Interview with Travel Expert Michelle Sandy (Part One)

Simply put, Michelle Sandy of Naples, FL, is a travel expert.  Or better put, Sandy is a Caribbean, U.S. Virgin Islands, wedding, Sandals & Beaches, Master Cruise Counselor, and Disney expert who has made the travel business her business for the past 24 years.

Q.Travel Writer: Tell us what drives you in the travel business, no pun intended.

A. Sandy:  “My passion is travel.  I specialize in luxury vacation experiences to the Caribbean, yachting vacations, luxury cruises & tour experiences, inbound Naples and other Florida destination travel, multi-generational Family travel, and Honeymoon and Destination Wedding vacations.”
Q.Travel Writer: Wow, is that all? (smile) What is your absolute favorite destination of all time?  
A. Sandy: “My fave destination is St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I love the simplicity of the island, the nature of the island people and the ease of getting around, not to mention the amazing beaches.  Much of the island is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, allowing you to get away, relax, and rejuvenate yourself in harmony with nature.  The beaches are amazing, most of them wide, with soft white sand and crystal clear turquoise water.  St. John is perfect for all ages, offering something for everyone.”

Q.Travel Writer: Sounds perfect.  Where do you stay when visiting the island?
A. Sandy: “I visit the luxury Rosewood Resort at Caneel Bay yearly.  The resorts sits on seven lovely, uncrowded beaches, has a very friendly staff and is known for their repeat business.  What is the not to love here?!  This luxury resort is rich in history dating back to Laurence Rockefeller in the 1950’s.  Here’s a YouTube video I created on the property.”

Q.Travel Writer:  We understand you’re an accomplished cruiser.  Which is your cruise line of preference?

A. Sandy: “For family and honeymooners, I feel Royal Caribbean offers something for everyone.  From the spa to the rock-climbing walls and ice skating rinks, Royal Caribbean has much to offer.”
“My luxury cruise line of choice is SilverSea Cruises as I feel the ships offer a warm inviting atmosphere.  Every suite offers a view of the sea.  Guests are truly pampered by the personalized services and some of the suites offer a dedicated butler.  All suites feature champagne upon arrival and replenished as you desire, they also have a bar & refrigerator with complimentary beverage selections.  SilverSea offers luxurious freedom of an all-inclusive lifestyle.  Who wouldn’t want this?”

In part two of our interview with Michelle Sandy, traveler extraordinaire, we’ll cover Honeymoon and Wedding destination travel (to be posted next Wednesday).

For more information, visit the website of Michelle Sandy, Your Travel Concierge of Naples

© 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

A Hollywood Paradise in Florida

The north Florida area encompassing Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach is locally known as ‘The Corner.’  It’s also a favorite hangout for author John Grisham who featured popular Pete’s Bar in his book & movie, The Brethren.

The Palm’s Retro hotel in Atlantic Beach, FL, offers a little taste of 1950’s Hollywood for the east coast.  This unique property features only ten guest rooms, but what rooms they are.  

The queen bedded Divas room prominently displays wall filling portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Bridget Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, and Jayne Mansfield.  The Tube room features a photo of Barney Fife, along with Lucille Ball, the Honeymooners, and Mr. Ed.  

The oversized Bad Boy room offers photos of James Dean, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen.  You get the idea.  All rooms feature a 32” flat panel television, microwave, mini-fridge, cd player, hair dryer, coffee maker, and a very cool satellite weather forecaster.

Room rates are $99-$119 for two people per night, USD.  For more information or to make a reservation, visit the Palm’s Retro.

© 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

New Travel Oregon Magazine is Hot off the Press!

The Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Travel Oregon magazine has just been released featuring an array of photographs, travel ideas, and much more.

This latest issue of Travel Oregon covers the story of Chinook salmon on the Rogue River, a fourty-something Mom learning to snowboard for the first time at Mt. Bachelor, plus an insider look at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival from behind the scenes.

Published twice a year, Travel Oregon is a great resource for anyone planning to visit the Beaver state, know for its amazing scenic coastline, hiking, fishing, and natural all around beauty.

Upcoming autumn events in Oregon include the Bend Fall Fest (Oct 3-4, 2009); Oregon Bounty Harvest Days in Baker City (Oct 10-11); the Great Onion Festival in Sherwood (Oct 10); Hood River Hops Festival (Oct 3); and chalk drawings at Art Along the Rogue in Grants Pass (Oct 3-4).

For more information, visit Travel Oregon, or request a FREE copy of Travel Oregon here.

© 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

Vietnam CRAZY Sale!

