Saturday, October 16, 2010

Traveling Abroad Means Converting to the Local Currency, Right?

While Mexico has had a very liberal acceptance of US dollars for decades, the Mexican Government passed a new anti-money laundering law beginning September 14, 2010.

With this new law, the use of American dollars (CASH) to make purchases in Mexico will change. Other payment methods such as credit cards of all types and all issuing banks, Travelers Checks, Mexican pesos and non-American foreign currencies (such as Euros or Canadian dollars) are NOT affected in any way by this new law.

The most noticeable differences to my clients will be:

Hotels and exchange booths, and local banks will only be able to change a maximum of $1,500 USD CASH per person per month into Mexican pesos. Previously there was no limit.

Businesses (including restaurants, shops, and DMC's) will only be able to accept a maximum of $100 USD CASH per transaction -- but the number of transactions per customer is not restricted.

Certain businesses may not be able to, or may choose not to accept American dollars for any purchase at all (this may include shops, etc), however still accepting Mexican pesos.

If a client/customer wants to purchase an excursion (for example) that costs $150 US dollars per person, customers will only be able to pay $100 of this amount in USD CASH and the remainder will need to be in another form of payment (credit card, Mexican pesos, etc).

Airlines are advising that within Mexico, they will only accept Mexican pesos and credit cards for any fees (including baggage fees).

Vacationers should never carry large amounts of American dollars with them abroad, but instead they should consider either using a Credit Card, taking or locally withdrawing Mexican pesos from an ATM (very easy and convenient), or use Travelers Checks (of any currency).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Princess Cruises Will Add Alaska Ship in 2012

After two years operating just three ships on its Voyage of the Glaciers route, today Princess Cruises announced that it will be returning a fourth ship to its signature itinerary for the 2012 summer season.

The decision by Princess to increase its Alaska capacity was prompted, in part, by recent changes to the head tax structure in the state and the more balanced approach to doing business in Alaska, according to the line.

"We are particularly appreciative of the efforts of Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska state legislature that have resulted in meaningful progress toward resolving the challenges facing Alaska's recovery as a cruise destination," said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises. "We still have work to do, but the recent changes definitely played a part in this decision."

Buckelew pointed out that bringing a fourth ship back tot he Gulf of Alaska route has wide economic impacts from Southeast Alaska to Prudhoe Bay. "Because the one-way route lends itself to longer visitor stays, with visits to both the interior and Southeast Alaska, we calculate it has twice the potential economic impact of roundtrip cruises," he said.

"We are especially pleased to be able to announce this additional capacity to our business partners and supporters throughout Alaska who have worked tirelessly to advocate for a more positive business climate," Buckelew added. "They have improved the investment environment for all cruise lines and for all cruise dependent businesses throughout the state."

Princess' Voyage of the Glacier itinerary is the line's most popular Alaska itinerary, taking passengers between Vancouver and Whittier across the Gulf of Alaska with a visit to Glacier Bay and ports of call in the state's southeast. Because many passengers on this one-way route usually spend extra time in Alaska's interior utilizing Princess' lodges, rail and motorcoaches, this itinerary provides significant tourism benefits to the state.

Full details of Princess' 2012 Alaska deployment will be announced in spring 2011, including which ship will be added to the lineup.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Right Now It's the Hottest Destination in America

In The Florida Keys and Key West, the water's still warm, the sun's still shining and the average daily temperature is in the mid 70's. If you're looking for anything from an active family vacation to a romantic weekend getaway, there's something for everyone, all year round, in the Florida Keys.

...come as you are!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Experience Tempting Culinary Twists Onboard Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas introduces new culinary concepts and tempting twists to signature Oasis-class restaurants. A Brazilian steakhouse will be a destination restaurant that comes to life for dinner service in the Solarium. In Central Park, recently appointed Chef de Cuisine, Molly Brandt will present guests with a one-of-a-kind menu and distinct dining experience at 150 Central Park, a signature fine dining experience.

Combining the best of classic Mexican beach bars and Southern California's famed taquerias, Rita's Cantina will be a vibrant new restaurant in the Boardwalk neighborhood. Rita's Cantina also boasts some of the best and widest selection of margaritas at sea. In addition, the restaurant will introduce new nightlife to Boardwalk with live guitar music, drinks and dancing.

Also new to Boardwalk's dynamic and engaging scene will be The Boardwalk Dog House, an outdoor hotdog specialty. Guests can choose from traditional hot dogs, wieners, brats, sausages and other delicious linked meats and a variety of toppings to split a long bun.

(Credit: Royal Caribbean International newsletter)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Belize Prepares for 2012 Celebration

Belize is gearing up for a year of reflections, renewal and celebration when the winter solstice of 2012 arrives.

"Imagine a New Year's party that comes only once every 52,000 years, and you'll get an idea of what this means to those of us living in the Maya heartland," said Dr. Jaime Awe, director of Belize's Institute of Archaeology, yesterday (Sept. 6, 2010) at a preliminary launch of a new Belizean website dedicated to the 2012 celebrations planned for this Central American nation.

Seleni Matus, director of the Belize Tourism Board, said, "This region is where the Maya Calendar began and continues to be read. You won't find too many people worried about 2012 here. In fact, we're looking forward to a year of celebrating and highlighting Belize's vibrant Maya culture and history."

Belize, on Central America's Caribbean coast, has a large per capita Maya population and a huge number of Maya archaeological sites. Three Maya dialects are still spoken in Belize, and traditions such as farming methods and cooking have continued largely unchanged for centuries in Maya villages.

