Welcome to Creative Vacations Travelouge. Here you will find information ranging from the latest travel news, special interest travel, tips, tricks and personal travel stories. We welcome your comments and are here to assist you with any questions or planning your trip to experience all the world has to offer!
We hope you enjoyed traveling along to France with Michaela! Now we come closer to home, with Jodie’s trip to Walt Disney World!
To answer the first question everyone wants to know – unfortunately I did NOT get a sneak peek at the new Toy Story Land premiering this month at Hollywood Studios. However, from the sounds of it, it is sure to be true to Disney form and offer fun and excitement for everyone.
I did get to experience the newest attraction since I had been there last, which was Pandora – The World of Avatar, located in the Animal Kingdom park. If you have not been, this is something you will want to experience both in the daytime and at night. It is truly an immersive experience that leaves you forgetting you are in Disney!
One of the main focuses of my trip this time was to check out all the updates for the resorts. In an effort to stay up to date and modern, the Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club Resort, Pop Century, Coronado Springs and several resorts in the Disney Springs have all recently or are about done with renovations (this is not a complete list, just the resorts I was able to visit on this trip). Some of the biggest changes include increasing space in the rooms by reducing oversized furniture, making changes to reduce allergens and updating bedding.
Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) has several new attractions as well as dining and shopping options, as well as some options for resorts if you are looking for accommodations off the actual Disney properties. These locations still give you benefits such as transportation to the parks, and advanced reservations for dining and FastPass selections.
One of the most exciting discoveries of the trip is the experience of the Disney VIP Tour Service. This experience is something made for those who want to see and do as much as possible in a short period of time, or would like to enjoy their Disney trip the VIP way. Your group of up to 10 (and it is only YOUR group, you are not combined with other families) experience a personal Disney VIP Tour Guide, the best seats in the house for parades, live shows and nighttime spectaculars, as well as an all-access FastPass for everyone in your group! This also includes transportation for your private group to take Park Hopping to a whole new level! If you have ever wanted to visit all 4 parks in one day this is the only way to do as you also get to skip the front of the park madness and enter all of the parks via the Backstage area.
And stay tuned, there are more fun and exciting announcements coming, including Star Wars!
Disney can be a wonderful family vacation with the opportunity make so many memories! But it can also be overwhelming and confusing to make reservations, so give Creative Vacations a call to help you make sure it is a “magical” time for you and your family!
Join Creative Vacations over the next three weeks as our Travel Consultants share their insights from recent trips they have taken. Today we hear from Michaela!
Twenty-three years ago, a younger Michaela stepped foot in France, and it changed her forever. My love affair with travel, seeing the world and wanting to make travel dreams come true for others started right then and there. Standing in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, tears in my eyes, I knew what I was going to do when I "grew up."
Fast forward to now, and I had the opportunity to experience a river cruise with U by Uniworld sailing The Seine Experience. While I have been to several parts of France before, river cruising would give me a different point of view, and a new way to experience this beautiful country. River cruises give you the opportunity to dock in the center of most destinations, letting you step off the ship and easily see the way the locals live. The small group tours give you a chance to see and do things that larger groups are not able. And just imagine waking up, rolling over and watching the countryside of France sail by every morning!
April 28 - Upon our arrival in Paris, we boarded the B, got checked in and ventured out to walk to the Eiffel Tower. Strolling along the Seine we saw the Statue of Liberty (this quarter scale version was given to France from the USA to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution) and several interesting and beautiful bridges. Walking up the steps of the Pont d'lena, BOOM, La Tour Eiffel! Such a breath-taking site. This was my third visit and it never, ever gets old! After walking a bit more, grabbing a bite to eat we watched the Eiffel Tower *sparkle* (such a cool thing to see!) and then headed back to the ship to settle in and get ready for the rest of the cruise.
April 29 - Today we arrived in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Our included tours started a bit later, so we got to sleep in a little. That is another benefit of river cruising, time. You have time to choose how you want to spend the time and where you want to go on your own outside of the included tours. With port in a central location, there are so many options! Prior to our tour to Versailles we explored a local flower shop (the smell was heavenly!) and saw some of the local ruins. Europe is a great place for history buffs, they take such pride in their history, and work hard to preserve so much of their historical features while still making progress! The Versailles tour let you tour the gardens and Marie Antoinette's Petite Trianon. We opted to wander the left gardens and saw the dancing water that is set to music. It was lovely, and I could have stayed and watched all day, but our tour of the Petite Trianon was starting so we headed off. After that tour we arrived back at the ship with some time to wander before departure. We found the Bateaux Chocolate, and when you see a Chocolate Boat, you have to go to the Chocolate Boat! It was a perfect afternoon treat before getting back on board to set sail to Rouen.
