A Travellerspoint blog

Discovering Alaska IV-Juneau, Alaska

Alaska's Capital City is a Beautiful and Unique Place

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is probably the most scenic capital in the United States. It is often referred to as a 'little San Francisco.' The city center, which hugs the side of Mt. Juneau and Mt. Roberts, has many narrow streets running past a mixture of new structures, old storefronts and slanted houses, all held together by a network of staircases. The bustling waterfront features cruise ships, tankers, fishing boats, a few kayakers and floatplanes buzzing in and out. Overhead are the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Roberts and Mt. Juneau, which provide just a small part of the superb hiking the area is known for.


The area of Juneau is larger than that of Rhode Island and Delaware individually and almost as large as the two states combined. Juneau, with an estimated population of 30,988, is named after gold prospector Joe Juneau. The town was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg (after Juneau's co-prospector, Richard Harris). Downtown Juneau sits at sea level, with tides averaging 16 feet, below steep mountains about 3,500 feet to 4,000 feet high. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; two of these, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Lemon Creek Glacier, are visible from the local road system. The Mendenhall glacier has been generally retreating and its front face is declining both in width and height.

As Reginald and I left the ship after it docked in Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier was foremost in my thoughts. I had booked an excursion called "Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Bake" which promised a visit to the glacier, a tour of a salmon hatchery and a late lunch at a outdoor facility where we would experience a real Salmon Bake meal. We boarded the tour bus with other passengers and found ourselves treated to an impromptu concert by our bus driver who played a small guitar and sang to us prior to driving away from the dock. Needless to say, that put everyone in a very good mood.


After a short tour of the town, we pulled up to the park area near Mendenhall Glacier. Mendenhall Glacier is a glacier about 12 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. The United States Forest Service administers the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center as part of Tongass National Forest. Forest interpreters offer conservation education programs throughout the year for children and adults. It is the only visitor center in the United States within a half mile of a terminal glacier that calves icebergs into a lake. The center is open year-round and receives close to 500,000 visitors each year, many coming by cruise ship in summer.

Walking up to the Visitor Center from the parking area I was amazed to see the huge glacier right in front of us. It was truly an awesome sight! The day had started out overcast and chilly with a little drizzle of rain here and there, but that did not dampen my spirits at all, getting so close to a natural wonder that I had only seen before in photos. Reginald and I walked down to the edge of the glacier and a fellow cruise passenger took our photo with the glacier behind us. It is one of my favorite photos to this day.



Mendenhall Glacier

Reggie & Me

The Visitors Center was full of information about the glacier and Alaska in general. We walked through the exhibits and stopped by the souvenir shop to buy some postcards on the way out. As we headed toward the parking lot, we stopped to listen to a Park Ranger give a short lecture on the glacier to a group of visitors before we rejoined out tour group and left the park for our next stop.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor's Center

Park Ranger

Our next stop was the Salmon Hatchery. The hatchery, was designed to allow visitors to watch the whole process of harvesting and fertilizing eggs from outdoor decks. From mid-June to October, salmon swim up a 450-foot fish ladder, visible through a window, into a sorting mechanism, then are "unzipped" by workers who remove the eggs. Guides and exhibits explained to us what happens. Inside the hatchery building, large saltwater aquariums showed us the area's marine life as it looks in the natural environment. After the tour, I bought some canned salmon made by the hatchery, along with some fresh salmon dip to snack on back at the ship later on.

Leaving the hatchery, our tour took us to the Salmon Bake for lunch. I was good and hungry by then and this meal was well worth the wait! We arrived at a beautiful setting, in a lush rain forest alongside a creek. There were translucent domes set up to protect you from the elements. The rain had stopped by then, but it was nice to be covered in case it returned. I could smell the aroma of wild salmon grilling over a wood fire as we joined a line of diners waiting to get a cup of homemade clam chowder. We found a table and then went to the buffet that had a sumptuous spread of grilled salmon, Cheechako Chicken, Chilkoot Baked Beans, Tongass Wild-Rice Pilaf, White Pass Pasta and a large selection of other sides, salads and beverages. Beer and wine were available for purchase. We helped ourselves to the buffet more than once as a local musician played music while we ate. It was a grand and delicious meal in a wonderful setting.

