Alternative Accommodations for this Holiday Season

Are you planning to take a well-deserved vacation over the holidays?  But maybe a more economical and interesting nearcation instead of a vacation abroad?  

Ranging from a dome home in Sedona to a Scottish castle in Murphy, these holiday vacation options will be sure to please and entertain everyone in your family.  

Thanks to our friends over at TripAdvisor, here are their Top 10 Suggestions for Quirky Holiday Rentals in the U.S.  Let's take a look!
TripAdvisor Image of Volcano Tree House, Kilauea Volcano, HI Registered & Protected

Sandals & Beaches Cyber Monday Exclusive One Day Sale!!


Cyber Monday Exclusive Sale

Sandals and Beaches Resorts offers:
SAVE up to 65% OFF!
SAVE up to $175 Spa Credits!

SAVE up to 2 Nights FREE! 
SAVE up to $250 Airfare Credit!
and more at select Sandals Resorts.

Beaches guests can:
SAVE up to 65% OFF!

SAVE up to 2 Nights FREE! 
SAVE up to $250 Airfare Credit!
and more at select Beaches Resorts.

Hurry!! This One Day Sale
starts November 28, 2011 at midnight! Registered & Protected

Enjoy Christmas New Orleans Style!

Twinkling lights, familiar rhythms of holiday carols, the comforting smell of pralines in the air, this could only be Christmas New Orleans style.  Why not consider spending Christmas or part of December in the Crescent City where you can take advantage of great discounts on accommodations, enjoy holiday musical events, extraordinary Christmas shopping plus the amazing traditional French Reveillon menus.  As New Orleans says, “Give yourself a Christmas Bonus, Baby!!”

Let’s start with the deeply discounted accommodations available in New Orleans during the holiday season.  Papa Noel room rates are available within many New Orleans districts starting as low as USD $59 per night at the French Market Inn, $79 at the Andrew Jackson Hotel or $99 at the Grand Dame of the French Quarter – the Hotel Monteleone where guests can enjoy a number of festive events during the hotel’s most favorite times of the years. If you’re interested the Arts District, try the W New Orleans from $99 or the JW Marriott New Orleans from $139.

Fun holiday events for the entire family in the French Quarter include:
  • Chefs' Holiday Cooking Demonstrations
 at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré, December 1-23
  • French Market Holiday Caroling, December 4
  • Candlelight Tour of Historic Homes & Landmarks, December 9
  • Monte the Lion’s Children’s Party at the Hotel Monteleone, Dec 10 & 17
  • Merry Fishmas at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Dec 18 & 19
  • Caroling in Jackson Square, December 19
  • Christmas Eve at the St. Louis Cathedral, December 24
Of course, amongst the streets glowing with twinkling Christmas lights is the fantastic shopping found in the French Quarter – stop for a beignet and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde before visiting the French Market or head over to the Shops at Canal Place or Riverwalk Marketplace.   Once you’ve covered the downtown area, be sure to visit Julia Street, St. Charles Avenue, and Magazine Street, for more great shopping.

Reveillon Dinners are a French tradition featuring time-honored Creole cuisine all with a prix fix menu serving four or sometimes five courses in total.  With prices ranging from USD $38-95, patrons can sample delectable Creole delights like appetizers of Turtle Soup; classic Reveillon salad with Blue Cheese, walnuts, Louisiana Citrus and Cranberry Pesto; entrees of Crispy Duck with Red Currants; and desserts like White Chocolate Bread Pudding or Eggnog Creme Brulee.  

For more information on spending Christmas in New Orleans, visit New Orleans Online. Registered & Protected

New Cruise Ships on the Horizon for 2012

Mega-ships abound, some of the latest ships to sail the seas in 2011 are capable of carrying a small town with another small town of crew to look after them. But don’t be intimidated, there’s enough room and activities onboard so that you’ll never have to run into your neighbors.

Let's take a look at some of the new ships to be cruising the seas in 2012.

