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July 28, 2017

Why Families Love Lindblad Expeditions in the Galapagos

When I was given the opportunity to travel on Lindblad's new ship, the National Geographic Endeavour II, I jumped at it.  Not just because they pioneered tourism in the Galapagos. (It's their 50th anniversary this year!) Or that they are a leader in expedition cruising.  But because they also have a reputation for exceptional family experiences, and I wanted to see for myself what families could expect.

Our beautiful ship!
Excited to board!  And one of my colleagues can confirm
that these do inflate when dropped in the water. (Oops!)
Here are the features that make Lindblad Expeditions a great choice for families, including multi-generational groups:

Personal Service - Every crew member pitched in to make sure all guests were cared for. Above and beyond gestures were common, such as soup being delivered to a passenger confined to his cabin because of a severe cold, or my roommate's camera being retrieved after she left it on the plane from the mainland. One guide even made it his personal mission to ensure a guest got over her fear of snorkeling, and she did! So parents can be assured the staff will go out of their way to accommodate their special needs.

Embarrassed to admit I spent a good hour hunting for my reading glasses.
First snorkel of the trip for me and my buddies!

Onboard amenities
 - Being one of the largest ships in the islands, the Nat Geo Endeavour II offered lots of common areas for people to spread out including:
  

- A library with equipped with books, board games, puzzles, and computers. It was a favorite place for kids to gather.

- A spacious lounge at the front of the ship which offered a gathering place to socialize, with beautiful views, and a fully stocked bar.

Early risers got this view stepping outside from the lounge.

- A fitness center so nobody had to miss a workout, and even a spa so parents could get some pampering.

I will confess this is the only time I was in this room.

- A spacious top deck equipped with tables, umbrellas, and chairs, chaise lounges, and couches.  It was perfect for sunbathing, socializing, and a "pirate" cocktail party held at sunset while crossing the equator. It was a fantastic location for early morning yoga classes, too.  


They daily loading and unloading of equipment can be fascinating for kids to watch.

A typical afternoon before dinner.

My reading nook 
Family-friendly cabins - There was plenty of room for storing belongings, including ample space under the bed for empty suitcases. Connecting cabins are available on all decks, plus there are larger suites that sleep three. All beds can push together to form a queen or split apart into two singles. 

The floor stayed this clear the entire trip!

Book this suite if you want more elbow room in the bathroom


Activities for everyoneThe broad variety of activities ensured everyone could find something to do, no matter their age or fitness level. There were usually two hiking options of varying length and difficulty.  Water sports included kayaking, paddle boarding, and of course snorkeling, sometimes twice a day.  Zodiac and glass bottom boat rides were available for anyone who wasn't comfortable being in the water.

Yes, you could get this close, and sometimes closer.

Zodiac boats rides are fun for all ages!
And of course,

The children's program - Already regarded as one of the best in the industry, it was re-introduced this year as the National Geographic Global Explorers program. Kids received an expedition guide, had daily challenges, and participated in photography and video workshops. (Even parents wanted to sit in on these!) There were other onboard activities led by the staff, culminating in zodiac driving lessons.

Hot off the presses!

Nobody seemed to mind this homework

Learning how the islands formed
Though it is the largest boat allowed in the Galapagos (96 passengers) it didn't feel too crowded, and we became one big happy family.  We got to know other passengers by name, and the kids had soon started reserving their own table in the dining room. At the farewell party, we hugged and thanked our guides as we laughed over shared memories.

Javier, one of our fantastic guides.

Families who want to travel to the Galapagos need to plan aheadHoliday periods and summer months book up early, often more than a year in advance, and connecting cabins and suites are very limited.
Selfies with giant tortoises are a must!
Families also need to be aware of the travel logistics before committing to flights.  Working with a Galapagos specialist can help ensure a seamless and hassle-free trip, plus you'll get insider tips on packing, what to expect, and more.  They can also advise on relatively easy "add-on" destinations like the Amazon or Machu Picchu.

For more information about travel to the Galapagos, send an email to suzette@family-treks.com.

This youngster agrees, the Galapagos is great for families!

May 25, 2017

Summer Vacation Solutions

Don't panic if you haven't planned summer vacation yet. There are still many options available, and you can even get some pretty good deals.  I have many offers in my inbox, I just pulled out a sampling of what's available around the globe.