Juneau Salmon Bake

Salmon Bake dining area

Excellent grilled Salmon, YUM!

Feeling stuffed from a fantastic lunch, Reginald and I chose to be dropped off in town on the way back to the ship to walk off some of the meal. We wandered down the narrow streets and stopped at the Red Dog Saloon to buy a tote bag to haul all of our goodies. We found some great Alaska T-Shirts in a small shop and then walked back to the cruise ship pier to board the Diamond Princess. It had be a fabulous day in Juneau! I got up close and personal with a glacier, gained insight into raising and harvesting salmon and had a great lunch to boot! Who could ask for more than that!


Downtown Juneau, Alaska

Next up, cruising Glacier Bay and College Fjord. To be continued......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:15 Comments (0)

Should You take a Cruise Vacation?

Your Top 10 Common Cruise Questions Answered

According to the popular Cruise Critic website "cruising newcomers usually have more excuses as to why they've never sailed than there are ships at sea. Often, these excuses are based on misconceptions of what a cruise vacation is really like. If your mental image of a cruise vacation is based on "Titanic" (snobby rich folks playing shuffleboard and dining each night in gowns and tuxedos) or "The Love Boat" (lots of shameless hooking up between guests and crewmembers), or if it involves the notion of a floating, nonstop smorgasbord, you clearly need to bring your preconceived notions in line with the reality of modern cruising".


To give you more insight into the contemporary cruise experience, here are Cruise Critics 10 of the most common questions that are asked by travelers who've never sailed.

Is cruising expensive?

The upfront price may come as a shock, but remember that your cruise fare includes your accommodations, meals in main dining venues, activities (including children's programs) and nighttime entertainment -- not to mention transportation from port to port. When you factor in all of the costs you'd incur on a land vacation, as well as the great deals you can currently find on cruise travel, you'll discover that you can actually save money by booking a cruise, as opposed to a land-based vacation.

Are cruises all-inclusive?

No. Your cruise fare includes a lot (see above), but you'll pay extra for a whole host of amenities. Among them? Alternative restaurants, some coffee and ice cream bars, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, spa treatments and gratuities. The luxury lines include more, but even they are never completely all-inclusive. (Drinks and gratuities may be included in fares, but spa treatments and shore excursions won't be.)

Are all cruise ships alike?

Cruise ships come in a variety of sizes and personalities. You'll find a myriad of variations: big ships, small ships, explorer-oriented ships, absolutely decadent luxury ships, family ships, sailing ships ... and on and on!

Is cruising like going to Vegas or to a resort?

Well, yes -- and no. These days, cruise ships do have all the comforts and luxuries that travelers associate with on-land resorts, as well as much of the glitz and glamor of destinations like Vegas (including bustling casinos and lavish production shows). However -- and this may seem obvious, but it needs to be mentioned -- you are on a ship. Rough seas can impact your itinerary, you must debark and reboard the ship at specified times, and your cabin will typically be smaller than a hotel room (unless you book the highest level of suites).

Isn't cruising just for the "newly wed and nearly dead"?

It used to be, but no way is that true anymore. Cruise ships are increasingly targeting families, offering children's programs and facilities that rival those on land. You'll find onboard water parks, teen discos, video games and a variety of crafts projects and interactive play. Singles can enjoy the camaraderie of communal meals and organized shore tours, special singles' meet-and-greets and a host of onboard activities. Hip and urban travelers will be pleased to find gourmet dining, high-tech and modern entertainment and late-night action at onboard bars and clubs. Gay and lesbian cruisers are welcomed onboard with their own meet-ups in ships' lounges. Charter cruises -- catering to gay singles, couples and families -- are also offered.

Health-conscious and active travelers should note that midnight buffets have given way to expansive fitness centers, spa cuisine and an array of active, onboard pursuits like rock-climbing and Pilates classes. And, cruise lines are even offering plenty of shorter-than-usual (three- to six-night) voyages that are marketed to working folks, who simply can't give up two weeks or more.

Will I get sick or seasick?

