Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Rio De Janiero, Brazil

   "Rio is famous for its wild beaches and Carnival celebrations. But this energetic city offers so much more. It lies between the sea and several fertile green mountains, including Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) Mountain, and Corcovado, home to the famous art-deco statue of Christ the Redeemer. Lined with 23 beaches along its coast, its most famous, Copacabana and Ipanema, are teeming with bikers, walkers, joggers, surfers, swimmers and sunbathers, all enjoying the scene as much as the sun."

The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"You haven't seen Rio until you've walked the mosaic-tile sidewalks of Ipanema or Copacabana. Watch a game of beach volleyball, or enjoy a cold drink in a beachside café. Then see it all again from above, looking down from Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar). Take the cable car up to the top for the view of a lifetime, looking down on Ipanema and Copacabana, the city skyline, the bay, and even Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado. It's a sight you'll never forget."

Sporting Adventures

"With beaches this beautiful, it's no wonder the locals have made the breathtaking miles of sand a surf the field for their sports. Soccer, or as the locals say, futebol is the most popular Brazilian sport and is often played right on this sandy turf. Brazilians are also passionate about beach volleyball, surfing, kitesurfing, sailing, competitive rowing and frescobol, a type of beach tennis. You may even see a hanglider or two using the beach as their landing strip."

Local Flavors

"Rio is a great place to try regional Brazilian cuisine. Meat lovers won't want to miss visiting a churrascaria, where various freshly grilled meats are brought to your table on long swords. You'll find meats of every kind and cut, including several you've never heard of. Try them, they're all delicious. Alongside the meat, you'll likely find feijoada, a hearty stew of black beans and pork served with rice at almost every meal. You won't be hungry again soon after such a substantial meal, and you won't forget it soon either."

Shopping for Bargains

"If you like shopping in quirky boutiques and fun shops, you won't want to miss shopping in Ipanema. You'll find outrageous bikini boutiques, fun shops that have spawned nationally-known brands, and even major jewelers selling Brazilian gems. Stroll along Rua Visconde de Pirajá peering in the windows - you never know what you'll discover."


"Brazil's currency is the Brazilian real (BRL). Most stores will accept credit cards; however, traveler's checks are not usually accepted. You may get a discount if you pay with cash."

For more information visit

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 9: Tobago

Tobago Maps and Orientation: Tobago, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

By Ed Wetschler, Recommend Magazine

   "The simple fact that the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is the first full-service resort to open on Tobago in 12 years tell you a lot about Trinidad's shy little sister. This island at the southern end of the Caribbean is not exactly the capital of big resorts. Instead, it's a land of big trees, orange-winged parrots, coral reefs that glow like neon and locals who haven't been jaded by mass tourism. Ah, but will the Magdalena Grand-a large facility with the amenities of a four-star family- and group-friendly resort- ruin this latter-day Eden? Not at all. Tobago's pristine attractions are too numerous to be disturbed by one new hotel. What the Magdalena Grand does do is turn an island that might have been a mere niche interest for nature lovers, into a viable destination for people whose typical interests are more conventional- a place where they can comfortably try new adventures and get acquainted with Eden."

   "In contrast to most of the other hostelries on Tobago- which include a lot of small inns and hotels that offer limited services- the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is a self-contained hideaway that will please travelers who want new facilities, golf, a spa, on-premises restaurants and bars, and other familiar touchstones. At the same time, it opens up new worlds through hiking, birding, and snorkeling and diving trips."

   "Tobago resembles a 26-mile-long stogie pointing southwest to northeast, with the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort occupying a long, sandy beach on the Atlantic side where the Hilton used to be. It lies south of the hurricane belt, so this is one of those few Caribbean resorts guests can book for August or September without getting into hot or wind-blown water."

Quoted from Recommend magazine August 2012 vol.27 number 11 page 48

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Ketchikan, Alaska

Alaskan Summer 2012 Family Cruise-Day Seven, Ketchikan

   "Ketchikan originated as an Indian fish saltery, but the town's major growth began when it became a supply base and entry port for miners during the 1898 Gold Rush to the Klondike. Much of the town's colorful past is still in evidence, especially in the nearby Indian villages, where you'll see colorful carved totem poles and hear the fascinating legends that surround them."

