Grapevine – the Christmas Capital of Texas

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This week I am learning about the Christmas capital of Texas – Grapevine! This holiday mecca is adjacent to Dallas and full of family-friendly Christmas activities! My travel radio show this week is all about Grapeview, so I wanted to get some information on the blog for your planning purposes. Let’s get started!

Gaylord Texan Resort
The Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center is my home for a few days and it is a city within itself with spacious atrium walking spaces, restaurants, gift shops and lots of rooms. My room is super comfy with down bedding and modern amenities. The property is just beautiful, especially with all of the holiday decorations and it is fully equipped with a pool, fitness center, jogging track and pretty much anything else you can think of. For meetings, the adjacent convention center is perfect!

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As part of the Gaylord Texan holiday experience, you must see the ICE! exhibit. Join Frosty, everyone’s favorite snowman, and his friends on their quest to the North Pole in a colorfully frozen retelling of this original Christmas classic! Favorite scenes come to life in more than TWO MILLION pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures, including two-story tall ice slides.

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ICE! is an indoor winter wonderland featuring:
Walk-through holiday attraction, kept at a chilly 9 degrees
Two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures
Four ice slides
Six individual rooms depicting the story of Frosty the Snowman
The Frostbite Factory — a live carving zone

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I cannot begin to tell you what breath-taking displays are part of this awesome experience. It truly brings Christmas to life to kids, old and young alike! For more information on Gaylord Texas and ICE!, visit http://www.marriott.com/hotel-info/dalgt-gaylord-texan-resort-and-convention-center/lone-star-christmas/udp3ura/ice.mi.

Downtown and Town Square
Grapevine is a town of only 48,000 folks, but with tourism as a prime industry, you’ll find many more than that walking the quaint streets…ducking in and out of boutiques…sipping the local wines…and just enjoying the town square Christmas carolers! Restaurants are abundant with local flavors, not chains. And, you’ll find some treats along the way at places like Dr. Sue’s Chocolate where daily hot chocolate tastings are offered.(www.drsueschocolate.com)

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Don’t miss Main Street Bistro and Bakery for a breakfast or lunch treat! This lovely restaurant specializes in hand-crafted breads, pastries and gourmet cuisine using traditional methods from France and Europe. If you want the “Best Croissant in Dallas Fort Worth” as chosen by Dallas Morning News, then you must visit Main Street! (www.themainbakery.com)

Chill (www.chillgrapevine.com) is a super place to grab some appetizers or, well, just chill with your favorite beverage. It’s a sports bar atmosphere so watching sporting events here is a great option!

If you are looking for true Texas cuisine, look no further than Tolbert’s Restaurant on Main Street. You’ll make plenty of walking trips down Main Street anyway to see all the sights and sounds of Christmas, so plan on stopping in for Tolbert’s Bowl of Red (chili) or a char-grilled steak or burger. Casual atmosphere and good food…now that’s Texas!

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One more Grapevine eatery that’s a don’t miss is Love & War in Texas. Dubbed an epic name for an epic restaurant, Love & War’s concept is to promote Texas, Texans, Texas food and Texas Heritage. Fresh Texas Gulf seafood is on the menu, as well as other authentic Texas recipes. You’ll find Texas singers and songwriters and a wine list that, you guessed it, all Texas. Find out more about this classic restaurant at http://www.loveandwarintexas.com.

Wine Tasting Anyone?
I attended tastings at two distinct, local wineries on this trip. Both were amazing, but had their own ambiance and flavors. Messina Hof Winery is a family-owned business and one of Texas’ most awarded wineries. Choose from more than 50 wines (from some 28 varietals) with favorites including Private Reserve Papa Paulo Port, Private Reserve Cab Franc and Solera Sherry. Check them out at http://www.messinahof.com for more information.

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Sloan & Williams Winery (www.sloanwilliams.com) is an excellent choice for top-tier Texas wines. Ex-military friends Alan Kunst, Jr. and Ralph Mattison, Jr. co-own this winery producing fabulous blends that feed their passion for wine making and drinking. Integrity and respect are the cornerstones for their business and in everything they do.

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Christmas Wine Train on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad
This seasonal event is a grownup way to escape and enjoy an adult holiday activity. Purchase a ticket, board the train and enjoy food, fun and fellowship…oh, and wine! Participants must be 21 or over.

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The Christmas Wine Train showcases different caterers and wineries offering an unusual experience for locals and visitors during the holiday season. My train car was all decked out and the only thing livelier was the group of folks enjoying their fun-filled evening.

Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Gallery
Vetro, a state-of-the-art studio specializing in handblown and lampworked art glass, has created a wonderful little hands-on holiday activity where guests make their own ornaments! Choose your colors and get a lesson in glassblowing! Not only is it a great experience, but it is also a fabulous keepsake. Find out more at http://www.vetroartglass.com.

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Texas Star Dinner Theater
What a fun way to laugh the night away solving a murder mystery! Dismay in the Manger is the adequately named holiday dinner theater production and it is packed with holiday havoc and Texas pageantry. Enjoy a better-than-average dinner theater-type meal (mine was a lovely tilapia with veggies, asparagus and rice…and strawberry cheesecake to top it off) coupled with your favorite beverage and a setting just large enough to allow everyone to feel involved. Characters roam the room and interact with guests. You can find out more by visiting http://www.texasstardinnertheater.com.

Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge offers a magical twist to Grapevine’s holiday scene! Snowland is fun for the entire family with Santa visits, North Pole University activities, holiday carol sing-alongs, a life-size Gingerbread House, Santa’s letter-writing Depot, the Polar Wolf Walk, holiday shows, evening Snowland-themed Story Time and much more! Did I mention it snows…right in the lobby? Yea, there’s that.

Great Wolf Lodge is a family-friendly resort with an 84-degree indoor waterpark. Super cool and sure to please the masses. To plan your trip there, visit http://www.greatwolflodge.com.

Other great experiences in the area are more extensive Grapevine wine tours (www.grapevinewinetours.com) which take you on a tour to sample all the best on the Grapevine Urban Wine Trail and learn about North Texas history of wine-making. Lunch is included on this tour as well.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center is not to be missed by families! The 35,000-square-foot attraction known as LEGOLAND is a child’s dream! Interactive, educational and just plain fun…your kid’s will have a blast exploring all things LEGO! (www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com)

SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium is a two-story, 45,000-square-foot aquarium housing more than 30 displays of marine life! From shrimp and starfish to seahorses, sharks and rays, enjoy this fabulous look at marine life, and it’s stunning centerpiece – the tropical ocean tank with walk-through underwater tunnel! (www.visitsealife.com/grapevine)

You can’t visit the Christmas capital of Texas and not see the Main Street Live Christmas show at the Palace Theatre! High-energy performances of your favorite holiday songs help folks celebrate the season or you might take in a classic holiday movie. Either way, it’s a winner! (www.palace-theatre.com)

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As you can see, Grapevine offers a plethora of activities to keep your family busy for a week or a weekend. The unique celebration of the Christmas season is phenomenal and I highly recommend it. Keep it on the forefront of your mind for planning travel next Christmas season. It’ll be well worth the effort.

