Review of Sydney, Australia

Sydney Harbour Skyline Panorama At TwilightHi, my name is Ann Jackson. I work on the Corporate Travel team in Fox World Travel’s Oshkosh office. I recently took a trip to Sydney, Australia. Although I am not a travel agent, I received expert advice for planning this trip from our Australia travel agents. I would like to share my unforgettable experience with you!

Our Hotel was the Travelodge Wynyard. It was an average hotel, but the location was perfect.  They had a shower and bathroom in the fitness center, so we were able to shower and freshen up before venturing out to explore.  We found out there was a charge for using the Internet at the hotel, but we discovered that it was free at the McDonalds down the block.

Sydney is one of the cleanest most beautiful cities that I have ever been to.  There are parks everywhere, no wires above ground, and everyone was extremely friendly.

We were close to Circular Quay, so we decided to take a ferry over to Darling Harbor.  An adorable little 9-year-old boy decided to be our tour guide on the ferry ride.  We fell in love with his Aussie accent and wish he could have spent more time with us.

Darling Harbor was a wonderful area.  There were shops, cafes, restaurants, outdoor entertainment, the Sydney Aquarium, and the Maritime Museum.  We took in the atmosphere and then walked about a mile to the Fish Market.  This was an awesome experience.  There were numerous fish markets where you could purchase any type of seafood.  They would cook it for you if you’d like and there was a large “food court” where you could sit and eat your meal.

On our second day we decided to take the “Hop-on, Hop-off Again bus” to become more familiar with the area.  I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed.  Rather than having a Tour Guide narrating, they played a tape which didn’t match up with where we were at.  We were able to jump off at Paddington Market to do a little shopping.  It is said to be the launching pad for many of Australia’s most famous fashion designers and the place to find quality contemporary art, crafts and fashion.  The actual designers and artists are the ones you make your purchases from and talking with them was an awesome experience (and, of course, I could have purchased everything I saw.  (“Only if…….”)

Our next stop was Bondi Beach to watch the surfers.  The beach was beautiful.  They don’t allow food or drink on the beach, so it remains very clean.  We enjoyed watching children practice surfing in their bright colored clothing with endless energy.  It was warm, sunny, and entertaining.

Today we decided to buy a 7 day pass.  For a reasonable fee, the pass covered the train, ferry and bus.  Basically we could get anywhere with our pass.  With our newly acquired pass we jumped on a ferry to Manly.  It was a beautiful ferry ride.  Manly Beach rivals Bondi.  As it got later in the day we walked across the street to an old hotel that now houses a bar/restaurant with live entertainment.  We met some very nice people and enjoyed listening to a great band.

The next day we took a tour up to the Blue Mountains.  Our Tour Guide really did remind me of “Crocodile Dundee”.  Our first stop was a Nature Reserve which was a great experience.  We were able to feed kangaroos, pet Koalas, and took pictures of beautiful birds and bat-foxes.

It also happened to be an extremely foggy day, so we were not able to see the “Three Sisters”, but we were able to walk through the rainforest in the valley.  We also took the gondola over the rainforest.  On the way back to Sydney we stopped in a small village and learned about the Aborigine culture.

The next morning we explored the Opera House and the Botanical Garden.  We also had an exceptional meal at Mr. Wrong’s.  There was a great mall right across the street from our hotel in the lower levels of a business high-rise.  There were all sorts of ethnic foods and everyone congregated here to eat lunch.

The Rocks, Sydney’s oldest suburb and historic heart, was once a slum.  We loved exploring some of the old pubs and listening to the bartenders tell us about the ghosts that haunted their establishments.  From this area we could walk up to the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and walk to the middle of the bridge for a breath-taking view of Sydney.

On our last day, I didn’t think we could top our previous days.  We decided to ferry out to Watson’s Bay to have fish and chips at Doyle’s, one of the oldest establishments in Sydney.  The food was unbelievable.  We spent the rest of the day walking around the Gap, a cliff-top path and outlook.  We also relaxed on a quiet beach.

All in all this was one of the best trips in my life.  The people were fantastic, the city was beautiful, modern and very clean, there was a great deal to see and the views were spectacular. I would highly recommend one of our Australia travel agents to assist you with your vacation planning. They were truly a great help!

Tips and Advice for River Cruising

Spend less time getting there and more time immersed in the experience! River cruising is becoming more popular every year. Our travel agents specializing in river cruises will help you get to the heart of a region where you’ll discover its history, culture, and sights by river cruise. Board your intimate ship and settle in for a gentle sail down one of the world’s popular waterways throughout Europe, Asia, Egypt or South America.

New river cruise ships are being built and launched at a record pace. While this is great news for prospective river cruise passengers, it can make the planning a bit overwhelming. Let the experienced travel agents at Fox World Travel guide you through the process of selecting the perfect river, cruise line, ship and itinerary. Their knowledge regarding ship design, destinations, inclusions and shore excursions will ensure that the river cruise you choose will give you stories to share for a lifetime.

