Friday, June 28, 2013

Trips with Angie Traveler Review: A rough opening at Couples Barbados

Allison just returned from the opening week at Couples Barbabos. The first few days were a little rough as the resort wasn't quite prepared to open, but they made the best of it: 


Couples Barbados
"We made it home safely and are back to work today. I didn't want to come back!
The first few days were a little rough. It seemed as if no one knew what was going on. It was taking them 3 hours just to check people in. Meals took extra long because someone would take your order and then forget about you. We would have to ask 3 or 4 times just to get water or coffee.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Trips with Angie Traveler Review: 7 night Canada/New England Cruise on Carnival Glory June 2013

Tom K just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Carnival Glory.



The cruise departed from Boston. The ports of call were Portland, Maine, St John, New Brunswick, Canada; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada; and two Fun Days at Sea. 

Here's his review: 

"We had a much needed break. The ship was nice and boarding was very easy.  The cabin was laid out well and had plenty of room for our things so it didn't feel cramped.  Margaret liked the fact that it was an inside cabin and she slept very well in the darkness.  The location of the cabin was excellent.  It was quiet and close to the lido deck, just one deck up which made it convenient.  For food, we would recommend the Blue Iguana Café, which had tacos and burritos and an ample salsa bar, for both breakfast and lunch.  We would not recommend the main dining room for breakfast or brunch, as they did not offer anything we couldn't get on the buffet, and the service was terrible so the food took too long to arrive and was not hot.  The buffet was good, and the pizza restaurant was excellent.  We tried Guys Burger Joint, and the fries were good but Margaret thinks either the burger or the mayo which was sitting out in a bowl at room temp made her a bit ill.  I felt it too.  Luckily we only tried it once.  The steak house was unimpressive.  Although everything was prepared well and tasted good, the quality of the meat was not as good as on the Magic.  The steaks were tough and gristly.  Margaret had the rib eye, and I had the cowboy rib eye, and we expected much better than we got.  We had late seating in the golden dining room for dinner, and the wait staff was excellent and the food was very good. 

We both had looked forward to sharing the spa and were disappointed that this class of ship only had a whirlpool that was shared, but it was in the middle of the gym so it seemed a little out of place and we did not use it.  The adult sanctuary area was very nice though.  Also, the rear deck had a pool and hot tubs that were adult use only.  An additional nice feature was the retractable roof that was in use when it was cold or rainy. 

We spent time every night at the Alchemy Bar, which is their signature martini bar.  The drinks were excellent and we worked our way through the menu over the course of the week.  We even took a private mixology class that was offered.  Just up from it was a Tasting Bar, which offered small tastings from the specialty restaurants 4 nights. 

We went to a few shows which were good.  We heard the comedians were hit and miss.  Also, seems the schedule didn't meet with our free time on most nights.  The main dance club didn't open until 10 or 11, and it seemed empty, as if people got tired of waiting around for it to open and just found other things to do.  Before 10, it was used by the kids clubs on a few nights.  It looks like they had a lot of activities for kids, scavenger hunts, etc. 

In Portland, we went to the Allagash Brewery.  It was a really nice free tour, but the cab ride was $25 each way.  Would recommend it for a group with shared transportation, otherwise kind of pricey.  The Shipyard/Sea Dog Brewery is right up the street from where the ship docked.  It is also free.  It starts on the hour, you watch a 10 minute video then sample, sample, sample!  Free beer, a bargain!

Saint John was nice, but we had been there before so we didn't do any excursions.  We went to the city market place and stopped in for more beer at a place we had been before. 

In Halifax we also did not do an excursion.  We had planed to tour Alexander Keith's brewery.  From the info on the website it appeared free, but when we arrived they wanted $20 per person which included the tour and 2 12 oz beer tastings.  We thought they were ripping us off so we passed and went to an oyster bar that wanted $3-$4 per oyster and ended up passing and going to a pub, Durty Nellies.  When we left the ship a lot off people were handing out coupons for the restaurants, which we used and seemed to get a good deal.  We had chowder, but other folks from the ship had some delicious looking mussels.  Prices were reasonable and staff was very friendly.  The Victorian Botanical Garden across from the Citidal is worth the hick up the hill.  14 acres of manicured grounds which even included a tropical plant and cactus sections.  At the waterfront there is a very nice sea walk area that has various tours and activities, shopping, bike and Segway rentals, museum.

