Sandusky’s Cedar Point and Lake Erie Fun

Recently, my family and I visited Sandusky, Ohio and while I have already shared our wonderful experience at Kalahari Waterpark Resort, I have many more family fun experiences to share.

Castaway Bay
Sandusky, while it’s a small town, offers big time family fun in terms of indoor waterparks! Kalahari is home to America’s largest indoor water park, but the area also boasts Castaway Bay where we spent a couple of nights.

Indoor waterpark at Castaway Bay.

Indoor waterpark at Castaway Bay.

Castaway Bay is a Caribbean-inspired themed waterfront hotel where your indoor waterpark admission is included with your room. The waterpark is a tropical setting with a wave pool, water coaster, slides, kiddie play areas and other children’s activities including visits from Snoopy and his PEANUTS friends.

If the waterpark isn’t enough, check out the state-of-the-art arcade and retail shops. If you are including Cedar Point as part of your trip, then a stay at Castaway Bay (a Cedar Point property) offers the best ticket values as well as early park entry.

The view from my balcony at Castaway Bay.

The view from my balcony at Castaway Bay.

Castaway Bay has some 237 rooms and ours was perfect! Roomy for a hotel setting, we had a clean space with a little balcony looking over the water. Free Wi-Fi rounded out our needs…and there was ample parking closeby.

Quaker Steak & Lube retaurant

Quaker Steak & Lube retaurant

Another feature we loved about staying with Castaway Bay was its close proximity to Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant…so close that we thought they were one! Steps from the resort, we enjoyed two meals at this northern franchise that was new to us. If you guessed that the theme for this award-winning wings eatery was race cars, Quaker State and lube, then you were right! The wings were meaty and offered with a variety of sauces…and the Mac and Cheese Hamburger was scrumptious as well. We had so much fun with the ambiance of this restaurant and will definitely be looking for them more often in our travels.

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Cedar Point Amusement Park
If you’ve ever watched the coaster specials on the Travel Channel, then you’ve likely seen Cedar Point – the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. Cedar Point features 17 coasters including Millennium Force, voted the number one steel coaster on the planet!

Cedar Point Amusement Park - Sandusky, OH.

Cedar Point Amusement Park – Sandusky, OH.

There is also a new for 2015 coaster, Rougarou, a floorless coaster that takes riders on an epic journey with feet dangling just inches above both the track and the waters below…thrilling to say the least! My family’s favorite coaster was the Dragster blasting off at massive rates of speed and headed straight up and straight back down right out of the shoot!

Snoopy-themed kids area at Cedar Point.

Snoopy-themed kids area at Cedar Point.

Aside from coasters, Cedar Point offers over one hundred rides and attractions with expansive kids’ areas (like Camp Snoopy). Snoopy and the gang also perform and make appearances to meet their young fans. Musical shows and entertainment round out the experiences at Cedar Point. **TIP** Starbucks at CP offers the same menu prices as normal Starbucks, so this is a great place to grab coffee, a refresher and perhaps a snack and save a little money!

Island Hopping around Lake Erie
Luckily, I had the forethought to seek help from the folks at Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.ShoresandIslands.com) to plan my stay so I wouldn’t miss out on anything super fun! The website has lodging options, help planning your itinerary and so much more, so definitely take the time to explore it. They insisted that my traveling party should visit the islands surrounding Lake Erie, and I am so glad! We had one free day to do just that, so we split it between Kelleys Island and Put-In-Bay…I wish we had spent a full day on each one, but sometimes you take what you can get!

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We took the Jet Express to Kelleys Island from Sandusky (obviously, you cannot drive). Jet Express offers high-speed passenger ferry between Kelleys Island, Put-In-Bay and the mainland (Sandusky or Port Clinton). Jet Express is comfortable with covered areas and open-air decks. They are on-time and highly efficient.

Gorgeous little lighthouse replica on Kelleys Island on Lake Erie!

Gorgeous little lighthouse replica on Kelleys Island on Lake Erie!

Our first stop was Kelleys Island, Ohio’s largest island with 600 acres of state park lands, 17 miles of coastline, nature, trails, quarries and wetlands. The most common ways to explore Kelleys Island are by foot, bike, kayak or golf cart. We decided on a golf cart for the four of us and chose Portside Marina to rent from, where Jeni not only made the process very simple, but also highlighted a route on an easily-navigable map showing us just where to stop for photos and such.

View from Kelleys Island on Lake Erie.

View from Kelleys Island on Lake Erie.

Our golf cart tour took us to the state park area, Glacier Grooves National Natural Landmark and beautiful spots in between. There are many historic homes and buildings on Kelleys Island earning them a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. We saw lots of these on our self-guided tour. Lunch was at The Village Pump (an island favorite right on West Lakeshore across from the marina) where we had awesome choices like penne pasta, Lake Erie perch, lobster chowder and more.

Put-in-Bay
Back on the Jet Express, we headed over to Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island, a Victorian-era village where visitors flock annually for family-fun activities, outdoor recreation and more! Again, golf carts are an excellent mode of transportation, but we opted instead for the narrated, hop-on hop-off tour train (Put-In-Bay Island Tour Train officially). We hopped off at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center for a guided cave tour and a stroll through the Butterfly House. Both are great family activities.

The Butterfly House at Perry's Cave Family Fun Center is amazing!

The Butterfly House at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center is amazing!

After the butterfly fun, we walked across the street to Heineman’s Winery where bottled wines are labeled like this: Sweet Red Concord. Order a bottle with a cheese plate and go sit outside in the gardens…it’s perfect!

Unique shops are plentiful at Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island.

Unique shops are plentiful at Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island.

Put-In-Bay is just the place to walk around and see the one-of-a-kind shops and establishments such as: the carousel, Round House Bar, The Park Hotel (boutique-style lodging), miniature golf, gem mining and so much more! **TIP** You can plan much of what you want to do simply by visiting the website of the tour train.

No matter what your taste is, the summer resort village of Put-In-Bay will likely have something for you from art galleries to music, dining and pubs.

Golf carts are the way to get around on Kelleys Island.

Golf carts are the way to get around on Kelleys Island.

Now what?
If you are yearning for a different sort of vacation filled with memory-making opportunities and unique adventures, take a look at Sandusky, Ohio! Your family will thank you!

