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Living on the Edge

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

by Erin


As we return from our industry preview cruise on Celebrity Edge, we come back with pictures, details and excitement about this brand new ship – and with that, the countdown until our return.  There are so many captivating, innovative, luxurious and surprising details that come together to create this amazing ship and being able to experience it first hand is really the only way to take it all in.


Before you even step onboard, you know that this ship is different.  Having a cruise terminal in Ft. Lauderdale designed just for this ship, everything about the entry process screams ‘brand new’!  From the clean lines and bold colors of the terminal and use of technology for a seamless boarding process, you will be walking onto Edge quickly and feeling your pre-travel stress melt away.


Once onboard, even those who are very familiar with other Celebrity ships will be blown away.  At first glance, the layout is similar to what you expect but with tons of feedback and meticulous attention to detail, you will be wowed at the thought that went behind every element of Edge.  From the three-story Italian inspired atrium that is home to the Martini Bar and evening entertainment to the more intimate dining rooms, the guest relations desk which seems more like visiting a friend to the immersive theater space and the interactive Eden lounge to the multi-use Magic Carpet, you literally won’t know where to start.  Many sailings start with a day at sea and you are going to love this time as you take in every part of this amazing ship.


Speaking of the Magic Carpet, let me take a minute to tell you about this awesome feature!  Initially created as a new way to complete the experience when taking a tender to shore, a new space was created to streamline the process.  Rather than standing in the stairwell and waiting your turn to go into the bowels of the ship to hop on a tender and head to shore, a beautiful waiting area now awaits.  When going to shore on a tender, you can now spend time in the beautiful lounge where bars are on either side and comfortable chairs and couches are where you relax before taking your turn on the beautiful new boats.  Click here to see a video of the Magic Carpet in use (click on the link and then play the video for the whole experience including sound)!  Celebrity usually uses tenders to only 20% of their ports, but after seeing how it works now, we may hope for more tender ports.


With this new Magic Carpet as a tender space, the cruise line thought how to make the most of this feature and use it as a multi-purpose space.  When raised to the fifth floor, it becomes an outside extension of the Sushi of Five restaurant – when elevated to deck 14, it lives as a lounge/bar area that is next to the cabanas poolside.  With a number of uses, this is the first cantilevered restaurant at sea!


Dining on a Celebrity ship is always an art form as the line prides itself on service and quality.  But rather than continuing with the traditional “main dining room” where 2,000 people are served dinner in one large room, Edge has approached dinner time from a different angle.  Boasting four dining rooms, this ship offers dining in a different way.  Each dining room has a traditional shared menu that rotates nightly but remains consistent throughout the restaurants – but, in addition to the traditional menu, there is also a restaurant specific menu that is offered each night.  So, if you are in the Italian inspired restaurant for dinner, you will have the same options as all other diners, as well as specific Italian themed offerings, each restaurant offering their specialty.  And in addition to this dining option, there are still specialty dining options scattered throughout the ship.


The cabins of Edge are beautiful and differ from those that cruisers are used to in the past.  Not only are the cabins elegant and modern, but also offer plenty of space, making the most of every inch that is provided.  The bathrooms are spacious, the drawers are larger than ever and the windows really allow you to take in the beauty as you sail.  For those passengers in an Infinity Veranda cabin, you will see the biggest difference from a Balcony cabin that you are used to.  Rather than offering a sliding class door to the balcony area, the new Infinite Veranda cabins give you folding doors that can be tucked away, essentially giving you all of the floor space from your balcony as extra square footage in your cabin.  The window that goes to the outside is a wall-to-wall glass window that slides down to waist level at the push of a button, allowing you to open your veranda as much or as little as you want, depending on your mood.


