On our last trip to Walt Disney World we wanted to try a restaurant that we have never been to before. After spending a long day at Magic Kingdom and eating "ok" theme park food, I wanted something unique and different. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants have always peaked my interest because we love to travel and try unique food. My concern was getting our two daughters on board with African food. Surprisingly, everyone in the family agreed and off we went to try it out.
The restaurant is located in the lower level of the resort. I recommend asking to be seated in the main restaurant, not the wine room area, especially if you are dining with children. The main dining area has dark ceilings but light walls and a large bank of floor to ceiling windows overlooking part of the beautifully landscaped resort. The main focal point of the restaurant are the two wood-burning ovens. If you look towards the ovens and up to the ceiling you might even spot a hidden Mickey.
The menu is a little daunting at first glance because your eye will immediately focus on the exotic items like Wild Boar and Elk. But if you are not feeling adventurous they have plenty of normal menu options available. We opted to start with the Taste of Africa appetizer which consists of African inspired dips with Naan. This was a great choice for a family. The dips were very tasty and everyone loved the homemade Naan. Our main dishes were Botswana-style Seswaa Beef Short Rib which is a hearty meat and potatoes type of dish and was perfect for my husband. I ordered the West African Koki Corn which is a vegetarian dish. I love meat dishes but it was late at night and I did not want anything to heavy. Both of our daughters ordered the Macaroni & Cheese. Everyone agreed that this was one of the best meals that we have eaten at Walt Disney World. I recommend trying one of their South African wines to pair with your meal. They are known for their huge South African selection and I can say that the wine did not disappoint.
We will definitely go back to Jiko in the future. Everyone gave it two thumbs up!
Looking to plan your next trip to Disney? Consider staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge so that you can experience Jiko yourself. Contact Premier Travel Escapes to help plan your Magical Disney vacation. Plus a bonus when booking four nights or longer at any Disney property.
Just a short plane ride from Florida sits a beautiful island called the Turks & Caicos. My husband and I have visited many tropical islands but the crystal blue ocean water truly made this island stand out. We took our two daughters to test just how family oriented Beaches Turks and Caicos really is and to see if there is more to the hype than just the pretty water.
Beaches Turks & Caicos is an all-inclusive resort owned by the mega adults only all-inclusive giant Sandals Resorts chain. Beaches Resorts cater to all generations from infants to grandparents. There truly is something for everyone to do at the resort.
The resort has four different villages to choose from: Italian Village, French Village, Caribbean Village and Key West Village. Each village has their own special feel and touches. Accommodations range from luxury rooms all the way up to Four Bedroom Oceanview Butler Villas. Before we arrived I thought that getting from one village to the other would take forever and we would be doing a lot of walking. Some are far apart depending on which village you stay in but honestly we were able to walk them all frequently. Plus if you get tired or don't want to walk, a golf cart shuttle will come and take you to your desired location. This is especially helpful when the little ones get tired.
We stayed in the newest area called Key West Village. This section is setup in a condo/villa style format and most include kitchens, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, very spacious patio and some even have washers and dryers. We stayed in a One Bedroom Concierge Suite which had a king bed in the master and a day bed along with trundle bed for the children. Our unit also had an extra half bathroom, full kitchen, very large patio and washer and dryer.
After checking in, our girls immediately wanted to check out Pirates Island Waterpark. We had been showing them various pictures of the resort and the gigantic waterslides, numerous pools, lazy river and swim up soda bar before we left home. In addition to the water park, the beach is huge with very soft sand overlooking a huge stretch of ocean. Beaches also offers ocean kayaks, snorkeling, hydrobikes, windsurfing, paddle boarding, hobie cats, beach volleyball, pool tables, basketball, tennis, billiards, numerous kids camp activities for all ages including a train for the little ones plus teen areas. The list goes on and on. The best part is that it is all included in the price that you pay before you go.
Restaurants and Bars (Still Included!)
In addition to all of the great activities that are included at Beaches Turks & Caicos, there are also 22 dining options and 15 bars to choose from. The problem is narrowing down where you want to each for every meal. The solution is to stay at least a week so that you can experience all of the restaurants and bars. Our favorites were Kimonos (Teppanyaki), Neptunes (overlooking the beach and amazing for a great seafood dinner) and Jerk Shack (casual lunch on the beach...beware that it is definitely spicy).
