As we countdown to 2013, Amazing Journeys and 92 Jewish Singles from around the world have been exploring all that Southeast Asia has to offer. We still have over a week to go on our cruise but check out some of the incredible sights we have already seen!
Archive for 2012
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.
For Amazing Journeys and 92 excited people (Jewish singles) from across North America and other countries across the globe, the New Year’s holiday is about to begin. Our amazing tour of southeast Asia is about to embark with two days in Hong Kong before setting sail on December 23rd for two weeks in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.
And so, our holiday begins tomorrow as the planning and planning concludes and the transit across the globe commences. Friends from 15 cities across the US and Canada will meet up with friends from Australia, Great Britain, and Switzerland for an indulgence of wildly interesting cultures, tantalizing cuisine and a plethora of social interaction that will provide friendships and memories to last a lifetime. Add to all this, a newly revitalized cruise ship – the Celebrity Millennium – and a little bit of pampering will just top off the truly remarkable vacation for everyone.
Follow our escapades on our facebook page; we’ll be posting photos and captions from our adventures. just click here: www.facebook.com/AmazingJourneys
To all who are joining us, we can’t wait to see you. To all of our other “amazing” friends; we hope to see you again in 2013. Happy Healthy New Year to all!
With Hanukkah right around the corner, we are all racking our brains, trying to decide on that perfect gift for friends, family, or what to tell others we want… Amazing Journeys to the rescue! Here is our Top Ten Travel Gift Idea list! Buy for others or share the list to hint at what you want! Click on the pictures for more details or search the web for other similar options.
It’s always a good idea to have an extra layer when you travel – you never know when the temperature might drop or the rain clouds may roll in. Throw a fleece in your suitcase and you will always be prepared for unexpected weather.
9. Neck wallet
When traveling in foreign countries, it’s smart to keep your money, credit cards and passport under your clothes and out of plain sight. This neck wallet is thin and won’t be bulky under your clothes, and allows you to carry everything with you without looking like a tourist.
Avoid paying overage charges at the airport by making sure your suitcase is the right weight. You can even pack it so you know how many souvenirs you can bring back with you!
Plug in your appliances in any country you visit. Pick an adapter set that has many options so you will always be able to charge up those trusty electronics, no matter what part of the world you are in.
As worn by AJ staffers Malori, Erin and Stacey, it is a favorite travel accessory. Black is our “go-to” color, but it comes in many shades as well as sizes. We think the large shoulder tote is the perfect size. Although there are a lot of knock-off’s of these brands, we’ve tried many, so trust us when we say that the one made by Longchamp will hold up where the knock-offs have lasted anywhere from a day to a year.
Great for exploring, this bag can be used across your body, allowing for more security while still providing easy access to everything you need. These bags come in a bunch of fun colors so not only are you traveling safely, but stylishly too!
Whether you’re reading up on your next destination, learning about a new culture or just escaping from reality, its always great to travel with a book. And who knows? When you’re done with your book, you can always trade with a friend on your trip and read their new favorite, too!
These cases allow you to be super organized. You will be sure to pack everything you need while making sure you don’t schlep those huge bottles of shampoo for a week long vacation. When you get home from your trip, just refill the used items and put the bag away until your next trip. It will be all packed up and ready to go, saving you hours of prep time for your next journey.
Global Entry is a program that allows pre-approved travelers the opportunity travel easier at the airport. Once you have been approved for Global Entry, you can use this for Pre-Check, a special quick security line in most major US airports, allowing you to breeze through while keeping your shoes and belt on, your liquids stored away and your laptop snuggly in your carry-on. How nice is that? There is an application process but we think it’s worth the work upfront, knowing how much time it will save at the airport. Available for US citizens only.
This is the very favorite of our AJ staffers. If you’re looking for an easy way to pack and unpack while on tour, here is your answer! Throw all of your socks into one, your accessories in another and your shirts into the larger one. When its time to unpack in your stateroom or hotel room, you know where everything is and you’re done in 3 minutes. Simply unzip the cube, open the top, and lay right inside of the drawer. When it’s time to pack it up again, zip it all up and throw it in the suitcase. Only staying at the hotel for a day or two? Leave it all in the suitcase and reach right in to easily find what you are seeking!
Enjoy your holiday shopping, happy Hanukkah and hope to travel with you soon!
Some may call it a “Busman’s Holiday,” I call it a Dream Vacation. Working in tourism, I have the opportunity to perform my job on many cruise ships. My friends and family picture me with a pina colada in hand, plugged into my ipod, lounging on a deck chair poolside. Those who travel with me know otherwise. Free time is rare. Most breakfasts and many lunches are taken in my stateroom as I am working out the logistics for the next event or shore excursion, writing poems or awards, or planning next year’s trips.
