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!

Carnival Freedom

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.

Carnival Freedom

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!

Carnival Freedom

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.

Carnival Freedom

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.

Carnival Courier includes The Travel Voice by Becky

I get many emails from readers and listeners asking various questions about cruises, so I try to share all the information that I can regarding that subject. Podcasts are awesome places for cruise reviews, as well as informative newsletters like the Carnival Courier. The latest Courier actually contains great stuff, including a couple of things from yours truly. Enjoy!

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http://paper.li/CarnivalCourier/1382731931

Cruise Radio shares about Carnival Freedom

Recently, I sailed on the Carnival Freedom out of Fort Lauderdale to check out all of her renovations and new additions. During that cruise I was interviewed by Doug Parker of Cruise Radio and it was included in his fantastic review of the ship. If you have a few minutes to listen, this is a wonderful way to research and gain useful tips in booking your next cruise vacation!
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http://cruiseradio.net/episode-carnival-freedom-southern-caribbean-sailing/

Florida Panhandle Beaches

In this two-part podcast, Becky shares some of her favorite places on Florida’s forgotten coast and panhandle! Visit Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Black’s Island, Cape San Blas and Pensacola. Learn about “don’t miss” activities and where to find great accommodations.

http://www.spreaker.com/user/thetravelvoicebybecky/the-forgotten-coast-of-fl-part-1

http://www.spreaker.com/user/thetravelvoicebybecky/the-forgotten-coast-of-fl-part-2

Black's Island

Black’s Island

Becky talks about the newly renovated Carnival Freedom

Recently Carnival Cruise Line renovated the Freedom ship, adding awesome new features like Guy’s Burger Joint, Red Frog Rum Bar, Blue Iguana Cantina, EA Sports Bar and Hasbro the Game Show. The most exciting new feature, however, is the joint venture between the mega cruise line and Seuss Enterprises creating the Seuss at Sea Program exclusive to Carnival. From Bookville to the Seuss-a-Palooza parade and storytime to the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast extravaganza, this new kids endeavor will WOW you like no other program at sea!

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Take a moment to download and have a listen while you’re on the treadmill, walking or working! Enjoy!

http://www.spreaker.com/user/thetravelvoicebybecky/carnival-freedom-cruising-the-caribbean

Theme Park Tips – As Seen on Fox 6 Good Day Alabama

Here are the tips I promised to Good Day Alabama viewers as well as a look at the show if you missed it. I hope they help you have a fabulous trip to your favorite theme park!

http://www.myfoxal.com/clip/10347031/travel-tips-for-theme-parks

Theme Park Tips
Walt Disney World in Orlando
Tickets – the more days you buy the more you save so the Magic Your Way tickets are the best deal.
Park Hoppers are the way to go so if a park is really full, you can leave and enjoy another one.
Staying on property gets you extra hours in the parks.
Get fast passes early in the day for must rides and arrive early.
Most people tend to run late so getting there a little early may get you some extra rides.

Tinker Bell Greets Magic Kingdom Guests at Town Square Theater

Food is one of the biggest costs at Disney. Here are some great ways to save money.

Magic Your Way Package with Dining Plan for 2014
Available only with vacation packages that include accommodations at a Disney-owned-and-operated hotel plus at least a 1-day theme park ticket per person, Disney’s Magic Your Way plus Dining Plan Package for 2014 is a convenient and affordable way to experience many of the unique Disney dining locations found across the Walt Disney World Resort.

The additional cost (on top of a regular Magic Your Way package) is $60.64 (tax included) per night per adult or junior (ages 10-17), $19.23 (tax included) per night for children (ages 3-9). For example, a guest with a length of stay of 3-nights/4-days who books Disney’s Magic Your Way Package with the Dining Plan would receive three table service meals, three counter service meals, and three snacks per person, for their stay. These meals and snacks can be used at any time during your stay, in any order.