Spoil Your Family
As if having unlimited food, drinks and activities is not enough, Beaches Turks & Caicos offers some room categories that offer the best accommodations, views and unmatched butler service. As I mentioned above, accommodations are tiered at Beaches starting with entry level called Luxury Level then up to Concierge and then the creme de la creme Butler Level Suites. The Butler level suites come with a fairly high price, but you do get amazing service and extras that will make your family vacation outstanding. Around each of the pool cabana areas you can tell who are the Butler guests because they are sitting underneath covered cabanas. A perk for butler service is they have beverages and food brought right to them by their butler. But the most amazing thing that we noticed is the butlers seem to be in competition with each other to see who can make the best towel animals for their clients. Here are a few favorites that we saw during our trip and also pictures of the amazing Key West Beachfront Four Bedroom Butler Villa Residences with private pools.
It's Time To Plan Your Family Trip
It's never to late or to early to start planning your next vacation. Consider Beaches Turks & Caicos for your next trip. You can bet that your family will not be disappointed!
Contact Premier Travel Escapes today to start planning.
Christmas at Gaylord Palms Orlando
Last week I was able to attend a preview event showcasing Christmas at Gaylord Palms. This is such a neat experience and a great way to get the whole family in the spirit of the season.
ICE! at Gaylord Palms
The most notable attraction is ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas. You will walk through 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice depicting how Charlie Brown rediscovers the true meaning of Christmas. You can even race your family down ice slides for some extra fun. For those over 21 year of age, you can upgrade your ICE! experience to include a visit to On the Blocks. At the end of ICE! you also get to see the most amazing nativity scene which is truly breathtaking.
HELPFUL TIP-even though they give you a parka to wear, I recommend wearing a jacket under the parka, hat, gloves and closed toed shoes. It is cold!
Cirque Dreams Unwrapped
Back again for another appearance is the Cirque Dreams stage show. This is a unique show located in the hotel and is complimentary based on first come, first served basis. Or you can upgrade to VIP seating. They offer shows twice a day Sunday-Thursday and three shows on Saturdays during the Christmas season. This show is amazing and worth seeing! I don't want to give the whole show away so here are just a few of my favorite parts.
Other attractions include Alpine Rush Snow Tubing, Snow Ball Toss, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Elf of the Shelf Scavenger Hunt, Gingerbread decorating center, photos with Santa, Mrs. Claus Christmas traditions story time sing-a-long, breakfast with Charlie Brown and friends and other fun activities.
Packages and Overnight Stays at Gaylord Palms
The best way to experience all of the excitement is to stay the night at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Hotel. Other dates are available in addition to the options listed below. Or you do not have to stay at Gaylord Palms to enjoy the fun activities. But I do recommend staying to experience the full attractions that the hotel offers. We were upgraded to an atrium view room with a balcony overlooking the wonderful Christmas light show. I highly recommend the atrium view rooms!
Package 1: Check-in November 25 and Check-out November 27
$284 per night plus tax and resort fee includes four ICE! tickets, one scavenger hunt pass and one souvenir family photo.
Package 2: Check-in December 2 and Check-out December 4
$314 per night plus tax and resort fee includes four ICE! tickets, one scavenger hunt pass and one souvenir family photo.
Package 3: Check-in December 16 and Check-out December 18
$264 per night plus tax and resort fee includes four ICE! tickets, one scavenger hunt pass and one souvenir family photo.
Package 4: Check-in December 24 and Check-out December 26
$304 per night plus tax and resort fee includes four ICE! tickets, one scavenger hunt pass and one souvenir family photo.
*Parking is additional.
How To Book Your Amazing Stay
You won't want to miss out on staying at the Gaylord Palms and experiencing the magic of the season. If you would like to book a package including staying at the Gaylord Palms, please contact me at email@example.com today. Popular dates fill up quickly! It will be an incredible experience for you and your family!
Streamsong Resort Review
My husband and I recently had the opportunity to visit Streamsong which is located in Polk County, Florida roughly 26 miles from Lakeland, 47 miles from Tampa and 83 miles from Orlando. Coming from just South of Jacksonville, it took us exactly 3.5 hours to reach the resort. It was a long distance for just a weekend stay but once we arrived it was apparent that it was well worth the drive.
Streamsong sits on 16,000 acres of land that were formerly used for mining of phosphates. The unique landscape lends itself to elevations that are not common in Florida and a very lush, green, natural setting. Most resort I have visited in the past are high-rise buildings with other resorts on either side, restaurants and shops within walking distance. Due to its location, Streamsong is completely opposite of this and it is was a thrill to visit a place that kicked the normal resort stereotype to the curb and instead decided to be different, care about its environment and focus on green space.