Silk Holidays, Vancouver, BC, is once again offering great travel deals to Vietnam during their Vietnam CRAZY sale.

Packages include roundtrip airfare from Vancouver to Hanoi, accommodation for 8 nights, specified meals, transfers, English-speaking guide, all specified tours and admission fees.

Itinerary highlights include stops in Halong Bay, Danang, Hoi An, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, with visits to the Japanese Bridge Pagoda, Tran Family Chapel, Thien Mu Pagoda, Imperial Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, Cu Chi Tunnels, Reunification Palace, and more.

Departure dates for 2009 include October 4, 18, 25; November 8, 22; December 6, 20; for 2010, Jan 3, 17, 31; February 14, 28; March 14, 28. Prices start at $1,999 CAD per person based on double.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit Silk Holidays.

Deep Discounts on Carnival Cruise Lines!

As I’ve said time and time again, a cruise is the best vacation value for your money, and when you take a look at these low prices, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Carnival Cruise Lines is offering deep discounts on cruising this fall, especially for 3rd & 4th passengers in the same cabin for as low as $99 per person! Amazing, since that includes all meals, entertainment, and accommodations.

Here’s a sampling of cruise only fares in USD:

  • Los Angeles to Ensenada, 3 days, $199, 3rd & 4th $99
  • New Orleans to Western Caribbean, 5 days, $279, 3rd & 4th $149
  • Tampa to Exotic Western Caribbean, 7 days, $479, 3rd & 4th $209
  • Baltimore to Port Canaveral/Bahamas, 7 days, $529, 3rd & 4th $259
  • San Diego to Mexican Riviera, 8 days, $509, 3rd & 4th $219
For more information or to make a reservation, visit Carnival Cruise Lines.

Air Canada World Wide Sale!

webSaver Deals are still on with Air Canada, providing you with the opportunity to travel the world for less!

Think Globally. Act Quickly,” is the motto for this sale that ends on September 24, 2009, with travel valid until December 16, 2009. Day of the week restrictions, advance purchase, and other restrictions may apply.

One-way sample fares in CAD include:
  • $239 Vancouver to Montreal
  • $229 Toronto to Vancouver
  • $179 Calgary to San Diego
  • $175 Edmonton to Los Angeles
  • $298 Calgary to London, England
  • $349 Vancouver to Tokyo, Japan
  • $387 Winnipeg to Paris, France
  • $398 Halifax to Havana, Cuba
  • $425 Ft. McMurray to Port au Prince, Haiti
  • $479 Vancouver to Kingston, Jamaica
For more information or to make a reservation, visit Air Canada.

Lowest Priced Whistler Blackcomb Season Pass 2010!

Only available until October 12, 2009, the early bird season pass for premier Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler, BC, Canada, is the lowest price in the last decade!

With amazing skiing only a few hours drive from Vancouver, Whistler is the official home to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Here’s more information about Whistler Blackcomb courtesy of their website:

“With a mile of vertical and an incredible backcountry, Whistler Blackcomb has been consistently ranked the No. 1 ski resort by ski industry and travel magazines. The mountains receive an average annual snowfall of 10.22 m (33.5 feet).

Meanwhile, outside of the Himalayas, the Coast Mountain Range is one of the most heavily glaciated mountain ranges in the world. On Whistler Blackcomb alone, there are three glaciers to choose from: Blackcomb Glacier, Horstman Glacier, and Whistler Glacier.

The twin mountains offer 8,171 acres (3,307 hectares) of skiable terrain, ranging from beginner to expert slopes. Whistler and Blackcomb mountains also boast world-class terrain parks, a Superpipe and Family Zones. The regular ski and snowboard season lasts from mid-November to early June, with glacier skiing running until the end of July.

While winters at Whistler Blackcomb are undeniably amazing, the mountains offer exciting activities year-round. From mid-May to early-October, the groundbreaking Whistler Mountain Bike Park kicks into full gear. The world's best lift-accessed downhill bike park features 200 kilometres of trails for all ability levels. Meanwhile, sightseers can beat the summer heat as they hike in the high alpine, passing colourful wildflowers, glacier-fed lakes, wildlife and mountain peaks as far as the eye can see. Whether winter or summer, visitors young and old will catch a bit of that magical Whistler Blackcomb energy.”

The Whistler Blackcomb early bird adult unlimited pass, which includes unlimited access to the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, is only $1,099 CAD. Whistler Blackcomb is also offering a special 2010 Bonus Pak where for an additional $429, pass buyers will receive a $500 Whistler Blackcomb gift card and three adult lift tickets, valid any day during the season – a value of $734. Plus the first 2,000 purchasers of a pass with receive a free pair of Olympic Victory Ceremony Tickets.

