Monthly Archives: April 2014

Puget Sound and San Juan Islands Cruise

Puget Sound and San Juan Islands Cruise.

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Puget Sound and San Juan Islands Cruise

american-spirit-alaska            Puget Sound and San Juan Islands Cruise

Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands form the most majestic and intriguing cruising grounds in the world. This 8 day round trip cruise  from Seattle, explores the hundreds of islands, many of which are uninhabited, nestled between Canada’s Vancouver Island and the U.S. mainland.  Enjoy a diverse natural wonderland of sea lions, hawks, whales, and so much more.  We will experience the culture of the Pacific Northwest with fascinating guided tours to historical sites and museums.

Our adventure begins in Seattle, Washington.


Day 1:  Seattle – Our cruise departs from this picturesque port as we cruise to the Puget Sound.

Day 2: Anacortes – Anacortes is much warmer than its neighbors, so you can make the most of your time here.  Visit Deception Pass State Park, one of the most photographed locations in Washington State.  This park’s miles of scenic shoreline, serene trails, and abundant wildlife make it a rewarding destination for all visitors.


Day 3: Friday Harbor – From the moment you step off the ship, your senses will be electrified by the intoxicating aromas and majestic views of Friday Harbor. Take a step back in time and experience island life as it was over a century ago by visiting the San Juan Historical Museum.  Explore Friday Harbor’s diverse topography from pebbly beaches to monstrous mountains and lush valleys.  This eclectic town has something for everyone.


Day 4: Port Angeles – Enjoy the wonderful fresh air, interesting shops, restaurants, recreational opportunities, and marvelous views of the harbor and mountains.  The convenient downtown is alive with friendly folks, flowers and outdoor art.  We visit the award-winning Port Angeles Symphony and the hilltop Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, a noteworthy museum of contemporary art.


Day 5: Port Townsend – Forested islands, snow-capped mountains, and pristine beauty surround you as your ship cruises through the San Juan Islands and Admiralty Bay into the Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend.  Explore Port Townsend’s vibrant downtown, designated a National Historic District, where you will have access to historical museums, art galleries, and specialty boutiques.  Port Townsend is also home to the Fort Worden State Park.  This turn of the century army base offers an unmatched combination of natural beauty and historic wonders.  Wander the park’s acres of beautiful beaches, wooded hills and open fields, framed by stunning vistas of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.


Day 6: Cruising Puget Sound – Enjoy cruising along Puget Sound, Skagit Bay, and Deception Pass.  This waterway is an intricate system of channels, estuaries and islands that make for the most breathtaking scenery and majestic wildlife.  Get those camera ready, this is the place to get those once-in-a-lifetime photos.

images - Copy                                                        20090728_killerwhalesboat

Day 7: Poulsbo – Located on the Kitsap Peninsula, Poulsbo was settled in 1892 by Norwegian loggers and fishermen who likened the fjord-cut landscape to their homeland.  Explore the heart of Poulsbo by taking a stroll along Front Street, featuring old world murals, numerous art galleries, and specialty shops.  We end our day here with a walk along Poulsbo’s boardwalk, where we view wildlife in their native habitat and majestic snow-capped Olympic Mountains off in the distance.


Day 8: Seattle – Welcome back to Seattle!  After a delightful week of cruising, we enjoy the sights and sounds of the Pacific Northwest. Start your day by visiting Pike Place Market, internationally recognized as America’s premier farmer’s market.  Visit Seattle’s Space Needle, where you will have stunning views of Seattle, Puget Sound, and picturesque snow-capped mountains.

rainier-lake-hike - Copy                                     Pikes Place fish market

Personal comment:  Seattle is one of the most diverse cities in the United States  full of artist colonies, excellent seafood restaurants, and interesting attractions.  I can recommend several restaurants and tourist sites that you will enjoy.

EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT:  Book early and save $400 or more per stateroom on this cruise.  Call me for details at 919.708.8217.

#River Cruises, #Seattle, #Puget Sound, #Salmon, #Mt. Rainier, #Space Needle, #Pike Place Market.

marketchiliclose                               P1020931

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Golden Trails Of Africa

Golden Trails Of Africa.