Streamsong has an understated elegance to it.. Case in point is the entrance to the resort. A small sign sits on a two-land country road that signifies that you have arrived.
Currently, the resort has two main buildings. The first is the "hub" of the resort called the Lodge. This building is 6 stories and houses 216 luxury guestrooms, 24,600 square feet of meeting space, outdoor venues perfect for special events, four dining and lounge options, spa, infinity edge pool and fitness center. Keeping with the nature theme of the resort, the Lodge was made to represent a tree. Throughout the inside and outside of the building you will notice unique touches that lend itself to representing a tree in a very subtle way. Most people would probably not notice the special touches but once you know you will start seeing these special design elements throughout the building.
The rooms at the Lodge are much larger than most other resorts. Their entry level rooms, Sunrise and Lake View, offer either one king or two queen beds and are 530 square feet. They are very spacious and include a separate siting area and floor-to-ceiling windows, personal library and plush robes. They also offer Junior Suites which are 690 square feet or Sunrise Suites which are 800 square feet with two separate bedrooms.
The Lodge has four distinct dining and lounge options to choose from. Since Streamsong is not close to town, eating at the resort is a must. Thankfully, the dining options are superb so there is no reason to eat off property. SottoTerra is their most upscale and intimate dining option. We were lucky to dine there for dinner one evening and it was a highlight of the trip. A unique treat was when the chef came out to our table for an aged balsamic vinegar tasting. He let us sample his favorite balsamic which was 12 years old and paired it with freshly made bread. Our meals were fantastic.
P2O5 is another dining option offer at the Lodge. This is a casual dining option open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and also has a bar. They offer craft beers and wine to pair with steak, seafood, bugers, etc. We ate their cooked to order breakfast and everything was fresh, hot and delicious. I thought it was a touch pricey for breakfast but they do give you large portions which helps offset the price.
For a more casual lounge experience, Fragmentary Blue is located on the top floor of the Lodge. This offers indoor and outdoor seating with breathtaking views of the resort property. This was a favorite of mine simply because of the wonderful views. Make sure to head up there for a beverage at sun set because the view is stunning!
The last dining option at the Lodge is Hemy's with is located at the infinity edge lakeview pool. Hemy's is open from 11a.m.-5p.m. daily and offers a few salad, sandwich and grill options to choose from. We ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with balsamic glaze and a BLT sandwich with homemade chips. Both meals were fantastic and large in size. But the main reason to eat at Hemy's is to enjoy the wonderful pool which overlooks the lake. They offer chaise lounges, bar seating or private cabanas. Streamsong does charge a resort fee but using the cabanas is included in the resort fee so there is no additional charge to use them.
The Clubhouse and Streamsong Golf Red and Blue
The second building is the Clubhouse which is just under a 5 minute drive from the Lodge. There is a complimentary shuttle that constantly runs between the Lodge and the Clubhouse so there is no need to drive a personal vehicle from one place to the other. The Lodge also transports your golf clubs from the Lodge to the Clubhouse so that you don't have to lug them from one place to the next. The Clubhouse features 12 guestrooms, one restaurant and lounge, lakeside terrace, a 4,000 square foot meeting space, golf shop and Albatross which is a private golfers lounge with billiards, card tables and televisions.
Most avid golfers have probably heard of Streamsong before because of the famed Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue golf courses. Golf Magazine has ranked the Red course in the top 10 courses to play in the United States and Blue is ranked as number 14. Both courses have more accolades than I can fit in this blog. If you have not already come out to visit these courses, I suggest you make a trip and try your luck on the greens.
Recreation and Relaxation
Streamsong is nationally known for its two golf courses, however, there are other activities available for the outdoor enthusiast. They offer sporting clays, archery, guided bass fishing, lounging at the infinity pool, tennis and a hiking trail. My husband tested the lake waters in hopes of finding bass. Within a short three hour timespan the guide was able to hook him and another resort guest on around 50 bass. I would say that is a very good day of fishing!
For those looking for the ultimate relaxation, the AcquaPietra Spa is superb. Walking into the main part of the spa is similar to stepping into a calming underground grotto. The Spa is located on the bottom floor of the Lodge but it looks like you are underground. They offer six different hot and cold pools, nine treatment rooms, hair salon, nail salon, sauna and steam room. I had one of the special fall facials and it was truly rejuvenating for my skin yet calming for me.