So, after much convincing, I finally got Barry to run away with me for two weeks on a transatlantic voyage from Barcelona to Miami. Every cruise line needs to get their ships from one part of the world to another for the start of the season in another destination. During late November and early December, the cruise lines move a good number of vessels from Europe to the Caribbean and South America for the warm weather months. The rates are amazing as they fill the ship with passengers who don’t mind the repositioning itineraries, filled with many days at sea. Our schedule included three ports in Spain including the island of Mallorca, Malaga and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. We were to have a day at sea in between each port, and then seven days from the Canary Islands to Miami.
One of our Amazing Journeys mantras is “everything is subject to change” and it certainly did. As we pulled away from Barcelona on our brand new ship, Celebrity Cruises’ Reflection, we were informed that the ship was performing slower than it should, and in order to get to Miami in two weeks time, we needed to cut out a port, Tenerife. So instead of the last seven days at sea, the new itinerary gave us nine straight days at sea!
We began in Barcelona on Sunday and enjoyed Palma de Mallorca, where we walked the narrow streets, drank sangria and tasted wonderful pastries made by hand at a traditional bakery. We had our first day at sea before arriving in Malaga. When we arrived there, we took a taxi to Puerto Banus and Marbella. I have wanted to see Marbella and after several visits to Spain, never quite got there, although I was close. I really loved Marbella, an Old Town with narrow streets, beautiful Spanish and Moorish architecture, painted tile street signs, wrought iron balconies, fountains and statues and more. I love walking around these streets – it is the real Europe. Beyond the Old Town, we walked along the boardwalk along the sea. The sun was shining and the day was a perfect 70ish degrees. We ate at a local bogeta (bar?) with olives, manchego cheese and bread, before heading back to Malaga and to our ship. You didn’t want to be late and miss this one – next stop – Miami, 3,927 miles away! Once onboard, the crew battened down the hatches for a long ride home – 9 straight sea days. Everyone seemed to head to the back of the ship as we pulled away to see the last bits of land before it became a distant “dot” left behind. We were all settling in to the idea that we would not see land again for 9 days.
Those onboard seem to all be seasoned cruisers and were looking forward to doing nothing more than drinking coffee, enjoying a good book, having some nice conversations, dancing a little, drinking a lot, exercising, eating and relaxing–whatever it is that makes a vacation a vacation. Many here have taken several transatlantic crossings and come back because a) it’s a great deal and b) they enjoy days at sea.
The Activities Staff is equipped with lots of programs and activities, great entertainment, lectures, art classes and more.
Barry signed up for the Egg Drop contest. He will be dropping eggs from Deck 7 to a target on Deck 3 in the Center Lobby and hoping they won’t break. To do this, he has to find “recycled” materials from around the ship in which to protect his eggs from breaking during the drop and landing.
For the first three days, it appeared we were never too far from land. Since leaving the Straits of Gibraltar a few days ago (I have totally lost track of time – all I know is that when it becomes December, I have to get off), we have sailed off the coast of Morocco, then the Canary Islands, then passing the Azores. Look them up on a map. There are so many islands everywhere! The weather in the North Atlantic was around 68 degrees…much warmer than we expected! It is here in the Atlantic that the Northern Currents meet the Southern currents. This is the very spot where hurricanes originate.
As I write this blog, it is now day five of nine sea days in a row. The Captain tells us today we are at our halfway point and in just two days we will be entering Caribbean waters. Each day the weather continues to get warmer with more sunny days. The pool is getting more and more crowded with passengers. Every two days we add another hour to our day by turning our clocks back before we go to sleep. No need to worry about adjusting to the time when we get home, we are adjusting one hour at a time.
When I travel with groups, I rarely get to see the onboard entertainment, including the acappella singers or guitarist, or piano player. Here, not only have I heard their music many times, I already know all of the songs! We are on a first name basis with the performers, the staff and even the Captain! We find the Captain sitting at the Café with passengers, enjoying coffee, laughing and talking. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere.
The passengers onboard really get it. Don’t feel like dressing up for formal night? No problem, do as you please. No one here needs to be “entertained.” Most knew the program they were signing up for and are happy treating the ship as if they were in their own backyard, on a relaxing afternoon.
It’s not for everyone though. One couple told me they were going to put in an application to work onboard, so they would have something to do.
Most here are past passengers. Of the 2,950 passengers on this full sailing, 2,500 are past passengers. Of those, 1,400 are Elite Members of the Captain’s Club (frequent traveler program). These are those passengers with 10 cruises or more on Celebrity. Generally for these passengers, there is a club that is open from 5pm – 7pm with complimentary drinks and hors ‘d’oeuvres. Because there are so many of us and no onboard lounge is large enough, they give each of us three drink coupons each night to use at whatever bar we choose. Each night from 5 – 7pm every bar is packed with passengers and their free drink coupons.
