Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Pre Cruise Hotel Fort Lauderdale: Holiday Inn Express Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel

 Are you looking for a pre cruise hotel in Fort Lauderdale for our cruise out of Port Everglades. In this post, I share my review of the Holiday Inn Express Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel. 



The pros:

The location is terrific. Lots of restaurants, grocery stores, and shops nearby plus you are one stop light away from Port Everglades.

The hotel provides a free airport shuttle. Parking is only $5 per night during your stay. You can sign up for an extra charge cruise port shuttle.

The rooms were clean and well- equipped.

The free breakfast has several options: pancakes, hard boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, eggs, sausage, toast and cinnamon rolls.

The pool is small, but clean. I like that it's on the 4th floor so you aren't right next to the street

 

The con:

Check in / Check out is a zoo. It's not hotel's fault. This is cruise hotel. That means hundreds of people are checking in and out the same day. You have the people disembarking from their cruise arriving between 8 am - 10am. No rooms for them so some just hang around in the lobby. You have a mass check out at 11 am as everyone heads to their cruise. Then, you have people arriving the night before their cruise. They arrive anytime throughout the day.

 

Tip: If you will arrive at the hotel before 4 pm - make a plan outside of the hotel. Book an excursion. Head to the beach. Grab a barstool at Duffy's Sport Bar.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

My Trips: Dubrovnik, Croatia

 


In October 2022, we spent five days in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Here's our must do list: 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Must See Dubrovnik: Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island is a must do if you are visiting Dubrovnik, Croatia. It's a great mix of historic sites, cafes, swimming spots and Games of Thrones filming locations.



You can book a water taxi or rent a kayak to get to the island. You'll need to pay admission upon arrival. 

I found it easier to book the transfer and tickets through the Reserve so it's all together.

You can buy tickets online or at the harbor. The East Gate is closest to the harbor. Walk forward from the east Gate. You'll reach a dead end with an arched doorway to the left. The ticket office will be on your right just after the restaurant.

Tip: Buy tickets online to save 10%. 

The transfer to the island departs on the hour and half hour. The returning boats depart at :15 and :45 after the hour. Last transfer back is 5:45 pm. The sailing takes about 15 minutes.  Be sure to double check the schedule because these times can and do change based on the season. 

Tip: Boarding starts about 20-30 minutes before departure at the harbor. Grab a spot on the back (aft) of the boat either downstairs or upstairs for great views and pictures of the harbor as you sail toward Lokum. 

The pink building is the visitor center. Head in to pick up a printed map or to buy the audio tour. 

Be sure to bring your swimsuit and a towel to enjoy the several swimming areas. (Or just a towel if you are headed to the nude swimming area.)

Tip: Bring water shoes and/or walking sticks if you aren't surefooted. 

I recommend heading to Fort Royal first since that's the highest climb. 

The Monastery is where you'll find the Games of Thrones exhibit and Iron throne. 

On the way back, the boat arrives 5 minutes prior to departure.  People queue up so you may want to arrive a little earlier. 









Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Swiss Air Business Class Review


We traveled in business class on Swiss Air Flight 9 from Chicago O'Hare to Zurich. We booked discounted cruise fares because we were taking a Rhine river cruise.

One perk of flying International Business Class on a United partner is access to the United Polaris at Chicago O'Hare. The lounge is located near C18.  Take a peek: https://youtube.com/shorts/sGSUVQ1PGZA?feature=share


Overall the lounge is very nice. I appreciate how they try to protect personal space. All the bathrooms are individual. The seating is spread out. Showers are availability. A large bar offers many premium cocktails, wine, and spirits. 
The Dining Room is a small space that seems to be an after thought. You can order from a menu. The food was decent. The service was friendly, but a tad slow. My only other experience with this type of lounge is the Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto. That is far superior. The Maple Leaf Lounge included restaurant was an intentional space with a coat and luggage storage room. The menu was larger and the service was impeccable. 

