I’m not sure when the desire to visit Normandy Beach began – but once the idea hatched in my head, the passion to realize this adventure grew into an obsession! Perhaps, as a veteran and a lover of history, it’s just natural that I’d want to not only visit this historic site, but also to take a group of veterans with me!
Paris – the starting and ending point of this adventure – always sizzles while Normandy beckons with its stunning coastline, incredible food and artistic beauty. Monet’s Gardens, Rouen’s Cathedral of Notre Dame and the charming harbor town of Honfleur, will inspire you the same way as they inspired the great Impressionists.
For inspiration of a different kind, travel the “Routes des Abbayes,” visiting some of the most magnificent monasteries, and to the unforgettable beaches of Normandy where Allied forces landed during WWII’s D-Day invasion. Relive the grandeur of royalty at Château Malmaison, the former home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte, and at Chateau de Bizy, once referred to as “the Versailles of Normandy.” Blend a passion for the good life with culture, art, architecture and timeless landscapes, and you have Northern France.
Preparing for your cruise – Part Two
Following up on our October 28th Blog, we are more valuable tips for cruisers – whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned Sailor!
What to Pack:
There are several factors you should consider before you begin stuffing that suitcase: What’s the weather like in the ports you’re visiting? Are you going snorkeling? Horseback riding? (Your adventures will dictate what type of clothing/accessories you’ll need). Will there be formal nights or theme parties onboard? Will you be decorating your cabin door?
A great resource for packing lists can be found at: https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1436 Check it out before you begin deciding what to pack!
What you can – and can’t bring – on a cruise:
Each cruise line offers a list of prohibited items on their website. That’s always a good place to start. But, in general, there are some items that aren’t allowed on ANY cruise ship.
Just like ANY form of public transportation, drugs, weapons and even alcohol are not allowed onboard (although some cruise lines do allow you to bring a limited amount of wine/and or beer – CHECK FIRST!). Then there are items that just aren’t safe on board a ship: clothing irons, hot plates, and anything else with a heating element, aren’t allowed (exceptions include hair dryers – which are provided by most cruise lines – and curling irons). Candles, musical instruments, drones and even wrapped gifts could be denied during the embarkation process. Again, check the cruise line’s website!
When you think of cruise itineraries, what comes to mind? The Caribbean? Alaska? Hawaii? Europe? Is the Mississippi River on your list? No? Well, let’s see if we can convince you that a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River might be an item to add to your Bucket List!
There are many reasons why a Mississippi River cruise could become one of those “memories that last a lifetime” adventures. But we’re just going to focus on three:
The Ships: The great rivers of American should be enjoyed in style. When you cruise the legendary Mississippi River, you’ll be boarding one of the newest paddle wheelers, while enjoying comfort and modern amenities. As you travel to each historic destination, you’ll feel like royalty as you relax in your beautiful suite or stateroom, feast in fabulous dining rooms and feel the breeze on a spacious deck. Delicious regional cuisines, amazing onboard music and customized excursions to historical landmarks come together as you glide past rolling farmlands and witness the ingenuity of the pioneers who first traveled these waters.
Check out these unique small ship features:
Many first-time cruisers (and some repeat passengers) are confused about how tipping is handled on a cruise ship – when, whom and how much to tip. Most ocean cruise lines add a specified daily gratuity to your sailing account (NOTE: this doesn’t cover luggage porters, room service deliveries and tour guides). But what if you receive incredible service from your room steward – or your dining room staff goes above and beyond to make your cruise a truly memorable experience? Or how do you show your appreciation to a spa therapist who just did an amazing “Calgon-take-me-away-from-here” moment?
There are several online guides to cruise tipping – but here, we’re going to share seven times when you should NOT tip.
Do NOT tip when:
Preparing for Your Cruise – Part One
We want to make sure your cruise is a vacation to remember — but in a GREAT way, not a nightmare! So, we’ve put together a few tips we’ve learned along the way to help you be prepared to enjoy your vacation. See you onboard!