Travel Follies with the Volvo XC60

I am a traveler. And when that dictates a road trip, I am always interested in three main characteristics from a vehicle: safety, reliability and roominess. Recently a 13-hour (each way) adventure to Miami landed me in a mid-year 2015 Volvo XC60 which I was thrilled to check out up close and personal.

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I don’t think many would argue with me regarding the near perfect crash testing of Volvos across the board, so I can check safety off the list. Rear cameras and lane alerts are icing on the cake. Honestly, Volvo has set the bar year after year when it comes to vehicle safety, and having one daughter who drives the XC90, I am already aware of just how state-of-the-art Volvo safety features are.

The look…
The exterior of any Volvo, while it may be slightly updated to appeal to new generations of owners, is still iconic in the automotive industry and therefore, you can always pick them out in a crowd. The trim level options are easy enough with a premier and a platinum option. The keyless system is now available as a standalone option in addition to a convenience package (rear park assist camera – a personal favorite, Homelink remote garage door opener, digital compass, grocery holder and power retractable outside mirrors). Want to upgrade to platinum? It will include the keyless driving plus bi-xenon headlamps and the innovative technology package.

Under the hood…
T5 Drive-E offers a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with plenty of power which is always appreciated on merging highways (and my metro city is full of them by the way). This is more and more important to me when choosing a vehicle that adequately handles the road with the way my family travels. The T6 Drive-E model is supercharged adding so much power and quick response time along with respectable fuel economy. Front wheel drives standardly house an eight-speed automatic transmission while all-wheel drives get the six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel efficiency on the base model is a cool 24/31 mpg (city/highway respectively)…that’s a bonus in a crossover luxury travel vehicle for me!

Volvo XC60 Ocean Race Edition

Enter the cabin…
There were four of us embarking on this journey to Miami…four adults. The spaciousness of the rear seating area almost made me jealous of those riding back there. Front and back alike were roomy and comfy. If there is ever a time for comfort inside a vehicle, it’s on a LONG road trip!

Fifth generation Volvo Ocean Race Edition

The center and dashboard, although it has evolved a bit, is still very classic to previous Volvo experiences. The craftsmanship is not fancy, yet offers a high-quality feeling. Straightforward controls, a 7-inch display screen, superb audio and other cutting-edge, tech-savvy amenities (Bluetooth, satellite radio, navigation and lane departure warning) keep this Volvo in the excellent category for me as far as needs inside a vehicle.

Cargo space is typically an issue for travel regulars like myself, and I will say the four of us (all taking luggage for a week-long cruise, laptops and the like) packed the cargo area like true road warriors. And it all fit! Sweet!

Fifth generation Volvo Ocean Race Edition

What’s new…
Volvo is coming off of a major product refresh, the launch of the more fuel-efficient Drive-E powertrains and the introduction of the V60 sportswagon. You would think that would be enough to tackle in one model year. But no, there’s more…and this really caught my (travel) eye.

The mid-year updates included the Volvo Sensus Connect which is a connected car platform, and Volvo On Call telematics solution which offers comprehensive connectivity AND puts Volvo in a category by themselves as the only manufacturer to have these features standard across the entire lineup!

So, what is all this connectivity stuff? It is actually quite simple. It is a means to offer Volvo customers cloud- and app-based services to make their travels more enjoyable! Are you kidding? Volvo knows me! I want my travel experiences to be easy and enjoyable with super cool features that I can access via the Volvo On Call smartphone app. I can start the engine from my smartphone…I can unlock the doors…I have access to stolen vehicle tracking and theft notification! Impressive. Very impressive.

My favorites…
I love the look of the Volvo XC60. It’s small enough to offer superb handling, yet large enough to take me on comfortable road trip. It has amazing sound spilling out of the speakers, gizmos and gadgets, and spaces for my charges and various other devices that I cannot leave home without.

When off the travel path, I love the grocery bag holder in the cargo area…no more chasing random cans of rolling beans. It fits neatly into average parking spaces and navigates my neighborhood like a champ.

Photos courtesy of Volvo.

Stay, Shop & Save with Laketown Wharf in Panama City Beach

This season let Laketown Wharf in Panama City Beach, Florida help with your holiday shopping and treat yourself to a wonderful beach retreat! They will make it easy! All you need to do is book one of the beautiful condominiums for two nights and they will give you a $50 Pier Park Shopping Gift Card! This offer is valid on stays from 11/26/14 through 12/29/14.

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Rates starting from $89 + a $50 Pier Park Gift Card PromoCode: LTWSANTA

Use promo code LTWSANTA when you book online. Arrival date must be between 11/26/2014 and 12/29/2014. A minimum stay of 2 nights is required.

Looking for a place to ring in the New Year?

Laketown Wharf offers a warm toast to 2015 with its New Year’s Eve package, featuring a three-night getaway in one of the many beautiful condos with rates starting at $89/night. Adding sparkle to the occasion, guests receive a complimentary bottle of champagne. Call 855-318-5875 to book your New Year’s Eve package!

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Enjoy complimentary shuttle service from Laketown Wharf to Pier Park, where revelers gather for a slew of family-friendly events, live entertainment and the evening’s highlight – the annual New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop. At 8 p.m., local dignitaries will release 10,000 inflated beach balls along Pier Park’s beachfront boardwalk. This awe-inspiring activity, heralded as the nation’s only family beach ball drop, will be followed by a dazzling fireworks display.

At 8:30 p.m., the official Countdown Celebration will begin with live musical performances. Just before midnight, attendees will countdown to 2014 as an 800 pound LED lighted beach ball descends nearly 100 feet. This symbolic occasion will be followed by a stunning, second fireworks display.

Use promo code LTWNYE when you book online. Arrival date must be between 12/30/2014 and 1/3/2015. A minimum stay of 2 nights is required.