You may have read news articles about outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships. Norovirus is a stomach bug that spreads easily in contained environments, such as hospitals and schools, as well as ships. You can stay healthy by washing your hands often and using the hand sanitizer lotion found in dining areas and by the ship's gangway.

As for seasickness, most ships are so big and well-stabilized that you can hardly tell you're moving, especially in the calm waters of the Caribbean and Alaska's Inside Passage. Radar helps big ships outrun hurricanes and other bad-weather patches, but if you do happen to pass through some rough water, any queasiness can usually be relieved by an over-the-counter medication like Dramamine or Bonine. If you are very prone to seasickness, ask your doctor before you leave home for the Transderm patch, available by prescription. Alternative remedies include ginger capsules and acupressure wristbands, available at most pharmacies. Also, note that the purser's desks on most ships can provide rations.

Is cruising safe?

Ships must follow an extraordinary number of rules and regulations that assure passengers' (and crewmembers') safety while onboard. The Coast Guard conducts rigorous, quarterly inspections of all ships that operate from U.S. ports, looking to make sure they comply with emergency-response requirements. Rather than sinking (a la Titanic), fire is the biggest concern, and when it comes to fire safety, ships operate under international rules, known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The rules require most ships to have smoke detectors, sprinklers and low-level emergency lighting for escape routes.

Within the first 24 hours of sailing, everyone on your ship is required to participate in a safety drill that includes trying on a nifty orange life jacket and locating your assigned lifeboat, on the odd (and rare) chance that you need to use it.

However, cruise ships are like mini-cities, and you should take the same general travel precautions you would on land. Keep any valuables in your cabin's safe (or leave them at home), don't open your cabin door without verifying who's there, and give children strict rules about when they can and cannot roam the ship without adult supervision.

Will I be bored?

No way! You may need a map to navigate around today's big ships, and there's something to do in nearly every corner. For intellectual stimulation, you can listen to guest speakers, participate in Bridge tournaments or attend wine lectures. To get your heart pumping, play some hoops, or visit the ship's gym. There are pools for soaking and swimming, boutiques for shopping and spas for pampering. You can participate in contests, do crafts, watch movies, or simply grab a book and get a tan.

Even on small ships, there's plenty to do during times when the vessels are at sea; most notably, these cruises tend to offer strong enrichment-oriented activities. Plus, remember you're not on the ship all the time -- most itineraries include a variety of different ports of call.

Won't I get fat?

Okay, we know the rumor that the average person gains about five pounds on a one-week cruise. But, for those watching calories, be assured there will be low-fat (and often low-carb) options on the menus and some healthy choices at the buffets. Certain ships actually have onboard spa cafes. And, many have simply done away with midnight buffets -- those longtime paeans of absolute indulgence. (After-dinner revelers can, instead, partake in hors d'oeuvres, served in late-night venues.)

Aside from eating healthy, you can also burn calories by working out in the ship's gym, speed-walking or jogging around the various decks (or ditching elevators in favor of stairs), and mountain-biking, hiking and kayaking in port. Some ships have basketball courts, rock-climbing walls and rollerblading rinks for more onboard athletics.

Can I stay in touch?

On most ships, you'll get CNN or some other cable news network on your in-room TV. A daily news sheet may also be available, combining wire reports with stories from major newspapers. You can make phone calls from the phone in your cabin (though it's prohibitively expensive) and from your cell phone, as well. (Roaming charges apply.) Most ships have Internet centers and shipboard WiFi, so you can read e-mail and surf the Web.

As you can see from the answers to these questions, there is no reason to avoid taking that cruise vacation. In my humble opinion, a cruise vacation is just about the best vacation in there is. Why not try it for yourself?

