Signature Travel Network’s Educational Journey to South Africa with Rose Gray

Signature Travel Network’s Educational Journey to South Africa Sponsored by South African Airways and African Travel ~ March 1 – 12, 2015 Rose Gray

March 2 – Our adventure began as we flew from JFK to Johannesburg in Business Class and then JNB to Cape Town in Economy Class on South African Airways. The front-facing business class seats were configured 2 x 2 x 2 and reclined fully into a flat bed. The mattress pads, full size pillows and duvets made the seats/flat beds very comfortable.  The latest movies and TV shows were available on demand on a personal twelve inch screen. Ala carte dining was offered as well as a selection of South African wines; both were quite good.

March 3 – Upon arrival in CPT, we were met and transferred to our hotel,  Resort 1Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.  Due to our delayed flight, we would be staying one night which was unfortunate because it would have been nice to take advantage of all that this luxury hotel has to offer. The hotel has six individual accommodation wings, each with its own unique character, private gardens and facilities. The 201 spacious rooms and suites are individually decorated.

Mount Nelson rooms_02 Junior Suite1My deluxe junior suite was located in the Helmsley, one of three buildings that were acquired, restored and converted into guest accommodations in 1996.  It was the site of the first Jewish Synagogue in Cape Town.

Fun Fact – Cape Town was the hottest place on earth on March 3, the day we arrived; 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Dassie
Dassie

After freshening up, we were transferred to the cable car which would transport us to the top of Table Mountain. We were lucky to have been able to experience Table Mountain on this day, as there were wildfires that were still burning which had caused the cable car to stop operating several days prior to our arrival. We spent about an hour hiking, enjoying the views, and checking out the wildlife including lizards and dassies, a cute little African rodent (dassie translates to badger in Dutch).

March 4 – After an early breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and had an orientation tour of Cape Town.  After lunch we took a tour to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years in prison. This prison 2island is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Access to the island is via ferry from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The tour was quite moving as all guides are former political prisoners and their stories and commentary contributed to the experience. Photos and stories hung on many of the cell walls, describing the inmate who occupied that cell and his “crimes”.  It was especially emotional to see the narrow cell where Mandela spent 18 years and the limestone quarry where he and his fellow prisoners worked in the hot sun.

We were scheduled to have an afternoon free, however, Thompson’s Africa was able to re-schedule the helicopter ride that we were supposed to have on our first day, so we transferred to the V & A Waterfront where we all enjoyed a 15 minute helicopter flip and got a bird’s eye view of the sights and grandeur of Cape Town.

resort 2Next we were transferred to the One and Only Cape Town, our accommodations for the next two nights. This unique 5 Star hotel is truly an urban waterfront resort in the heart of Cape Town’s V & A Waterfront. The Marina Rise is a seven-story resort which affords marvelous views of Table Mountain and Signal Hill from spacious rooms and suites. Or you can choose to stay in one of the 40 Island Suites which are

March 5 – After breakfast, our Thompson Tour Guide, Michael and driver, Wally, collected us for a spectacular day of touring and exploring the pristine coastline and quaint towns of pn“The Fairest Cape”. We drove past the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton and then made our way along the coast, past Bakoven and Llandudno to the charming fishing village of Hout Bay, a functioning harbor and the heart of the local crayfish industry. Here we boarded a boat to Duiker Island to view the Cape Fur Seal colony. From here, we traveled to Chapman’s Peak Drive and then on to Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve where we spotted mountain zebra, bontebok (a South African antelope) and baboons. Next we visited the beautiful Boulders Beach where we spent time observing and photographing the colony of penguins there.

Our next stop was The Flagship.  This unusual four bedroom B & B is known for its fabulous interactive seafood lunch which we were fortunate enough to enjoy. Chef Bruce Robertson was known for his support of sustainable fishing and the new host, Duncan Doherty who took over after Chef Bruce’s recent passing, is carrying on in that same way. This truly was one of the most memorable and delicious meals that I have enjoyed in my lifetime.

12A-Accom-Presidential-002-1400x568After lunch, we returned to the One and Only Hotel where we had just enough time to freshen up before departing for The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa for a site inspection, “sundowners” (the South African equivalent of happy hour) and dinner. This Red Carnation Hotel features two swimming pools, a sixteen seat cinema, a helipad, fitness room, complimentary wifi throughout and complimentary shuttle service to the V & A Waterfront.  There are 70 rooms here ranging from Classic Rooms to One Bedrooms Suites and they are all elegantly appointed.

