Monthly Archives: November 2014

Heart of Germany Christmas Markets Cruise

christmasmarket1 - CopyHeart of Germany Christmas Markets 

Welcome to my Christmas Markets Cruise this week.  Now that the holidays are fast approaching, this is a perfect time to start planning for our 2015 Holidays.  What better way to experience Christmas than a Christmas Markets cruise of Germany.  This week’s cruise is especially interesting as it visits all the Christmas markets from Frankfurt to Nuremberg, Germany.  We will be visiting some of the most picturesque and quaint towns and villages on the Main River of Germany.  I will also be on this cruise in December, 2015. I hope you and your family or friends can join me for some great shopping and spectacular scenery along the river.  If you don’t want this fairy tale to end, you can extend your trip in either Nuremberg or Cologne, Germany or Prague, Czech Republic. What a great way to start a new holiday tradition and the perfect Christmas present for your loved one.

Sail along the picturesque Main River—Germany’s heart and soul—on this enriching itinerary. This is the land of Franconian wine and Bavarian beer, where the famed Romantic Road leads to charming Old Towns that evoke a fairy-tale Europe. Explore the cobbled streets of Rothenburg and Bamberg and marvel at the splendid palace of Würzburg. See the dramatic sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle lording over its namesake town. Browse the Market Square of Nuremberg, brimming with a rich past. History lines the banks of the Main, one of Europe’s most intimate waterways. Join us for this intimate view of Germany.  As an added bonus, we will be visiting the best Christmas Markets of Germany from Frankfurt to Nuremberg.

Frankfurt, Germany

DAY 1 | FRANKFURT, GERMANY

Arrive in Frankfurt, also known as Frankfurt am Main, Germany’s fifth-largest city. Transfer from the airport to embark your ship.* After boarding, relax and get settled in, or spend some time exploring the city, a stunning blend of traditional charm and modern elegance, on your own. After dinner, relax and enjoy musical entertainment in the Lounge. (D)

Heidelberg Turret Gate, Germany

DAY 2 | HEIDELBERG, GERMANY

Today, take a full-day excursion to Heidelberg, home to Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386. Tour the imposing red sandstone ruins of Heidelberg Castle, originally built in the 12th century. Your guided walk ends at Heidelberg’s Old Town and marketplace, where you will encounter the first of our Christmas markets. Shop for gifts, sample scrumptious local treats, or treat yourself to lunch at a local café. Return aboard for dinner as we continue cruising. (B, D)

Wertheim Castle, Germany

DAY 3 | WERTHEIM, GERMANY

We arrive in Wertheim, located at the confluence of the Main and Tauber Rivers, as you finish breakfast. During your morning walking tour, experience life in a typical small German town. Take some free time to visit Wertheim’s Christmas market or explore the town before returning aboard for lunch. We sail into the evening, docking at Würzburg in the early morning hours. (B, L, D)

Bishops Residenz, Würzburg, Germany

DAY 4 | WÜRZBURG & ROTHENBURG, GERMANY

After breakfast, disembark for a full day in two of Northern Bavaria’s most charming destinations. Tour the Bishops’ Residenz, an exquisite baroque palace with many paintings and frescoes. Then, ride in a deluxe motorcoach along the Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Stop for a hearty lunch in a local restaurant, then explore this medieval town with its joyful Christmas market. Rothenburg is also home to Germany’s Christmas Museum, open all year, and you’re invited to try the local pastry, the Schneeball (snowball). Rejoin your ship in Gerlachshausen and dine aboard as we cruise through the night. (B, L, D)

Bamberg, Germany

DAY 5 | BAMBERG, GERMANY

Sail through the morning; after lunch, we visit Bamberg, with its medieval city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your walking tour includes a visit to the magnificent 11th-century cathedral, reworked in late Romanesque style in the 13th century, and the picturesque city hall built on an island in the middle of a river. We remain docked well into the evening, so feel free to walk around Bamberg or visit its traditional Christmas markets, especially beautiful when lit up after dark. You can also follow Bamberg’s popular “Route of Nativity Scenes” to view diverse crèche displays at a few dozen churches, museums and other public spaces. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

Nuremberg Palace of Justice, Germany

DAY 6 | NUREMBERG, GERMANY

Arrive in Nuremberg during a leisurely breakfast. Take a tour of the city’s most prominent landmarks, and delight in the iconic Christmas market in the Old Town’s Main Market Square. Browse booths with colorful ornaments, handmade gifts and sweet-smelling treats; there is no better place to shop for wooden toys and nutcrackers, and you may even spot the golden curls of the Christkind, an angel who brings children toys. Taste the traditional Lebkuchen (gingerbread), savory bratwurst and glühwein (hot spiced wine); chances are you’ll hear carolers harmonizing a favorite holiday song. Lunch and dinner are served aboard; you can come and go as you please. (B, L, D)

Nuremberg, Germany

DAY 7 | NUREMBERG, GERMANY

After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Or, extend your journey to spend 2 additional nights in Nuremberg or experience another country with 3 nights in Prague, Czech Republic, including a tour of Old Town and Prague Castle. (B)

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Call me at 919.708.8217 for more details about this Cruise.  I am so excited and would love to share my excitement with you.