Kids Free in the Galapagos

With Lindblad Expeditions’ 50th Anniversary Savings, book a Galapagos trip by July 1, 2017 and the first child travels free, the second at 50% off on select departures!  Snorkel with sea lions, hang out with giant tortoises, hike right next to iguanas and blue-footed boobies and kayak along the most idyllic bays. You'll do, see, and learn more with the most experienced Expedition Team in the islands! 

Yes you can get this close! 
Bucket list item- check!
Fun for all ages!



And if you can't make it this year, book any 2018 expedition before June 1, and you'll be guaranteed the 2017 rates.

I had the pleasure of traveling to the Galapagos with Lindblad in March, check out more of my photos here.  

Cruise to the Great Land

Several lines still have space available for Alaska this summer.  Crystal Cruises is offering Kids’ Sail Free when sharing a cabin with 2 adults on most departures.  That can be combined with their Crystal Clear Choice promotion which offers a choice of savings, including a $600 per person onboard credit!  AND my clients also get an additional onboard credit courtesy of Virtuoso.

From ship to glacier in a few hours
Regent Seven Seas is offering a Book Now Bonus on all sailings, including $250 per person shipboard credit for Alaska.  And if you select a Virtuoso Voyages sailings, you also receive your choice of amenity, either a shipboard credit or an exclusive shore excursion.

Glacier Bay is just one of several locations
where you can see spectacular glaciers
Seabourn’s Extraordinary Opportunity Event runs through June 13, with special savings on select 2017 departures including:
• Three Veranda Suite Category Upgrade
• Veranda for Oceanview category Upgrade
• Onboard credits up to $1,000


Say Aloha to Hawaii

Four Seasons Resorts on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island are offering resort credits of up $200 per night for select dates (credit varies by room category booked).  The Four Seasons Resort Lanai is offering a $1000 activity credit for guestrooms, and $2000 for suites.  Stay longer than 5 nights and the credit increases, and all this can be combined with our Four Seasons Preferred Partner amenities.

Maui beaches rock!

Kings Pond is fun for families who like to snorkel
at Four Seasons Hualalai

Hit the Beach in Miami

Acqualina Resort & Spa in Miami is offering a Family Escape Package through Sep 30, including

  • Daily access to the Children’s Center, home to the AcquaMarine program offering educational marine-themed programming for children ages 5-12
  • Access to the resort’s beachfront basketball, soccer lawn, foosball and ping pong tables.
The kids may never want to leave

  • Daily activities for toddlers including bike time on a no-pedal Strider Balance Bike, stretch sessions and relay races on the beach
  • A $40 spa credit for up to two adults 
  • Daily buffet breakfast for two (or four in a two-bedroom suite)
  • Complimentary Valet Parking
  • Complimentary Wifi

Parents may never want to leave, either!


Caribbean Getaways

Ritz Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach is offering a Stay Longer promotion, with 10-30% savings on Ocean View and higher rooms.  The longer you stay, the more you save.  And you receive a $50 per night resort credit, as well as Virtuoso amenities.  No passport needed to visit Puerto Rico! 


Besides these beautiful rooms, they have residences
and a 5 bedroom plantation


Shore Club Turks & Caicos lets you stay for 7 and play for 5 when booking a full size suite or penthouse. Rates include breakfast daily, free calls to the USA & Canada, Kids Club for 4-12, use bicycles, tennis court, fitness center, and non-motorized water sports, and wifi.  And of course you can enjoy their four pools: Adults Pool, Family/Resort Pool, Colonnade Pool and lap pool.

An exclusive retreat on Long Bay Beach

Nicaragua Ecolodge Package

My “go-to” Central America supplier is offering an amazing program that includes two of the most authentic and luxurious ecolodges in Nicaragua at a fantastic low price.  You first visit Jicaro Island Ecolodge, one of National Geographic's Unique Lodges of the World, located on a private island on Lake Nicaragua.  

You don't have to rough it at an ecolodge
Then you are transferred to Morgan's Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, a Virtuoso property located right on the beach.  You can choose from a wide selection of tours in each location, including visits to volcanoes, artisan markets, and colonial towns.  Rates include 3 meals a day at Jicaro, and breakfast at Morgan’s Rock, plus other value-added amenities.

This beach!
Don't let summer slip away without making some fabulous family memories! To get started, contact Suzette at suzette@family-treks.com.

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!