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About Laketown Wharf…
Located right in the heart of Panama City Beach, Laketown Wharf guests experience the ultimate in vacations! With access to five unique pools, including one zero-entry pool, a 10th floor rooftop pool, a secluded island pool, and fun kid’s pool, families are sure to love all the options. Additional resort amenities include 52,000 sq. ft. of lakefront boardwalk, fully equipped fitness center, covered parking, mini golf, on-site convenience store, on-site bar and grill, and sugar-white beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. All 1, 2 & 3 bedroom condominiums are luxuriously furnished and professionally decorated featuring 32″ flat screen TV’s and high-speed internet. All balconies face the water offering spectacular Gulf, Lake and Golf Course views.

This resort is conveniently located to nearby restaurants, shopping & attractions and is just minutes away from Pier Park and Frank Brown Park.

With its nightly fountain and water show, Laketown Wharf makes a big and lasting impression!

If you go…
Laketown Wharf
9902 South Thomas Drive
Panama City Beach, FL 32408

http://www.laketownwharf.com/

(866)684-3898

Find winter romance in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Cozy up in a cabin or luxury mountain home for the perfect retreat.

As I planned and recorded this week’s episode of The Travel Voice by Becky radio show (on APH Radio and iHeart Radio), I was searching for a winter romantic destination since chilly temperatures are upon us. Well, I found it! Blue Ridge, Georgia is perfect and situated only 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate 575. Choose a cozy cabin setting with lots of casual dining options, take a hike to a spectacular waterfall or a driving tour. Don’t forget to carve out time for tastings at local wineries, shopping at unique boutiques and relaxing!

Caption: Cozy up in a cabin complete with mountain vistas and lake views in Blue Ridge, Ga. Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Caption: Cozy up in a cabin complete with mountain vistas and lake views in Blue Ridge, Ga. Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Katie Reeder from Laurie Rowe Communications shares this:

It’s a fact that exercise-induced endorphins can ignite romance. Get your blood pumping on one of the many trails in a system of over 300 miles which includes short trails suitable for beginning hikers. The Aska Trails, a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, has hikes that intersect and loop ranging from 1- to 5.5-miles. A short distance away, and part of the larger Benton MacKaye Trail, is Fall Branch Falls a double waterfall with mountain laurel and rhododendron growing along the trail and creek bank. The hike to the falls is about 30 minutes round-trip.

One of the greatest outdoor adventures in the world, the Appalachian Trail, begins in Fannin County at the top of Springer Mountain. The hike to Long Creek Falls is a great way to experience the Appalachian Trail. This adventure includes a scenic 5.3-mile drive into the forest following Noontootla Creek to the Three Forks Area where you will begin your two-mile round-trip hike following Long Creek to a beautiful cascading waterfall with two drops totaling 50 feet. Take a picnic and a thermos of hot chocolate to enjoy at the falls.

Insider tip: Visit the Self Guided Tours page on http://www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

Rethink “eating in”
After a day trekking the great outdoors, refuel with tempting treats while kindling romance, all without leaving the comfort of one of Blue Ridge’s cozy cabins.

With thousands of vacation rental cabins in and around Blue Ridge, Chef Douglas Olsen, of Cabin Cuisine, creates meals in the comfort of a serene mountain setting.

“Picture a chef walking through your front door, looking like he just walked off the set of a Food Network TV show. He prepares a magnificent meal, serves you on white table cloth with candles and flowers, and if that is not enough, he even cleans-up afterward! I call that VERY special and as far as I know, unique to the Blue Ridge area,” says Olsen, who feels blessed to have the ability to share his talents with others in a way that creates a most memorable experience for clients that will be remembered and shared with others for years to come. Find out more at http://www.CabinCuisine.com.

Sophisticated eating in a charming small-town setting: top picks for romantic bites
Harvest on Main – The area’s most eclectic dining satisfies the palate with a growing menu of options. At Harvest on Main, local ingredients are used whenever possible, many grown at The Cook’s Farm, a garden plot farmed by Chef Danny Mellman and his wife, Michelle. Chef Mellman smokes his own meats, makes his own pickles and pasta, resulting in imaginative dishes like the three onion and apple soup, which will have you craving seconds. Visit them at 576 E. Main Street; HarvestonMain.com, or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HarvestonMain.

Blue Ridge Grocery – So successful, Harvest on Main expanded their offerings in 2013 with the addition of Harvest’s Blue Ridge Grocery, featuring home baked breads, breakfasts, sandwiches and take out cuisine for the cabin. Check them out at 560 East Main Street and on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BlueRidgeGrocery.

Black Sheep Bar and Patio – Another can’t-miss is the new Black Sheep Restaurant, located in a house once visited by Margaret Mitchell, which serves gourmet Southern comfort food. Visit them at 480 West Main Street and at http://www.BlackSheepBlueRidge.com.

Christy Lee’s Courtyard Grille – Christy Lee’s Courtyard Grille welcomes guests with outdoor fire pits, live entertainment and a menu with temptations like bacon wrapped scallops and cedar plank salmon. More info on Christy’s at 588 East Main Street, http://www.ChristyLees.com, and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Christy-Lees-Courtyard-Grille.

Blue Ridge Brewery – Locals call it the place “where everybody knows your name,” but Blue Ridge Brewery is more than a local pub with outstanding live entertainment on weekends. The Brewery offers some excellent comfort food as well. They can be found at 187 Depot Street and http://www.BlueRidgeBrewery.com.

The Sweet Shoppe – Take home some award-winning cupcakes from The Sweet Shoppe, located just below Harvest on Main and next door to Christy Lee’s, where owners have bragging rights from their win on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Enjoy some sweets at 576 East Main Street D and get more info at http://www.SweetShoppeBlueRidge.com.

More choices
Blue Ridge has some outstanding one-of-a-kind local spots and destinations including Toccoa Riverside Restaurant, with beautiful views and an extensive menu including locally-caught North Georgia Rainbow Trout; Cantaberry Restaurant, featuring simple, homemade gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts; and, Southern Charm, open every day, serving down-home comfort food – including family-style Sunday dinners.

If you go
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at http://www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

Fire and Ice on Valentine’s Day
Plan a three-day romantic getaway for Martin Luther King Weekend or for President’s Day Weekend. Blue Ridge’s Fire and Ice Chili Cookoff, held each President’s Day weekend, combines cool ice sculptures with hot chili, cold beer and entertainment – it’s a perfect event to build your weekend around.

Fannin County Chamber of Commerce
http://www.BlueRidgeMountains.com
1-800-899-MTNS.

