Archive for 2008

Wanderlust Blog

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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Montezuma’s Revenge

Monday, October 20th, 2008

 

As Amazing Journeys prepares to head off to the strange-but-wonderful country of China, there are many preparations our passengers are making to pave the way for what will be vacation of unique and special memories.

One way to ensure a comfortable journey along the way of any tour to a land that is so genuinely different as China will be to ensure some safe eating habits while traveling in and around. Otherwise, the “uniqueness” of such a tour could enduce a whole new meaning.

Names for Montezuma’s Revenge (Montezuma was Emperor of Mexico, 1502-20) vary depending on the part of the world concerned, and these usually have comic names, which reflect the embarrassment felt by the sufferer and the amusement in the lucky non-sufferers. Montezuma’s Revenge is also known as the Gringo Gallop and the Aztec Two-step, but in Asia it can be known as Ghandi’s Revenge, Gyppy Tummy, Delhi Belly, the Rangoon Runs, and Tokyo Trots.

The sickness, more formally called “traveller’s diarrhea” (TD), is usually caused by drinking unsterilized or differently-purified water…or by eating foods that visitors don’t take care to consider. One rule of thumb is that if you didn’t cook it, boil it, or peel it…..forget it!

A few other helpful tidbits:
-Drink safe beverages — these include bottled carbonated beverages, hot tea or coffee and water boiled.
-use safe water (bottled, not tap) for teeth brushing.
-drink chilled beverages but avoid ice in your drinks.
-don’t buy your bottled water from a street vendor. Reports of locals filling bottles with tap water, then sealing them and then selling the bottled water as purified water have come out of several countries.
-Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables unless they can be peeled.
-Well-cooked and packaged foods are usually safe. Eating raw or undercooked meat and seafood should be avoided.
-Dairy products, mayonnaise and pastery icing are associated with increased risk for TD.

TD is a bacteriological illness, always uncomfortable, but rarely serious. Most cases are mild and resolve in a few days with no treatment. If you’re particularly susceptible to stomach sensitivities, a single hit of an antibiotic like ciprofloxacin and knock out TD in a matter of hours. It has an outstanding track record, no severe effects and is widely available. Most TD can be cured by a single dose. Preventatively speaking, Pepto Bismol or an antidiarrheal called rifaximin can be very effective.

Be advised that the suggestions presented here are not not surefire remedies, nor are they sources of a professional opinion. Be sure to consult with your doctor for advice on what will work best for you.

Sojourners shouldn’t be discouraged by the prospect of getting sick. Its fun to travel and fun to discover and eat new local cuisines. The memories of these adventures, chance meetings and surprising experiences will outlast any possible inconveniences of an occasional belly ache.

Traveling Green

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Is it possible to travel responsibly when it comes to conserving natural resources, supporting local cultures and making a positive impact on the places we visit? Remember that by simply stepping on piece of land in Alaska where bears roam, or by tossing piece of gum into the ocean or leaving lights on the hotel ‘because you’re not paying for it’…you are effecting the environment. Or shall we say infecting it! Just because you’re out of your element, doesn’t mean the elements should be out of you. There’s no mistaking it; we gotta go green.

Here are a few tips on how to make a positive difference in your travels:

1. Go paperless! Use online resources to plan and book your trip.
2. Unplug before you go! Appliances, computers, chargers, televisions and microwaves can waste as much as 10% of your electricity when idling by.

3. Book “New”! New hotels, cruise ships and motor coaches are more likely to feature state-of-the-art energy-saving features.

4. Lighten Up! Packing lightly not only makes it easier on your own personal “schlep factor”, it has a significant impact on the environment. Imagine how much fuel could be saved if every suitcase on a plane or a motor coach weighed 5 lbs less. Helpful Hint: Neutral colored clothing is easily mixed & matched to create different looks over several days.

5. Bring your own water bottle! More than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away in the US alone….EVERY DAY.

