Bella Italy, A land of beautiful people, amazing culture and remarkable scenery


Venice, part 1

Imagine, you step off you train with wide eyed anticipation and you see the Grand Canal, your first stop of this Italy adventure, the ancient city of Venice.  Your greeted by a lady with a the Italian accent you dreamed of hearing and she leads you to your private water taxi.  The young man helps you aboard his vessel and off you go up the Grand Canal. You are awe struck that you are actually in the land of your ancestors, a dream you never though would come true. After a short ride you stop in front of a quaint hotel and as you leave the boat you enter a hotel lobby with old world charm.  You are greeted like family, given your key and escorted to your room.  You enter your room and open the shutters on the window to hear the sound of a gondolier singing and people clapping along as it passes under a bridge.  You are filled with excitement.  You go down to lobby to meet your group and your tour captain.  A bright bubbly woman who even though you know she’s been there before, is displaying all the excitement that you are feeling.  You are also greeted by 7 couples and there is an immediate connection, because you are all waiting to experience this picturesque land together.

You set off for a short tour with your tour captain to give you lay of the land, you have so many thoughts going through your mind you can’t even take in all the info, except were to she points out to get the best Gelato.  You stroll through Piazza San Marco as you listen to the sound of the music coming from Caffe Florian. Your tour ends at a little café that looks out onto the Grand Canal and as the sun sets you enjoy and learn what an Aperitivo is, early evening appetizers and a toast with wonderful sparkling prosecco that will become your favorite drink.  You slowly walk back through the cobble stone street taking in all the sights and sounds to the hotel, so you can dress for dinner.

Eating is an experience of it own and with Story’s small group tour the food is endless at their welcome dinner as well as their other dinners.   Together we walked to a small little restaurant where, the smell was amazing and we sat for at least 2 and half hours, course after course. It began with plates of fresh prosciutto and melon, delicious cheeses, grilled vegetables, stuffed artichoke blossoms, a delicate appetizer stuffed with fresh ricotta and deep fried. The food kept coming with homemade pastas, veggies, steak and fish and it was topped off by frozen fruit sorbets served in the original fruit.  The amazing dinner along with the many bottles of wine, the laughter and the stories, we stopped being a small group and became friends.  It was a night to remember.  Following me on my next blog as the adventure continues and friendships grow a true testament to traveling with a small group

Group travel can be exciting and fun but can also cause stress and anxiety.  Group Cruise part 2

Group travel can be exciting and fun but can also cause stress and anxiety.  That is why I suggest a cruise or one of my small group vendors.  These types of options allow you to have that personal experience along the memories made by being together with friend, or family.

On this cruise, there were lots of expectations.  It was our first time aboard the Freedom of the Sea ship, there were plenty of activities to explore and many exciting excursions in some amazing destinations.

Our ship was beautiful, filled with plenty of things to do and places to eat. We didn’t get to them all. We relaxed along side of the great pool and watched all the entertainment on the pool deck, there were dance contests, exercise classes, and fun games. A perfect place to get involved or just people watch. There was a plenty for the sports enthusiast, a putt put course, jogging track, ping pong tables, ice skating, basketball court, gym, great pools, hot tubs and a water slide and arcade, something for everyone.  Having this many choice of activities is a nice thing for a group as you can all do your own activity.  There were some great classes offered from cooking to wellness in the amazing spa. We enjoyed the live nightly entertainment, a Broadway style show of Saturday night Fever, an Ice-skating show, piano bar, Movies at night on the deck, casino, and the club after hours where we danced the night away to a great DJ.

One thing that really worked well as a group is, one of friends gave us a magnetic dry erase board to put on the outside of our door, so instead of waiting on everyone, we could leave notes, saying we went to lunch or were out by the pool, or went to the club. This really worked well. A great tip for traveling as a group.  Being in a group whether it is 8 or 80 can cause anxiety because there are so many opinions and you can spend a lot of time trying to organize everyone.  This little magnetic board really eliminated that.  We all met for dinner in the evening and I must say food on the Royal Caribbean ship was exceptional.

A lot of people don’t understand why you are charged for tips either in advance or on your ship board account, but after receiving the great service I can see why. Everyone on board whether is be your cabin person, the reception/information desk attendant, the bartenders, or the wait staff, everyone gives 100%.  Now you can leave that little bit extra if you think someone went over and above.  So, it is wise if you have a favorite, to get their name, so that you can leave them an envelope when you depart.

There are also plenty of things to do in each port, whether you want to something exciting and adventurous, relax in town or on the beach or shop in the numerous little shops.  Each cruise line has their own excursions. A lot of passengers take these excursions while other, like us, utilized one of my vendors the run smaller more intimate excursions.  We Zip-lined and cave tubed in Belize, we took an underwater glass bottom boat and visited a jade museum in Roatan and road an ATV in Cozumel.  All without the crowds and big bus excursions.  Our private drivers were informative and even stopped for us if something along the way caught our eye.  All while guaranteeing, we get back to the ship on time. A great tip if you want to avoid the crowds.

Having all these choices made it easy for a group to do there own thing in port, regroup back on ship and share our experiences over a great drink, and if you didn’t want to leave the ship you could do that to and experience the ship with very few people on board.   Like I have said numerous times, something for everyone.

I hope this blog post helps you start thinking about getting your own group together, whether it be a couple of friends, a family reunion, some old classmates, a social group or a work or church group.  Traveling as a group can create some wonderful memories, that will last a lifetime.  My next blog will give you insight and some tips to a small group trip to Italy.  Remember travelling opens the heart and mind to new experiences in a big world that is there for you to explore.