Meeting and Reception Facilities
I was pleasantly surprised by how many meeting and special event venues there are at Streamsong. They have 13 meeting rooms with 24,600 square feet of total meeting space mostly located inside but there are patios, terraces and green spaces that are also perfect for receptions and outdoor events. Most of the meeting space is at the Lodge but there are two rooms available at the Clubhouse for those who want to be close to the golf courses. These rooms/venues are a perfect fit for this resort and really add an additional appeal to Streamsong. The facilities can be used for corporate meetings, executive board meetings, cocktail receptions, wedding and wedding receptions and other special events.
Who Should Visit Streamsong?
As a travel agent, I work with both individuals looking to book a trip/vacation, corporate clients looking for a meeting or conference venue and others like families, couples and incentive groups. Streamsong is the perfect venue for those looking for a relaxing getaway, active couples who want indoor/outdoor activities, corporate clients looking for a company getaway, retreat or conference facility and avid golfers who want to play at two of the top courses in the United States. I think Streamsong is really a perfect fit for most except for children as they do not have an abundance of activities for them.
If you would like to learn more about Streamsong or think it would be a good fit for your next outing, event, meeting or vacation, please contact Premier Travel Escapes at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to helping you plan your next great adventure!
Stepping inside the Peninsula Paris hotel is breathtaking. When you first enter through the grand lobby you are engulfed by the beautiful marble surroundings, gorgeous works of art hanging from the ceiling and fresh cut flowers. The large entrance is very uncommon for Parisian hotels and makes the Peninsula Paris unique. From the time you step into the hotel you will be greeted with an abundance of staff to help you with your luggage and the check-in process or to direct you to one of their many restaurants on premises. First class service and helpfulness is apparent right from the beginning of your time at the hotel.
Rooms and Suites
While visiting the Peninsula Paris we were able to view two different accommodations. The first was a Superior room. This is the entry level category/least expensive room that they offer. Normally entry level rooms are pretty small and sparse, however, this is definitely not the case at the Peninsula Paris. The Superior rooms are anywhere from 322-430 square feet which is very large for rooms in Paris. These rooms are located lower in the hotel on floors 1-5 which may be the only downside to this room category. Otherwise, they are state-of-the-art rooms with marble bathrooms and all of the interactive digital features that the hotel is known for including tablets in all of the rooms and free wifi.
Now for those looking for the best when staying in Paris, I would recommend the Grand Premier Suite. This suite is more like an apartment type feeling than a normal hotel room and is 1,075 square feet. This suite category has a separate sitting area, full service desk including copy/fax machine and additional tablet, separate bedroom, separate dressing room and huge bathroom.
In addition to the superb rooms, the Peninsula Paris also has a 19,000 square foot area which houses a spa, fitness centre and indoor swimming pool. These relaxing amenities are not common in Parisian hotels. Definitely another reason why this hotel is the perfect place to stay in Paris.
There is not a shortage of dining options at the Peninsula Paris. Here are photos of a few of the dining options at the hotel.
Le Lobby-French and International
La Terrasse Kleber and Le Bar Kleber-International
Special Pricing and Offers
When choosing a luxury hotel in Paris, I highly recommend checking out the Peninsula Paris. The hotel has so much to offer it would be a shame not to at least have a look at the hotel and experience a drink or meal at the hotel. However, staying there would give you the best overall experience of the hotel and you would be able to experience all of the luxuries that the hotel offers to its guests.
Even though the hotel is a luxury hotel and the prices do tend to reflect this, they run specials that help making staying there even more enticing. Here are a few current specials that help make the price more affordable because of what is included with the package/special.
Keys to Paris Special: Includes daily breakfast for two; refreshments and transfer in a Mini Cooper when available and two entrance tickets for the exhibition of the month.
More Time...with our Compliments: Enjoy a complimentary third night with two consecutive paid nights.
Peninsula Family Moments: Daily breakfast for two adults and two children; 50% discount on a second room for the family with connecting rooms; children 12 and under receive complimentary kid's menu item in The Lobby restaurant when dining with parents.
Specials and offers change often. To book your stay contact Premier Travel Escapes for the latest pricing, availability and best deals for your next stay in Paris or wherever your travels take you.
This is the second part of the blog series about river cruising. This post will take you in-depth into the day-by-day breakdown of Uniworld's Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux itinerary. If you missed the first blog in this series about river cruising, you will want to check it out here: why-take-a-river-cruise.html
Uniworld is an all-inclusive river cruise company. Some river cruise companies do not include excursions and tours as part of the price but Uniworld does include most of them in the price you pay. They also include gratuities for all staff onboard and tour guides so that you do not have to worry about paying those either. One item that I do want to mention is that on this itinerary Uniworld did offer three optional excursions that you could pay for in addition to the complimentary excursions. However, these three options excursions are limited in size (very small) so I can understand why they do have to charge extra since not everyone on the ship can participate in the special tours.