Is a Transatlantic sailing or other repositioning cruise for you? Let us know! The price is right, that’s for sure. They are all two weeks in length, with a full week at sea and a full week of a “regular cruise itinerary” with port days and sea days. Generally you could get a cruise like this for about $50 pp per day, based on double occupancy (plus tax, gratuities and airfare). Really reasonable, right? But you have to love sea days and be comfortable with lots of down time. Still, with 15 bars, 10 restaurant choices, a fantastic exercise facility and spa, pools and jacuzzi’s, not to mention all of the entertainment, bars and restaurants…there is so much going on to pass the days away.
I have wanted to do this for a really long time and I’m so glad I did it. Still, with 4 straight sea days behind us and 5 more to go, it’s a long time at sea. WILSON!!!!
But honestly, we are loving it. As this is my 99th cruise, having had this experience, I can now finally call myself a true sailor!
Dear Travel Friends,
Many of our families, friends, and colleagues in the New York area as well as the rest of the mid-Atlantic and the northeast have been impacted by the devasting storm. Some continue to be harassed as the pieces of Sandy continue to effect more and more regions. Your friends at Amazing Journeys are thinking of you all and wish you a quick cleanup, an expeditious “back-to-normal” and most importantly, a safe path through it all.
What to do if your trip is canceled or delayed by Hurricane Sandy:
Q: If my flight’s been canceled, will I have to pay a fee to reschedule? So far more than 10,000 flights in North America had been canceled. Carriers have been allowing travelers to re-book at no extra charge. There are some restrictions, so be sure to ask.
Q: What if I want my money back instead? If your flight is canceled, you’re entitled to a refund, even on a non-refundable ticket.
Q: What if I used frequent-flier miles to book my flight? Your miles can be redeposited without a penalty.
Q: I was set to take Amtrak down the coast, but there’s no service. What are my options? Amtrak suspended all trips in the Northeast Corridor through Tuesday. Train passengers can get a refund, or a voucher they can use to take a future trip.
Q: What If I’d planned to take the bus along the East Coast? Several bus lines, including Boltbus and Megabus, suspended service along the East Coast on Monday and Tuesday. Megabus is planning to get back on the road after noon Tuesday, though that could change as the storm progresses. Riders who had their plans cancelled between Sunday and Tuesday can re-book a trip without paying a fee, or they can get their money back. Greyhound buses are also not running in the Northeast on Monday or Tuesday, but riders have up to a year to use their tickets.
Q: If I now have to spend an extra day in New York or, say, Washington, D.C., can I get around via local transportation? There is a lot of uncertainty right now. New York’s subway, rail and bus system is still shut down as of this writing. This is only the second time in history that the entire system has come to a halt because of weather and it is unclear when things will start moving again. The New Jersey Transit is also still suspended, as is Washington’s Metro system, which carries over a million riders a day. Philadelphia’s public transit network is also closed. Local transportation authorities in all of these areas are still uncertain when service would resume.
Q: If I’m stranded in a hotel, what are my sightseeing options? Major tourist attractions up and down the East Coast were closed Monday, including Broadway theaters in New York City, Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, and Colonial Williamsburg sights. These next few days might be time to try and enjoy some of the more simpler things in life, like visiting a friend, catching up on your reading or taking a walk (don’t forget your galoshes).
Our New Mexico tour has come to an end but not after an avalanche of “oooh”s and “aaaah”s and “wooooah”s as 40 Amazing Journeyers took in all the beauty and pagentry that our 48th state has to offer this time of year. Some of the highlights of this magnificent tour:
On our first full day we wasted no time as an early morning wakeup call provided us with one of the most photographed events in the world, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Viewing the Dawn Patrol and the Mass Ascension, over 100 colorful balloons from around the world made the sky become a pallet of multicolored orbs dancing in the cool morning light. Following the morning festivities, we enjoyed an Albuquerque City Tour featuring the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center depicting the history and culture of New Mexico’s 19 Native American pueblos, and historic Old Town. That evening we returned to the Balloon Fiesta where just before dusk, burners from hundreds of balloons light up the evening sky with the amazing Balloon Glow. What a sight!
On our 2nd day in New Mexico we headed to Bandelier National Monument, best known for its mesas, sheer-walled canyons, rock art and ancestral Pueblo dwellings. We also visited the Los Alamos Bradbury Science Museum to learn about the Manhattan Project and the creation of the world’s first atomic bomb.
We discovered Santa Fe, the upscale resort and artist community with Spanish-Pueblo roots. On our City Tour we visited the Plaza, Loretto Chapel and the Palace of the Governor’s, a Santa Fe landmark built in 1610 as well as an array of art galleries, museums, restaurants and craft shops.
