade.
As a World traveler and trains, planes, & automobile geek, I have embraced every opportunity to explore this amazing planet. As I write this, I realized vividly how far I have come from growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small Swiss town to living in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband Greg and our pets Stella and Oscar. I am very fortunate to live the American Dream, having made a career our of my passion for travel and tourism.
The “unprecedented times” we are all experiencing feel both unnerving and reflective to me. Never in a million years would I have thought that the skies would be empty of planes for weeks on end. Never would I have ventured to foresee a day where no cruise ship churns through the worlds oceans and rivers. Never would I have forecast open freeways in the Bay Area as we see them today.
Yet, there is peace and a sense of calm to be gained from this momentary stop to human activity.
Did you hear the birds chirping? Are you breathing cleaner air? I certainly am taking it all in. I am also dreaming of what is yet to come…
You have undoubtedly noticed the silence on my part as my travel adventures stopped abruptly in late February. What followed were 4 weeks of crisis management unlike any I have ever witnessed in my life.
I am pleased to report that all our clients have been accounted for and all have safely returned home.
The term “Sheltered in place” has been dusted off to become the term to describe what none of us have physically experienced since World War II and yet, within just a few short days we have all been forced to embrace.
I truly hope all of my readers heed the order and rise to the challenge. It is the only way to return to the life we knew as fast as possible. Trust that I follow the harrowing news out of Italy, Spain and my homeland of Switzerland daily. I admit it feels surreal and the experience threatens all I love about my industry and life in it’s entirety.
While I don’t have a crystal ball, I know that this too shall pass and the urge for adventure, the desire to meet other people, and the lust for travel is alive in all of us and it will burst into the open in a few weeks time.
Stay safe, stay strong and draw from the many memories of trips past to remind your soul that better times lie ahead.
I am Connecting with all of you in spirit and passion till the day arises when the world starts moving again…
A further 24 hours delayed due to 21 foot swells, the Splendor remained docked in Miami till 11pm Saturday night. Once out of the protective safety from the Port of Miami, we could immediately tell that it was a smart decision by the Splendor’ female captain Serena Melani to delay our departure.
The delay allowed us to enjoy the production show in the Regent Theatre without movement back and fort. Themed Paris and Bohemia, the mini-musical featured songs from Cher, the Gipsy Kings, Enrique Iglesias and others. It was nicely done and 45 minutes long which was perfect for a packed day.
This newest vessel in Regent’s fleet entertains guests with lavish lounges, a peaceful library, and the culinary center where small group hands on classes are offered. While I didn’t participate myself, I peeked in the door and watched the class prepare an Italian dish.
Among the activities I look forward the most on such ship events is the executive update and industry panel. NCL holdings CEO Frank DelRio delivered an upbeat message about the state of the industry and his three brands (Regent, Norwegian, and Oceania) which are delivering strong performance despite the recent turbulence of virus and global uncertainty. We also learned about an as-of-yet unnamed ship #3 coming in 2023.
Stay tuned for more from aboard Spkendor. My next blog will showcase the myriad choices of suites.
Sister ship to RSSC Explorer, the brand new Splendor was officially christened last night in Miami and I was there. Follow me as I discover the many aspects of this ship which Regent says “perfected luxury.”
February in Miami and all you think of is sunny and warm weather. Yet we arrived with deep dark clouds, a chilly 70 degrees (for Florida) and gale force winds which meant the outdoor christening celebration had to be canceled for the enjoyment and safety of all attending dignitaries and guests.
Above is the skeleton of the outdoor stage that was to be the venue for godmother Kristie Brinkley and performing artist SEAL. As a result, the show moved indoors aboard the theatre which was too small to hold all guests. That meant rather disappointingly we had to be seated in the observation lounge to watch the proceedings on TV. Not as impressive and thus no pictures.
Christening out of the way – with a massive bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne smashed against the hull for good luck – the sailing was ready to start. Stay tuned for more on the ship and our 4-night voyage coming up.
Reflecting on a week aboard the Viking Sea, I can confirm that the experience exceeded my expectations. The ship is cozy in an efficient Scandinavian way where every piece and element has a purpose.
Food was exceptional and varied in all venues and the casual aspect of dress is a big plus. Octopus carpaccio above stands in for fresh seafood served daily for dinner at the World Cafe.
The layout of the vessel with its many multi-functional spaces truly sets new standards and explains the popularity of this rapidly expanding fleet. 6 more ships are on order and having experienced it first-hand it will be no problem to fill them.
Should my blogs have wet your appetite, then ping me quickly to secure your spot. 2020 is almost sold out and itineraries are available through 2022.
I rarely do a plug but here it goes “work with a travel professional to get the best deals and amenities – service is fre of charge. You will appreciate that every detail is cared for without you lifting a finger.
As we maneuvered into our parking spot we could easily compare the Viking Sea against the Cunard Queen Victoria. QV launches in 2007 and her hull displaces 90000 GRT, roughly double the size of Viking Sea.
Our included tour took us to the highest point of Barbados (the only non-volcanic Caribbean island) where we got a taste of traditional rum punch – recipe above.
Then we found out where the island’ most famous export grew up and where she stays when visiting. Pop sensation Rihanna has an amazing voice and she is quite the entrepreneur.