Day 1: Arrival Into Bordeaux, France
Arrival into Bordeaux is fairly easy. Depending on where you are coming from, you can take an airplane or train to get to Bordeaux. Our flight from the United Sates took us into Paris with a short layover and then to Bordeaux. If you fly into Bordeaux then you can take advantage of Uniworld's complimentary transportation from the airport to the ship which is what we did. There are also many train routes that go to Bordeaux from other locations in Europe. You can definitely take one of these train options, however, Uniworld will not pick you up from the train station. For roughly 20-30 euros you can get a taxi to take you to the ship from the Bordeaux train station. Depending on what time you arrive onboard, you can grab a light lunch or snack. Your stateroom might not be ready yet but you can enjoy the ships common spaces or go out and enjoy the wonderful city of Bordeaux.
Day 2: Cadillac
The ship departed Bordeaux this morning in route to Cadillac so we were able to enjoy a leisurely morning onboard which is perfect for getting over jetlag.
If you are familiar with sweet dessert wines then you probably are aware of Cadillac. This area is known for their sweet dessert wines called Sauternes. This wine is my least favorite that we tried during the trip. I do not prefer sweet wines but with the correct food pairing I could see their appeal.
Uniworld allows its guests to select which bus they would like to ride on to take the excursion. This is wonderul if you are traveling with a group or friends so that you can pick the same bus/group so that you can tour together. This also helps keep the size of each tour down. This tour split us into two groups, however, some tours were split into even smaller groups consisting of only a handful of us in each group. This is definitely a huge plus for Uniworld and keeping the group excursion size down.
Our first excursion was visiting a Sauterne Estate with a wine tasting. Our bus group was taken to Chateau Filhot for our tour.
After the Estate, we were taken to Chateau Royal de Cazeneuve for a wine tasting lunch and exploring of the Chateau. Both the lunch and Chateau were both really nice and we really enjoyed this day, even though the wine was not exactly what we like.
Day 3: Pauillac
Uniworld had two different tour options to choose from in Pauillac. The first is the one that we selected was a Medoc panoramic tour with exclusive wine tasting. The other option was a vineyard bicycle ride with wine tasting. We thought it was going to rain this day so we selected the first option which was the bus tour.
The Medoc region has a number of Grand Cru status wines so this was an area that we definitely wanted to explore. Once again the bus groups were split up onto two buses (4 groups) which made for very intimate groups. The panoramic bus tour was very nice and we did drive past a number of beautiful vineyards and chateaus before reaching the one that we were going to visit called Chateau Du Tertre. This was an absolutely beautiful Chateau, personally my favorite.
Day 4: Blaye and Bourge
Blaye is a small little village that we spent the morning in on day 4. The ship docks right next to the Blaye Fortress which you can walk to from the ship or go through the guided tour that Uniworld provides. We did the walking tour through the Blaye Fortress which was built in the 17th century by military engineer Vauban. Right outside the Fortress on the main street in Blaye is a street market where residents purchase meat, produce and seafood. This area is known for their white asparagus which we were able to try someonboard the ship one evening for dinner.
Afterwards, we were driven on a scenic drive along the Route de la Corniche Fleurie. This is a road that runs between Blaye and Bourg. The road is narrow, and a little intense at times if the bus had to pass other large vehicles on the road. But it was very pretty and scenic. The ship later moved to Bourg where we were able to explore the little village on our own. It is a very steep village with amazing views. Definitely a cute place to spend an hour or two but not much to do but walk around and enjoy the scenery. Very relaxing village. They are also known for their chocolate figs which we tried and enjoyed.
Day 5: Saint-Emilion
Day 5 was absolutely my favorite day of the trip. The ship was docked in Libourne and we traveled by bus a short distance to Saint-Emilion. The vineyards in this area were the first to be protected by UNESCO because of the history of the area. The vineyards and wine are fantastic in this area, however, the cobblestone streets and exceptional architecture is what makes this area amazing. One of the most amazing sites in the city is a 12-th century church carved into a cliff. Only the tower is above ground and the rest of the church is underground. I would have loved to take pictures but they do not allow any of the church. But as you will see in the pictures below you can see for yourself the amazing architecture of this area. This area also has a number of cute restaurants with courtyards which are amazing and where we were able to eat lunch after our tour of the city.