  • Carnival Breeze - June 2012 - sailing the Mediterranean & Caribbean carrying 3,690 passengers
  • Celebrity Reflection - October 2012 - inaugural sailing Europe & Mediterranean featuring AquaClass staterooms with private balconies and 3,030 passengers
  • Costa Fascinosa - May 2012 - Europe & Mediterranean sailings accommodating 3,012 guests onboard
  • Disney Fantasy - March 2012 - almost 40% larger than the Disney Wonder or Disney Magic with a capacity of only 2,500 passengers for a nice family experience
Image Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Sail into 2012 with Style on Variety Cruises

Looking for an amazing intimate small ship cruise experience?  Look no further than the brand new 36-cabin Variety Voyager mega yacht set to sail it's inaugural season in the spring of 2012.

Offering two Mediterranean itineraries, the 223 foot Variety Voyager accommodates only 72 passengers for that up close and personal feeling.  Lucky guests will be treated to hard wood panelling, marble fixtures, rich tapestry fabrics, along with amenities like a mini spa, lounge area, fitness centre and a beautiful intimate dining room.  Due to it's flawless design, ocean views are made possible from almost every area of the ship.

Sailing from Nice, the Romantic Rivieras itinerary (June through September) cruises along the Italian and French Rivieras with ports of call including Corsica, Sardegna, Elba, St. Tropez and Monte Carlo.  Departing from Salerno, the Treasure of the South Italy and Malta itinerary (September & October) offers ports of call in Taormina, Agrigento, Syracuse, Cephalu, Capri, Malta and Lipari.  

There will be two additional Variety Voyager Mediterranean itineraries in the fall of 2012, Arabian Journeys, sailing from Muscat and Abu Dhabi.  All 7-night cruise fares start from $2,990 per person.

For more information or to make your cruise reservation, visit Variety Cruises.

Discover: Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

Are you looking for one of the most complete resorts in the Caribbean?  Well, look no further than the beautiful Casa de Campo in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

Only a hour's drive east of Santo Domingo on the southern coastline, Casa de Campo is a stunning 7,000-acre beach front property consisting of a hotel, resort and for the lucky few who get to call it home, a year-round residential community.  

And just what makes Casa de Campo so complete?  Let's take a look:

  • selection of both hotel and villa accommodations to choose from
  • 13 restaurants, bars, lounges and entertainment venues
  • beaches, watersports, tennis, sport shooting, equestrian centre, boating, biking, fitness centre, excursions, and a picture perfect white sandy beach
  • 63 holes amongst 3 onsite golf courses designed by Pete Dye
  • home to the wonderfully pampering Cygalle Healing Spa
  • over 45 stores onsite for shopping galore - you'll find cigars, Italian fashions, jewelry and more!
  • gorgeous settings for weddings, family gatherings or business functions
American Airlines offers daily flights from Miami into La Romana International Airport (LRM), only 8-minutes away from Casa de Campo.  JetBlue will start providing service twice per week from New York's JFK to LRM beginning November 16, 2011.

For more information or to make your reservation at this Leading Hotels of the World member, visit Casa de Campo.

Brand New Brand g Vacations

When it comes to world of LGBT travel, there are somewhat limited choices in the marketplace.  But a brand new company just coming on to the scene promises to change that - Brand g Vacations.

Owned by the Mark Travel Company (who also owns Funjet Vacations, MGM Resort Vacations, and Blue Sky Tours), Brand g Vacations will cater to international group tours for the LGBT community which can involve brining their straight friends and family.  It's meant to be a fun travel experience for everyone!

On the Brand g travel roster so far is:

  • 10-day Legendary Danube Boat Cruise, August 2012
  • 8-day Ireland Countryside & Dublin, September 2012
  • 6-day Mexico City Discovery, October 2012

For more information or to make your reservation, visit Brand g Vacations.

Meeting the French Christmas Gourmet Tour

I think there's two quintessential times to be in Paris - in the spring when everything is in bloom or during the magical Christmas holiday season.

