Archive for July, 2010

Tourcrafters has great travel deal to Greece

July 13, 2010

LIBERTYVILLE, IL – With both the euro and the Greek economy in the pits, this is the year for an affordable trip to the Greek Islands. TourCrafters is offering a midweek 9-day/8-night package to Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini for US$1,849 in October, US$1,999 in September – the optimum months when the weather is warm and sunny, the Aegean is perfect for swimming, and the tourist hordes have gone home. The package is also available in July and August, but high-season air fare means the price is higher.

The package includes round-trip air fare from New York or Boston to Athens; two nights at a modern, conveniently-located Athens hotel; three nights at a deluxe beach hotel with pool on Mykonos; three nights at a Santorini hotel with pool in Fira town; daily breakfasts; a half-day Athens city tour with English-speaking guide and entrance fees; dinner in a typical restaurant on Mykonos and Santorini; ferry tickets Piraeus-Mykonos and Mykonos-Santorini; air fare Santorini-Athens; and arrival and departure transfers in each destination (6 total). All hotels are air-conditioned.

The Athens sightseeing tour covers city highlights, as well as the Acropolis and the new Acropolis Museum. On Mykonos, there’s time to relax on the beach, browse the streets and sophisticated shops of the blue and white town, enjoy an ouzo in a waterfront café, or even take a day-trip to Delos. And on Santorini, travelers can explore the fascinating Minoan ruins at Akrotiri, visit a winery, relax in a picturesque Oia café, and watch the sensational sunset over the Caldera.

Air fare add-ons are US$75 from Miami and Chicago and US$130 from Los Angeles. All prices quoted are per person double occupancy, are subject to availability, and do not include the fuel surcharge and taxes of approximately US$461, which are subject to change. Reservations must be paid for within 72 hours of booking.

For additional detailed information, visit www.tourcrafters.com . For reservations, call 800-482-5995.

MSC Offers Deal on Balcony Staterooms on Caribbean Cruises from $599

July 9, 2010

MSC Cruises is offering balcony staterooms on select 7-night, Caribbean cruises for bookings made by August 31, 2010, providing savings of more than 25 percent on an affordable Caribbean cruise vacation where kids 11 and younger cruise free.

Rates begin at $599 per person for balcony staterooms on select 7-night cruises to the Eastern  Caribbean and Western Caribbean on MSC Poesia when she returns to the U.S. for her inaugural Fall foliage cruises to Canada/New England in September.

The special rates are for new bookings for balcony stateroom, while space is available, on the following 7-night, Caribbean cruises departing from Fort Lauderdale:

    Eastern Caribbean cruise, calls in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau Bahamas; departs November 28 and December 12, 2010; rates from $629 and $599, respectively, (originally started from $879) for a $250 savings or more than 25 percent plus government fees and taxes (GFTs) of $69.62;

    Western Caribbean cruise, calls in Key West, Florida; Ocho Rios, Jamaica;

Gerogetown, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico; departs December 5, 2010;  rates from $599 (originally started from $879) for a $250 savings or more than 25 percent plus GFTs of $81.35;

Cruise-only rates are per person  based on double occupancy for U.S. and Canadian residents. Government fees and taxes for all guests are additional; restrictions apply.

Kids ages 11 and younger cruise free (GFTs are additional) when sharing a stateroom with two full-fare-paying adults. All cruises offer just a $100 deposit.

MSC Cruises makes a claim to being the fastest-growing cruise line in the world  with the youngest fleet of 11 ships: MSC Magnifica, MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia, MSC Poesia, MSC Orchestra, MSC Musica, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Armonia, MSC Opera, MSC Lirica and MSC Melody. The fleet cruises year round in the Mediterranean and seasonally in Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, US and Canada, (Fall 2010), South America, the Indian Ocean, and South and West Africa.

For more information about MSC Cruises, visit www.MSCCruisesUSA.com, call 877-665-4655, or contact a local travel professional.

Princess Cruises Launches Caribbean Super Sale With Fares Starting at $399

July 9, 2010

Princess Cruises has launched a new “Caribbean Super Sale” offering customers significant savings on select 2010 and 2011 voyages.  Travelers can choose to sail among the sun-swept islands for seven to 14 days, with fares starting at just $399.