There is nothing in Sydney, but they did build a new port terminal that houses a lot of craft type shopping, as well as a nice little museum showing the history of the area.  There isn't much else in the town. 

Leaving the ship was easier than boarding.  We handed in our forms and grabbed our bags and sailed through.  There was no searching or questioning going through customs.  It took about 5 minutes from the time they called our deck to when we were out on the street waiting for our ride. 

All in all we had a pretty good time and we thank you for helping us." 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Traveler Review: Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa Honeymoon

When a Trips with Angie traveler returns home from vacation, I ask them to let me know all about their trip.  Then I ask them permission to share their thoughts with you. 

Katie M. just returned from her honeymoon at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa




"It was an absolute blast!  We were so happy we chose there.  We are huge food people so the amount of restaurants they had was awesome.  I believe they have more than most of the other resorts on other islands.  Since we are such huge food people though, the food was a bit disappointing.  Very, very salty!  We got bored with it after a while.  Each place has the same thing for breakfast so you are essentially eating the same thing every day.  However, they have tons of options at the breakfast buffets so if you aren't a picky person it is great.  There are many places for lunch either.  The biggest disappointment for us was the fact that we weren't eating any island/Caribbean food.  We were looking forward to good seafood and really fresh fruit.  Instead it was Italian, Southwest, Teppanyaki etc.  There is a really good sushi place though that we visited often.  Like I said though, we are huge food people so we are probably more critical than most are.  We ended up leaving the resort a few times to eat at a place down the beach.  We also went to a great lunch place in St. John's called Hemingway’s and an amazing seafood place in Fort James called Russell’s.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

6.19.13 Deals and Promotions of the Week


Do you prefer a more cosmopolitan look - clean lines, minimal or a more cozy, comfortable vibe? South Beach hotel or Bed and Breakfast? 
 
If you chose South Beach hotel, then ME Cancun may be a good fit. It's an all-inclusive resort in Cancun with five restaurants, seven bars, 2 pools including an infinity pool, a spa and it's pet friendly. 
 

Thinking of a romantic getaway to Jamaica. Today is the last day of the Couples resorts 60% off and up to $300 resort credit promotion.  I am obsessed with the Couples Tower Isle resort - it has a private island and a list of activities a mile long.
 
Email me at tripswithangie@gmail.com so we can start planning your next favorite vacation!

Monday, June 17, 2013

My flight is delayed or cancelled - Now what?



Recently, someone asked me how I deal with delayed or cancelled flights. Here's what I do: 

If my flight is delayed and it's a nonstop: 
 I check to see when the next flight is to my destination and ask to be put on stand by for that flight. This is important because the next flight could leave before delayed flight depending on the reason for the delay. I find this information by checking the board at the airport. Always confirm that the flight you are trying to switch to is a nonstop as well. 

If my flight is delayed and it's a connection: 
I go to the airline's website and use the flight status function to check for all other flights to  my destination. This way I can identify if there is a different routing that will get me there - instead of flying through Atlanta, maybe I can go through Cleveland. Be very clear with the ticket agent or gate agent that you will likely miss your connection. 

If my flight is cancelled: 
I do all the above plus I check to see if there is a flight going anywhere close to where my destination. For instance, if I am going to New York, I can fly into Newark, LaGuardia or JFK. I check all those options. For Boston - you can fly into Providence. For Chicago - there's two airports.  If you are not sure which airports are close to your destination, ask the ticket or gate agent - can you get me close? 

Also - if a flight is cancelled, a huge line usually forms to reschedule the flight. Usually there is a person directly traffic or a sign that indicate the 800 number for rebooking. While you are in the line, call the rebooking 800 number. That way you are on hold and in line at the same time. One time the line was 40 people long and I was able to rebook in 10 minutes over the phone. 

If all else fails, ask the ticket/gate agent - What would you do if you were me? It's amazing how this question can open up a whole new set of options. Always be firm, but kind. Never raise your voice. 

And if I booked this trip for you, definitely give me a call so I help you figure out your options. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Celebrity Summit - A Review in Pictures and a Promotion

Celebrity Cruises is offering a Pick 4 Promotion between now and June 19th. If you book a sailing that departs between September 2013 and April 2014, you can choose between one of these special offers: 

Save up to $600 on Choice Air 
Free Classic Beverage Packages that includes beer, wine and spirits 
Free gratuities for two or 
An on board credit 

In April 2013, my husband and I went on a 7 day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Summit out of San Juan. It was one of the best cruises we have ever taken. The itinerary is great. You have 5 port days and one Sea Day. One of my favorite things was heading up to the top deck to watch our entry into another island.  