The United Polaris Lounge offers a buffet with soup, salad, hot entree items, and cold appetizers. The buffet had servers available making sure the food area was clean and well stocked. I appreciated that.

One big issue with flying with a partner airline is Terminal 5 (imagine ominous music here).  To get to Terminal 5, you have to exit the secured area, board a tram, and then pass through security again. United recommends leaving an hour and a half for that process. 

We met my parents at gate C3. We left gate C3 at 4:47 pm. We were at Terminal 5 and through security by 5:30 pm. 

Swiss Air Business Class also includes access to the Swissport lounge. Outside the lounge, a sign stated the lounge was at capacity. In small print under it, it said space was reserved for airline guests. We entered. It's a simple lounge with packaged snacks, pre-made sandwiches, and a serve yourself bar with beer, wine and spirits. Terminal 5 is crowded so it was nice to have a place to sit. 

We left the lounge around 6 pm for out 7:10 pm flight. It was a bit of a walk to M25. We had to go to the desk for a passport check. We waited about 15 minutes until boarding. 

The flight left on time. Take a quick tour of my experience: https://youtu.be/nZOE0FXjlME

We chose 4K and 5K. These are the first seats in the Business section. They are solo seats. A warning about A and B: A does not have easy aisle access. You'd have to crawl over the person in seat B. 

Prior to take off, the flight attendant collected our dinner and breakfast orders. For dinner, we had a choice of appetizer and main. 

7:49 pm Dinner service began. The tray table is a little tricky. Don't worry about asking for help. 

8 pm Dinner was served. I compare it to domestic first class. I liked the gnocchi. I liked all the vegetables. I also liked the cheese plate.  Two types of white wine and three types of red wine were available. 

A wine and water refill was offered. 

8:24 pm Dinner was clearer for those who were finished. 

8:32 pm Dessert was offered. It was cheesecake. I passed. I ordered a mint tea. The flight attendant ordered it via a tablet. It came quickly and freshly made to order. 

8:45 pm Dessert was cleared for those finished. 

I moved the seat to lie flat. It was very comfortable. The seat came with a pillow and a blanket. I'm 6 feet tall and the bed was long enough. I was also able to sleep comfortably on my side. 

About 120 minutes before landing, a blue light came on overhead. 

80 minutes prior to landing - My pre-ordered breakfast was served. I love that I could pre-order espresso. 

Everything was cleared by 40 minutes before landing. 

It's a very scenic landing. 

We landed at 10:33 am local time. 

We reached passport control at 11:00 am with a brief stop at the bathroom.

We were through passport control by 11:25 am. We picked the slow line. We could have been through about 12 minutes faster in at least two other lines.

Our luggage was off the carousel and waiting for us. 

Our transfer was waiting. We were on the way to the hotel by 11:29 am. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Things to Do in Cape Cod : Provincetown

 


After our time in Vermont and Boston, we headed to Provincetown on Cape Cad. The only thing I knew about Cape Cod was from the movie Splash so I was excited to check it out. The easiest way to get there from Boston is the fast ferry. 

Click here for a map of the places we visited. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Things to Do in Boston

 


This post may include affiliate links. 

After a great week and a half in Vermont, we joined my family Boston. 

Our hotel: We chose Hilton Boston Downtown because it's close to everything we have scheduled and you could book connecting rooms. This was really important to my sister's family.   My family arrived. We chose Mr. Dooley's for dinner right next door to get the Boston Irish Pub experience.

 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Things to Do in Vermont

 



The video is a summary of our trip. You can see a Google Map highlighting all the locations by clicking here. 

Some of the links may be affiliate links. 



To begin our Vermont trip, we flew into Boston, Massachusetts. We decided to fly into Boston because it offered a nonstop flight from Tampa and we had more rental car options.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Client Review: Breathless Punta Cana

 




Hi Angie, 

Our vacation was wonderful. The resort was perfect for us because it had plenty for our 25 year old boys at night. 