Belize will be hosting scientists, academics and an expected influx of visitors throughout 2012, with a range of special tours, cultural activities and Maya themed sporting events planned. One initiative, for instance, involves visitors being issued with commemorative Maya "passports" and collectors' cards, which give entry and are stamped at each of Belize's Maya temples and archaeology sites. Along with information kits and knowledgeable guides they ensure visitors a well rounded and memorable Maya experience during 2012.

There are also special tour packages on offer, with most resorts enthusiastically participating in the national celebrations. Events such as the annual La Ruta Maya canoe race, one of the longest in the world, will emphasize Maya culture as it passes through the country.

Credit: Joe Pike, TravelAgentCentral

Monday, August 30, 2010

10 Over-The-Top Cruise Ships

Whether it's stairs made of Swarovski crystals, a Cirque Du Soleil-like performance, water park, or planetarium, modern cruise ships are offering everything travelers would want to have a holiday in one place.

Cruise booking specialists (Cruise 1st, Australia) has navigated the high seas to find its top 10 unique offers: (This list is not endorsed by Reuters.)

1. Celebrity Century - Celebrity Cruises
This ship, refurbished in 2006, boasts rooms with private verandas and suites with personal butlers. The Martini Bar is also home to the first "ice bar" concept at sea.

2. Pacific Jewel - P&O Cruises Australia
Launched December 2009, Pacific Jewel offers a high-wire circus and trapeze arena on the top deck and P&O's first ever celebrity chef restaurant -- Salt Grill by Luke Mangan. The spa and fitness center is as big as an Olympic-sized swimming pool and the ship has four kids' clubs and a shopping precinct.

3. MS Panorama - Avalon Waterways
The MS Panorama, due to be launched in May 2011, will be the first to feature two full decks of suites with wall-to-wall panoramic windows and balconies to enjoy the view cruising along some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine and Danube.

4. Queen Mary 2 - Cunard
Arguably the most magnificent ocean liner ever built, the ship features the only planetarium at sea and 15 restaurants and numerous bars and lounges, including the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar. With book clubs and regular presentations on contemporary and historical issues, the Queen Mary 2 travels almost everywhere and is well known for a 108 day World Voyage.

5. MSC Fantasia - MSC Cruises
Known for opulence, the MSC Fantasia boasts the exclusive MSC yacht club featuring a staircase of Swarovski crystals as well as a private lounge with transparent ceilings. The aqua park has 150 illuminated musical fountains and the swimming area a waterslide.

6. Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbean International Line
The world's largest cruise ship ever, costing over $1 billion, is divided into seven different neighborhoods. Onboard activities include a zip-line, carousel, rock-climbing walls, a 750-seat AquaTheater amphitheater hosting water ballet and dinner shows with the option of 25 different restaurants.

7. Celebrity Solstice - Celebrity Cruises
On board Celebrity Solstice, real grass is used in the half-acre Lawn Club where passengers can enjoy a picnic or join a game of bocce or croquet. Watch glass blowers in action.

8. Ruby Princess - Princess Cruises
The newest member of the Princess Cruises fleet, the Ruby Princess features poolside theaters and the cruise line's signature outdoor cinema. The adults-only The Sanctuary features a spa-inspired setting while the kids can enjoy five swimming pools, including a swim-against-the-current lap pool. For those looking to renew their vows or lucky enough to meet their soul mate on board, the ship has the Hearts and Minds wedding chapel.

9. MV Orion - Orion Expedition Cruises
Designed for expedition cruising but exuding luxury, guests explore various destinations, and are transported ashore in one of the fleet of 10 Zodiacs or inflatable rubber boats. On board, enjoy a meal from award-winning Sydney chef Serge Dansereau of The Bathers' Pavilion fame.

10. MV True North - True North
Cruise through Australia's Top End on board one of the most luxurious Australian cruise ships, True North. Six expedition vessels carry passengers up close to waterfalls and the onboard helicopter can take passengers to emote billabongs to fish or snorkel.

(reprinted from; copyright 2010 Reuters)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Roatan, Honduras

Roatan forms part of a Caribbean archipelago off the northeastern coast of Honduras called the Bay Islands. Roatan is in the middle and is the largest of the three main islands. These islands are surrounded by a spectacular barrier reef that rivals Australia's Great Barrier Reef for beauty and diversity. This, and the warm clear waters here have lured divers from around the world for snorkeling and scuba diving.

There's so much to do on this beautiful island -- hiking, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, exploring, shopping, and/or swimming with dolphins.

Some "don't miss" opportunities:
Parrot Tree Hill mansion;
Dolphin encounter -- swim, pet & interact with these gentle, well-trained animals.
Tabyana Beach -- a tropical natural beach fringed by palm trees on the jungle side and soft white sand and warm blue water on the other. Guests here can kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, and/or relax and enjoy a delicious lunch.
Gumbalinda Park -- have a close encounter with the wildlife, hundreds of parrots and monkeys to interact with.
Sherman's Iguana Refuge and Fish Nursery -- mingle among hundreds of iguanas.
Turquoise Bay Beach -- relax and swim.
Cameo Factory -- see the steps in cameo carving, and purchase these exquisite beauties. Gorgeous!

I personally fell in love with the island the first time I visited. The Honduran people are warm, friendly and helpful.

I hope you'll choose a cruise with this island as one of the ports-of-call on the itinerary, or a land-based vacation package.

(information compiled through NCL University's course on Roatan, Honduras)