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.

Cruising together, makes wonderful memories. Some tips and expert advice for cruising as a group.

It was wonderful to spend some quality time with friends on a  group cruise.  We were able to get 4 couples together that have been friends for 50 years to experience a wonderful vacation, visit some new destinations and celebrate some wonderful life events.  Many people think a group vacation is too much, they love their family and friends but not 24 hrs a day. A cruise allows you to have that freedom of individual time, and group time so you have a balanced vacation.  Our cruise was wonderful, we spent a week on the Liberty of the seas in the Caribbean.  We visited Belize, Rotan and Cozumel, but started the vacation in Galveston the night before the departure.  I always suggest a pre-night hotel at your embarkation port. This allows you a stress-free start to your vacation.  We flew into Houston and had a transfer pick us up, another couple flew in at a different time and a couple of the group drove.  We all met in Galveston a great little city, it has many restaurant choices, 32 miles of beach and some nice resorts, tropical scenery, Victorian architecture, an amusement park on the boardwalk and world-class sport fishing, a great place to start a cruise vacation and little easier to fly to than the East Coast.  Usually your cruise will leave from a destination that has a lot to offer, so adding a night or two here gives you time to experience the city as more than just a shipyard.

We all met at the hotel, had a great dinner to unwind and relax from a day of travel.  Our departure day started with a transfer for those of us that flew in to the port and the group that drove went directly to port.  If you have the luxury to live close to a port city, driving is great way to save a little money, but don’t forget to add in the parking cost to your budget as to avoid any surprises.

Once we got to the port, Royal had a smooth check in process.  The thing to remember here is to make sure you check in online early, the earlier the better.  This way your boarding process is smooth.  When you wait or check in last minute it can cause some delays with your boarding passes, and cruise IDs.  I have been on a couple of cruises and Royal did have a smooth process and got a lot of people through quickly.

Make sure you have your swimming suite and or a change of clothes in your carry-on, as well as any medications you may need.  Your large luggage will be deposited into your room which may not be immediately ready. Being prepared will help you start your relaxation as soon as you board.  We met our friends poolside and started our trip with a toast.  We got to our cabins, all of us picked a superior balcony and had connecting rooms, so our balconies opened to each other and allowed us to have one big place to party.   As the sun began to set and we started to sail away, the excitement started, and we were ready to go.  Watch for my next blog, on activities on board, dining and excursions.

 

Luxury destinations, unique experiences and what to watch for in 2019

We are one week into 2019 and it was nice to look back at our trip to Israel over the holiday season. I hope you enjoyed reading about our holy land adventure, this destination is unique and one I would definitely put on a bucket list. It offers something for everyone and is an affordable luxury destination that provides a wonderful experience for all ages.

As I look back on 2018 it was a year filled with travel to new luxury destinations and new adventures that I look forward to sharing with you in 2019, from zip-lining in Belize and riding ATVs in Cozumel, to experiencing traditional Bavarian food in Germany and getting to know the land of my ancestors in Italy.  I look forward to sharing these incredible adventures with you over the next few months as well as bringing you some luxury travel tips and showing you a few hidden gems.

I use the word luxury as I describe many of my adventures because that is what I am proud to be able to provide to my clients. In 2018 I became a Certified Luxury Travel Specialist, which means I learned how to bring Luxury travel experiences that fulfill your dreams to each of my clients. But when I ask people what luxury travel means to them, I never get the same answer. It can be as simple as upgrading your seat on an airplane to economy premium or staying in a 5-star resort for the 1st time.  To some it means personalized service and private transfers, while to others it may means a small group tour with unique experiences.   It can be first-class seat on a high-speed train to a new destination in Europe or getting a balcony cabin on their first cruise. One thing that reigns true is everyone wants a unique experience that allows them to create remarkable memories that will last a lifetime.  It doesn’t mean you need to spend millions of dollars, (although that would be nice), it does mean that everyone wants good value for their money.  Value doesn’t mean it going to be the cheapest option, it means that they want to get something unique, to feel like they are treated like a VIP and come back being able to say WOW what an amazing trip.  Luxury isn’t only for the rich and famous it can be attainable by everyone.  Setting a goal, planning and letting me use my tools and expertise will ensure that you to can have that luxury experience you have always desired.

In my upcoming blogs I will show you some unique destinations, luxury experiences, and tours that are all available to you.  So keep dreaming, set your goals high and have faith that you will reach your travel dreams and let me and my team at GLK DREAM TRAVEL help you see the world.

Jerusalem the last stop in the Land of Jesus

On our way to Jerusalem we made two stops at the river Jordan. The Yardenit and Qasr al-Yahud traditional baptismal sites.  To think that in this spot or at least near this spot, John the Baptist, baptized Jesus was remarkable.  To see the Pilgrimage of people, line up to receive this sacrament was amazing/ All, races, religions, genders and ages, came together to accept and renew their Christian faith this was awe inspiring especially as across the river in Jordan stood solders with guns protecting their country. A couple from our group were baptized and witnessing this left us all very reflective of this holy site.

A second stop on the way was the wailing wall. I had heard stories of the wonderful site but hearing the people praise the lord, shed tears of joy and sadness was beyond my imagination.  We did take a moment to put our special prayers in the wall and spent a moment reflecting on the immense amount of prayers that passed through these cracks and nooks.  That many believers in one area was a site I will never forget.

We then travel on to Jerusalem, where we stayed at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel, a very nice hotel very near the old town.  That evening we went in the old town and watched an outdoor Night Spectacular at the tower of David.  A light show, that is shown on the walls of the Citadel in the old city, it was a beautiful way to watch to story of Jerusalem through the ages.