River Cruise Tips and Advice from Our SpecialistsRiver Cruise Advice and Tips

Attend all of the informational sessions/lectures offered onboard. They are extremely interesting and give you valuable information on the areas you are visiting. There is no additional cost for these and you don’t have to spend the time reading a book to gain this knowledge!
Alana Magestro, Travel Specialist

On Spring and Fall cruises, pack a couple of scarves (men & women). They add a little extra warmth if needed and are very fashionable in Europe.
-Colleen Alsberg, Tour Manager

Read about and research every port of call on your river cruise itinerary, it will help you make the best of your free time. I also recommend trying the local specialties along the way I will never forget the beer or sausage in Austria.
Sue Mischler, Travel Specialist.

The check-in procedure is so easy compared to big ship check-in. You can arrive at 11:00 am, and get right on and check-in. I highly recommend river cruising as a new experience for those who enjoy big ship cruising!
Kathi Madison, Travel Specialist

If possible, leave a day or two early so you are acclimated to the time zone and not tired when you start your cruise.
Sue Mischler, Travel Specialist

2014 Group River Cruises

Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River
Hosted by Rose Gray – March 1-17, 2014
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
7 Day Tour & 7 Day River Cruise
Uniworld’s River Orchid
Tulips and Windmills Through Netherlands and Belgium
April 9-19, 2014
Amsterdam to Antwerp
Uniworld’s River Duchess
Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches
September 8-16, 2014
Avalon’s Creativity
Paris to Paris
Amsterdam and Castles Along the Rhine River
Hosted by Rose Gray
October 16-26, 2014
Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette
Amsterdam to Basel

River Cruise Companies

Our travel agents work with a number of river cruise lines and recommend cruise lines based on the travel preferences and lifestyles of our clients.  Our most popular river cruise lines are Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and Viking River Cruises.  No two cruise lines are alike and we want to be sure you cruise with the company that is going to fit your travel style!

THE DANUBE

Spanning across all of Central and Eastern Europe, the Danube passes through 10 countries and 4 capital cities. Just imagine the unique experience of sampling the wonderful diversity of food, architecture, history and traditions that you’ll discover along the way. A Danube cruise brings you an East-meets-West experience unlike any other river can.

THE MAIN

Quaint. Quiet. Quintessential Germany. That’s what a Main cruise delivers. The river takes its time winding leisurely through some of Germany’s most visually stunning regions. And along the way, it passes by everything that embodies Europe’s charm – medieval villages, fabled forests, and hilltop castles and churches.

THE RHINE

Winding through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Europe – the Rhine is known as the romantic river. Think hillsides dotted with castles and fortresses, cobblestoned medieval villages, cuckoo clocks, and the legendary Black Forrest – the setting of the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm.

THE MOSELLE

As your cruise enters the Moselle, the Rhine’s peaceful little sister, you’ll be met with a picturesque setting that’s one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. The river is also an absolute must for anyone with an appreciation of wine. Lush vineyards line the hillside banks, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample the local vintages.

THE SEINE

A journey down the Seine features two of the primary reasons visitors are drawn to France – art and history. Historians will take a trip back in time as they sail, enjoying glimpses far back into antiquity, the Middle Ages, and even the most critical moments of World War II. Art lovers will be equally thrilled, seeing firsthand both the works and the inspiration of France’s most celebrated artists.

THE RHÔNE AND SAÔNE

Famous wines, rich cuisine and breathtaking beauty. A cruise from Burgundy to Provence along the Rhône and Saône Rivers combines them all – creating the perfect indulgence for all your senses. This is perhaps the most famous wine-making region in the world, home to Chardonnay and Beaujolais wines.

THE YANGTZE

Travel to China, and you feel like you’re stealing a glimpse of another world. The country’s diverse landscapes and ancient traditions are nothing short of mystical. Take in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the mammoth Great Wall or the mesmerizing Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an. Or see spectacular Shanghai, Tibet and Hong Kong.

THE NILE

A journey along the Nile river takes you back to the beginnings of civilization itself, flowing past 5,000 years of history, along the fertile soil that birthed the Pharaohs and allowed one of the world’s greatest cultures to thrive.

THE GALÁPAGOS

For nature lovers, a visit to the extraordinary Galápagos Islands is an absolute must. The remarkable flora and fauna waiting to be discovered are some of the most pristine and unaffected on Earth. Made famous as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, the 13 volcanic-rock islands offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity for travelers.

THE AMAZON

Embark on a journey to one of the world’s vastly unexplored regions, the mighty Amazon. Experience the Amazon wilderness where it originates in Peru. The Amazon Basin covers an area larger than Western Europe, but it’s in Peru’s Amazon where biodiversity is at its greatest and the rainforest is untamed.

THE MEKONG

Making its way from the mountain plateaus of Tibet to the South China Sea, the Mekong river is the common thread that connects Southeast Asia’s tapestry of colorful cultures. Explorers will delight in the mix of languages, lifestyles and traditions.

River Cruise Specials

Visit this page for the most up-to-date special offers for river cruises.