For more information or to purchase your pass, visit Whistler Blackcomb.

Top 10 Hotels Around the World Under $19USD!!

Well, this is definitely one worth repeating, and yes, it’s even true! According to the readers/participants of TripAdvisor, here is the list of the Top 10 Hotels Around the World Under $19 USD (average price). No kidding.
  1. $14 USD - Hotel Lion d’Or, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. $13 - Mandalay Inn, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  3. $17 - Tod Motor Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. $9 - Shiva Guest House, Kathmandu, Nepal
  5. $6 - El Panchan, Palenque, Mexico
  6. $14 - Ani Motel, Kas, Turkey
  7. $12 - Luna's Castle Hostel, Panama City, Panama
  8. $9 - Venus Hotel, Luxor, Egypt
  9. $12 - Dai Hoang Kim Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  10. $16 - Bling Bling Hostel, Krakow, Poland
If you've ever stayed at any of these hotels, I'd love to hear your impressions of them! Sounds like a great deal to me, especially the Venus Hotel in Luxor - great location!

State Fairs & Top 10 USA Places to Visit by Car

We’ve still been experience fantastic summer-like weather, so why not take advantage of it? Maybe it’s time for that one last road trip.

According to TripAdvisor, here are the Top 10 USA Places to Visit by Car:
  1. Newport, Rhode Island
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. Morro Bay, California
  4. Ouray, Colorado
  5. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  6. Napa, California
  7. Niagra Falls, Ontario
  8. Roanoke, Virginia
  9. Quebec City, Quebec
  10. Washington, D.C.
Don’t forget to visit the Kansas State Fair being held this weekend in Hutchinson (September 11-20); the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque (September 11-27); the Oklahoma State Fair (September 17-27); Tennessee State Fair (September 11-20); Utah State Fair (September 10-20); and the Western Washington and 4-H State Fair in Puyallup (September 11-27).

All Aboard the Train Station Inn

Looking for a unique place to stay? Step back in time by staying in an authentic Canadian railway car located in historic Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.

Each of the seven cabooses at the award-winning Train Station Inn date back from 1911–1978 and feature deluxe accommodations that have been decorated to reflect their era.

Rooms range in price from $115.50 CAD per night for a bachelor suite with a single berth up to $289.50 for the Station Master’s Suite complete with 3 bedrooms, balcony, kitchenette, and a parlor.

A refurbished dining rail car supplies a complimentary continental breakfast each morning plus lunch and dinner is served daily from mid May to mid October. The Lobster Pot Pie is rumored to be a favorite.

Tatamagouche, located on the Northumberland Strait, is a quaint Victorian village only of 600 residents. Be sure to visit Rushtons Beach Provincial Park, Sara Bonnyman Pottery, and the Wallace and Area Museum.

For more information, visit the Train Station Inn.

Stay at the Luxor in Vegas for $50 a Night

Travel Zoo and the Luxor Las Vegas have teamed up to bring you a fantastic low rate for a 4 star hotel on the strip - how much better can it get? How about a $25 dining credit per stay? Done.

The $50 per night rate is date specific and if your dates don’t work out, there is another $55-65 tier for other specified dates. Weekend rates are still higher but are still discounted to be under $100 per night.

The Luxor Las Vegas is an Egyptian-themed hotel offering 4,405 guest rooms (including 487 suites) with 120,000 square feet of gaming area all within the gigantic mystical Egyptian pyramid. One of the most exciting events at the hotel is Cirque du Soliel’s Criss Angel Believe magic show where ticket prices start at $59.

With this special, you can book a room and get a ticket to the show for just around $100 bucks! Discounted rates must be booked by September 24, 2009.

For more information, visit Luxor Las Vegas or to check available dates and book the discounted rate, visit Luxor/Travel Zoo.

Baby Boomers Save in Jamaica!

Sunset Resorts of Jamaica is offering a ‘Boom Baby Boom’ package to guests born between 1946 and 1964 with savings of up to 40% off.

Sunset Resorts offers a trio of all-inclusive resorts to choose from – Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa in Ocho Rios, Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, and Sunset at the Palms Resort & Spa in Negril.

The Boom Baby Boom package includes a guaranteed room upgrade, welcome gift, weekly guest speakers, grandkids can stay/play/eat for free in the same room, keepsake portrait, discounted spa treatment, complimentary local excursion, daily activities and much more. Rates start as low as $68 USD per person.