IF YOU GO…
Castaway Bay
2001 Cleveland Road. (US 6)
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 627-2106
http://www.castawaybay.com

Cedar Point Amusement Park
1 Cedar Point Drive (off US 6)
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 627-2350
http://www.cedarpoint.com

Jet Express
101 W. Shoreline Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 732-2800
http://www.jet-express.com

Portside Marina
116 W. Lakeshore Drive
Kelleys Island, OH 43438
(419) 746-2668
http://www.portsidemarinaki.com

Put-In-Bay Island Tour Train
2071 Langram Road
Put-In-Bay, OH 43456
(419) 285-2016
http://www.putinbaytrans.com

Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center
154 Delaware Avenue
Put-In-Bay, OH 43456
(419) 285-4855
http://www.perryscave.com

Heineman’s Winery
978 Catawba Street
Put-in-Bay, OH 43456
(419) 285-2811
http://www.HeinemansWinery.com

Sandusky’s Kalahari Waterpark Resort

This week we are spending some time in northern Ohio where fun and frolic seem to run wild in Sandusky! Arriving today at Kalahari Waterpark Resort, we found that the tagline of America’s largest indoor waterpark is right on the money!

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Kalahari Waterpark Resort is a full service vacation destination sharing the magic of Africa throughout the property including the interior rooms, lobby areas, restaurants and waterpark itself! From your first monkey sighting to the elephants used within the architecture, you will be transported to this foreign land with every turn of the corner.

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Built in 2005, Kalahari caters to families offering some 890 rooms. From the amazing indoor and outdoor water parks to the Safari Outdoor Adventure Park, there is plenty for everyone in your party to do! If rides and slides are adventure enough for you, then you’re set! If you need more, then take a glance at these amenities:

  • Spa Kalahari & Salon
  • Variety of dining options on-site
  • Fitness equipment
  • Game room
  • Indoor pool and Outdoor pool
  • Wireless Internet

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A stroll through the spacious lobby (and that’s a bit of an understatement) shows the effort put forth in carrying the African theme into every crack and crevice on this property. Check out this family property today and plan weather-proof fun for your next vacation!

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Kalahari Waterpark Resort
7000 Kalahari Drive (off US 250)
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 433-7200
http://www.kalahariresorts.com/ohio

Buick – How very Regal of you!

2015 Buick Regal AWD GS
Class: Midsize Sedan
Fuel Economy: 19/27
Base Price: $39,810

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I am old enough to remember General Motor’s introduction of the very first Buick Regal way back in the early 1970s (for the record, I was a very small child at the time). There was such a fuss and it was such a big sedan…personal luxury was brought about in this vehicle. It was loved by all.

In 2011, Buick re-introduced the Regal to North American markets and nostalgia swept in reminding one of all the reasons folks first fell for this icon: a statement of personal luxury space, cutting-edge elements of the time and performance oriented features…the perfect family sedan.

Meet the 2015 Buick Regal. At a glance, the rear and front fascia remind consumers that this is clearly a Regal, exuding her exterior good looks in a more streamline fashion. Past that, a look under the hood shows off her 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine…yep, she’s spunky!

And, then there’s the interior. High-quality craftsmanship surrounds all who enjoy the drive/ride with leather-trimmed seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The cabin layout and design is comfortable and thoughtful with controls at the driver’s fingertips and in line with the center console for aesthetically pleasing visuals. The Bose premium 9-speaker audio system is a huge bonus as well as the remote and keyless start system. So many technical advances are available on this Buick from OnStar with 4G LTE and built-in WiFi hotspot to Buick’s exclusive Interactive Drive Control system (allowing the selection of different drive modes).

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A FEW FACTS:
• The Buick Regal offers HiPer Strut front suspension enhancing ride and handling by reducing torque steer; more linear and communicative steering through improved camber control; and improved impact isolation on bumps and rough surfaces.
• Advanced Haldex all-wheel-drive system is available, providing the most traction in all driving conditions.
• E-Z Key passive entry system and keyless push-button start are standard on the Regal as are heated front seats.
• Signature QuietTuning features enables one of the segment’s most quiet and refined driving experiences.
• Experience Buick Protection includes two years/24,000 miles of scheduled maintenance, including oil changes, oil filter changes and tire rotations.
• The Buick Regal has eight standard air bags and a standard rear vision camera system.
• StabiliTrak stability control system with full-function traction control is another safety feature of this vehicle as well.

POWERTRAIN:
• Engine – 2.0L I-4 turbocharged VVT with direct injection
• Transmission – Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic or F40-6 six-speed manual
• Driveline – Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
• Horsepower – 259 @ 5300 rpm
• Torque – 295 lb-ft @2500 rpm

My favorite features on the Regal aside from the stylish, comfy interior, and refined good looks includes the rear vision back up camera, the dashboard control design, the superior audio system, the interior back seat leg room and the pep when jumping out into the traffic. Check out the new Buick Regal today at http://www.Buick.com or test drive one for the full effect.

Photos courtesy of Buick.

Fall travel deals as seen on Fox 6 Good Day Alabama

Fall is a fabulous time to travel! The kiddos go back to school and touristy areas need to fill slower season accommodations such as condos, hotels and beach houses. Their loss is your gain! Let’s check out some options for fall 2015.

Mediterranea is a beautiful Newman-Dailey Resort Property.

Mediterranea is a beautiful Newman-Dailey Resort Property.

Beach
With reduced occupancy in the fall, you can score big savings on Alabama’s Gulf Coast or the Florida panhandle. For instance, Destin, Florida is a hot spot for vacationers, and property managers such as Newman-Dailey Resort Properties have some wonderful deals going on! Go to http://www.destinvacation.com and CLICK the DEALS button. Here you will find lots of great values for lodging at premier properties. Additionally, their current fall promotion is 30 to Share or Wear – guests receive a $30 gift card to Silver Sands Shopping Outlet, a VIP coupon book, a tote bag and a bottle of their 30th anniversary wine! (See web site for restrictions and qualifications.)

Turquoise Place is a fabulous Spectrum Resort Property in Orange Beach.

Turquoise Place is a fabulous Spectrum Resort Property in Orange Beach.

Check out Spectrum Resorts for Tailgate Getaways this fall at Gulf Shores’ crown jewel Turquoise Place or The Beach Club on Fort Morgan. Both properties promise a vacation to remember!

Becky and Splash Adventure owner Dan Koch.

Becky and Splash Adventure owner Dan Koch.

Theme Parks
Close to home, Alabama Splash Adventure has new ownership and offers, not only two great parks in one, but also an exciting, safe trip that includes FREE parking, FREE soft drinks, FREE sunscreen and FREE WIFI! Wow! And, they have brought back the RAMPAGE for coaster enthusiasts! Food is affordable and delicious!