Later that day we also visited a Premier Grand Cru in Saint-Emilion called Chateau Franc Mayne. This chateau is different than the others that we had already visited on this river cruise because they have an underground cave system and store their wine barrels in the caves. We were taken on a tour through the cave system and also were able to try some of their wine. Once again, this was my favorite day of the trip!
Day 6: Libourne
Two days a week Libourne has a huge Farmer's market. We happened to be there during the market and it was amazing to see all of the produce and good displayed outside and how many people were in attendance. After the market we decided to go on an active tour which was a guided bike tour along the Dordogne River and through the countryside. The total bike ride was 6 miles. We also stopped in a small church that had been completely renovated and the walls hand painted just like they had been back many centuries ago.
Later that afternoon the ship left Libourne and traveled back to Bordeaux. After dinner onboard, Uniworld had open air buses for us to ride on and tour beautiful Bordeaux at night.
Day 7: Bordeaux
The last day of our river cruise was spent in Bordeaux. We did the "do as the locals do" tour of Bordeaux. This was small group tour which included stopping to enjoy many treats at local sweet shops and seeing the main sights in the center or Bordeaux. After the tour we went back to the ship for lunch onboard then went for a run along the Bordeaux riverwalk which is where the ship is docked. This is a wonderful area with a lot of people walking and enjoying the beautiful city of Bordeaux and the waterfront.
Day 8: Disembarkation in Bordeaux
Unfortunately, after 7 nights we had to leave Uniworld's River Royale, the wonderful staff onboard, the amazing tour guides and fantastic food onboard. We truly had a great time and are looking forward to our next river cruise.
Why Take A River Cruise?
As a travel agent, I get asked a lot about river cruises, what makes them special, are they boring, are there enough things to do onboard the ship, have you been on one, etc. Finally I can tell my clients that YES I have been on a river cruise and I loved it! Some of you may be thinking that of course I have to say I loved it because I'm a travel agent and I sell them. However, I can honestly say that I really enjoyed the trip and I absolutely would go on another river cruise.
My husband and I had the opportunity to go on a Uniworld Boutique River Cruise a few weeks ago. I have to say that I was a bit hesitant at first since the typical age demographic is older than we are but after the first day onboard I was a believer that river cruises are absolutely for our age demographic as well. With many different river cruise operators available, Uniworld was the one that I have been drawn to for many reasons which I will discuss in this blog series.
Since this is a two part blog series, I'll start with the basics of river cruising and why Uniworld was a great option for our cruise. There are numerous river cruise companies and itineraries to choose from. Most focus on Europe and this is where you will find most of the itineraries. However, some operators also have itineraries for China, Vietnam and Cambodia, Russia, Egypt and India. Then you have the option of specialized itineraries for families, holidays and themes. Since there are so many options, finding a good travel agent will help you select the perfect River Cruise company and itinerary to fit your personal preference and what is important for you while on your trip. Once you select the company and itinerary, you are on your way to a great trip.
Onboard Uniworld's River Royale
We selected the Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux itinerary because it really appealed to what we like. This itinerary focuses on French wine and beautiful chateaux's which is exactly what we wanted. I will discuss the itinerary in full detail in my second blog about river cruises.
Uniworld really made our trip special. Their tagline is "luxurious floating boutique hotels" and they really do live up to that statement. Our cruise took place on Uniword's River Royale which sets sail weekly from Bordeaux, France.. They are known for all-inclusive cruising and it really is true. Our cruise included 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners plus mid-day snacks, welcome and farewell receptions, unlimited beverages onboard including local and international wine, beer and spirits. All taxes and gratuities are also included in the price for Uniworld so you will not be hit with additional charges for these items while onboard.
Six days of excursions are also included hosted by local English speaking experts. The excursions are designed to accommodate all ages and mobilities. For instance, there are gentle walking excursions for those who want a slower pace and go active excursions for those who want a faster pace or biking tour. Of course there are excursions for those who do no want active or gentle as well. They truly try to accommodate everyone onboard.
River Royale Accommodations
Uniworld River Royale has three main stateroom categories and one suite available. Category 2 and 3 are the same size (151 square feet) with the window size and deck location being the only difference. Category 1 includes a French balcony and located on the top passenger deck (141 square feet). The price range for Category 3 is the least expensive option and Category 1 is the most expensive with the exception of the one suite located onboard. This suite also has a French balcony and a much larger stateroom size of 217 square feet. You might not think that 217 square feet is very large for a suite but keep in mind that staterooms on river cruises are small in nature. We were in a Category 1 stateroom located on the La Gironde Deck stateroom 305. This was a perfect location for us and I really enjoy being able to get fresh air by opening up the French balcony.