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Golden Trails Of Africa

 690_amboseli_serena_1_md     Golden Trails of Africa

Going to Africa and taking a safari has been one of my lifelong dreams. The river portion of this week’s safari adventure will be a 4 night cruise on the Chobe River.  Our journey takes us to Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.  Visits to Amboseli, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti game reserves are the highlight of this journey.  Our Golden Trails of Africa tour ends with a visit to Victoria Falls to complete our once in a lifetime 19 day safari adventure.  On safari-the only thing you shoot is your camera.  This is one of my favorites!

Check out this fabulous itinerary:


Day 1 – Overnight flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

Day 2 – Arrive in Nairobi where you will have the evening free to explore Nairobi.

Day 3 – Nairobi – Amboseli – Drive to Amboseli National Park for a spectacular view of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.  Emjoy game drives through this stunning landscape.  The home of the Maasai people, you will observe herds of elephant, cape buffalo, impala, lion, zebra and water fowl.

african safario

Day 4 – Amboseli – Morning and afternoon game drives where you encounter rhinos, cheetahs, and wildebeests.  Visit traditional manyatas settlements of the Maasai where you will have a traditional feast and tribal dancing overlooking a big game waterhole.

Day 5 – Amboseli – Lake Manyara – Drive to Lake Manyara National Park to see tree-climbing lions, hippos, wildebeests, warthogs and giraffes.  Also view over 300 migratory birds.


Day 6 – Lake Manyara – Ngorongoro National Park – Early morning game drive in Lake Manyara National Park.  In Ngorongoro Conservation area, visit Ngorongoro Archaeological Museum and see fossilized remains of some of man’s oldest ancestors.

Day 7 – Ngorongoro National Park – Known as “the eighth wonder of the world,” the Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa’s best known wildlife areas. Enjoy a full day game drive where 25,000 large mammals wander the plains-bull elephants, lions, wildebeests and buffalo.

Day 8 – Ngorongoro National Park – Serengeti National Park – Drive to Serengeti National Park for the next three nights.  The park offers not only all the members of The Big Five, but also the annual migration of the wildebeests, an awe-inspiring sight.

Day 9 – Serengeti National Park – Tanzania’s greatest park is dominated by a spectacle of wildlife.  Lion prides, leopards, cheetahs, and all three species of the African jackal, along with spotted hyena, blue wildebeest and 500-plus bird species.  Daily morning and afternoon game drives.


Day 10 – Serengeti National Park – Morning and afternoon game drives through Tanzania’s greatest park.

Day 11 – Serengeti National Park – Arusha – Johannesburg – Fly to Johannesburg and enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure.  This is a good time to buy those souvenirs.

Day 12 – Johannesburg – Zambezi Queen – Fly to Victoria Falls and transfer to Kasane.  Here, board the Zambezi Queen, docked on the Chobe River.  Depart for sunset cruise.


Day 13 – Zambezi Queen – Disembark for game drive in Chobe National Park, home of one of the densest populations of wildlife on the African continent.  Encounter elephants, leopards, lions, gazelle and buffalo.  Later, venture out on a tender boat for close-up views of the wild animals gathering along the river.  Enjoy a delicious Boma dinner ashore, savoring the distinct flavors of Africa.

Day 14 – Zambezi Queen – Begin your day with a visit to Kasenu village where you will have time to shop for local artifacts.  Board a mokono to explore the waterways and.  Relax on the beach in rustic style tents as you enjoy local delicacies cooked from a traditional wood fire oven.

Day 15 – You have a choice between a game drive in the Chobe National Park or a fishing excursion for the famous tigerfish.  Late afternoon, travel by boat to observe crocodiles, hippos and elephants in their natural habitat.  Enjoy a traditional African barbecue prepared by the locals.

Day 16 – Zambezi Queen – Victoria Falls – Transfer to Victoria Falls, one of the greatest natural wonders of the earth.  Enjoy the afternoon to explore the city and get in more souvenir shopping.

Day 17 – Victoria Falls – Today your local guide will take you on a tour of the remarkable Victoria Falls.  Later, embark on a Sundowner Cruise along the Zambezi River.


Day 18 – Today our African journey draws to a close.  We bid adieu to Africa.

