Mystical, romantic and chic, Istanbul thrills honeymooners and all lovers of the fabulous and fascinating. It’s a unique and intriguing combination of ancient city and modern metropolis. You’ll find a well heeled fashionable set, palatial hotels with impressive spas, world class dining, historic sites, legendary night life, happening art scene, amazing shopping and trendy cafes, creating an exotic, lively ambiance.
Aclient, who also happens to be a relative, recently asked me to suggest a Mediterranean cruise. Like any good travel agent, I tried to determine what was more important...the ship or the itinerary. “Both,” said the client. That’s a dilemma we all face, and requires a lot of professional knowledge, experience and asking the right questions to get the right answers.
After asking many more quesions, I finally suggested the Oceania Regatta’s 12-day mediterranean cruise from Istanbul to Lisbon. I determined that the itinerary included five ports that my much-traveled cousin had not experienced, and that the Regatta is the size of ship on which they would feel comfortable. Added to that is Oceania’s reputation for excellent value and wonderful customer service. Not only did my cousin book, but also “insisted” that I come along. It wasn’t a hardship.
No surprise: Mom and Dad are cruising with kids of all ages - more than 1.5 million a year. What’s notable is the 50% bump in families with children under the age of three, a trend that might be fed in part by the discounted fares offered by some lines for tots younger than two.
In general, the most family friendly cruise lines are: Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Cunard Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.
Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who landed in Florida in 1513, named it La Florida, land of flowers. Five hundred years later, Florida thrives as a playground for people of every strata.
It’s not surprising that Florida has been dubbed the Sunshine State. Temperatures average from the mid-50s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit, and South Florida’s subtropical areas rarely experience frosts or freezes. The climate is generally temperate in late fall, winter, and spring, ideal for outdoor fun in the sun. Summers are warmer and more humid.
The state is diverse from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys. This article will focus on Palm Beach, the barrier island, and nearby West Palm Beach, and, a second barrier island, Miami Beach, featuring South Beach and its Art Deco District.
When I was a child, my Midwestern grandmother taught me to spell Constantinople. “C-O-N spells Con,” I would recite, “S-T-A-N” spells stan,” I would continue, in the same way, with the rest of the name, until I would proudly shout “Constantinople“ and be praised for my spelling ability. Little did I dream then that I would, one day, be in that great Turkish city.
In 1930, the city bearing the name of Constantine the Great, who founded it in 330 AD, was renamed Istanbul. It is cut in two by the Strait of Bosphorus, which puts part of it in Europe and part in Asia. It has a population of 15 million people. The evocatively named Golden Horn inlet of the Bosphorus cuts the European section of the city in two. Istanbul is a city full of monumental sites - mosques, churches, synagogues, museums, squares, shops and bazaars - it deserves a minimum of a week-long visit.
When your clients have “done” Madrid and the Costa del Sol, suggest they head north to Bilbao, where the glittering Guggenheim Museum is only the beginning. This enticing city is the perfect base for exploring the beaches and Basque heritage of Spain’s north coast, as well as the famed Rioja wine district.
Advise clients to linger in Bilbao at the stylish Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao (www.hoteles-silken.com/gran-ho tel-domine-bilbao) opposite the Guggenheim, in a room eye-to-eye with the Puppy, a giant terrier sculpted entirely in live flowering plants, part of the museum’s outdoor art (www.guggenheim.org/bilbao). Guests eat breakfast on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, watching the morning sun shimmer off the museum’s golden titanium skin.
Flanders: A Culinary Wonderland
Few countries offer a variety of beauty and texture as rich as Flanders’, and few can rival its gastronomy, history and charm. Your stay in Brussels should include a visit to the city’s interesting museums, including the Rene Magritte Museum, part of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Musical Instruments Museum.
Brussels is filled with awesome restaurants, and it is impossible not to be impressed with the variety and quality of the food. If you are an early riser, go for a run or a walk, and you will be taken in by the aromas of the freshly baked breads and pastries wherever you go. You can eat your way through the city finding the best shrimp croquettes, frittes, croissants, cheeses, pastries and a variety of over 135 Belgian beers. Some of my favorites were Rochefort, Leffe, Duvel & Chimay.
The Riviera Nayarit, one of Mexico’s newest destinations, stretches along 192 miles of the pristine Pacific coast. Framed by the majestic Sierra Madre Mountain range, it is located just ten minutes north of the very accessible Puerto Vallarta International Airport. The region extends along the entire coast of the Pacific state of Nayarit, including the resorts of Nuevo Vallarta, the historic colonial town of San Blas, exclusive Punta Mita, picturesque fishing villages, miles of serene beaches and the spectacular Banderas Bay. The origins of Nayarit are found in the indigenous ethnic groups of the Cora and Huichol Indians who settled in the Sierra Madre; to this day preserving their rich culture and ancient beliefs through their unique beaded artwork. Nayarit has everything to offer...history, culture, traditions, stunning beaches, dense jungles and ecotourism.
Competing for the family vacation dollar, all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean have upped the ante with discounts on adjoining rooms, meals that rival those at chic hotels, Kids Clubs so the little kids can keep busy during the day and babysitters so the big kids can enjoy a quiet dinner under the stars.
One price that includes meals, drinks, entertainment, water sports and even tips means budgeters can feel like big shots with no extra charges for a lobster dinner or fine glass of wine. A winter getaway in an all-inclusive guarantees the family holiday doesn’t turn into a bank-busting trip and with the economy on an uptick, even traditional a la carte hotels are dipping their toes into all-inclusive waters, tempting those who want to know the bottom line before they leave home