The lounge spaces on this ship are found from end to end and with each one having a different feel, you will always find the right spot depending on what you are looking for.  The Rooftop Garden is a beautiful space on the top of the ship that offers comfortable couches, beautiful wrought iron sculpture trees, a stage and dance floor and relaxed vibe for entertainment.  Eden, the jungle-feeling room has unique cocktails, interactive creature-like performers and a more sultry feel that changes as the night goes on.  The Martini Bar in the center of the ship is a lively spot that has an energy all its own and is a great meeting spot for grabbing a drink before dinner or listening to music into the evening.  The theater onboard has a modern feel and technology is incorporated into each show giving you a true sensory experience.  And with five varying productions on a seven night cruise, you are sure to find the entertainment that will send you home with a story to tell!


And if it is relaxation that you are aiming for, you will not be disappointed by Edge.  In keeping with the Celebrity tradition, the Solarium is an indoor space that allows you to relax while still being able to see outside.  The soothing music, the huge space, the inciting pool – everything about it makes you want to park yourself in a lounge chair and stay there for days.  Add to this the amazing spa that not only offers treatments, but gives you access to multiple saunas, steam rooms, water features and relaxation stations, you could find yourself making the most of your days at sea in just one area of the ship alone.  The state-of-the-art gym with more machines than ever, as well as the classes that are offered throughout the day will keep you fit and at the top of your game.

As you can tell, I could go on for days about the incredible features that Edge has to offer at every turn, but why just read about it when you can experience it for yourself?  We are thrilled to be returning to Edge this August as we sail through the Mediterranean on a nine night cruise to Italy, Spain and Monaco and would love to have you join us to live on the edge!

Winter Travel Tips

Monday, November 12th, 2018

With the weather turning colder and winter right around the corner, some of us have to get into a different mindset when it comes to making travel plans. While the winter weather makes it the perfect time to escape to warmer climates, it can also mean snags in your travel arrangements. So while you can’t do anything to change the weather heading your way, here are some suggestions on how to best be prepared for your travels during winter months:

Leave Early
Allow extra time to get to the airport during the winter. That extra cushion of time can mean the difference between arriving on time or getting there late (or not arriving at all if you miss your flight).

Connect in the South
If you need to have a connecting flight, try to choose a southern city to make your connection. Weather will be less likely to be an issue during the winter months.

Check Out the Airport Lounge
Severe weather events can be the best times to purchase a one-day airline lounge pass. It’ll be more comfortable to wait out the weather in the lounge and often rebooking lines are shorter than in the terminals.

Follow on Social Media
Often the easiest way for airlines and airports to get the word out about major travel delays and important information is via social media.

Check the Weather Early and Often
Don’t wait until a winter storm hits to make other travel plans. Keep your eye on the weather to stay ahead of Mother Nature and prevent your trip from being derailed. Watch the weather in all cities where your travel plans could be affected – your departure city, any connections and your destination. To check for inclement weather before you depart, visit the National Weather Service for up-to-date weather information and alerts.

Invest in Travel Protection
On all trips, we highly recommend purchasing a travel protection plan.  A travel protection policy can help when rebooking cancelled flights, making hotel arrangements and other emergency travel assistance. It can also provide coverage for medical expenses and emergency medical evacuations, as well as reimbursement for your pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs in the event that inclement weather causes the cancellation or interruption of your travel.

Wherever you decide to travel in the winter months, we wish you easy flights, cooperative weather, safe travels and amazing journeys!

Edited from AIG

Cold Weather Photography

Monday, September 24th, 2018

by Barry

I know that many of you, just like me, love to take pictures.  What better way to remember your travels than coming home with amazing pictures to show off and hang up?

Photography in cold weather destinations like Iceland or Antarctica could present some “interesting” challenges.  These revolve mainly around the weather and climate you will be enjoying.  What comes to mind initially is the temperature that you will be experiencing.

Preparing for taking pictures in cold weather destinations can be divided into two categories:
1. Taking care of your camera and
2. Taking care of yourself.