The One Thing You Don't Want To Miss

"While fishing is by far the most popular sport in Ketchikan, there are a lot of other activities for people to take part in. In fact, one of the best ways to see the area and enjoy the scenery is simply to take a walk through town and to the Totem Heritage Center. There, you can explore the history of totem poles and see some terrific examples."

Other Fun Things To Do

"Experience the sheer granite cliffs, plunging 1,000-foot waterfalls, crystalline lakes and low-hanging mists of Misty Fjords from the air on a seaplane.
Fill your senses with excitement and adventure as you take the wheel of a four-wheel-drive vehicle and wend your way through a lush rain forest.
Treat yourself to a rowdy good time at The Great Alaskan Lumbejack Show where the world's best timber athletes go head to head in an action-packed hour of fun for the entire family!"

Sporting Adventures

"Take a memorable kayaking trip to the beautiful Tatoosh Island. Keep a lookout for bald eagles, seals, and sea lions.
Search for the Alaskan black bear on an exciting wildlife air/land adventure. It's one adventure not to be missed by the nature-lover or photographer.
Take a Jeep® safari deep into the backcountry to a pristine alpine lake, where you'll go for a scenic canoe ride.
Five varieties of North Pacific salmon thrive in the cold waters off Ketchikan. Our experienced guides will take you out fishing in a well-equipped fishing boat and, if you'd like, we can even arrange to have your catch sent home for you.
Immerse yourself in Alaska's breathtaking underwater world as you snorkel the calm and clear waters of Mountain Point.
Glide through the top of a rainforest canopy along a series of dual cables suspended between tall trees."

Get A Taste Of Local Flavor

"Ketchikan is the "Salmon Capital of the World," and as you'd expect, the salmon are plentiful and fresh."

Local Currency

"The official currency of the United States is the U.S. Dollar (USD)."

For more information visit

"Secrets From A Travel Agent"

Week 7:"Which Cruise Line Is Right For You?"

Super Vacation Cruises-Cruise the Caribbean!

What Cruise Line is Right for You?