2014 FREE dining dates are listed below:
Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resort Hotels:
•Aug 31 through Oct 3, 2014
•Oct 26 through Nov 1, 2014
•November 9 through November 20, 2014
•Dec 12 through Dec 23, 2014

Select Disney Deluxe Resort Hotels:
•Aug 31 through Oct 2, 2014
•Oct 26 through Nov 1, 2014
•Nov 9 through Nov 20, 2014
•Dec 12 through Dec 23, 2014

Select Disney Moderate Resort Hotels:
•Aug 31 through Sep 13, 2014
•Sep 23 through Sep 26, 2014
•Nov 20, 2014
•Dec 12 through Dec 23, 2014

Select Disney Value Resort Hotels:
•Aug 31 through Sep 20, 2014
•Oct 30 through Nov 1, 2014
•Nov 20, 2014
•Dec 12 through Dec 23, 2014

Package Includes:
•6-night non-discounted room stay
•7-day non-discounted theme park ticket
•Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan (if you book a select Value Resort) or Disney Dining Plan (if you book a select Moderate, Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort)

Important Details:
•The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited.
•Some table-service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase.
•Theme park tickets must be used within 14 days of first use.

Offer Restrictions:
•Advance reservations required.
•Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion.
•Offer excludes campsites and 3-bedroom villas.
•Children ages 3-9 must choose from children’s menu, if available.

**Book through August 8, 2014**

To book by phone, call (407) 939-7709† and speak with a vacation planning expert or call your local travel agent. Also, visit https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
•September is best time to visit.
•Get the Express Passes to ensure riding your favorite attractions.
•Late afternoons are quieter.
•Purchase the meal plan for cheaper food.
•Check the HOT DEALS button on Universal’s web site listed below.
•As with Disney, if you purchase souvenirs and are staying on property, you can have your packages delivered right to your room.
•Check out the brand new family-friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort (https://www.universalorlando.com/Hotels/Cabana-Bay-Beach-Resort.aspx) for specials and affordable rates!

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For more information on Universal Studios Orlando, please visit http://www.universalstudios.com/.

Six Flags over Georgia
•Discount tickets options are plentiful from the COKE CAN DEALS to AAA discounts. Many credit unions offer discounted tickets, and check with your work’s HR department, as well as local entertainment guides.
•Best tips: arrive early and head to the back of the park and work your way forward. Eat at odd times to avoid lines.

For more information, please visit https://www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia.

Theme Park Bargain of the Summer – Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari Water Park in Santa Claus, Indiana
•Two parks for one admission.
•Free soft drinks.
•Free sunscreen.
•Free WiFi.
•Free parking.
•Accommodations are very reasonable (campground at Lake Rudolf or hotel at Santa’s Lodge).
•Reasonably priced food.
•Special menus for those with food allergies.
•In 2013, USA Today proclaimed Splashin’ Safari to be the Best Water Park in the USA.
•TIME magazine named The Voyage the #1 Wooden Roller Coaster in America.
•Buy your tickets online and print before you go to save money and time. Tickets are available at the discounted price of $39.95 (reg. $44.95) for General Admission and $34.95 (reg. $36.95) for Guests-under-54″ and Seniors (60+). Children ages two and younger get in free.

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For more information, please visit http://www.holidayworld.com/.

Carnival Freedom adds Seuss at Sea

Those following my social media have started asking: what is that ship you are leaving on…the one with the Dr. Seuss stuff…tell us about it! Well, I leave tomorrow so personal, first-hand accounts will have to wait. For now I can share Carnival’s official press release regarding the Freedom (edited for space and clarity), her renovation and new additions! This will make for an awesome family vacation!

Carnival Freedom

Carnival Freedom received an extensive multi-million-dollar makeover this spring adding the first-ever Bookville family reading venue – part of the recently launched Seuss at Sea program in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises – along with a variety of dining, bar and entertainment innovations that are part of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative.

Carnival Freedom

The majority of these exciting new features were incorporated during a dry dock that took place in Freeport, The Bahamas, from April 19 to May 3, 2014.

Following the dry dock, Carnival Freedom resumed its popular six- to eight-day Caribbean schedule from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and introduced two new five-day Caribbean options, marking the first time that a Fun Ship 2.0-equipped ship will operate a short cruise itinerary from South Florida.