A spectacle of characters parades down Main Street, U.S.A in Mickey’s Boo-to You Halloween Parade during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom. The parade includes Disney characters in Halloween regalia and the ghostly inhabitants of The Haunted Mansion. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a special ticket event and takes place on select nights each fall at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Charlie Champagne, photographer

A spectacle of characters parades down Main Street, U.S.A in Mickey’s Boo-to You Halloween Parade during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom. The parade includes Disney characters in Halloween regalia and the ghostly inhabitants of The Haunted Mansion. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a special ticket event and takes place on select nights each fall at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Charlie Champagne, photographer

If you are looking at a larger theme park such as Walt Disney World then consider this: the park ticket prices don’t fluctuate throughout the year, but hotels and accommodations (on and off property) DO! Planning your trip around low season in terms of lodging can be a big savings! Check your favorite Disney property to see if they have any special deals in the fall – you’ll be surprised that often they do! Another place to search out good deals on local hotels and resorts is Orlando Groupon. Other options for accommodations that I like include Sheraton Vistana and Sunsplash Vacation Homes. Money saving tip: choose a property with a nice pool and do not buy park tickets for travel days! For example: you are coming in on Monday and checking out on Saturday. Buy park tickets for Tuesday – Friday and let the kids enjoy your pool on Monday while you get unpacked and settled. Some folks buy tickets for all six of those days and then rush around trying to get their money’s worth.

Fall foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.

Fall foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.

Fall Foliage
When the leaves begin to change colors, folks flock to the mountains to see the picturesque landscapes. The Smokey Mountains are always a good choice, but also, think about the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, only 90 minutes north of Atlanta! Their informative web site helps you find a cabin, things to do and (under SEASONAL) has Fall Color Updates to make sure you don’t miss the perfect views.

Wherever you travel this fall, be safe friends!

Chevy caters to moms who haul more than kids

2015 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Crew Short Box
Class: Midsize Trucks
Fuel Economy: 17/24
Base Price: $34,115

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My children are many and their ages are close. And, though they are older now, my habits haven’t changed a whole lot. When I travel (to the store or to the beach), I carry so much stuff…as all good mothers do. The “kind” of stuff has evolved throughout time, but nonetheless, I am a mother who hauls more than kids!

The Chevy Colorado was awarded the prestigious title of 2015 Motor Trend Truck of the Year and I clearly understand why! Stereotypically, folks lean toward the male audience when speaking of trucks, but moms like me know how useful and functional a sturdy truck is whether raising kids or towing a jet ski to the lake.

My first thought as I checked out the award-winning Chevy was, “What a mom truck!” Rugged good looks are the cornerstone to any mom mobile topped only by the safety rankings. Of course, the bigger the better in terms of stability and space…and thus far, we have a winner folks!

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Let’s talk nitty gritty. Interior space was good…plenty of room for the kiddos with the crew cab seating, bookbags, purses, lunchboxes and the like. The touchscreen was a healthy eight inches or so and positioned perfectly in the visual range for the driver. The rear camera system added another plus in my book as did the amount of connectivity within the truck (Chevrolet MyLink audio system, OnStar with 4G LTE, built-in WIFI hotspot, turn-by-turn navigation, four USB ports and XM Radio)!

I made a fully loaded trip to my daughter’s house having first filled the truck bed up with boxes and bags, and I will have to say the tailgate was easy to operate and the step-up on the corner of the rear bumper was a lifesaver! This truck can efficiently haul anything and everything from strollers and groceries to sporting equipment and furniture.

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A FEW FACTS:
• Chevy Colorado offers the segment’s best horsepower – 200 hp for the standard 2.5L and 305 hp for the available 3.6L V-6.
• Segment-first available forward collision alert and lane departure warnings.
• Rear-vision camera is STANDARD.
• Maximum trailering rating of 7,000 pounds.
• Offered in work truck, LT and Z71 models (test model was Z71).
• Six air bags, including head curtain side air bags.
• StabiliTrak stability control system with rollover mitigation technology, trailer sway control, hill start assist and hill descent control (Z71).

POWERTRAIN:
• Engine – 3.6L V-6 DOHC VVT with direct injection
• Transmission – Hydra-Matic 6L50 6-speed automatic
• Driveline – 2WD or 4WD
• Horsepower – 305 @ 6800 rpm
• Torque – 269 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

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My favorite features on the Colorado are: the interior and truck bed space; the tech-savvy interior amenities; the handling and drive; and its ability to act as a family vehicle during the week yet haul fun toys on the weekend! Thanks Chevy, for knowing that moms haul more than kids!

Photos courtesy of General Motors.

Kate McCue is Cruise Industry’s first American Female Captain

Celebrity Cruises has always been on the cutting-edge of cruising standards, so it comes as no surprise that they would offer  the industry’s first American female at the helm of a mega-cruiseliner. Celebrity’s press release follows.

Kate McCue - Celebrity Cruises first American female captain. Photo courtesy of Celebrity.

Kate McCue – Celebrity Cruises first American female captain. Photo courtesy of Celebrity.

For the first time in the cruise industry – and in Celebrity Cruises’ history – an American female will take the helm of a mega-ton cruise ship. At 37 years of age, San Francisco native Kate McCue will command Celebrity Summit – a 91,000-ton, 965-foot ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, sailing between the eastern United States and Bermuda. As Captain, she will be responsible for the safe navigation of the ship and the onboard experience of its 2,158 guests and 952 crew members.

The modern luxury cruise brand, which operates a fleet of 10 ships, has elevated McCue to the position of Captain based on her 15 years of successful experience and leadership in the maritime industry. During her tenure, McCue has managed ship logistics while sailing worldwide itineraries, including Europe, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and along the Panama Canal. Captain McCue has also served as a maritime leader while sailing several transatlantic and repositioning cruises, and played a notable role in the revitalization of ships in Singapore.

Continuing Celebrity Cruises’ dedication to advancing the role of women in leadership, Kate McCue’s appointment follows that of Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, who was named President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises in December 2014.

“From the first time I met Kate, I looked forward to this moment, when I could extend my congratulations to her for being such a dynamic and highly respected leader who will continue to pave the way for women in the maritime industry,” said Lutoff-Perlo. “Of all the great moments throughout my career, this is at the top of my list. I am both honored that Kate accepted this position, and proud of the way our team continues to transform the way people think about Celebrity, and about cruising in general.”

A graduate of California State University’s California Maritime Academy, Captain McCue has held a variety of roles in the maritime industry, beginning as a cadet and deck officer, then working through a series of successively more responsible positions to her most recent role as Master Mariner with Royal Caribbean International. McCue has earned numerous certifications in a variety of areas pertaining to leadership navigation, ship management and security.

“Becoming the first female American captain of a cruise ship has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember,” says McCue. “The honor is amplified by being the first at a company like Celebrity Cruises. The cruise industry is ever-evolving, from the ships and the itineraries, to our guests’ expectations for vacation experiences. Celebrity has a history of delivering on each of these, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.  I look forward to working with an amazing team and the exceptional leadership who bring the Celebrity Cruises vision to life every day.”

McCue will begin her new role onboard Celebrity Summit in August 2015.