March 6LaR_room11_021After breakfast and check out, we traveled through the beautiful wine lands to the charming town of Stellenbosch. We took a walking tour of this old university town which the tourist board offered called Bites and Sites.  This was a great way to see the town and to sample some of the great food and wine offered here. Then it was on to Franschhoek Valley and La Residence (one of the hotels in The Royal Portfolio collection), our home for the next two nights, situated on a 30 acre estate. We arrived in time for lunch. Each one of the sixteen suites is uniquely decorated with its own theme and color scheme. La Residence also enjoys a reputation for its superb cuisine and this reputation is richly deserved. Both lunch and dinner were exceptional and the wine pairings were outstanding.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Rose’s South African Adventure to be posted next week!

Fox World Travel Celebrates 55 Years of Success

Harold Juedes
Harold Juedes
In five and a half decades Fox World Travel has grown from one travel agency location founded by Harold H. Juedes in 1960, to an award-winning, full-service travel agency with 11 locations throughout Wisconsin.  The company owes its longevity to innovative strategies, staying abreast in technological advances, and their travel experts who are constantly striving to live up to the company motto, “Find-a-Way.”Fox has operated under their mission to build long-lasting relationships with travel customers through exceptional service and mutually beneficial partner relationships.  The company also strives to create a great work experience for associates and exhibit passion, integrity, and pursuit of perfection in everything they do.Through new business development, organic growth and acquisitions, Fox World Travel has earned the distinction of being one of the most respected travel companies in the Midwest and ranked among the top 20 of more than 20,000 travel management companies across the nation. About Fox World Travel, Inc.:Fox World Travel was founded in 1960 and is ranked as top travel agency in the United States, according to the Business Travel Survey in Business Travel News.  Fox World Travel owns and operates 11 retail travel locations throughout Wisconsin as well as a full service corporate travel division and Premier Meetings and Incentives in Oshkosh and Fox World Travel School. Fox World Travel is the largest vacation travel agency in Wisconsin.  Fox World Travel’s corporate travel division is a leading provider of travel management solutions, serving travelers as they navigate the globe while guiding organizations toward successful policies, compliance and financial advantages in their domestic and global travel programs. Visit Fox World Travel online at www.foxworldtravel.com.

Tour of Europe with Deb King

Deb King, of Fox World Travel recently went on a trip to Europe with her 18 year old daughter who had never before been to Europe. Hear all about their trip here.

In June I traveled with my 18 year old daughter on Insight Vacations ~ European Breakaway itinerary. This was my daughter’s first trip to Europe, so I wanted to choose an itinerary that covered a number of countries to give her an overview of a variety of cultures.

london great britainTuesday, June 10: London  Our morning started off with the hotel fire alarms going off and quickly exiting the hotel so we missed our included breakfast at the hotel. Once they allowed us to get back into the hotel it was time for our half-day motorcoach tour of London. The tour was on a motorcoach supplied by a local London coach company, not Insight, and was a mix of people on a number of Insight tours that had their tours starting in London. It was a great overview tour of London with a couple stops for pictures.

That afternoon and evening instead of a tour, we decided to see London on our own. We shopped on Oxford Street, took a cab to see Abbey Road and sign the wall outside Abbey Studios, and then went on to ride the London Eye. Don’t be put off by long lines to board. The Eye is in constant motion and our wait was short.

Wednesday, June 11: Eurostar to Amsterdam  This morning we met our Tour Director – Gigi Bromage amsterdam-annefrankand the rest of our group in the lobby of the Thistle. Half of our group was made up of Australians, four New Zealanders and the rest from the US. There were two other families with teenage girls so it worked out well for my daughter to have a couple younger girls to spend time with. We transferred to London’s St Pancras Station and boarded the high-speed Eurostar. The two hour trip was very comfortable. The actual travel through the Channel Tunnel is only about 20 min – 30 min of the trip. Upon arrival in Brussels we met our Insight motorcoach (yeah! Incredible leg room!) and driver for our transfer to Amsterdam. Our hotel was the Movenpick City Centre in Amsterdam. It was about a 20 minute walk to city center, but a really nice hotel. That evening we had our Welcome Dinner with our tour group at the hotel.

amsterdam canal (2)

Thursday, June 12: Amsterdam, City of Canals  Our morning sightseeing tour included driving past the Mint Tower, floating Flower Market and Royal Palace in Dam Square. We boarded a canal cruiser to glide through the canals of Amsterdam. It was a great hour tour and we were able to see gabled mansions of the 17th century merchants, Anne Frank’s house, and the many houseboats that line the canal. After the cruise we went to one of the diamond houses and watched craftsmen cut and polish the stones.

tulips windmillIn the afternoon we decided to take the optional tour to Volendam. This was one of my favorite excursions. We first stopped at a typical Dutch windmill to see how they worked and met the owner. Then on to the picturesque village of Volendam, known for its wooden houses, traditional fishing boats and old harbor, it was a wonderful spot for lunch and shopping. Renoir and Picasso both spent time in this fishing village and some of the residents still wear the traditional Dutch clothing.