Debut of Bookville
As part of the new Seuss at Sea program, 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. The perfect place for families to relax and unwind, guests can read beloved Dr. Seuss books or stretch their imagination through family-fun activities such as arts and crafts, toys and Dr. Seuss-inspired games.

Carnival Freedom

Other Seuss at Sea activities include the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends, an interactive reading event called Seuss-a-palooza Story Time, and the Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade along the ship’s promenade.

Exciting Fun Ship 2.0 Innovations
A wide range of popular Fun Ship 2.0 features has been added to Carnival Freedom as well. Here’s a look at the many new offerings:

Guy’s Burger Joint, a free-of-charge poolside venue developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh hand-cut fries in an atmosphere that celebrates the chef’s California roots and love of car culture

BlueIguana Cantina, a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy authentic, freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas that can be personalized with a variety of salsas and toppings

EA SPORTS Bar, a sports and video game lovers’ paradise where guests can catch live sporting events, check out scores on the real-time 24/7 sports ticker, and play the latest EA SPORTS games on a 16-screen video wall

BlueIguana Tequila Bar, a fun and festive outdoor watering hole offering a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers, perfect for chillin’ by the pool

Alchemy Bar, a vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy” that’s the go-to spot for guests seeking a unique experience with mixologists who “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients or guests’ own custom-created cocktails

RedFrog Rum Bar, a poolside adaptation of the RedFrog Pub offering the quintessential Caribbean vacation vibe with refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own private label draft brew, ThirstyFrog Red

Carnival Freedom

Hasbro, The Game Show, where guests are part of the show through a series of larger-than-life productions and entertainment activities based on the company’s iconic and popular games

Playlist Productions, which builds upon Carnival’s reputation for high quality entertainment by combining captivating live performances and spectacular staging and special effects to create enthralling music revues produced by the top directors and choreographers in the industry

Cherry on Top, which celebrates the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun fanciful gifts and novelties, custom apparel and more

RedFrog Pub, where guests can enjoy the Caribbean’s best rums and beers – including, of course, Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Red – while soaking up the distinct British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West ambiance

The Warehouse, a family-friendly entertainment center where the young – and the young at heart – can play a wide variety of video and arcade games and win tickets that can be redeemed for fun prizes

Attractive Caribbean Itineraries from Fort Lauderdale
Carnival Freedom’s schedule from Fort Lauderdale encompasses two new five-day itineraries – one visiting Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman or Cozumel and the other calling at Grand Turk, Nassau and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.

These new choices complement the ship’s six-day cruises that call at Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel or Ocho Rios; and three different eight-day voyages including four-port eastern and southern Caribbean departures. These unique eight-day cruises visit a variety of exciting destinations including Grand Turk, St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao.

Carnival Freedom

For additional information, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.

Becky’s favorites on Norwegian Getaway

Recently, I had the opportunity to sail on board the all-new mega cruiseliner Norwegian Getaway. She is the newest ship in the Norwegian fleet and offers a plethora of amenities and activities designed for even the pickiest guest! The ports of call are fantastic and multiple food choices make for a fun trip for families, a couple or singles travel.

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A little about the Getaway…
The Getaway homeports in Miami, Florida with excellent seven-night itineraries in Caribbean ports of call such as St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau. And speaking of Miami, the Getaway screams south Florida with its tropical flair starting with the hull art designed by well-known Miami artist David “LEBO” Le Batard. It is a most impressive mural-like painting with a larger-than-life mermaid featuring brilliant colors that flow with the tropical theme continuing inside the ship. This ship has space for some 4,000 passengers with a crew of almost 1,600.

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One of the most innovative areas of the ship is Deck 8 – the Waterfront dining area where a quarter-mile walkway runs the outer perimeter of the deck. Here you will find alfresco dining options, bars and shopping. Hint: Don’t miss Ocean Blue, a creation of Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian with fabulous dishes from the sea, fresh ingredients and infamous cocktails.

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Another exciting area on board is the water park on Deck 17 where five multi-story waterslides await along with two swimming pools and four hot tubs! Enjoy the rush of Free Fall, one of two slides that drops you at 4Gs…if you dare! The Whip is two racing twister-like slides filled with fun and then, of course, the family slide is available for the more subdued water adventurer.