My husband and I too found plenty to keep us happy. The night life there was better suited for the 30-40 crowd. The beach was beautiful, lots of places to sit, clean beach, no seaweed, and food, drinks and bathrooms were all nearby. 




The resort was so well run. The Staff was very accommodating and friendly. Having the concierge came in handy quite a few times. The Xhale upgrade did not disappoint. 



We did an excursion with the speed boats called Sailing Splash. I highly recommend it. We had a catamaran ride, rode speedboats, swam and snorkeled with sharks and sting rays, drank and danced, jumped off the boat and drank in the water, and had a sit down meal consisting of grilled chicken, rice and salad. 



The only downside was that both boys got ill around day 4-5 with stomach issues. Not sure why but it did affect the rest of the trip for them. My husband and I were fine. 

I cannot thank you and Kate enough for your services! 

You gave personalized attention from the moment we contacted you. This was a very special trip for us since it may be our last as a family. Thanks again,

Barb

Take a peek at the Trips with Angie resort tour to learn about this resort. 



Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Best Cozumel All inclusive Resorts



Cozumel is an island off the west coast of Mexico. You can fly directly into Cozumel or take the ferry from Playa del Carmen. Cozumel is known for great snorkeling and diving. The island has a rugged east side with a rocky coast. 

Here are the four all inclusive resorts I recommend with a special fifth recommendation for those who make it all the way to the end. 



Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Seattle Washington Excursions

 



If your Alaska cruise doesn’t start or end in Vancouver, likely you are starting or finishing your cruise vacation from Seattle, WA. This city is famous for Starbucks, grunge music, the Space Needle, and Pike Place Market. It's home to several giants of the technology industry including Amazon and Microsoft, and it is also a beautiful area to just simply enjoy the outdoors. Check out some amazing ways to explore the city and its surrounding areas.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Cancun All Inclusive Resort: Where can I find a Swim Up Suite that Connects to Swim Up Pool Bar?

 



Swim Up suites at all-inclusive resorts are suites where the patio connects to a shared pool. It was a great way for resorts to take less desirable first floor rooms without a view and turn them into something much more enjoyable. 

Some resorts went even further and connected those shared pools to a main pool with the swim up bar. This means you can leave your patio and "swim" to the swim up bar. 





Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Vancouver, B.C. excursions

 


Many Alaska cruise vacations stop, begin and/or end in Vancouver. Just a few of the many points of interest to check out in this stunning metropolis include Gastown neighborhood, 2010 Olympic cauldron at Coal Harbour, Stanley Park, Chinatown, and Granville Island. Here are some wonderful tours to help you explore the area in you are in town for a day or more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Cancun All Inclusive Resorts: What is the best Dreams resort?

 



Dreams resorts are family all inclusive resort. There are nine Dreams resort accessible from the Cancun airport - 10 if you include the soon to open Dreams Cozumel Cape.

In the video, I explain why the best Dreams resort is the best resort for you based on what you like:



                                            Best Beach: Dreams Tulum and Dreams Playa Mujeres 

Best beach for little kids: Dreams Sands 

Most Dining Options: Dreams Playa Mujeres 

Closest to Airport: Dreams Natura, Dreams Vista, Dreams Sands 

Best Oceanfront Suite: Dreams Sapphire 

Family Favorite: Dreams Jade, Dreams Sapphire, Dreams Natura 

Good for teens: Dreams Playa Mujeres 

Best for mobility challenged: Dreams Natura, Dreams Sands, Dreams Vista. Dreams Aventuras

Largest Wedding team: Dreams Riviera Cancun

Unique Design: Dreams Vista 

 Budget Friendly: Dreams Sands, Dreams Jade, Dreams Sapphire 




Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Victoria, B.C. Excursions

 


Boosting a temperate climate year-round with its location on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria, British Columbia is known internationally as the City of Gardens. The city has an annual flower count dating back to the 1970’s, the total number of blooms counted in 2018 was over 3.4 billion. Foodies will delight with the abundance of amazing food and wine tour offerings. Check out these and other amazing ways to experience this beautiful area.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Is Virgin Voyages right for you?

 



Richard Branson's new cruise line Virgin Voyages set out to disrupt the cruise industry. I'd say it succeeded. A Virgin Voyages cruise is unlike any of the other 60+ cruises I've taken. 

In this video, I highlight what's different and how to tell if it's a good fit for your next vacation. 

If you'd like a more personal consultation, please email Angie@TripswithAngie.com 




Dreams Sapphire Review

Trips with Angie client Frank just returned from Dreams Sapphire and sent over his review.


Frank reached out to me to plan his birthday trip. He wanted something special.

I recommended Dreams Sapphire to Frank because of the unique oceanfront swim up suites. These suites are really unicorns since most swim up suites do not have an ocean view.

Here's his review and photos:

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Seabourn Odyssey Review

 



Some of the things I loved about the Seabourn Experience: 
  • Large suites - Seabourn is known for their large Veranda suites. We had one of the smallest veranda cabins. It had a sitting area, table and chairs, queen bed, and a spacious bathroom. You can get a peek in the video below.
  • Yacht Feel - The ship only holds 450 guests. The design and small size made this cruise feel like a yacht experience. I was basically on Below Deck.  
  • Dining - We had one bad meal. Everything else was delicious. We loved the dinners at the Patio. I had the best cauliflower dish I've ever had. We had incredible scallops, grilled lobster, and gourmet bites.
  • Caviar in the Surf  - Seabourn takes over the Carambola Beach Club on St Kitts. They place a paddleboard in the water. The Executive Chef and Maitre'D serve caviar in the ocean. Martin, the bar manager, swam around refilling champagne glasses. It was incredible. Be sure to watch to the end of the video to get a peek.
  • Entertainment - I was very impressed by the entertainment on board for such a small ship. We had guest performers, deck parties, a production cast, a sing-a-long piano player, a band, and a trio. Each night, you had two or three options for enjoining live music.

Take a peek:



Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Alaska Excursions: Skagway




Skagway is located on the panhandle of Alaska.  This beautiful Alaska town is known for access to breathtaking train rides, gorgeous scenery and some of the history of the Klondike Gold Rush. Speaking of the Gold Rush did you know that John Nordstrom of Nordstrom’s department stores got his start here? He sold his claim worth $13,000 before moving back to Seattle. Here are some great excursions where you can learn more about this beautiful city.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Impact of COVID on All Inclusive Resorts - Is it Worth it?




 I visited all-inclusive resorts in Mexico in August 2020, October 2020, May 2021, June 2021, and two weeks ago. 


Recently, I got a good question: "What's the impact of COVID restrictions and protocols to a stay at a Cancun / Riviera Maya all-inclusive resort? Is it worth it?"

First, what are the restrictions?

The Cancun / Riviera Maya works on a stoplight system. Each week, the area is assigned a color: Green, Yellow, Orange, or Red based on the current COVID numbers. You can see the weekly updates here: https://reactivemosq.roo.gob.mx/

Based on the current status, different restrictions apply.
  • The resort's occupancy may be restricted.
  • The night club may be closed.
  • Bars may have restricted hours.
  • Supervised kids' club may be closed or offer outdoor programming. 

Resorts' also have their own COVID protocols and health and safety plans. These plans include:
  • Sanitation protocols - Cleaning takes longer so it's unlikely rooms are available before check-in time.
  • Spacing of lounge chairs or dining tables,
  • A health check as part of the check in process
  • Employees may be required to wear masks.
  • Buffets may switch from self-service to assisted service.
  • You may be required to have your temperature checked before you enter a restaurant or sanitize your hands or shoes. 

The biggest impacts I've seen are due to low occupancy - not necessarily governmental COVID requirements.

Less people are traveling now. This means the resort may have a lot of empty rooms. In this case, the resorts follow the same procedures they did before COVID when the resort wasn't 100% full: pare down dining and programming. If the resort is only 20% full, the resort will not have all the restaurants open every night. They may not have the buffet open at all to control food waste. The resorts I've stayed in did a great job rotating the schedule so it was easy to eat at all the restaurants even if they were not all open every night. 

You may also see some impact from labor shortages. It's hard to staff up quickly if the hotel's occupancy goes up. This may mean a bit longer wait at a restaurant even though you see empty tables. You may decide to head to the pool bar yourself if the pool server is covering a large area. 

I think what everyone wants to know - Is it still worth it? 

I overheard some people saying NO. It's not worth it. It's the experience they remembered from previous visits. They felt the need for a negative COVID test to get back in the USA hanging over their heads. (I do highly recommend doing an at-home antigen test before leaving to make sure you don't arrive positive.)

I obviously think it's worth it since I keep going back. My clients have all said they had a great time and it was worth it even with some of the annoyances of understaffing or closed restaurants. 

One of the perks of booking with me is that I help you evaluate the pros and cons of traveling right now. I help manage your expectations.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Suite Life: Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady Seriously Suite versus Royal Caribbean Grande Suite versus Norwegian Haven Spa Suite

 This past weekend, I set sail on Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady in a Seriously Suite. I "won" the suite by bidding on an upgrade from my Sea Terrace. It was terrific and definitely worth the increase in price even if I had booked it from the beginning.  Take a peek: 



Some of the perks that made a big difference in our experience: 

  • Larger Bathroom - My biggest complaint on my October 2021 Scarlet Lady sailing was how small the bathroom in the Sea Terrace cabins is. The Seriously Suite bathroom is terrific.  I l love the large sink with lots of counter space. The toilet has a separate room so it's easy for two people to be in the bathroom. The open design of the shower makes it feel huge. I like having a rain shower and a handheld option. The window into the main cabin gives the bathroom a lot of natural light. Definitely no privacy, but a lot of light. 
  • Richard's Rooftop - This special lounge and bar area at the front of the ship is a great place to relax. The free glass of champagne at 5:30 pm didn't hurt. 
  • Expedited embarkation - Embarkation was so fast this sailing. Rockstars had a special testing area and waiting area. 
  • Private golf cart to Bimini Beach Club - This seems like the silliest thing, but when I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go. I loved hoping on the golf cart versus waiting for the tram to fill up. 
  • Help scheduling shows - On the October cruise, we missed some shows because we didn't book reservations. I appreciate that each Rockstar cabin is assigned a Rockstar agent to help with anything you need. The Rockstar agents are very attentive and pro-active. 
As a comparison, I've also sailed in suites on Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. 

The Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas Grande Suite One Bedroom was significantly bigger than the Seriously Suite. I liked the shower better in the Seriously Suite, but the overall space in the Royal Caribbean suite was really nice. As far as perks, I liked having a lounge on Royal Caribbean versus a deck area.



The Norwegian Encore Haven Spa Suite has a huge tub and a walk in closet. The closet blows the tiny wardrobe in the Seriously Suite out of the water. I still prefer how the bed is facing the ocean in the Seriously Suite. I didn't anticipate what a difference that would make. As far as perks, I like that the Haven has its own restaurant. It's really not needed on Virgin Voyages because Razzle Dazzle and the Wake offer a la carte lunch. I also like that the Haven has a lounge that stays open late.



Comparing concierge services, our Rockstar Agents on the Scarlet Lady were the most pro-active concierges we've had. They checked in with us daily to see if there was anything we needed. Asked about our plans and made sure we have reservations for everything we wanted to do. 

I'd love to help you explore which suite is right for you, email Angie@Tripswithangie.com to get started. 

What do you need to enter Cancun, Mexico?

 I recently visited Cancun, Mexico and this was my experience. I am a US citizen with a US passport flying in from the USA. 

Entering Mexico: 

Your Airline will require a health declaration as part of check-in process. Mexico does not currently require vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry from the United States. 

