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The Grand Canal of Venice….by John Lane

 

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One of the most exciting ports of call in the Mediterranean to sail into is Venice. Your ship slowly sails the Grand Canal of Venice, towering over the small restaurants, shops and hotels on each side.  The excitement builds as you glide by St. Mark’s Square, a true highlight of your cruise.  It brings an air of excitement among your fellow passengers that are all lined up along the ship’s railing.  This cruise experience will soon be coming to and end! 

 The Italian government announced that it will begin limiting ship traffic in the lagoon. That means 20 percent fewer ships in front of the Piazza San Marco (beginning in January), a complete ban on ships larger than 96,000 gross tons (starting next November). Although cruisers might be disappointed, this is a welcome move for the crumbling city of Venice.  So if you truly want to enjoy this experience before it goes away…summer and fall Mediterranean are available with Venice on the itinerary!  This is truly one of the most beautiful port to sail in and out of and don’t miss it! 

 

 

 

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We’re Published!

by Don McCann

What is it about seeing your name in print that kind of gives you maybe just a little tingle?!  Come on, admit it, you know what I mean.  Well, leading Dallas wedding blogger, Emilie DesJardins, recently published an interview with me about honeymoon Cruiseship private balcony honeymoon couplecruises.  It’s always great to share expertise on our favorite topic, cruises, and it was flattering to be asked; we appreciate the opportunity.  Take a look: Honeymoon cruises: An option with many possibilities

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Smoke free verandas….by John Lane

ImageOne of the things that I love most about being on a cruise is sitting out on my veranda.  Whether it be eating breakfast or just sitting out there at any time of day or night just watching the world go by–I love it!  What does bother me is when I am enjoying the peace and quiet of my veranda and my neighbor decides to enjoy their veranda too and lights up a cigarette.  The smoke immediately clogs the air and the entire atmosphere is changed by the smell of their smoke.  My normal reaction is to leave the peace and quiet of my seaside sanctuary and retreat inside to my cabin.  Why should someone else’s actions determine how I use my cabin?  Well, more and more cruise lines are curtailing smoking on verandas too!  What’s your opinion of on board smoking?  Should it be limited to a few outdoor spaces on the upper decks and keep all cabins and verandas smoke free?  Let me know! 

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Do As I Say …….

by Don McCann

I think we’ve all heard “do as I say, not as I do”, right?  Funny how that rings true, time after time……

Whether boarding your ship in Miami, or Barcelona, we always suggest that you fly in the day before.  The airlines track record has become less stellar in the last few years and the lost and/or delayed baggage claims are noticeably worse these days, too.  So for these reasons, we have heard too many ‘stories’ which illustrate why you should listen to us and GO THE DAY BEFORE (not to mention you are a bit more rested to begin your cruise and you eliminate the stress of maybe ‘missing the ship’).

So my last blog was about MY upcoming agent preview cruise of the new Norwegian Breakaway in New York.  Even though I have preached the ‘day before’ thing for years, I booked flights to go the day of the cruise itself, arriving at a safe sounding 11:45am for our 4:00pm departure (and besides my traveling companion had to work, so that going the day before thing was not an option this time).  Our Southwest flight was scheduled to depart at an eye-opening 6:05am, but it was worth the EARLY hour to arrive in plenty of time for the cruise.

The flight left the gate right on time for our first leg to New Orleans.  After we backed out from the gate, the captain turned the plane toward the runway, just as expected.  However, we did not proceed and  instead just sat there for about five minutes.  Then came the announcement “Well folks it seems that New Orleans is in the midst of some thunder Delayedshowers right now and we’re in contact with our dispatch folks to see how soon they think it will be safe for us to continue”.   Note:  “thunder showers” is pilot speak for “STORMS and it is too bad to tell you just how bad it really is right now”.  Sure enough, in a few minutes we were advised that we would be pulling back into the gate, as ‘dispatch’ thought it would be at least 30 minutes before we could proceed.