Six Reasons to Love the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Class: Standard SUV
Fuel Economy: 20/27
Base Price: $24,950

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I grew up riding in a station wagon. That’s what families did back then. And, while there really weren’t many options, today is a different story. SUVs and mini vans have flooded the market and created many alternatives for growing families. One of my favorite family vehicles is from the Hyundai family – the Santa Fe!

The Santa Fe is not only a good value, but it also presents itself in an attractive manner with lots of modern amenities in a roomy, practical interior. This five-passenger sport crossover is perfect for budget savvy families and daily commuters alike. It handles the road a bit tighter than Hyundai’s seven-passenger, third-row model that larger families migrate toward, which is to be expected in a smaller, sportier vehicle.

Here are six reasons to love the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and I’m sure you’ll add more to the list once you’ve taken it for a spin.

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1. The Santa Fe Sport is more than a pretty façade. It has efficient power with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder standard engine with 190 horsepower offering decent gas mileage for this classification. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is an available option. Want more power? Opt for the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine…that will do the trick!

2. This sport model has some great features even on the base model: 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, LED headlights, tinted windows, tilt wheel, keyless entry, Bluetooth capability, great audio system, USB integration and so much more! It offers sporty good looks with state-of-the-art technology…a win-win.

3. The lengthy warranty offered by Hyundai is second to none, proving that this manufacturer believes in their products and puts their money where their mouth is.

4. There is an optional equipment package that really upgrades the amenities if that’s important to you. Features like automatic headlights, heated mirrors and seats, touchscreen audio, rearview camera and power seats are just a few of the additions in this package. Need more? Go all out and upgrade to the premium equipment package and get leather interior, dual-zone climate control, sunshades on the rear windows and (one of my favorite features) blind-spot monitoring.

5. Safety is important to me…and to most folks I would imagine. In addition to the “normal” safety features (airbags and head restraints) found on almost every vehicle today, the Santa Fe Sport offers a few things that I find extremely important in the world of safety. One I mentioned above…blind-spot monitoring…and it goes without saying how many wrecks this single feature has prevented by alerting the driver when a vehicle is present in the blind-spot. Another is the rearview camera system. I love being able to physically see if something is in my rear path. It has kept me from running over scooters and bicycles many a time.

6. In addition to providing a comfortable interior, families can expect a straightforward dashboard with easy to operate knobs and buttons. The rear passengers have lots of leg room, there is great luggage room for travel (or groceries, strollers and sporting equipment) and if you need to haul something, the backseats fold down flat.

Hyundai has claimed their share of the SUV market with sharp vehicles like this one offering eye-pleasing exteriors, spacious interiors full of techno-savvy amenities and dependable powertrains. Take a test drive and see how the Santa Fe Sport stacks up to others in this segment. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Affordable Cruise Deals – October 11, 2014

Fall is the ideal time to take a discounted cruise! Why? Kids are in school and it’s the time of year sandwiched between end-of-summer travel and holiday travel. In order to keep all of the fabulous ships sailing at capacity, the cruise lines will typically have some cabins deeply discounted if you are able to plan and travel without a lot of notice. Even some of the ships that don’t normally offer much in the way of a discount have significant savings offered in the fall. If you are looking to cruise NOW, take a moment to look over the deals below…and hopefully you’ll be on the high seas in no time at all!

Carnival Freedom

CARNIVAL LIBERTY
This five-night cruise departs from Port Canaveral, Florida on November 2, 2014 and visits three ports of call in the Bahamas: Freeport, Nassau and Half Moon Cay. This 110,000-ton ship offers plenty of entertainment as well as a state-of-the-art fitness center and spa, three pools, a waterslide, art auctions and an Internet cafe. Night life is full of Vegas-style shows, comedy shows, a casino and a piano bar. Kids have a large playroom, wading pool and a teen hangout (Club O2 – ages 15-17) while adults can look forward to my favorite place on the ship – the Serenity adult-only area complete with hammocks, a private bar and a whirlpool. Dining options are plentiful with full-service formal dining and counter service, including Guy’s Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Cantina. Find more information at http://www.carnival.com.

Pricing for inside cabins start at only $169pp. Represents over 80% off regular rates.
Oceanview cabins start at $189pp. Represents over 80% off regular rates.
Balcony cabins start at $349pp. Represents over 70% off regular rates.
Suites start at $859pp. Represents over 50% off regular rates.

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RUBY PRINCESS
This five-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida departs on November 3, 2014 and visits Princess Cays, Bahamas and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The Ruby Princess offers the exceptional amenities and innovations Princess Cruises is known for including a dramatic piazza-style atrium, street performers on Deck 5, award-winning specialty restaurants and more! Enjoy the full-service spa menu at Lotus Spa or watch a movie under the stars poolside on the outdoor screen. The youth center offers plenty for children from play areas and a splash pool to the Teen Lounge. Adults enjoy the Sanctuary with a relaxing oasis, a pool, whirlpool and spacious sundeck. For more information, visit http://www.princess.com.

Pricing for inside cabins start at only $289pp. Represents over 50% off regular rates.
Oceanview cabins start at a rare $169pp. Represents over 70% off regular rates.
Balcony cabins start at $229pp. Represents over 70% off regular rates.
Suites start at $399pp. Represents over 60% off regular rates.

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NORWEGIAN SKY
This four-night cruise from Miami, Florida departs on November 10, 2014 and visits three ports in the Bahamas: Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay. Norwegian Sky offers an impressive glass-domed atrium soaring 12 decks high! The Atrium Bar offers everything from champagne and vodka to caviar. The Sky also has a cigar club, casual Sports Bar and a casino. The Coffee Bar offers guests an Internet Café and a skycam! Hungry? Dining options include Le Bistro (tableside cooking, Mediterranean cuisine and specialty desserts), as well as many other restaurants. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the two golf driving nets, basketball and volleyball courts. The ship has two pools, five hot tubs and a kid’s pool with a waterfall. For more information, please visit http://www.ncl.com.

Pricing for inside cabins start at only $209pp ($199pp Alabama Resident Rate). Represents over 80% off regular rates.
Oceanview cabins start at $269pp ($259pp Alabama Resident Rate). Represents over 75% off regular rates.
Balcony cabins start at $369pp ($349pp Alabama Resident Rate). Represents over 75% off regular rates.
Suites start at $799pp ($749pp Alabama Resident Rate). Represents almost 70% off regular rates.

Keep in mind that cruises, much like airlines, have the right to change pricing without any notice. What that means is that if you see the deal today, that doesn’t mean it will be that price tomorrow. Also, these prices are NOT including taxes and port fees which typically run anywhere from $75-$150 depending on how many ports of call you will visit. You will need to add this cost to the price of the cruise. And, pricing is based on double occupancy. Even so, these are AMAZING prices! Happy sailing friends!