For more information about Celebrity Cruises, visit www.celebritycruises.com or 1-800-437-3111.

Perdido Beach Resort 4th of July Celebration

Are you looking for something fun to do in Orange Beach for the 4th of July? Well, look no further! Perdido Beach Resort has the perfect event and it won’t break the bank! Take a look at their press release below.

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Independence Day Celebration and Barbeque Buffet with The Tip Tops Performing LIVE Event Date: Saturday, July 4, 2015
Our biggest outdoor event of the year, the annual Independence Day Celebration and Buffet on July 4th, 2015 is a “do not miss” event! This year’s celebration will feature regional favorites, The Tip Tops returning to get the party atmosphere going and help us celebrate our nation’s independence with all of you. We will also have a spectacular beach-front fireworks display that you can watch right from your private balcony when you book one of our special Independence day packages.

BARBEQUE BUFFET on the BEACH DECK: Executive Chef John Hamme will also be preparing a barbeque buffet with a menu of favorites to choose from.

Early Bird Tickets on sale now for $26.95 per adult and $13.50 per child ages 5-12. Starting 06/29/2015,

Tickets will cost $32.00 per adult and $16.00 per child ages 5-12. For advanced tickets, please call 251-981-9811 ext. 103.

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For more information, please visit http://www.perdidobeachresort.com or call 251.981.9811 for reservations! Tell them The Travel Voice by Becky sent you!

Taste of Alabama’s Gulf Coast

It’s no secret that Alabama’s Gulf Coast has some of the most beautiful sugar-white sandy beaches of anywhere in the world, but did you know that the culinary side of this area is just as amazing? Let’s meander through some of my favorite palette-pleasing spots and you’ll be ready to head south for some fine eats!

Bill’s by the Beach
One of my new finds has quickly become a favorite. Bill’s by the Beach is new to the area having opened in May 2014. The restaurant is situated ever so perfectly across from the beach creating prime views of the evening sunsets. First impressions are paramount and mine was of the wait staff and their friendly demeanor, quickly followed by an incredible dining room ambiance. Fresh farm to table, locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients make all the difference in each item on the menu at Bill’s by the Beach, not to mention the extensive wine and drink menu for pairings that complement your meal perfectly.

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Bill’s is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner…and I was there for dinner so we will focus on that. Appetizers, soups and salads are carefully crafted to stand apart from standard “house” salads, etc. For example, fried green tomatoes are popular in the south, but their spin was Fried Green Tomato Sliders with Coastal Slaw, Conecuh Bacon and spicy mayo toppings. Coconut Shrimp and Truffle Chips (fresh Idaho Potato Chips with White Truffle oil and Parmesan Cheese) were two of my favorites along with Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.

It was tough deciding which main course to go with because it all sounded amazing. In the end, I truly love seafood, so I chose the Shrimp and Grits because of the over-the-top detailed description: blackened gulf shrimp with stone ground yellow grits, parmesan and smoked Gouda cheeses, and red eye gravy.  Flavorful and different, this was a winner with me. My neighbor ordered an interesting seafood pasta that I tasted and it was equally tasty – truffle mac and cheese with shrimp made with cavatappi pasta with white truffle cream, smoked Gouda white cheddar cheeses, wild mushrooms and blackened shrimp. And, in case none of those sound appealing, there is a fresh catch on the chalkboard every day.

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If you are not a seafood fan, have no fear! Bill’s offers a great variety of steaks and burgers as well as chicken. There is something for everyone. And, save room for some doughnut hole bread pudding which is simply out of this world! Rich and plenty for two people, it is an excellent way to cap off a wonderful meal.

Come early or stay late and enjoy The Turtle Bar at Bill’s where specialty cocktails are served on an open air deck. Come as you are in your beach attire or get dressed up and meet some friends. Either way, Bill’s by the Beach is perfect for your next night out in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area. Exceptional food with an incredible atmosphere is just what you’ll get. For more information, visit www.billsbythebeach.com.

Villaggio Grille
Located at The Wharf, Villaggio Grille is known for delicious Italian food served in an upscale environment. The wood-fire grill is the difference, along with fresh ingredients and a highly impressive wine list.

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Starting with appetizers is a must at Villaggio Grille and almost everyone at my table had “devils on horseback” which were later identified as bacon wrapped fried gulf oysters. Main entrees include such tempting goodies as truffle honey shrimp with risotto, pan-seared red snapper and beer braised short ribs. I chose grilled grouper with squash succotash, truffle mashed potatoes and brown butter gravy…and it was superb!

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The Wharf is known as one of Orange Beach’s premier entertainment areas, so be sure and spend some time there before or after a meal at Villaggio Grille. You can learn more at www.villaggiogrille.com.

Cobalt
Dinner at Cobalt is truly an experience. This is a great place to catch stunning views of the sun setting by the Perdido Pass. I love to sit outside and eat at Cobalt…it offers such a fabulous atmosphere with a huge focal of a fountain surrounded by fire elements.

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You’ll find a generous mix of locals and visitors at Cobalt where the menu is a treat with choices like pistachio-wasabi encrusted tuna, lobster rigatoni and stone hearth pizzas. . .but this is the place where I almost always get the fresh catch of the day, grilled. It’s predictably grilled to perfection and I love the green beans as a side with almost anything.

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Whatever you do, you have to order the banana pudding for dessert. Not only is it scrumptious, but it is served in the cutest little mason jar! What an awesome presentation! For more information, visit www.cobaltrestaurant.net.

Voyagers at Perdido Beach Resort
There are so many reasons to love this beachfront dining venue, but the food is definitely the main one. Fresh seafood selections right from the Gulf waters, hand-cut aged steaks and locally sourced produce are all part of the menu at Voyagers. Let the expert wait staff help you choose a wine that pairs with your entrée and you are set for a fabulous meal!

Voyagers

My favorite meal at Voyagers begins with seared scallops and is followed by a fantastic grilled snapper. If you aren’t feeling seafood, then try and amazing hand-cut rib eye. Desserts are special at Voyagers, too. . .like the six-layer coconut cake and Banana’s Foster bread pudding! Ooo la la!

Resort casual is the dress code for Voyagers located inside Perdido Beach Resort at the Perdido Pass. A reservation is not required, but is helpful. Visit https://www.perdidobeachresort.com/dining-2/ for more information including menu options.

Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s Homeport Marina – Gulf Shores
Crazy Sista Lucy Buffett is well-known for her cooking…and her restaurant gives her the perfect opportunity to show off! LuLu’s Homeport Marina (www.lulubuffett.com) is more than a place to eat. This once small starter restaurant is now a full-blown mecca of entertainment, shopping, activities and more! Sometimes the wait can be long at LuLu’s, so the idea is to have plenty of things to keep you busy.