**Added bonus- 2 for 1 cruise and 2 for 1 airfare–Limited time offer.  Call soon.

#river cruises

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Portugal, Spain and the Douro River Valley

douro - Copy

Portugal, Spain & The Douro River Valley

Indulge your passion for food, history, and music as you discover the warmth of Portugal and Spain. Experience the “sunny side” of Europe, starting in radiant seaside Lisbon, then follow the Douro River through Portugal and into Spain. Feel the warm sun on your skin as you cruise past terraced hills, quaint villages and acres of ripe vineyards. From taking in a traditional flamenco show to visiting a local café to, of course, memorable local food and wine tastings, this cruise/tour gives you the very best of the region.

Day 1:Lisbon

Arrive at Lisbon Portela Airport, where you will be transferred to the hotel.
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Day 2:Lisbon
FEATURED EXCURSION: Lisbon city tour

Stand on the banks of the Tejo River and take a deep breath. Now turn around and look at the city climbing the hills above you. This is where your adventure begins. Start with a guided tour to the iconic Belém Tower and Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to Portugal’s great explorers. Step inside the spectacular Manueline Baroque Jerónimos Monastery. Sample a traditional sweet, the pastéis de Belém, at a famous pasteleria(pastry shop), then see the hills of the Alfama district and Rossio plaza, with its wavy black-and-white paving and lively street life. (BB)
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Day 3:

Lisbon
Spend the day at your leisure, enjoying this breathtaking cosmopolitan city. (BB)
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Day 4:

Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto
FEATURED EXCURSION: Coimbra tour with Joanina Library visit and family-style lunch
Travel through the countryside to Porto. En route, you’ll stop in Portugal’s third-largest city, Coimbra, the birthplace of six of Portugal’s kings and home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, Universidade de Coimbra. There you’ll see the university’s 18th-century library, the Biblioteca Joanina. It’s a magnificent place boasting frescoed ceilings, gilded archways, and elaborate carvings. From this hilltop center of learning you’ll head off to enjoy a typical Portuguese lunch at a local restaurant. (BB, L, D)
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Day 5:

Porto, Bitetos
FEATURED EXCURSIONS:  Choice of Porto city tour or exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Porto walking tour, and wine cellars of Cais de Gaia
Birthplace of Henry the Navigator (who launched Portugal’s voyages of exploration) and longtime hub of the Port wine trade, Porto combines  well-preserved historic buildings with cutting-edge architecture and a booming cultural revival. Your tour will take you to the 19th-century Palácio da Bolsa and then on to the cathedral and the bustling shopping street, Santa Catarina. Or, if you prefer, see Porto from a different perspective, starting with a climb to the top of Clérigos Tower. Visit the world’s most opulent bookstore, Livraria Lello; then see the sweeping Avenida dos Aliados followed by a tasty stop at a pastelaria. A scenic cable-car ride returns you to the riverfront, where you can walk to spectacular São Francisco Church. After lunch, you’ll visit one of the city’s famed Port cellars.
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Day 6:Régua, cruising the serene Douro River, Pinhão
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Douro Museum, Mateus Palace and Gardens, and exclusive dinner at Quinta da Avessada

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The Douro River winds through 100 miles of granite mountains, carving out a valley whose steep slopes hold terraces that were cut by hand into the rocky soil and planted with grapes centuries ago. Visit the Douro Museum to learn about the river and its wines. See, too, Mateus Palace, which has one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. In the evening, you’ll tour the family-owned Quinta da Avessada, which produces premium Moscatel. Stroll the vineyard and enjoy its views. Meet the owner and learn about the winemaking process.  Inside the winery’s old stone walls, partake in a rustic dinner featuring fine local wines and live traditional music. (BB, LD, D)
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Day 7:Pinhão, Vega de Terrón (Spain)