Alana’s Trip to China – Part #2

PART 2 – Continued from Alana Magestro‘s Trip to China – Part #1 Blog Post

Alana continues on her journey exploring China… After breakfast we left to visit the Temple of Heaven.  Built between 1420 and 1606, this Alana at the Great Wall of Chinacomplex of buildings covers 273 hectares, representing the pinnacle of Ming and Qing architecture.  It is three times the size of the Forbidden City. It is a place where the emperors of these dynasties went to worship heaven and pray for good weather and abundant harvests.  There is a Palace of Abstinence where the emperor would go to fast prior to the Heaven Worship Ceremony.  In 1988 the Temple of Heaven was opened to the public as a park.  This is a place where you can see the local Chinese residents practicing multiple forms of exercise, martial arts, singing, dancing, playing cards, or dominoes and making crafts.

We drove past the famous “Birds Nest” where most of the track and field events took place during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  It is right by the Crown Plaza Beijing hotel.  The meaning behind the design was “cradle of the future”.

Next we visited the Arts & Craft Group Pearl Trading Co. They showed us a live oyster, cracked it open and released the treasure within.  Do you know how many pearls are in an oyster?  I had heard as was the belief of many in my group that it was only one.  The oyster they opened for us had 22!  It varies from oyster to oyster.  The Chinese freshwater pearl has become almost as popular as the Japanese Akoya pearl.  Pink and purple/grey pearls are unique to China.  This particular store that Brendan visits authenticates all of their pearls so you don’t need to worry about a fake.  The true test is if you rub the pearl against your tooth it will be gritty.  This is another unique outing of the Brendan Boutique Journey’s.

We continued on to the Brickyard Eco Retreat, where Brendan Vacations guests will stay one night before visiting the Great Wall.  We didn’t have the liberty to stay here, but we did an inspection of this very unique eco-friendly resort and also had lunch at one of their restaurants a short walk from the property.  This is a 25 room award-winning sustainable tourism luxury lodge and retreat.  All rooms have a view of the Great Wall, complimentary wireless internet access, rainforest showers, hair dryers, iPod docking station and alarm clocks.  There is a spa, outdoor Jacuzzi, small fitness center, meeting rooms and activities offered.

After an awesome lunch at their Xiaolumian noodles restaurant, we headed to the highlight of Beijing, the Great Wall.  Construction of the wall started in 221 BC and wasn’t completed until 1644.  It was built mainly during the three dynasties – Qin Dynasty (221 B.C to 206 B.C), Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D) and Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D – 1644 A.D). It was built bit by bit throughout these dynasties and eventually joined together.  It is the only man-made object visible from the moon. The wall is over 13,000 miles long stretching from the Gobi Desert in the west to Shanhaiguan near the China Sea in the east.  The purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Also, the defensive characteristics of the wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities, through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.  The Badaling section is the most popular and the most crowded.  We visited the Mutianyu section which has fewer tourists, spectacular views and is made with some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth’s surface.  After an uphill trek to the launch of the cable cars, we continued up to the top on the cable car.  This would be an impossible task for those that are not in good health or have trouble walking.  It was without a doubt the highlight of my trip.

Due to extreme traffic, we arrived at the Marriott Hotel City Wall late and had a rushed inspection and dinner before leaving to make our reservations for a Kung Fu show.  The Marriott is about “5 miles” from the Fairmont, a couple blocks walk to the nearest subway and a great choice for those that that want a central location.  This is a smoke free hotel.  Rooms have wireless internet access, tub and shower, flat-panel TV, DVD player, laptop-sized safe and iPod docking stations.  It has five restaurants, a fitness center, spa, and a ½ Olympic sized pool.  They do charge for breakfast.

The Kung Fu show was not what I thought it was going to be.  It was actually more like a play that incorporated Kung Fu and Tai Chi.  The Shaolin monks performed the show at the Beijing Red Theater.  It was quite enjoyable and an impressive production.

See Part #3 Later this Week for Alana‘s Final Leg of Her Journey Through China!

Alana’s Trip to China – Part #1

Hi, my name is Alana Magestro. I have been at Fox World Travel’s Brookfield office in

Alana in China
Alana in China

Milwaukee for the past 26 years. My personal travels have taken me all around the world to destinations such as the Mexico, Costa Rica, various countries in Europe, along with my most recent trip to China! Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway or an action packed adventure, I am ready to make your vacation one you’ll forever cherish!

Part 1

Fairmont Beijing

I stayed at the Fairmont Beijing, a 5 star luxury hotel in the heart of the capital business center of Beijing. There are two restaurants, three bars, an outdoor pool, fitness center, and spa. All rooms have broadband and wireless high speed internet options, Bose wave radio music systems, Nespresso coffee machines, 42-inch flat screen plasma televisions with wireless keyboards, safety deposit boxes, and refrigerator with mini-bar.  The highlight was the spa-inspired bathroom with heated floors, over sized bathtub, rain shower and heated toilet seats with built in bidet and dryer.  The bathrooms had a glass wall separating it from the main area of the room, but there were blinds that you could close for privacy.

The Fairmont is a short walk from the famous Silk Market which we visited that evening.  This is a great place to do your bargain shopping.  The vendors expect you to haggle; nothing has a price tag on it.  I feel this is part of their daily entertainment. You could find great deals on knockoffs of top brand named merchandise from purses to watches and luggage.  There was plenty of variety from souvenirs to custom made clothing.  USD was accepted here for those that didn’t have Chinese Yuan.  You could exchange currency at the airport or the hotels, and time machines were readily available as well.