This evening we added another optional experience – a walk through the red light district, known as the “Sailors Quarter” and then on to a historic local restaurant for a 3- course dinner.

GR_RhineValleyFriday, June 13: Castles of the Rhine Valley & Heidelberg  Today we departed Amsterdam and traveled through the Pass Arnhem, renowned for its ‘Bridge Too Far’, before crossing the German border bound for the Romantic Rhine. Our first stop was in the river side village of Boppard, nestled on the largest loop of the Rhine. We had time to shop and lunch before we embarked on our Rhine Cruise. We boarded the cruise boat and had a leisurely 1 ½ hour cruise past steep vineyards, medieval hill-top castles and went by the Loreley Rock. The cruise offered food and drinks for purchase. Our Insight cruise included one drink. After the cruise we followed the Neckar River to Heidelberg.

Upon arrival we checked in to the Crowne Plaza Heidelberg and then took a walking tour in old town Heidelberg. The old town is a beautiful mix of cobble stone streets with great dining and shopping.

Saturday, June 14: Bavarian Alps and Innsbruck  Bavarian AlpsThis morning we checked out of the hotel and headed for Innsbruck. We traveled around the northern Black Forest and head for the Bavarian Alps. A highlight of the trip for me was a stop at the royal castles of Hohenschwangau and King Ludwig’s fairy-tale Neuschwanstein. We have a nice 1 ½ hour stop to give us time for our pictures and lunch.

Once over the Austrian border, we continued to Innsbruck. We checked into the Hilton Innsbruck and took a walking tour of old town in the afternoon.

Sunday, June 15: Fair Verona & Venice, Queen of the Adriatic  After an early breakfast we left Innsbruck and traveled across the Europa Bridge and the Brenner Pass into Italy. Follow the Adige River through beautiful scenery, we stopped in Verona. We enjoyed a tour of Verona, with its Roman Arena, maze of squares and saw Juliet’s balcony. We had time for lunch and shopping as well.

hotelThen, on to Venice! Our hotel, the Hilton Molino Stucky, was a beautiful five star hotel. Once a flourishing flourmill, it is now beautifully restored and has 379 charming and comfortable guest rooms. With capacity to host 1-1000 people, the hotel has the most contemporary and largest conference facility in Venice, as well as 14 fully serviced meeting and boardrooms.

That evening we took a short walk to a local restaurant for dinner. After dinner we took the Magical Venice optional tour. This was one of my best memories from our trip. We took a private water taxi to St Mark’s Square area. After a short walk to the center of it all, Piazza San Marco, where we had seats reserved outside a Venetian café. As the sun set we enjoyed a refreshment and the music of a live orchestra and in view of the illuminated buildings and the Grand Canal. Now quiet with most of the tourists gone for the day, we could enjoy the real Venice. It was a beautiful night! On the return we slowly cruised the Grand Canal looking at all the beautifully lit homes as we returned to our hotel.

Italy - Venice 4Monday, June 16: Venice & the magic of ‘La Serenissima’  The following morning, we visited a Venetian arts center where local experts, craftsmen still make gondolas by hand and blow glass into incredible works of art. We had time for shopping in the Venetian glass shop. Then via private launch we traveled to St Mark’s Square. We took a walk along the water’s edge to the Bridge of Sighs which connects the Doges’ Palace with the prisons and then on to our gondola ride including a private serenade as we made our way through the canals of Venice.

That afternoon we took the Insight optional tour to the beautiful island of Burano. After a 45 minute boat ride to Burano we arrived to see the candy colored houses. Known for its artisan lace makers and leaning bell tower, this charming island is the place to buy scarfs and clothing. We had a wonderful late lunch of local seafood specials and wine was included.

lucerneTuesday, June 17: Through the Alps & on to Lucerne  The next morning we traveled through the beautiful farmland as we crossed into northern Italy. We saw some of the beautiful Italian Lake District on our way into the heart of the Swiss Alps and beautiful Lucerne. Lucerne offers a collection of spires, steeples, medieval bridges and half-timbered houses, set beside Lake Lucerne. Our hotel was the Astoria located in the heart of Lucerne.