Top Deck Cruising
One of my favorite parts of the River Royale is the top deck of the ship. This is designed to be an open space for guests to be able to go on top of the ship, have a beverage and watch the beautiful scenery pass by while the ship is moving or while it is docked in one of the quant villages or towns that it docks in. When the weather is good, this is the best place to be in my opinion. They also have a hot tub which is a wonderful place to enjoy a glass of local wine and look at the landscape surrounding the top deck of the ship.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snacks are served onboard the River Royale and are all included in your cruise price. I have a few favorite dining moments from our trip onboard. The first is the local oyster tasting that they offer in the main lounge called Salon Gascogne. These local oysters are extremely sweet compared to the oysters we tend to get in the United States. They served them with the normal accompaniments but one unique addition was a red wine vinegar and shallot sauce which cut the sweetness of the oysters and was a perfect finishing touch. The head chef and food and beverage manager serve them during the tasting and answer any questions that you have about the oysters; and of course the bartenders serve the perfect wine to accompany the oysters.
A special dining opportunity takes place on the top deck of the River Royal at the Blue Fox Cafe. This is an all glass enclosure which offers perfect viewing of the surrounding scenery. They served my favorite meal in the Blue Fox Cafe which was consisted of an appetizer sampling which had the best tuna tar tar and then Beef Wellington for the main course. The meal was amazing and the views superb!
Here are a few other dining highlights from the trip.
Upon our return from our river cruise I have had many family, friends and clients ask if I will take another in the near future. The answer is hands down YES! We absolutely enjoyed Uniworld, the food and staff onboard River Royale and the beautiful towns and villages that we visited. Stay tuned to see what my next river cruise itinerary will be. I'm pretty sure that once the next opportunity arrises for me to take another river cruise, I do hope it is along the Rhine River with ports in Amsterdam and Basel.
I hope that you will also consider taking a river cruise for your next vacation. Happy travels!
Don't forget to check out the second blog in this river cruise series with an in-depth look at Uniworld's Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateau itinerary and my review here:
As a travel agent, I like to "test drive" resorts before I sent my clients to them. I get first hand knowledge of the resort and it helps me determine if it is the right fit for my clients. The burning question is which is my favorite so far? Drum roll please....Sandals LaSource Grenada!
LaSource Grenada is part of the Sandals adults only resort chain. Sandals La Source Grenada opened in December 2013 in St. George, Grenada. What makes this resort stand apart from the rest? There are a few aspects of the resort that I really enjoyed.
Hands down I think this resort has amazing room categories to choose from. I was lucky enough to stay in the South Seas One Bedroom Butler Suite with Infinity Edge Pool. These suites are part of Sandals Resorts Love Nest Suites which are just as enticing as they sound. The suites include a a separate living room, bedroom and a spa style bathroom. The outdoor area is impressive with a small plunge pool, whirlpool and outdoor shower. Only one word is needed-AMAZING! They have many other impressive room categories as well. Take a look at the pictures from our suite.
Pools and Beach
Relaxation should play a big role in any vacation. Sandals LaSource Grenada has wonderful pools and beaches that are not only beautiful to look at but also great places to hang out and enjoy your surroundings and meet others that are also vacationing at the resort. There are 5 pools and 2 whirlpools at the resort along with one swim-up pool bar. Since it is an all-inclusive resort food and beverages are included along with kayaks, windsurfing, snorkeling, Hobie Cats, paddle boarding and scuba diving. Plenty to do to either relax or have fun.
Ultimately, I enjoyed everything about this resort. I'm going to leave you with a few pictures of the rest of Sandals LaSource Grenada to look at. When you are ready to book your next vacation to Sandals LaSource Grenada, a different all-inclusive, cruise, Europe vacation, luxury yacht, group trip, etc, don't forget to contact Premier Travel Escapes.
Tasty Dining at Disney Springs
Morimoto Asia is a new flagship restaurant in Disney Springs-formerly known as Downtown Disney. I personally love Chef Morimoto of Iron Chef America so I wanted to try out his new restaurant that opened in 2015. Here is my experience and thoughts on the the decor, food and beverage.
One word describes the atmosphere of Morimoto Asia-STUNNING! The restaurant is absolutely beautiful and modern with very clean lines and splashes of muted color throughout. Here is what you can expect to see when dining at Morimoto's.