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For starters, there are three exterior bars to grab a drink while waiting; a sand pile for the kids to tackle; games; a gift shop with plenty of souvenir choices; a ropes course; and an arcade! The wait will be over before you know it and you’ll be pouring over a menu with everything from fresh seafood to the famous Cheeseburger in Paradise. If allergies are an issue, check out the gluten free menu as well! I love the fresh catch which comes complete with a QR code to scan for a location (within 10 miles) of where your fish was caught and what captain hooked it. Now that’s pretty cool!

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Lulu’s offers tasty dessert options including a lovely key lime pie so save a little room for that. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that LuLu’s has the tunes of a live band playing every night which adds another dimension to the already lively atmosphere.

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LuLu’s is just off Alabama Highway 59 at the Intracoastal Waterway and Homeport Marina and opens summer 2015 in Destin. Come share the gumbo love with a place the whole family will appreciate!

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are bursting with culinary treats to contribute towards a beautiful vacation on the alluring beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Cheers to your palette!

Five good reasons to drive the Lexus 300 hybrid

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2015 Lexus 9040A ES 300h Sedan
Classification: Midsize Cars
Fuel Economy: 40/39
Base Price: $40,430

I remember vividly the first hybrid I ever drove. I won’t name the manufacturer, but I remember thinking how much I missed the power of my regular vehicle and how much I truly disliked the golf-cart feeling from that test drive.

Today, hybrids are more technologically advanced, innovative and completely savvy. And although some still leave me with that herky jerky feeling, Lexus seems to have it down pat from the smooth engagement to the surge of power that pushes me onto busy roadways.

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Here are five (very) good reasons to drive the Lexus 300 hybrid:

1. Fuel Economy – This pretty much speaks for itself with 40 mpg in the city and 39 on the highway. Oh, the money you will save! This sedan fits both the commuter who simply needs to be more frugal and the family who is looking for comfort and safety along with fuel savings.
2. Performance – Excellent fuel economy is awesome unless the vehicle lacks in performance. The Lexus 300 hybrid in fact has far better performance than I expected with its 2.5 liter dual cam in-line 4-cylinder engine with high output permanent magnet electric drive motor. Two hundred total system horsepower is what you’ll get and is exactly why I had the power to merge quickly onto busy highways.
3. Safety – Vehicle safety took on a whole new meaning for me after I became a mother. I think Lexus understands that and has fully equipped this sedan with dual front airbags, knee airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side impact airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and seatbelt pretensioners. Additionally, vehicle stability control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, smart stop technology, tire pressure monitoring and many more features help maintain safety integrity for this Lexus product.

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4. Space – Young families need space. Back seat room for car seats is a must (along with convenient cup holders) as is trunk space for strollers, groceries and suitcases. To find this kind of roominess, along with great fuel economy in a safe vehicle is a winner!
5. Little extras – The comforts and conveniences that Lexus offers in this hybrid sedan make my life easier. Push button start is the one that always comes to mind quickly, but there are so many others like: 10-way adjustable seats, a simple one touch open/close moonroof, power everything (doors, windows, trunk, etc.), cruise control at my fingertips on the column, blind spot monitoring, navigation system, backup camera (awesome safety feature as well) and much more.

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It seems like I’m constantly finding another feature to love on Lexus vehicles and honestly, I would love this vehicle with or without the excellent fuel economy because of the smooth ride Lexus is famous for. The fact that I need to fill up less often is purely a bonus!

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Photos courtesy of Lexus.

Skin Cancer: One Woman’s Story

This is me months before surgery.

This is me months before surgery.

I write this to help educate others, to warn others. I have waited so long to share this journey because the pictures are painfully hard for me to look at…harder to post for the world to see. The scars are never-ending reminders of paying for my days in the sun, unprotected or under-protected. This is my plea to the masses to love the skin you’re in, stay away from tanning beds and use enormous amounts of sunscreen with high levels of SPF. Throw way expired sunscreen. Know your body and have anything suspicious looking checked out as soon as possible. Having beautiful skin that tans easily does not make you immune to skin cancer. A gorgeous young lady (under age 30) with glowing brown skin sat in the waiting room with me…her verdict was melanoma and she was scheduling an appointment with an oncologist. She said she never used sunscreen because she tanned so well…she did not know she needed protection from harmful UV rays. I hope this will educate many. This is my story.

Me and my husband Larry months before surgery.  Thankful that he loves me past the outer appearance.

Me and my husband Larry months before surgery. Thankful that he loves me past the outer appearance.

As a kid born and raised in the south, I spent most hot summer days playing sports, swimming and just being outside. I was not blessed with warm, tan skin tones that a lot of my friend’s had, but nonetheless, I continued to “try” to tan my lily-white, freckled skin that God paired with my red hair and blue eyes.

Back in those days, the commercials catered to tanning products, not sunscreen with varying levels of SPF like we see today. My friends and I spread quilts on the front lawn and worshipped the sun in all of its UV glory applying countless layers of baby oil and such. Yep, we would burn…and peel…and burn…and peel…but eventually my friends would have that deep, glowing tan and I would have the faintest of a sun-kissed hue.

My late teenage years saw the introduction of tanning beds with newfound hope of a gloriously suntanned body! Three trips into my revelation, I was struck with the tough realization that I would still burn in these beds, even though it wasn’t the “sun.” And, information was beginning to slowly come about with startling data regarding sun exposure and sunburns…and the strong link they shared with cancer.

Still, I loved the outdoors…always have, and suspect I always will. I made sunscreen a part of my regime, but continued to chase the dream of life with a tanned facade. Every serious burn upped my chances of skin cancer, but I didn’t know anyone with skin cancer, so the risk didn’t seem real to me. Today, it is real. Damage done is damage done.

At 28 years old and pregnant with my last child, my son Eli, I had a “suspicious” looking spot in the bend of my arm. It had been there for a while, but during my pregnancy it had changed shapes, colors and conditions. My OB/GYN noticed it during a routine appointment and insisted that I see a dermatologist and after a biopsy, it was confirmed to be basal cell carcinoma…not the most serious of all skin cancers, but certainly a word I wasn’t ready to hear. It was deeper than expected and a plastic surgeon was called in to do the procedure with a specialized closure that afterwards resembled a large burn on my arm. Eventually, it settled down and blended with my skin into a thin two-inch scar.

The following 10+ years were a series of random skin cancer citings: another place, opposite arm (further down on my forearm) had a similar experience to the first one. No surgical procedure was required, and the dermatologist was able to do the follow-up removal in the office closing it with a few stitches. A spot followed on my upper back, my forehead and my chest…all basal cell carcinoma and all were contained to the biopsied area so nothing further was required.