This offer is valid until December on a space available basis. For more information, visit Sunset Resorts Jamaica.

Mazatlan is Offering Great Bargains!

Even though Mexico has had a bout with the H1N1 virus and well-publicized drug violence, Mazatlan is rebounding with offers that some vacationers won’t be able to refuse.

How about a stimulus package abroad? The Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan is a family oriented beachfront resort with two swimming pools located at the north end of the Golden Zone. Here a family of four (two adults, two children) can stay in a junior suite for a low rate of only $107.46 per night or in a luxury suite for only $120.46 per night through December 2009.

In old town Mazatlan, the Melville Suites is a neoclassical historical building that served as a nun’s school for more than sixty years. Only twenty suites are offered – all with air conditioning, purified water, and kitchen. Guests can stay four nights for the price of two from only $70.

For more information visit Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan or Melville Suites.

San Diego Zoo – It’s a Boy Panda!

On September 3, 2009, the San Diego Zoo’s newest baby panda cub has its first exam at the age of 4 weeks. He is so adorable!

I’ve been watching the San Diego Zoo Panda Cam since the beginning and this little one is changing every day.

The results of his exam showed him to be a very healthy little panda weighing in at chubby 2.8 pounds. His eyes will be opening at six to eight weeks of age but he won’t start moving around until he’s about three months old. I can’t wait!

The exam only took five minutes in order to minimize the cub’s time away from his Mother, Bai Yun, who celebrated her 18th birthday on September 7th. The new panda baby is Bai Yun’s fifth cub.

Watch the video of the exam or check out the Panda Cam – either way, enjoy this most adorable cub and his Mommy!

Enter to Win 1 of 25 FREE Cruises with Carnival

I love a great contest, especially one that’s open to both United States and Canadian residents!

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers, based in Vancouver, BC, is offering you a chance to win 1 of 25 FREE cruises with Carnival Cruise Lines. “25 prizes will be awarded in 25 days” and will consist of a 4-day Carnival cruise for two to the Caribbean, Bahamas, or Mexico.

As I’m sure you already know, a cruise is one of the best vacation values around and it’s even better when it’s FREE! A Carnival Cruise typically includes all meals, entertainment, activities and of course, non-stop on board fun!

The things you won’t find included in any cruise price are alcohol, shore excursions, and exclusive dining options.

So what are you waiting for?!
For more information, visit Carnival Cruise Lines or Enter to Win 1 of 25 FREE cruises here! Best of luck and I’ll be waiting with my bags packed if you win .

A Ship full of Possibilities with Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises has long been one of the top long standing cruise lines in the business. With a fleet of 17 modern ships, Princess Cruises offers more than 100 itineraries that cover 7 continents and 350 ports.

What does Princess Cruises have to offer its guests? A ship full of possibilities that include grand production shows, piazza-style atrium, adults-only sanctuary on deck, the Crown Grill restaurant offering steak and seafood, or wine and seafood at Vines Bar, movies under the stars, and freshly baked pastries at the International Café, to name only a few.

Princess Cruises is currently offering its Balcony Bonanza sale which provides a savings of up to $1,100 per couple plus free balcony upgrades.

For more information, visit Princess Cruises.

Steinhatchee Landing Resort, FL, 50% off!

Featuring 50 Victorian, Georgian, and Florida Cracker-style cottages nestled among 35 acres of natural Florida landscape, Steinhatchee Landing Resort provides a unique vacation retreat for those wishing to truly get away from it all.

The resort is situated on the banks of the beautiful Steinhatchee River, just 3 miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico and just 75 miles from Gainesville, and less than a 2 ½ hour drive from Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa Bay.

Outdoor activity abounds with fishing (freshwater, saltwater, and fly) paddling, croquet, cycling, and tennis. Property amenities include a 55-foot swimming pool, indoor swim spa and sauna, fitness center, more than 20 boat slips available for a nominal charge, and daily continental breakfast in the Welcome Center.

Steinhatchee Landing Resort is offering a 50% discount (called the ‘Fall 50’ promotion) for budget minded travelers who stay four nights or more in any of the resort’s 50, one-to-four bedroom cottage accommodations. The offer is valid from September 11, 2009, through January 30, 2010, and includes Christmas bookings.

For more information or to make a ‘Fall 50’ reservation, visit Steinhatchee Landing Resort.

Top 10 Hotels in the U.S., Canada & the World

I don’t know about you, but I like lists. They’re easy to follow, they provide precise information, they help me to make a decision and they’re quick to read.