The next day we visited the famous Tiananmen Square.  It covers 44 hectares (about 26 soccer fields), reputed as the largest square in the world, and can hold 500,000 people.  This is where Chairman Mao held the founding ceremony of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, proclaiming the birth of New China.  It was later well known as the site of the massacre that took place in June of 1989.  Military troops inflicted thousands of casualties on unarmed student-led protesters trying to block the military’s advance on Tiananmen Square, which the demonstrators had occupied for seven weeks.  The Chinese government refused to admit student killings took place in the square itself and even prohibited all forms of discussion or remembrance of the events within China.  To this day if you Google Tiananmen Square while in China, there is no mention of this historic occurrence.  Our tour guide “Ken” said he purchased a book about it while in the USA so he could learn more about it as the visiting tourist to China frequently asked questions about it.  When he flew back home, it was confiscated when he went through customs.

We continued on to The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace.  This is a maze of palaces built between 1407 and 1420 as the residence of the emperor. It was used from the Ming Dynasty all the way to the end of the Qing Dynasty (almost 500 years).  In total 24 emperors lived in the Imperial Palace.  It ceased being the political center of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor of China.  There are over 9,000 halls and rooms.  It is the largest palace in the world and considered one of mankind’s major cultural legacies.  It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 and listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

After lunch at the Wu Yu Tai restaurant that specializes in cooking with Chinese tea, we took a rickshaw tour of a typical Beijing Hutong.  The word ” hutong” means of narrow lanes and was formed during the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century when the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan, occupied Beijing; then the capital of the Jin Dynasty. During the takeover by the Mongols, the old city had been largely demolished, and so he decided to rebuild the city. When the new city was finished, there were clear definitions of streets, lanes and hutongs. A 36 meter wide road was called a “big street”. An 18 meter wide one a “small street” and a 9 meter wide lane was called a “hutong”. Most of the residents in the hutongs surrounding the Imperial Palace were imperial kinsmen and aristocrats.  Hutongs far to the north and south of the Imperial Palace were for merchants and other ordinary people.  The hutongs of today house typical Beijing people who enjoy a mix of the old and new Beijing lifestyles.  We were in the Drum area of Beijing, where the best preserved Hutongs are located.

As part of Brendan’s Boutique Journey a visit to a local families’ hutong was included.  We met several of the family members and learned about their family life.  They also taught us Chinese calligraphy.  We tried our hand at it and had the opportunity to purchase hand painted wall hangings made by the family.

We had a dinner hosted by the Fairmont that evening.  Typical Chinese meals at a restaurant are served on round tables (as a symbol of unity) and many of them have “lazy Susan’s” built into the table; for ease of serving, you just turn the table to move on to the next dish.  This is also due to a typical meal serving many people at one time.  Peking duck is the Beijing specialty and it was served several times during our three day stay.  Those that like duck raved about it.  Similar to Europe, most Chinese hotels include breakfast, but this can vary by city.  At breakfast they did cater to a “Western” clientele in the chain hotels and had a mix of Chinese staples (dim sum, fish etc…) as well as eggs, fruit and Danish.  There were some very interesting things served throughout our stay (jellyfish, quail eggs, “bean curd with collagen things”, and numerous things that I had never heard of before), but there was always something that the less adventurous eaters could satisfy themselves with as well.  Brendan does a really good job in picking restaurants that cater to both the “Western” and “Eastern” clientele.  There were always chopsticks, but if you wanted a fork and knife all you had to do was ask and they didn’t make you feel like an outcast if you did!

A Review of Riu Palace Macao in Punta Cana

Hi there, my name is Marsha Mulqueen. I have a passion for travel and have been in this industry for the past 15 years in Fox World Travel’s Greenfield office. My specialty is Hawaii having visited 8 hotels recently, but I have toured more than 20 resorts throughout Mexico. I also have traveled abroad to destinations such as Spain, Portugal and France. I truly enjoy finding the right vacation fit for each person!

In November of 2012, I traveled to Punta Cana for 7 nights. We stayed at The Riu Palace Macao, which is now an adults only property.  The Macao is located in the middle of the Riu complex with the Riu Palace Bavaro on one side and the Riu Bambu on the other side.  The Riu Palace Punta Cana is next to the Bambu with the Riu Naiboa behind the Riu Palace Bavaro.   The Riu Naiboa is not located on the beach.  There will be a 10-15 minute walk to the beach depending where on the resort your room is located.  This is a popular resort complex that our Dominican Republic travel specialists mention is a nice option for the traveler looking for a value-property.

The Macao has recently been redone.  The new look is sleek and modern with a lot of white and black.  The rooms were newly painted with bright colored accessories.  It was very nice.  Unlike the other Riu Palace Resorts, all of the rooms at the Macao are not Jr. Suites.  Our room was a standard Riu room with a huge shower and double sinks in the bathroom with the liquor dispensers and a coffee pot and coffee in the room.   Our view was a garden view which I liked since our balcony was private.  The resort rooms are in a horseshoe shape so that the pool and ocean view rooms face the resort. If you are in one of these rooms the balconies are not completely private.   In addition to the standard rooms, there are Superior rooms that are the standard Jr. Suite and there are Jacuzzi Suites, which have the Jacuzzi on the balcony.   The resort is small and easy to navigate.  There are also elevators and ramps for your convenience.

