4.02.2009

2009 Cruise Schedule, revisited

Well, I have the first half of 2009 lined up: In March I am sailing on the MSC Lirica on a 10 day Caribbean Cruise with stops in the Dominican Republic, Antigua, St Marteen, Tortola, St. Lucia and San Juan, Puerto Rico. MSC is an Italian line, which got some bad reviews when they first tried to penetrate the American cruise market with their Caribbean offerings (they have been taking Europeans around the Med for years). A while back they brought on the former President of RCI'S Celebrity Cruise line, and since then they have steadily improved the product, and the reviews are getting better and better. Personally, reading between the lines, most of the dissatisfaction seems to be from people who expect this Italian line to be just like their favorite American cruise ships. People who are more adventurous, and better traveled, seem to "get" the way they do things, and have a pretty good opinion. Personally, I love Italian food and culture, and I am really looking forward to this cruise, as I always look to try new things and see things from a different perspective. In any case, in over a hundred tries, I have failed utterly to have a "bad" cruise. Cruises are kinda like sex and pizza - when they are good, they are great, and even when they're bad, they're pretty good.

Following that, in April/May, I am going on the Queen Mary 2, Eastbound TransAtlantic (New York to Southampton, England). I am really looking forward to 6 days on the largest ocean liner ever built. Everything I have read about this ship and cruise has been fabulous. Despite their being absorbed by Princess and Carnival PLC, so far, by all reports, Cunard has maintained their standards, and offer a truly classic luxury cruise experience.Moreover, once in England, I will probably hang out a few days. My latest plan entails taking a train to Liverpool for a couple days of Beatle tourism, and then a ferry to Dublin for a couple days before flying home. For some reason flying from Dublin to LA is about half the price of flying from London to LA, so the price is almost the same to stay the few days extra.

And next, over the 4th of July weekend, I will be joining 30 or so of my Santa Fe High School Alumni friends for a 3o year Class Reunion. It's just a 3 day Carnival Paradise cruise down to Ensenada, but, obviously, it's more about the Reunion and hanging out with some old friends.In the meantime I am on the lookout for some good cruises in the last half of the year.But first, I have to get thru Christmas.......This just in...add a two day Cruise to Nowhere on the Carnival Splendor. Apparently Carnival has a couple open days as the move the Splendor from her current home port in Florida, around South America, to begin a new season of 7day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach. Rather than leave her tied up doing nothing, they are taking some people on a quickie two day trip...and I am one of the lucky ones.

EDIT: Okay, 86 the QM2...stuff came up.

But now I am adding a 3 day on the Carnival Elation, May 28th...taking my neice and two nephews, ages 5, 7 and almost 9...so I am sure I will be able to report on the Camp Carnival thing.

Next, I have added in a 7 Day Alaska, Sept 5th on the Norwegian Star. I sailed on NCL in Hawaii, and had a good time. This is a first time trip to Alaska (I never really wanted to go, frankly, as I don't think it's a vacation if you have to wear long pants and shoes). NCL is giving me such a terrific deal as a reward for becoming a FREESTYLE SPECIALIST, (including the full on VIP treatment) that I couldn't pass it up.

And then an 8 day Mexico Cruise on the Carnival Spirit out of San Diego, on Nov 19th - got roped into it by some new friends (ones I sailed with on the Splendor). By making it 8 days instead of 7, and leaving from San Diego instead of Long Beach, she can get all the way to Acapulco, along with Manzanillo and Zihuatenejo, instead of the usual Mex Riviera ports. While I have been to each of those ports, nowhere near as many times as the old Cabo, Mazatlan, PV thing...so that should be cool.So, that's the schedule (for now)

4.01.2009

Queen Elizabeth Maiden Voyage...sold out in 29 minutes

Queen Elizabeth Maiden Voyage Sells Out Faster than QE2 Final Voyage
Fastest Selling Voyage in Cunard Line History