FEATURED EXCURSION:  Wine tasting at a local quinta
Pinhão is the center of Port winemaking. Today, you’ll take a winding road up to a quintaperched high in the hills to learn about and sample the country’s most celebrated beverage. In the afternoon you’ll enjoy breathtaking scenery while sailing through the remote Douro Valley toward Spain. (BB, L, D)
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Day 8:Vega de Terrón (Salamanca, Spain)
FEATURED EXCURSION:  Full-day Salamanca tour with flamenco show

From Vega de Terrón on the Spanish border you’ll travel overland to Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city. The architectural purity of this charming town has endured through centuries, and the sandstone buildings have gained an exquisite golden glow, giving the city its nickname, the “Golden City.”  Salamanca boasts monumental churches, a historic university, and a broad plaza where bullfights were once held and where students now hang out. Walk under Plateresque (as Gothic architecture is known in Spain) arches and past ornately decorated masonry walls as you explore the university. Then enjoy a flamenco show. (BB, L, D)
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Day 9:Barca d’Alva (Castelo Rodrigo), Régua

FEATURED EXCURSION:  Castelo Rodrigo tour

Visit the 12th-century walled village of Castelo Rodrigo, a captivating place with Medieval streets, stone-walled houses, and a remarkably distinctive fountain, Chafariz dos Pretos. In the evening, enjoy a Gala Dinner onboard your ship. (BB, L, GD)

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Day 10:Porto (Guimarães)

FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of Guimarães city tour or walking tour of the Ribeira district, the “Soul of Porto”

Visit historic Guimarães. As Portugal’s first capital (back in the 12th century) and home to its first king, Don Afonso Henriques, Guimarães has been called the birthplace of the Portuguese nation. Dominated by Afonso Henriques’s grand castle, Guimarães was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a panoramic city tour, or, if you prefer, explore the UNESCO-designated Ribeira district on foot; here, the colorful heart of the old port city will enchant you with Medieval lanes and zigzagging stairways. (BB, L, D)
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Day 11:Depart Porto

Disembark the ship and transfer to Porto Airport for your flight home. (CB/BB) or you can extend your stay in Portugal or Spain.
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Imperial Jewels of China

Imperial Jewels of China.

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Imperial Jewels of China

EmeraldExterior_LRG_tcm43-17894IMPERIAL JEWELS OF CHINA

This phenomenal itinerary presents China’s key highlights in just 13 days. Explore cosmopolitan Shanghai, China’s most cutting-edge, modern city. Cruise the legendary Yangtze between Wuhan and Chongqing through the scenic Three Gorges and wildly beautiful Lesser Gorges. Tour the Three Gorges Dam, an engineering marvel that has changed the face of China. Visit the necropolis at Xian, where you encounter thousands of Terra Cotta Warriors. In Beijing, explore imperial treasures like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and walk through historic Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public venue. The hospitality of distinctive hotels and the fabulous Viking Emerald round out an amazing trip.

DAY 1 | BEIJING, CHINA

Fly to Beijing, China’s imperial capital whose rich history dates back more than 3,000 years, then transfer to your hotel.* After check-in, you have free time to relax or explore.

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

DAY 2 | BEIJING, CHINA

This morning visit the enormous Tiananmen Square, which can accommodate over 1 million people. Then, tour Beijing’s Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made up of nearly 1,000 buildings, it is the world’s largest surviving palace complex. Walk its grounds among the opulent palaces, pavilions, courtyards and imperial gardens within the 26-foot-high walls.

After lunch in a local restaurant, take some free time to explore Beijing on your own or do some shopping. Or, you may choose to tour the Summer Palace, a 700-acre complex of elegant buildings and gardens (complete with its manmade Kunming Lake) frequented by the Imperial Court when they wanted to escape the bustle of Beijing. Enjoy your final dinner this evening, or attend an optional Peking opera, a form of traditional Chinese theater. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

The Great Wall, Beijing, China

DAY 3 | BEIJING, CHINA

After breakfast, travel to the Badaling Hills. There, you behold one of the most impressive and best-preserved sections of the Great Wall of China. This 4,000-mile-long series of sandstone and earthwork fortifications was built and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century AD, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore its winding pathways and marvel at the panoramic views from its ramparts.