We traveled north via the “High Road to Taos,” passing through ancient villages founded in the 1700’s and stopped in the Spanish village of Chimayo to visit El Santuario, revered by pilgrims for the healing power of dirt found inside the chapel. Taos is the historic home of the Pueblo Indians. Located atop a plateau between the Rio Grande and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos has lured artists and writers since the 19th century. We visited Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America.
Thanks to all 40 passenger (half them first time AJers!) for entrusting us with their vacation plans and for being part of such an Amazing Journey.
Amazing Journeyers have headed off to New Mexico to see one of the nations truly amazing events – the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta! And since words can’t describe how incredible the sight was, check out a few of our pictures. Hundreds of hot air balloons lifting off together at sunrise!
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently launched an expedited screening initiative called TSA Pre-Check which is designed to help TSA focus resources on passengers they know less about while expediting the process for lower-risk passengers whenever possible.
U.S. citizens who are members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI Trusted Traveler programs are eligible to participate in Participation in TSA Pre-Checkis currently available to for the following:
|Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport||Alaska, Delta, United & US Airways|
|Boston Logan International Airport||Delta Airlines|
|Charlotte-Douglas International Airport||American, Delta, United & US Airways|
|Chicago O’Hare International Airport||American, Delta, United & US Airways|
|Dallas Fort Worth International Airport||American Airlines|
|Detroit Wayne County International Airport||Delta Air Lines|
|George Bush International Airport||Alaska & United Airlines|
|Indianapolis International Airport||American, Delta, United & US Airways|
|John F. Kennedy International Airport||American & Delta Airlines|
|LaGuardia Airport||Delta & American Airlines|
|Lambert-St. Louis International Airport||American Airlines|
|Los Angeles International Airport||Delta, American & United Airlines|
|McCarran International Airport||Delta & American Airlines|
|Miami International Airport||Alaska & American Airlines|
|Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport||Alaska, American, Delta, United & US Airways|
|Orlando International Airport||Delta Air Lines|
|Portland International Airport||Alaska, American, Delta, United & US Airways|
|Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport||Alaska, Delta, United & US Airways|
|Salt Lake City International Airport||American, Delta & US Airways|
|Seattle-Tacoma International Airport||Alaska, American, Delta, United & US Airways|
|Tampa International Airport||Delta Airlines|
Some passengers could qualify for expedited screening through U.S. airport security checkpoints via designated screening lanes. Benefits may include no longer removing the following items when going through airport security:
- 3-1-1 compliant bag in carry-on
- Laptop from bag
- Light outerwear/jacket
At no point, however, is this program an entitlement. Passengers are always subject to random, unpredictable screening measures.
Program members must provide their membership number (PASS ID) in the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking reservations or enter it into their frequent flyer profile with the airline. The Trusted Traveler membership number enables TSA’s Secure Flight System to verify that the traveler is a legitimate CBP Trusted Traveler and therefore eligible to participate in TSA Pre-Check.
For more information, call the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673.
Everyone loves a good roller coaster. Whether its a fast one or one with corkscrews or one with a 200 foot vertical drop…or one that goes from zero to 80 mph in 3.2 seconds , the need for speed takes many turns on a good coaster. Coasters are the lightening rods for fun at Amusement Parks; the featured fun…the thrills that give you chills…and, the reason that 3-hour wait lines were invented. Over 7 million people attend an amusement park every summer and chances are you were one of them.
Amusement Today, a publication that covers the amusement and water park industries recognize the best parks in 25 categories as ranked by “experienced and well-traveled” fans who know their way around the amusement park world.
This year’s winner is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio! The honor will come as no surprise to diehard amusement park fans who track these things, seeing as this Park has ranked No. 1 in the annual competition since it began 14 years ago.
In other categories, winners include industry giants like Universal Studios and Disney, as well as family run enterprises like Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind.
Curiously, though the results were tallied from an international database of fans, according to Amusement Today, not a single non-U.S park landed on the “best” list.
A sampling of 2011 awardees are:
*Best Amusement Park – Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
*Best Waterpark – Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, New Braunfels, Texas
*Best Children’s Park – Idlewild and SoakZone, Ligonier, Pa.
*Best Marine Life Park – SeaWorld Orlando, Orlando, Fla.
*Best Seaside Park – Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, Calif.
*Best Steel Coaster – Millennium Force at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
*Friendliest Staff – Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.
*Best Halloween Event – Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando, Orlando, Fla.
*Best Landscaping – Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Va.
*Best Food – Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa.
*Best Outdoor Night Show Production – IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Walt Disney World’s Epcot, Orlando, Fla.
*Best Water Ride – Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Fla.
*Best Dark Ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Fla.
*Best New Ride of 2011: Amusement Park – New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, Texas
*Best Indoor Roller Coaster – Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Orlando, Orlando, Fla.
*Best Funhouse/Walk-Through Attraction – Noah’s Ark at Kennywood, West Mifflin, Pa.
Got an opinion? Here’s your chance to cast a vote. What’s your favorite amusement park and why?