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
M & E Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 13:00 Comments (0)

Discovering Alaska III: Ketchikan, Alaska

Exploring Alaska's "First City"

Leaving Canada behind, our first full day on the Diamond Princess was a relaxing day at sea. A Sea Day at the beginning of a cruise is a wonderful opportunity to relax from the stress of traveling to the embarkation port and you have time to explore the ship and participate in onboard activities. The Diamond Princess had tons of thing to do, with covered and uncovered pools, the Lotus Spa, Grand Casino, several bars and restaurants including a 24 hour buffet, Seminars at Sea, television and movie presentations and all kinds of other events all day long. This first day of the cruise also included Formal Night so my husband and I had the entire day to get ready for the evening festivities. We chose Early Seating for dinner, so we would have the same dining room table and table mates for the entire week. Dinner that night was a fun and festive affair that included delicious food and eight wonderful dinner companions who were all from the United Kingdom. After dinner we wandered down the Promenade Deck, in and out of the nightclubs and the casino before the big event of the evening, the Captain's Champagne Waterfall Party that included free champagne and cocktails. Finally retiring to our cabin later that evening, we looked forward to arriving in Ketchikan the next day.

The next morning I was up early and on the balcony to watch the ship docking in Ketchikan. The weather was beautiful! So much warmer than I expected, with a sunny blue sky. Ketchikan was a beautiful picturesque town and we docked right in the middle of it. Ketchikan is located along the shores of Alaska's Inside Passage within the heart of the sixteen million acre Tongass National Forest. The community is comprised of three islands, Revillagigedo, Gravina and Pennock and transportation between them requires a boat or ferry ride across the Tongass Narrows. Home to 13,700 year around residents, Ketchikan is one of "America's Top 100 small arts communities". Ketchikan has an impressive variety of shops and galleries that feature work by many of the island’s resident artists and an assortment of souvenir items and unique gifts that make shopping one of the popular things to do there. I had reserved an excursion for the afternoon, so the morning was free for us to explore the town and buy some gifts to take home.





We walked off the ship right into town and down the street to a large store to buy some Alaskan gifts and apparel. I found a great hat to wear in case of rain and a couple of Alaska shirts to take home. We spent the rest of the morning sightseeing and window shopping until time to meet back at the ship for our excursion. At noon we met up with other passengers for the short walk to a restaurant for our "Alaskan Chef's Table" excursion. What a wonderful experience that was! Our small group shared a private dining room and sampled fresh Alaska seafood, regional dishes and dessert, all prepared by the Chef while we waited and looked out at the beautiful coastline. Leaving the restaurant 2 hours later, my husband and I slowly walked back to the ship enjoying the fresh sea air and stunning Alaska scenery. It was a fantastic start to our Alaska cruise and I could not wait to see more!





Coming up, a visit to Juneau, Alaska and my first Glacier up close and personal. To Be Continued......

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.

Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 08:39 Comments (0)

Discovering Alaska Part II: Leaving Vancouver for Ketchikan

Sail Away from Vancouver, Canada toward Ketchikan, Alaska

We woke up to an overcast sky on our second and last day in Vancouver. I wanted to get an early start before we had to leave the hotel for the Port of Vancouver later in the day. A tip from the doorman of the Four Seasons directed us to a lovely little cafe a few blocks away for an enormous as well as delicious breakfast. As my husband and I devoured the Breakfast Special of the day, I looked around at the Jazz inspired cafe decor and the busy street outside and had a difficult time remembering that I was actually in a foreign country. The weather changed to rain as we walked back to the hotel, so I headed for the Pacific Center Mall where I found a multitude of shops including the familiar Sears department store. I hurriedly bought a large umbrella, since I forgot to bring one from home and sorted through more Canada memorabilia before finishing my shopping for the day. Leaving the Mall, I stepped outside and found once again that the weather had changed, this time to warm and sunny. Sensing a preview a things to come, I walked down the street and took a few last photos before heading back to the Four Seasons to check in for the cruise.


Vancouver Street scene

Vancouver Street Near Four Seasons hotel

Princess Cruises makes Embarkation very easy for passengers who use their host hotels and transfers to the ship. Reginald and I found a ballroom near the lobby where Princess representatives were set up to take our cruise documents and passports and issue our cruise cards for the Diamond Princess. All that was left to do was board the transportation to the ship (our luggage had been taken on ahead early that morning) and take a last look around Vancouver as we rode to the Pier. Boarding the ship was easy and took less than 15 minutes. I looked around the Atrium area of the Diamond Princess and thought she was a right fine looking ship!