Tropical itinerary options and pricing (per person, based on double occupancy) available in the Caribbean Super Sale include:

  • 7-day Classic Southern Caribbean on Caribbean Princess – starting at $399
  • 7-day Western Caribbean on Crown Princess – starting at $449
  • 7-day Eastern Caribbean on Ruby Princess – starting at $449
  • 7-day Southern Caribbean Explorer on Caribbean Princess – starting at $449
  • 8-day Bermuda & Eastern Caribbean on Caribbean Princess – starting at $549
  • 10-day Eastern Caribbean Voyager or Southern Caribbean Medley on Emerald Princess or Star Princess – starting at $749
  • 14-day Caribbean Collection on Grand Princess – starting at $999

These fares have limited availability.  The Caribbean Super Sale promotion is open to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.  Additional information about the promotion is available at http://www.princess.com/caribbeansupersale.page

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company’s website at www.princess.com.

Papua New Guinea Invites Divers To Name Their Own Site And Win A Trip

July 9, 2010

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is inviting divers to enter a “Name Your Own Dive Site” contest to help the island destination name two new dive sites that have rarely been dived before; the winner gets a free trip.

The dive sites, one located near the Tufi Resort and another located alongside Walindi Plantation Resort offer an abundance of best-in-class dive opportunities.

The competition is easy. Divers can visit www.nameyourowndivesite.com to provide original submissions for naming one of the two locales. Submissions will be collected now through August 31st 2010. The author of the winning name will win a free trip for two to Papua New Guinea to participate in an underwater naming and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Papua New Guinea’s dive sites are among the best in the world as divers come from far and wide to experience the island’s spectacular natural wonders. Located in the Indo-Pacific Area, PNG lays claim to being home to twice as many marine species as the popular diving waters of the Red Sea and up to five times as many as the Caribbean. Often dubbed the ‘underwater photographer’s paradise’ Papua New Guinea has provided the backdrop to an abundance of international award -winning photo shoots.

“Papua New Guinea is truly the country of A Thousand Different Dives and A Million Different Journeys and with so many amazing dive locations to choose from it is exciting to give divers the opportunity to name one and visit it for themselves,” said Mr. Peter Vincent, CEO of the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority.

PNG is said to have the highest array of tropical fish and corals in the world. Encouraged by the constant movement of the surrounding Bismarck, Coral and Solomon Seas, there are a stunning array of species to be discovered. Everything from tiny Pygmy Seahorses and Nudibranchs to the magnificent whale shark can be encountered by diving Papua New Guinea. The island is filled with spectacular reefs that have never before been dived with water temperatures averaging 83°F and visibility between 50-150 feet.

Contestants for the Sweepstakes must be from the U.S. or Canada. The prize will include round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Papua New Guinea, 5 night’s accommodation with meals at either Tufi Dive Resort or Walindi Plantation Resort and diving with an underwater ribbon cutting ceremony announcing the new site name!

To enter the competition, visit www.nameyourowndivesite.com. For more information about Papua New Guinea, visit www.pngtourism.org.pg.

Pet Care Resort Opens at Walt Disney World

July 4, 2010

Pet lovers visiting Walt Disney World Resort can now plan to board the family pet in fun, luxurious new accommodations. Reservations are being accepted for pet boarding stays beginning Aug. 27, 2010, for the new Best Friends Pet Care Resort.

The one-of-a-kind resort comprises more than 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, including 17,000 square feet of air-conditioned indoor space, 10,000 square feet of covered outdoor runs and play areas, and an expansive private dog park exclusively for the use of pet resort clients and their dogs.

The facility will accommodate up to 270 dogs and 30 cats for both daytime and overnight boarding. A wide selection of suite choices for dogs includes air-conditioned indoor rooms, 48-square-foot indoor-outdoor suites, and four expansive VIP (very important pet) suites with television, raised bedding and private outdoor yards.
Feline guests will spend their visit in the separate “Kitty City” pavilion – away from the dogs – in two- and four-room condos.  All suites and condos are designed to provide comfort and privacy and will be cleaned daily with hospital-grade disinfectants.

The pet resort is operated by Best Friends Pet Care (www.bestfriendspetcare.com).

“Best Friends has long been the industry leader for boarding, and this will be our crown jewel. We’ve taken the ‘best of breed’ in every category to create the perfect environment for pets,” said Dennis Dolan, president and CEO of Best Friends Pet Care. “Our goal is to ensure that pets staying with us have a fun, action-packed vacation – just like their families vacationing at Walt Disney World.”