Restaurants:  There are four a la carte restaurants, Krystal (fusion gourmet), Kabuki (Japanese), Pancho (Grill Steakhouse) and Volare (Italian).  Reservations can be made every morning between 7 am and 10 am.  You can make reservations for two days at a time.  The Krystal was our favorite.    There is a main buffet called El Patio which normally serves breakfast, lunch and dinner but during our stay did not serve lunch.  The buffet next to the main pool serves a continental breakfast and lunch every day.   The buffet near the pool housed the Pancho and Volare in the evening.   There is also a small restaurant and bar on the beach that serves hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and desserts from 12Noon until 6pm.  We didn’t mind eating dinner at the main buffet.  The food was very good with lots of choices.     There is also a coffee shop called Capuchino that serves coffee drinks and pastries from 10am until 11pm with self-service of nachos and sandwiches. Other snacks are available 24 hours from a self-serve refrigerator with a microwave.

There were no sports bar at this resort but you can use those facilities at either the Riu Bambu or Riu Naiboa which are nearby.

Bars and Lounges:  There is a lobby bar, Cubano, with live music every evening.  Just off of the lobby bar is what they call the lounge bar– La Boheme that also has evening shows and entertainment.  There is a casino on the property.   There is a huge verandah with cocktail tables, chairs and couches that has wait service during the evening that is very nice.

There is a pool/swim up bar with a small lounge area with tables and chairs.  The swim up bar is in a pool of its own.  There is a main pool also.  There are pool beds around both pools with very comfortable lounge chairs with ample shade.  The beach is beautiful.  There is a stone walk-way from the pool area to the beach and all along the beach going through the Riu properties.    There is an outdoor entertainment complex located half-way between the pool area and the beach.  The resort does not serve premium alcohol but the drinks were good.

The Riu Macao guests can use the facilities at the Bambu and the Naiboa only.  The Macao is exclusive to its guests only.  The other Palace resorts cannot use the Macao facilities.  The Macao guests can use the Spa at the Riu Palace Bavaro as well as the gym.

There is a Caribbean Street next to the Macao which is really very nice.   There is a disco located on the Caribbean Street for all of the Riu resorts to use.  One of the nights during our stay, they had a Caribbean night on the Caribbean Street with bands and entertainment.

I liked the resort and the idea that the Riu Macao is a budget-friendly adults only resort.  There did seem to be many older couples (45+) at this resort.  There were also several groups of singles that did seem to be having a good time.    The resort was very clean and the grounds were very well-kept and the food and service were both very good.  My husband and I have stayed at many Riu resorts along with the Riu Palace Pacifico and we felt that it was the nicest Riu we have been to.

There are also a variety of other amazing resorts in Punta Cana and myself, and any one of our Punta Cana Travel Experts would be happy to help customize your vacation and choose a Punta Cana resort that is right for you! I’d love to help you plan your vacation to Punta Cana.  You can contact me here.

Windstar Cruise Expert – Mediterranean Cruise

Barb in Monte Carlo on Windstar Cruise
Barb in Monte Carlo on Windstar Cruise

Barb Dahl just returned from sailing in the Mediterranean with Windstar Cruises on the luxurious Wind Surf.    It was awesome!  Barcelona, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Portofino and more!! For those that enjoy river cruising, she believes this is the way to see the Mediterranean or the Caribbean!!

Windstar Cruises are small luxurious sailing yachts with a very casual atmosphere.    Outstanding dining.    Only 300 passengers.     You NEVER wait in line for ANYTHING!

Windstar can take you to places the large ships can’t and Barb is confident that many of her clients will be thrilled with the service and experience they receive on a Windstar Cruise.

Windstar will also be sailing to Tahiti in 2014!  Beginning May 2, 2014, Wind Spirit will sail seven-day voyages from Papeete, Tahiti. Wind Spirit will sail a total of 28 voyages in Tahiti, with the last voyage on November 7, 2014, before returning to Panama and Costa Rica for the winter season.

This will be the first time Windstar has returned to the French Polynesia Islands since 2005!

Barb Dahl Sailing on the Wind Surf
Barb Dahl Sailing on the Wind Surf

Barb is one of Fox World Travel’s Europe Specialists and Luxury Travel Experts.  She’d be happy to share her experience sailing on the Wind Surf and also any of her many experiences traveling throughout Europe!

Review of Riu Palace in Aruba

Hi there, my name is Tammy Uecker. I have been at Fox World Travel’s Fond du Lac office for 15 years now. My specialty is in all-inclusive vacations to both Mexico and the Caribbean having traveled there several times. I enjoy using my own personal travel experiences to help customize your dream vacation!       arubapic

When we arrived at the Riu Palace Aruba and checked in (which went quickly), we received an ocean view junior suite room with a full size balcony. Our room was very clean, and we had a wonderful view overlooking the ocean and pools of the resort.