Day 19 – Return home reminiscing about your trip of a lifetime.
#river cruises

**ADDED BONUS** –   Dinner in Victoria Falls with my compliments!

Call for details on this once in a lifetime experience at 919.708.8217

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We are taking a break from river cruising this week to go on a new tour called Gardens and Villas of the Italian Lakes region that the Royal Horticulture Society created for garden lovers.  When I researched this itinerary, I loved it and knew all my friends would love it also.  I have been to all these places in the past and always wanted to re-visit.  Our exciting journey begins in Venice and the island of Murano.  On to Lake Como, Bellagio, Stresa, Lago Maggiore, the Borromean Islands, Milan, and Lugano Switzerland.  I can tell you from my previous experience, these places are so beautiful you will not be able to decide which is your favorite.  So join me on this breathtaking journey through Northern Italy and see for yourself the beauty of our world.

Trip Itinerary:  10 days-Venice to Milan

Day 1: Our adventure begins with an overnight flight to Venice.

Day 2: Venice, Italy – We explore Venice on our own to get acclimated to this romantic city of canals.  A great time for that gondola ride.  Dinner with our fellow travelers at a local restaurant featuring regional delicacies and fine Italian wines.

Day 3: Venice – Murano Island – We begin with a boat trip to Murano Island, one of a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon.  Here we experience a close up glass making demonstration.  Return to Venice to visit St. Mark’s Square.  Included is a walking tour of the area featuring St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and the Clock Tower with its famous moors.  St. Mark’s square is a great place to people watch.  PS.  It is also always full of pigeons.


Day 4: Venice-Verona-Como – Today we visit the Giardino Guisti, a lush sculpted garden named after the noble family that has looked after it for years.  Here we will have breathtaking photo opportunities.  On to Verona, and stroll the historic streets that were the setting of Shakespeare’s epic Romeo and Juliet.  We visit the picturesque Italian Lake District including captivating gardens of exotic and rare plants.  We arrive in Como, our home for the next three nights.  You will see for yourself  why Como is so charming-  beautiful villas, lush gardens and spectacular views.

Day 5: Como- Lugano Switzerland – We travel to Switzerland and explore Villa Heleneum’s gardens and museum.  We have free time in Lugano to explore this lovely lakeside town.  I know a great restaurant for lunch.

Day 6: Belaggio – We travel by ferry this morning to the romantic town of Bellagio.  We visit the historic 18th century gardens of Villa Serbelloni, situated high on the promontory above Lake Como.  Afternoon is free to enjoy Bellagio on our own.

Day 7: Stresa-Lago Maggiore –  Today we visit the Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, where a member of the Mozzoni family will give us a tour of this spectacular villa and gardens.  We travel to Lago Maggiore, located on the south side of the Alps to visit the gardener’s paradise of Stresa, home to spectacular views.  Stresa was one of the most beautiful cities I “have ever visited.”

Day 8: Lago Maggiore – We journey via cableway to the Alpinum Garden, a botanical garden with spectacular views from high atop the mountain.  Later, we have free time to enjoy this beautiful area.

Day 9: : Lago Maggiore – Borromean Islands – We travel by boat to the Stunning Borromean Islands of Isola Madre  and Isola Bella where we tour the palace and gardens.  These islands are in a word “stunning.”

Day 10: Travel to Milan where our tour ends.


My reflections on this tour – As I mentioned, I have visited ALL these places, and each one took my breath away.  The stunning landscapes, the backdrop of the Alps on the pristine lakes, the wonderful smell of Alpine trees makes you realize what a beautiful world we live in. And remember, all the delicious foods and wines we will be enjoying.  There are also great shopping opportunities on this tour.    As this tour was created by the Royal Horticultural Society, you can be assured the gardens we visit are spectacular.

See for yourself all the beauty and grandeur as we visit the Gardens and Villas of the Italian Lakes.  It’s as easy as a telephone call to me at 919.708.8217.  #rivercruises


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Splendors of Northern Italy, Venice, Florence and Rome

Splendors of Northern Italy, Venice, Florence and Rome.

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993589_214074725416775_37732752_nSplendors of Northern Italy, Venice, Florence & Rome

Discover the diverse pleasures of la dolce vita as you make your way from Venice to Rome.

Birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy has given the world a splendid legacy of art, architecture, music, and poetry. No heritage is more splendid than that of Venice, the water-bound city adorned with luminous architecture and romantic canals. Experience the sheer bliss of spending five nights in Venice onboard your luxury floating hotel, conveniently docked so you can easily walk off the ship to indulge in all the pleasures this magnificent city has to offer. You will also discover Northern Italy’s superstars of Renaissance and Gothic treasures: Padua, Bologna, Verona, and Ferrara. These gems provide authentic insight into Northern Italian culture.

Travel to Florence, where the Renaissance began. See astonishing works by Michelangelo, Rafael, Donatello, and Boticelli, and savor a spectacular homemade lunch and a Chianti wine tasting at Castello di Verrazzano. A fitting ending to your Italian adventure awaits in Rome, the “Eternal City,” with all of its wonders: the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel, and so much more.


Day 1:

Venice (embark) MotorcoachEmbark/Disembark
Arrive at Venice Marco Polo International Airport, where you will be transferred to the ship. After you’ve settled into your floating hotel, consider jumping right into Venetian culture with a private boat ride to a nearby arts center where you’ll see the fine arts of glassblowing and lace-making on display. (D)
Day 2:

Venice UNESCOUniworld Exclusive
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Walking discovery of Venice and exclusive special evening opening of St. Mark’s BasilicaVenice, which was founded in the sixth century, controlled all European trade with the East during the Middle Ages. Local guides will lead you through hidden alleys where tourists rarely go to the Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, which is brimming with artistic treasures. The tour concludes at Rialto Bridge; stay in the city and explore on your own, or return to the ship. Cap off your day with a most memorable experience: an exclusive, crowd-free visit to spectacular St. Mark’s Basilica. In the evening enjoy a Captains Welcome Reception and Gala Dinner. (BB, L, WD)imagesNote: It is not always possible to arrange after-hour visits to St. Mark’s Basilica. If religious functions or festivities are taking place in the evening, we will visit during regular hours.
Day 3:

Venice, Chioggia (Padua), Taglio di Po, Polesella Motorcoach
FEATURED EXCURSION: Half-day excursion to PaduaEnjoy magnificent farewell views of “The Floating City’s” grandest sites as your ship departs Venice for Chioggia. In the afternoon, you will be driven to the Medieval walled city of Padua, one of Italy’s oldest towns and home to one of the oldest universities in the world. Here, many notable scholars sought academic freedom, including Galileo and Copernicus, and two of Italy’s most famous writers, Dante and Petrarch, were students. Join your local guide on a walking tour of Padua through ancient arcades and porticos to Palazzo della Ragione, Padua’s historic city center, and then visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua. Later in the evening, reboard your ship and sail to Polesella. (BB, L, D)
Day 4:

Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara) UNESCOChoice Is YoursUniworld ExclusiveMotorcoachDining Out
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of full-day excursion to Bologna with exclusive pasta-making workshop with lunch or half-day excursion to Ferrara with lunchSpend the whole day in Bologna, called la grassa, meaning bountiful. Its portico-lined streets are home to the oldest university in Europe. But does it really have the best food in Northern Italy? You be the judge. There’s more to the city than Bolognese sauce, that’s for sure—there’s Parma ham, parmesan cheese, and perhaps the best tortellini in the world, all on lavish display in the amazing food markets. Join a pasta-making workshop and learn how to create your own fabulous pasta. Or spend a half day in Ferrara, one of Italy’s best-kept secrets, where you’ll discover how the city became an artistic hub for the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Petrarch, among others. (BB, L, D)
Day 5:

