2013 Travel Choice Award Winners for Best Hotels

The 2013 Travel Choice Awards on TripAdvisor.com can assist you in selecting your next vacation.  Many travelers write reviews on TripAdvisor.com which has made it a source in choosing various hotel properties and destinations.  Although some of the reviews may seem over the top and or bias, there is no denying that a lot of travelers view TripAdvisor.com’s reviews prior to making any vacation buying decision.   We strongly suggest that you use a profession travel agency as your top source when customizing a vacation; preferably Showtime Travel :-).  Travel agencies can assist you in filtering opinions from facts which will help you customize a vacation specifically for your needs.

 

 

How to Avoid Super Bowl Travel Scams

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Every year you hear about the poor soul who bought a fax Superbowl ticket or spends thousands on a bogus sports travel package.  Here are some tips to help you avoid these sports travel scams.

• Check the tickets. Make sure when booking a sports package that the arrangements include tickets to the desired sporting event. The U.S. government’s ‘Truth in Ticketing’ rules, require that a tour operator advertising a Super Bowl travel package that includes a flight and game tickets must have the game tickets in hand or have a written contract for the tickets before they can even advertise.

 • Do your homework. Book tour packages through a travel agent or tour operator affiliated with a professional organization, such as ASTA. For example, ASTA notes it is the only travel trade association with a Consumer Affairs function that can mediate some disputes for consumers and ASTA member travel agents. Check to see if the company is an ASTA member at ASTA.org. Also, check to see if there are any complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.

 • Protect yourself. Make sure the tour operator participates in a consumer protection plan. ASTA’s Tour Operator Program (TOP) helps travel agents and consumers identify ASTA tour operators that meet certain standards, the Society says. The criteria require that the tour operator be in the business of operating tours for the past three years; have a $1 million Errors & Omissions (E&O) policy naming travel agents as additional insured; and adhere to the ASTA and TOP code of ethics.

• Read the fine print. Get information about the tour package and tour operator in writing. Read the information carefully and ask your travel agent to explain all the details.

ASTA also offers suggestions when evaluating any travel offer to help avoid being a victim of a travel scam:

• Retain a healthy dose of skepticism. Be extremely skeptical about unsolicited e-mail, postcard and phone solicitations saying you’ve been selected to receive a fabulous vacation or anything free. Be especially wary of firms requiring you to wait at least 60 days to take your trip.

• Do your homework. Some offers might sound great on the surface, but be sure to read the fine-print. Certain offers impose so many requirements and restrictions, such as black-out dates and companion fees, that you will either never have the chance to take the trip or you will end up paying more than had you made the arrangements on your own or used an ASTA travel agent.

• Run a “background check.” You should vet the companies from which you purchase travel services. You can do this by checking to see if they are members of ASTA or by searching for the company on the Better Business Bureau’s Web site. Other sites to check are www.complaintsboard.com and www.ripoffreport.com.

• Keep private information private. Never give out your credit card number unless you initiate the transaction and you are confident about the company with which you are doing business.

• Get the facts. You should receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. These details should include the total price; cancellation and change penalties, if any; and specific information about all components of the package.

• Follow up. Once you have the complete details of your trip, contact the hotel and transportation companies on your own to make certain the reservations have been made.

• Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. High-pressure sales presentations that don’t allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require that you disclose your income are red flags to be heeded.

• Protect yourself. Always pay with a credit card if possible. Even legitimate companies can go out of business. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card customers have the right to refuse paying for charges for services not rendered. Details of the Fair Credit Billing Act can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site.

If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your local Better Business Bureau, your local or state Consumer Affairs Office, state attorney general’s office, or e-mail ASTA’s Consumer Affairs department at consumeraffairs@asta.org for information and assistance. For more travel tips, visit ASTA’s consumer Web site, www.TravelSense.org.

source: TravelAgentCentral.com

Top 5 Things to Know Before You Cruise

If you’re a first time cruiser, here are some things to know before you go.

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1. First and foremost figure out what type of cruise would best suit you. Large ships with lots of activities and dining options where the vessel is as much the attraction as the ports; smaller boutique ships that can provide a more up-close-and-personal experience by getting into remote places; a river cruise where you hop off each day to wander European cities or even drive it yourself up the Murray…

2. Find out what is included. Meals will always be included but some packages throw in your drinks and excursions in the main price, others charge them as extras. Most cruise lines have a daily gratuity fee added to your room for service. Be aware of this and check to see if it’s already included in your total cost, or will be added daily once onboard so there are no surprises.

3. Do a bit research on the ports you are visiting before you travel. If you book the ship’s shore excursions you will be well taken care of, but they can be more expensive than pottering off and doing your own thing. You may find there’s shopping and outdoor dining (with free WiFi!) and is all you fancy. It is also a good idea to book your shore excursions before you go so you don’t miss out. You can usually do this on the ship’s website.

4.  Have a budget in mind for your onboard spending lest you swipe your card willy nilly and get a shock at the end. Budgetty types can get a daily printout from reception.

5.  Most cruise lines have a daily gratuity fee added to your room for service. Just be aware of this and check to see if it’s already included in your total cost, or will be added daily once onboard.

source: bloggeratlarge.com

Update: Carnival Expands Alcohol Beverage Package to Half Moon Cay, More Ships

Carnival Cruise Lines has again expanded its “test” of the Cheers! all-you-can-drink alcohol packages, this time to the private island of Half Moon Cay and several more ships. In total, the package is available on 13 of the line’s 24 ships.