The Celebrity Summit was built in 2001. It is in the Millennium class of ships. In 2012, she received an upgrade adding two new restaurants, a steam room/sanctuary, and sixty new cabins. The ship has 11 decks and holds 2,450 passengers and 999 crew. 

The Reflections Lounge, pictured below, provides a great spot to views sunset. In the evening,  the lounge  hosts nightly shows like the newlywed game, live bands and the DJ starts the dance music around 11:00 pm/11:30 pm. 

Reflections Lounge, Celebrity Summit 

The ship also offers an enclosed the thalassotherapy pool - basically a huge hot tub - and two other whirlpools. When we boarded the ship in San Juan, it was pouring rain so this was a great relaxing place to retreat.  It is adults only and offers a buffet with healthier options for breakfast and lunch. 

Thalassotherapy Pool, Celebrity Summit 

The ship also has two outdoor pools and an outdoor stage for live music. 

Main Pool, Celebrity Summit 

One of the upgrades in 2012 was to add Qsine - specialty restaurant. For an additional fee, you can dine on the fun, modern cuisine offered here. You order your food on iPads. It's a lot of fun. 

Qsine Specialty Restaurant, Celebrity Summit 

One of our favorite dishes was the lava crab. 

Lava Crab, Celebrity Summit

Here's a view of the ship from the beaches of St. Croix. 

Celebrity Summit 

Because we had received the  beverage package from a previous promotion, we enjoyed a nightly happy hour at the Martini Bar. The bartenders are excellent. 

Martini Bar, Celebrity Summit 

 The theater hosts Las Vegas dance revues, magic shows, and special events like the Iron Chef competitions where two of the ship's chefs face off in a cooking competition. 

Theater, Celebrity Summit 

 I was very impressed with the live music offerings and the activities on board that were included in the fare. I attended a painting class, an on board lecture about the Virgin Islands, and learned to make crepes. The food and service were also very good. 

Tip: On the Sea Day, the main dining room hosts an incredible brunch buffet. It is not well advertised so keep a look out.  You definitely don't want to miss this: 
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What about you? Have you been on the Celebrity Summit? What did you think? 

If you have any questions or want to take advantage of this great promotion, please email me: tripswithangie@gmail.com 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Deals of the Week 6.5.13

Every day I get inundated with emails offering this promotion or that promotion. One of the benefits of using a travel agent is that I can help you figure out which is actually a good deal and how to maximize your vacation dollar. 

Here’s my favorite deals that crossed my inbox this week:  

Deals that are ending soon




Royal Caribbean – LAST DAY for free oceanview or balcony upgrades This is a great deal because it applies to select sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. 

Couples Resorts – LAST DAY to save up to 59% and receive up to $200 in resort credit for their Jamaica properties.  The Couples Barbados $1000 air credit is ending soon as well. 

Last chance! Your family can save up to 30%* on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels this summer. Add minimum 4-Day Magic Your Way Tickets to make it a package and get a discount on the tickets too!  Book by June 14, 2013, for stays most nights June 13 – Aug. 14, 2013.

Cruise Deals
Holland America cruises are still on sale. Alaska from $349 per person and Europe from $699 per person.  Plus on some sailings Trips with Angie clients will receive a $75 onboard credit. 

Princess Cruise Lines - 3- & 4-day West Coast Getaways September-December 2013 Roundtrip Los Angeles from $149 per person  Government fees of $55 are additional and subject to change.

All-Inclusive Resorts 
Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, Secrets, Dreams, Now and/or Sunscape Resorts & Spas are offering free nights and kids stay free for travel between August 24, 2013 – December 22, 2013. Must book by July 31, 2013. 

Sunset Beach All Inclusive Resort and Spa in Jamaica – Prices starting at $92 per per night. Book by June 30th and travel before August 17th. This offer excludes July 25 -27 and August 1 – 7. 

Beaches resorts are consistently rated one of the top all-inclusive resorts for families.  Enjoy up to 65% off,  air credits or free nights.  Military families get an additional 10% off. 

