Archives for category: Family Reunion

I was a reluctant cruiser. After years of traveling through the US and Europe “independently,” setting our own schedule, stopping when we want to stop, eating when we want to eat, left me with a bias against cruises.  Someone else having control of my schedule just isn’t my thing, I’d tell friends and clients alike. But earlier this year, our family was made an offer we couldn’t refuse and next thing we knew, we were booking our cabin on a Spring Break cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream.

We boarded the ship on Monday leaving Port Canaveral for our first stop in Nassau.  The ship’s lobby was gorgeous, very old Hollywood glamour, with a glass chandelier handmade in Italy, open ceilings and a touch of Disney with a bronze Admiral Donald Duck greeting passengers as they board.

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Others had told me that the ships weren’t overly “Disneyfied” and that was true.  Certainly Disney was present in its décor, but subtly so.  The biggest Disney characteristic was in the service provided on board.  The staff was accommodating beyond words. Our wait staff, Gilbert and Christina, who remained with us every night despite rotating through the onboard restaurants, entertained the children along with providing impeccable wait service.  The spa esthetician was the best I’ve experienced.

My husband found the workings of the ship itself fascinating.  Never having travelled on such a large vessel, watching the crew “park” and secure the ship, was amazing itself.  Watching the ship approach Nassau from our verandah, first a lighthouse, than a slip of land, then the massive Atlantis complex raised excitement from everyone.  However, the most excitement for the day was swimming with the dolphins at the Blue Lagoon, one of ship excursions. After an hour with the dolphins and a few more spent snorkeling in the crystal blue lagoon, we were well on our way to becoming cruise converts.  Going to dinner and a show then waking up in Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, made us fully converted.

I would be remiss to not mention the Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab, the kids clubs for the younger kids onboard.  Our children chose to go for an hour or so each day after dinner.  During that time, my husband and I explored the ship’s adult areas.  My personal favorite was the swanky champagne lounge, complete with pink and silver décor and a bubble fixture and corset bar. While I think my husband probably preferred the sports bar, what was clear is that there was plenty to do without children on board.

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Champagne Bar

Perhaps the highlight of the trip, however, was Castaway Cay.  The morning began with the Castaway Cay 5K, crossing the island at my slow and other passengers much faster pace.  After the run, the beach provided plenty to do, from lounging to in-ocean waterslides and ropes area. The island itself has large family beach areas and adult beach area, bike trails and designated snorkeling areas.   Despite the cruise being completely booked, the island never felt crowded or cramped.  Snorkeling equipment and floats are available for rent.  Our favorite activities were swimming with the stingrays and snorkeling searching for the sunken “treasure” off the beach.

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After 5 days onboard, I must admit that never once did I tire of having the schedule set for us.  There were dozens of activities scheduled each day, but we never once felt pressured to do any of them. They were options, not requirements.  As the person who typically makes the plans on vacations, it was refreshing to not have to worry about where we were going to dinner or what we were doing on a particular day.  Would I want to cruise for every vacation? Probably not. Will I do it again? Absolutely.

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To book your trip or for more information, contact your favorite travel agent at Favorite Place Travel or call 404.409.4174.

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This is my third and final post on my experiences in Nassau, each of them very different.  Please refer to Part 1 and Part 2 for the full series.

My third visit to Nassau was on a short cruise, and I was ready to experience a typical “cruise excursion”, but I didn’t want to go through the cruise line.  I used Shore Trips to book a 10-mile bike tour. My husband and I were instructed to meet our guide in front of the Parliament Building which is just a couple of blocks from the port.

Nassau, Bahamas Parliament

While we were standing on the corner in front of the Parliament Building, limousines began arriving and dignitaries got out and walked into the building. They were a part of the mourning party for former parliamentarian and educator Frank Leopold Edgecombe. We were witnessing an important piece of Bahamian history!

Our guide met us in her personal car, a lovely lady who hailed from England, but has lived in Nassau over 20 years. She took us to her home where we got on her bikes and took off.

While this may seem unsafe, getting in the car of a total stranger and going to her home, I knew she was vetted and trusted by Shore Trips, and not once did I feel unsafe. The guide lives on the other side of the island, so we got to see a lot of Nassau that most tourists never get to see. We got to see where the locals live, away from the port, the rum cake and Senior Frogs.

We took off on our bikes, and the guide provided some cookies, bottled water and rain ponchos. I didn’t think we’d need the ponchos, but it turns out the local guide knew what she was doing, and a few miles in, the bottom fell out of the sky and we were spared from getting soaked due to the foresight of the rain ponchos.

Now, lest you be midled, this wasn’t a scenic tour of Nassau for 10 miles. We went down old roadways, through not-so-pretty scenery, but it wasn’t a strenuous ride, and we ended up at a local beach in the village of Adelaide where the water was still and clear, far from the tourists. I was able to get a conch shell right out of the water that the locals had discarded, instead of paying $20 for one marketed to the tourists.