The next day we toured the old city and the city of David.  Walking the street of Jerusalem, seeing where Jesus entered the city on Palm Sunday, visiting the spot of the crucifixion was in itself a spiritually moving moment and really brought all the stories from the Bible to life, but what impacted me most was again the number of faithful people there just to see the stones, and feel the sacredness of the surroundings.  It showed me that no matter what corner of the world you live in we are all connected.

That afternoon we switched gears and experience a food tour, tasting the street food of Israel at the Manchane Yehuda Market which was very interesting.  We finished the day on a Segway tour to the top of hill where we could look down on the city.   After dinner we had a nightlife tour in that same market, having cocktails and listening to music, it really showed us that the there is something for everyone and every age in this beautiful Country. Next, some final thoughts.

On to Galilee a truly holy place

After a night in Nazareth we departed for Galilee. Before arriving, we visited a Kibbutz, the Kibbutz Lavi. Not being Jewish, I had no idea what a Kibbutz was.  I was surprised to find out it is a community where you live, and work as one family.  This one has about 620 members that work and live there.  They have a very nice hotel that anyone can stay at and is very reasonable.  They are self-sufficient from providing everything one needs from newborn to the end of life. We were given a tour of this amazing community and hotel before we got on our way to Galilee.

Galilee was probably the most life changing for me and my husband.  We visited many religious sites from the bible, the Mount of Beatitudes, were Jesus gave his sermon on the Mount. Tabgha, the traditional site of the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Capernaum where Jesus began his Ministry and we visited an excavation of the house of Peter.  To see these places of the bible brought special meaning to us both as were raised on these stories.  Before ending in Tiberius where we were to stay for the night, we stop at another Kibbutz to see the restored remains of a 1st century Wooden sailing vessel from the time of Jesus and how it was retrieved from the Sea of Galilee we also stopped at Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene.

 

Our hotel in Tiberius was amazing, it was the Scots Hotel, it was established by the Church of Scotland in 2004 in the historical compound of the Scottish Hospital.  It is now an amazing 4-star hotel that overlooks the Sea of Galilee, when we got there, we were greeted by very friendly staff and shot of whiskey.  I would recommend this hotel to anyone visiting this area.

The next day was one I was so excited for. We were blessed to go on a cruise on the Sea of Galilee in a replica of a wooden sailing boat from the time of Jesus.  Because of the wind we were almost not able to do this, but as if God new how much we all wanted to experience this, the winds died down and we were able to board the boat.   As we set out on the water, a lady with a beautiful voice began to sing, the Sea gulls flock around us and our guide, a Pastor, began to read the story of how Jesus walked on this very water.  Tears came to my eyes as ever being able to experience this holy place was beyond my imagination. Seeing the size of this body of water, my husband wondered if his faith would have been strong enough to listen to Jesus and step out of the boat, if asked. It was a marvelous excursion that gave us a feeling that words cannot express.   To know that this is an something that I can offer my clients is one reason I love being a travel consultant.  Our next stop Jerusalem.

More in the land of Jesus

Next we toured the ancient seaport of Jaffa. Our tour guide, a resident of Jerusalem, showed us through the Archaeological site, the fisherman’s port and the artists quarter in this renovated old city. This is where the story of Jonah and the Whale was situated, it is a nice afternoon excursion. On our way to Nazareth we were able to stop and visit Caesarea National Park, a magnificent site, a national park in Israel. Caesarea is originally an ancient Herodian port city located on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast about halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. We also visited Mount Precipice which is part of the Jesus Trail Pilgrimage route a walking trail where you can walk in the footsteps of Jesus it is a 40-mile marked trail, from Nazareth to Capernaum. Once in Nazareth we visited many churches, the Basilica of the Annunciation. Which is a beautiful church that is situated over the cave that tradition holds to be the home of the Virgin Mary. Here, it is believed, the archangel Gabriel told the young Mary, aged about 14, that she would become the mother of the Son of God. And here Mary uttered her consent: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
We also visited The Synagogue Church, the traditional site of the synagogue in which Jesus read from the scriptures and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, there really is something for every religion. We then visited some guest houses that are quaint places to stay and the Nazareth Village, a first century village depicting the life of Jesus.
We arrived at our hotel, The Golden Crown Hotel, for a one-night stay. The next stop will be Galilee.

The Land of Jesus

As we are in the holiday season, I feel it is pertinent to write about the land of Jesus.  It has been 1 year since our return, but the experience was so impacting I didn’t want to miss telling you about this wonderful destination.  No matter what religion you are, there is something for everyone.

We landed in Tel Aviv, a modern, active city with beautiful beaches, dotted with board and wind surfers. Even in though there was a slight chill in air, with the strong wind the activity on water was wonderful to watch from the beach.

We were greeted as we got off the plane by a young man that helped us through the country’s entry procedures and then driven to The Hilton Tel Aviv which is a luxurious hotel.   This is a service that can be arranged for our clients. It streamlines everything and lets you get started on your journey with no stress.   The Hilton is a beautiful hotel, we were greeted with fruit and chocolates, a bottle of wine.  There is a beautiful pool, a balcony off the restaurant that allowed you to watch the waves come on shore while you ate.  A beach access that allowed you to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea and beautiful sunsets.

This vibrant town is relatively new, as it was founded in 1909. We learned exploring the new independence trail that goes down the middle of the city.  Besides it’s beautiful beaches it is full of Restaurants, shopping, activities and nightlife.  Rothschild boulevard is a mainstream of activity as night falls. We visited Allenby Market, and sampled a unique array of culinary experiences. The night comes alive around 9:00 pm and is full of music, dancing, great food and drink and watching the talent of Belly dancing.  As Americans is was fun to see they are obsessed with Hamburgers.  There are new hamburger stands popping up everything.  This town is a very youthful town that thrives on Good food, Good times and Good people.  Next up Jaffa and Nazareth.