After a lunch of local specialties, visit the Sacred Way, a tree-lined avenue guarded by massive sculptures of elephants, lions and camels leading to the Ming Dynasty tombs. This evening, dine at a local restaurant and relax at your hotel, or enjoy an optional Peking duck dinner, the region’s famous dish. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

Riding rickshaws, Xian, China

DAY 4 | XIAN, CHINA

Today, tour Old Beijing’s hutongs (narrow alleys) via rickshaw.† Discover the sights and sounds of traditional Chinese life. After lunch, fly to Xian, key city of the Tang Dynasty. From 618 to 907 AD, this dynasty presided over one of China’s most glorious cultural periods spreading its influence throughout Asia into Europe and Africa. This evening, have dinner and relax at your hotel. (B, L, D)

Terra Cotta Warriors, Xian, China

DAY 5 | XIAN, CHINA

After breakfast, tour the mausoleum where Emperor Qin Shi Huang was laid to rest over 2,000 years ago. See the thousands of life-sized Terra Cotta Warriors, archers and infantrymen that were buried with him, each man and horse molded with its own distinctive features. Walkways provide a bird’s-eye view of the entire necropolis where the Terra Cotta Army was discovered in the 1970s. After lunch, you have free time to further explore Xian. This evening, you may choose to dine surrounded by the song and dance of this colorful era. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

Chongqing Sazu Stone Carvings, China

DAY 6 | CHONGQING, CHINA

Today, fly to Chongqing, gateway to the Yangtze, to board your ship and enjoy a Western dinner. (B, L, D)

Shibaozhai Temple, China

DAY 7 | SHIBAOZHAI, CHINA

This morning, visit Shibaozhai Temple, a 12-story pavilion built in 1650 along the Yangtze. Tour the pavilion and temple before returning aboard for lunch. Enjoy Yangtze River scenery as you cruise this afternoon and through the night. (B, L, D)

Three Gorges

DAY 8 | THREE GORGES, CHINA

For the next 150 miles, travel the most scenic stretch of the Yangtze as it forces its way through a spectacular series of limestone ridges known as the Three Gorges. During breakfast, cruise through Qutang Gorge, the shortest, narrowest and most spectacular of the three large gorges. Then, board a smaller boat for an excursion through the Lesser Three Gorges. Sail through these remarkable canyons flanked by towering cliffs. Along the way, see fascinating sites including the hanging coffins of the Ba people and the ancient plank road carved into the cliffside. Return aboard for lunch, and spend the afternoon sailing through Wu (“Witches”) Gorge, renowned for its magnificent scenery. Dinner is served aboard. This evening, sail through the 5-stage locks of the Three Gorges Dam. (B, L, D)

Three Gorges Dam

DAY 9 | THREE GORGES DAM, CHINA

This morning, disembark for a tour of the Three Gorges Dam, where you learn about this immense engineering masterpiece and what it means for the Chinese people and the Yangtze. Lunch and dinner are served aboard while you cruise through Xiling Gorge, the longest of the Three Gorges. (B, L, D)

Jingzhou elementary school

DAY 10 | JINGZHOU, CHINA

This morning, arrive in Jingzhou, where you visit an elementary school sponsored by Viking River Cruises. You are greeted and entertained by the children, then return to your ship for scenic cruising. (B, L, D) **Note-we will be bringing school supplies and coloring books to the school with us for the children.

The Bund in central Shanghai, China

DAY 11 | SHANGHAI, CHINA

After breakfast, disembark in Wuhan. Visit the Hubei Provincial Museum where you hear the music of ancient bronze bells. Then, fly to Shanghai, China’s largest city and one of the world’s most important ports. Here, you can see the modern metropolis of the financial district juxtaposed with the older sections of the city. Check in to your hotel. (B, L, D)

Shanghai, China

DAY 12 | SHANGHAI, CHINA

This morning, see Old Shanghai and travel along the elegant Bund, stopping to admire some of its historic buildings and city views. Then tour the Shanghai Museum, featuring displays of ceramics, bronzes, calligraphy and paintings. After lunch, we spend some time at the exquisite Yuyuan Garden, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant before seeing the world-famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe from the best seats in the house. (B, L, D)

Old Shanghai, China

DAY 13 | SHANGHAI, CHINA

After breakfast, check out of your hotel and proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Consider extending your China journey with 2 extra nights in Shanghai to further explore this fascinating city, or choose an escorted land program that includes 1 night in Guilin and 3 nights in Hong Kong. (B)

**Limited time offer-2 for 1 cruise and discounted airfare.
**Tang Dynasty Dinner Show in Xian compliments of Cruise Like A VIP
Call for more exciting details about this China adventure at 919.708.8217
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Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

sen_84 JACQUES COUSTEAU’S AQUARIUM OF THE WORLD

This week we are small ship cruising on a luxury yacht.  Join me on this unique cruise to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.  Few places on earth have been captivating explorers for centuries and can boast such biological diversity. When legendary diver Jacques Cousteau tagged the Sea of Cortez as the “world’s aquarium” and “Galapagos of North America,” he had experienced first hand the richness of this underwater world.  And now it’s your turn.  Time to kick off your week and explore this extraordinary place and discover how small the human presence here truly is.

jacques-cousteau

ITINERARY FOR YOUR ADVENTURE:

San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur – Embarkation
You’ll be met at the Los Cabos International Airport and transferred to our San José del Cabo hospitality area. This afternoon, the Captain and crew welcome you aboard before setting sail for a sunset cruise, cocktails, and dinner.