Halloween Travel Trends

Many of my readers, listeners, etc. often ask what trips they could take that revolve around the month of October celebrating fall and the spookiness of Halloween. I aim to please, so here is a short list of some super cool things that I hope you and your family will enjoy!

Dahlonega, Georgia – Hair Raising Ghost Tours
Ah, Dahlonega! This southern city has a haunted history thanks to its gold-mining, Civil War and Trail of Tears past, in addition to its geology.

The Dahlonega Ghost Walk – Historic Hauntings Tour is a 14-location guided tour leading guests on an eerie journey full of local tales and legends. Jeremy Sharp, tour guide and founder, meanders the streets, back alleys, historic buildings, and the local cemetery, showing tourists the full paranormal side of Dahlonega. The tour is offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. August through November. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available at The Attic Upstairs, 19 East Main Street. For more information, call 706-482-8795 or email dahlonegawalkingtours@gmail.com.

Haunted Dahlonega: Spirits, Legends & Lore is conducted by The Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, a not-for-profit organization offering interactive tours for adults and children alike. Learn why Dahlonega is a hotbed of activity, including Cherokee folktales, local mysteries and benevolent hauntings. All proceeds benefit the Dahlonega Gold Museum. Tours are Saturdays at 7 p.m. on October 4, 11 and 25 as well as November 1. Tickets are available at the Dahlonega Gold Museum. For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/FODGM or call 706-864-2257.

Orlando, Florida – Theme Parks offer Tons of Halloween-Type Events
LEGOLAND offers the third annual Brick-or-Treat this Halloween. Kid-friendly, haunted adventures includes trick-or-treating along the brick-or-treat trail, super brick building activities, the largest LEGA Jack-O-Lantern in the world, entertainment and an all-kids costume contest (with prizes). This event promises lots of family fun and photo opportunities!

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

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World is a family fun-filled event that will make lifetime memories. After the park closes, guests will be invited to dress up in costume and collect candy throughout Magic Kingdom, which will be transformed into the happy haunted hallows. Enjoy the Monstrous Scream-O-Ween Ball dance party in Tomorrowland featuring Monsters, Inc. characters. You can bet there will be Disney characters dressed in their favorite costumes, a Villians Dance Mix and Mingle, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade and much more!

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is a safe, exciting place to trick-or-treat. Fun-loving sea witches and many other sea creatures will greet and play with guests as they meander through SeaWorld Orlando. At Penelope’s Party Zone, guests can enjoy crafts, music, games and colorful characters. Also, new to SeaWorld, families can enjoy a new, immersive brunch experience – Dine with Shamu Halloween Spooktacular Brunch.

Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Orlando Resort redefines Halloween entertainment with movie-quality haunted houses and “scare zones” that touch on your deepest fears. On select nights, guests will explore eight blood curdling haunted houses as well as encountering “scareactors” on the streets of Universal. Enjoy outrageous shows as well as fantastic rides and attractions. Check out the largest maze in the history of Halloween Horror Nights inspired by “The Walking Dead.”

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Disney Cruise Line – Halloween on the High Seas
Discover treats, tricks, magical mischief and spooky surroundings on your Halloween on the High Seas cruise! This new experience is available on most itineraries departing late September through Halloween.

If thrills and chills are your cup of tea, then this venue is perfect for your family. Every turn is filled with Halloween-themed parties, lively entertainment and elaborate décor—including an evolving Halloween Tree that eerily transforms throughout your cruise.

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Sail Dates
Disney Magic September 27, 2014 – October 26, 2014
Disney Wonder September 26, 2014 – October 31, 2014
Disney Dream September 07, 2014 – October 31, 2014
Disney Fantasy September 06, 2014 – October 25, 2014

Other special experiences include:
• Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party, an atrium party scare-a-bration (in addition to Pirate Night) with ghoulish games, trick-or-treating*, dancing and some favorite Disney Pals in their Halloween attire
• Halloween-themed activities for all ages, including mask-making and pumpkin-carving**
• Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream, an interactive movie experience where you’re part of the action, followed by a meet-and-greet with Jack and Sally
• Haunted Stories of the Sea – a campfire-style storytelling experience on the deck
• Halloween Isn’t Just for Kids – an adults-only party that includes a costume contest

With so much to see and do, you won’t want to miss this Halloween celebration at sea, now offered fleetwide. Pack your costumes and get ready for happy haunting on Disney Cruise Line.

To book your Halloween cruise with Disney Cruise Line, book online (web site below and click on reservations) or contact your Travel Agent.

IF YOU GO…
Dahlonega, Georgia
http://www.dahlonega.org

Orlando, Florida
http://www.VisitOrlando.com

Disney Cruise Line
http://www.disneycruise.disney.go.com

The Travel Voice by Becky on APH Radio!

Shelby County, Alabama has a new kid on the block…as far as local radio stations! This one, however, is a bit different. APH Radio is community-centered. Underwriting announcements replace advertisements and those dollars (net profits) are donated to local charities and civic groups.

This station brings you local Friday night high school football, Top 40 hits in all genres of music and fun talk shows! Can’t tune in locally? No problem! Go to the app store on your smartphone and search APH. You should see APH Radio come up, download it and you are able to listen live or on demand when you miss something!

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The Travel Voice by Becky is proud to be part of this local endeavor and my sponsors reach a HUGE audience in central Alabama! Thanks for your support!

The Travel Voice by Becky is also proudly associated with iHeart Radio! Search for it under SHOWS and make it a favorite so you won’t miss an episode! Thanks, fans, for allowing me to serve you in this capacity!

How to obtain a U. S. Passport

Do you have a trip overseas coming up? Not sure where, when, how to start when getting a passport? This article is for you. Short and to the point, here’s what you need to know.

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First off, do you need a passport? If you are traveling internationally by air regardless of age, each person must have their own passport. If you have NEVER had a passport, you’ll need to apply in person. If you are renewing, you may qualify to renew your passport by mail. The web site below will be able to help answer that question for you.

If you are traveling by sea (cruise ship), the rules are a little different. There is something called a “Closed-Loop” cruise and here are the regulations for that: If you are a U.S. citizen, and you board a cruise ship at a U.S. port, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship, you may present government-issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or certified copy of your birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization). Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.

Traveling by land internationally, you may use a passport book or passport card. Determine what you need at the below web site, but basically, if you are going to spend the money on a passport, go ahead and get the book. If you then had an emergency, you would be able to fly if need be.