The evening hours brought about a “Dancing under the Stars” event with all the classic dance songs that got everyone dancing. Viking nailed its target audience- every song was tailored to the 60 plus crowd!
Docked in Castries, the Viking Sea rests safely moored after a 205 nautical mile overnight journey along the island chain referred to as the Lesser Antilles from St. Kitts to St. Lucia.
Tidbit – the origin of the term Antilles stems from the Portuguese navigators and Portuguese language.
Anth = before & ilha = island
Translated to the “forward or barrier islands” (I.e. the islands before the landmass they sought to discover.
This small island nation became independent from Britain much earlier than our last stop on February 22,1979 Named after the Italian Saint Lucia of Syracuse, this is the only nation on the planet whose name is directly linked to a woman of history.
Our included excursion gave us a great overview of this hilly and lush volcanic island. High up the steep and windy roads, vistas pay you back for the effort.
Along the way we learned about the local economy dominated by tourism (75%) followed by agriculture of bananas, Star fruit and mangoes. Over 30 species of 🥭 grow on the island.
In the above pictures you see the signature Grand et Petit Piton mountain tops which define the landscape. Our last stop at a private residence perched high atop a steep hill offered panoramic vistas, refreshments, and a botanical garden experience of local flora and fauna. Thus came to an end a beautiful but hot day. Stay tuned for more from our next stop – Barbados.
A stunning day awaited us in quaint St. Kitts and neighboring island Nevis. We got off early and took a cab to the last operating sugar mill train to catch a ride. Alas, every seat was sold out so we couldn’t partake in the 3-hour journey.
Tip: book aboard your cruise ship for this experience.
What to do then? Walk through town and marvel at this island nation – independent from British rule since 9/29/1983. It was a journey through time – from slave trading to sugar cane barons to modern day. Fantastic!
In order from top to bottom:
Church of immaculate conception, independence square, Berkeley clock and British phone booth with former slave quarters on each corner.
Rounding out our tour – this portion courtesy of Viking cruises included daily excursions- we toured the former plantation home of Fairview. Dating back to colonial times, this masterpiece of a traditional house is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the stunning ocean vistas.
Last call of the day done, with pina colada in hand, it is time to wrap up this weeks work. More adventures to come tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Our home-away-from-home for the week is the Viking Sea – 2nd ship in Vikings fleet of ocean ships – with just under 1000 guests aboard. A delightfully simple layout with tons of cozy seating options abounds aboard. Definitely different from its rivals in this space.
My deluxe veranda cabin category DV2 is located mid-ship on deck 6. First impressions were of comfort and quality. The cabin is spacious (even with two individual beds) and features “the best bathroom” design ever. Pluses are the countless electrical outlets and USB ports as well as the bath amenities one can read without glasses (shampoo, conditioner, lotion etc.) – see above. I wish hotels did this too – its been too many times that I had lotion in my hair instead of conditioner with the traditionally tiny print on bottles and tubes.
Viking’s Scandinavian efficiency and style is omnipresent. Spacious walk-in shower and double vanity with tons of storage in clear wood colors are a treat.
I have seen many a bathroom on my many cruise adventures of late and this one clearly sets the standard for traditional cabin categories. (If I can sneak a peek into a suite, I will report back on that later)
The modern, yet cozy feel permeates the entire ship. From the bar in the main dining room to the tables in cozy groupings, each with comfy chairs and plush pillows, makes me feel right at home.
Meals are excellent and varied. Just as guests experience on a river ship, dining is on an open seating basis from 6 to 9pm. No queues, no buzzzers, no early or late – just go and eat – amazing!
From the top, the fabulous salmon and dill eggs benedict, seafood buffet at World Cafe (offered daily), and the tasty beef Wellington are just a few samples of our tasty meals so far. Note also that wine and beer are covered at meal times – I call it the bottomless glass – which is a big plus.
More to come as we discover the public spaces of this vessel.
One of the benefits of Viking’s itinerary is the overnight in San Juan which allowed us a full day of exploring.
After breakfast on board, we walked over to the Sheraton Old Town and picked up our wheels for the day. I won’t hold it against Hertz but it’s been 10 years since I had one of these Chrysler model 300. Even though the outside looks still good on this 2018 version, the interior feels like it was designed 20 year’s ago – no USB outlets, no screens and the dashboard plastics were hard as a rock with graining mimicking 1980s textures. It flattering!
once settled in, We drove out of town to the National Forrest of El Yunque which is a stunningly lush rainforest draped over mountain peaks. It’s funny what rain does – greenery in every shade light up the hillsides and the canopy provides shade from the hot sun or rain – we had both.
We hiked on one of the many trails toget a glimpse into the thick greenery. Rewarded with stunning flowers and o dose of rain, the short 45-min walk felt refreshing after the long flight.
From the rainforest, we made our way across the countryside to the Hacienda Minos where Arabica coffee beans are farmed. A delicious lunch of traditional Puerto Rican rice dishes awaited us.
It was yummy and the coffee beer was a uniquely flavored brew that worked very well with our dishes. It is made from unroasted fermented coffee beans and yeast. Very creative!
Stay tuned for more adventures as the days unfold.