Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Cruise’

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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Highlights of Scandinavia and Russia

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Simplify your cruise experience

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

OCEAN_Medallion_Bracelet_Regal_Princess_November_12_2017“Where technology like this is wonderful is when you are hanging out at the pool or on the beach and getting to your card is difficult, but you can now go around the ship or out onto a private island and just charge away,” explains John Mast, VP of marketing at Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

We expect more cruise lines and ships will be offering technology like this, so keep an eye out and prepare to enter the next stage of cruising into the future!

 

First Cruise to Depart USA for Cuba in Over 50 Years

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Trinidad, Cuba

We got the news today that we had been waiting for.  The first cruise line ever to be granted permission to visit Cuba from US waters was given the green light today, at the same time of the historic visit to Havana  by President Obama.  “We have been waiting for this good news for a long time”, said Malori Asman, Chief Amazement Officer of Amazing Journeys. Those in the travel industry who know Malori know that she has been asking for  the past few years when this destination would be available, and made each sales rep promise to let her know as soon as Cuba opened up as a cruise destination.  The announcement that came today traveled fast from Havana to Miami to Pittsburgh when Malori received a call.  “We’re going!”, said Ron Fenska, Vice President of Sales for Fathom Travel, “Our team is in Havana and we signed the contracts today!”

 

16776223772_987b878d41_zOnboard the 704 passenger Adonia, passengers will participate in onboard programming including a variety of activities covering an array of interests such as Cuba’s customs and culture, conversational Spanish lessons and geographic-inspired entertainment.  Our Amazing Journeys onboard programming will take it a step further and offer additional programming and discussions on topics involving the Jewish aspect of Cuba and its effects on the community under communism where no organized religion was allowed.  In addition, during our two days at sea, enjoy Cuban music, learn to dance the salsa, watch Cuban movies and learn to mix the perfect mojito or Cuba Libre.

16591081889_c3641c00c8_zOn land, the ship will visit three Cuban cities, including Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba and an overnight in Havana allowing for nearly two days there.  The included shore excursions will provide immersion into Cuba’s history with walking tours and architectural tours, culture and special interest tracts such as visiting artists homes, a visit to the home of Ernest Hemingway, visits to hospitals or a cigar factory.  In addition, Amazing Journeys has already been in contact with the Jewish community and will include visits to synagogues, the only functioning pharmacy on the island, located inside of the synagogue and visits with locals from the Jewish community.

According to Malori, Cuba is so close but a world apart. She will be going on the second ever sailing from Miami in over 50 years, leaving on May 15 in preparation for our group cruise over New Year’s.  To receive more details on this cruise, sign up for our Cuba interest list at info@amazingjourneys.net

 

 

Cruise industry seeking big jump in telecom speeds

Monday, November 25th, 2013

If you’ve ever been on a cruise and decided that leaving your emails behind just wasn’t for you, you probably wished you had.  Understandably some people need to stay connected even while on vacation….maybe for work purposes or to stay in touch with a sick relative or just to chronicle the vacation to friends on facebook back home.  The frustrations of online connectivity while sailing at sea aboard a passenger cruise ship has long been a thorn in the industries bow and stern.   Slow connections and dropped communications coupled with charges so deep even the waters of the Atlantic Ocean couldn’t compare, have long been maddening and mounting means of angst in an otherwise blissful vacation experience.  Fortunately, that’s about to change.

Faced with accelerating demands by passengers for digital connections for their mobile devices, cruise lines are pushing vendors for faster, cheaper, more reliable telecommunications at sea. In response, the satellite providers are getting creative in their efforts to provide the bandwidth that enables Internet access, social media use and other telecom services. Solutions include creating a hybrid of satellite and land-based carrier networks, installing additional antennae on ships for more flexible, reliable signal tracking and using satellites in lower orbits to reduce signal transmission times. In some cases, passengers can expect a “dramatic” rise in the speed of Internet access from the ships, one analyst said. The innovations from companies such as MTN Satellite Communications and Harris CapRock are being implemented now, although they won’t start being ready for use until next year or 2015. 

“There are a whole series of new technologies and satellites that are going to be available in the coming couple of years that will greatly improve the performance and the available bandwidth on those ships,” said Rick Simonian, president of maritime solutions at Harris CapRock. With its purchase of CapRock Communications in 2010, Harris Corp. embraced a commitment to the cruise ship segment.  Since then, it has won contracts with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corp. to install new equipment and provide services. Its contract with Carnival, disclosed in mid-October, covers more than 100 ships in the fleets of 10 Carnival brands. Harris CapRock said it will provide bandwidth levels higher than those previously available on each fleet to meet “new service requirements Carnival set for its guests and crew.” Simonian said a key piece of the puzzle is installation of more than one satellite antenna on each ship. Most ships, he said, have a single antenna, housed in a spherical dome fixed to the ship’s mast.