6. Support the local artisans, but know what’s endangered! Purchase handicrafts from local artists when possible; buying cheap, mass-produced souvenirs undermines traditional cultures. But, don’t buy products that may be made of ingredients like elephant ivory or reptile skins. Consult the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species for more info (http://www.traffic.org/)

7. Stay on the trail! It can be tempting to venture off the beaten path but such a veer can cause erosion to the soil, degrade animal habitats and water quality, destroy wildflowers and frighten or injure animals.

8. Lend a hand! Its ok to pick up a piece of trash that’s not yours, or to turn off a light in the public restroom as you leave (assuming no one’s still in a stall).

Shana Tova! Let us hear from you…

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

“Who shall….” are two of the most powerful words we speak this time of year and the wonderment, curiosity and awe of it all is one of the many things that makes our faith so powerful. What will the New Year bring to me and you?

One of the joys of life is our ability and interest to travel; to see other places where life is different. Sometimes its to visit friends in another city. Sometimes its to wander among a crowd of people who’s way of life is different from ours. Sometimes its to see the sites and sounds of a place we’d only dreamed of being a part of through books, television and stories from others who had been. And sometimes, its just to get away; to break the routine of life and relax the way our bodies & minds crave.

This blog is designed to keep you informed and connected with some important tidbits as they relate to travel. Whether you travel to a nearby city to visit relatives for the holidays, or pine for a vacation-of-a-lifetime to a far away land….everyone travels. We hope these little bits of news, tips, information and insight have been helpful and interesting to you…and we hope you’ll continue to visit our site and share with us your thoughts.
If you’ve been reading this blog, please provide a short comment so we know you’re out there. We’d like to know who’s out there listening and watching and it would be helpful to hear a very short comment from you about this blog.
Thanks and Shana Tova. May this year be bright, prosperous, full of good health, lots of happiness and great peace throughout the world.

A Guide To Some Of The Best Travel Websites

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

With dozens of new travel sites appearting every year, its hard to keep track of which ones really deliver. Based on research by a renowned magazine and travel guru, here are some samples revealing recommended websites designed to help you save money, travel smarter and enjoy your journeys more:

-Booking Hotels in the US and Europe: http://www.hotels.com/ (for delivering the best combination of low rates and functionality)
-Currency Conversion: http://www.xe.com/ (for its simple design and easy navigation)
-Rental Cars in the US: http://www.travelocity.com/ (for its various tools allowing you to quickly discern your options, being user friendly, and for its many lower rates as compared to other travel search engines)
-Travel Safety: http://www.travel.state.gov/ (for providing updates on travel warnings and clearances…often information that the tourism boards don’t fully divulge)
-Airport and Flight Information: http://www.faa.gov/ (for providing information about delays that the airlines won’t)
-Searching for Airline Tickets: http://www.kayak.com/ (for making quick work of leading you to websites that offer the lowest prices)
-Jewish Singles Vacations: http://www.amazingjourneys.net/ (just had to throw this one in. If you’re Jewish and single these are the BEST vacation options for you. They are, in fact, “vacations that could change your life!”)

An article worth reading; standing up to the airlines! (maybe we should all be doing this…)

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

When Mitchell Berns found out Delta canceled his flight due to weather (which meant no refund) he looked at the forecast and found that the cancellation was based on bad weather that would hit … five hours after his flight was to land.

 
Citing snow, Delta Airlines was canceling his flight from Las Vegas to New York City and rescheduling him for a redeye connecting in Boston. With 47% of all delays so far in 2008 caused by weather (up 5% from last year), most fliers can relate. And they know that normally this story ends with a bleary-eyed tale recounted the next day at the water cooler. Not this time. It ends in court, with our traveler $838 richer. Berns, 55, is a securities litigator with Lane Sash & Larrabee in White Plains, N.Y. On that night he was flying home from a romantic getaway with his wife, who was pregnant with twins. Seeing that other airlines’ planes were still departing as scheduled, Berns asked Delta to refund his ticket so that he could book one of those flights. They told him (politely, as he recalls) that weather-related cancellations or delays are not the airline’s fault and do not come with a refund.