After being around crowds all day, I can say that finding the perfect drink to accompany my meal was a top priority. They have a variety of specialty drinks, sake, beer and wine. Our waiter recommended the sake sangria which is served by the glass or by the crafe. Since there were two of us adults we opted for the crafe which made more sense cost wise at $34 versus $12 per glass. This was the perfect choice and I would certainly get it again after a long, hot day at Disney. It was very mild yet refreshing and paired well with all of the food that we ordered.
I definitely believe that I'm a little bit of a food snob. I like good tasting food and I'm not ashamed to talk about it. Morimoto Asia was a home run for me. The ambience and beverages are above par in my opinion but the real selling point is hands down the food. When we first arrived our waiter said that the restaurant is based on a Chinese style kitchen where the food comes out when it is ready and it does not sit under warming lights. He was absolutely correct. Items that we ordered last came out first and there was no sequencing to the order in which the food was brought out. This can get a little confusing because you are not sure what is coming next but it also adds to the excitement of the dishes. We tried three items that I consider "must haves" that I definitely recommend you try.
1. Morimoto Spare Ribs-delicious, fall off the bone tender ribs coated in a sweet chili glaze-sweet with a little bit of heat is such a heady combination. Just look at this picture. I think the picture says all that needs to be said about this delicious dish.
2. Morimoto Peking Duck-roasted duck which is deboned before it is brought to the table and is served with steamed flour pancakes that taste like tortillas with two dipping sauces. The duck was moist and outstanding. The picture is a little deceiving in my opinion. You receive alot more duck then what it looks like in the picture. The slices are fanned out in a circle and in the middle of the plate is a pile of chunks of duck and duck legs. It is a great choice for multiple people to eat.
3. Ramen-broth, noddles, roasted pork and mushrooms. Our waiter portioned out the broth and noodles into individual bowls. This is another great item to share. It was much larger of an item then I was expecting and delicious..
Ultimately my experience at Morimoto Asia was excellent. However, there were a few small downsides to the meal. I wanted to go to Morimoto Asia for try two main dishes-the sushi and dim sum. Unfortunately, we ordered sushi but it was never delivered to our table. I think there was a miscommunication between our waiter and the sushi bar which was a huge disappointment since the sushi was the main reason why I selected to go to there. Hopefully I can blog again about Morimoto Asia and give you an in-depth sushi report next time. The dim sum was high on my list as well. We tried the Kakuni Pork Bao which is pork belly in steamed buns with lettuce and spicy mayo. I thought this dish could have been better. There was alot of steamed bun but not much pork. If they evened out the portion size this dish would be met my expectations. But it fell a little flat in my opinion. Also, before you go review the menu and prices. If you are going to sample multiple dishes, the cost adds up very quickly. So keep this in mind but it is worth the splurge.
Would I go to Morimoto Asia again? Absolutely! However, I hope they do not forget the sushi this time.
Would I recommend to my fellow readers to try Morimoto Asia? Absolutely! Give it a try and let me know what you think of it. Don't forget to like our Facebook page for up to date blog posts, travel information and specials-
Spending time in the water while living in or visiting Florida is a must for at least half of the year. No wonder Walt Disney World water parks are so popular especially during the summer months. I decided to test the "waters" at both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks to see if one is really better than the other. Not only did I get to decide which was better but I also asked my entourage, including four children ranging in age from 3-10, to help me pick the winner.
We started off at Blizzard Beach. We arrived early and found shady lounge chairs near the Ski Patrol Training Camp area. This is a great spot to be in if you have young children through preteens with smaller slides and activities perfect for their age including a zip line. Tike's Peak is right around the corner which is for babies through those little ones 48 inches or less. Our entire group loved the Toboggan Racers which allows all heights to race head to head against each other. Teamboat Springs is also a great ride for all families to ride together on one large round tube. The main thrill attractions at Blizzard Beach are Summit Plummet and Slush Gusher which both require riders to be 48 inches or taller. These were both closed due to a busted pipe so we were not able to try them. Hopefully next time!
After lunch we traveled over to Typhoon Lagoon for a few quick rides before they closed at 5p.m.. Our tickets allowed us to visit both water parks on the same day with just the one paid admission ticket. Typhoon Lagoon has a completely different feel then Blizzard Beach. Typhoon Lagoon has alot more sandy areas and more of their rides require tubes to ride down on. The thrill rides are Humunga Kowabunga and Crush 'n' Gusher which require riders to be at least 48 inches or taller. Mayday Falls, Gangplank Falls and Keelhaul Falls are all close to each other which makes it convenient to go from one to the next easily and these are open to any size rider.
Both waterparks are extremely fun and all of us (including the adults) had a great time. However, Blizzard Beach was voted as the favorite by my family.
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