After settling into our hotel we took the optional Lake Lucerne Happy Hour Cruise. Considered to be the prettiest of the mountain lakes, much of the shoreline of Lake Lucerne can only be fully appreciated from the water. The hour and ½ cruise included two drinks.

Then we moved on to the optional Swiss Dinner experience. This was a wonderfully fun evening. Swiss fondue is one of my favorite foods and I was looking forward to showing my daughter that the fondue she has had in America is NOT real fondue! We were at a traditional Swiss restaurant with entertainment including a folklore show of flag throwing, yodeling, Alpenhorn blowing and other great Swiss entertainment during our dinner.

St. Moritz, SwitzerlandWednesday, June 18: Lucerne’s Lions & Mt. Pilatus  We started off our day with an optional tour to the Swiss Countryside. A local farmer took us on a horse-drawn carriage to his home. The scenery was incredible as we trotted around through the Swiss rural community. Upon arrival at the farm we had coffee, tea and homemade snacks of cheese, crackers and baked goods made by the family. It was a wonderful way to start the day. We then took the cog-wheel train and cable-car to the summit of one of Switzerland’s most famous mountains, Mount Pilatus. We saw amazing sights over the snow-capped Jungfrau and Eiger peaks. Our tour continued back in Lucerne to view the Lion Monument.

We then strolled across the Chapel Bridge to the ornate Jesuit Church and spent time shopping in Old Town. This evening, the included Dine-Around dinner was at a local upscale restaurant. We dined with 10 of our group and had a wonderful 3 course dinner including wine or beer.

seine river parisThursday, June 19: Paris  Today we drove from Lucerne to Basel before crossing the Rhine to enter France. We traveled through the wine-growing Burgundy region to Paris. This was a long day of driving and we arrived late afternoon at the Le’Meridien Etoile hotel.

Tonight was our final Celebration Dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner we took the optional Paris Evening Illuminations tour! So beautiful to see Paris at night. We had the opportunity to stop for pictures along the way.

Friday, June 20: Paris  This morning we met our local guide for our Paris tour. She took us past Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre. We saw the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine once stood and down the Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Included was the Eiffel Tower and we rode the express elevator to the famous viewing platforms.

Eiffel Tower 4In the afternoon we took a Paris Seine River cruise and also took a tour of the Louvre Museum and saw the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, Mona Lisa and more. Then a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral and a walk through the streets of the Latin Quarter, filled with bookshops, cafes, and restaurants.

In the evening we decided to do the optional dinner and show at the Moulin Rouge. While it’s an expensive evening, everyone should do it once. Our steak dinner was surprisingly good and the show was entertaining. Our whole group decided to do the show so it was a great way to finish off the tour with our new friends.

After the show a group of us went to the Hyatt hotel located across the street from our hotel and up to the 34th floor Bar La Vue Paris. This bar is supposed to have the most expensive drinks in Paris… and one of the best views. We saw the Eiffel Tower start to shimmer at 11:00pm when the lights lit up and started to twinkle. It was a perfect way to end the trip!

Saturday, June 21: Paris  I added an extra day in Paris for some down time and we spent the time walking and shopping along the Champs Élysées.

Sunday, June 22: Departure Home  We had a mid-morning departure for Charles de Galle Airport. Instead of Insights transfers I opted to purchase a private shuttle with Paris Shuttle. It was a beautiful town car and the driver was right on time. Our flights on Aer Lingus were on time and uneventful. I love going through Dublin as we were able to clear US customs there instead of Chicago.

My thoughts:  LOVED Insight! The motorcoach accommodations speak for themselves with the incredible leg room in their business class seating. The Signature dinner experiences in wonderful historic local restaurants and the little unexpected flourishes Gigi gave us throughout the trip made the two weeks special. A souvenir Eiffel Tower Key chain in Paris, Chocolates in Lucerne, and it goes on. The optional tours were excellent. Some of them were your basic add-on’s, but others were very personal and unique. They provide some of the most special moments during the two weeks. The tour was fluid. By that I mean Gigi changed us the itinerary when needed to take advantage of the best weather, or least amount of traffic, etc. It kept the tour comfortable and gave us the most enjoyable experience possible.

