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April 24, 2017

Sail Roundtrip out of San Francisco with Crystal Cruises

Travelers in California have more options to cruise with ease and avoid airport headaches next year.  Crystal Cruises is offering two sailings roundtrip out of San Francisco aboard the Crystal Symphony in 2018: 

You can even see the parking garage from here.

Hawaii Sojourn 
July 15 – 31, 2018
17 days Roundtrip to Hawaii
  


Coastal Collection
July 31 – August 10, 2018
11 days Roundtrip to Cabo San Lucas



Guests who book with me are automatically enrolled in the complimentary Virtuoso Voyages program, which include these amenities: 

> An Exclusive Shore Experience
            ~or~ 
   $200 - 250 Shipboard Credit Per Person
> A private cocktail reception
  
Crystal offers a true all-inclusive luxury cruise, including:
  • Gratuities
  • One evening of specialty restaurant dining
  • Champagne, fine wines, premium spirits, non-alcoholic beverages
  • Other drinks like specialty coffees and smoothies 
  • 24-hour room service and in-room minibar
  • Wi-Fi/Internet
  • Special events like wine or cheese tasting
and much more!

Silk Road Specialty Restaurant
Silk Road Menu
ANYTHING you order at this bar is included
I was able to tour the Crystal Symphony in San Francisco last fall, and I was impressed with her elegant decor, the quality of the food, and the variety of public spaces, which means it never feels crowded.

Lots of room to gather, bring some friends!
Outdoor dining is the best.
I love these colors!

Learn photo/video editing or web design at Computer University@Sea


Here are recent testimonials from 2016 travelers:

Wow. Our trip was FABULOUS, Suzette! Crystal Cruises = perfection. We will never be able to cruise on any other line because of how spoiled we are!!! I can't recommend Crystal enough. The service is impeccable. The boat is beautiful. The food is amazing. We never waited nor wanted for anything. We loved it!!!” 
Alaska Honeymooners

“We laughed harder than we have in years and spent quality time together that you just can’t get when emails and texts are coming in every minute. We can’t wait for our next adventure at sea!”
– Haisley Smith, Brownell Vice President of Marketing and Development

The comforts of home
Crystal has also extended their Crystal Clear Choice promotion through June 30 on select 2017 and 2018 cruises, including some Alaska sailings! Receive your choice of:

- Fare reduction up to $1000
- Air credit up to $1100
- Onboard credit up to $1250

And it’s combinable with Virtuoso Voyages amenities! 

Email me for more information, and to be sure you get the best fares and amenities.
Bon Voyage!

February 8, 2017

Spring Break Trips That Don't Require a Passport

It's not too late to plan a spring break trip! And you don't even need a passport, check out these great options:

ARIZONA

You have to forego a beach, but not beautiful resorts with fabulous pools!
I love the desert scenery.


A serene retreat at the base of Camelback Mountain, a "hotel within a hotel."   Families will appreciate the kids' club for ages 5-12  and access to The Phoenician's 7 pools and 165-foot water slide as well as a private infinity pool. 
Making a splash with young kids. 
Special Offer: 4th night free April 5 - December 24, 2017

Virtuoso Amenities
- Room view upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Full breakfast daily for 2
- $100 Food & Beverage credit (Additional $100 food and beverage credit when staying 3 or more nights in a Canyon Suite, through March 5)
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi

HAWAII

Even if you've been before, remember that each island is unique and offers activities not found anywhere else.

Unscheduled stop at a roadside market
My recommendation:  Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

Every room  is an 800 sq ft 1 bedroom suite, which normally goes for premium pricing at other resorts.   So families get space & privacy, plus a beautiful, quiet beach, two level pool with waterslide, and adults only pool. It's one of my personal favorites.

\
Special Offer: 5th night free through March 31

Virtuoso Amenities
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Daily buffet breakfast for 2
- $100 Spa Services credit
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi

PUERTO RICO

A Caribbean gem that has it all:  beautiful beaches, culture, historic military forts, street art, and unique natural attractions like El Yunque rainforest and bioluminescent bays.

What kid doesn't like seeing cannons up close?

This luxurious island sanctuary has only 115 oceanfront guestrooms spread across 50 acres and one mile of beach.  Larger families can book a residence on the beach or even a 5-bedroom hacienda.  Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program offers exciting and memorable adventures, such as snorkeling, hiking and exploring an archaeological site on property. 

One of the US's pretties beaches!
Special Offer: Stay Longer promo with discounts of 10-30%. The longer you stay the more you save!

