Friday, August 31

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Thursday, August 30

Jamaica - A Tropical Paradise

From the brilliant white sand beaches to the diverse island culture, Jamaica is one of our favourite Caribbean tourist destinations. The crystal clear ocean waters and the year-round warm climate makes it the ideal travel vacation for sun-lovers. There are many diversions to keep visitors happy: fishing, scuba diving, wind surfing, horseback riding, swimming, snorkeling, golfing just to name a few. In the evening there is fine dining at Jamaica’s elite restaurants and resorts—combined with truly unique Jamaican cuisine, and the night life is certainly hopping!

One of the best things that I have found about Jamaica is the warm, friendly people and the rich, diverse Island culture blended from around the world. In fact, Jamaica’s motto is “Out of Many, One People.” Although African and European influences dominate the culture, the British, Spanish, Irish, Indian, Chinese and German are all represented as well. The official language of Jamaica is English, but sometimes you wouldn’t know it as you will most likely hear “Patois” which sounds like a foreign language but is actually a combination of rhythmic English and slang. “Irie mon” is a common phrase you may hear, which really just means “cool” or “everything is good.” The currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar, but US dollars are widely accepted.

Jamaica is the largest English-speaking Island in the Caribbean and it is the third largest island overall, spanning 4,400 square miles. The best tourist spots are on the north coast, with Montego Bay and Ocho Rios being the most popular, as well as Negril on the west coast. I have toured the whole Island, from Kingston (Jamaica’s capital) through the Blue Mountains to Port Antonio, around the north coast, on down through Mandeville, Alligator Pond and Treasure Beach and back around to Kingston, so I am well able to tell you a bit about each destination you may wish to travel to. Ocho Rios is located, as I said, on Jamaica’s north coast and is known as Jamaica’s garden centre. Some of the most popular daytime activities include biking, diving, deep-sea fishing and golf. Ocho Rios also has one of the best polo facilities in the Caribbean. Of course, the must-see attraction in Ocho Rios is the famous Dunn’s River Falls, where visitors, lead by a sure-footed Jamaican guide, are able to climb up a series of falls that cascade from the mountains to the sea. The falls themselves are a spectacular sight and climbing the falls is an adventure not to be missed. As a bit of trivia, in the film “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise, Duns River Falls is in a memorable scene. Close by, just off of Main Street in Ocho Rios are two craft parks, the Ocho Rios Craft Park and the Olde Market Craft Shoppes, and The Ocean Village Shopping Centre is also nearby. Here there are hundreds of vendors selling local crafts, and everything from gold watches to wood carvings and the famous Blue Mountain coffee. Also, you will be able to sample the traditional jerk pork prepared over an open grill – a spicy culinary experience for the adventurous. There is also duty-free shopping at the Taj Mahal Shopping Centre.

Just west of Ocho Rios in Aracobessa is another favourite tourist attraction, James Bond Beach and Ian Fleming’s former home called Goldeneye.

Montego Bay is where most travelers arrive in Jamaica, which is home to the North Shore airport and the island’s busiest cruise ship pier. Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second largest city and is Jamaica’s original tourist hot spot. Montego Bay’s attractions include a number of plantation tours, as well as a new attraction featuring the legendary great, Bob Marley. For the adventure traveller, there are also bamboo river rafting tours. As well, there is great fishing by fishing charters for marlin, tuna and kingfish. One may also go cycling, golfing, horseback riding or scuba diving here, and there is another popular local shopping district. A popular tour from Montego Bay is to Wyndham Rose Hall Plantation which was once a legendary 18th century sugar plantation, and a popular spot for golfers would be on the Robert von Hagge Championship Golf Course.Of course, the beaches in Montego Bay are not to be missed. But beware – a friend, while visiting Jamaica, sat under a coconut tree and got conked on the head by a falling coconut, in fact three coconuts! I asked her why she didn’t move away after the first one hit her (of course, the coconuts fell in a bunch of three – but I thought it was funny!) (P.S. – She wasn’t really hurt!)