Berns checked the National Weather Service report. It said snow that day was expected at five the next morning — hours after his flight was scheduled to land. He and several other passengers from his Delta flight easily booked a JetBlue flight departing at the same time. His tab: $938.

He landed at J.F.K. on schedule.Back at home, Berns did what any consumer with $15 (in New York City) and a working knowledge of English can do: He filed a small-claims suit against Delta for $938. Delta did not show up to defend itself, so on June 12 he won a default judgment.When a legal analyst from the airline called him two weeks later to negotiate a payment, he declined an offer of frequent-flier miles (“Confederate currency,” in his words) and made a counteroffer: If you pay me within two weeks, I’ll knock $100 off. Delta agreed but asked for a confidentiality agreement. Berns said they couldn’t have both, and Delta took the discount. (A Delta spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.) “The lesson is, Don’t let them bully you with bogus cancellations,” says Berns. The whole thing took him about four hours, he recalls, resulting in earnings of less than half his hourly billing rate. “But I’d do it again,” he says. “That’s how good it felt.”

Are the cruise lines working to protect the environment?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

The renewal of an alliance between two prominent cruise industry over-see-ers illustrates a strong affirmation to that question. The collaberation of these two organizations are set to address, among other key considerations, the priority issues of wastewater managment, ramifications of climate change and destination stewardship. This alliance will work together to:

  • increase awareness and provide information and advice regarding ways to minimize the cruise lines’ greenhouse gas footprint.
  • implement good practice standards and training tools for shore excursions
  • support conservation projects in key cruise destinations
  • raise awareness and support for conservation issues
  • develop a rapid assessment tool for measuring changes in destinations over time

Creating an environmentally friendly cruise experience is complicated, but this premise has come a long way since the industry’s inception into the luxury travel market. The cruise experience, after all, involves lodging as well as transportation in a self-contained system. All forms of waste–and there a number of different forms ranging from sewage to solids (cans, bottles, etc) and hazardous (i.e. cleaning chemicals)–must be handled differently and follow regulations by the EPA and US Coast Guard.

While most of the major cruise lines comply to far above the minimum requirements, Celebrity cruises is a top notch leader on the seas. In 2002 Celebrity was awarded the top national honor for marine environmental protection given by the US Coast Guard. The cruise line actually hired a position on each of its ships to manage compliance with the international and US environmental regulations. This person is a senior manager with the responsibility to assist, teach and audit all shipboard personnel.

From recycling programs, to data-gathering devices, to awareness of reducing energy and fuel consumption, to a project that is currently under a feasibility evaluation to determine if a “sea water scrubber system” could reduce engine emissions while then being recycled back into the ocean….the cruise industry is laboriously dedicated to sailing the deep blue sea in the green.

Just when you thought it was safe…Airport Security!

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

 

Believe it our not, what’s supposed to be the quintessential example of security can actually be the most susceptable place of all for you to have your valuables stolen. I call this the UN-Secure Airport Security Area.
Your fellow passengers are the actually the greatest threat at airport security areas. More than you’d like to know, there are many terminal crooks poised to lift other people’s iPods, cellphones, laptops….even loose change and keys. Some work solo, others in tandem. It easy to “grab ‘n go” something on the other side of the metal detector while you are detained because the person in front of you has to be frisked….all the while your goodies have passed through the scan and awaiting the taking on the belt, sans you.
Avoid the risk by keeping an eye on your personal items all the way through the X-ray belt and insisting that your luggage accompany you for any secondary screening. And make sure your items enter the X-ray machine at the same time you cross under the metal detector. Leaving your item behind while you enter…or sending it through before you go can leave your goodies totally vulnerable.
Its really just a little common sense, but those who don’t have it…..might not get it back on the other side.

To Cruise…or not to Cruise

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

 

I often get a kick out of someone who calls our office and asks what trips we have “besides cruises” often conveying “I’m not really a ‘cruise person’ “. Amazing Journeys offers a variety of destinations to appeal to a wide audience of interests, and we make sure to balance our offerings of cruises and land-based tours.