Getting your passport…
Go to http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html. On the right hand side of the page, you will see a box with links to forms. Download the appropriate one and fill out on your computer, print and take with you so you do not have to do that while you are at the facility. Gather the appropriate documents that will go with your paperwork:

  • Proof of citizenship – your original birth certificate with the raised seal. Unaltered and undamaged. They will return it to you when your passport is issued (keep a copy of it at home in your files.
  • Proof of identity – your driver’s license will work just fine. Make a copy of it front and back to put with your passport application.
  • Picture – they are PARTICULAR about the picture! It must be color, 2 X 2 and show full frontal face. I highly recommend that you pay to let them make the photo at the facility where you are submitting.
  • Fees – The current rate (subject to change) is $110 for an adult first time passport book. A separate check or payment of $25 is for processing. The web site will break everything down. The fee for pictures will vary from place to place, but typically is around $15.

The web site offers a search engine to help assist you in finding a local facility that processes passport applications, but most U. S. Post Offices will do it. Call or ask the next time you are by one of them. Some have set times and days that they accept them while others require an appointment. If you have all of your paperwork in order, your process will go smoothly. If you know well in advance that you’ll be traveling overseas with the family, you’ll have time to budget the passports…do one a month so that the fees aren’t such a chunk at one time. Routine processing time is 4-6 weeks.

Good luck and safe travels!

Five Reasons I Love to Cruise

It is no secret that this travel journalist is a fan of cruising. Sometimes it is just me and the hubby, while other times it may be the whole family…either way, it is always the cornerstone for great memories and fantastic value!

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Everyone always asks why I love cruising so much, so I compiled a list of the five top reasons why I love to cruise. Sure, there are more, but these characteristics are always common across all fleets.

  1. Value. Cruises offer an all-inclusive vacation adventure with lots of bang for the buck, especially if you cruise during the times of the year when kids are in school. Prices are higher during summer months and holiday seasons when children are on school break, so if you can make it any other time, you are likely to find a BARGAIN! Cruise prices include everything you need to have a great vacation…good food with lots of choices, activities, entertainment, and more!*
  2. Relaxing. You don’t have to worry about driving (the captain usually doesn’t let you command his ship) and there are folks around to wait on you hand and foot.
  3. Entertainment. There are Broadway-like shows nightly, karaoke, piano bars, casinos, comedy shows, movies (some ships have onboard theaters and some have big screens out over the pool for nightly viewings), dance parties, deck parties and more depending on the particular ship you are sailing with. Never a dull moment…or do nothing at all! It’s your choice!
  4. Ports of call. I have visited some fabulous Caribbean islands, tropical paradises, European must sees and more thanks to cruising. To fly to these places individually and spend time there would cost a fortune. Cruising is a great way to see the world!
  5. Activities. Today, cruise ships are loaded down with activities from full-service workout facilities to basketball courts and everything in between. I have seen mini golf, bowling, rock climbing walls, zip lines, video arcades, water slides and more! Of course, there are less physical things to do such as checking out a book from the library, attending an art auction, playing Bingo, taking a towel folding class (learn how to make those cool turndown friends) or simply lounging by the pool.

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If you haven’t thought of cruising as a vacation option before, I invite you to consider it! There is literally a cruise for every budget! If you are an avid cruiser like me, or you’ve just taken your first, what are your favorite reasons to cruise? Do you look for bargain cruises? Do you like seeing the world via a cruise ship?

*Some of the items NOT included in the price of your cruise are sodas, alcohol, specialty restaurants, shore excursions, gratuities, spa services, etc. This list is not inclusive, but gives you an idea. You can have a perfectly good vacation without spending anything extra aside from your tips. How do I know? I have done just that!

Norwegian Getaway named best new ship

To Celebrate, Line Offers Getaway Bonus Day on August 19

Miami’s Ultimate Ship, Norwegian Getaway, has been named “Best New Ship” in the first Editor’s Choice Awards by Bon Voyage, an online digital magazine published by Cruiseline.com. To celebrate this honor, Norwegian Cruise Line has designated August 19, 2014 as Norwegian Getaway Bonus Day and is offering a $100 on-board credit per stateroom for new reservations for all 2014 Norwegian Getaway sailings, plus free balcony upgrades.

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“Whenever Norwegian has chosen to celebrate a home port, the results have been fun. We loved the Miami influence on Norwegian Getaway, from being able to start our day with Cuban coffee to ending it with a Latin dance performance or a mojito at an outdoor bar,” said Sherri Eisenberg, editor-in-chief of Bon Voyage.

The ship is the largest to homeport year-round in Miami and sails seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruises departing weekly from PortMiami. Norwegian Getaway has received rave reviews from travel partners and from the more than 100,000 guests who have sailed on her thus far who say Norwegian Getaway is “the best cruise I’ve ever taken” and “an awesome cruise on an awesome ship.” To read more comments from her guests, click here.

Featuring groundbreaking entertainment, the ship offers performances of the seven-time Tony Award nominated musical LEGALLY BLONDE and sizzling Latin-inspired dance productions by Broadway sensation, Burn the Floor. The ship is the first to feature the GRAMMY® Experience at Sea, which include artifacts chosen and curated by the GRAMMY Museum® along with live performances by past GRAMMY winners and nominees, among others.

Another first of its kind at sea, The Illusionarium is an all-new dining and entertainment experience that envelops guests in the fascinating world of magic, inviting them to experience the astonishing illusions of world-class magicians and supernatural special effects. In addition, there are hilarious comedy headliners produced by Levity Entertainment Group and the sing-along fun of the dueling pianos from Howl at the Moon. Every sailing features a dazzling fireworks show at sea, set to music, as part of a dance party in the ship’s outdoor club, Spice H20. In addition, the ship is now offering complimentary 3-D movies twice per cruise, such as “Frozen*” and “Thor Dark World.*”

Similar to sister ship Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway dazzles guests with the excitement of 678 Ocean Place and The Waterfront, a variety of interconnected indoor and outdoor venues on three dynamic decks that creates a multiplex of dining, activities and more, and enhances guests’ connection with the ocean. Norwegian Getaway also features Miami’s coolest place to chill out – the ship’s SVEDKA/Inniskillin Ice Bar, featuring Art Deco-style décor, reminiscent of Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive.