Check-in Online: Do this within the last 30 days prior to your departure – to be safe, I recommend having it completed at least two weeks before you leave! Please be sure to go to the cruise line website (for example: www.carnival.com; www.royalcaribbean.com, etc.) to create an account (if you don’t already have one from a previous cruise). You will need to have an account so you can check in on-line, print your boarding pass and luggage tags, book excursions, and make any other purchases. (You can book excursions online prior to sailing, or at the Excursions Desk onboard during the cruise. You can also purchase excursions from ShoreTrips.com using the email sent to you. If you have any questions, just let me know!).
Once you have created your account, just follow the instructions for checking in, assigning a credit card for your onboard purchases (you can’t use cash on the ship), entering your travel document information and printing a boarding pass and luggage tags.
Some cruise lines let you pick the time you want to arrive for check-in. Please keep in mind that there is an ABSOLUTE DEADLINE for you to be on the ship! They WILL sail without you if you don’t make ship departure!
Print your Boarding Pass – you must have this when you arrive at the pier/terminal so DO NOT PACK IN YOUR LUGGAGE! Keep it with your Travel Documents!
Print the General Information – please read this as it will guide you on things you can and can’t bring onboard!
Print your luggage tags. I will be mailing out plastic luggage tags to everyone as a gift – just insert your printed tags instead of stapling them to your luggage.
BE SURE YOU DO NOT PACK YOUR PASSPORT OR DRIVER’S LICENSE/BIRTH CERTIFICATE. You will need these items to board the ship!!
Required Travel Documents: Please be sure to check out our Oct. 16th Blog: “Oh, come on! Do I REALLY need a passport?” https://www.tdtravelpartners.com/blog. Lots of great information on what you will need, depending on where you’re going!
As Dan and I’ve grown older, and our kids have started families of their own, we’ve come to realize that traditional holiday celebrations have – out of necessity – had to change. When the kids were little and living at home, Easter Sunday meant going to Church, followed by an Easter Egg Hunt in the yard and a family dinner. Thanksgiving meant a traditional turkey dinner and watching football in the afternoon. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner was Potato Latkes with Sour Cream and Applesauce; then we’d head off to Midnight Mass. Christmas morning we’d open gifts … then everyone would just enjoy their goodies and one another until our dinner of Prime Rib and the trimmings.
But, as I said, things change once the kids start their own families. They hold on to some of the traditions they had as children, combining them with those of their spouse’s family – and they create new ones for themselves. For example, our youngest daughter and her husband’s Christmas dinner is pizza (with beer for mom and dad).
Last year, Dan and I decided to start some new traditions and, since cruising is our favorite pastime, we booked a Thanksgiving Cruise to the Caribbean. Our son, who hasn’t started a family yet, joined us. It really was a great experience! We had lots of time and adventures at each of the ports during our 7-day cruise, fun together on sea days and, of course, a traditional turkey dinner (one of many options available that evening!).
For several years, Dan and I have celebrated our birthdays at sea as often as possible. It’s been a tradition of ours to visit Key West, as a port-of-call, to have a birthday beer at Sloppy Joes. Since my birthday is in February and Dan’s is in October, it’s kind of nice to break up the year a bit with our celebrations.
This year, we’re trying a different holiday cruise: Halloween. I LOVE dressing up in costumes – but, as we’ve gotten older, there aren’t as many opportunities available for us. I’ve wanted to do a Halloween cruise for years and we’re finally doing one! We’ve got our costumes ready for the Halloween Deck Party and, as it turns out, they also have an 80’s Rock Party onboard so I dusted off my Cyndi Lauper garb! Stay tuned for photos!
I’m not sure Dan and I are quite ready to forego Easter or Christmas with our kids (or, more accurately, navigating around their schedules), especially when we have grandchildren with whom we want to celebrate! But it’s nice to have options. And, one of these days (God willing), we’ll be able to take the entire family on a holiday cruise.
Perhaps, that will help them start a new family tradition.