The Riu Palace Aruba has 4 specialty restaurants which we did take advantage of and ate at all four.  The Krystal was the French Restaurant, Sayuri was the Japanese, Milano was the Italian Restaurant, and there was a Grill and Steakhouse. The food and service were excellent and with several good choices on their menus. I was impressed with how good it was because I’m a very picky eater.  My favorite was the Japanese Restaurant. They offered two dining times daily one at 6:30pm or 9:00pm. We opted to do the 9:00pm daily, which had more availability and openings.  In the evening of one of the nights we saw a show at the Riu.  It was okay but I think they could work on this and be more creative. The Sports Bar was a great place to hang out, especially in the evenings. If you’re looking to listen to music or play some pool or foosball this was the place to be. The people are so friendly and very helpful!

The Riu Palace has such a great location, and the beach is gorgeous and the ocean has amazing turquoise water. I really like that you can either take a stroll on the long beach or you can walk the boardwalk all the way down and  check out all the shops and see different resorts or hotels along the way.  For anyone who needs to buy extra items such as sun block, aspirin, energy drinks or any other last minute items needed, I would recommend walking next door to the Westin. They have more selections and they’re half of the cost.

arbuapic2During our stay we booked two excursions through DePalm Tours Aruba. They are very easy to work with and had more tour options than others. On our second last day, we did the Jeep Safari off Road Adventure Tour.  This was by far my favorite.  On our third day, we did a sailing and snorkeling tour on a catamaran for 4 hours.  It was lots of fun and the snorkeling was fantastic—I saw many tropical fish, and the island view was breathtaking. What a great adventure to see the entire island of Aruba and learn the history and cultures as well. We got to see Aruba’s most intriguing sites such as Natural Pools, Aruba National park, churches and the lighthouse.  Moreover, our driver Rock (Yorge) was wonderful. He made the tour—he was so much fun and full of energy.  I would highly recommend this tour to everyone!

Overall, this resort was wonderful, had beautiful grounds, and was well-kept.  I would highly recommend this resort in Aruba to people of all ages!

Review of the Grand Sirenis in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Hi, my name is Debbi Haney. I just celebrated 40 years in the travel industry! My passion for travel has taken me to most of the 50 states, as well as Europe, Bermuda, and many islands Grand Sirenis Reviewin the Caribbean. I also enjoy cruising, having sailed over 30 cruises! I will go beyond your expectations by planning a vacation you will never forget!

On arrival at The Grand Sirenis, our group of 35 was met by Sharon from Apple Vacations. As we disembarked the motor coach we were then greeted by Carlos, (guest manager) who ushered us to the reception area for a beverage and instructions for checking in. I was so impressed with the service and the exceptional efforts on behalf of this resort to really go above and beyond to make this small group feel so welcome!  Because our arrival at the resort was about 12:30 p.m., I found it surprising to find that the majority of the rooms were available for immediate check in.  This too was very impressive, as I had prepared the group for a 3:00 p.m. check in.

The Grand Sirenis is a large All-Inclusive resort comprised of many buildings housing the Junior Suites.  Each building has its own Concierge.  Again, the services provided by the Concierge were over-the-top.  The friendly, eager, and accommodating efforts were commendable.  Fortunately, about 30 of the people were located in building 18 and the other 5 were next door in building 17.  These buildings were the closest buildings to the public areas including the main pool, restaurants, lobby bar, show room, and about a 5 minute walk to the beach.  Each room was well appointed with contemporary furnishings and included a moderate balcony, mini bar (stocked daily) and double Jacuzzi tub.  In-room internet service was available for a fee.  Housekeeping was very efficient and added a daily personal touch by leaving “Towel Creatures” for either our enjoyment, or theirs.  The rooms, the public areas, and the grounds were impeccably clean and appealing.

The Grand Sirenis offered a large pool with a swim up bar in the main public area.  Another pool and Lazy River were also located in the beach area.  A special children’s pool and activity center were also located near the beach area.  I observed the directors in charge of the Children’s area and each of them appeared to be assigned about 5 or 6 children grouped according to ages.  The kids really seemed to be enjoying themselves almost as much as the activity directors.  I had read some reviews that appeared to be unfavorable with regard to the beach area being rocky and small but I didn’t feel that this was the case at all.  The rock formations that dotted the water adjoining the beach were quite scenic and the natural reef offered a wonderful opportunity for off-shore snorkeling. The Spa was located on the outer edge of the property and really required the resort shuttle unless you didn’t mind the 15-20 minute walk.  Each Apple Vacations’ guest was offered a complimentary 30-minute hydro-therapy session, which I thought was a clever way to get the resort guests introduced to the variety of services provided at a nominal fee.  There was also a Disco located on the opposite end of the resort which also required the resort shuttle.  I realized just how old I was getting after 5 minutes of the blasting music that was danced to by patrons that appeared to be younger than my granddaughter!  People were advised not to walk this route at night, but only because of the variety of animals that also enjoyed these paths after dark!

The variety of dining options and entertainment excelled for the 5-Apple Rating of this resort.

