Posts Tagged ‘family travel’

Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas: BIG done Very, Very well!

By Paul Largay   Monday, April 9th, 2012

When I first 1st learned that the Allure of the Seas accommodates in excess of 6000 passengers and has a crew of 2500+, I was initially tempted to QUICKLY jump ship & swim for shore. After all, I was interested in a cruise not a stampede- what I envisioned at dinner time would be the Caribbean equivalent of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Oh how wrong I was.

There is no denying it; it has the title of ‘World’s Largest Cruise ship’ because it is, but big in this case is not synonymous with bad or inferior. Quite the contrary, after having a look around, I was pleasantly surprised that the ship was designed & strategically divided into what can best be described as neighborhoods complete

with names such as Central Park, and the Boardwalk. Central Park was home to a number of intimate, alternative restaurants and a fabulous wine bar proudly displaying the world’s largest bottle of Cabernet!

In contrast, the Boardwalk neighborhood’s authenticity immediately reminded me of my childhood days in Coney Island. There are hot dog/ice cream stands, carnival games, popcorn/candy apples, and of course the requisite/magnificent wooden, hand carved carrousel. Does incredible begin to come to mind?

The active and adventure sports offered on-board are highlighted by a (40) foot rock climbing wall, flow rider(s) (go figure I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to surf, and now I do), a zip line -yes an actual zip line- strung 50 feet

above the deck (the 1st step is the most difficult!), and a running track that encircles the ship that helps you to keep pace with the additional calories found around every corner of the ship (kinda, but not really!).

The gym/workout facilities and spa boast abundant, state of the art pieces of equipment, instructors, and attendants. Not only can you get a personalized exercise/nutritional program,but have your teeth whitened, receive a Botox treatment and experience acupuncture as well. Lions & tigers& bears, oh my!

If nighttime action and entertainment options ‘float your boat’ (sorry it was there) then you’re in luck. AGAIN! As a matter of fact you may be exhausted just deciding between jazz/rock/disco/karaoke music. Or perhaps you want your evening’s entertainment menu to include a combination of a comedy club and a Broadway show (Chicago), or maybe an Ice Capades performance followed by an aqua theater nightcap.

The aqua show can best be described as a unique combination of Cirque de Soleil meets the cliff divers from Acapulco. The choices go on as long as the night.

After sailing for (7) days, my experience/impression is that this ship is a ‘boat load a fun’, unique, and certainly in a class by itself. This ship, like all ships, is NOT for everybody. Folks accustomed to more intimate settings, variety of ports, large cabins and surroundings will be better served elsewhere. But, singles, active couples, families (so PERFECT for multigenerational trips/reunions) should seriously consider adding the Allure to their respective bucket lists. The food, entertainment, and service all exceeded my expectations.

The net result when I think back upon this cruise-and I’ll do so very fondly-is a big ol’ Fashioned smile.

Spelunking in Belize

By Ellen Goldman   Monday, March 5th, 2012
Belize Spelunking

I felt like Indiana Jones. I even had the obligatory chapeau, although in this case, it was a hard hat equipped with a headlamp. Actun Tunichil Muknal, or ATM, is only one of the many unique excursions one can take from the Cayo district in Belize.

The full day excursion started with a 40 minute hike, complete with three river crossings, to the staging area, where we quickly scarfed down box lunches and strapped on our equipment. Then we climbed down a hill and literally swam into the cave. Once inside, we alternated between walking, swimming, crawling and climbing. Definitely a challenge, mentally and physically (if you are an almost middle aged average Josephina)! Of course, there were numerous stalagmites and stalactites. But, the true reward was the treasure trove of Mayan pottery and human sacrificial remains. I had been concerned that viewing the skeletons would seem irreverent and overly voyeuristic. But, the requirement that all hikers remove their shoes and the accompanying educational commentary insured proper decorum. My children, ages 20, 18 and 16, having been blessed with many wonderful trips during their short lifetimes, declared that ATM was truly one of best, most unique experiences.

In the Cave in Belize

Spelunking in Belize Reveals Many Wonders

A Quick Break from Reality

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Monday, September 6th, 2010

As a travel specialist, I am always on the hunt for something new and exciting for my clients. Often I am taken to the edges of the earth to some exotic locale to find the latest and greatest in the travel world, however, not everyone can get away for the time that is requird for these adventures, and sometimes, you just want a quick break from reality.