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Becky’s favorites…
The number one question I get from readers and listeners all the time is: what are your favorites on this trip, this cruise, this destination…so here you go!

Becky’s favorite complimentary dining venue on board: The Tropicana dining room was my favorite because of the dance and dine atmosphere with live music. The ambiance is a glamorous 1950s style creating an elegant dinner situation. Make a reservation because they tend to fill up fast.

Becky’s favorite lunch spot: O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill. Named after Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan, this Irish pub style eatery was full of comfort foods like burgers and salads, fish and chips and awesome milkshakes! They offer a “fried chicken” night and a “prime rib” night that are very popular. The atmosphere is casual with booths and tables.

Enjoying dinner at O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill.

Enjoying dinner at O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill.

Becky’s favorite upcharge restaurant: Cagney’s. Wow, what an ambiance! The service was outdone only by the food and presentation. Dine inside a romantic, beautifully set dining room or oceanside. This American-style steakhouse offers choice cuts of Certified Angus Beef® grilled to perfection which my husband feasted on. I, however, had one of the most scrumptious Seabass entrees that I’ve ever had. The famous truffle fries are the “don’t miss” item at Cagney’s. The food and ambiance make this an outstanding choice to celebrate a special occasion.

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Becky’s favorite place to relax in the sun: Vibe Beach Club. A private sanctuary for adults with non-intrusive music in the background, a private bar and hot tubs, this hidden gem was wonderful, but comes with a price tag. Totally worth it.

Becky’s favorite show: I love the shows and various forms of entertainment, but my hands-down favorite was the musical Legally Blonde. Second place was a tie between Howl at the Moon over-the-top dueling pianos performance and The Illusionarium dinner theater featuring world-class magicians.

Becky’s favorite music on board: The smooth tunes from Groove International had me following them around the ship to see where they were performing next. Classics from the Commodores, Michael Jackson and other well-known artists set to their own Caribbean style made for awesome entertainment.

Becky’s favorite dance show: Burn the Floor was an energizing experience based on the Broadway show with non-stop Latin-inspired music and movements. They take the Foxtrot and Cha-Cha to a new level! And, if you are motivated, they offer classes throughout the cruise!

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Becky’s favorite kids spot: Maybe this isn’t a fair question as I’m not a kid (not by physical standards anyway), but if I were a child or the parent of a child, I would be hanging with Sponge Bob Square Pants in the awesome pirate-themed kid-friendly water area. Also, Dora’s Dance Party was a “don’t miss” for kids. Check your daily calendar for times and location.

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Becky’s favorite non-expected surprise: The fireworks at sea were spectacular! I was expecting some rinky dink little fireworks display, but Norwegian really wowed me with an amazing display of color that truly lit up the Caribbean sky.

Becky’s favorite stateroom amenity: Ah, the hair dryer! Most ships (and hotels) offer a low-quality, low-wattage hair dryer, so I pack my own. Not this one! It was a fabulous hair dryer built-in to the rooms dressing table tucked neatly out of the way. Norwegian, you did good with this amenity!

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Becky’s favorite port of call: St. Thomas was my favorite with St. Maarten pretty close to a tie. I found a great beach (Emerald Beach) in St. Thomas at a bargain. A less than $10 round trip cab fare and $7 to rent a lounge chair and umbrella all day made for a fun, relaxing day on the beach. Clean bathrooms, an outdoor bar and food just steps away rounded out the perfect beach excursion at a fraction of the price. HINT: Always verify cab fares up front and hold them to it. Also, never get into a cab that is not bearing the CAB sign on top and a cab license plate.

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This isn’t necessarily a favorite, but certainly wins most unique bar on board – SVEDKA/Inniskillin Ice Bar. Always a cool 17 degrees Fahrenheit, this ice bar features icy 3D elements resonating with Miami and South Beach. Guests (25 at a time) are draped in hooded coats and gloves to enter and experience the Getaway’s frozen venue.

Larry’s favorites…
My husband Larry is usually my travel companion and he often leaves with favorites that are different from mine. This time was no different, so I thought I’d share a few of his faves! He absolutely loved the Garden Café Buffet where he always found fresh fruit (especially watermelon) and a mix of Asian noodles, rice and beef. He would have been happy to dine there every meal…if I hadn’t insisted otherwise.