First, most important, and most basic, is to take care of yourself.  This means staying warm.  I’m not going to talk a lot about this topic in general.  I’ll leave this to your research.  The one thing that I do want to mention is keeping your hands warm.  As you are anticipating, the key here are gloves.  What I do is bring a pair of regular warm gloves that I use here in Pittsburgh to stay warm and a special pair of “fingerless” gloves so that I have dexterity to operate my camera in the cold.  There are several types of these “fingerless” gloves to use.  My suggestion is to go to a sporting goods store (or online) and head to the hunting section.  Hunters use these gloves all the time.  Here is an example.  Now, let’s talk photography!  There are two issues that make photography in the cold “interesting”; power and water.

First let’s talk about power (batteries).  The thing to remember is that, in cold temperatures, battery power goes down quickly.  There is an easy solution to this; carry extra batteries.  If you camera uses regular batteries, just pop a couple of extra sets in your coat close to your body (to keep them warm).  When the set in your camera gets cold and stops working, just change them out for a “body warmed” set.  (The cold set will come alive when warmed up again.)  If your camera takes only proprietary rechargeable batteries, go to the camera store (or order) a second battery.  Keep one warm while you shoot with the other; then just swap them out.  Easy enough!

Now, let’s talk about water, two kinds:  Ocean Spray and Condensation.

The easy one first:  Ocean Spray.  In places like Antarctica, you will be getting to shore by Zodiac rubber boats.  There is the chance that you, and therefore your camera, may get wet.  The solution is to transport it to shore in a waterproof bag.  While a sealable baggy may be adequate, I prefer a “Dry Bag” to really protect my camera – here is the kind I have.  The size you get depends on your camera size.

I’ve saved the “Best” for last:  Condensation.  If you’ve been outside for a while in the cold air, then go inside the warm house; what’s the first thing that happens?  Your glasses fog up.  This occurs when your cold glasses hit the warm air.  The same thing will happen to your camera.  If you take your cold camera in to a warm room, the camera will instantly form condensation (water droplets) not only on the camera, but also inside the camera.  Remember, water and electronics are not happy together, i.e. your camera’s guts will “fry”.

Preventing condensation on your camera is very important and not too difficult.  Here’s the solution:  While your camera is still cold, put it in a sealable plastic bag, and seal it tightly.  Leave it in the sealed bag until, once back inside the ship, the camera slowly warms back up to room temperature.  Problem solved!  (Going from warm to cold should not be a problem, only cold to warm.)  I’m actually throw a couple of those Silica Gel desiccant packs (the kind that comes with your new shoes to keep them dry) in my camera bag and the plastic bag for added protection.

Now, some of the above advice may be overkill, but you can never be too prepared.

My final words of wisdom:
1. Take plenty of Memory Cards
2. Take plenty of Batteries and appropriately sized sealable baggies (see above)
3. If you’re going to get a new camera for the trip, get it now and learn how to use it now (don’t wait to open the box on the plane on the way to your destination!)
4. Practice using your camera and all of its settings.  Being familiar with your camera will pay off in improved pictures.

Now you have one less thing to worry about as you prepare for your next cold weather amazing journey.  Happy shooting!

Charoset recipes from around the world

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

New Celebrity Cruises ship Celebrity Edge takes to water

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Highlights of Scandinavia and Russia

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Experience Adventure at Every Turn

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

 

Getting Back to Nature

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Do you ever feel the need to get back to nature?  Leaving the city behind and heading to the Canadian Rockies is a destination filled with more scenic beauty than most people see in a lifetime.  The majestic grandeur of the granite mountains on view before us had our group of 40 travelers in constant wonderment, enjoying one amazing view followed by another.

We began in Calgary, a metropolitan “cowboy town” that has flourished into a laid back city of about a million residents. What our group loved about being in Calgary was shimmery glass towers defining unique architecture with lots and lots of sculpture everywhere.  The rivers surrounded the town dotting it with lots of parks, gardens and green space, balancing out the cityscape.

Our next stop was to Montana and Glacier National Park.  On the way, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, once belonging to the Blackfeet Indian Tribe.  A fascinating look at how this society once survived using buffalo for food, clothing, housing and a variety of other uses, we gained insight into how these first inhabitants to the area lived.

