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Top 5 Reasons to Book a Mini-Vacation with Girlfriends: A New York Minute

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.

New York

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Luxury and Biodiversity: Explore The Galápagos

Top 3 Reasons to Come With Us on This Once-in-a-Lifetime Expedition

Home to Charles Darwin’s famous observations, the Galápagos islands are home to rare animal species found nowhere else on Earth. Each of the group’s many islands hosts a unique ecosystem of tortoise, finch, and countless species of sky, land, and sea.

With so many ways to see these amazing islands, we always opt for staying and traveling aboard a cruise ship. SilverSea Expeditions® offers a number of seven-day Galápagos cruises, with the perfect balance of luxury and adventure. With the best expert field guides-per-visitor ratio, SilverSea is our cruise line of choice for the Galápagos. These are the things we love about this experience!

Cruise, Galapagos

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Top 5 Reasons to Cruise to Mexico

I’m just back from a glorious 7-night cruise aboard Holland America’s MS Westerdam – joined by my sister and 2 friends to celebrate a milestone birthday.  We embarked in San Diego – bound for the lovely Mexican Riviera ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta – but honestly many of the highlights were enjoyed right on board.  Here are the top 5 reasons I love this itinerary and cruise line –

1. Mexico culture immersion.  I’m not just talking about Margaritas though they were certainly featured along with a daily taco bar poolside – but the gracious Mexican ambassadors who sang, danced, and taught us about this beautiful country and culture.  My sister and I even braved a salsa and merengue dance lesson – technically not Mexican but the Latin vibe is irresistible under the warm Mexican sun.

2. Spa day!  3 leisurely sea days provided the inspiration for complete relaxation.  The hot stone massage was heaven as were the heated tile beds and steam room looking out over the gentle Pacific waves.  This Holland America ship was the most stable I’ve ever sailed on …. no rolling sensation on shore, just a gentle rocking to sleep every night.

3. Champagne Dreaming.  I fell in love with the Champagne Dream –one of Holland America’s signature cocktails.  This drink is light and refreshing but packs a punch too!   This was our go-to cocktail for the sunset. We visited several of the bars but our favorite bartender, David, worked at the Pinnacle Bar and was the super fun mixology class instructor.  Yes, my sister and I both got our degrees in mixology!

4. America’s Test Kitchen.  What an awesome partnership Holland America has with ATK.  Our America’s Test Kitchen host Abbie was just delightful and I came home with lots of practical tips and great easy fast recipes.  My husband thinks I’m an obnoxious kitchen know-it-all now!

5. Coffee break.  Smiling and gracious staff greeted us everywhere but we have a special fondness for the barista at the coffee bar – and we’d sit for minutes on port days or linger for hours overlooking the Pacific on sea days.  Great staff, good food, leisure time to enjoy the company of friends and family, and the beautiful sea sum up the Holland America cruise experience.

Interested in exploring Holland America itineraries and destinations?  It’s as easy as giving us a call to get you onboard.

Cabo San Lucas, Cruise, Mazatlan, Mexican Riviera, Puerto Vallarta

Rollin’ Down the Rivers: Top 10 Things We Love About River Cruising with Ama Waterways

Ginger and I have both recently returned from European river cruises with Ama Waterways – me on the Garonne River in Bordeaux for a wine-themed cruise and Ginger on the enchanting Rhine. What a way to go! Here are our top 10 things we love about river cruising.

1. Easy on easy off. River cruising is a hassle free way to get right into the heart of amazing cities and towns along the way. Whether your preference is exploring on your own via Ama-supplied bikes, on foot, or by public transportation, guided walks or bike rides, you’ll find yourself in the center of historic towns. I had the pleasure of spending 3 days in Bordeaux, a historic trading center which lost its lustre in the 19th century but which has been beautifully restored. We took a brisk (VERY brisk) walk with a local resident tour guide to get a fantastic overview, then later explored on our own, seeking (and finding) the famous Dune cake from Patisserie David

Bordeaux, Rhine, River Cruise, UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Caribbean Vibe on The Royal Clipper

After an amazing sail along the Dalmatian Coast in September, Bill and I signed up to re-board the Royal Clipper in the winter during her time in the Caribbean.  We’ve bare boated in the past, but what fun to have Star Clippers take care of us as we sailed to some of the most remote islands in the Windward Islands – including the lightly populated nature preserve-dominated Dominica.

We were fortunate to have our own Half Moon Bay yoga instructor on board with us – Anna Enea – who offered morning and evening yoga classes.  As if we weren’t relaxed enough by being pampered with European cuisine and tropical drinks, Anna also offered a meditation class.   We had a special surprise bonus on this sailing with a cardio-funk/hip hop dance instructor on board as well.  Ben’s classes were fun and a bit challenging as we tried to roll and move at the same time the Royal Clipper did.   I’m sure we were a comical sight.

I met so many people who were on their 8th or 9th cruise with Star Clippers, and many stayed aboard for 14 days – either starting in the Grenadines, or going on to the Leeward Islands following our sailing.  A couple people re-upped for the next week while we were on board.   What all of us repeaters share is a love affair with the dramatic sail aways and the friendly relaxed atmosphere among guests and crew.  These are true sailing ships.  Our journey through the Windward Islands took us over 800 nautical miles and into small harbors the big cruise ships can’t get to.   Sleepy Isle des Saintes, for example, is off the coast of Guadeloupe and other than a few ferries and some gorgeous yachts in the harbor,  we had the island to ourselves.

One of my favorite islands on this itinerary is Antigua – home to gorgeous white sand beaches, fantastic luxury resorts, and, yes, some great rums.  The Caribbean Islands are fiercely proud of their island-made rums, and we were able to sample Dynamite from Dominica, English Harbour from Antigua, and Damoiseau from Guadeloupe.   The African/French/English/Dutch influences in this part of the world have created beautiful foods, people, and music.   As is traditional on the Star Clippers, one evening is devoted to local entertainment.  We enjoyed a wonderful steel drum band in Antigua, and while it delayed the sail away till well after midnight, it was worth staying up for!

Bay World Travel will be back on Star Clippers in the fall in the Mediterranean and plans are underway for what promises to be the sailing adventure of a lifetime – the transatlantic crossing of the Royal Clipper in the fall of 2017.   Meantime, don’t hesitate to call if you’d like to consider a real sailing experience in the Caribbean, Asia or Mediterranean.   See you on board!

Antigua, Caribbean Islands, Dominica, Windward Islands