During this time, I was traveling more and more as my career as a travel journalist had really taken off, calling me to the beaches and the Caribbean over and over. I purchased sunscreen the way most people purchased toilet paper…with the attitude that one must never run out! I used it all the time, and purchased make-up and moisturizers that contained added SPF as well. However, there were times when it would sweat off of my face or I “missed” a spot…it seemed simple enough that when that happened, I always caught new spots early and the dermatologist always had the same report: it was basal cell carcinoma, but we got it all with the biopsy.

Fall of 2013 I noticed a spot on the side of my nose, right in the crook (as we Southerners say)…a small spot, but it seemed “funny.” I had learned what to keep an eye out for and quickly put it on my watch list. During the winter I noticed it was gone. No trace of it, so I put off a trip to the dermatologist. As summer of 2014 came, I noticed it was back and a little larger than before. It would form a slight thin scab over it, then it would slough off, but never really heal. I was traveling and decided when I returned home for any length of time, I’d see the doctor. In the meantime, I found a teeny little spot on my scalp…right on my crown where all the hair kind of separates…the only spot the sun could really touch through my thick head of hair. I could scratch the top of it off and it would come right back. I felt like it also needed to come off.

Late summer I saw the doctor and she agreed the one on my nose was likely “something” and should come off. The one on my scalp was so tiny that she didn’t seem concerned, but biopsied it since we were doing the other one anyway. I left that day looking at my calendar to see what day I expected the call that both were basal cell and had been fully taken care of with the biopsy. The call came, but with a different verdict. They were both basal cell carcinomas, but there were not clear margins and I would be sent to a Mohs surgeon for a specialized procedure.

Mohs surgery (developed in 1938 by Frederic E. Mohs, a general surgeon) also known as chemosurgery, is microscopically controlled surgery used to treat common types of skin cancer. During the surgery, after each removal of tissue, the patient waits for the biopsied tissue to be microscopically examined for cancer cells. That examination determines if margins are clear of cancer cells or will need an additional tissue removal. You can read more about Mohs surgery at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohs_surgery.

Post Mohs surgery by one day.

Post Mohs surgery by one day.

After a consultation with the surgeon, I went in for the procedure…all done under local anesthesia, and we decided to do both spots during the same appointment. I was expecting, as I think the doctor was, to have one tissue removal on each spot, get a clear margins report, stitch me up and ride off into the sunset (with sunscreen on, of course)! I arrived at 8 a.m. that morning and was one of eight folks in the waiting room. We all took our turn going back, and then returning to the waiting room to see what the results were. Most were gone by lunch. I had my wounds covered and was told to come back after lunch…and I was the last one to leave that day. Three times in on my nose and four on my scalp before the margins were clear thanks to the sweet little cancer cells growing inward in what was referred to as fingerling patterns under the surface.

Three days post plastic surgery to close wounds.

Three days post plastic surgery to close wounds.

My concerned and courteous doctor talked to me before handing me a mirror and explained that his job was to get all the cancer out. He went on to say that it’s great when that happens and he can stitch it up, but sometimes we have to have some help from the plastics guys. This was one of those times. I was totally and completely unprepared for what I saw in the mirror that day – a hole in my scalp that you could sit a quarter down inside, and a nice hole in the side of my nose. I am not a vain person, mind you, but I do television spots for travel assignments, speaking engagements and appearances. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…and even though it was “only” basal cell rather than the more terminal squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma, it felt devastating.

Three days post plastic surgery to close wounds.

Three days post plastic surgery to close wounds.

Two days later I saw a wonderful plastic surgeon who promptly scheduled surgical procedures to close both wounds during the same operation under general anesthesia as an outpatient. Skin graphs from the nasal area and scalp were used for closure, along with lots and lots of stitches. It was hard to look in the mirror, but each day that passed saw improvements. A week later stitches came out of my nose, but my scalp took another 10 days to heal enough to pull out the stitches. The next week an area on my nose was not cooperating in the healing process and the doctor determined the flap was “dead.” He cut off the dead portion and stitched it up under local anesthesia in the office.

Three days post plastic surgery to close wounds.

Three days post plastic surgery to close wounds.

I have one more surgery ahead of me to do some final reconstruction on the nasal area and to cut out a little dead spot on my scalp, and then I’ll be finished with this ordeal going on 10 months and five total surgical procedures. Whew!

Four months post surgery. I love my make-up!

Four months post surgery. I love my make-up!

And then what? Two new spots that will be biopsied next week. **sigh**

Eight months post surgery. I’ve learned to turn my “surgery side of my nose” away from the camera.

FACTS:
The risk of basal cell carcinoma is increased by 73 percent if one tans six times per year in high school or college. (Zhang M, Qureshi AA, Geller AC, Frazier L, Hunter DJ, Han J. Use of tanning beds and incidence of skin cancer. J Clin Oncol 2012; 30(14):1588-93)

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million are diagnosed annually in the US. BCCs are rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow. (Rogers, Howard. “Your new study of nonmelanoma skin cancers.” Email to The Skin Cancer Foundation. March 31, 2010)

Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40 percent and the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent. (Green A, Williams G, Neale R, et al. Daily sunscreen application and betacarotene supplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinoma of the skin: a randomized controlled trial. Lancet 1999; 354(9180):723-729. Green A, Williams G, Logan V, Strutton G. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. J Clin Oncol 2011; 29(3):257-263)

Sustaining five or more sunburns in youth increases lifetime melanoma risk by 80 percent. (Wu S, Han J, Laden F, Qureshi AA. Long-term ultraviolet flux, other potential risk factors, and skin cancer risk: a cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomar Prev; 2014. 23(6); 1080-1089)

Indoor tanners have a 69 percent increased risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma. (Ferrucci LM, Cartmel B, Molinaro AM, Leffell DJ, Bale AE, Mayne ST. Indoor tanning and risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma. Journal of American Academy of Dermatology. 2011)

Individuals who have used tanning beds 10 or more times in their lives have a 34 percent increased risk of developing melanoma compared to those who have never used tanning beds. (Colantonio S, Bracken MB, Beecker J. The association of indoor tanning and melanoma in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2014; 70(5):847-857.e1-118. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2013.11.050. Epub 2014 Mar 12)

People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. (29.Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, Warshaw EM. Indoor tanning and risk of melanoma: a case-control study in a highly-exposed population. Cancer Epidem Biomar Prev 2010 June; 19(6):1557-1568)

For more information, please visit: http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts.

Are you a woman who suffers from motion sickness?

I am on the road traveling ALL THE TIME, and I rely on Dramamine for treatment of motion sickness and vertigo (the less drowsy formula has Meclizine which my doctor has always prescribed for vertigo). I am so excited to see this new formulation with ALL-NATURAL ginger!