He also LOVED the sports area complete with a ropes course, climbing wall, zip line and mini golf course. There was a full court basketball area on the top of the ship that could be converted into a soccer field. This entire area was the hot spot for many sports and adventure enthusiasts.

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Another of his faves that I should actually have mentioned was the fitness area. If you are thinking a couple of machines and a bicycle, you are wrong! This area offers a state-of-the-art complement of elliptical machines and free weights. There is no need to skip your usual workout routine with all this equipment available. And afterward, visit the spa for a wonderful massage, hair cut or mani/pedi. The perfect reward for working out!

If it wasn’t our “favorite” that certainly doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. There is so much to do (the casino and the art auction were popular) and so many places to eat (28 dining options)…you will truly find your own favorites. That’s what makes it such an awesome ship…something for absolutely everyone!

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To book your ultimate getaway with Norwegian, visit http://www.ncl.com or your favorite local travel agent.

Lady Antebellum to perform on Carnival Breeze November 16

On November 16 Lady Antebellum will perform a LIVE concert in conjunction with Carnival Cruise Lines onboard the beautiful Breeze sailing from Miami! I’m going and I want to invite YOU to sail with us! Download my show that explains all about this ship and the concert, and listen at your convenience!

http://www.spreaker.com/user/thetravelvoicebybecky/lady-a-concert-coming-to-carnival-breeze

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Check out the awesome pricing onboard Carnival’s newest ship! Interior cabins starting under $500pp; oceanviews starting under $600pp; and balconies starting under $700pp! Remember you have to add port fees and taxes, but these are GREAT prices for a 6-night cruise stopping at three of my favorite ports of call: Key West (FL), Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands) and Cozumel (Mexico).

Get your bags packed and let’s go!! Book today at http://www.carnival.com or call your favorite local travel agent!

*Remember pricing subject to change without notice.

Margaritaville Opens in Pigeon Forge

A cool tropical breeze brings the “Islands of the Caribbean” to “The Island in Pigeon Forge”

Tropical trade winds have arrived in Pigeon Forge, TN with the opening of the new Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant on The Island in Pigeon Forge. “We’re very excited to bring our island experience to the Smokies,” said Jason Edwards, General Manager of the Margaritaville restaurant. “Pigeon Forge is such a great city and destination, we look forward to becoming active members in the community.”

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Inspired by the lyrics and philosophies of Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville Pigeon Forge transports guests, literally, to the island destination of their memories or dreams. Margaritaville’s new restaurant is located on The Island in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee’s newest entertainment complex. Ideally positioned in the heart of the complex, the two-story Margaritaville features: multiple bars, an exterior deck with a live performance stage overlooking the Little Pigeon River, paddle board booths and a replica of Jimmy’s Seaplane, the Hemisphere Dancer, which is strategically suspended from the ceiling. A unique addition to Margaritaville’s vibrant island-inspired décor will be the “Margarita Still”, a tribute to Tennessee’s whiskey stills. Each hour, the copper tequila kettle glows red hot from the flames beneath it and begins to groan and rumble and suddenly tequila can be seen flowing through the pipes dumping a delicious concoction into a giant oversized Margaritaville blender.

The Margaritaville menu invites guests to indulge as much or as little as they please with house-made margaritas, frozen concoctions and cold beer along with signature food items like the Cheeseburger in Paradise and Volcano Nachos. Other notable menu items include Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and the “Drunken” Shrimp Skillet with, roasted garlic, onions, peppers and tequila key lime butter served with a mini baguette.

Margaritaville Pigeon Forge also offers a Gluten Free menu, which includes some of the popular main menu items along with specialty items like the Gluten Free Brownie Sundae. In addition to great food, drinks and entertainment, Margaritaville’s Retail Store containing all things Margaritaville, gives guests the opportunity to take their experience home with the music, fashion and flavors of Margaritaville.

