April 28, 2010

Mexican Riviera Cruise News

Families who want to cruise the Pacific Coast of Mexico should be aware of several changes coming up over the next year. While several cruise lines are moving ships out of LA and San Diego, there are still many choices for 3 to 10 night sailings in the Mexican Riviera and Baja California, and a special new arrival!

Who’s Leaving

Royal Caribbean announced that they are pulling the Mariner of the Seas out of LA in January, ending the cruise line’s presence in the Mexican Riviera. The Voyager class ship had been offering year round cruises to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, the classic “Mexican Riviera” cruise itinerary, for just over a year.

Norwegian Cruise Line also announced they will no longer sail seasonally out of LA beginning in 2011.

Carnival is discontinuing 7 night Mexico cruises out of San Diego, and will offer instead alternating 5 and 9 night cruises from December to May. Both Carnival Spirit sailings will include a single, two-day stop in Cabo San Lucas, and the longer cruise will include a stop in La Paz. (I am happy to hear about the extra day in Cabo. One day has never been adequate because of it being a tender port. Now cruise passengers will have more time to enjoy this pretty and unique location.)

The Carnival Elation, which was also based in San Diego, is scheduled to leave the city later this month.

Who’s Staying

Carnival is keeping two ships in LA year-round: The Paradise which offers 3 and 4 night Baja California sailings, and the Splendor, offering 7 night voyages

Princess and Holland America cruise lines will continue to offer 7 day seasonal sailings to the Mexican Riviera out of LA and San Diego, respectively.

For families seeking a luxury cruise, Crystal Cruise Line offers traditional 7 night cruises out of LA, as well as 10 day cruises which include La Paz, Loreto, and Topolobampo.

And when Disney Cruise Line adds their third ship to the fleet in 2011, the Wonder will be moved to LA to operate 7 night sailings April to December as well. Families can a few days pre- or post-cruise at the Disneyland Resort for a great land and sea vacation!

For more information about family crusing, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at suzette@family-treks.com.

April 21, 2010

A Family's Most Memorable Vacation

I have a client who has been booking trips with me for many years. She tries to take at least one family vacation each year, and spends a reasonable amount of money. She does not book luxurious trips, but not bargain basement ones, either. She is not wealthy by any means; in fact, several times she had to wait to make her reservations until she had enough money saved up. Whenever she got some extra money, such as a tax refund, she called me to plan another trip. Some might consider that a bit irresponsible, but family vacations were a priority for her.

A few years ago, she took a Caribbean cruise with her husband and two boys. This was a trip funded on an unexpected windfall. They had a great time, came back with wonderful pictures. Talked about how they couldn’t wait to go on another cruise together.

Four months later, her husband died in a tragic accident. He was young, fit, healthy, someone you would expect to be around for a long time. Their two boys were still in school. Of course, the family was devastated.

A few months later, I saw her after she returned to work. Pictures of their cruise were on display in her office. I had wondered since the accident if she regretted spending the money now that finances were going to be even tighter for her as a single mom.
Instead, she told me how thankful she was that they chose to use the money for the cruise, and that they were always talking about how much fun they had. It was very comforting for her sons to look at the pictures and know they had that wonderful time with their dad in the last few months of his life. Those memories were helping them cope with their loss. It was a rough time, but they would pull through, and she was eager to plan another trip to keep their life as normal as possible.

Of course, we all try to spend as much quality time with our kids as we can, and in our busy schedules, it often means fitting in a game of mini-golf or spending an afternoon at the beach. But there’s something special about going away together. It allows families to really focus on one another, without day to day distractions getting in the way. (I know I am not the only mom who can’t help thinking “When I get home I need to ...” or “What I am going to make for dinner tonight?” during my “quality time.”)

I certainly don’t advocate anyone spending beyond their means for a family vacation. It can be as simple as a weekend camping trip. The point is to have a change of scenery, and to have nothing on your schedule but enjoying each other’s company. Your kids will love you for it.

Now go away.

April 8, 2010

Half Off for the Half-Pints

The following resorts are offering 50% off a second room for children:

Hotel Plaza Athenee, New York City * Virtuoso *
In March, July and August, the hotel offers 50% off a second connecting room, continental breakfast daily, four tickets to the Central Park Zoo, and milk and cookies at turndown. Chidlren also receive a gift bag containing a coloring book, plush toy penguin, Yankees baseball cap or crystal bracelet and more. Read about our family vacation last summer!

Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda * Virtuoso *

Children also enjoy complimentary access to Explorers Kids Camp and kids under the 12 eat free from the children’s menu. Book by April 26 for travel through Dec. 31. Also includes Virtuoso amenities on the first room: upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), daily full breakfast for two, and $100 food & beverage credit.

Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo * Virtuoso *
Second room half off for travel April 8 through December 17, excluding Thanksgiving week. Preferred Partner amenities for the parents’ room include daily full American breakfast for two, a $100 golf credit, and complimentary upgrade, based on availability at time of check-in. And Kids for All Seasons Program is always free, at all Four Seasons resorts.

Westin St. John Resort & Villas, USVI
ffers 50% off second room for stays June 1 through August 31, if booked by May 31. Also $200 worth of resort credits for mom and dad. Book by May 31 for stays June 1 through August 31, 2010.

Grand Hyatt Kauai *Virtuoso *
Families can combine Sunshine on Sale promotion with the Family Plan, to receive both a 5th night free and a second room at 50% off. Offer valid through 2010, minimum 5 night stay required. (Read my hotel report.)

Ritz-Carlton Cancun * Virtuoso *
Ther Love & Family Package allows kids to have a special evening of their own at the Kids Camp while parents still away for a romantic candlelight dinner for two. In addition to 50% off the second room, families receive daily breakfast for two, beach toys, a five course dinner for two, and one Kids Night Out for up to two children.

For help with planning a great family vacation, contact Suzette Mack at suzette@family-treks.com.