Summertime and the Living is Queasy: New Survey Shows Many Women Dread Summer Vacation Due to Motion Sickness
The first non-drowsy natural solution for motion sickness helps women make the most of their summer vacations

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While the rest of the world is getting ready to head out of town for the weekend, scores of women are dreading the very things that make summer so great for the rest of us. The reason? Motion sickness. A new national survey from Dramamine finds that more than half of women with motion sickness are avoiding the highway for road trips (53 percent), skipping rides at amusement parks (51 percent), and staying home instead of going abroad for cruise vacations (50 percent).

Worse than missing out the fun themselves, nearly half (46 percent) said they feel like their motion sickness is a drag for the people they’re vacationing with.

While the majority of women surveyed (82 percent) said they don’t want to miss moments of vacation due to motion sickness, nearly half (42 percent) would prefer a non-drowsy solution for preventing and treating their symptoms.

Now there’s a way to prevent motion sickness and make the most of those precious summer moments without the drowsiness. Dramamine® Non-Drowsy Naturals is our first non-drowsy, offering! Unlike ginger ale, candies and gums that people frequently try, Dramamine® Non-Drowsy Naturals contains a clinically-tested dosage of ginger for preventing and treating motion sickness. It helps prevent and relieve symptoms like nausea and vomiting, which products like antacids and upset stomach relievers do not. And since it’s made from natural ginger, it is safe to use any time you travel.

“Don’t miss out on summer because of motion sickness,” said Rich Tenore, Director of Product Development for Prestige Brands. “For people who have avoided treating their symptoms in the past, Dramamine® Non-Drowsy Naturals now provides an effective, non-drowsy solution. It stops symptoms before they start, so you won’t miss a moment.”

An effective way to prevent and treat motion sickness is with over-the-counter medicine. Dramamine®, America’s number one over-the-counter product for treatment of motion sickness, offers a range of products – also including Dramamine® Less Drowsy and Dramamine® for Kids – that help prevent and relieve symptoms including nausea, dizziness, vomiting and fatigue.

For more information visit http://www.Dramamine.com, Facebook.com/Dramamineescape or Twitter.com/dramaminebrand.

Press release courtesy of Dramamine.

Norwegian Dawn runs aground in Bermuda

Norwegian Dawn, on a seven-night cruise from Boston, temporarily lost power and ran aground on May 19, 2015 at approximately 5 p.m. EST departing from King’s Wharf, Bermuda. Initially, the ship’s propulsion was affected. All crew and passengers were never in danger and everyone enjoyed full amenities onboard the ship.

Norwegian Dawn courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norwegian Dawn courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

In an official press release from Norwegian, the cruise line said the following:

On Wednesday, May 20, a thorough assessment of Norwegian Dawn was completed by Norwegian’s technical operations team, an independent dive team, and DNVGL inspectors, representing the ship’s classification society, while the ship was alongside in Heritage Wharf, Bermuda.  The team confirmed the structural integrity of the ship and the technical issue which caused the steering malfunction was identified and corrected.  The ship was cleared to depart Bermuda 2:30 pm on Wednesday and resumed sailing to Boston.  She is expected to arrive on Friday as scheduled. Norwegian Dawn’s next voyage will depart as scheduled on May 22.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and greatly appreciate our guests’ understanding.  All guests sailing on the current voyage will receive a future cruise credit of 15% of their cruise fare to use towards a future Norwegian cruise. 

Five summer trips that help stretch your vacation dollars

If you live in the Birmingham, Alabama area and saw me on Fox 6 Thursday night (May 14, 2015), here are the details from the destinations we talked about during the travel segment.

Helen, GA
This replica of a little Germantown offers a fun and exciting cultural experience with German food and architecture, but more than that, it offers big savings for a family vacation. Lodging is affordable (hotels – there is a unique Hampton Inn there within walking distance of the main drag, cabins, chalets and more) and my favorite family activity there is river tubing for only $5! Stroll the streets and duck in and out of one-of-a-kind gift shops, take a hike, go fishing and enjoy getting back to nature!

The beautiful Chattahoochee River winds through Helen and the surrounding areas of White County providing a place to cool off while continuing the summer fun.

The beautiful Chattahoochee River winds through Helen and the surrounding areas of White County providing a place to cool off while continuing the summer fun.

For more information, please visit http://thetravelvoicebybecky.com/2013/01/17/helen-georgia-a-little-germantown/.
Distance from Birmingham: 3 ½ hours

Mexico Beach, FL
Located approximately 30 minutes east of Panama City, Mexico Beach is known as the Forgotten Coast. This old Florida style coastal community is only five miles long, has no stoplights, only a two-lane road, no high rises, no chain restaurants…just family togetherness. Fish off the pier, bike around town, charter a scalloping boat and just enjoy the unspoiled beaches of yesteryear. Accommodations are VERY affordable compared to neighboring seaside communities and include the El Governor Hotel, low rise condos and precious beach houses.

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For more information, please visit: http://thetravelvoicebybecky.com/2013/08/17/floridas-hidden-paradise-mexico-beach/.
Distance from Birmingham: 4 ½ hours

The Beach Club in Fort Morgan, AL
Just off the beaten path to popular Gulf Shores is the stretch of peninsula known as Fort Morgan where fun, family resorts are hidden, such as The Beach Club. A community of its own, Beach Club, a Spectrum Property, has everything you need to park the car and enjoy your vacation without driving anywhere else! Spacious condos, adorable villas around a lake, you choose! Pools, on-site restaurants, private beach access, tennis courts, basketball courts, fitness center and an amazing full-service spa! This is an upscale property that many folks think exceeds their budget…so how about this…partner up with another family and split the cost…you’ll have plenty of space, you can stock the kitchen with groceries and eat in…but yes, you can afford this if you are careful!

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For more information, please visit: http://spectrumresorts.com/ and click on The Beach Club.
Distance from Birmingham: 4 ½ hours

Memphis, TN
Memphis is a great family destination with one of the best zoos around. There is also Graceland, the home of famed rock-n-roller Elvis Presley, the Peabody Ducks who make their march at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day, plenty of barbeque to sample and the brand new Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid with duck ponds, the tallest freestanding elevator in America, a bowling alley, and so much more! Hit the welcome center when you cross into Tennessee and grab some HOTEL COUPON booklets and you can score a great deal on a nicer hotel. I use these all the time and recently scored a Marriott with hot breakfast for $59 plus tax per night!

Courtesy of the Memphis Zoo.

Courtesy of the Memphis Zoo.