So … question for you: have you ever sailed on a holiday? If not, would you and which holiday? We’d love to hear from you!
Preparing for a vacation is always a little stressful: so much to consider, so much to plan for! And without a doubt, one of (if not THE) most common questions we are asked is “Do I REALLY need a passport to travel?”
So, let’s break down who needs a passport – and when – and then talk about the process of obtaining one.
DO YOU NEED A PASSPORT?
Well, that all depends on WHERE and HOW you are traveling!
TRAVELING BY AIR?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) REAL ID Act of 2018, made changes as to what type of ID you need when traveling by air (both within and outside the United States). One thing you can expect is that residents of some states will need a passport when flying within the United States.
It’s always a good idea to bring your passport to every foreign country you visit, including Canada, Mexico and U. S. Territories (even though they are not foreign countries). You wouldn’t always need to have your passport to enter Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, or the North Mariana Islands. But these news regulations mean that, depending on which state issued your driver’s license or state ID, you may be required to show a passport to fly domestically. This is because the REAL ID Act instituted requirements for what information must be displayed on ID’s used for air travel. If your state ID doesn’t comply with the required information, you’ll have to present a U.S. Passport at airport security. Before booking air travel, then, you will want to check whether your state ID is complying.
“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace
One of the blessings of traveling to other countries is the realization of how lucky we are living in the United States. Things we take for granted are luxuries in many countries and yet, the people are happy and feel fortunate for what they have. We truly do occupy a tiny place in the world.
During our last cruise, Dan and I visited La Romana, DR. We’d been to the Dominican Republic before, but to a different part of the country (Amber Cove) and, to be honest, we didn’t venture far from the port. But during this visit, we took two excursions: one was a trolley ride around the city, where we saw life as it is today, followed by a bus tour through Altos de Chavón, a replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village located just minutes from the city.
It was a stark contrast!
The Dominican Republic is the 2nd largest Caribbean country. It’s just two hours south of Miami and features an intriguing history and a rich culture. In both Amber Cove and La Romana, we found the people to be very warm and friendly. They really take pride in sharing their country.
The city of La Romana is a hub for a growing tourist industry with several nearby local resort spots, such as the beachfront Bayahibe, Dominicus, Casa de Campo, and the growing number of golf resorts that surround the area. There were several things that stood out during our trolley ride through “downtown.” One is how rich their history is (confirmed when we took the bus tour through Altos de Chavón). Our guide pointed out historic building after building, as he shared how the buildings have now all been repurposed for today’s needs.
It always amazes me when I hear people complain about being surrounded by so many people during their cruise. They’re unhappy waiting in lines onboard, they’re upset at having to share the ship pool and/or hot tubs, and they demand a private table when eating in the Main Dining Room.
Did they expect a private yacht? Sorry – that’s not what you booked. You CAN control how many people you’ll be rubbing elbows with by sailing on a smaller cruise ship – or consider a River Cruise where there are generally no more than 125 people onboard. But short of that, you’re going to have the opportunity to meet lots of new friends on that cruise ship!
And it IS an opportunity! Standing in line for Guest Services, the Excursion Desk, or waiting to be seated in the Main Dining Room, even eating at the buffet – these are all great opportunities to meet new people! Relaxing in the hot tub or cooling off in the pool is also a golden opportunity to chat with others. And Dan and I have met so many wonderful new friends in the Main Dining Room simply by asking for a “share” table. We get seated at a different table every day for breakfast and lunch – which increases the number of new friends we make – and are assigned a table throughout the cruise for dinner – which lets us really get to know our new friends.
One of the most fascinating excursions that Dan and I have taken while visiting the Caribbean is a tour of a Chocolate Farm in Limon, Costa Rica.
The bus ride was a bit long, but our guide was great at sharing information about her country and she was obviously very proud of their accomplishments. Limon is not much unlike many of the poor cities in the Caribbean – so it was heartwarming hearing our guide speak so lovingly of her home.