Diamond Princess Atrium

Diamond Princess Lobby

Stepping out on to the balcony of our mini-suite, I sighed in pleasure as I looked out over the beautiful port building and the harbor. Several ships were already sailing out ahead of us and they made a lovely sight against the gorgeous shoreline. After taking some photos and accepting a glass of champagne from our cabin steward, I started the task of unpacking so that I could relax later and enjoy the Sailaway from Canada.

Vancouver Port Building

Vancouver Harbor

Another ship leaving Port

Me on our balcony

Electing to enjoy Sailaway from our cabin, my husband and I sipped wine, took photos and relaxed in the quiet peacefulness of the sound of the ocean, watching the shoreline slowly fade into the distance. Such wonderful scenery! For more than an hour we sailed along the Canadian coastline before heading out to sea toward Ketchikan, Alaska. " What on earth took me so long to book this cruise?" I thought as I leaned on the railing to get my last glimpse of Vancouver. With a start like this, I could only imagine what wonders were yet to come!

Goodbye Vancouver!

Next up, our first port of call, Ketchikan, Alaska. To be continued......

Gerri Grant Gipson Esq.

Posted by Gerriv 14:43 Comments (0)

Discovering Alaska Part I

Cool Sailing in the Summertime

Summer in Alabama is really hot. I don't mean hot as in lots of exciting nightlife and activities, but rather hot as in awful temperatures soaring into the high 90's and sometimes over 100 degrees (F) with killer humidity. After failing to find a cool place to enjoy the summer year after year, I finally decided to try out a cruise to Alaska. I love to go on cruises. It's the best type of vacation there is, in my opinion. Of all of the itineraries that I have done, the Alaska Voyage is the one I avoided for years. Why you ask? I don't like cold weather, I don't like rain. I thought that is all I would get on an Alaska cruise. Boy, was I wrong.

After spending a lot of time researching which 7 day itinerary to choose, I finally settled on the Diamond Princess Voyage of the Glaciers. This ship and sailing was particularly attractive because of the departure port, Vancouver, British Columbia, the site of the last Olympic Winter Games in 2010. My husband and I would be traveling on the Diamond from Vancouver northbound to Whitter, Alaska, the homeport for Anchorage, Alaska where we would fly home. To top it all off, our favorite type of cabin, the awesome Princess mini-suites were on sale and we grabbed one right away.

Diamond Princess Mini Suite

Vancouver, Canada

We left Alabama on a warm June morning and flew via Atlanta to Vancouver the day before the cruise departure. Our early flight got us into Vancouver right around lunchtime. We met the always curtious and friendly Princess Cruises meet and greeters in baggage claim and boarded transportation with our luggage to our hotel for the night, the Four Seasons Vancouver. The Four Seasons was one of the pre-cruise host hotels for Princess, right in the middle of downtown near lots of restaruants and shopping. Arriving at the front desk, I once again found a use for my high school French (it came in handy in Nice, France on another Princess cruise). When the front desk clerk welcomed us with "Bonjour Madam and Monsieur" I was able to reply in kind. I was loving Vancouver already! Our hotel room was airy and spacious with a large window overlooking a busy city street. I read that there was a large shopping mall connected to the hotel and I planned to spend time there picking up some last minute items before boarding the ship.

Four Seasons hotel

Four Seasons hotel room

Ready for a late afternoon meal, my husband and I set out to find a place to eat. The hotel desk clerk directed us to a side street with lots of restaurant choices. Walking out into the bright sunshine and mild temperatures, I was pleased to have this chance to visit Vancouver. Vancouver is the city that has it all: natural beauty and cosmopolitan flair. Set between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountains, it has a wonderful blend of nature and urban living. Gardens, parks, and beaches are numerous as are heritage buildings, restaurants, and theatres. This city, with the laid-back feel of Los Angeles and the West Coast of the USA, is the third largest city in Canada and shares an ethnic diversity and multicultural flavor that is friendly and welcoming. Canada has a population just less than 30 million people in a country twice the area of the United States. The heritage of Canada was French and English; however, significant immigration from Asia and Europe's non-French and English countries has broadened Canada's cultural richness. This cultural diversity is considered a national asset, and the Canadian Constitution prohibits discrimination against individual citizens on the basis of race, color, religion, or sex. The great majority of Canadians are Christian. Although the predominant language in Canada is English, there are at least three varieties of French that are recognized. The Italian language is a strong third due to a great influx of Italian immigrants following W.W.II.