The resort’s exclusive dog park features a fenced walking trail bordering the natural wetlands around the park. Inside the trail, guests can choose from a variety of different play areas, including a 3,300-square-foot area covered in artificial turf, a 4,500-square-foot area with shade trees and a 1,300-square-foot “canines only” water park. There are several large areas for owners to sit, relax and watch their dogs play.   The entire park is secured from outsiders and is illuminated for use after dark.

Other features of the resort include: a grooming salon, which will provide go-home-fresh baths and haircuts for pets; two 1,100-square-foot “camp rooms” for play group and doggy day camp, each opening onto an outdoor play-yard; and a special facility for the boarding of “pocket pets,” such as hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets.

Pet parents can choose from a wide range of a la carte activities for pet guests from one-on-one playtimes and social playgroup with other doggy guests, to cuddle time and bedtime stories with staff. Additional amenities and upgrades include Ice Cream Treats, Bottled Water and Premium/Orthopedic Bedding.

Feline guests can also enjoy private playtimes, activity toys in their suites and treats such as Cookies and Milk or Tuna on a Ritz.

The pet resort is located across from Disney’s Port Orleans Resort at 2510 Bonnet Creek Parkway in Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830.  Pricing and other details are available at wdw.bestfriendspetcare.com or by calling 877/4-WDW-PETS.

For more features about theme parks and family travel, go to www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

Vail Resorts Unveils Epic Deals, Improvements for 2010-11

July 2, 2010

Keystone Resort's KIDTOPIA Festival returns this winter including the world’s largest snow fort, disco tubing, glow stick parades and more © 2010 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

It may be summer, but it may not be too early to plan for snow.

In fact, Vail Resorts’ seasonal Epic Pass, lets holders ski and ride free all summer long, June-October, at Las Leñas, Argentina when you stay at select lodging properties. The 2010-2011 pass  is available now for $599 adults; $299 kids 12 and under.

Back for its third winter season, one of the great advantages of the Epic Pass program is that you have unlimited, unrestricted access at any of Vail’s resorts – Vail, Beaver Creek,  Breckenridge, Keystone in Colorado and Heavenly (on Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border), plus Arapahoe Basin

This coming season will also see the debut of the Epic 7-Pack for seven days at all the same world-class resorts for $449 for adults; $219 for children 12 and under.

On the rooftop of 230 Fifth Avenue in New York City last week, members of Vail resorts’ marketing team told us about some of the upcoming changes, members of Vail Resorts marketing team also described Vail Resorts’ program of direct flights (and special deals) on American Airlines from LaGuardia Airport into Eagle Airport (EGE), just 30 minutes from Vail and Beaver Creek, and are hoping to repeat its Kids Fly Free program. Check www.FlyVail.com for the latest offers.

What is more, if you are staying at Vail’s lodging, you also get to ski free on the day of arrival at Vail and Beaver Creek.

Vail is also trying to work out a deal with the airlines so skiers don’t pay the baggage fee for their ski equipment, though many skiers are taking advantage of renting the latest equipment rather than lugging their stuff from home. Vail is a part owner in the SSV rental shops; a rental deal as part of the fly-in packages may also be in the works.

Look for more collaborations between Vail Resorts and its subsidiary RockResorts, as well: a “Slopes to Seas” gives their snow vacationers a discount on its warm-weather destinations. In addition to its properties in Vail (2) and Beaver Creek (2), Aspen (the historic Hotel Jerome), Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Stowe, Vt, and the new one that just opened this summer in Breckenridge,  RockResorts has boutique-style luxury resorts in New Mexico, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos,and Bahamas and is opening Tempo Miami, Florida; and Balcones del Atlántico, Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic. (Visit www.rockresorts.com).

Vail Resorts was aggressive in its value-added packages last season, and was successful in seeing a rebound in bookings, and the deals seem to be ongoing for the 2010-11 season:

Ultimate Four, a premium group lesson program for children ages 3–12 years with only 4 children per instructor. Your kids will be able to explore the mountain all day long while fine tuning their skills in a small-group setting, starting at $210*.

Lunch for Less on-mountain meal offered at all five of mountain resorts for just $9.95 including an entrée, side and drink every day. Also look for Vail Resorts’ Appetite for Life program which serves organic dairy and locally grown food. Back again, experience the signature Epic Mountain Burgers and Yogurt Parfait desserts. Look for gluten free items too. It’s the largest program of its kind.

Check out custom websites from Keystone and Heavenly for the latest and greatest offers both on and off the mountain: KeystoneTonight.com or “Countdown to Savings” on SkiHeavenly.com.