That’s why I’m always excited when Travel & Leisure magazine comes out with their World’s Best Hotels, Airlines, Cruises, Islands, and Cities Awards every August.

Let’s take a look at some of the 2009 Readers’ Poll results – the Top 10 Hotels in the Continental U.S. and Canada along with the Top 10 Hotels in the World.

Top 10 Hotels in the Continental U.S. and Canada

1. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, SC

2. Amangani, Jackson, WY

3. Enchantment Resort, Sedona, AZ

4. San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, CA
5. Post Hotel & Spa, Lake Louise, AB

6. The Cloister at Sea Island, GA

7. Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford, CA

8. Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, Beaver Creek, CO

9. Little Nell, Aspen, CO

10. Lodge at Pebble Beach, CA

Top 10 Hotels in the World

1. Bushmans Kloof, Cedar Mountains, South Africa

2. Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, India

3. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve (Earth Lodge), Sabi Sand Wildtuin, South Africa
4. Inn at Manitou, McKellar, ON
5. Singita Sabi Sand, Sabi Sand Wildtuin, South Africa

6. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Thailand

7. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India

8. Governors Camp, Masia Mara, Kenya

9. Jack’s Camp, Kalahari, Botswana

10. Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires, Argentina

A Day in the Life

Another great article from Real Simple magazine includes a cost comparison of a day in the life of select U.S. cities.

Based on two adults, and divided into sightseeing, dinner at an established restaurant, and accommodations central to the hot spots, here’s how a day in the life plays out:


Space Needle $32
Tilth Restaurant $104

Marriott Waterfront $279

New York

Empire State Building $37

Union Square Café $137
Marriott Marquis $399

Washington, D.C.

Capitol Building – free

Central Michel Richard $112

Marriott at Metro Center $479

Ferris Wheel $12

Topolobampo $118

Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile $409


Graceland $56

Rendezvous $61

Marriott Downtown $169

Grab your Bag. It’s Really On. Southwest Airlines Sale!

Today is the last day to purchase tickets for the fall seat sale being offered by Southwest Airlines.

One-way fares range from $59 to $109 in select markets. A sampling of the ‘It’s On’ fares include Spokane, WA, to New Orleans, LA, for $109; Boise, ID, to Reno, NV, for $59; Birmingham, AL, to Jacksonville, FL, for $86; Detroit, MI, to Indianapolis, IN, for $73; Orlando, FL, to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, for $59.

Tickets must be purchased by September 3, 2009, with travel taking place from September 9 through January 7, 2010. Travel is valid every day except Fridays and Sundays; taxes, fees, and/or surcharges are not included in the prices shown.

To take advantage of this sale before it ends, visit Southwest Airlines.

New Orleans Cooking Experience

Here’s a great opportunity to ‘learn the secrets and the history of Classic New Orleans Cooking’ at the New Orleans Cooking Experience.

The popular school provides a variety of classes including a half-day class where a maximum of ten students will create between five and eight recipes during the 2 ½ hour span.

New Orleans Cooking Experience also offers two, three, and four-day immersion classes plus a Weekend Getaway that includes a dinner class on Friday and a lunch class on Saturday. Another vacation option is the Long Weekend Getaway that offers two classes and dinner at the award winning Creole Brigtsen’s Restaurant.

The menu changes daily and seasonally but the current offerings include Crab and Okra Gumbo, Andouille Calas with Creole Mustard Sauce, Shrimp Etouffee with Seafood Jambalaya, Catfish and Jalapeno Cheese Grits, Praline Parfait and delectable Pecan Pie.

Only twelve blocks from the French Quarter, the New Orleans Cooking Experience is located at the historic House on Bayou Road, along with the charming bed & breakfast, A Petit Creole Plantation Bed & Breakfast Inn.

For more information, visit New Orleans Cooking Experience.

Orient Express to Lewis & Clark

From ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, to the ‘Orient Express’ and beyond – how much would that trip cost?

According to an article by Kristin Appenbrink of Real Simple magazine, based on travel that is fact, film or fiction, the least expensive trip option would be ‘On the Road’ as in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel, Sal Paradise. Driving from New York to San Francisco would cost an estimated $159 in gas.

According to expense, next in line would be the ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’ from St. Louis, MI, to the Oregon coast costing $308 in gas for the return trip. Flying from Spain to the Bahamas following the steps of ‘Columbus’s Journey to America,’ would cost $2,165.

Departing London and travelling ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ ala Jules Verne, racks up $6,324.59 for airfare. A journey on the ‘Venice Simplon Orient Express’ from Paris to Istanbul comes in at a cool $9,190.