“The problem with that is that if the ship is turning and the line of sight to the satellite gets blocked by the smokestack, or if they’re in some other obstruction, then the service goes down,” he said.
Two antennae mitigate that problem and will also be capable of switching back and forth between different radio frequencies, C-band and Ku-band, using the resiliency of one and the greater bandwidth of the other as conditions change.
Earlier this year, Harris CapRock completed installing gear on 33 ships belonging to Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. It will also integrate an ambitious new satellite system from O3b Networks, starting with the Oasis and Allure of the Seas.  O3b is launching satellites that orbit about 8,000 miles above the Earth, rather than the 23,000-mile distance of existing, geostationary satellites.  That cuts the back-and-forth signal speed to the satellites from 720 milliseconds to 130 milliseconds. “It will dramatically increase the amount of bandwidth available, to kind of unheard-of rates,” Simonian said. “The only ships that get rates like this would be Navy aircraft carriers, just for comparison.” O3b has launched four of its eight-satellites constellation and should be ready to serve the Oasis and Allure next spring, Simonian said.
But the O3b concept has some limitations and is unproven, said Chris Quilty, who covers satellite companies for the Raymond, James & Associates brokerage. “Royal Caribbean has made a huge, very expensive bet on a category-killer solution for the cruise industry,” Quilty said.

One limit is that coverage doesn’t extended beyond latitudes up to 45 degrees north and south of the equator, which excludes cruise areas such as the Baltic Sea and Alaska. Also, O3b’s satellites aren’t fixed in geosynchronous position like higher-orbiting satellites, so they have to be tracked.  “One is coming up over the horizon as the other is going down,” Quilty said. The tracking system that’s required, he said, “is much more complex. I would say it’s a high-risk, high reward proposition.” MTN Communications is offering a different solution, one that seamlessly switches satellite signals from satellites to land-based networks when ships approach or are in ports. When that happens, existing satellite bandwidth is freed up for use by cruise ships farther out at sea. “Adding more satellite bandwidth will no longer solve the ‘constantly connected’ demand,” said Errol Olivier, president and CEO of MTN. “And, way too often, adding more bandwidth just raises the costs for cruise operators.”
As cruise lines roll out MTN’s hybrid system and other solutions, such as the one offered by Harris CapRock, the retail cost of Internet service, which is currently 50 cents to 75 cents per minute, should come down, even as performance improves. How much prices will drop and speeds will increase is up to the cruise lines, Simonian said, adding, “That information is proprietary. They [the cruise lines] want to protect that.” MTN once held upward of 90% of the cruise industry communications market, and it still serves Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Pullmantur, Windstar Cruises and others. Still, Harris in recent months has gained a big foothold by landing the two biggest companies in the industry as customers. Brad Grady, an analyst at Northern Sky Research, said that because Harris is a big, public company with a broad client base ranging from the U.S. Navy to the global oil and gas industry, it can use its scale to reduce prices.  “There is always a bigger fish willing to do more at a better price,” he said. “And for larger end-users, specialization does not necessarily beat price.” Quilty said that except for the U.S. government, Harris is the largest consumer of satellite capacity in the world.  “By definition it is an economy-of-scale business, so you can generally buy capacity at a lower price,” he said.

Original source:  Travel Weekly Magazine

“Amazing Journeys”….or “Azamara’s Journey”; no matter how you slice it, its a match made in the ocean.

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The new buzz word in the world of cruising is “Azamara”.  A two-ship cruise line and part of the Royal/Celebrity family of ships these vessels are  a special brand unto itself.

Azamara states that they are “out to change the world…or at least how you get there”…and Amazing Journeys is becoming a regular partner.  Over the past two years, we have taken about 100 passengers on Azamara, much to their exceptional delight.  This year, you too can partake in the experience. 

What makes Azamara different? 

  • A smaller ship experience. 
  • Upscale attentiveness and service.
  • More inclusions including all non-alcoholic beverages, specialty coffees, bottled water and even wine with meals
  • An almost 1:1 ratio of guest and staff
  • Late night and overnight ports of call in unique out-of-the-ordinary locales
  • Half price shore excursion and substantial air fare specials
  • And much much more!