After walking a couple of blocks, we found an interesting looking English Pub. Walking through the door we found the place un crowded and quickly found a table. A waitress soon took our orders and we finally felt relaxed after a long day of traveling. We ordered hamburgers, fries and beer which really hit the spot. Leaving the Pub we walked down the street to the shopping area and bought some Vancouver Olympics souvenirs’ before making our way back to our hotel. Spending the rest of the evening relaxing in our hotel, I made plans for the next day to find a great place for breakfast and shop in the mall a little before the Princess transport picked us up from the hotel to take us to the Pier. Our first day in Canada was a delight I and could not help but be excited about what was to come.

Coming up, sailing out of Canada and into the beauty and wilds of Alaska. To Be Continued…….

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 08:15 Comments (7)

Is the Mega Ship Cruise Experience for You?

The Oasis of the Seas May Not be For Everyone

After reading this news article from USA Today Cruise Log on the Oasis of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s new mega ships, I find that I am definitely of the belief that "bigger is not always better".

USA Today Cruise Log

As a Travel Consultant and veteran of many cruises, I have found that sailing on the newest and biggest cruise ship doesn't always provide passengers with the best cruise experience. It all depends on what you are looking for. If you want to pay high prices to sail with almost 6000 other people and wait in line for boarding, dining, nonstop entertainment and activities and almost never have a view of the ocean unless you have an OUTSIDE BALCONY cabin, then this ship and her sister Allure of the Seas is for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more relaxed, traditional style of cruise vacation, then there are numerous, smaller, less expensive options out there for you. On every cruise I ever been on, my favorite experience is standing out on my balcony or at the railing on the top deck of the ship, listening to the sound of the ocean waves as the ship glides out to sea. There is something to be said for quiet peacefulness, especially if you are particularly stressed in everyday life. Yes, I do enjoy deck parties, pool games and Broadway type shows in the lounge, but I don't like crowds and lines and having to wait on my vacation. So I am very, very happy that there are cruise ships that cater to people like me. Which type of cruise lover are you?


Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
M & E Unlimited Travel Services
Travel Site...

Posted by Gerriv 12:13 Comments (0)

Australia Revisited

Oprah's Guests follow in My Footsteps

My heart is so full today. I just finished watching "Oprah in Australia" on TV. I visited Australia and Tasmania on a 21 day trip to the land downunder a few years ago. What a treat it was to see Gayle King and other Oprah show guests visit the same places I got to see. The Medowbank Winery in Cambridge, Tasmania were my Mom and I enjoyed wonderful wine and a fabulous lunch overlooking the vinyard has not changed at all. The Bonorong Wildlife Park where I saw a Tasmanian Devil for the first time and petted a Koala Bear is still taking care of animals that need their help. Finally, Beautiful Melbourne, Australia where I strolled the banks of the Yarra River and watched the street cars go by is just a big and lively and fun as I remember. Such a wonderful experience to see all of this again from my living room.

Oprah continues her visit for the next few days on TV. She told her audiance what I already know, the Australian people are wonderful, welcoming and friendly in ways one cannot imagine. This was Oprah's first visit to Australia, so I can actually say I beat her at somethng! I eagerly await continuing my return visit to Australia, thanks to Oprah, tomorrow!







Posted by Gerriv 15:03 Comments (2)

The Disney Cruise Vacation-Worth the Premium Cost?

As Disney rolls out the new 4000 passenger Disney Dream, the high cost gives some families sticker shock.


A recent article in the January 4, 2011 Orlando Sentinel newspaper about the new mega ship, the Disney Dream got me thinking. As a child, my ultimate dream was to visit Disney World. Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was my favorite show on TV. When I finally got to visit Disney World in Florida as a pre-teen, I was delighted that the theme park met all of my expectations. As an adult, about three years ago, I made a return trip with some grown up friends to Disney World and found myself stunned, shocked and appalled at the high prices for park tickets and just about everything else.