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Isla Cerralvo
Kick off your week on Isla Cerralvo—where French Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau led numerous expeditions. Abundant marine life surrounds the island—large groupers and snappers, marlin, tuna, manta rays, sharks, coral, and sea turtles—making it an ideal spot for escapades. In a setting of steep bluffs, small streams, and sandy beaches, go for water play with a paddle or some flippers, and put on your walking shoes for an exploratory hike on a desert mountain. An exciting first day.
03_explore_jpLa Paz
Whale sharks, the largest known species of fish in the ocean, are known to frequent the Bahía de La Paz. Keep watch for the ‘footprint’ of these gentle giants along the water’s tranquil surface. Conditions permitting, you may luck out with a chance to don your snorkel gear and swim alongside this colossal and mysterious creature. An afternoon in centuries-old La Paz offers free time for shopping, a museum visit, and a stroll along the miles-long malecón.seaofcortez01
Marine Mammal Search / Bahía Agua Verde
The gulf’s rich ecosystem is the perfect environment for a marine life search. With binoculars in hand, keep your eyes peeled for pods of dolphins, blue, fin, sei, orca and sperm whales as they spout and dive in the surrounding waters. Blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, cormorants, and gulls also make this area their home and on shore you may catch a glimpse of a Costa’s hummingbird or ash-throated flycatchers. At Bahía Agua Verde, clear waters are bordered by sparse craggy mountains hemmed in green. Experience the “real Baja” on a skiff excursion, visiting a local ranchero family, bird watching, and exploring the arroyo on a burro ride. Scenic vistas, crystalline waters, and unmatched camaraderie fill your day.Image_preview 12_grey_whales 07_mule_pwc
Loreto / Isla Carmen
Situated on the edge of the Loreto National Marine Park—created to protect the rich biodiversity of the area—sits Loreto, founded in 1697 as the first Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula. A bounty of arts and crafts shops line the streets and plazas of this leisurely seaside village and a guided walking tour reveals its history. Shop for local art and visit its historical buildings and mission. Enjoy an afternoon identifying animal tracks, seeking endemic wildlife, or snorkeling in the desert landscape of Isla Carmen.05_kayak_sup_pwc 09_town
Isla San Jose
Aha, Baja—with its sandy coves, hilly arroyos, and high mountain peaks, there’s much to discover on Isla San José. Go kayaking and skiffing through the channels of a large red and white mangrove estuary. Beachcomb along remote shell-strewn shores. Hike untrodden knolls and scramble up the striking red cliffs. Wrap up your day with a taste of Captain’s Choice gunkholing (always a treat), and after the sun sets, tuck into an isolated bay for a spectacular evening of stargazing.04_hike 110_kayak
Los Islotes / Isla Espíritu Santo
Rise up for an early morning snorkel at Los Islotes—a protrusion of rock rising sharply from the sea. Bravely slip into a wetsuit to snorkel with the curious and playful sea lion pups, or tamely observe the colony from the boat and skiff. Formed by a volcanic crater—and one of the most beautiful islands in Baja—the Island of the Holy Spirit offers some of the best kayaking in the world. There’ll be ample time ashore today for beachcombing along the shell-strewn shore; hiking inland among exotic desert cacti; kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and skiffing in one of the island’s idyllic wild bays. After tonight’s special Farewell Dinner, your Expedition Leader recaps the week’s adventure with a slideshow.08_skiff_sealions_pwc
San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur – Disembark
After breakfast, your weeklong adventure ends back in San José del Cabo. A transfer to the Los Cabos airports is provided.cabo-pulmo

ADVENTURE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Expedition cruising and water play in the marine life-rich waters explored by Jacques Cousteau
  • Snorkel among gentle whale sharks and with playful sea lion pups
  • Hike Cousteau’s Isla Cerralvo and along red rock cliffs
  • Included walking tour in the mission-town of Loreto and leisure time in centuries-old La Paz
  • Enjoy a desert burro ride and time with a local family
  • Kayak and skiff through a mangrove estuary and beachcomb along remote shell-strewn shores
  • The convenience of flying in and out of Los Cabos International Airport

If you would like to extend your stay, optional days in Los Cabos are available upon request.

***Added bonus*** – $400 per couple discount – limited time offer.

Call for more details about this amazing adventure above and under the sea at 919.708.821

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