Posted by Fodor's Editors on December 01, 2005 at 1:10:40 PM EST
Posted in Cruises
Not only are there different destinations for cruises but each cruise line tailors its activities to suit a broad range of lifestyles. Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind while sifting through brochures.
For Families -- Cruise ships with trained youth counselors and the most extensive facilities for children and teens, as well as a full roster of activities for parents and grandparents, include Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line.
For Sports Fans -- Royal Caribbean can't be beat for on board sports; each ship has a rock-climbing wall and sports courts, while some have miniature golf courses, roller-blading tracks, and ice-skating rinks.
For Water-Sports Enthusiasts -- Snorkelers and divers rate Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises highly for their organized tours and diving instruction programs. Small ships with retractable marinas offer the opportunity to sail, windsurf, and water ski from the comfort of your ship.
For Romantics -- Smaller ships with intimate lounges, such as SeaDream Yacht Club, Windstar Cruises, and Royal Clippers are the favorites of many couples. But don't overlook the cruise line that introduced us to the Love Boat -- while Princess Cruises' vessels are large, their signature feature is an abundance of private balconies.
For Foodies -- The importance of cruise food can't be overlooked and the hottest dining experience at sea is found on ships with specialty restaurants. Some feature regional cuisines, such as the highly rated Italian and Asian restaurants on Crystal Cruise Line ships. Others, like the fleets of Princess Cruises and Holland American Line, have upscale steak houses that serve the highest quality cuts of beef available. For a nominal fee, the meals are an exceptional value and the wine lists feature some of the world's finest vintages.
Cruise Ship Categories
Finding a cruise line that matches your personality is as important as finding the right ship. Some cruise lines cater to families, others to couples, active singles, and even food and wine aficionados. Selecting the right one can mean the difference between struggling with unmet expectations and enjoying the vacation of a lifetime. Some of the differences are subtle, but today's cruise lines fall into three basic categories: Mainstream, Premium, and Luxury.
Mainstream Lines
*Ships tend to be the big, bigger, and biggest at sea, carrying the highest number of passengers per available space.
*Ship decor runs the gamut, from glitz and glitter to nautical kitsch.
*Staterooms range from inside cabins for three and four to a variety of outside cabin configurations with or without balconies.
*Schedules include enough activities to keep even the most hyperactive passenger content. Expect to find deck sports, team trivia and "scavenger hunt" contests, Bingo, golf, and more.
*Entertainment tends to be high-energy, Las Vegas--style production shows; you can always find a variety of lounges.
*Dining is generally traditional, with two assigned seatings in the main restaurant for dinner. However, several mainstream cruise lines are experimenting with variations of open-seating dining and alternative restaurant options.
*Service is friendly but not necessarily polished.
The major cruise lines in this category are, among others, Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International.
Premium Lines
*Ships tend to be newer mid-size to large vessels that carry fewer passengers than mainstream ships and have a more spacious feel.
*Decor is usually more glamorous and subtle, with toned-down colors and extensive original art.
*Staterooms range from inside cabins for three or four to outside cabins with or without balconies to suites with numerous amenities, including butlers on some lines.
*In addition to traditional cruise activities, on-board lectures are common.
*Production shows are somewhat more sophisticated.
*Most ships offer two traditional assigned seatings for dinner. High marks are afforded the quality cuisine and presentation. Many ships have upscale bistros or specialty restaurants, which usually require reservations and command an additional charge.
*Attentive service is polished and unobtrusive.
The major cruise lines in this category are, among others, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Mediterranean Shipping Cruises, Oceania Cruises, and Princess Cruise Line.
Luxury Lines
*Ships range from megayachts for only a hundred or so privileged guests to mid-size vessels, which are considered large for this category. Space is so abundant that you might wonder where the other passengers are hiding.
*Tasteful and elegant surroundings often include such touches as authentic antiques and priceless art collections.
*Spacious staterooms are frequently all suites. On the newest ships, all cabins feature an ocean view or balcony, not to mention a high-tech entertainment center with CD players and TVs with VCRs or DVDs. Expect designer bath toiletries, fine linens, and fresh-cut flowers.
*Enrichment programs with celebrity and scholarly guest speakers and culinary classes taught by famous chefs augment traditional shipboard activities. Libraries are well-stocked with books, music, and movies to borrow.
*Evening entertainment varies by ship size, from cabaret to stylish production shows to none at all. Luxury-minded passengers tend to entertain themselves.
*Health clubs and spas are fully equipped and staffed with professionals who bring new meaning to indulgence. After jogging or a serious workout, guests can wind down with a swim or savor a relaxing soak in generous hot tubs.
*Open seating is the norm, and guests dine where and with whom they please during dinner hours. Top international chefs are tapped for their culinary expertise in designing menus to please the palate. Complimentary wines accompany meals on most high-end lines.
*At this level, the service staffs anticipate their guests' desires, and it's rare that a special request goes unfulfilled.
*You will not find the help groveling for gratuities. If they're not already included in the fare, tips are oh-so-discreetly suggested.
The major cruise lines in this category are, among others, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, and Silversea Cruises.
---Linda Coffman

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 8: El Salvador

"El Salvador"

By Carla Hunt, Recommend Magazine

   "El Salvador may be Central America's smallest country, but it is filled with lots of things to see and do. From the capital, San Salvador, travelers drive just 30 minutes south to Costa del Sol, where you'll find a stretch of beach to call your own, and a world-class surfing waves to share- ISA World Masters Surfing Championships put the spotlight on Punta Roca. Or go north from the capital to the colonial town of Sochitoto with its cobblestone streets and thriving arts scene, then follow the Route of the Flowers that winds through the mountain coffee producing area to charming villages such as Apaneca and Ataco. The Route of the Artisans weaves along the folk art villages of Ilobasco (clay miniatures), San Sebastian (weavings), and La Palma (crafts inspired by the famous artist, Fernando Llort). In a country with 25 volcanoes, there is some unforgettable scenery, as hikers discover within the tropical forests of El Imposible National Park, and antiquity aficionados will thrill when visiting the pre-Colombian site of Joya de Ceren along La Ruta Maya."