April 1, 2009 -- The October 2010 Maiden Voyage for Cunard’s new ocean liner Queen Elizabeth, which was placed on worldwide sale to past guests at 8:00 a.m. today, sold out in a record 29 minutes – easily making this the fastest selling voyage in Cunard’s 170-year history. In fact, this voyage sold out quicker involving more guests than QE2’s Final Voyage when it set a previous Cunard sell-out record of 36 minutes in June 2007.
More than half of Queen Elizabeth’s remaining Maiden Season, comprising six voyages from October to December 2010, was sold within the first two hours.
“This is an impressive record set by what will be an impressive ship and speaks volumes about the Cunard brand as well as for the resilience of the cruise sector as a whole in these challenging times,” said Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard Line. “It is also very encouraging to see the level of interest in Queen Elizabeth coming from all our international markets, with bookings in the UK, US and Germany particularly strong. I urge our travel partners and those guests who have not yet booked to move fast in order to secure their place in history on Queen Elizabeth during her maiden season,” added Marlow.
One of the youngest fleets in the industry, Cunard’s famous state-of-the-art award-winning vessels Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will be joined by Queen Elizabeth, and all three will take Cunard’s 170 years of history, heritage, impeccable service and tradition far into the 21st Century. This is a legacy recognized by Cunard guests, with up to 97% saying they will recommend Cunard to a friend and 98% saying they will return.
Queen Elizabeth will feature the unique Cunard traditions linking her with her sisters Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria and their predecessors, along with some exciting features that will give the vessel her own style and personality, plus all the modern day luxuries Cunard’s guests have come to expect.
Named after the first Queen Elizabeth, one of Cunard’s greatest ships, the new Queen Elizabeth will reflect her predecessor in interior grandeur, d├ęcor and style, but with a modern twist. From the outside, her distinctive black and red livery will hint at an experience that differentiates a Cunard liner from a modern-day cruise ship. This will be most evident in the ship’s adherence to liner traditions, with elegant double and triple height public rooms on a grand scale, luxuriously endowed with rich wood paneling, intricate mosaics, gleaming chandeliers and cool marbles. Art Deco features will pay homage to the original Queen Elizabeth and will allow the new ship to reflect a more civilized era of travel.
Queen Elizabeth’s maiden 2010 season will consist of six voyages, calling on 32 distinct ports in 18 countries. Her Maiden Voyage, now sold out, will depart from Cunard’s homeport of Southampton on October 12, 2010, en route to the Atlantic Isles.
The ship will then embark on five celebratory inaugural voyages, for which space is still available but selling fast:
Mediterranean Premiere – A 14-day voyage departing Southampton on 25 October 2010 with maiden calls to Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), Naples (for Capri and Pompeii), Cartagena and Gibraltar. Fares start from $2,795 per person.
Aegean Introduction – An 18-day voyage departing Southampton on 8 November 2010 calling on Malaga (for Granada), Malta (Valletta), Venice, Dubrovnik, Kusadasi (for Ephesus), Athens (Piraeus) and Alicante. Fares from $3,295 per person.
Gallic Debut – A five-day voyage departing Southampton on 26 November 2010 with maiden calls to Rotterdam (for Amsterdam), Brussels/Bruges (for Zeebrugge) and Cherbourg. Fares start from $1,195 per person.
Iberian Discovery – A 13-day voyage departing Southampton on 1 December 2010 with calls to Vigo (for Santiago de Compostela), Lisbon, Seville (Cadiz), Gran Canaria (Las Palmas), Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife), La Palma (Santa Cruz de La Palma) and Madeira. Fares start from $2,395 per person.
Festive Debut – A 22-day holiday voyage departing Southampton on 14 December 2010 with calls in the Caribbean, including Madeira (Funchal), Tortola, Dominica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and Azores Islands (Ponta Delgada). Fares start from $4,795 per person.
For more information and to book a voyage, consult your Cunard Commodore Agent, Dave Holman at Dave Holman Travel Services 760.265.3687 or on the web at www.daveholmantravel.com

3.31.2009

Travel to the Nations Capital (unless your handicapped of course, then we don't want you)

You wanna hear something amazing. It seems that in Washington, D.C. (yeah, that's right, our Nations Capital), it is impossible to get a wheelchair accessible taxi from Union Station to a Marriott, two miles away. Yellow Cab has a monopoly on "in-District" taxi services. 5 years ago they got a few million dollars from Congress to acquire ramped vans for wheelchairs. But, after buying them, with YOUR money, they decided to sell them (pretty sure they didn't give that money back to YOU), and quit doing wheelchair transport.
NONE of the dozen cab companies in Virginia and Maryland, which do have ramped- or lift-vans is allowed to pick-up and drop-off a fare entirely within the District, so...17 years after Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, Americans in wheelchairs have to pay a medical transport company $90 bucks to take them on a $10 cab ride.
I found this out this morning as the limo service I have used,(which had an accessible van), decided to go out of business, effective tomorrow. I have a client taking the Amtrak to D.C. to take an escorted tour, and I just had to tell her that $45 car service is now a $90 trip....she's not real happy with me, and I don't blame her, but, seriously, I think it's about time for a Tea Party.
How is it that The Only Whorehouse in America That Can't Turn a Profit (Congress) has made such a balls-up of the only territory they directly control, and people think we should turn the banks and the auto companies and everything else over to them?

3.29.2009

Carnival Sunday Fun Day




Just got back from a Carnival Sunday Fun Day Party. About 1,000 simultaneous House Parties, all around the country, to celebrate Carnival Cruise Line. Pretty good marketing, if you ask me.

Anyway, the one I went to was hosted by a friend in San Diego, who decided to have her party at the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo. The party was good, got to talk to some people I know, and meet a few that I have only known online, and some that I didn't know at all before today. It was pretty much what you would expect - some balloons, some streamers, some trinkets from Carnival, etc.

But the brilliant host made a great decision in having her "house party" at the winery. It was a very cool place. First off, I gotta tell you, since I don't drink, I don't spend a lot of time in wineries. I have been to a few when I was working up in the Napa area, but the ones I went to were pretty much a tasting room and a bunch of grape vines.

The Bernardo Winery (the oldest operating winery in San Diego County), on the other hand has a whole little area called The Village Shops, consisting of shops and boutiques, a cafe, a bakery, a coffee house, a jewelry store, etc. It was very cool. I got there a little early and just walked around, poked my head in a few of the shops, and thought - what a great place to spend a lazy weekend day. A little breakfast at the cafe, a little browsing in the shops, try out some new wines(for those who like that sort of thing, the rest of us can get a good cup of coffee), and to top it off, listen to some music. Just as our party was winding down they had a jazz band starting up. Apparently something they do every Sunday in the warmer months.

They also have an area for weddings, receptions, and private parties of all sorts.

So, if you live within 100 miles or so of Rancho Bernardo, and are looking for something fun, interesting and close by - Go check it out!

The winery is located at: 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte, San Diego CA 92128.

or check them out online at http://www.bernardowinery.com/default.aspx