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.

Carnival Freedom

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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pen

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!

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.

mural

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!

SpongeBob

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.

ropes course

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.