April 30 - There are things that even the best Travel Consultant can't control - the weather being one of them. Today we woke up in the historic town of Rouen, and Mother Nature decided to not only "rain on our parade" but snow! But one thing we can control is how flexible our plan was, so we opted out of the walking tour this morning and spent some time onboard in a "room with a view" with the hope the weather would get better for our tour in the afternoon. It did indeed so we ventured out and explored the Giant clock, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen and the Joan of Arc museum. Another quick (and yummy) bite to eat at a local restaurant and supermarket, then back to the ship for dinner and to get ready for our Rouen Pub Crawl. Enjoying a cherry lambic and Belgian Duvel (or two!) made for a wonderful chance to meet new friends and fun evening in Rouen! Back to our home away from home on this late night to settle in and get ready for another amazing adventure tomorrow!
May 1 - Mother Nature played nice today and gave us a beautiful day four our walking tour of Honfleur. Unfortunately, is was May Day which is a bank holiday in France, so the Victor Hugo Museum and museum of the Seine were both closed. However, the sun was shining, birds were chirping and this charming area is now added to the list of "places I can see myself living." Known for their mussels, caramels and cider, it just invited us to explore and indulge. A walking tour of the waterfront and church, tasty lunch outside topped with cider and then it was time to do a little shopping and head back to the bus to return to the ship. Our ride took us over the Normandy Bridge, and cool sight to see. Once back in Claudebec we explored some more, and then returned to the ship for dinner. Afterward it was still daylight, so we grabbed some blankets and curled up on the top deck to watch this little slice of France slip away as we sailed to our next destination. A first for me, we spent some time in the "silent disco" which was definitely a unique experience!
May 2 - This may or may not have been the most anticipated day of my trip! I love all things Monet, and today, on my birthday, I get to tour the real-life paintings (ie Monet's gardens) and his famous pink and green home. The day could not have been more perfect. I slept in. I took an amazing painting class where I did water lilies with the Japanese Bridge. I took a bike ride to GIVERNY. It took my third trip to France to be able to see this bucket list item for me, and it was absolutely amazing. Yes, even travel consultants have bucket lists! It was truly amazing walking through the paintings I have collected most of my life. After the bike ride return we wandered a little more, enjoyed dinner and more chocolate goodies (it is my birthday after all!) and then called it a night, going to sleep having had an absolutely fantastic birthday!
Days like today are why I do what I do. I LOVE helping people experience those kinds of moments for themselves. It's what started me on this path all those years ago and still keeps me wanting to see what's around the next bend.
May 3, 4, 5 - Bonjour again Paris! The ship docks and becomes your floating hotel as you can explore all that Paris (and surrounding areas) has to offer. We took in museums, including my favorite - l'Orangerie Museum- with Monet's large nympheas beauties. It makes me want to spin around and dance, but I contained myself. Mostly. We went to the Louvre, wandered the Tuileries, toured Notre Dame and wandered, ate and just enjoyed being in this amazing city. We did check out of the B and spent some time in the Victoria Palace Hotel, which is beautiful and quite a way to experience a night (or more!) in Paris. Alas, it has to come to an end at some point, so after an amazing 8 days we headed to the airport and back to our families. We may be leaving Paris, but Paris will never leave us. France, you never disappoint. Ever.
MORE PICTURES! This is just a small sampling of the pictures I took, and not a single one does the trip justice. Call me to start planning your own river cruise today!
Our trip was a full immersion and “People to People” cruise. This type of tour gives you an in depth look at how the people of Cuba live. The opportunity to experience their day to day lives, their history, the beauty of the land and culture, before it becomes “Americanized.” This trip was something we would do again in a heartbeat!
The culture of Cuba is like no other – they have so little, yet are so thankful, happy and full of hope. The island has so much history - most areas are very old, and with the economy being so poor, the buildings are almost all in desperate need of repair.
The music (there is music everywhere!), dancing, art - there was just so much to see and do, we couldn’t get enough. All the while, we felt extremely safe, whether it was wandering the streets and exploring or riding in one of the old cars for a guided tour (which we strongly recommend!) The driver for our tour gave us the opportunity to stop and explore or take pictures, all the while filling us in on the history of each landmark. The arranged tours (which are part of the requirement to visit Cuba) were wonderful, and overnighting in port on the ship gave us the chance to experience the food and nightlife, combined to give the true feel of experiencing life in Cuba.
This is truly a trip to remember, and one anyone interested should make before the true beauty is replaced with a more “touristy” feel!
Our cruise was a family cruise to celebrate a milestone birthday!
After departing Miami and sailing overnight, we arrived in Havana! As required, we departed the ship for our tour. After our first stop we had a couple of block walk back to the bus. The buildings are surreal, we were so struck by the architecture. Historic beauty and old world style, stuck in an island paradise time warp. The doorways, the tiles, the details.
There was live music, shops and courtyards to take it all in. Add in the friendly people and it was not only breath taking, but felt completely safe.