Polesella, Taglio di Po (Ravenna or Porto Levante), Chioggia, Venice Choice Is YoursMotorcoachDining OutUNESCO
FEATURED EXCURSION: Choice of full-day excursion to Ravenna OR half-day excursion to Porto Levante with lunch
Ravenna, a vital seaport and Italian capital of the Byzantine Empire, is celebrated for the fifth- and sixth-century mosaics that adorn its churches. You will see the UNESCO-designated Basilica di Sant’Apollinare and the mausoleum of Galla Placidia. The buildings are sheathed in spectacular mosaics. Spend the afternoon rambling through the lovely historic downtown on your own and enjoy an artisinal foods tasting, or enjoy the morning at leisure onboard your floating hotel as your ship sails from Polesella to Taglio di Po. Today, you’ll visit Porto Levante, which is located south of Venice on the Northern Adriatic Sea. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind as you take in the beauty of the Po Delta Nature Reserve with 2 million trees of 150 different species. Be treated to a delicious seafood lunch. Later in the afternoon, reboard your ship in Chioggia and sail to Venice. (BB, L, D)
Day 6:

Venice (Verona) UNESCOMotorcoach
FEATURED EXCURSION: Full-day excursion to Verona, city of Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare endowed Verona with enduring fame when he wrote of two star-crossed lovers, but Verona has been an important city in Northern Italy for 2,000 years. Though Juliette and her Romeo are Verona’s best-known pair, Verona’s best-known landmark is the pink-marble-sheathed Roman arena, where many of today’s famous composers, musicians, and opera singers still perform. Savor the magic of Verona and get swept away in its romance. (BB, D)

Day 7:

Venice Choice Is YoursUniworld ExclusiveInsider
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Venice walking tour or visit a local arts centerSee Venice like a local during a walking tour of the Dorsoduro district and the Rialto, the city’s historic core. Visit the markets and indulge in a Venetian aperitivo. Or, if you didn’t join the arts center visit on day one, you can do so today. See master glassblowers and lace makers, arts for which Venice is renowned. During the afternoon, sail through the scenic Venice Lagoon. In the evening enjoy a Captain’s Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner. (BB, L, FD)
Day 8:

Venice, transfer to Florence Embark/DisembarkMotorcoachMuseumDining Out
FEATURED EXCURSION: Guided visit to the Accademia Gallery and Michelangelo’s DavidToday you travel to Florence; en route, enjoy lunch in the Tuscan countryside. The birthplace of Italy’s national poet, Dante Alighieri, and of the Renaissance, Florence offers innumerable artistic treasures. The city rose to prominence under the Medici family in the 14th century. The Medicis were the greatest patrons of art in Europe, employing Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Titian, and Fra Angelico, many of whose works you’ll see today. (BB, L)
Cathedral in Florence
Day 9:

Florence UNESCODining Out
FEATURED EXCURSION: Walking tour of Florence, the Renaissance cityTravel by foot to get a close-up view of some of the city’s most glorious sights: Florence Cathedral, the Piazza della Signoria, and the Piazza della Repubblica. From the banks of the Arno, take in views of Pitti Palace and the Ponte Vecchio. (BB, D)
Day 10:

Florence, transfer to Rome MotorcoachDining OutWinetasting
FEATURED EXCURSION: Wine tasting and lunch at Castello di Verrazzano wine estate in ChiantiTravel via motor coach through the breathtaking Tuscan countryside to Rome. Stop en route for a homemade lunch and wine tasting at Castello di Verrazzano, a gorgeous estate in Chianti country. (BB, L)
Day 11:

Rome UNESCOChoice Is YoursUniworld ExclusiveMotorcoachDining OutInsider
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of guided tour of imperial Rome with Coliseum visit or exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” walking tour through the heart of Rome
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Rome in European history, a historical fact you’ll discover on today’s tour which includes: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Arch of Titus, the Villa Borghese, and the Coliseum. Or “Do as the Locals Do” and walk the heart of Rome, seeing the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain. (BB, D)
Day 12:

Rome UNESCOMotorcoachMuseumDining Out
FEATURED EXCURSION: Guided tour of Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel
Spend the morning on a tour of the Vatican museums, ending at the Sistine Chapel, with its spectacular ceiling frescoes by Michelangelo. (BB, L)
Day 13:

Transfer to Rome Leonardo da Vinci Airport for your flight home. (CB/BB)
BONUS:  Save $500 per couple (early booking discount) (limited time)
ADDED BONUS:  Gondola Ride compliments of Cruise Like A VIP
#River Cruises, #Verona, #Rome, #Vatican, #Gondola, #Venice, #Florence, #Italian Leather, #Po River
Call me for details and pricing at 919.708.8217
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