So, this holiday weekend, I decided to do just that……take a quick break from reality. Just a few hours from my home in Connecticut, Skytop Lodge in Pennsylvania is one of my favorite family retreats. Set on 5,500 acrea of private land in the Pocono Mountains, this majestic lodge, built in 1925, brings old world charm and adventure together. With a wonderful 18-hole golf course, Orvis fly-fishing school, extensive kids program, Adventure Center and much much more, this resort has something for everyone.

What I love about Skytop is that my stay includes all of my meals in one of the two restaruants on property and there is a menu of things to do each day. From morning until night you can do as little or as much as you like and all that limits you is your imagination. This is definately a must-do for families and is a great spot for a family reunion or company retreat.

Adventures of the Traveling Single Parent

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Amanda and her kids enjoying a stop in San Juan

Three years ago, when I moved into the world of single parenting, the idea of taking a vacation without backup seemed somewhat horrifying. How could I possibly manage two small children outside my beloved comfort zone of home sweet home? What if I lost one of them, what if they got sick while traveling or, even worse, what if they decided to throw a hissy fit in the middle of the airport terminal or on the plane? It all sounds somewhat obscure now, but at the time, these were all very, very real fears.

Early explorations with my then five-year-old daughter, Courtney, and seven year old son, Tristan, were limited to short trips only miles from our Connecticut home. A day trip to a local museum or a weekend away in Cape Cod seemed like great choices, but I was wrong. Our journeys somehow transformed me into what I now refer to as the “twenty four hour entertainment committee”, which was an unfamiliar territory for this working mom. Somehow managing a twenty million dollar company seemed like a cakewalk compared to trying to contain two little ones on my own for an extended period of time. What seemed like a brilliant idea of a relaxing weekend away at a friend’s beach house in Cape Cod was an exhausting proposition to say the least. There we were privileged enough to be in a beautiful home on the beach. The problem was it was quickly transformed into a prison in which I was locked up with the energy twins. There was no escape from the constant activity and I was a caged animal who returned home with what I now refer to as “post-traumatic vacation disorder”. I was fearful of our next adventure but I would not be broken. For years I had witnessed my single parent client’s traveling all over the world in vacation bliss with their little ones and somehow I knew that this self proclaimed, “super mom” would prevail in the world of vacationing.

With much angst and deliberation, the decision was made to once again venture out alone with my two little ones. This time, however, I was jumping in with both feet and cruising the Caribbean on a Voyager Class ship. Convinced by Royal Caribbean Cruise Sales Rep. Lisa, I booked our cabin. The pre-trip mental turmoil I was experiencing may sound somewhat obscure for a twenty year travel industry veteran but I was venturing out alone, into unfamiliar territory and completely out numbered by my little angels. Would they break me once and for all? I think not. This time was different and I was determined and prepared for battle. DVD players, I-pods, video games, crayons, notepads and snacks were all a part of my single mom survival kit. As we left for the airport I felt empowered and convinced that this would be the best single mom vacation ever.

Our journey was incredible and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line could not have been more accommodating. Each day Tristan and Courtney bounced in and out of the Adventure Ocean Youth Program, allowing this overworked mom a few hours each day of alone time by the pool or in the fitness center. Explorations on shore were exciting for the three amigos and included swimming with dolphins and long walks through Old San Juan. Even the dining experience was transformed into a single parent’s paradise. Each evening the kids and I would venture up to the Windjammer Café for a nice buffet dinner for Tristan and Courtney, then they would ditch their boring mom and quickly retreat to Adventure Ocean for a Pajama or Pirate Party. Meanwhile I would enjoy a magnificent five-course meal in the dining room with other single travelers, which the maitre d’ gladly arranged. Each night we retired to our cabin for some great snuggle time on our bunk beds while watching movies and reminiscing about the day’s adventures.

We returned home with a new found appreciation for our non-traditional family. I had a confidence and feeling of success in my abilities as a single parent that could not be described. I had conquered my fears of being the sole provider, the lone ranger and the family cruise director and I was ready for our next adventure. I was no longer “super mom” but now “super mom extraordinaire” and I realize that traveling as a single parent does not have to be feared but can be a gift to be savored. I realize now that I have something that most married parents may never enjoy……uninterrupted, one-on-one time with my children. The truth of the matter is that with a little bit planning and the right vacation choice, life as a traveling single parent can be the best vacation ever.

Stay tuned for details of our next adventure.