For more information regarding Memphis, check out http://thetravelvoicebybecky.com/2015/02/28/radio-linkups-for-2-28-15/.
Distance from Birmingham: 4 hours

Carnival Breeze Cruise
Currently sailing out of Miami on 6- and 8-day itineraries, Breeze is the largest ship in the Carnival fleet and the newest! The kids will enjoy the fabulous water slides, SportsSquare, Hasbro: The Gameshow, Camp Ocean and the Seuss at Seas activities (a partnership between Carnival and Seuss Entertainment) while adults will love the Serenity adults only deck, the spa, multiple restaurants, casino, spa and so much more! Beautiful Caribbean ports of call include places like: Falmouth, Jamaica; Cozumel, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

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Think you can’t afford a six-night trip like this during the summer when cruise rates are the highest? Well, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you and found that over the summer, the cheapest sailings (as of right now) are: June 28th, August 9th and August 23rd with rates 50-60% off – why? Miami offers lots of competition because it’s a large home port. Daily flights are available to Miami, but sometimes cheaper flights go into Fort Lauderdale so check that out (Carnival offers Miami transfers from Fort Lauderdale), but also, don’t be afraid to drive! I have done it many times…drive to Fort Pierce the day before and use a coupon booklet for a cheap rate and you only have two hours left on the trip.

For more information, please check out: http://focusdailynews.com/a-fresh-breeze-on-the-water-p7411-86.htm.
Distance from Birmingham: 13 hours or 2 ½ hour flight

Be sure and check out the NEW Travel Web Series online at http://www.thetravelvoice.info.

Blue Starfish – a Newman-Dailey Resort Property

This week I am a guest of Newman-Dailey Resort Properties in Destin, Florida. The beach house I am calling home for a few days is appropriately named Blue Starfish and is beautifully appointed throughout!

There are four bedrooms and four and a half baths in this beauty plus a spacious living area, a fully equipped modern kitchen, flat screens throughout and a private pool with hot tub and putting green in the back yard.

Watch this walk around video I shot when we arrived. It will make you grab the fam jam and head to Destin!

Good Day Alabama covers Carnival Breeze refugee raft rescue

As most of you know, I was aboard the Carnival Breeze on Friday, May 8, 2015 when the refugee raft was spotted. I had no idea how much news coverage this would generate, but I guess it really is news!

Refugees floating in a small raft in the Florida Straights.

Refugees floating in a small raft in the Florida Straights.

This morning my wakeup call was from Mike Dubberly, host of Fox 6 Good Day Alabama. And what did Mike want to talk about? Yep…the rescue!

See the video here: http://m.myfoxal.com/myfoxal/db/345281/gallery/iXzSqH41

Carnival Breeze rescues refugees

I’ve witnessed a lot of unique and different things as a travel journalist of some 20 years, and yesterday I added another event to that list. On the back end of a six-night Western Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Line aboard the Breeze, I noticed our ship had totally come to a stop in the 90 mile stretch between Cuba and Key West. The reason, though, caused me to spring into action grabbing a camera and making mental notes along the way.

I was in my cabin late in the afternoon preparing for a radio show when the Cruise Director’s voice came on the cabin speaker alerting cruisers that a refugee raft had been spotted and the ship would be staying with it until further notice. The Captain followed up shortly with a message affirming what the Cruise Director said adding that the U.S. Coast Guard had been notified and they were dispatching a cutter which would arrive within approximately three hours.

Refugees floating in a small raft in the Florida Straights.

Refugees floating in a small raft in the Florida Straights.

Vacationers aboard the mega cruiseliner were kept abreast of the situation with 30 minute updates, the last being that the Coast Guard was on the scene and was taking over. We were released to sail on to Miami at that point.

U. S. Coast Guard arriving on the scene.

U. S. Coast Guard arriving on the scene.

Here is the official word from Carnival:
Yesterday, May 8, while en route to Miami at the tail end of a week-long Caribbean cruise, Carnival Breeze encountered a vessel with 25 individuals on board of unknown nationality approximately 90 nautical miles from Key West in the Florida Straits. The group of individuals remained on their vessel while the cruise ship stood by alongside them awaiting the arrival of a US Coast Guard cutter, per USCG’s instructions. Once the cutter arrived yesterday evening, Carnival Breeze was released from the scene and arrived on schedule to Miami this morning.

Take a Gal Pal Trip to the Beach

Today, more than ever, women are wearing many hats: wife, mother, career woman, team mom, room mom, caregiver…you name it. And, with those ever-increasing demands, it is easy to forget nourishing ourselves, including girlfriend relationships which are so vitally important. Hence, gal pal trips!
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The Travel Voice by Becky gives a proposed itinerary to help you plan a long weekend to Gulf Shores/Orange Beach with your gal pals!

Read more here: http://www.gulfshores.com/blog/2015/04/30/gather-your-girlfriends-for-a-beach-getaway/

LuLu’s Gulf Shores – It’s Crazy, Sista!

Recently our crew took a QUIK TRIP to Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We were already in town filming at a prominent resort so we decided to see just how much fun we could have at this restaurant owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister.

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First of all, with a quick eye scan of the place, it was clear that it was anything but “just a restaurant.” The dining area is both inside and outside and seems to seat a number higher that I could count off the cuff. The band was playing from the LuLu’s stage (there is live music every single day), people were happy to be there and enjoying fresh seafood along with other culinary treats.

Outside the folks waiting didn’t seem to mind. That may seem odd to you until you realize how Miss Buffett takes care of them. The wait is part of the fun!

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There are bars, a sand lot for the kids to play in, a water contraption for kids (fountain of youth), a ropes course (mountain of youth), an arcade, a huge gift shop and games! I think my kids would be disappointed if there wasn’t a wait!

Check out out short video to see all the fun and frolic happening daily at LuLu’s…this will make your day happier and next time you’re in Gulf Shores, you’ll be looking for LuLu’s!

Video link: http://www.thetravelvoice.info

Win a FAMILY FOUR PACK of Tickets to Alabama Splash Adventure

WINNERS ARE: DANA PUGSLEY AND RENEA GRIFFITH COLE! CONGRATULATIONS!

Who wants to win a FAMILY FOUR PACK of tickets to Alabama Splash Adventure?

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Alabama Splash Adventure has new ownership and everything in place to offer a fun-filled family adventure in both a theme park and water park! What’s new? The exciting coaster RAMPAGE is back and has been fully restored to its former glory! Thrill-seekers from all over will appreciate this fabulous ride! There is FREE parking, FREE wifi, FREE sunscreen and FREE sodas to go along with all this family fun!

Now, about that FAMILY FOUR PACK…here’s how to enter:

1. LIKE my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/thetravelvoicebybecky.
2. WATCH the video – http://www.thetravelvoice.info.
3. Leave the answers to these two questions in the comments section here or on the Facebook page post about Splash. How much is parking at ASA and how many folks does it take to get the group rate?

If you leave answers without watching the video, you will NOT be entered!

That’s it! You’re entered! Good luck!