I have found extremely high prices to be the case all too often with the Disney Cruises as well. With the roll out of the new 4000 passenger Disney Dream this month, there is extremely high interest in this ship and I have compiled quite a few cruise quotes for the Disney Dream for this Spring and Summer. Newspaper articles and online videos extolling the virtues of this new mega ship have generated high consumer interest and now everyone wants a piece of the Dream. Not surprisingly though, my clients have been more than a little shocked at the cruise fares for 1 cabin on a 4, 5, or 7 day Disney Dream Cruise. While Disney undeniably has a great product for a family cruise vacation, I'm not sure that the experience is worth the premium cost unless you and your family are die hard Disney fans, especially in this economy.

Why do I feel this way? Because there are just too many other options out there for a family cruise vacation that are more reasonably priced, tons of fun for adults and kids, and more of a value for limited family vacation funds. I'm not knocking Disney, but I want my clients to know, there are other options that I would be more than happy to tell them about!

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 07:37 Comments (4)

Why I got Married During an Eastern Caribbean Cruise

My very first cruise was in 1990 on the Carnival Fantasy to the Eastern Caribbean. Although I had a wonderful time, I did not sail again until the year 2000 when my fiancé, now husband and I left on our 7 day Wedding Cruise on the Grand Princess to the Eastern Caribbean. Why did I choose a cruise as the vehicle to get married? Simple, because it is a hassle free, all-inclusive vacation that is easy to combine with a wedding, reunion, or other special event for a large or small group. My husband and I got to have our ceremony in the Caribbean, with family and friends in attendance and got to have an immediate honeymoon for the rest of the week and be treated like royalty by the wonderful cruise staff. With so much to do both on and off the ship, we could choose to spend time with our family or have time to ourselves.




That is what is so wonderful about the cruise vacation, for one price you get so much choice! How else can you get great accommodations, delicious food and outstanding service combined with the excitement of seeing the world and the convenience of unpacking once for the entire trip! Add an education seminar or an important social event to the cruise experience and you really do have the best of both worlds. Since my wonderful Wedding Cruise, I have sailed on over 15 cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, on several different cruise lines. Because of my wonderful cruise experiences, I decided to share my love of the cruise vacation with as many individuals, families and groups as possible by becoming a Cruise Vacation specialist and Group Cruise Meeting Planner. After several successful group events at sea, I have found that there is nothing I like better than introducing a first time cruise passenger to the delights of the cruise vacation experience. Sharing that cruise vacation with family, friends or colleagues makes it even more rewarding! I truly believe a cruise is one of the best ways to travel!



Travel is Life, Life is an Adventure!

Start planning your own Adventure today!

Gerri Grant Gipson Esq.

Posted by Gerriv 10:12 Comments (8)

Sailing Through History X-Venice, Italy Part II

Touring Venice, Going Home

Our first full day in Venice began with disembarking from the Emerald Princess. I have to say that in all the cruise disembarkations that I have participated in, this one was the most unusual. Our transportation to our hotel was included in the cruise package. After retrieving our luggage, we were ushered down the pier to a larger water taxi that would deliver us to the Bauer Hotel. I was very nervous watching the taxi driver load all of us (there were 15 or so in our group going to the hotel) and our luggage on to this boat. I caught my breath as I saw my suitcase being literally tossed into the rear of the boat, but I managed to relax when everything was loaded without incident. Soon we were off, floating along the canal trying to take in all the sights along the way in the 15 or so minutes that we traveled. Pulling up to another dock, our escort from Princess Cruises directed us off the boat and onto the dock where once again we retrieved our bags. Surprisingly, we would be traveling on foot a couple of blocks to the hotel. I took note to never again travel to Venice with more than two bags because you never knew when you might be called upon to carry them!




Walking into the lobby of the Bauer Hotel was a relief. There was a large waiting room nearby for all of us to wait in until our rooms were ready. It was still quite early in the morning. The Bauer was very impressive. It felt in many ways like I had stepped back in time to the glory days of the Renaissance, marble floors and granite mixed with plush furniture, grand arches and an elegant lobby front desk. After not too long a wait, we were shown to our rooms, side by side and very large and spacious. The windows along the wall in the bedroom and bath opened to look out over a canal where I could see Gondoliers and their boats moving down the canal. It was just wonderful!