Packing: Packing to travel in multiple countries is never easy. Living out of a suitcase for two weeks needs to be organized and you add in a teenage girl who needs to take her closet with her, you have a recipe for disaster. So I purchased E-Bags Packing Cubes and fell in love. For anyone who travels, these are a life saver. Maren and I each had different colors. We were able to pack our clothing by type in the cubes and take out just what we needed each day. These are the best things since wheels were added to luggage in my opinion!!!! I find the medium, small and slim packing cubes are the best. The large are too big. You can find them at www.ebags.com.

Disney World with Jennifer Sabish: Tips and Tricks for that Perfect Family Vacation

Jennifer Sabish, of Fox World Travel, recently went on her first family trip to Disney World.  Hear her review of their newest features, and tips and tricks for planning that perfect family vacation!

This was our first family trip to Disney. We felt the kids were finally at the age to enjoy the whole experience. Since it was our first family trip I knew there were some things that were just must for us; staying on Disney grounds and making sure to visit all four parks. In June I found a promotion that offered free dining. This was exactly what we were looking for.

There are several dining plans. The free plan included in our package was the quick service plan. This plan provides two quick services meals and one snack per person per day. We opted to upgrade to the Disney Dining plan which offered us one snack, one quick service and one table service per person per day. This allowed us to have one nice sit down meal per day, which also included some charter dining experience. Reservations are highly recommended for table service meals, as they can be booked 180 days prior to arrival.

PEP_icon_illustrative_MagicBands_90We also opted to plan as much as we could prior to our arrival. This included ordering our MagicBands. This is a newer feature for Disney guest. All passes, FastPasses, meals, room access, and the ability to charge items back to your room is all loaded onto your band. You can customize your name and color of your band prior to arrival by ordering online. If you choose not to order yours prior to arrival you will be provided plain gray ones at check in. Our kids enjoyed picking out their colors and receiving them in the mail prior to departure. Another new feature is being able to reserve your FastPasses prior to arrival. These can be reserved 60 day prior to check-in for your entire stay. You may reserve up to 3 FastPasses per day at one theme park. After all, initial FastPasses are used on a given day you have the option to add an additional FastPass to be used that same day. The additional FastPass can only be made at a FastPass kiosk at the park you wish to select.

I would also highly recommend downloading the free Disney Experience app. This app links all your reservations made on the Disney Experience website to an app on your smartphone. It also lists attractions, character sites, dining options, entertainment times and more. We used this app most for checking wait times on rides throughout the parks and changing our FastPass times.

We opted to use the Disney Magical Express Transfers along with the luggage delivery service. Even though the lines for the transfers were long, we moved along quickly and were at our resort before we knew it. We really enjoyed the luggage delivery service. This allows you to go right to your transfers and not have to claim your bags. Disney will collect your bags and deliver then right to your room. Theart-of-animation-gallery06 service can take up to 4 hours. So make sure you take anything in your carry on you may need before your luggage arrives.

Our home for the next five nights was the value resort of Art of Animation. There are two room  categories at this resort. The Little Mermaid section offers standard rooms that sleep up to four adults. Rooms have two double beds or king bed. The other category is the family suites. These rooms sleep up to 6 adults offering one queen bed in a separate room with adjoining bath, a double size table bed, double size sofa sleeper and another bath. These suites also offer a mini kitchen with mini refrigerator, microwave and small sink. There are three themes to the family suites; Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars. Our choice was the Cars suite. Each section offer its own pool area, however; the Finding Nemo pool area is larger with bar and kids pool. They also have a movie under the stars area near this pool that shows Disney movies nightly.

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Our room was not ready when we checked it. However, that was not a problem for us. We checked our other bags and took Disney shuttle to EPCOT. Disney shuttles run every 10-15 minutes between the resorts to parks and park to park. We spent the remainder of our day at EPCOT and had dinner at the Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. This was our first character akershus-royal-banquet-hall-gallery03dining experience. Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora and Ariel stop at each table for autographs and photos. I felt this was a more private time to visit the Princesses so we didn’t have to stand in long lines to see them at the park. Plus the meal was included in our dining plan. After dinner we viewed IllumiNations, a firework to music show over the reflection pond near World of Showcase.