Foodies setting sail from Miami on Norwegian Getaway can feast on their choice of 28 incredible dining options, including Celebrity Chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian’s three dining concepts: Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian; Ocean Blue on the Waterfront and The Raw Bar. Buddy Valastro, star of the popular TLC series “Cake Boss,” also has an outpost of his famous Carlo’s Bakery onboard, serving up delicious treats like cannolis, lobster tails and specialty cakes.

For families, Nickelodeon®, the number-one entertainment brand for kids, is on board and includes a variety of exciting interactive experiences, along with the opportunity to meet SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Dora the Explorer and Diego, among other favorites. Norwegian Getaway also includes a pirate-themed Nickelodeon Kids’ Aqua Park where children can cool off with colorful, whimsical and larger than life Nickelodeon characters from Bikini Bottom.

The three-story Sports Complex features the Aqua Park with five thrilling water slides, two swimming pools and one of the largest multi-level elevated ropes course that challenge guests to more than 40 different elements, including a zip track. For a thrill like no other, guests can confront The Plank, a platform that extends eight feet over the side of the ship. A nine-hole miniature golf course is located beneath the ropes course, offering family fun with friendly competition. A rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline and spider web, a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage complete with a spiral slide, round out the activities.

Norwegian Getaway offers a variety of flexible accommodations ranging from Studio staterooms specially designed for solo travelers, to balcony and family staterooms and opulent suites in The Haven, the ultimate in luxury accommodations.

Departing every Saturday, the ship visits tropical ports of call including Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. Fares for 2014 cruises are from $419 per person, double occupancy.

To book a cruise during Norwegian Getaway Bonus Day, contact a travel professional, call Norwegian at 888-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), or visit http://www.ncl.com.

Press release by Norwegian Cruise Line.

Disney goodie bags for vacation

Who’s planning a trip to Disney with little ones? Want to save a little money? Make a goodie bag for your child with Disney items spotted today at Target!

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Getting the character’s autographs at Disney is a big deal to kids and you can, of course, purchase autograph books and pens in the parks. However, I found these precious Disney journals for $1 (several characters to choose from including new Frozen theme) and these super cute Frozen pom pens also for $1!! Target also has cute Disney socks and other things…so go by and take a look if you have a trip coming up anytime in the next few months. Saves a family a lot of money, especially if you have more than one child! Vacation can be both fun and frugal with a little planning!

Seven Grand Things about the Jeep Grand Cherokee

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

There’s no doubt that the Jeep Grand Cherokee has a following second to none resulting in its claim as “Most Awarded SUV Ever!” Owners site reliability, resale value and safety as primary purchase factors when choosing the various models of Jeep Cherokee. In fact, a glance at the used car classifieds will attest to their quality with so many still on the road 10 years after initial purchase.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland

Standard on the Summit model are things I’ve come to expect and appreciate from the Jeep Cherokee brand including: 4 wheel drive, a full host of airbags (even the advanced multistage front airbags), power liftgate and excellent interior craftsmanship. The current model year, however, has left me with a few new favorites to add to my growing list of admirable characteristics on the Grand Cherokee.

Read more in the recently published article in Focus Daily News out of Texas: http://focusdailynews.com/seven-grand-things-about-the-jeep-grand-cherokee-summit-p13155-84.htm

Also, see MOM MOBILE article in Birmingham Parent magazine: http://www.birminghamparent.com/article/the-mom-mobile-seven-grand-things-about-the-jeep-grand-cherokee-summit.html

Nine reasons to sail on Carnival’s newly renovated Freedom Ship

Seven years ago I was privileged to sail on the inaugural Carnival Freedom cruise to the Caribbean. I remember thinking it was so massive and full of extravagant at-sea activities. By today’s standards, it is not the largest ship on the water, but thanks to an extreme makeover and two weeks in dry dock, it is once again among the elite cruise ships sporting innovative technology, fabulous repurposed spaces and kids programs second to none!

Carnival Freedom

Two weeks seems like a tiny bit of time. In fact, I can hardly paint a bathroom in that amount of time. But, non-stop, round-the-clock teams can transform a mega cruiseliner in that time frame and leave vacationers speechless. This spring Carnival added its Fun Ship 2.0 Initiative to the Freedom including: Guy’s Burger Joint; RedFrog Rum Bar; BlueIguana Tequila Bar; BlueIguana Cantina; EA SPORTS Bar; Alchemy Bar; Hasbro, The Game Show; and The Punchliner Comedy Club.

Freedom received so many wonderful additions that it is impossible to cover them all, and for that reason, I have compiled a list of my favorites. Below are nine reasons (in no specific order) to plan a family vacation onboard the beautiful Carnival Freedom ship!

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1. Carnival’s partnership with Seuss Enterprises created the new Seuss at Sea program for families. Carnival Freedom is the first ship to feature Bookville, a dedicated Seuss-themed play space featuring iconic décor, colors, shapes and funky furniture inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Bookville is the perfect place for families to relax and read beloved Dr. Seuss books or enjoy family-fun activities such as arts and crafts, toys and Dr. Seuss-inspired games.

2. The revamped kid’s club area has transitioned from Camp Carnival to Camp Ocean and brings with it redesigned areas that are age-specific and appropriately named penguins, stingrays and sharks! The kid’s love it! From dance floors to space for arts and crafts and even video games, Camp Ocean is created for fun and exciting times at sea.

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3. Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade and Story Time is an awesome opportunity for families to don parade props and noise makers, and march along the ship’s promenade chanting “Dr. Seuss is on the loose!” Oh, and did I mention that Cat and the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and Sam will be joining the parade as well? The parade will conclude in one of the ship’s theater rooms with children sitting on the stage and parents in the audience. The ship’s cruise director will lead an interactive dramatic reading of Cat and the Hat that is not to be missed!

Carnival Freedom

4. Admittedly, I had concerns about whether or not Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with Cat and the Hat and Friends could hold a candle to other character breakfasts I have attended throughout the years with my children. My reasons? Well, for starters, it is only a $5/per person upcharge and most of these type events I have attended have been anywhere from $29.99 – $59.99, so I assumed the price reflected the value that I should expect. I was WRONG!! This is by far one of the best values at sea for families and an event not to be missed! When you arrive (you must have a reservation) you will be blown away by an amazing Cat in the Hat ice sculpture surrounded by themed colors and life-size cutouts of other characters.

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The tablescapes are completely over-the-top with pops of blue and red that resonate with Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, and the characters (Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and Sam) eagerly await meet and greets with the kids (old and young alike)!

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And then there’s the menu…oh the menu! The cutest stinkin’ thing you have ever seen! The laminated book-like menu tells of its offerings in poetic format reminiscent of the author himself! I won’t take away the surprises, but I will remind you to be sure and reserve a table for this event as soon as you arrive onboard, as you do not want to miss this extravaganza!