Following the opening of the Margaritaville Restaurant, the new Margaritaville Island Hotel located on The Island in Pigeon Forge, will unveil its 132 room resort-style property Fall of 2014. The four-star Hotel with upscale amenities will include a rooftop pool with sweeping views of the Smokies. The Hotel is now taking room reservations for October of this year. For reservations, or more information on the Margaritaville Island Hotel, please call 1-844-4FINSUP.

Margaritaville Restaurant in Pigeon Forge is located at:
130 The Island Drive
Suite 6101
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

About Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville:
It began in 1979 with a song that immediately ignited the universal desire to escape to an idyllic place called Margaritaville. The word, Margaritaville, is now a part of the American lexicon and the lyrics and philosophy of Jimmy Buffett continue to inspire this leading lifestyle brand that brings the Margaritaville state of mind to a global audience. Whether unwinding in Key West or living it up in Vegas, a visit to Margaritaville is a license to chill for a few hours at one of the 33 restaurants and casinos or for an extended vacation at one of the new Margaritaville hotels and resorts. Margaritaville invites guests to raise a glass and take a bite out of paradise and most of all to relax and have a great time. Music is the key ingredient that seasons this crazy concoction of coastal-inspired food, hand-crafted beverages and island atmosphere. Comprised of restaurants, hotels and resorts, casinos, retail shops, consumer products, vacation ownership and a national radio station on Sirius/XM, Margaritaville delivers a tropical experience where guests can enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of their favorite destination regardless of their current latitude.

Since launching the first location in Key West, Margaritaville and its LandShark Bar & Grill brand, have expanded to some of the most popular US tourist destinations, including: Atlantic City, Chicago, Destin, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, and Panama City Beach. International locations can be found in Australia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, Republic of Panama and Turks & Caicos.

Margaritaville Resorts can be found in Pensacola Beach and Bossier City with Pigeon Forge opening in 2014 and Hollywood Beach, Florida slated for 2015.

For a full list of locations and for more information visit http://www.margaritaville.com.
Find Margaritaville on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/margaritaville.

Press Release courtesy of Margaritaville.

Norwegian Offers Booking Bonus for Bermuda and Bahamas Cruises

Receive up to $100 to spend on Bermuda and Bahamas & Florida Cruise

Norwegian Cruise Line is launching its Bermuda and Bahamas & Florida Bonus Days, offering exceptional savings on the line’s Bermuda and Bahamas & Florida cruises. Guests who book a Bermuda or Bahamas & Florida cruise vacation from Sunday, June 8, 2014 through Saturday, June 14, 2014, can receive up to $100 per stateroom to spend on board. Military, AARP and Latitudes Rewards discounts also apply to select sailings.

Guests looking to set sail from the Big Apple can do so aboard Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway’s sister-ship and the ship that brings the best of NYC to Sea. Norwegian Breakaway is currently sailing seven-day cruises to Bermuda through September 28, 2014 offering guests three full days to explore King’s Wharf, Bermuda and unwind on the island’s famous pink sand beaches. Fares start at $599*.

Beginning October 5, 2014, Norwegian Breakaway offers seven-day cruises to the Bahamas & Florida through April 19, 2015. Vacationers can visit sunny destinations including Orlando and the Beaches (Port Canaveral), Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, Norwegian’s own private island. Fares start at $529*.
Also sailing from New York City, Norwegian Gem offers seven-day Bahamas & Florida cruises, now through September 6, 2014, visiting Orlando and the Beaches (Port Canaveral), Florida; Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; and Nassau, Bahamas; with fares starting at $549*.

Vacationers looking to cruise from Boston to Bermuda can set sail on board Norwegian Dawn on a seven-day itinerary, now through October 31, 2014. Fares start at $469*.

For a shorter vacation, guests can jump on board one of Norwegian Sky’s three or four-day cruises to the Bahamas from Miami, Florida. Guests cruising on the three day-cruise will visit Nassau, Bahamas and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; with fares starting at $179*. And guests on the four-day itinerary will visit Freeport, Bahamas; Nassau, Bahamas and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, with fares starting at $179*.

To take advantage of Norwegian’s Bermuda and Bahamas & Florida Bonus Days limited time offer, contact a travel professional, call Norwegian at 888-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), or visit http://www.ncl.com.

Press release from Norwegian Cruise Line.