Virtuoso Amenities
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Full breakfast daily for 2
- $150 Resort credit
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi

AMELIA ISLAND

The northern coast of Florida offers southern charm, as well as miles of unspoiled coastline, pristine beaches, and even some pirate history!

Barrier island bliss

My recommendation:  Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island 

One of the most popular beach destinations on the East Coast, this luxurious barrier island hotel is surrounded by 13 acres of island beachfront.  Activities abound, including 18 holes of PGA championship golf, 4 tennis courts, and charming Fernandina Beach just 10 minutes away with boutiques, antique stores, and excellent restaurants.

Elegant, classic, and oceanfront
Special Offer:  Book an Oceanfront Suite for at least two nights  and receive a connecting room for only $149 per night, through April 30.

Virtuoso Amenities
- Full breakfast daily for 2
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- $100  Spa Services credit
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
 
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

One of the most accessible destinations, with lots of nonstop flights from around the country. A Mediterranean climate means outdoor activities are available year-round, and it offers incredible diversity: mountains, desert, and coastline a short drive from Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Disneyland! 

Butter beer at Universal Studios!

My recommendation:  Terranea Resort

Active families will love this luxury eco-resort's Aqua-Terra Adventures program, staffed by naturalists, ornithologists, and artists.  Activities range from kayaking, tidepooling, and surfing to cycling, painting, and hiking.  They even have a falconry program!

A private playground just outside LA
Special Offer: Save 30% on reservations 5 nights or longer through Feb 28.

Virtuoso Amenities
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Full breakfast daily for 2
- $100 Resort credit
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability- Complimentary Wi-Fi

For help with planning a spring break getaway, contact suzette@family-treks.com

You could be here soon!

November 17, 2016

Spectacular Spring Break Savings!

"I don't really care about saving money on my vacation."  Said no one ever.

If you want to plan a spring break getaway, NOW is the time to book. I have been able to find some great early booking values, most of which are only available  because of our agency's preferred status with a particular resort, or through a tour operator who only works with travel professionals.

Here is a recap of the savings I found for clients in the past week:

$11,000 savings on a multi-gen family vacation - Grandpa wanted to take his kids and grandkids to Florida in April, so he needed to book a combination of rooms and suites.  This was the amount saved over the rate published on the resort website after applying a Virtuoso discount and an exclusive 4th night free offer.

One Bedroom Oceanfront Suite
One of the beautiful oceanfront pools
Lucky kids!
This same family could have stayed at another resort offering a 50% discount on ALL junior suites booked in combination with a 1 BR suite. It would have totaled to >$1000 per night savings over the published rates. What a great deal for families who want a connecting room for the kids, and suites have kitchenettes as well!

This beach!
Hawaii Villa Savings - I found a Book Early offer for March on 2 and 3 bedroom Maui villas through a supplier who only works with travel advisors.  The client is saving thousands of dollars since they needed multiple villas for their party.

Space, privacy, and your own plunge pool

Views of Lanai from a practically private beach.
Haleakala - One of Maui's spectacular natural wonders.

$1500 savings on a 1 Bedroom Suite - The same tour operator also has Book Early rates on hotel rooms and suites at many resorts.  This luxury resort is my favorite for families on Maui!

A waterslide, swim-up bar, adults only pool, huge spa,
award-winning restaurants, and a gorgeous beach.
And this view!  What more can a family ask for? Well...
...How about complimentary breakfast every day?
(A Virtuoso amenity exclusively for my clients.)
I was even able to find a great deal for a client traveling to Europe over the holidays:  a 200£ savings per room per night for New Year's Eve. And they will get the Virtuoso amenities which include daily breakfast and a 100 USD equivalent hotel credit.

This room is worthy of a special occasion.
This place will be hopping on NYE!
To be frank, there generally there aren't a lot of Christmas "deals" to be found.  I do have the advantage of knowing suppliers that often have rooms blocked at a below market rates.  But inventory is limited, so the early bird has the best chance to score one of those rooms.

Even if you end up paying the published rates,  remember that you still get a better value when I book you, because of our preferred agency amenities, such as daily breakfast for two, upgrade on arrival if available, and resort credits.

It's understandable that many travelers want to wait until after the holidays to start planning trips for next year. But it's likely the best offers will be gone by then.  Imagine how relaxing it would be to not only have your spring break travel planning out of the way, but also know you have saved yourself a lot of money

So give yourself the gift of a more restful holiday season by sending an email to suzette@family-treks.com, and from there I'll do all the work!

I'll take this image over sugarplum fairies dancing in my head any day.