What else is new? Plenty In all, Vail Resorts is investing $75-85 million in enhancing the guest experience:

An alpine coaster is being constructed at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The alpine coaster will be located at the Peak 8 Fun Park and the three-foot elevated track will wind guests of all ages through loops and curves within the canopy of Peak 8 set amongst a spectacular mountain backdrop. The coaster will open in August and will operate in the summer and winter!

Also, RockResorts, a Vail Resorts subsidiary, is opening One Ski Hill Place, which adds a new level of luxury and true ski in/out convenience, to a ski holiday at Breckenridge.

One Ski Hill Place, is one of two real estate properties that Vail Resorts is opening this summer and fall including: One Ski Hill Place, A RockResort property, features studio to four-bedroom wholly-owned units situated at the base of Peak 8 in Breckenridge; the Ritz-Carlton Residence, Vail, offers a limited collection of whole and club residences located within walking distance to shopping, restaurants, Gore Creek and the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead.

Vail Mountain’s High Noon Lift (Chair 5) is currently being replaced with a new high-speed quad lift that will continue to serve the legendary Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls, cutting ride time in half from 12 minutes to six and has an uphill capacity of 2,400 people per hour.

The tubing hill at Adventure Ridge on Vail Mountain is being expanded with additional tubing hill lanes and a new enclosed lift to provide guests with an easier and more enjoyable experience.

A new 14,750-square-foot restaurant is about to get underway at Heavenly Mountain Resort, conveniently located at the top of the Heavenly Gondola. The lodge is architecturally designed to complement the beautiful mountain landscape and will ramp up the quality and variety of food and beverage offerings in a comfortable setting for guests.

Renovation of guest rooms at the Keystone Lodge with upgraded amenities in all guest rooms including new flat screen televisions as well as new tinted windows that that will reduce solar gain during the day and heat loss after the sun goes down.

For the 2010-2011 ski season Vail Resorts is upgrading and increasing its fleet of more than 130 snowcats, which collectively groom hundreds of thousands of acres of snow throughout the winter months. The Company is also adding new snowmaking equipment to continue to deliver the best snow quality experience in the industry.

Epic Adventures

  • If Ski School had recess, this would be it! The Adventure Sessions matches you with a top guide and a small group of similarly skilled skiers and riders – you’ll get the most out of your day, go places that you may not have been before, cut lift lines and pick up tips and technical information along the way. Starting at $119*.
  • Find fresh tracks and secret stashes on a powder day in Vail’s seven legendary Back Bowls, stretching seven miles wide. On an average day, there are only two skiers per acre, and on a busy day, only four!
  • Beavercreekextreme.com launches you into the ‘other side’ of the resort, highlighting the mountain’s most adventurous and challenging terrain.
  • Ride to the top of the highest chairlift in North America, the Imperial Express SuperChair to 12,840 feet and ride the famed expert terrain of Breckenridge’s Lake Chutes.
  • Keystone offers guided snowcat tours giving skiers and riders special access to nearly 300 acres of Keystone’s most challenging terrain in Independence Bowl.
  • Heavenly offers some of the best tree skiing on the planet. Venture off any of the groomed trails and experience “the Hidden Heavenly.” Find them all at TahoeStash.com.
  • Relax and unwind with locally inspired facilities, indigenous spa treatments and one-of-a-kind experiences at one of many RockResorts Spas…then get out and do it all again tomorrow!

Fun for All Ages

  • Ride up the Eagle Bahn Gondola to Vail’s Adventure Ridge for family fun with the rebound trampoline, new tubing hill, ski biking by headlamp and much more. Then enjoy an eclectic menu at Bistro Fourteen where kids always eat for just $10!
  • Beaver Creek offers complimentary family activities six nights a week. Choose from a family snowshoe tour with cocoa and cookies, rail jams, skate night, and more.
  • Tour a century-old, authentic gold mine 1,000 feet below ground to learn more about Breckenridge’s 150 years of history.
  • The KIDTOPIA Festival returns to Keystone this winter including the world’s largest snow fort, disco tubing, glow stick parades and more.
  • Heavenly’s Adventure Peak offers sledding, ski bikes and a new, state-of-the-art tubing lift that will provide even more fun for the entire family.
  • Environmental education: With programs like SKE-Cology + Ski with a Ranger + Hike-cology + Nature Tours + Volunteer Vacations, Vail Resorts offers unique learning programs for you & your kids.