The food quality and variety offered at the Ala Carte Dining Restaurants and the Buffets were excellent, as was the service.  The Grand Buffet was transformed into “Snack Heaven” from midnight until 6:00 a.m. and that was in addition to room service that was offered 24/7.  There was a daily beachfront Barbecue offering up burgers, salads, hot dogs, and nachos in addition to the beachfront snack bar that included ice cream.  The bar service was excellent as were the drinks, whether it be the poolside wait staff, or the swim-up bar, or any of the many other bars offered at this resort.

A variety of nightly entertainment began at 8:00 p.m. in the lobby bar which was located just across from the main show room.  This was followed by a nightly show from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. and then live music or Karaoke in the Lobby Bar until 11:00 p.m.  The shows included Grease, Mexican Show, Lion King, Broadway, Comedian, Lip Sync, etc.  Two nights during the week a variety of vendors were brought in selling leather goods, crafts, jewelry, art work, pottery and other wares.  This provided the perfect opportunity for shopping without leaving the resort.

My over-all experience at this resort was beyond my expectations.  The comments from the group were equally impressive.  The service and over-all quality of this resort really does warrant a 5G Rating. This resort offers a great value and is perfectly suited for couples and families of all ages!  I just LOVE group travel and the memories that can be made. I highly recommend considering planning a group trip of your own of friends and family!  All-Inclusives make an especially great location for a group reunion or simple vacation.

Walt Disney World Travel Advice – Disney Theme Parks and Hotels

As Fox World Travel’s E-Marketing Coordinator, I thought I’d share my experience disney-1traveling to Walt Disney World Theme Parks.  I hadn’t been to Orlando since I was about 8 years old, so this was a whole new experience for me leading the way.   We traveled with a 3 year old and 12 year old.  Again, this is just a take on my personal experience, and many travelers have different styles, insights and entertainment ideas. I am so thankful for the Disney planning help I received from our travel agents in the months leading up to our trip, as they really put my mind at ease!

We arrived into Orlando and decided we wanted to collect our luggage vs. using the Disney Express Luggage Service.  This was where it got tricky and confusing.  I recommend researching which terminal the airline you are using flys into before arrive at Orlando International Airport.  We flew Southwest Airlines (one of my favorites) and the Southwest Airlines baggage claim is in terminal “A” on the first floor (we arrived on the 3rd floor in terminal A), but the Disney Express Shuttles are in terminal “B” on the first floor, and you can’t get over there without going back up the elevators to level three and over to terminal “B” and back down to level 1.  If you are traveling with small children and one adult or adult and older child can get away with collecting your luggage at terminal A, I would suggest that you wait with the younger children up on level 3 in between the terminals while someone else gets your luggage from baggage claim. (Just my recommendation now that I’ve done this J)

We arrived to the Pop Century Resort and check-in was a breeze.  This is a value resort and offers free bus transfers to all of the Disney Parks and Downtown Disney. We never had any problems with the transportation and it was super convenient.

RESORT: The Pop Century is one of Disney’s “value resorts”.  There over 2,000 rooms in this hotel and the rooms are very basic.  We had a small refrigerator, flat screen tv and basic amenities, but no coffee maker or microwave.  If you are traveling with a family on a budget and do not mind smaller rooms/accommodations, then this option works.  You cannot fit more than 4 people comfortably in a room though, and if you have older children it might get cramped.  If I could do it over again, I would choose one of Disney’s Moderator or Deluxe hotels.  Overall, the hotel was clean and a nice value  a budget-friendly stay.  We were in the 80s section by the computer pool.  It was convenient for walking to the bus pick-up area, but a little further for food/dining.  I paid the little extra for pool view vs. parking lot view.  The resort is definitely fun to look at and I would take a walk around the hotel and the lake.  The walking trails were so peaceful in the evening while the sun was setting!

FOOD:  We bought refillable mugs for $15 each at our resort (valid only at the resort you are staying).  This worked out well, but it was quite the walk to the food court, so we would always bring one or two with us in our bag to the parks and used them to fill up water in bubblers, etc.  We could then fill up our mugs right away when we returned, as the food court was near the bus pick-up area.

I did not purchase a Disney Dining Plan, so I charged everything onto my Magical Express Resort Card for ease of tracking, etc.  You can use this as a charge card at the resorts and parks and then they bill it to your card at the end or your stay.  I liked this featured.  The food court at our hotel had a nice variety.  Food prices are typical about everywhere we went (resort or parks).  An adult meal was $9-$12 for the quick-dining options like burgers, fries, chicken, etc.  and a kids meal average $5.99.  We brought our own cereal and pb&j for breakfasts, brought our own snacks and ate lunches and dinners at the resort or parks (mostly the resort).  If you do not have the dining plan and plan on charging meals to your “Disney Express Card” I recommend saying you don’t have the dining plan and that you’d like to charge it, otherwise cashiers might assume you have the plan and recommend other items that are included with your “dining meal” but that you’ll end up paying extra for.

PARKS:  We went to Magic Kingdom two days, Hollywood Studios a day, Animal Kingdom a day and scoped out Epcot one night after dinner.  Watching children take in all of the sites and activities really is worth every penny.  The sheer fascination and joy on their faces is something not to be missed.  In general, a lot of the rides are similar concept among the parks, but with different themes.  Each park really did have unique qualities and such different feels.