Negril is located on Jamaica’s western coast with a seven-mile long fantastic white sand beach. It extends from the nineteenth-century Negril Lighthouse in the parish of Westmoreland in the south to Bloody Bay (so named for the days when whalers cleaned their catch there) in Hanover Parish in the north. Negril is famous for its “hippie” era where the hippies set up a colony there and enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle and “ganja”. From this hippie-era colony, Negril has been labelled the “Capital of Casual”. Although I wasn’t interested, Negril does offer some clothing optional beaches. Laws control resort development and no building is allowed to be taller than the tallest palm tree. Negril doesn’t offer the extensive shopping of Ocho Rios, but it does have an assortment of unique shops, including the Negril craft market.
Negril is said to offer some of the best scuba diving in Jamaica. You can also enjoy deep-sea fishing excursions, a vast amount of water sports, and golf at a new golf course, Negril Hills. If you choose to go para-sailing, the sight of the sparkling azure waters and the dazzling white sand beach is a truly memorable experience. Other activities can include tennis, squash, glass-bottom boat reef trips, sunset catamaran cruises and spectacular nightly entertainment.

Although I stayed at a number of different locations in Jamaica, a memorable one was at a family-oriented all-inclusive resort. They offered everything one could want, from unlimited alcoholic beverages for adults to baby-sitting services, and even a special snack bar geared to children with all-you-can-eat pizza, macaroni ‘n cheese, and hamburgers. I was very impressed with how the staff entertained and watched over our children. In one instance, our kids were kayaking around a little bay area. Being adventurous they ventured out towards open water. The staff member followed them in his kayak and gently herded them back. I was very impressed how he handled it. It was a very pleasant stay there.

On the whole, I love Jamaica, from the warm friendly people to the crystal clear waters and all-year round warm climate. There is not much that Jamaica doesn’t offer for an ideal vacation. The Island is unique in its culture and cuisine (have you tried boiled green banana, saltfish and ackee, jerk chicken or fried breadfruit?) The resorts are experts in what they offer guests – especially the all-inclusive ones. The only thing that I might caution you about is travelling alone/unaccompanied outside of the resorts. It can be dangerous, but if you stay within your resort or take guided tours, you shouldn’t have any problems. “No problem, mon!”

Denny Phillips has created several articles inspired by her love of cooking, travelling and art. Read other articles by Denny on her websites: and www.vacationtravelquest.comArticle Source:

Monday, August 27

The Disney Cruise Ships

Disney' cruise ships - the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder - embody the style and spirit of the grand ocean liners of days gone by, coupled with every modern amenity you have come to expect from a premiere cruise line. The two ships are basically identical save for some decorating details - the Wonder is decked out in an Art Nouveau style, while the Magic is fashioned in an Art Deco style - and the names of some of the restaurants and clubs. Both ships incorporate an interesting dining rotation, whereby your tablemates (in fact- the entire dining room full of guests) is rotated through the 3 restaurants along with your servers and wait staff, so that you get to experience a different restaurant each night without sacrificing the careful attention and pampering of having your own servers. And what restaurants they are - Parrots Cay embodies a fun, tropical flavor (and incidentally serves a fabulous breakfast buffet, and Disney characters often drop by unannounced, so be sure to have those cameras and autograph books handy!).

Animator's Palate is a most unique restaurant where the d├ęcor starts out black, white and grey, but by the end of the meal is a full burst of colors and Disney pictures, all coordinated with a musical soundtrack, and Lumiere's/Triton's, which is an elegant restaurant decorated with beautiful mosaics depicting scenes from The Little Mermaid on the Disney Wonder and Beauty and the Beast on the Disney Magic.

Both ships have a variety of features and activities designed exclusively for the younger set, including a family pool and water slide (fashioned as Mickey's gloved hand), snack bars poolside serving chicken nuggets, French fries and ice cream, a fully-equipped kids 'camp' open 'till midnight with counselors, great activities, play areas and computers, great Disney-themed shoes (including one starring all of the kids onboard, assisted by their counselors), and more characters than you could ever meet at Disney World. All of this attention to the kids certainly doesn't shortchange the adults, who are treated to their own pool and spas, adult-only restaurant (make reservations as soon as you board- Paolo's is a big hit), adult clubs, and even their own beautiful, private cove on the beach at Disney' own Castaway Cay island paradise.