 

In the news, Journey emerged last week from an eight-day makeover in dry dock.  The 694-passenger cruise ship has been spruced up with new carpets and upholstery in public spaces; new mattresses and upgraded balcony furniture for cabins; a resurfaced pool; and new sun loungers and pool towels on the outer decks. Among areas getting the most significant upgrades was the Journey’s Casino Bar, which was expanded and enhanced with new furniture. Also getting a notable overhaul was the ship’s spa and fitness center, which received a new steam room, showers and Life Fitness cardio equipment.

On the culinary front, a new caviar and champagne bar was added to Aqualina, one of the ships’ two specialty dining venues. The makeover also brings a new Chef’s Table concept that will feature three wine degustation menus serving Italian, French and California cuisine, respectively.

Amazing Journeys clients demand excellence and Azamara is the one to provide it. The Journey  is currently sailing on a 13-night Indonesia voyage round-trip from Singapore….but come April 17th she will begin a journey of stellar proportions. First and foremost, the Journey will become “Amazing” in more ways than one.  AMAZING JOURNEYS will join the Azmara Journey in Singapore for a unique one-time-only voyage through the jewels of the Indian Ocean.  After an overnight in Singapore, we’ll be sailing to Malaysia, Sri Lanka and 3 cities in southern India before disembarking for an optional 3 night extension into India’s northern geography for a chance to visit Delhi, Agra and The Taj Mahal.

This 14-night cruise will be one for the ages.  We still have limited space available; if you’d like to learn more call Amazing Journeys at 412-571-0220, email us info@amazingjourneys.net or visit http://amazingjourneys.net/trip/spice-route-cruise.  See more about this awesome ship: http://www.azamaraclubcruises.com/plan-your-voyage/booking/explore-our-ships/azamara-journey

Our first week in Southeast Asia

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

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!

My Life as a Sailor

Monday, November 26th, 2012

My life as a sailor

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!

On the Costa del Sol onboard our home for the next 9 days at sea. Next stop Miami.

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.

Christening Celebrity Reflection before we head across the Atlantic on her way to Miami

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!

Wanna Get Away? A Sneak Preview for 2013

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Boy, does Amazing Journeys have a lineup for the ages!  If you are starting to think about traveling in the next year, just you wait and see what we are going to be offering!   We are aware that the information that follows will fill your plates with so many exciting possibilities that you’ll be asking your boss for extra vacation time.  This is why we are letting you know NOW what’s in store for the coming year.  Get those vacation request days in before your co-workers and lock in what we proudly proclaim will be one of the best–if not THE BEST–vacations of your life! 

You may have traveled with us in 2012 or maybe in 2011…..or maybe not for a few years. Or, dare we say….not yet at all?  In any case, you’ll need to hold on tight as we tempt, tantalize and treat you to a lineup of Jewish singles trips for 2013 that you will want to start planning for now.  We are in the throes of putting the final touches on many journeys that are amazing throughout next year, but its not too early to start planning for them. 

Firstly, check out our website (www.amazingjourneys.net) for details on Jewish singles trips that are currently available and sizzling hot:

-Northern California (August 26-Sept 3, 2012); Just ONE spot left!

-New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (October 12-17, 2012); Only 7 spaces left!

-New Year’s Southeast Asia Cruise (December 23 – January 6, 2013); Over 70 people booked!

-Brazil including Rio, The Amazon and Iguazu Falls (February 21-March 2, 2013)

Now that’s what we’re selling today.  In the days and weeks ahead, stay tuned for this AMAZING array of 2013 AMAZING JOURNEYS….and start making plans to join us!

Israel: May 2 – 13

Irresistible Italy by Land:  June  6-16
 

Italy/Croatia Cruise: July 19 – 31

Alaska: August 16 – 23

Heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies: Summer

Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons: Summer

Baseball Lover’s Dream Weekend: Summer

African Safari to South Africa and Botswana:  Fall

Australia and New Zealand:  Fall

Granted that some of these trips are well over a year away, but there are benefits to starting the planning process now.  Send us a note that you are interested in any of our destinations and we’ll place your name and email address on an “interest list”.  Interest Lists receive advanced and priority notice of all trips when they become available, and allow those individuals to capture what is sometimes very limited space or, as in the case of our cruises,  the very best stateroom location.

Amazing Journeys; going strong for over 22 years and heading towards even more amazing destinations.  We hope you’ll join us!

Traveling Single; A Fast & Furious Growth in the Travel Industry

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

After a long and committed relationship with couples and families, the travel industry is hitting the singles scene full force. There is a growing number of companies exclusively catering to unattached travelers organizing journeys that mix high-end vacationing with coed bonding. Many of these outfits are going beyond the old lonely hearts Carnival booze cruise, rolling out extended excursions to both nearby US National Parks and far-flung locales like Asia, Australia, South America and even Spitsbergen, Norway. 