Magic Kingdom: Two days was necessary to really take in the Magic Kingdom.  I absolutely would recommend seeing the Electrical Parade, castle light show and fireworks at least one night at Magic Kingdom.  We arrived at the parks about 10-15 minutes before they opened each morning and made sure we went on the rides and attractions we wanted to see right away when we got in there.  It really helps to do this with the little kids and started the day off right with little or no wait times and some fun activities before it got too busy and people start getting crabby or tired.  The thrill seekers in our family headed over to the roller coasters or more thrilling rides right away to get their fast passes as many didn’t open until 10 or 11.  Later in the afternoon we would go ride the People Mover in Tomorrowland for a little break, but the kids loved it and it was still a ride with a small wait.

Animal Kingdom:  I recommend hitting up the African Safari right away in the morning.  If you are there when the park opens you pretty much walk right through and have less than a 20 minute wait, and you get to see most of the animals because they are up eating or just got out into the park from their shelters (they are all taken in at night and you can see where they live if you take the train back to Rafiki’s Planet).  The Lion King Show was also excellent here and it was my favorite show at all of the parks.

Hollywood Studios:  The stunt shows were fun to see, I enjoyed Disney Junior Live because I’m used to watching these shows and we got to meet quite a few of the Pixar characters that you wouldn’t see at the other parks such as Jake from The Netherland Pirates, Handy Manny, and The Incredibles.  This was a good park for us to go to the first day because it wasn’t overly packed, was more relaxing and didn’t overwhelm the kids too much, but still had a ton of fun stuff to do and the stunt shows were nice to watch.  We all enjoyed the Toy Story Mania ride, which again is one to hit up right away in the morning.

Epcot: We were only at Epcot one night, but it was nice for us adults to see the World Market and meet some characters when lines were short.  It was actually a pretty cool place and relaxing for a night stroll!  If we would have gone as just adults, I would have loved to dine in one of the restaurants for a nice evening out.

Having now been to Walt Disney World and Six Flags, I do want to note some key differences.  Disney really isn’t for “thrill-seekers” who are looking for roller coasters and adrenaline rushes.  Most of the rides are the same among the different parks, but with different themes.  There were a few smaller roller coasters and rides that catered to older children and adults, but not as many as I thought.  Disney is more about the characters and theatrics.  We went to a lot of 3-D shows, stunt shows, performances and the basic rides that take you through “scenes” from movies.

A few of my recommendations:

  • Utilize and recommend the My Disney Experience Iphone/Android App!  This is a must.  It syncs to your online account, has a list of each parks events and schedules for the day, notes when parks open early, has a map with GPS on your phone (points out where you are in the park and where you want to go), wait times and more! LOVED LOVED LOVED it.
  • We got there about 10 to 15 minutes before the parks opened and just went and did some of the key rides we knew we wanted to hit up before 30+ minute waits.
  • We ate lunch around 11-11:30.  I couldn’t believe how much the parks filled up by 11 and we didn’t ever have the patience to try and tackle lunch during the noon hour.  It truly is unbelievable how many people are in the vicinity of these parks.  It’s during the noon time that everything starts getting packed.
  • With a 3-year old, we found that going back to the resort around two for a nap and then going back to the parks was our best option for a nice night.  This was especially key on the days we went back to Magic Kingdom for the fireworks and Electric Parade.
  • Pack breakfast if you don’t have the dining plan. Saves money and gives you the opportunity to get going and moving to the parks early.
  • This Chicco travel stroller was the best investment ever. So simple to carry on and off the buses, lightweight, but sturdy and a life saver.
  • Review which terminal your flight comes into at Orlando Airport and remember that The Disney Express Shuttle is on the first floor of terminal B and you can’t get over to terminal B from terminal A by the first or second floor.  You will have to go back up to the third floor and back down.

All in all we had a great trip to Disney and it was a nice balance of activities and entertainment for all of our age groups. I do highly highly recommend working with one of Fox World Travel’s travel agents who specialize in Disney Vacations.  Fox World Travel is an authorized Disney Vacation planner and there are so many differences between the Disney hotels alone that are worth looking into and considering. Where you stay can make all the difference in time, stress and comfort, and I would recommend looking at a Moderate or Deluxe option if possible.  In addition, they offered me some nice “dining tips” as far as the best restaurants at parks and other time-saving ideas.

Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River – 2014

March 1 – March 17, 2014
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City | 15 Days
Aboard the River Orchid, Hosted by Rose Gray
With Airfare from Chicago O’Hare

There can be no more striking cultural contrast between bustling Vietnam and the tranquility of Cambodia. From Ho Chi Minh City, through the Mekong Delta so rich in human life and endeavor, to the diverse countryside of Cambodia, you’ll discover two countries, two cultures, and two ways of life linked by one river, the Mekong, that have shaped these nations.

Join Rose Gray, host of 620 WTMJ’s Fox World Travel Show on a WTMJ listener river cruise through Vietnam, aboard Uniworld’s new River Orchid. Traveling March 1-17, 2014, we’re excited to take our first group ever to this exciting destination. This is a can’t miss vacation!

Click Here for complete details

Vietnam River Cruise
Vietnam River Cruise