Mary & Bill Cross the Atlantic on the Royal Clipper
Working in the travel business I meet people with 2 divergent opinions of cruising –
Opinion 1: I want to enjoy the port experience. Cruising is a convenient way to get from port to port. Yes, the cruise ship and its amenities are important but the immersive port experience is what drives the choice of cruises.
Opinion 2: I want to enjoy the ship. In fact, I don’t care if I ever get off the ship. I love the casinos, the onboard entertainment, lectures, and the food and drink. I love hanging out in the lounges, restaurants, library, and coffee shop – hanging out with new friends I meet onboard.
I recently had the privilege of traveling to Thailand and Laos with Kay Tran, founder of V’Explore Tours and expert in Southeast Asia destinations, on a small group tour. Our group was also hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. With an emphasis on visiting emerging destinations, this was a very special opportunity to see things few Americans do through the eyes of locals.
What an experience! This tour immersed our group in food, culture and customs, and even hands on crafting. Our 11-day exotic adventure took us from Bangkok to the northeast Thailand cities of Sakon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom – from whence we traveled into small villages; then over the Friendship Bridge 2 to Savannakhet, Laos and on to its capital city of Vientiane and finally to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang.
Food is central to the Thai way of life. Every day, we ate exotic tropical fruit – either displayed beautifully in our hotel room, picked up at local markets, or as the ubiquitous end to our delicious meals. And we sampled a vast array of food – my favorite being the soups (ranging from very spicy curries to a phenomenal black chicken soup with a light and flavorful broth) and chicken or fish wrapped in banana leaf. In the small village of Baan Nhon Hom, we participated in a cooking class (and competition) – learning how to make green papaya salad, grilled beef (we picked up the famous local beef at market) with spicy sauce, soup with pork ribs, and a grilled fish chili paste (perfect for dipping).
Every meal was an embarrassment of riches – so much food and so little capacity for eating it all! But we sampled everything (and those with special dietary requirements were graciously offered alternatives). In Laos, the food was milder and more subtle in flavor – with the French influence thanks to this country’s history as once a part of French Indochina. We especially loved the Mekong seaweed – sometimes chewy and sometimes crispy. In Luang Prabang we had the opportunity to share dessert at Paste, the Laotian outpost of the famous Bangkok Michelin starred restaurant. My dessert, the coconut noodles, was one I’ll crave and sadly be unable to re-create. It’s a great reason to return to this part of the world.
Just a Few Days to Add Pre or Post? Pick a Great City and Go for It!
I joined two friends on a Norway-bound Celebrity ship out of Southampton this spring. It was a gorgeous cruise but only 7 days so why not take advantage of the long flight and enjoy a few extra days? This go-round, we selected one of my favorite cities in the world – London!
It does not matter how many times you visit this iconic city, there is always something new. And in London, the old never gets old. Here, a few highlights from our 4 days:
Day 1. The best advice after a long flight from the US is to stay awake till the sun sets! We settled in to our accommodations in Fitzrovia and walked to the corner pub for a light lunch and to explore the neighborhood. I highly recommend boutique hotels or apartments in one of London’s many neighborhoods. Shopping, restaurants, pubs, and museums abound whether you’re in Fitzrovia, Mayfair, Knightsbridge – or many other fabulous areas of this colorful city. And when you have just a few days, make sure to have a “must-do” list. For us, a must-do was fish & chips which we enjoyed at the Golden Hind – a mile walk down the road followed by a quick trip to the neighborhood Tesco to get a bottle of wine and some snacks for our apartment.
Bill and I were joined by 4 other Half Moon Bay couples on a life-transforming journey to the Galapagos Islands this month. As a travel advisor, I looked at many options and ways to experience the Galapagos – and was completely swept away by Silversea’s expedition itinerary aboard the lovely Silver Galapagos.
What Silversea offered:
• A fully inclusive experience from our US based flights to Ecuador, hotels on the mainland for 2 night in Quito and 1 day in Guayaquil, flights to the islands, and 7 nights aboard an elegant yet low-key ship
Recently, I took a short trip to New York City – an action packed long weekend arranged through Bay World Travel’s relationship with New York City Vacation Packages. My friend Joanne came up from New Jersey, and 1 day into the trip I was surprised by two other friends who decided to join us for the weekend.
While I’ve gone to school in New York, worked in New York, and visited for business reasons through the year, I’ve never been a tourist in New York. I know New York is an amazing city but seeing it through visitor’s eyes provided a new perspective. Here are my top 5 reasons to make New York City a girlfriends’ getaway.
1. Convenience. I live in California so traveling across the US for a long weekend might seem to be a bit much. But honestly, flights are convenient, frequent and affordable. Plus no passport is required, and you’ll land in New York quicker than driving between northern and southern California. There are nonstop flights from the West Coast into New York’s two biggest airports – JFK and Newark – and lots of connecting flights into La Guardia and White Plains as well.