According to the latest census, nearly half of all adult Americans are unmarried. With young people waiting till later in life to settle down and with more boomers retiring and getting their second wind, the travel industry has a lot of potential single clients. Research has found that 26 percent of leisure travelers took at least one trip by themselves last year. So while many others in the business are just starting to recover from the recession, solo-specific tour operators are reporting two or three times as many 2011 bookings as the industry overall.

Of course, going solo isn’t without its quirks. To begin with, singles-only companies sometimes avoid the single supplement by matching travelers with roommates, a delicate procedure. Then there’s the age factor: Since these trips draw nearly all ages, age-specific trips can lend itself to some people who miss the spectrum to feel left out….yet if a trip is open to too wide an age range it can tend to be too diverse for an interest group.

And women hoping to be surrounded by travel-loving men may be disappointed to discover that the clientele skews so heavily female that a few companies even reserve “emergency” spots for men. 

If you’re already humming the theme to The Love Boat, you’re not far off; while Julie and Gopher may not have been aboard, most early singles tours were cruises. Singles cruises today are no longer limited to just romantic Caribbean getaways.  Quite the contrary as experienced cruisers “outgrow” the fun in the sun idea in lieu of more destination-oriented endeavors.  Indeed, ocean-faring trips are still popular and becoming even more broad with cruising opportunties that not only include Europe, Alaska and Southeast Asia, but unique cruising experiences to far away places like Antarctica, Galapagos Islands and The Amazon.

Still, the singles-travel market now looks much like the general travel industry, with its constant stream of new and more unusual trips designed to appeal to experienced travelers. But no matter how much these companies tout their travel bona fides and stress that they’re not dating services, they say vacationers only care about one thing: more than where they are going, a recent survey showed that they want to know who else is going.

Despite even exotic destinations, it’s really the social side of the trips that has prompts many to sign up again and again.The preponderance of repeat bookers, though, can be intimidating to travelers who show up without knowing a soul. Travelers also report that the trips sometimes develop their own cliques, and even the companies admit that there are often one or two people who need a lot of help being eased into the group. Amazing Journeys, for example works diligently to “cater to the solo traveler”- expressing to first time travelers that everyone traveled with us for the first time once.  By nourishing the lasting value of repeat business while cultivating and catering to first time travelers, Amazing Journeys has had exceptional results in blending the two sources into each and every successful trip.

Ia Orana (“yo-rah-nah”)

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Ia Orana is a proper greeting (“Hello” or “Welcome”) in the Tahitian language.  This week 36 AJers will will say Ia Orana to each other, and to Tahiti as we embark on an 11-night journey to French Polynesia.  Perfect weather is an understatement as balmy days turn into moonlit nights, and where tropical breezes blow while brightly colored fish swim just below the surface of clear turquoise waters. 

The pampering begins with two nights at an incredible resort in Tahiti followed by a seven night cruise aboard the luxury ship, Paul Gauguin. Built specifically for French Polynesia, this intimate voyage will glide our group of honorary Jewish single Tahitians through some of the most remote islands of the world.  Some of these islands you may have heard of: Tahiti and Bora Bora seems to be familiar to many.  But there are 118 islands-about 50 of which are inhabited-that make up French Polynesia.  Our journey will also take us to the tiny but pristine islands of Moorea (More-aya), Raiatea (Ry-a-taya) and Taha’a (pronounced exactly how it looks).

The ship is equipped with an array of unique features such as a drop-down watersports marina where passengers will enjoy complimentary kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing and waterskiing.  On board, unlimited complimentary drinks, three exquisite restaurants, Polynesian entertainment and a ratio of one crew member to every two guests will translate into one huge Ia Orana (“Welcome”) and memories to last a lifetime. The word ‘vacation’ cannot be more clearly defined than what is in store in French Polynesia. 

To share in the tranquility of these unique islands our new friends will travel from four countries to be a part of this amazing journey: US, Canada, Australia and England.  Stay tuned to our Amazing Journeys facebook  (www.facebook.com/AmazingJourneys) page over the next 2+ weeks for a front row seat on our adventures. 

And then…don’t be left out in the cold yourself.  Why not consider joining us on one of our next upcoming Amazing Journeys:  Spain, China, West Coast Cruise, India, Music Cities of the South, New Year’s Caribbean Cruise, Alaska…and lots more.   Visit: www.amazingjourneys.net