The 6th arrondissement is home to St. Germain de Prés and all it's wonderful wonders of Christmas.  Meeting the French is offering a 3-hour Christmas Gourmet Food Tour that includes visiting the St. Sulpice market, visiting local shops, enjoying a hot beverage while tasting delectables like nougat, candied chestnuts, cakes, candied fruits, and of course, chocolate.

Along the way, tour goers will be informed about French holiday traditions by the English speaking guide.  Tours are held Monday through Saturday afternoon during the month of December.

For more information on this fabulous tour, visit Meeting the French. Photo Credit: Paris_Dec_07-2 by in-boulder. Registered & Protected

Year Round Camping in Idaho

Thinking of a weekend getaway this winter?  Well, why not enjoy year round camping in Idaho?  Who knew!

Three Island Crossing State Park is located in southwestern Idaho on the Snake River in Glenns Ferry.  This historic state park was a crossing for the Oregon Trail and is home to the Oregon Trail History and Education Center.

Advance reservations can be made for the Upper Wagon Wheel and Day Use areas where you'll find both cabins and yurts for rent.

For more information, visit Three Island Crossing State Park. Photo Credit: Yurt Camping by OCVA

Oh, To Be in France!

If there's one thing I long for in this life, it's to live in France.  Even if only for a little while.  I love everything about the country and have a special penchant for Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte just outside of Paris.

This weekend, November 5 and 6, 2011, Vaux le Vicomte becomes Les Palais du Chocolat during their annual Chocolate Fair.  I can't even begin to imagine how exciting this would be to attend!

This grand palais will be host to some of France's best chocolatiers with tasting, children's workshop, and recipes while being showcased in the Grand Salon, outbuildings and even in the castle kitchen! Oh, the joie de vivre!

Share the love by learning more about Vaux Le Vicomte by visiting their website.

Vaux Le Vicomte Image. Registered & Protected

Attention Wine Lovers - Meet Best Selling Author Natalie MacLean!

Join bestselling wine author Natalie MacLean in Vancouver or the Okanagan for an unforgettable evening of wine, laughter and story-telling to celebrate the launch of her second wine book, 
Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines

Natalie will be hosting events in the following cities:

B.C. Wine Museum

Wine tasting with appetizers

Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel 

Tasting of a number of wine and cheese pairings 

Named the World’s Best Drink Writer at the World food Media Awards, the Canadian journalist and sommelier Natalie is just back from a whirlwind 
trip to uncover the world’s best bargain wines and share them with you. 

She’ll also share stories about fascinating winemakers and gorgeous, remote vineyards with her quirky humour and insider smarts that made her first book,
Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass
  - the only wine book ever to get on the national bestseller list. The Globe & Mail also named it one of the best books of the year. 

Space is limited for these exclusive BC events. Reserve your tickets now. Your ticket price includes a personally signed copy of Natalie’s new book. Registered & Protected

Hawaii's Most Hawaiian Hotel

Have you ever visited Hawaii only to think you're not getting a true Hawaiian experience from your hotel?  Here's easy the solution - stay at Hawaii's Most Hawaiian Hotel, the award-winning Kaanapali Beach Hotel in Lahaina, Maui.

Located on the shores of beautiful Kaanapali Beach, Kaanapali Beach Hotel features guest rooms showcasing authentic Hawaiian decor, lush tropical grounds, four dining venues, whale-shaped swimming pool, daily Hawaiian cultural activities including music and hula dancing, along with being home to the Kupanaha Magic Show Dinner Theater.  

Besides the abundance of Hawaiian flavor, there are always fun vacation packages at Kaanapali Beach Hotel offering savings and value added bonuses including a special discounted internet rate with savings of 28%, Romance Package, Golf Package, Girlfriend Getaway, and Best of the Beach.

For more information, visit Kaanapali Beach Hotel and view your FREE Maui Travel Planner here.