If you’ve been in this position, and most of you surely have, you first think “well, that’s it, we’re going to misconnect “ (and now we’re going to miss our ship).  Depending on how you are wired, it may take a few seconds, or maybe a few minutes, but eventually you probably realize that “hey, if we are delayed due to weather there, then the plane we are connecting to should be delayed, too! (hope, hope)”.  Sure enough, after we took off, the announcement came that Newark, Nashville, and Orlando passengers would all make their connections as those planes were being delayed, too.  “Whew” was our first thought and since we did not have checked luggage, the ‘but will our luggage make the short connection” question was irrelevant this time.

After having the flight attendants be seated three separate times during our short, bump ridden flight, we finally arrived almost exactly an hour behind schedule.  We dashed to the connecting gate, different than originally posted, and made it JUST as they were about to begin boarding.  Again, WHEW.

Our arrival was just more than an hour behind the planned time in New York, but we made it to the ship just past 2:35pm (the requested boarding time was no later than 2:00pm, but we were welcomed just the same).  Many of the activities and specialty dining options, which could be reserved only onboard, were already filled by the time we arrived.  Disappointing and unfortunate, but at least we made it and could enjoy the next two days onboard this truly wonderful ship.  However, there was anxiety and stress which would have all been moot if we’d simply gone a day early.  The point being
“Do as I say and always GO THE DAY BEFORE!”

Details and photos on the cruise to follow in my next post.

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Saved the Best ’til Last

by John Lane

Vienne photo from John

Lush Gardens of Vienne!

Little did I know that they saved the best until last!  Our last day of the cruise was by far the best!  The morning started in the charming city of Vienne filled with lovely gardens, shops and sidewalk cafes.   I really don’t understand how all the sidewalk cafes stay in business. It seems like there are three to four on each block!   Impressive Roman ruins, like the Temple of Augustus and the 13,000-seat theater cut into the hillside, once again are from the days of Julius Caesar’s reign of the area.

Lyon

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

We boarded the motor coach for Lyon and had no idea what would be in store for us.   Lyon, the “gastronomy capital” of France has the largest indoor food market in France.   There was stall after stall of food vendors offering meats, cheeses, breads, wines, seafood, pastries, candies ….you name it and it was there, you could eat it.   A private tasting of meats, cheese, pates, bread and of course wine was enjoyed.   I then enjoyed some local favorites of Lyonnaise potatoes, potato cakes, cheeses, bread, wine and topped it off with a macaroon!   I was in food heaven.   The food was wonderful and Tauck made it such a special time with the private tasting and then giving each guest 20 Euros to sample the food!   The last afternoon was spent visiting the old town of Lyon and soaking in the local culture.   It was a great day of food and culture that I will always remember.

Note:  John was onboard the Swiss Emerald with Tauck River Cruises last week, sailing from Arles to Lyon, France.

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Galveston Updates

Things are changing at the Portof Galveston this fall.  Three new ships will begin sailing from the port.  The Carnival Triumph has begun sailing for four and five night sailings to Mexico with Monday, Thursday and Saturday departures.  The Triumph will offer increased capacity in this market along with the welcome addition of more balconies on this ship.

In November, the Mariner of the Seas of Royal Caribbean will replace the Voyager of the Seas and offer two seven night itineraries to the Western Caribbean through April2012.  Also, later in the month the big news will be the arrival of the Carnival Magic– Carnival’s newest ship!

Carnival Magic

The Magic has many new areas being introduced to their ships:  the Sports Square, the fitness and fun area featuring the first ropes course at sea,  Cucina del Capitan, Carnivals first Italian family style dining experience, Cherry on Top–the candy

store and Red Frog Pub featuring Carnival’s own Thirsty Frog Red private label beer, along with Caribbean appetizers and food.

The Magic will offer two different itineraries to the Western Caribbean along with  a Bahamas itinerary offering ports of call of Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas and Key West!  The only Bahamas itinerary from Galveston.

Now is the time to cruise from Galveston!

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