Monday we spent the day at Hollywood Studios. Frozen has been a big addition to this park; offering a Frozen parade including all the favorites and even snow. This park is more compact than the others; making getting around the park fairly quickly. Our sit down meal for the night was the 50’s Prime Time Café. We loved this dining experience. It is set up like a 50’s family kitchen offering old fashion American comfort foods; like fried chicken, pot roast, and meat loaf. This restaurant also offered a bar (Dad’s Liquor Cabinet) offering both kid and adult drinks with electric ice cubes to light up your drinks.

magic-kingdomTuesday we spent the day at Magic Kingdom. This, of course, was the park the kids were waiting for the most. We used our Disney App to find the shortest wait times and were able to get through the park and rides pretty easily. We were able to view Disney Dance Party parade at 11am which allowed the kids to dance with characters and the Festival of Fantasy parade in the afternoon; this parade offers all Princesses, Mickey and friends. Finding a place to stand can be difficult. Start early or opt to use your FastPass for preferred seating area. Our dining for this evening was at the Contemporary Resort for dinner with Mickey and friends. This was an easy transfer by the use of the monorail. This dining option was buffet style with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto coming around to all tables for autographs and photos. We took the monorail back to Magic Kingdom after dinner to view the Main Street Electrical Parade and fireworks over the castle. Again, finding a place to sit/stand can be difficult. We were lucky to find a great location on the bridge in front of the castle which gave us prime seating for both.

animal-kingdom-gallery06Wednesday we spent most of the day at Animal Kingdom. This was the one park that I had not been to yet, so I was looking forward to my first visit. Best part of our day was the Kilimanjaro Safari where we took an open jeep through the park to view the animals. Since we were on one of the first rides of the day we were able to view all the animals except lions. We all really enjoyed getting wet on the Kali River Rapids. Our favorite roller-coaster through the whole trip was Expedition Everest. This is the one park that I would say you wouldn’t need a full day at. However, that could all change once they complete all the renovations and new attractions. Once we completed Animal Kingdom we headed back to EPCOT for dinner and finish up the few items we missed on Sunday. This evening we ate dinner at Coral Reef Restaurant. We enjoyed dining with views of a living coral reef and underwater sea life with views of the aquarium. After dinner, we were also lucky to have short wait times at Soarin’, another one of our favorites. We then walked through World of Showcase. We enjoyed seeing what all the countries looked like, eat and drink.

tonys-town-square-restaurant-00Thursday was our final day at Disney. We headed to Magic Kingdom to finish what we missed on Tuesday. Due to short wait times we were able to ride our favorite at Magic Kingdom, 7 Dwarf Mine Train. This is the newest Disney rollercoaster and was a big hit with the whole family. We choose to do our sit down meal today for lunch at Tony’s Town Square. The restaurant made famous by the movie Lady and the Tramp.

We, of course, had our entire souvenir shopping to do yet. We boarded the Disney Shuttle to one of the resorts and transferred shuttles to Downtown Disney. This was a great place to find all of your Disney favorite souvenirs. Plus some great restaurants and other shopping stores. We finished up just as it started raining and headed back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our early departure the next day.

Friday we were heading home. We had already check-in for our Southwest flight the day prior. Disney offers the ability to check your bags at your Disney resorts and they will be taken directly to the airport and checked with your airline. This gave us the opportunity to have our breakfast and get to ready for our shuttle trip back to the airport. Our return flight was on time and was back in Milwaukee before we knew it. Just a quick call to the Clarion our shuttle was on our way to pick us up.

All in all this was a great family vacation!  To find out more about planning your own Disney Vacation contact a travel agent today.

Novy-Woelfel Wedding

Liz Novy & Tyler Woelfel were married at the beautiful Grand Palladium Colonial Resort & Spa in Riviera Maya, Mexico. As you can tell from the pictures, the wedding was exquisite, breathtaking, stunning, we could go on and on and on…

Here are some words from the bride and groom…
“The word that we continually use to describe our wedding is “perfect”. Sure, there were hiccups but they truly didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It was seriously our dream wedding. You did AMAZING working with our large, spread out, crazy crew!! Seriously, everyone had wonderful things to say about working with you and if I hear anything about someone looking to book travel or a destination wedding, I’ll send them your way without hesitation. As we suspected, this resort was ideal for our group of 97 – there was plenty to do for all ages (7 months to 65 years old). Take it! Photo – awesome photographers. Super fun, young couple who had an artistic and emotional style of capturing moments. They are also reasonably priced for including a trash the dress session.”

We loved your pictures and are proud to share them! Congratulations! If you are interested in planning your own destination wedding please contact Laura Pierce here at: http://bit.ly/11RXyv7
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Photos from www.fototakeit.com

“THE STRONG DOLLAR IS WORTH CELEBRATING!” There’s No Better Time to Visit Europe

Europe Collage 1

Have you been wishing to travel abroad, but waiting for that perfect opportunity? Perhaps that perfect opportunity has just arrived.