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Soon the mountains and lakes started appearing and the scenery became vastly enhanced.  Looking out of the window of our coach, we gazed upon what we had come to see… snow covered mountains, set in the background of farmland and fields of green.  Once inside Glacier National Park, our full day tour in “red touring cars”, once known as Jammer Cars took us around the amazing sights inside of the parklands.  Waterfalls, long-horned sheep, the bluest lakes and streams and glaciers were what we had come to see and no one in our group was disappointed!  If you go, there are some cool places to stay within the park, and a few cute nearby towns such as Whitefish, or Columbia Falls (which has no waterfall, they just liked the name when the town was built!). A cowboy style barbecue (with real cowboys) on a lakeside setting was one of the highlights of our stay in Montana.  We loved taking photos of one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen.

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Traveling back up north to Canada through BC and Kootenay National Park, crossing over into the province of Alberta and Banff National Park, the scenery was amazing!  We “ohhhh-ed” and “ahhhh-ed” our way through the drive until we reached Banff and our famous hotel, the incomparable Banff Springs Hotel, also known as the “Castle on the Hill.”  Built in 1907 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, hoping to get more people to take the train by building magnificent hotels in scenic destinations along the train route, this hotel is the original and has lived up to the high standards it was built for all these years later.  We all gasped when we saw the magnificent hotel waiting for us to explore for the next three days.  Evening entertainment, sitting on the patio with drinks in hand watching a late night sunset over the granite Rockies, walking to Bow Falls and the Bow River, and dining on yummy treats for dinner and breakfast were just a few of the things we loved about the property.  We all agreed it would be wonderful to stay longer.

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With Banff as a base, we spent the next two days discovering what we had come to see.  We took the Sulphur Springs Gondola high up into the mountains and had 360 degree views of the Rockies, Banff and the surrounds.  With breakfast at the top of the hill to start, we then climbed our way up and down platforms to see all that we could see, taking pictures all along the way,  Next, we were off to Lake Louise with the beautiful Victoria Glacier as the backdrop to this famous turquoise lake.  With the Chateau Lake Louise at one end, and the glacier at the other, there were miles and miles of hiking paths and trails in-between.  We hiked, we walked, we sat in the garden and drank beer or ate ice cream… everyone had an amazing day.

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On our last day together, we set out on the Icefields Parkway to take in what Mother Nature was offering up.  We stopped at Mirror Lake which was so serene and reflective, our photos are just spectacular!  Continuing down that road, we stopped for a visit to Maligne Lake where you will find the bluest waters in the world.  Imagine the blue on our Amazing Journeys logo.  That is the blue of the lake we saw!  Continuing into Jasper National Park, the piece de resistance was the Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier, where some rode on an Ice Explorer and played on the face of the glacier, while others walked on the Skywalk and walked out over the ice fields.  We all sipped on glacial waters.

A visit to the Canadian Rockies is always very special.  To experience such scenic beauty is something that sets you straight and lets you know that all is right in the world.

Close to Home Summer Getaways

Monday, July 24th, 2017

There’s nothing like a weekend spent in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  For our family, it had always meant the beginning of summer.  A few happy June days were spent at the hotel pool, HersheyPark amusement park and gorging on chocolate.  In Hershey, chocolate is available everywhere.  Upon arrival at the Mediterranean style 1930’s designed Hotel Hershey, you are checked in and greeted with one large chocolate bar for each member of your family.  Being handed five chocolate bars upon check in is a kid’s dream come true.  OK, I confess, it was a dream come true for me as well.

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The stunning pink resort sits proudly upon the highest hill in the otherwise mostly flat farmland surrounding this city.  It can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city.  It boasts one of the finest restaurant in the state, the Circular Dining Room, which serves an amazing Sunday Brunch with all of the yummy items that make up for best brunches, but what’s different here is that the waffles have chocolate chips, the pancakes are served with chocolate syrup, pancakes topped with chocolate shavings and there are chocolate desserts galore!