Escorted Tours 
8 Day Paris & London Vacation with Flights starting at $1349 per person  - Two great European cities in one amazing trip

12 Night Package: 7 Night Danube Cruise w/ 2 nts Budapest & 3 nts Prague for $1,799 per person  Exclusively chartered river cruise and Deluxe accommodations. Book early for maximum savings on 2014.

All prices are subject to change based on availability and the terms and conditions of the promotion. 

Email me at tripswithangie@gmail.com today so we can book your next favorite vacation. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Trips with Angie Traveler Review: New Orleans and Pensacola Beach

"April 2013 marked the first trip alone with my husband of 2 ½ years. Knowing that we didn’t have the time to plan a full trip by ourselves, we contacted Trips by Angie. It was such a relief to turn the details over to someone else!

Angie asked great questions about what types of places and things we enjoyed doing and used that information to put together a package that met both of our needs. My husband is a “surf, sand and sun” kind of guy and the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front hotel was perfect. 

It was comfortable, clean and close to the ocean. There was shade around the pool for me (sun and surf usually means I spend quality time with my good friends, Aloe and Vera).

We enjoyed walking the boardwalk and found a great wine and cheese shop. Our favorite dinner was at Hemingway’s-Bimini Beach Bar—reasonably priced and fabulous food! Pensacola also has a 360* wheel that allowed us to get an overview of the town. With the Naval Air Station nearby, we were able to watch the Blue Angels practice (all practices are free). There is also a National Naval Aviation Museum on the base and several forts in the area. Fort Barrancas was closest to the airfield and we visited this one.  It was in excellent shape, having received far less shelling than Fort Pickens (a one-time rival) across Pensacola Bay.

Following Pensacola, we travelled to New Orleans, LA, and Hotel Le Marais in the French Quarter. 

The hotel is located between Bourbon and Royal—the two main streets. It was close enough to easily walk yet removed enough to still be quiet. The hotel was beyond fabulous! I can’t thank Angie enough for choosing a place like this—it was first-class all the way with great service, rooms and drinks. The concierge was key in helping us to book several of our tours.

Our first tour was the VIP City Tours by bus; it worked out quite well as it was raining that day. We were able to see areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and the lower 9th ward. Water marks will still visible on many out-buildings and street signs. We drove along Lake Ponchatrain, saw areas where “Interview With A Vampire” was filmed, St Louis Cathedral and the Garden District. The tour guide was knowledgeable and shared quite a bit of history. He was local to the area which added another depth to the tour since he was familiar with the city both as a guide and a resident.

Walking tours were next on our list and we chose the Haunted History Tours, French Quarter Vampire Tour. Meeting in front of the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson square, we had time to walk inside and view this beautiful Cathedral. We were lucky enough to be there at a time when someone was practicing on the pipe organ. The walking tour took us closer to many of the places used in films, past the home of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pit and the convent. Again, our tour guide was local to the area and able to give us much history and tips on great restaurants (Irene’s is a must!).

Walking along Bourbon Street was always entertaining—no shortage of interesting people or sights to gawk at, live jazz music was never hard to find, my husband received “lessons” in how to eat a craw-fish from the waiters and we walked along the shores of the Mighty Mississippi. Our last stop before leaving Louisiana was an airboat swamp tour. Usually early April is the best time to go as the alligators are mating; this year it was colder than usual and they were still hibernating. Captain Ernie was experienced in his job and educated us on the habits of alligators and de-bunked the show “Swamp People.” In spite of the cold, he was still able to locate a half-dozen ‘gators for us.

On our way back home, we stopped in Loretto, KY to visit the Maker’s Mark Distillery. My husband is a member, which means there was a barrel of whisky with his name on it and after 8 years, it was ready. We received a tour of the grounds and watched the distilling process before going to a tasting room to try 3 of their different brands. Following this, he received his two bottles of whisky, placed the individualized labels on the bottles and was able to dip them into the trade-mark red wax that coats the neck of each bottle. You don’t have to be a Maker’s Mark ambassador to do this (although it’s free to sign up and they send annual gifts)—anyone can tour the distillery and purchase a bottle to dip—it just won’t include your own personalized bottle.

This was our first time using a travel agent and I highly recommend Trips By Angie. Left on my own, I never would have chosen such high-end, excellent hotels and the stress of trying to plan out where to stay would have taken away from the entire purpose of a relaxing, adult-only vacation. Angie took care of searching out areas that catered to both of our interests. It was a one of the best trips we’ve ever taken and we definitely plan on using Angie’s services as a travel agent again!"