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5. Cherry on Top is a brilliantly displayed candy store with lots of color and choices for candy by the ounce or pre-bagged sweet treats and other indulgences.

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6. Guy’s Burger Joint is a poolside venue celebrating Food Network’s Guy Fieri, his bodacious California roots and down-to-earth comfort food. Guy’s delicious burgers are hand-formed and receive high marks from guests onboard consistently. Guy’s thumbprint is all over the eatery with coastal maps and his personal signature on the dining tables. This place is definitely a hit!

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7. The shows! Playlist Productions builds upon Carnival’s reputation for high-quality entertainment by combining live performances, spectacular staging and special effects in an effort to create fantastic musical revues. Nice job!

8. Carnival added lots of new bars on the Freedom, and while the RedFrog Rum Bar (and the Pub) is high on that list, I love the EA SPORTS Bar, a sports enthusiasts paradise where guests can find scores on the real-time 24/7 sports ticker, see the latest big-time sporting events and play the latest EA SPORTS games on a 16-screen video wall!

9. The addition of the adults-only Serenity deck is my favorite daytime spot onboard. This 21 and older designated area is a sanctuary filled with cushioned lounge chairs, pillowed clam shell-like retreats from the sun, hammocks and hot tubs. It’s private for adults and offers its own bar and ambiance.

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Larry’s favorites…
My husband Larry is most often my travel partner and his favorites are sometimes different from mine. This ship is no different! His favorite lunchtime eatery is the Mongolian Wok where guests pick their meat and veggies and have them stirred up in yummy sauces. He also enjoys the BlueIguana Cantina with wonderful burritos filled with favorite meats and veggies…and they have wonderful sliced watermelon perfect for a hot day!

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Additionally, Larry tries to visit the workout facility at least every other day when we sail and he found this one to be updated nicely with state-of-the-art equipment and free weights. He also reminded me that the ports of call from Fort Lauderdale are particularly inviting and should not be overlooked. We visited Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao and Aruba…favorite islands for both of us! Something we can agree on!

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For more information on Carnival ships, itineraries or to book a cruise, visit http://www.carnival.com or call your favorite travel agent.

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National Cheesecake Day July 30th

As a self-proclaimed travel junkie, I sway a bit to the foodie side as well. And, bearing that in mind, it would not be quite fair if I didn’t share this delicious deal with you knowing that National Cheesecake Day is coming up rather quickly on July 30th.

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The Cheesecake Factory is offering up ANY SLICE HALF PRICE on July 30th and 31st for dine-in guests to celebrate the sweetness of their namesake. The deal is good for everyone at your table (none to go), only one slice per guest and each guest must be present. Fair enough I’d say!

Also, making it’s debut on National Cheesecake Day, The Cheesecake Factory presents Lemon Meringue Cheesecake! I don’t know about your family, but this could be a great night out for desserts at my house, especially with a looming gift card in my husband’s possession.

Are you a fan? Head on over to The Cheesecake Factory’s official Facebook page and give it a LIKE! You never know what they’ll post next! https://www.facebook.com/thecheesecakefactory?fref=photo

*Valid in US & Puerto Rico restaurants only.

Norwegian Cruise Line orders two new ships

Recently, I sailed on my first Norwegian cruise and it was a wonderful experience with every modern amenity imaginable, outstanding water park fun and brilliant entertainment. Today, Norwegian announced that it will add two more ships to the fleet in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Below is the press release from Norwegian including all of the relevant details.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NASDAQ: NCLH) announced today that it has reached an agreement with MEYER WERFT GmbH of Germany to build two new Breakaway-Plus class cruise ships for delivery in the second quarter 2018 and the fourth quarter 2019. Each ship will be 164,600 gross tons and include 4,200 passenger berths.

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“Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway have proven themselves as industry game-changers and are extremely popular with our guests,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “It was only natural that we build on their success with this new ship order that further solidifies our long-term growth strategy.”

The contract price for both ships is approximately euro 1.6 billion. The Company has export credit financing in place for each ship, arranged and underwritten by KfW IPEX-Bank GmbH of Germany.

“We are thrilled that Norwegian Cruise Line has the continued confidence in MEYER WERFT to expand their fleet,” said Bernard Meyer, managing partner of MEYER WERFT. “We are very proud of our longstanding relationship with Norwegian.”

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the concept of Freestyle Cruising which offers guests the freedom and flexibility to enjoy their cruise vacation on their own terms, including multiple dining venues, relaxed attire, a variety of accommodations and world-class entertainment. The Company took Freestyle Cruising to the next level with the introduction of Norwegian Epic in June 2010 and subsequently launched two game-changing vessels, Norwegian Breakaway based in New York in May 2013 and Norwegian Getaway homeported in Miami in February 2014. These ships incorporate groundbreaking design, including The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place, a wide range of indoor and outdoor venues on three dynamic decks that create a whole new complex at sea and connect guests with the ocean.

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About Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line is the innovator in cruise travel with a 47-year history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising, most notably with the introduction of Freestyle Cruising which revolutionized the industry by giving guests more freedom and flexibility. Today, Norwegian invites guests to “Cruise Like a Norwegian” on one of 13 purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed, resort style cruise vacation on some of the newest and most contemporary ships at sea. Recently, the line was named “Europe’s Leading Cruise Line” for the sixth consecutive year, as well as “Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Line” and “World’s Leading Large Ship Cruise Line” by the World Travel Awards.

The Company recently took delivery of its most innovative ship to date, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway on January 10, 2014. The largest ship to homeport year-round in Miami, Norwegian Getaway boasts 28 dining options, including seafood restaurant Ocean Blue by famed New York Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and a branch of Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of the TLC series “Cake Boss.” The entertainment lineup includes Broadway shows Legally Blonde and Burn the Floor and a unique magical theatrical experience, the Illusionarium. Norwegian Getaway’s sister ship, Norwegian Breakaway, was named “Best New Ship of 2013” by the editors of Cruise Critic and “Best Rookie Cruise Ship” by the readers of Travel Weekly. Known as New York’s ship, Norwegian Breakaway is the largest vessel to homeport year-round in the city. The Company currently has four vessels on order at Meyer Werft for delivery in fall 2015, spring 2017, spring 2018 and fall 2019.

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Norwegian Cruise Line is the official cruise line of the Miami Dolphins/Sun Life Stadium, The New York Knicks, Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert; and the official cruise line partner of The GRAMMY Awards and is an official partner of the Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall.