Thursday, November 23, 2023

El Cielo Winery and Resort Review

El Cielo Winery and Resort is located in Valle de Guadeloupe - the wine region responsible for 90% of Mexican wine. I received a discount on my stay to post on social media. This review is all my own. 

I flew into San Diego. It's about a two hour drive and crossing the border was a breeze. 

Tip: Next time, I would arrange a stop for lunch at Porto Nuevo on the way to the winery. The coastline is beautiful and a stop for lunch helps break up the drive. 

The grounds are beautiful. The winery and the resort are separate so resort guests have privacy. The accommodations are gorgeous. I was wow'd when I walked into my Master Suite. 

Each villa has a master suite on the first floor and two junior suites on the upper floors. If everyone shares a bed and all the sleeper sofas are used, the villa can sleep 12. The main lobby has a restaurant that is open for breakfast based on how full the resort is. I appreciate that the resort and winery are separate for privacy, but it does mean you'll need to arrange a car transfer to get from your villa to the winery's lunch and dinner restaurants, tasting room, and winery experiences. 

I recommend planning to get your first dinner at the resort. You can order room service or enjoy the great cuisine at Latitude 32. The winery has great experiences: a wagon ride into the vineyard, a wine tasting, a wine blending, and a six course tasting menu with wine pairings.  My favorite wines were the Chenin Blanc and the red blends. 

El Cielo also makes a great home base for the exploring the region. The wine route has 80 wineries to explore. Lomas Travel arranged for a great day exploring: 

The valley also has some great breweries and other excursions. Your days don't have to be filled with just wine. 

If this looks like a trip you'd enjoy, please email 

Friday, September 29, 2023

Prince Edward Island Shore Excursion Review: Finest Scenic Drive, Anne, and Lobster


I loved Anne of Green Gables as a child so I had to book the Finest Scenic Drive, Anne, and Lobster Celebrity shore excursion during our Canada & New England cruise. Here’s a short video with the highlights:

We met in the terminal at 11:15 am. I highly recommend exploring Charlottetown before the town. We arrived back from the tour right at departure time. We were some of the last people to board before they pulled the gangway to sail away.

We were on the bus leaving the port area at 11:30 am. The first order of business was the lunch order. A whole lobster was included. If you didn’t want lobster, you could choose from chicken crepes, fish cakes, or potato pie. Prince Edward Island is famous for potatoes.

After an hour drive, we arrived at  North Rustico Harbor. We spend about twenty minutes here for a photo stop and learning about lobster fishing. Then, we took the 10 minute drive to Green Gables Heritage Place. This farm was the home of David Jr. and Margaret Macneill - cousins of Montgomery's grandfather. Montgomery cited the farm as her inspiration for Green Gables. The site offers bathrooms, a gift shop, lovely displays about L.M. Montgomery and the Anne of Green Gables series, a small restaurant, house, and barn. A small trail heads into the Haunted Woods. Be sure to stay alert. The short trail ends up at a golf course.

We had 45 minutes at the site. It felt like enough time to me, but those who wanted to read all the displays felt rushed.

We had a 15 minute drive to Prince Edward Island Preserve Company for lunch. This is such a charming restaurant. Beers and wine were available for purchase. Our lunch included tomato soup, a whole lobster, and raspberry preserve cheesecake pie. We had about 45 minutes for lunch. The Preserve Company had a small gift shop and a lovely garden. The drive back to the port was around 45 minutes.

I thought the tour gave a great overview of the area.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Quebec City Excursion Review: Five Course Gourmet Food and Historical Tour


Quebec City offers to much to do. This trip, we booked a 5 Course Gourmet Food and Historical Tour. Here are the highlights:


This is an independent excursion so we walked from the port to meeting point. It was a quick 10 minute walk from our docking location – pier 22. Be sure you know where you are docking because it would be a 45 minute walk from other piers.

Our group had 9 people. The max was 12. Our guide was wonderful. She grew up in Quebec City and had so much knowledge to share. We started with two stops in the Lower Town:

  • Va Bene is an Italian restaurant. We had a wonderful panzanella salad with a mozzarella foam.  
  • Archibald is a brewery and pub where we had the French Onion Soup. The French onion soup was great. The soup had a wonderful onion flavor that was lighter than many I’ve tried.

We headed up the Funicular to explore the Upper Town.

  • La Continental is one of the oldest restaurants in Quebec City. It’s known for tableside cooking. We had shrimp flambee prepared in front of us.
  • Last stop was the Monastère des Augustines – a monastery converted into a hotel and restaurant. We had wild boar ribs and dessert.

This was definitely a full and filling five course meal. I loved the mix of history and food. The focus was on trying a mix of restaurants – not necessarily trying cuisine unique to Quebec City.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Celebrity Shore Excursion Review: Lure of Lighthouses and Fortress of Louisbourg, Syndey, Nova Scotia

 Our ship also docked in Sydney, Nova Scotia. We chose the Celebrity shore excursion:  Lure of Lighthouses and Fortress of Louisbourg. Honestly, I chose this excursion because a woman from Halifax recommended visiting the Fortress. Here are the highlights:


At 9:00 am, we met in the Rendez Vous lounge. At 9:21 am, we headed to the bus. By 9:34 am, we were on our way. The Louisbourg Fortress is the reconstruction of a 1744 settlement. It’s the biggest historical reconstruction in North America. About one-fifth of the settlement has been reconstructed.

After about a 45 minute drive, we arrived at the lighthouse. We had 15 minutes for a photo stop. I got the best photos as we headed up the drive to the lighthouse.

We were back on the bus at 10:33 am. It was about a 30 minute drive around the by to the Fortress. At 10:55 am, we were off the bus. We were give about an hour and 15 minutes at the site.

The tour guide led us to a large map of the original settlement. Then, we headed to Engineer’s house for hot chocolate and more information about the settlement. This took about 15 minutes. The tour guide then guided the group to meet with a solider. We declined because we wanted more time to explore the settlement. We had to be back on the bus by 12:10 pm. This was not enough time.

We were back at the port at 1:00 pm.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Celebrity Shore Excursion Review: Destination Highlight: Acadia National Park


In September 2023, we took an 11 night Canada / New England cruise on the Celebrity Summit. The first port of call was Bar Harbor, Maine. We took the Celebrity shore excursion: Destination Highlight: Acadia National Park

Here’s a quick video of excursion highlights:


We met at 8:00 am in the theater. We had to go down the stairs to the front to get the stickers. One member of your party can take all the tickets down to get the  stickers if you don’t want to go down and back up the stairs.

At 8:20 am, we left the theater. By 8:34 am, we were on the tender and on our way to shore.  The tender ride was about 12 minutes long. We went down a ramp, across a floating dock, and up a steep ramp.

Our tour had 50 people in a large bus. We were on the way at 9:05 am.

Acadia National Park makes up about half of Mount Desert Island. This tour takes the Park Loop Road.

We arrived at the top of Cadillac Mountain at 9:30 am. Cadillac Mountain is 1,532 feet tall. We had a twenty minute photo stop. Bathrooms and a gift shop were available.

We left Cadillac Mountain at 9:57 am to complete the tour of the Park Loop Road. The best side of the bus for this loop is the left side to get better views of Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs. The right side had the best views of the beaver dams.

We were back in town at 11:16 am. Our guide shared many suggestions about how to spend the afternoon exploring Bar Harbor.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Stockholm Excursion Review: Nordic Food Walk

In  July 2023, I took a Baltics cruise on the Island Princess. One port of call was Stockholm, Sweden. We decided to do an independent excursion: Nordic Food Walk. 

I thought this was a terrific excursion. We got to try so many traditional Swedish foods, learn about Stockholm, and even had fika - a traditional Swedish coffee break. This is the perfect orientation to Stockholm. It is a walking tour so be prepared for 15 minutes to 25 minutes of walking at a time. the coffee break and the fish restaurant were sitting down. Bathrooms were available about halfway through the tour. I highly recommend it. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Detailed Review & Five Tips for Rocky Mountaineer: Banff to Vancouver


In May 2023, we joined the Rocky Mountaineer from Banff to Vancouver. This two night journey is a trip of a lifetime. In this post, I’ll share all the details and the timeline of the experience. Here’s the highlights:



Day 1: Banff, Alberta, Canada

We spent a few pre-nights at the Fairmont Banff Springs before joining the tour. When you arrive in Banff or the day before your tour is set to start, if you are in a SilverLeaf hotel, you’’ll head to the Rocky Mountaineer Guest Center at 220 Bear Street to pick up your packet.  If you are staying at Gold Leaf hotel. If you are staying at Gold Leaf hotel, your package will be at the Rocky Mountaineer desk in the hotel.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Fairmont Banff Springs Review

The Fairmont Banff Springs offers a wonderful home base for exploring this area of Canada. 

Take a look:

Be sure to leave some days just to spend at the hotel. 
  •  Bow Falls is just steps away from the lobby. 
  •  Several hikes start close to the Fairmont. 
  •  You can enjoy the bowling alley, spa, swimming pool, history tour, arts and crafts, s’mores making, guided hike around the property, or use your 1 hour included bike rental to explore. 
  •  If you want to explore around Banff, your stay includes a bus pass.
Before your stay, you’ll receive an email from the hotel. I highly recommend booking your activities and restaurant reservations in advance.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Belgium Shore Excursion: Romantic Bruges

 We took Norwegian Cruise Line's "Romantic Bruges" excursion on our June 2023 Norwegian Prima cruise. 

Our tickets were delivered to our cabin at embarkation because we booked online prior to the cruise.

At 9:00 am, we met in the Theater. Be sure your group stays together to ensure you get on the same bus.

We left the theater at 9:11 am and were on the bus by 9:18 am. Each set had a quiet box with headset and a map of Bruges.

We left the parking lot at 9:25 am. Our bus had 45 people on it.

Bruges was known as the Venice of the North because it was a hub of finance and trade. The old town is UNESCO World Heritage site because it offers a glimpse into life in the Medieval Times.

During the bus ride, be sure to look to the left for glimpses of the three towers: Belfry, Tower of Church of our Lady, and the town of the Catholic Church.

The city is still surrounded by a moat with a walking path around it.

We arrived in the parking area at 9:54 am and started the tour at 9:57 am.

The walking tour was 1 hour and 50 minutes. The only bathroom break was when one gentleman requested it by City Hall.

The walking tour included:

  • -          Beguinage – a 13th century community for women who were not married and were not nuns.
  • -          Stepped Gabled homes and shops
  • -          Old Hospital
  • -          Church of Our Lady with the highest tower made from bricks
  • -          Belfry Tower
  • -          Tanner Square
  • -          Fish Market
  • -          14th century City Hall
  • -          Chapel of the Precious Blood Relic
  • -          Market Square with Belfry Tower

At 11:43 am, we arrived at our entrance for the canal care. (There are five.)

We set sail at 11:56 am. It was two big steps in the boat.

The sail was beautiful and a repeat of some of the places included on the walking tour. It was easier to take pictures from the boat.

The canal cruise by itself is 12 euros if you’d like to do it on your own. There were very long lines.

At 12:30 pm we were off the boat. We took a 6 minute walk to our meeting spot. We had free time until 1:30 pm. The meeting spot square had restaurants and gift shops.

We met at 1:30 pm. It was about a 20 minute walk back to the bus.

At 2:00 pm, we were on our way back to the ship.

I’d estimate the total tour was about 2.5  to 3 miles.

At 2:30 pm, we were back at the port.


Norway Shore Excursion Review: Briksdal Glacier by Troll Car in Olden, Norway


On our Norwegian  Prima cruise in June 2023, we took the Briksdal Glacier by Troll Car in Olden, Norway. 

Our ticket was in our cabin at embarkation. We reported to the theater at 10:00 am. We sat down and shore excursion representative brought our number to us.

At 10:26 am, our number was called. It was a short walk to the bus.

At 10:35 am, we were on a nice bus with a bathroom. The bus held about 50 people.

By 10:38 am, we were on our way. It was a scenic drive with the tour guide narrating.

We passed farm land, a mineral water factory, and so many waterfalls. We had an unusually warm and sunny day.

At 11:08 am, we arrived at Briksdal Natioanal Park. Our troll car time was 11:40 am so we had a shopping and bathroom break.

Each troll car held 6 people. I really enjoyed the front seat.

By 12:00 pm, we were out of the car and on the trail. The trail had two steep sections at the beginning. I was glad I had my walking sticks. The trail levels out a bit after that. You can visit a bridge with a great view of the glacier.

At 12:14 pm, we made it to the end of the trail. I estimate we were walking about a 3 mile per hour pace.  You can climb down to the glacier beach and head closer to the glacier.

Our return time was 12:40 pm so at 12:23 pm, we headed back to the meeting point. Yes. This was way too short of a time.

12:50 pm. We were back in the car on our way down. You can also walk to the glacier. It’s a 3 kilometer trail and takes 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can choose the staircases or dodge the troll cars on the troll car path.

1:07 pm. We were back down a the Kafeteria. The tour included a coffee break with coffee, tea, water, and several types of small cakes including vegan and gluten fee.

2:05 pm We left the parking lot

2:21 pm We took a brief break for more views. The bus driver led a quick stretch break.

2:31 pm On our Way

2:50 pm Back at the ship


Saturday, June 17, 2023

St Lucia Excursion Review: Small Group Taste of St Lucia and Chocolate Making Workshop


We took the Small Group Taste of St Lucia and Chocolate Making Workshop on our March 2023 Celebrity Edge sailing. It’s important to note our ship docked in Castries. Other itineraries may dock further south on the island.


Our meeting time was 12:15 pm on the pier.  We lined up and left promptly at 12:30 pm. We had 30 people in our group.

It was about a 3 minute walk down the pier to the bus. The group split into two small buses.

The bus left at 12:37 pm. We arrived at the Howelton Estate at 1:11 pm. This took longer than usual. We spent about 20 minutes in traffic due to a funeral. Along the way, we paused for a view overlooking Castries and the Governor General’s mansion. We did not get out of the bus.

At the Howelton Estate, we walked down about 25 stairs and then another 4 stairs to get to the deck where the workshop took place. We split into two groups of 15 people standing around a counter with our ingredients laid out in front of us. We were given an apron.  One person did grab a chair so they could sit for the workshop.

The chocolate making workshop began at 1:18 pm. We mixed cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, and sugar with a mortar and pestle. You do have to stir a lot.  At the end, the staff member leading the workshop will help you finish the mixing process. I found this workshop to be very informative. The staff member did a great job explaining all the ingredients, the process, and answering questions.

At 2:00 pm, we finished making the chocolate and they took it to refrigerators to set. Each slot was numbered and we received a ticket with that number so we’d know which bar was ours. Then, it was free time. A small gift shop was up the stairs. I thought it was one of the more elegant gift shops I’ve been in with a lot of beautiful items.

One glass of soda, rum punch, or water was included in the excursion. We were given a ticket to use. Beer was available for $4 USD.

We spent about 45 minutes waiting for the chocolate. One guide led part of the group to see some of the vegetation on the property. I thought the hour wait felt a bit long. The other guests who enjoyed shopping in the gift shop thought it was just about the right amount of time. Bathrooms were available.

The finished chocolate bar was dark chocolate. They wrapped it up with foil. It was a little mushy so we ate ours right away. It was delicious.

At 2:54 pm, we left Howelton Estate. We arrived at Pink Plantation at 3:03 pm. The Pink Plantation has a beautiful gardens. Chewy showed up around explaining all the native plants and their uses. At the same time, staff were passing out Antigua treats: sour orange lemonade, salted cod fritter, and hot and fresh fried bread. I loved all the snacks. Touring around the garden with 30 people was difficult, but Chewy has a big personality and is so passionate about the plants. The garden paths were a bit uneven so some of the group sat in the main house. The main house had a small gift shop and bathrooms.

At 3:42 pm, the garden tour ended. At 3:48 pm, we were back on the bus. At 4:10 pm, we were dropped off back at the pier.

I recommend this excursion. I liked that it was something different. I really enjoyed making the chocolate and Chewy’s passion for the gardens. It is quite a bit of standing, but chairs are available.

Antigua Excursion Review: Catamaran Cruise with Lobster Lunch


In March 2023, we took the Antigua Catamaran Cruise with Lobster Lunch Excursion during our sailing on the Celebrity Edge. 

We were told to meet at the theater at 10:30 am.

10:41 am We were released from the theater and headed ashore. We went down two decks of stairs through the martini bar. You can choose to take the elevators just past casino.

By 10:48 am, we were lined up on the pier.

At 10:51 am, the excursion staff split the line into two groups of about 50 each. We took a 2 minute walk to where the catamarans were docked.

We board the catamaran. It was one big step over to get on the catamaran. The crew was right there to help. Then, four steps down if you wanted to sit under the overhang. The crew passed out juice and soda while we waited to leave.

At 11:10 am, we sailed away. We took a leisurely sail down the shore.

At 12:51 pm, we stopped at beach #1: Turner’s Beach. You went down the laddered set of stairs into the water.  The beach had white sand and clear water. Chairs were available for rent.

At 2:00 pm, the crew called everyone back on board. During the stop, the crew set up tables and chairs and began grilling the lobsters. They made sure everyone had a place to sit.

At 2:10 pm, lunch service began. The crew handed out plates to everyone. Chicken was available if you didn’t want lobster. It was so nice not to have to stand in a buffet line.

Lunch took about half an hour.  We headed back the same way we had sailed.

At 3:35 pm, we stopped at our 2nd beach: Deep Bay Beach. This is right by Royalton Antigua all inclusive resort. 

This is a busier beach with beach vendors. Barry the Barracuda made his appearance. The crew handed me a goggles so I could take a closer look.

After an hour, we left beach #2. The crew did a fun dance show as we sailed into the harbor. We docked and were headed back to the ship around 5:30 pm.

Overall, this was a great excursion. I loved how relaxing it was just sailing along. The beach stops were well timed and the lunch was delicious. I recommend it.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Japan Cruise: Kanazawa, Otaru, Aomori, Hakodate, and Bosun, South Korea


Our second week of the Japan headed up the western coast of Japan into the Sea of Japan and included a stop in South Korea. Here are the highlights:


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Japan Cruise: Omaezaki, Kobe, Kochi, and Fukuoka (Hakata)


Our first week on the Japan cruise, we visited Omaezaki, Kobe, Kochi, and Fukuoka (Hakata) as we sailed south from Yokohama. Here are the highlights:


One big lesson I learned on this trip was that we overbooked excursions. I was unsure about how easy it would be to navigate from the ports. It turned out most ports had a shuttle to the downtown area or public transit.  I underestimated how comfortable we could be at navigating in Japan.


Friday, April 21, 2023

Japan Series: Toyko, Osaka, and a baseball game in Yokohama


Some of these links are affiliate links.

Our first week in Japan was great. We spent 4 nights in Tokyo, 3 nights in Osaka, and one night in Yokohama: 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Japan Series: Tips for Japan


Are you heading to Japan?

Here’s some things I wished I’d known before my April 2023 trip:





Friday, April 14, 2023

Japan Series: The United Polaris Business Class flight review and tips for long flights

 For our flight to Japan, we booked a United Polaris Business Class ticket from Tampa, Florida through Chicago O'Hare airport to Haneda airport near Tokyo, Japan. Polaris is United's newest version of International Business Class. 

Here's a review of my experience: 

The O'Hare Polaris Lounge is a great reprieve in the airport. It offers a small buffet, bar, showers, and a sit down restaurant. I recommend leaving at least an hour to eat in the sit down restaurant as there can be a wait. Overall, I think it's a great lounge and a nice perk for flying Polaris. 

It was so nice to arrive in Japan slightly refreshed and not in a total Zombie haze from being awake all night.  

A few other things I find helpful for long international flights: 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Market Pavilion Hotel Review, Charleston

 My husband and I just returned last week from a weekend getaway to Charleston, SC. During our visit we stayed at the Market Pavilion Hotel and I thought this was a wonderful place to stay if you are visiting the area and wanted to share our experience.

The hotel is located in downtown Charleston right next to the Charleston City Market and close to bars, restaurants, shopping, attractions, the waterfront and the cruise terminal.

A weekend in Charleston

By Katy Dehaven

 My husband and I recently spent the weekend in Charleston, SC. I hadn’t been to this area since I was a kid. I couldn’t believe all that there was to see and do! One of the first questions we were asked when we arrived was if we were in town for Bachelor/ Bachelorette parties or a wedding. Charleston has become a destination hotspot for both and I can easily see why. The historic charm of the downtown area coupled with all bars, restaurants and attractions make this an ideal location for a celebration. 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Travel Tip: How to make the most of your time off

 Want to travel more, but just can't seem to find the time?

In this video, I share how my husband and I hacked our paid time off to take more trips: 

I explain how to: 

Piggyback trips on paid holidays

Search for nonstop flights from your local airport to lessen the time in transit 

The benefits of blocking out the vacation time early and the best time to do it.