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“Keep da beach clean”

We returned to the ship in plenty of time, and of my three visits to Nassau, this experience was one of the favorites. Exploring on our own (Part 1) was excellent, although due to safety concerns, I don’t recommend it. My visit to Atlantis (Part 2)  was once-in-a-lifetime, but been there, done that.

This organized trip by Shore Trips allowed us to see parts of the island we otherwise would not have seen and meet a great woman who loves her island and was eager to share with us.

To book your trip or for more information, contact your favorite travel agent at Favorite Place Travel or call 404.409.4174.

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Have you been waiting for the perfect time to plan your next, or **GASP**, first Disney vacation?
The Free Dining Promotion is the offer you’ve been waiting for!  It is now available to Disney Visa cardholders and it will be available to the general public on May 7th!
Does this promotion offer any real value to you?  YES!  The Regular Dining Plan is roughly $60/adult/day and roughly $21/child/day, so for a 3-night, 2 day stay for a family of 2 adults and 2 children, the Free Dining Promotion is a value of almost $500!
The travel dates for the promo are
8/31-10/3/14
10/26-11/1/14
11/9-11/20/14
12/12-12/23/14

A 3-night/2-day ticket is required.  Dining Plan is attached to your room nights, not the number of park ticket days.  Promotion is based on arrival date, so if you arrive on 10/3/14, for example, you would get Free Dining for the length of your stay.
Not valid at all resorts.  Value Resorts receive Quick-Service Dining but can upgrade to Plus Dining for a reduced fee.
Contact Favorite Place Travel for details and to secure your magical vacation!

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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Disney in the Extreme –Part I Travelling with a Large Group

Everyone thinks of a trip to Disney World as a vacation for kids- maybe take the family a couple of times while the kids are little, check it off your family “to do” list and move on to the next thing. However for many of us who grew up in a “Disney family”, a trip to Disney World feels like coming home.  Over the recent holidays, that’s exactly what 32 members of my family did, we came “home”.

Travelling with 32 people, coupled with the Christmas craziness, led to an experience I like to think of as “Disney in the extreme”.  Travelling with a large group of people, let alone family, can remove any hope of relaxing right out of your vacation plans, but after a few of these trips, I’ve learned a few things that that can help you and your group have a great trip, maybe even with a little relaxation time too.

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1. Pre-planning is a must. Start thinking about your group vacation at least 3-4 months ahead of time. Whether your trip is to Disney World or the beach or Ireland, when you are travelling with a large group of people, plans are imperative. Restaurants likely can’t take a large group as a walk-in at peak dinner hours, especially at Disney where restaurant reservations can be made up to 180 days ahead of time. Hotels fill up, especially at peak vacation times, and it’s much more difficult to “squeeze in” a large group versus a single family.

 

Families that play together, stay together

2. Discuss your expectations. It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page. Will you all be travelling together all day, every day, or just meeting up for a few meals or activities during the week? Talking about everyone’s expectations ahead of time can save hurt feelings due to some members of your family having different ideas about what the vacation will be.

3. Don’t overplan. Yes, this tip seems to contradict #1, but really they balance each other out.  While you should have some plans set in stone, leave time to just “hang out” and enjoy each other’s company. Cousins really get to enjoy and get to know each other while playing in the pool. If you have cooking facilities, have dinner in one night where everyone can relax without the pressure of time or worrying about disrupting other guests.

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Taking time to enjoy your family (or whomever your group may be) outside of the hustle and bustle of everyday life can lead to experiencing them in a whole different, relaxed light. Let us assist you in making your trip one full of a lifetime of memories.

 

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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DIVE INTO BIG SAVINGS WITH THIS SUMMER OFFER!

GoofyWith special benefits and legendary service, Disney Resort hotels are filled with wonder and excitement. And now is a great time for you to take the plunge with huge savings!

Save on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for stays most nights June 15 – Aug. 28, 2014.

Save up to 30% when you stay up to 5 nights*
Save up to 35% when you stay 6 nights or longer*
Save even more when you stay 6 nights or longer and add minimum 6-day Magic Your Way® Tickets to your room!**Not valid at all WDW Resorts

Book by June 6, 2014

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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In Part 1 of this series on Nassau, Bahamas, I talked about visiting tourist spots outside of an organized excursion through the cruise line.

The second time I visited Nassau, I was able to stay at Atlantis with my husband.  Atlantis is a behemoth, and it is every bit as amazing in person as it is on all of the commercials on tv.   It is a cross between a popular water park and Vegas.