One advantage of cruising with Norwegian is their kid’s club. We were able to check the kids in for a fun and exciting night, and then leave the ship for “date night” in Havana for my birthday! After more wandering and sightseeing we ended up on the Malecon, watching the people and cars. After a while we walked back the other direction and ended up at the bar in Dos Hermanos, enjoying a few drinks and the live music (did we mention it is everywhere?)
Our second day in Havana did not disappoint. We decided on a guided tour and found a super friendly and knowledgeable guide driving an old Packard and we were off. He focused on our requests and helped guide us to the sights we wanted to see most. Well worth the time and money to see Cuba this way! There are no billboards, no giant burger joint signs, no mega stores or coffee chains. This was the Havana we wanted to see, before the Americans bring all the commercialized things to this beautiful city it seems time has forgotten.
Another day over, back to the ship for a private island beach day and then return home.
The latest life changing adventure is in the books, now where to next?
To be honest, I had envisioned myself cruising along the Italian coastline rather than traveling through the country by motor coach. The mode of transportation did give me pause...on a bus...for a week...but, this was a great itinerary to see an amazing place. So, off I went, packing my hesitations with me. When I arrived in Rome, the Globus experience "touched" me immediately in the airport. After a quick trip through customs and baggage claim, I saw a Globus representative holding a sign for me before I even had time to think about what I had to do next. There is nothing better than having someone waiting for you when you step off a long international flight into a foreign country.
The first full day was an early one so we could gain early entry into the Vatican museum before the crowds arrived. It was worth it. When our tour was done (a couple of hours later) I glanced back at the entrance to see a line that looked to be at least a mile long. Nick, our Tour Director, was great at pointing out which shops were the best and warned us to not buy any religious items claiming to already be blessed by the Pope because that was not allowed. Instead, a few shops around the square will have your items blessed after your purchase them and deliver them to your hotel. A fantastic insider tip from Nick!
The Coliseum and Forum were next on the list. Our local guide was able to arrange for us to enter the Coliseum down the same path the Gladiators walked. Once inside, we were able to spend about 15 minutes "on stage" to appreciate the view and grandeur of this nearly 2,000 year old structure. These little extra experiences are a trademark of Globus. By 1p.m., we were back on the motor coach and headed to the hotel for an afternoon of free time.
I spent the afternoon wandering the streets of Rome, eating delicious local pizza and gazing upon The Parthenon, The Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. I could not believe I managed to see all the major sights in one day.
The trip to Pompeii was a two plus hour drive from Rome, and unfortunately, on the way, there was a traffic accident which added time to our trip. In an instant, Nick was able to call ahead and rearrange our entry time. This was critical so we wouldn't be mixed in with the large cruise crowds that often descend upon the ruins. Another great plus of traveling this way. At the same time, Jennifer from Globus and Nick had decided that a drive to Positano would be a much better experience for our group than a day in Naples. Without any fuss, Jennifer and Nick made this change seamlessly (including arrangements for a drive along the Amalfi coast). The change was met with overwhelming applause.
In Pompeii, we met another well-versed local guide. I began to understand why it's so important to not just have a Tour Director, but also local guides if you really want to learn about your destination. These guides are experts in their subjects and they are completely devoted to your group. The time in Pompeii was just enough to feel you had a good understanding of what happened here.
Sorrento was a short drive away. It's a beautiful, small Italian town filled with delicious scenery and even more delicious gelato and limoncello. Nick arranged for us to visit a local shop where beautiful inlaid wood was being created by a sixth generation craftsman, then we were treated to a private gelato making and tasting - thanks to a friend of Nick's who owned a gelato shop.
Our next adventure was driving along the Amalfi Coast to Positano. I am so thankful we were able to do this. While the drive is a little nerve-racking if you don't like heights, it was thrilling to me. The scenery cannot be matched. We had time to walk down to the beach and enjoy Prosecco in a seaside eatery.
The great part about having as a stop on your itinerary is you get to slow down. Spending time in the countryside is vastly different than the feeling of the big city of Rome. I appreciated the lazy breakfasts and lingering dinners that Globus arranged. Strolling the streets of Alberobello to admire the unique cylindrical houses called "truilli" gave you a sense of another time. Nick came through once again - he knew a man in the town who would let you tour his truilli home. Stepping inside the little house that looked like it came from a fairy tale was a treat, but listening to the man who lived there talk about raising a family inside that little beehive structure was truly memorable!
Traveling with Globus allowed me to see a lot more of Italy than I would have been able to do on my own. On my first full day in Rome I visited The Vatican, the Coliseum, the Forum, the Parthenon, the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
It's great to have someone else handle the challenges. The Globus Tour Director will make sure your group is accommodated if there are unexpected delays or changes (horrible Roman traffic) and you never have to worry about it!
The "extras" that Globus arranges (the craftsman, gelato tasting, truilli homeowner) are the experiences you remember forever.
The Globus motor coach is a beautiful thing. I was able to travel comfortably from place to place, with Wi-Fi, which helped me feel rested and relaxed.