Rooms on the Disney Cruise ships are about 25% larger than comparable rooms on other cruise ships, and many include a unique split 1 1/2 bath, to make getting ready easier for families. There is certainly more food than you could eat or activities you could participate in to fill several cruises, and you'll certainly find yourself wishing that the cruise were longer - or start planning your next cruise before you even disembark!

Stephanie Larkin is the editor of, as well as She and her family love to cruise - her 3 children especially love the towel animals and chocolates left on the beds at night!

Sunday, August 26

A Cruise Lover's Guide to Repositioning Cruises

Cruise fans have probably noticed a great deal turn up every now and then on something marked as "repositioning cruise." It looks too good to be true, so you might be suspicious. And then you're even more suspicious when the cruise literature does not even explain what on earth a repositioning cruise is. So what is it? And is it really such a good deal?

A cruise line that is moving a cruise ship from one home port to another will call the voyage to go from the old port to the new port a "repositioning cruise". Most cruise ships have a home base and make their cruises in and out of that port. That's why most cruise packages let you set sail and return to the same place.But sometimes the cruise line will want to maneuver its fleet a bit differently. It may be time to change up the schedule. At any rate, they need to move a cruise ship from the old home port to a new home port.

Cruise lines are smart and they know they can sell passage on these unusual voyages even though they are not the typical cruise with a fixed route and lots of fun ports-of-call. In fact, a repositioning cruise may not even offer any ports of call.

The focus of a repositioning cruise is getting from Port A to Port B. However, a repositioning cruise will offer you the usual cruise amenities. The crew will give you the same level of service as on a conventional cruise, you will get to dine and see shows. The only thing is that the cruise is not following the usual "route" with the standard ports of call.

That is the reason that you can often get a good bargain on a repositioning cruise. However, you need to be a particular type of passenger to really make this work out for you.First, you need to be a cruise passenger who enjoys "ship time" more than "port time." You have to be content to spend days at sea. You'll have access to the full facilities of the ship, so you can soak in the sun, go swimming, work out, see shows, get spa treatments, and take advantage of everything else on your ship. (Ask about what is offered on board before you book any repositioning cruise.) If you like long lazy days of eating and relaxing and soaking in the scenery from the deck, this is a perfect vacation for you.

Second, you need to be able to deal with the "to and from" of the repositioning cruise. You'll be leaving from one port but coming back at another. That means your airfare may be a bit more complicated and even pricier. You won't be able to book a round-trip airfare; instead if you need plane tickets, you'll be getting two one-way fares.

As with any cruise, you can tack on airfare to your total cruise package or book airfare yourself. Asking which is the better deal is like asking how much a cruise costs. It depends! You may want to do some online shopping to see what fares cost versus what the airline can package for you.An extraordinary value on a cruise would be a repositioning cruise that starts or stops in a port near your home town, since you'd only need one leg of airfare.

You can learn about repositioning cruises from most cruise line websites as well as from travel websites. They are usually listed in among the regular offerings but they should be flagged as repositioning cruise.Some cruises that work a regular route do start and stop from different ports. This happens, for instance, in Alaska, where a cruise ship may work a route north to south one trip, then south to north the next. This is not a repositioning cruise.The advantages of a repositioning cruise are mainly financial. It usually does not offer any new sights or destinations than the standard cruise packages and it creates a bit of a passenger inconvenience by starting and stopping at different places. However, it is often offered at a definite discount.
For people who enjoy the sheer fun of cruising and spending long days at sea, who don't mind starting and stopping their vacation from different cities, and like onboard activities, the repositioning cruise can be a great value.