Mexico requires each person complete a Tourist Card: https://www.cancunairport.com/tourist-card.html
  • Be sure to pay attention to how they want the date DAY / MONTH / YEAR
  • Be sure to DOWNLOAD when you complete it. Then click New Application for the next person in your travel party. 
  • The download will give you a PDF to print. Print both pages and keep them together. 
  • You will present the PDF to the Immigration officer. They will tear off one side and give it back to you. Keep this safe. You'll need it to leave the country. If you lose it, it's around $60 to replace it. 
The Mexico Health Questionnaire is filled out upon arrival if needed.

As a reminder, here's how to find your pre-arranged transfer at Terminal 4: 


Return to USA 
When you arrive back at the Cancun airport to fly home, you'll need: 
  • The immigration paper from your arrival 
  • A screenshot of the QR code from Vuelas Guro
  • A digital or printed copy of your negative COVID test results or documentation of recovery
  • A completed health attestation form through the airline
A screenshot of the QR code from Vuelas GuroBefore you leave, set up an account at: https://www.vuelaseguro.com/login You only need one account for your travel party. 

Log in 12 hours before your departure time. You'll need your flight information. Fill out the form.  Then, you can "Add Companion". After you add all your travel companions, you will be able to see the QR codes. Screenshot these. On our trip, they did not ask for them. In the past, we had to present them before entering the line for airport security. 

Negative COVID test results - The United States requires proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than one day before your flight back to the USA or documentation of recovery. You can read the full details of the documentation needed by clicking here.  You will show the test results to the airline employee when you check-in in at the airport. You will not be able to check-in in online and use a mobile boarding pass in Cancun. 

Health Attestation Form required by the USA 
Most airlines have this online now. 
United: During Check in Process

Depending on the airline, they may recommend you screenshot the confirmation of completing the attestation.

All these processes are requirements are subject to change. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Hyatt Zilara Cancun All Inclusive Resort Tour

 



Hyatt Zilara Cancun is an adults only all inclusive resort located in the Hotel Zone of Cancun. Hyatt Zilara Cancun is a high rise overlooking a winding pool including an infinity edge pool and a swim up bar. 

Things I love about it: 
The swim up bar is in the infinity edge pool overlooking the gorgeous white sand beach and waves. 
Some suite categories include a day bed on the beach so you never have to worry about finding a spot. 
The service is excellent. 
The junior suites are large and comfortable. 
The dining is Mexican. I feel like we go to Mexico and never get Mexican food. 

Take a look: 


Friday, January 21, 2022

Ketchikan Excursions

 



A popular port, found on almost every Alaskan cruise itinerary is Ketchikan. The city is set on the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage. It describes itself as the Salmon Capital of the World, it is also home to the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Another interesting fact is that it is one of the rainiest cities in America, it receives more than 261% more rain the national average. But don’t let that discourage you from exploring some of the most beautiful wildlife in Alaska. Let’s check out some great excursion offerings to help you learn about and explore this beautiful area of Alaska. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Breathless Soul Cancun All Inclusive Resort Tour




Breathless Cancun Soul is an adults only all inclusive resort about 25 minutes from the Cancun airport. Breathless Cancun Soul has a fun party vibe. The beach is a small cove beach with calm, shallow water. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Juneau Alaska Excursions

 



If your cruise to Alaska has you stopping in Juneau you are in for a treat! The area is known for its incredible scenery and abundant wildlife both on land and by sea. Tour options that offer a cruise-friendly refund policy and back to the ship guarantee are denoted with an *.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Sunscape Puerto Plata All Inclusive Resort Tour

 



Sunscape Puerto Plata is a family all inclusive resort on a natural beach. Sunscape is located in a gated complex with a shopping plaza and golf course.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Cruising During Omicron: My Norwegian Dawn Experience



 I returned this morning from an 11 night Southern Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. Before embarking, our group reviewed the current information and the pros and cons. Norwegian offered us a future cruise credit if we wanted to cancel. I knew there was a good chance some ports would deny entry. We decided to go forward with the cruise and just be flexible.