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The beaches are beautiful and the water slides are thrilling!  After going down the Leap of Faith, the slide that goes straight down and through the shark tank, it took me a minute to recover my wobbly knees!  There was competition to get a chair by the large pool due to all of the cruise day-pass traffic, so be sure to go down to the pool early before they arrive.Atlantis Leap of Faith water slide

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Much like a cruise ship, all of the water activities shut down at dark and the nightlife begins.  There is a boardwalk area called the Marina Village at Atlantis adjacent to the resort with family-friendly dining including Ben and Jerry’s and Johnny Rockets, and shopping.  There are many different activities for children in the resort, including a family-friendly restaurant, Sea Grapes. There are also many restaurants and clubs to enjoy if you find yourself without kids for an evening.   There is a movie theater within the resort that shows both kid-friendly movies and popular blockbusters for the older crowd.

My advice for planning a visit to Atlantis:

  • Wait until your kids are old enough to enjoy the bigger thrill water slides.  If your children are small, I wouldn’t make this large of an investment to enjoy a kiddie pool.  The grandeur will be lost on them, and you’ll be captive to the kid areas, preventing you from getting the most bang for your buck.
  • If you want to experience the culture of the Bahamas, you’ll have to leave the resort.  Atlantis strives to provide for your every need so aside from arriving at the airport and driving to the resort, you may as well be in a sunny location in the US…or anywhere.  There is no local color represented here, but you can cross the bridge from Paradise Island and go into Nassau if you’d like to do some local shopping and dining.
  •  Atlantis is not a budget-vacation.  The price of a fully encompassing vacation is steep, so budget ahead of time (and then save more) so you can fully enjoy everything Atlantis has to offer.

There is a way to enjoy Atlantis on a smaller budget by staying at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island Hotel that is located adjacent to the Atlantis Resort.  When you stay at this hotel, you have full use of all the facilities at Atlantis.  This is a fabulous way to enjoy the luxury offered at this opulent resort for less!

The Atlantis Resort is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination for many and Favorite Place Travel would love to help you make this dream vacation a reality!

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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Have you been waiting for the perfect time to take your kids on their first visit to Disney World?  Do you dream of visiting Disney World but are convinced it is out of your budget?

I have three opportunities to make your Disney World trip more affordable and get more BANG for your buck!

1.  Fall Room Offer
This offer must be booked by November 3, 2013 and is valid for travel November 10-November 22, 2013 and November 30-December 23, 2013.

You can receive 15%-30% off on select Disney Resorts in the Value, Moderate and Deluxe categories.

2.  Winter Room Offer
This offer must be booked by December 31, 2013 and is valid for travel  January 5-March 5, 2014 and March 14-April 12, 2014.

You can receive 20%-35% off on select Disney Resort in the Value, Moderate and Deluxe categories.

3. Stay, Play, and Dine Offer
This offer must be booked by December 31, 2013 and is valid for travel January 5-March 5, 2014.

You can save up to $600, based on a family of four on a 5-night, 6-day Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining at select Disney Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts.  Or you can save $400, based on a family of four, on a 5-night, 6-day Magic Your Way Package Plus Quick Service Dining at select Disney Value Resorts.

These three promotions are available right now, and you can always count on your agents at Favorite Place Travel to make sure you are taking advantage of the best deal for your family.

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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We’ve made it through summer, and now it is time to start planning the next family reunion, but wait!  I have an idea!

Since you’ve done the same location every year for the past 20 years, and it is getting tired, what if you traveled to a destination where dreams come true?

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You’ve played the same game of badminton and cornhole with Uncle Fred for 18 of those years.

It’s time to breathe some life into this party!  Rollercoasters!  Haunted Mansions!

You’ve eaten the same macaroni salad from Aunt Marilyn for 19 of those years, and you’ve laughed at the same stories for all 20 years, trying your hardest to sound genuinely entertained.

How about genuine laughter brought on by our favorite Monsters, Mike and Sully, or the crazy antics of a Mouse and his friends?

UGH!  Just the thought of coordinating your entire family, including cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents from every corner of the United States is overwhelming…nah, we’ll stick with the same old routine…

But what if you have help planning it, so that the grandparents who don’t move as quickly as the grandchildren can have fun also?  Your single brother and his girlfriend who want to peruse the World Showcase at EPCOT can enjoy their time while the nieces and nephews play in the Dinosaur Graveyard at Animal Kingdom.  Everyone gets to enjoy their vacation!

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AND you don’t have to plan it alone!  

Your Favorite Travel Planners at Favorite Place Travel will create a package for your family so each family unit can customize their Disney vacation exactly how they want, while providing opportunities for the entire family to gather and share stories and memories from their Disney adventures.

You can take a group tour behind the scenes at one of the theme parks or have a private character meal just for your family.  Your group may be eligible for group discounts on park tickets and lodging.

All you have to do is provide basic information to your Favorite Place Travel Planner, and the planning begins…no headaches, no stress!

Give us a call to start planning the most memorable family reunion to the Happiest Place on Earth!

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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