The US dollar is stronger than it’s been in years, which means that while traveling abroad you can get a lot more bang for your buck! Everything from airfare and a Prosecco tasting in the Italian countryside, to a pint of beer in an Irish pub, is less expensive for Americans than it’s been in years. As of January 13, 2014, 1 Euro is equal to 1.1835 American Dollar. When you consider the cost of an entire trip, this means hundreds of dollars in savings! For example, booking a $4,000 trip could equate to over $600 in ‘savings’, allowing your dollar to go further and have less out of pocket expense in the destination.

According to Steve Born, Vice President of Marketing for the Globus family of brands, “The strong dollar is worth celebrating!”   To revel in the increased value of the dollar, Globus and Fox World Travel have launched many promotions for travelers to save big on many of the most popular travel destinations including London, Britain, Italy, and more. View our special offers here.

Review of Iberostar Paraiso

Mexico is one of Fox World Travel clients’ most sought after tropical destination. In order to be able to provide valuable, first hand experience and advice to their clients, Fox World Travel sends their agents on Familiarization Trips so that they can experience, in person, the destinations that their clients want to visit.

Vacation Travel Consultants Barb Rogers and Erika Martinez, along with Marketing Coordinator, Kristen Rahmlow, recently went on an intensive Familiarization Trip where they toured 12 resorts in just 3 days! View their review of their second stop, Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar here.

Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar

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This was our host resort for the 3 nights we were in Riviera Maya. It is about 20-30 minutes from the Cancun airport. This property is huge! There are a total of 5 resorts on the property – Del Mar, Beach, Lindo, Maya, and Grand. There are two room categories at the Del Mar – Standard and Jr Suite. The rooms at this resort are all garden-view. The Del Mar and the Beach are equal resorts and share amenities. There are 2 grill snack bars and 7 a la carte restaurants where you can make dinner reservations upon arrival at the concierge desk.  If you stay seven nights you can make four dinner reservations, five nights – three reservations, four nights – two reservations, and three nights – one dinner reservation. We ate at the Italian Restaurant the second night. The food was good and came with a salad, entrée and then choice of dessert.

Coati
Coati

We ate at the breakfast buffet every morning. There was a nice selection of food at the breakfast buffet including made to order omelets, French toast, pancakes, cereal, fruit, yogurt and an assortment of pastries.

Del Mar Lobby
Del Mar Lobby

Wi-Fi was not included at the Del Mar. You had to pay a fee in order to have Wi-Fi and even then it was only available in the lobby area. The fees are as follows: 1 day – $12, 3 Days – $25, 5 Days – $30, 7 Days – $40. There was a shopping mall that you could walk to if you wanted but from where our room was located it would have been a bit of a walk so we took the golf cart shuttles that ran every 5-10 minutes. The shopping center included a small bar, little “restaurants” to get tacos, burgers, coffee and gelato. They also had some clothing stores and souvenir stores. Wi-Fi was free at the shopping center but we did not always get the best connection. There is also a disco in the shopping center that is open until 3am.

 

Riviera Maya Boot Camp: Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun

Mexico is one of Fox World Travel clients’ most sought after tropical destination. In order to be able to provide valuable, first hand experience and advice to their clients, Fox World Travel sends their agents on Familiarization Trips so that they can experience, in person, the destinations that their clients want to visit.

Vacation Travel Consultants Barb Rogers and Erika Martinez, along with Marketing Coordinator, Kristen Rahmlow, recently went on an intensive Familiarization Trip where they toured 12 resorts in just 3 days! View their review of their first stop, Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun here.

Day 1: Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun

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Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun is an adult only (18 years and older) resort.  This is a very contemporary looking property that offers Unlimited Luxury which includes unlimited meals, snacks and top-shelf premium drinks.  24 hour room service is available and each room has the “Secret Box” which means when you order room service they will not be knocking at your door to bring you your meal ordered but putting the tray of food into the box and you just access this from your room without seeing anyone.

The resort has eight pools, eight bars and 8 gourmet restaurants (seven of which are a la carte and a buffet).  We actually ate at the buffet for lunch and the variety of food choices was outstanding.

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11111On our day of arrival it was raining outside and I was very impressed with the area by the lobby bar  which is located downstairs from the lobby.  It was a great large space for guests to socialize and keep busy or just hang out if you didn’t want to be in your room. The resort had a ping pong table, darts were being played and even a vendor brought in a monkey for guests to be photographed with.