Originally launched in August as the My Awesome Bar Program, the Cheers! package includes up to 15 drinks daily, from a wide selection of wines, beers and spirits, as well as sodas and nonalcoholic frozen cocktails for $42.95, per person, per day, plus 15 percent gratuity (if one adult in a cabin purchases the package, all adults over 21 years old in that cabin must purchase). The package also includes a 25 percent discount on bottled water.

The 13 ships offering Cheers! are: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory, Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Pride, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Valor and Carnival Victory.

Source: http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=5143

Why You Should Visit St. Thomas USVI?

I had a chance to visit St. Thomas and enjoyed this Island.  The island has culture, beautiful scenery, duty free shopping and no passport needed if you are an US citizen.

St. Thomas combines the natural beauty of the Caribbean with the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the United States. Here you’ll discover breathtaking white-sand beaches perfect for all of your watersports dreams or for simply sitting underneath the shade of a palm tree scanning the horizon of one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. You’ll also find elegant dining, upscale resorts, exciting nightlife, challenging golf, and world-class duty-free shopping. St. John is more serene and adventurous with many natural sites to see. On St. Thomas there are also many historical and cultural activities for travelers to enjoy.

Stay Cool at “Magic Ice” in St. Thomas

We had the pleasure of having a complimentary drink in Magic Ice in St. Thomas, USVI.  Magic Ice is a Ice Bar that has a variety of beautiful ice sculptures showcased through out the bar.   This Scandinavia-inspired attraction is rated by Tripadvisor as the the #1 thing to do in St. Thomas.  This sub-zero experience is well worth it.  There is a cover charge which get you a complimentary shot and shot glass.  View our video interview and pictures to get more details on Magic Ice before your next trip to St. Thomas, USVI.

http://www.magicice.vi/

Rihanna shows her ‘impressive’ face in new Barbados video

There is an old saying that ‘sex sells.’

But when it comes to promoting a country as a tourist destination, it seems that ‘celebrity’ is just as likely to encourage potential visitors to book a flight.

This has been proved this week by a series of new images that show R&B superstar Rihanna caught in a range of playful scenes in her native Barbados.

The campaign – which includes a video uploaded to Youtube – is the second part of an advertising drive, launched by the Barbados Tourism Authority, seeking to capitalise on the global fame of the Caribbean island’s most celebrated figure.

http://www.tourexpi.com/en-tr/news.html~nid=69096&Yfrmnw

St. Martin/St. Maarten – Visit Two Countries On One Island

I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful unique Caribbean island St. Martin/St. Maarten.   It is an island that offers a lot of variety to fulfill all your ambitions.   Please feel free to view some of the the pictures I took during my visit.  Also, watch the video with my tour guide, Mimi.  It’s always good to get the prospective from someone who lives on the island 🙂

St. Martin/St. Maarten

St. Martin/St. Maarten is a 37-square-mile, tropical island in the northeast Caribbean, unique in that it is shared by two different nations—the Netherlands and France. The island boasts the best dining and duty-free bargains in the Caribbean, as well as year- round temperatures in the 80s, spectacular beaches that encircle the island, and stellar options for recreation and entertainment.

St. Maarten – Dutch St. Maarten, on the southern side of the island, offers a lively atmosphere with an American feel, and fun that includes great beaches, fine dining, bars and nightclubs, and Vegas-style casinos. Nights are the time to experience true Caribbean limin’ (steppin’ out) on this little metropolitan island. Simpson Bay and the bustling capital of Philipsburg are where you’ll find St. Maarten’s dining and entertainment hubs. Philipsburg is also known for its long streets of quaint shops with terrific duty-free bargains.

St. Martin – On the north side of the island, French St. Martin exudes a chic European charm enhanced by sidewalk cafes, peaceful beaches, and an array of bistros and restaurants that cook up the most fabulous gourmet cuisine in the Caribbean. Certain nights at Marigot port and Marina Royale feature many local bands and avant-garde street entertainers. The Marina area is also a hotspot for several chic nightclubs. The capital of Marigot is slower paced than , but the duty-free shopping here and elsewhere is excellent, with French-inspired arcades offering a wide selection of European goods.

What is Luxury Travel?

Some time potential travelers are intimidated or misconceived by the term “Luxury Travel”.   They may feel that Luxury Travel is too expensive or out of reach.  Some may even believe that they don’t deserve it.  I am here to tell you that you deserve Luxury Travel and it is achievable with proper planning.

“Luxury”  is defined in Webster’s dictionary as:  an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.  This same holds true for  “Luxury Travel” .   Most Americans have a limited vacation time so it’s important that they use their time wisely.   Why spend that vacation  time on a mediocre vacation just to say we did something?  Your vacation is a time for you or your family to make lifetime memories.  It’s a time to cherish special moments and sights that you dreamed of.   It is time to explore the world and attend events and festivals and live that life of  luxury if only for a few days.

Luxury Travel is different for everyone but it always provides pleasure, ease and satisfaction.  For example, your family may spend the spring break driving to a beach and staying in room with a small kitchenette to cook meals.  Why not try a cruise were meals and entertainment and multiple destinations are included.   Well, what if you are the person who is already taking the all inclusive vacations and cruises?  I say to you it’s time for you to experience the butler services and other exclusive amenities that are provided by the resorts and cruise lines.

Luxury Travel is not about caviar and fancy yachts.   It’s about the value and satisfaction that it provides.  I have had the pleasure of working with many clients who were a bit reserved at  first but came back from their vacation with a sense joy like they discovered a new world.  As you make your vacation plans for 2013, I strongly suggest you take that “Luxury Vacation”  You deserve it!

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