Typically, though, in a given year, about 60% of our trips will be cruises and 40% land-based. Both types of trips have many positives and the choice of how to go is a personal decision….but because of the truly diversified experiences one can enjoy while cruising, cruising can be for everyone.

From lapping in luxury, to having many choices what one can do with their time, to having the ability to see so many destinations in one fell swoop that most people only dream of….to being serviced in such a first class way that we hate to return to our ‘normal’ lives where such pampering doesn’t exist the same way.

Back to the person who says “I’m not a cruise person”…my next question is “have you ever been on a cruise?” Most of the time I get something like “I was about 20 years ago” or “I’ve been on a riverboat”….or flat out “no”. Which tells me that the only reason someone may not be cruise person is because, well, they haven’t been on the kind of cruise Amazing Journeys provides.

The benefits of cruising are so vast that to list them all here would fault me with spacial awareness issues. Suffice it to say that with state-of-the art spa, fitness & recreational facilities, abundant food, top line entertainment, luxury accommodations there is something for everyone. Add to that, visits to destinations to almost anywhere in the world, and you have a most special vacation with unbelievable memories in the waiting…without having to unpack and re-pack at every stop. Also add to that all the great extras and unique brand of customer service that Amazing Journeys provides and you have a vacation even better than the best…and certainly better than all the rest.

The great thing about choosing to cruise is that you can do everything..or nothing at all. Its your vacation and you can do what you please. Want to read a book by the pool by yourself?…or want to take a dance class with 30 people?….or dine with 100 of your new friends? How about an outstanding broadway show with an audience of 1000? There are so many choices that you just cannot not have a great time.
As the commercial says, its “like no vacation on earth”.

How to have a Hurricane-Proof Vacation

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Its the end of summer and that means we’ve entered peak hurricane season, (August thru November). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there’s a 67 percent chance that 7 to 10 hurricanes will be named this season and that doesn’t bode well for the leisure travelers pining to chill on a beach in the Caribbean sometime while the rates are good. The lure of these warm-weather destinations, especially during the off-season, can be hard to resist. Crowds are thin, prices are excellent, perks—like free meals and spa treatments—are numerous, and more often than not, the weather winds up being perfectly fine. So, the question is: are there ways to “hurricane-proof” a vacation—to minimize the chances that a storm will ruin a low-season trip to the tropics?

Indeed there are—although most of the tricks for lessening hurricane risks require some research on the traveler’s part. The Internet can be an indispensable tool for scoping out predicted weather patterns, for example, or for comparing the hurricane policies of different hotels, tour groups, and airlines. Booking accommodations and flights with companies that offer hurricane guarantees (most often in the form of penalty-free rebooking) is a good way to safeguard a vacation; so is shopping around for and purchasing traveler’s insurance (the further in advance, the better).

Other “hurricane-proofing” methods are less obvious, but can be just as helpful for ensuring a tropical holiday. Many travelers don’t know that booking a cruise, for instance—or vacationing at one of a handful of Caribbean resort areas and islands that fall outside common storm paths can make a big difference in hurricane risk.

While these strategies may not be foolproof, they can go a long way toward protecting travelers’ tropical vacation plans (and, worst-case scenario, the travelers themselves). There may not be any way to control the weather, but there are plenty of ways to maximize security—and the likelihood that a dream vacation won’t become a nightmare.

Oh, What a Night…

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Oh, what a WEEKEND really. Over 130 Amazing Journeys passengers have just returned from an awesome Labor Day Weekend cruise that saw many new friendships and wonderful new memories being made. This on the heels of our Amazing Journeys Reunion Party in the City on August 27 where nearly 300 folks showed up to say hello to Bill, Malori and Michele…as well as to each other.
About half the group on the cruise make the “long” journey from various residents and businesses around New York down to the pier to board our vessel….while the other half navigated many miles from other cities across North American and other countries across the world (England, Russia, Italy and Germany) to play a role in the fun.
Thanks to all who attended both the party and our cruise. What a way to end the summer!
Oh, what a weekend…