If you are looking for a good deal on repositioning cruises or just finding out more about cruises in general, visit . Mandy Karlik wrote this article and is going on her next cruise to Cozumel. She contributes regularly to TheCruise-Shopper.
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Saturday, August 18

Your Adventure Awaits On A Cruise Ship

When most of us think of the words cruise ship, we envision the Love Boat or the Titanic. Well, not all the time, but often that's the first thing that comes to mind. Actually, a cruise ship doesn't have to be that big, and many countries have their own cruise ship lines. A cruise ship is also called a luxury ship, but that doesn't mean that only rich people can sail on her. You may not find Gopher or Doc on board, but a cruise ship offers a unique way to travel at a slower pace so that you get to know your fellow passengers and are able to intermingle at various venues provided by cruise ship activity and entertainment directors. Airline or train travel doesn't allow for such pleasures, nor does driving. For anyone who hasn't been on a cruise ship, adventure awaits!

A cruise ship is also called a passenger ship and is used for those seeking a pleasure voyage to various destinations around the world, from Tahiti to Rio, to the Canary Islands and Hong Kong. Today, a cruise ship line offers the best in travel comforts and perks. With a cruise ship, the entertainment on board is as important as the ultimate destination, and most cruise ship lines will make sure to schedule exciting events that will entertain various age groups.

The very first cruise ship built expressly for the purpose of transporting vacationers from Point A to Point B was called the Prinzessin Victoria Luise. She was built in 1900. So began the age of transatlantic transportation that hit a rough spot after the sinking of the Titanic. Following that accident, Albert Ballin, the manager of Hamburg-America Line, made it a point to send his cruise ship captains across the North Atlantic is the worst winter weather to prove that the ill-fated sinking of the queen of all liners was not the norm, but rather an isolated incident. He succeeded, and other shipping lines followed his example.

A cruise ship is equipped to withstand bad weather and is capable of sailing great distances to exotic ports of call or down your country's coastline. One of the most popular cruise ship destinations for world travelers is the Alaskan cruise, which offers delighted passengers sights and sounds that can't be seen anywhere else.

There are many different kinds of cruise ship, and some are large, which others are only moderately so. Most come with affordable small to medium sized cabins, and a cruise ticket will generally include all the food and entertainment on board as well as tickets to events or locations listed on the ships port of call sightseeing lists. A cruise ship offers hotel style living, fine dining and even theatrical entertainment all in one place. Some cruise lines offer a cruise ship geared more toward the younger crowd, like Disney, while others offer nothing but exquisite elegance. Which cruise ship you choose will not only depend on your tastes, but your pocket book as well.

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Friday, August 3

Lunch onboard the QE2

I was lucky enough to be invited onboard the QE2 this week for lunch and a tour. The first thing that struck me was her size, i really thought she wouldn't be as big, yet when you stand on the dock she towers above you like any other superliner. The tour was 2 hours long and we took in many cabin grades from insides to suites. My personal favourites were the suites of course - the decor was a little more to my taste with the fusion of art deco and a hint of modernism. The stairs to the penthouses were very narrow and reminded me of my staircase at home but that gave it quite a nice personal feel. These are only accessable via the Queens Grill hence not being able to eat in there unless you're staying in one.
The ship is full of memorabilia and art works depicting her history. There are many paintings of Queen Elizabeth herself as well as models of previous Cunard fleet and other art pieces. One of my favourites was the wall of fame filled with old photos of famous past guests. It was fun to look through and see how many people you could recognise. Another decoration i enjoyed was the Ratcliffe memorial wall - this was filled with Cunard memorabilia from many years ago. It included puzzles, matches in fact anything emblazened with Cunard or QE2. The story behind the wall is that the chap who collected the items actually took them without paying over the years he travelled onboard, yet when he died he left the collection back to Cunard. I thought that was a facinating story which brought a lump to my throat!
The shopping area was pretty good with a Harrods onboard as well as the usual ship fashion and convenience stores although i could only peek though the windows as she was moored in port. We visited all the restaurants and in actual fact, decor wise, i felt the Mauretania had the most character. We were lucky enough to eat in the Princess Grill and had the most delicious 3 course lunch including the best Chateaubriand i have ever tasted.

Although she wouldnt be my first choice of cruise ship, the QE2 had a wonderful charm about her and i am really glad i got to experience her magnetism before she becomes a luxury floating hotel in Dubai.