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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

Croatia Under Sail: Bay World Travel Group Goes on Trip of a Lifetime

55 intrepid sailors, many of them members of the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club, traveled with Bay World Travel on board the Royal Clipper, the world’s largest sailing ship, in September.

Our itinerary took us from Venice, then across the Adriatic, to the beautiful Dalmatian coast, where we anchored off the picturesque landscapes of Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia.  The perfectly preserved or restored medieval towns of Kotor, Dubrovnik (thanks to UNESCO and humanitarian aid its immaculate walled city is completely restored since the devastating 1990’s Serbo-Croatian wars), Hvar, Rovinj, and Piran charmed us all.

Croatia, Cruise, Venice

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Life is Too Short – Travel with Friends!

For the past 20 years, I have traveled with my dear friends Chris and Kate every 5 years for our milestones (we share the same birth year).  Over that span of time, I’ve taken the time away from children, responsibilities, and husband Bill to enjoy quality time with friends for a week to 10 days per trip.   We’ve been to Napa, Lake Tahoe, Ireland, Spain, Alaska, and have even done a couple “staycations” together.  We are perfect travel companions!

My children are now grown, Bill is still working but headed for retirement, and I’m getting close to 65.  While Chris, Kate, and I were on our last official milestone trip when we turned 60 – to Barcelona and the Costa Brava of Spain – we agreed we had to accelerate our schedule if we want to see everything we want to in our lives.

Yes, it’s challenging to balance obligations and responsibilities, but the rewards of traveling with close friends and family are priceless.  Let me share a couple client stories with you.

Christine and her husband have been all over the world.  But when she was ready to celebrate a milestone birthday at 50, she decided she wanted to share the experience with a group of friends who share her love of Italian food and cooking.  This group of six included sophisticated world travelers like Christine and first-time to Europe travelers, but they share a bond of friendship and common interests together.  After almost a year of planning, the group headed to Florence, the Tuscan countryside for 3 days of cooking classes, and Rome in November.  They enjoyed each other’s company, great food and conversation, and new recipes to showcase at home.  They toured the Uffizi in Florence, had a wonderful private tour at the Vatican, and cooked, laughed and drank wine together.  When I met with them after their return, what they most valued about this amazing trip was the time they got to hang out together.   Because they shared typical small European hotel rooms, they appreciated the intimate public areas of the Hotel Cellai in Florence and especially loved the small Villa Fattoria Valle in Panzano where they were the only guests.

Flo and Vivian are friends but their relationship is really more like that of sisters (it’s equally awesome to travel with sisters as I can attest to!).  They love to travel together and have discovered the joys of river cruising.  They are inveterate shoppers and their first river cruise experience was an Ama Waterways cruise on the Danube from Budapest to Prague for the Christmas market season.  I was so impressed with these two women – they went to each of the markets and each stand at each market.  In Salzburg alone, they visited 120 stalls and came away with fabulous and unique treasures for friends and family.  They had such a great time they signed up for another Ama Waterways cruise – this one along the Rhine and waterways of Germany and the Netherlands to experience tulip time.  They were delighted with the 125th anniversary commemoration of the death of Van Gogh with a spectacular “Van Gogh” tulip display at Keukenhof fields.  They exuberantly shared photos, their treasures, and even recipes from Ama Waterways which focuses on the regional cuisine of its destinations.

When you have friends who share that kind of enthusiasm and interests, why not channel it into a trip together?  Life is too short not to go.  Here’s my short list of tips to make traveling with friends the perfect experience:

  • Plan ahead to minimize surprises.  The planning process helps crystallize what is important for all the friends traveling together.  A travel professional – such as any one of our team members at Bay World Travel – is an objective and collaborative partner in making sure it’s an experience you’ll all find amazing.
  • Allow for downtime on your trip to make time for what friends value most – conversation and companionship.
  • Consider cruising.  Whether a small vessel like AmaWaterways or a large ship, there’s opportunity for friends to do things together or separately.  When I went on the Alaska cruise with friends and family, we always gathered for a pre-dinner cocktail and dinner – sometimes sharing stories of what we did together and sometimes what we did on our own.
  • Do a trial run.  Haven’t traveled with this friend or group of friends before?  Try a weekend getaway to see just how compatible you are as travel companions.
  • Get extra amenities.  If you want to invite friends along on a cruise, tour or resort stay, there are often extra benefits we can negotiate to help sweeten the deal.

Call Bay World Travel today to start planning your next adventure with friends and family!

Florence, Italy, Panzano, Rome