Non-motorized water sports are available which would include kayaks and hobie cats which are used for sailing.  The second largest coral reef is way out in front of the resort.

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Restaurants:

  • Bordeaux / French Cuisine
  • El Patio / Mexican
  • Himitsu / Pan-Asian
  • Oceana / Seafood
  • Portofino / Italian
  • Ratatouille / Mediterranean
  • Seaside Grill / Steak & Grilled specialties
  • World Cafe / International Buffet
  • Coco Cafe / premium coffees & pastries (6:30am-10:30pm)

Secrets Silversands offers an even higher level of luxury in the Preferred Club.  You can enjoy an upgraded suite, access to the exclusive Preferred Club lounge which is open from 7am until 11:00pm with its own bar. Continental breakfast is offered and concierge service is also included.

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Learn more about Riviera Maya Travel Destinations or contact a vacation travel consultant today.  Stay tuned for reviews of other resorts visited during Fox World Travel‘s Riviera Maya Travel Agent Boot Camp!

Bree Moede’s Trip to China (Gallery)

Bree Moede, of our Appleton Office, shares some beautiful pictures from her recent trip to China!

Bree Moede recently returned from a whirlwind, two week trip in China. She had this to share about her journey: “I just crossed my number one bucket list trip off my list! I spent two weeks in China in November.  My husband and I planned our trip around a four night river cruise up the Yangtze River. This was an amazing cruise, the views were incredible. We were surrounded by mountains, with small towns perched on the sides. We saw fisherman in homemade wooden boats casting their nets. The cruise stopped every day for excursions that included small villages, the Three Gorges Dam and Ghost City to name a few.

After the river cruise we spent four days in Shanghai. A very noisy city! The food was interesting to say the least. Sea Horses, star fish and scorpions on a stick anyone?  We also spent four days in Beijing. The highlight of course was the Great Wall. We arrived very early, so we had the whole area to ourselves for the first hour! We hiked for about six hours. In some areas we had to crawl up the steps because it was so steep! It is so much more rugged and beautiful then any pictures I have ever seen. We took a ski lift ride to get to the top and rode a toboggan to get back down. This is a great trip, the culture is so different and worth experiencing!”

You can learn more about Bree’s trip or contact her for guidance planning your own vacation to China by contacting her online here.

Review of Punta Cana Tours with Kim M.

You may have read Kim’s recent post on her review of Dreams Punta Cana Resort.  Now you can also hear about her incredible out-of-resort tours she experienced during her getaway to the tropical paradise, Punta Cana.Marinarium Snorkeling TourAs amazing as Dreams Punta Cana is, the joy of this destination I believe lies outside its gates. tour1We did three tours, each of which greatly enhanced our Punta Cana experience. We did a half-day Marinarium Snorkeling Tour for $99 per person that took you to the Caribbean side and included snorkeling, a controlled swim with stingray and nursing sharks, and sort of a daytime, family friendly party cruise hosted by some truly engaging young staff. My husband was a total beginner at snorkeling, so the “caged” reef experience was comforting to him. The stingray/shark feature was cool and the rest of the boat activities were very fun, but for real snorkeling enthusiasts it could be disappointing. But we had a great time on this tour.Bavaro Runnerstour2We then did a full-day tour called Bavaro Runners  per person that was such an amazing, varied day of fabulous and interesting experiences. We visited a sugar cane field, tobacco farm, did horseback riding, visited a local home and say how they make coffee and cocoa, had a Dominican food buffet, visited an ancient cave and learned a bit about native culture as well as took in so much scenery in an open air truck. It is a bumpy ride at times, but nothing Dr. Dramamine couldn’t handle and it was quite possibly the highlight of our trip, so I highly encourage you to mention it to your clients and book in advance during busy times (probably true for any tours).Monkey Land3Our last tour covered some of the same terrain as Bavaro Runners but took us to Monkeyland, a squirrel monkey sanctuary  per person. I’m not going to say having little monkeys jumping all over us wasn’t super cool, because it totally was, but it needs to be fleshed out a bit. You get a bowl of food and kind of wait for them to accept your offering and they may sit on your shoulder or arm. But it seemed all too brief and your experience is completely dependent upon what a colony of monkeys feels like doing that day and whether they are hungry or not. They could really do more with this experience and I hope they figure that out. In general, I was impressed by the varied and truly interesting tours available in Punta Cana and I would encourage travelers to leave the resort at least once.Learn more about planning your very own Punta Cana Vacation here.  Or, Contact a Vacation Travel Consultant Today to learn about other traveling experiences.