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Did I mention the spa at the resort?  Have you ever had a chocolate facial?  What about an almond scrub?  They’re not only delicious but so relaxing as well.

The town of Hershey is adorable with “kisses” for street lamps and wonderful little cafes and restaurants lining the main street.

The town of Hershey is about four hours from New York City, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.  It’s only 1.5 hours from Philadelphia and Washington, DC making it an ideal location for weekend travel.  If you’re looking for something to do this summer (or any weekend year round), this should be on your short list.  It’s one of my top picks for quick summer getaways!

A Weekend Trip to Pittsburgh

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to be on vacation.  It could be as close as your own backyard.  That’s literally what we did when we brought 40 past, present and future travelers together for our Pittsburgh Summer Weekend.  Our travelers came in from near and far – from Denver and Reno, Houston and Toronto, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Yes, many who joined us live right here!  They all came together to enjoy our fun city.  Pittsburgh is a city to be seen and experienced and has recently enjoyed many accolades including one of the “Best Places to Travel in 2016” by Travel + Leisure, the nation’s “No. 1 Food City” by Zagat and named among the “Top Destinations on the Rise” by TripAdvisor

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Pittsburgh shows itself off right from the ride from the airport when you exit the tunnel and you see the city in full view including the skyline, The Golden Triangle, the stadiums and the fountain marking the confluence of the three rivers that run through Pittsburgh.

Our boutique hotel was a fan favorite.  Kimpton Hotels has always been a favorite of our Amazing Journeys staff and the Hotel Monaco of Pittsburgh was a big hit.  From the stylish yet quirky interior design to the rooftop bar and amply sized and decorative rooms, our group loved this hotel and its location in the city center. A hotel highlight, and were we got our weekend started was at the nightly Wine Hour in the Living Room of the hotel.

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We highlighted Pittsburgh beginning with a sumptuous dinner at Nine On Nine.  With the help of Joe, its manager, we crafted the perfect menu for our group. Friday night ended with drinks and “large games” such as Jenja and Connect Four up at the rooftop bar at the Hotel Monaco.  If you get up there, Jason will take good care of you.  He was always ready with drink in hand and a smile on his face.

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Saturday was filled with lots to see and do in the city.  Beginning with a walk to Pittsburgh’s Strip District, what began as the produce market of the city years ago has become a showcase of restaurants, local food stores including fish, cheeses, olive oils and sports paraphernalia from award winning teams who make Pittsburgh “The City of Champions”. One new restaurant concept housed in one of the old warehouses is Smallman Galley, a “restaurant incubator” where each year, four brand new restaurant concepts are selected from hundreds of entries as a “start up” and given an opportunity to try out their concept in this space.

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Our next stop was an area called Lawrenceville, a recently regentrified area which housed a munitions factory during the Civil War, and now filled with funky shops, craft beer bars, a retro bowling alley and 1950’s movie theater.  There, we enjoyed a Foodie Tour where we sampled ‘Burgh Bits and Bites.  Owner Sylvia and her guides took us to a series of restaurants and stores that offered up a collection of the foods that make up the eclectic population living in “The Burgh”.  From pierogies to spanakopita and from pasta to french dip sandwiches, we sampled our way through the area.

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A walk to Market Square where a band was playing and the Summer Saturday Night Market was in full swing rounded out our day.  In the evening, we enjoyed a taste of local theater and saw Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage a fun look at ourselves and others that had us all laughing. A walk down to the river by night highlighted our colorful city.

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Our weekend came to a close with a local favorite past time in the Squirrel Hill section of the city called Bach, Beethoven and Brunch.  Amazing Journeys provided the picnic while the orchestra provided the lovely background music.  Our AJ participants enjoyed a relaxing morning of coffee, bagels, music and conversation.  All too soon, our amazing weekend in Pittsburgh came to an end.  Soon it was time to say good-bye.  We hope to have you back in Pittsburgh soon so you can see more of our incredible city!

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