Quoted from Recommend magazine August 2012 vol.27 number 11 page S3

"Vogue's Featured Cruise Port"

Kingstown, St. Vincent


   "Kingston is a small Caribbean city that's big on old world charm. As capital of the lush volcanic island of St. Vincent, known to the Caribs as "Hairoun" (Land of the Blessed), Kingstown welcomes tranquility-seekers and adventurers alike. If strolling down cobblestone streets and visiting beautiful old churches is just your speed, you're in luck. However, St. Vincent also offers plenty of opportunities for spotting dolphins, hiking nature trails and swimming in waterfalls."

The One Thing You Don't Want to Miss

"A trip to Kingstown would not be complete without a visit to the St. Vincent Botanical Gardens. Established in 1763, they are the oldest in the Western Hemisphere and are home to some of the island's remaining endangered St. Vincent parrots, as well as some very rare indigenous plants and trees. This beautiful 20-acre park serves as a peaceful sanctuary in the middle of a city that's constantly abuzz."

Sporting Adventures

"If you're an explorer at heart, climbing the volcano could be the perfect challenge to round out your vacation. But for a less intense workout in equally spectacular surroundings, head out to Buccament Valley for some hiking and bird watching on the Vermont Nature Trails. And keep your eyes peeled for other interesting species of wildlife, like iguanas and armadillos."

Local Flavors

"The best way to get a taste of this authentic Caribbean city is by visiting Kingstown Market where you'll find people from all over selling spices, fruits, flowers and more. From the rich aromas and textures to the colorful personalities, it is truly a unique experience. So be sure to come prepared for lots of photo opportunities!"

Shopping for Bargains

"With only a dozen small blocks to cover, Kingstown is an ideal city for walking around and browsing in shops. Whether you're looking for local crafts to take home as souvenirs or you're in the market for a bigger investment like crystal or bone china, you'll find them - and everything in between - in the "City of Arches."


"The official currency of St. Vincent is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), however U.S. dollars are widely accepted in most restaurants, shops and hotels. The same is true for credit cards and traveler's checks."

For more information visit

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"Hot and Happening Spots"

Week 7: Seeing Africa on Foot and by Canoe

Zambezi River

By Sarah Munoz, Recommend Magazine

   "The seduction of an African escape unfurls in Zambia's southern province and reveals itself in the northern bank of the Zambezi River, where Baines' River Camp- part of the Mantis Collection- is located. This is a colonial-style lodge offering a variety of up-close-and-personal options beyond the traditional game drive, although they also do those, and do them well- there will be plenty of big-game spotting in both the Lower Zambezi National Park and the Chiawa Partnership Park, considered one of Africa's last true wilderness areas, with animals still roaming freely."

   "For starters, there's a canoe safari- navigating the river's waters silently, without the noise of a motor, and gliding up to an antelope, birds' nests, buffalo and other creatures. Braver souls can try a walking safari, exploring the area on foot with a scout from the Zambia Wildlife Authority. With this option, the focus is on smaller animals, tracks and plant life, with travelers discovering everything from colorful insects to medicinal herbs."

   "Yet another alternative? An angling expedition- catch and release only- on the Zambezi, famous for the African tiger fish and other species such as bream, Cornish Jack and vundu. Baines' River Camp offers fly-fishing clinics that include four nights at the lodge and an overnight in a tented camp on the eastern boundary of the Lower Zambezi so as to cover more ground. Baines' also offers photo safaris during the year for photographers of all levels, as well as elephant workshops to learn more about the gentle animals."

   "The camp itself offers just eight decked-out suites, each named after a different African explorer and each with views of Africa's fourth longest river. Rates are inclusive of meals, laundry service and standard safari activities."

Quoted from Recommend magazine July 2012 vol.27 number 10 pages 35-36