Finally,  Vail and Beaver Creek have been selected to host the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships. This will be the third FIS World Championships for the resorts, which previously hosted the 1989 and 1999 Championships.

For more information, visit Vail Resorts, www.snow.com.

To see more ski destination stories, go to:

www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

Tour Company Offers Opportunity to Trek to Remote Eastern Bhutan

July 1, 2010

Travelers will have a rare opportunity to trek remote Eastern Bhutan, an area just opened to tourists.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan announced on June 16, 2010, the opening of remote valleys of Eastern Bhutan – Merak and Sakten. A select group of travelers will be among the first to trek in this region by joining a tour with Wanderlust and Lipstick founder, Beth Whitman.

This co-ed 17-day journey in October begins in Northeast India, where participants will experience jungle safaris, by jeep and by elephant, before entering the tiny kingdom of Bhutan. The trek into Merak and Sakten will transport the travelers back in time as they explore an untouched land of tradition and mystery. This adventure to the Land of the Thunder Dragon also includes visits to traditional monasteries and temples, including iconic Tiger’s Nest, glimpses of some of the world’s highest peaks, and the opportunity to witness a traditional Bhutanese festival in Mongar.

Bhutan is one of the last remaining frontiers of discovery. This trek will allow travelers to hike through villages populated with a cultural group of highlanders known as the Brokpa, and to experience firsthand the traditions and customs they have retained in this far-flung corner of Eastern Bhutan.

“We applied for permits to Merak and Sakten in 2009 and have been hoping the government would allow us entry,” Whitman said. “Now it appears that we really will be among the first to get a glimpse of this remote area.”

Whitman will be the tour leader and a Bhutanese guide will accompany the group, providing insight into the country’s culture, architecture and environment as well as sharing details on how Buddhism is integral in making Gross National Happiness the cornerstone of their daily life.

Whitman is the author of the Wanderlust and Lipstick guides for women travelers, the publisher of http://www.WanderlustAndLipstick.com and now leads tours to Bhutan, India, Vietnam and Cambodia.

This co-ed tour is limited to twelve people and at press time is more than half full. The cost is $5,750 and includes in-country transportation, accommodation and all meals.

For the full itinerary, go to http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/wandertours/bhutan/bhutan-eastern-trekking.

Karen Rubin

www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

Gulfcoasttravelupdate.com Keeps Travelers Apprised of Gulf Beach & Travel Conditions

July 1, 2010

Tripatini.com, a social network for travelers and travel experts, has launched the Gulf Coast Travel Update (www.GulfCoastTravelUpdate.com), an online group that provides convenient, centralized information on travel conditions in all the Gulf states affected by the BP oil spill disaster as well as extreme weather such as hurricanes.

Unlike other online resources which cover the spill, GulfCoastTravelUpdate.com focuses only on how it affects travel to the region, thus helping potential visitors find what they need quickly and efficiently. The group, which forms part of the Tripatini.com social network for travelers and travel experts, is accessible via its own URL.

Group visitors will discover a comprehensive list of tourism resources, beach status reports, and oil spill/weather monitoring for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and where applicable Mexico, thus avoiding the need to check multiple Web sites when planning a trip. An aggregated Twitter feed provides minute-by-minute news from Gulf state tourism boards and travel professionals. The group’s discussion forum and comment wall allow travelers to cut through the clutter of the Internet and dialogue with fellow travelers, travel professionals, journalists and locals to get reliable information on Gulf Coast beach conditions and travel in general.

“Not only does this online group provide reliable Gulf Coast information all in one place, it allows direct dialogue between experts and concerned travelers,” says Tripatini founder and CEO David Paul Appell.

Tripatini President José Balido adds, “In today’s busy media landscape, many travelers don’t know where to begin searching for reliable information about current conditions on the Gulf Coast. Gulf Coast Travel Update helps travelers and travel professionals cut through the misinformation and the static.”

Dubbed “Facebook for travelers” by the New York Post, Tripatini.com is a social network for travelers and travel experts that boasts a unique international membership base and more than 350 specialized groups. Launched in summer 2009 to eliminate the traditional barriers between travelers, travel journalists, publicists, agents, vendors, and savvy insiders, the site gains new dynamic content, groups and membership daily. Tripatini.com’s community combines travel content such as destination spotlights, user-generated blogs, image galleries and news feeds with a fast-growing network of members to provide travel information.

Read our story, Florida’s Magnificent Gulf Coast Beaches: See Them Now