October 10, 2016

Why I Chose Mauna Lani Bay For My Hawaii Vacation

This summer our family vacationed on the Big Island of Hawaii. We had not been there in many years, so we were eager to go back now that the kids were old enough to do some of the more adventurous activities.
Zodiac snorkel tour
There are so many great resort choices that it can be quite overwhelming to decide where to stay.  And even though I had it narrowed down to a Virtuoso resort, there were four from which to choose. They are all unique in style, location, and amenities,and understanding these differences helped determine which was the best fit for my family.

I know we would have had a fantastic trip no matter where we stayed, but here are a dozen reasons we chose The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows.

1) The coral reef in front of the hotel offers easy access to great snorkeling.  And turtles are seen frequently near shore.

Maui visible in the distance
Coral in front of Mauna Lani
Getting underwater video of a turtle

2) Connecting rooms are practically guaranteed due to the number of them available.
Queen beds!

3) There are natural lagoons throughout the grounds, filled with fish, turtles, eels, and even a shark!

The resort was built around the original fishponds.
4) Their resort credit is one of the most inclusive in Hawaii, including use of snorkel gear, spa and gear rental discounts, 10% discount on lunch and dinner at two of the restaurants, self-parking, 30 min of long distance and international calls daily, wifi, cultural activities, and more.

Family favorite: Macadamia encrusted mahi mahi over fried rice
5) They are devoted to preserving the cultural history of Hawaii.  A self-guided tour over 27 acres of historic parks visits ancient shelter caves, petroglyphs, and a prehistoric fishing village.  Or guests can go on a tour with the resident historian.

Interesting history lesson about Mauna Lani
Petroglyphs hidden in plain sight
6) The Mauna Lani Beach Club is a easy walk or short shuttle ride away, offering a great swimming beach, another beachfront restaurant and more excellent snorkeling.
The Beach Club is visible in the top left,
an easy 10 min walk along the waterfront
.
7) It has authentic Hawaiian ambiance including a large,open air atrium with lush vegetation and ponds filled with their youngest turtles waiting for their turn to be released.  Kids gather to watch the turtles get fed in the afternoon.

What a welcome sight! Live music here each evening, too
8) The grounds are compact, so it's easy to get from room to pool to beach to poolside restaurant and bar.   And there is plenty of lawn space and uncrowded beachfront with cabanas included in the resort fee.

View from our room (could see fireworks from here, too).
It was never hard to get one of these cabanas.
9) A quiet black sand beach is just a few minutes drive away within the resort complex, which also has great snorkeling.

Practically have the bay to ourselves
10) The Mauna Lani Resort shopping center has a full service grocery store, several restaurants, coffee and ice cream shop, Snorkel Bob's, and complimentary activities like a weekly Polynesian hula show.

Lei making class!
11) They have a reputation for warm hospitality and great service. The staff is well-trained and genuine, they treated us like guests in their home.
Soon an attendant will be by with ice cream

12) And by timing our visit over the Fourth of July holiday, we got to experience their signature event:  Turtle Independence Day!  Young turtles raised in their ponds are released to the ocean in a traditional ceremony.  
This little guy is getting his freedom soon.
The days leading up to the event are fun and educational for families, as they can watch researchers measure and inspect the turtles to ensure they are ready for release. Children staying at the hotel are chosen by lottery to escort the turtles from the pond to the ocean during the ceremony.
Making sure this guy is big enough to have a fighting chance in the ocean.
The entire community comes out for this annual event. 
Let me go, let me go!

And did I mention the snorkeling?? 

My clients receive these Virtuoso amenities:

  * Upgrade one category at time of booking subject to availability
  * Daily buffet American buffet breakfast two
  * $100 resort credit 
  * Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Loco moco breakfast!
They also have five 2700 sq ft bungalows, great for larger families, multi-generational groups, or couples traveling together.  They all have two master bedrooms, a private kitchen, and plenty of living space. Outdoors is a 1,300 sq. ft. private terrace with a Jacuzzi and heated swimming pool.  And through Dec 20 they are offering one of the best all-inclusive values in Hawaii.

Spacious and bright living and dining area.
A lagoon provides separation from the beachfront path.
The Bungalow Inclusive Experience includes:

* Transportation to and from the airport and/or a premium rental car 
* Daily $500 Credit for Mauna Lani golf or spa 
* Pantry stocked on arrival with non-alcoholic beverages, fruits & snacks * Welcome bar set-up
* Daily afternoon amenity
* Breakfast, lunch and dinner for up to 6 guests (excluding alcohol)

Canoe House oceanfront dining 
A great sunset on our last evening
For assistance with planning a fantastic vacation to Hawaii, and to receive the Virtuoso amenities, contact me at suzette@family-treks.com.

There can never be too many sunset pictures!