We settled in to our room until time for lunch. Heading downstairs to the lobby, I decided to ask the doorman where was a nice inexpensive place to eat. He directed us to a lovely little café a few blocks from the hotel where we had some delicious Italian food, including some lasagna to die for! After lunch we walked down the narrow streets, bridges and alleyways, stopping to say hello to some locals who paused for photographs.



Finally, we found ourselves in St. Marks Square. All I could find to say was “Wow”. All of the photos and video that I had seen of this part of Venice simply did not do it justice. The square was full of people and shops and restaurants. The Basilica di San Marco, commonly known as Saint Mark's Basilica was directly in front of us. The Basilica is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture. It is connected to the Doge's Palace which is also on the square. We walked around the square, looking in the expensive stores and taking photos before heading back to the hotel for the rest of the evening. Lying in bed later that night I could hear the Gondoliers singing outside our window. It was one of the loveliest sounds I have ever heard.






The next morning we were up bright an early. Our morning started with a fantastic breakfast out on the hotel terrace, overlooking the Grand Canal before we headed out for the day. We had only one more day to see Venice so we needed to get started. With map in hand, we left the hotel and started our walking tour. Venice is very easy to see by walking, everything is fairly close by. My aim was to head toward the Rialto Bridge and take in a Gondola ride somewhere along the way. The gondola rides were very popular and there was often a long line to ride one. We finally found an empty gondola on our way to the Rialto Bridge, and we did a ‘share ride” with a couple from San Francisco. The gondola ride was an experience not to be missed. Both scenic and relaxing, it is a great way to get an overview of the city. Our gondolier was very friendly and talkative so we enjoyed our sail very much.



After our ride on the canal, we arrived at the famous Rialto Bridge. Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) is the true heart of Venice. The current structure was built in just three years, between 1588 and 1591, as a permanent replacement for the boat bridge and three wooden bridges that had spanned the Grand Canal at various times since the 12th Century. It remained the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot until the Accademia Bridge was built in 1854. The bridge has three walkways: two along the outer balustrades, and a wider central walkway leading between two rows of small shops that sell jewelry, linens, Murano glass, and other items. There is a large area of souvenir stands on one side of the bridge that has a “flea market” type atmosphere. We climbed the steps to the top of the bridge and looked out over the Grand Canal. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and the view was just amazing.


Walking to the other side of the bridge we found a restaurant to have lunch alongside the Grand Canal. The food was delicious as expected and we spent some time at our sidewalk table drinking red wine and taking in the view. Heading back to the center of town, we stopped along the way at a convenience store to buy some wine and then we headed back to the hotel. Before packing up for the trip home the next day, Yolonda and I made another trip to Saint Mark’s Square. We walked around buying more souvenirs and took a stroll along the water front. There were people everywhere doing the same thing, the weather was just perfect. Once again I had to pinch myself to be sure I was not dreaming. “Here I am in Venice!” I thought to myself. It could not have been a more perfect day.




Yolonda decided that pizza was a good choice for dinner, so we walked around to a nearby restaurant that actually had carry out. While we waited for our pie, we had a lovely conversation with a waiter who was a transplant from the USA. He told us about life in Venice and a number of things we need to see on a return trip. I still have his business card in my wallet, so I can look him up when I go back. The pizza and Italian wine was wonderful and the packing did not take quite as long as before. We would be leaving Venice in the morning for the long flight back to Atlanta and then Montgomery, Alabama. For the last time on this trip, I listened to the Gondoliers singing along the canal as I went to sleep.

Check out time came early. We had a 20 minute water taxi ride to the airport. In the hotel lobby, the hotel Manager, who I had spoken to once or twice approached me and asked “Signora, why do you look so sad?” I told him that I was sad about leaving Venice, that it had been a wonderful visit, but too short. “Well then, you must return” he said. Yes, he was right, I must return someday.

Ciao everyone! THE END!

Posted by Gerriv 13:51 Comments (2)

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