Oceania Cruises

The thought of sailing away overcomes me in weather like this. I can imagine myself sipping coffee on a balcony, scanning the horizon for dolphins and waiting for the next port.

A cruise is a wonderful way to cross off several destinations (like Caribbean Islands, or Greek Islands) without having the expense to fly to one island at a time.  This is definitely how I hope to do the ABC islands someday soon. (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao)

This week, Oceania (Cruise Line – The luxury division of Norwegian Cruise Lines) caught my eye. They are offering some outstanding deals.  The great thing about these ships is that they are small. 700 passengers or less, feels like a vacation, not like a floating city.

Oceania has just 4 ships in the fleet, and the “Riviera” often makes the top 8 list that Cruise Critic puts out for the Best Luxury Cruises.

The Riviera, does one cruise from Montreal to Miami in late October. It’s a 14 day voyage as shown here.  But, do look at all their European offerings and transatlantic voyages too. Maybe something will catch your eye. (I’m after the Miami to New York cruise that circles the southern Caribbean. I could get my ABCs and more!)

To avoid sticker shock from some of the brochure prices, do look for specials for Canadian Residents, or for particular cruises. Or ask your favourite travel agent for help. There are numerous offers that bring the prices right down, sometimes a 40% discount or more, you just need to know where to look.

Which cruise catches your eye?

 

6 nights in Cabo. No nights in Calgary.

You can fly from Los Cabos, Mexico to Brandon Manitoba without an overnight stop in Calgary.

You can’t do this every night of the week, just on those evenings when there is an 8:40PM flight from Calgary to Brandon.  This evening flight makes the same-day return connection possible. So it’s important to choose your connections carefully.

Here’s an example.  Priced per 2 adults, leaving on January 11th.

Rates and availability as of 9:30pm December 26th

Let’s start with Palm Springs

If you are a new traveller, a reluctant traveller, or have waited until retirement to travel, Palm Springs California is a great place to start.  I’ll give you three good reasons to put Palm Springs on your list and why I think   it’s a zero-stress vacation.

  1. Flights from Brandon’s little airport (YBR) are very convenient. This travel day is hardly a bother at all. Your flight leaves about lunch time and after a stop in Calgary (YYC) connects through to Palm Springs (PSP) and you’re at your resort by 8:00PM. In Calgary, you’ll deplane, look for your connecting gate and head through US Customs.  Easy peasy.
  2. Driving in Palm Springs is as easy as driving in Brandon. Their downtown area is much like ours, two main roads each one-way and going in opposite directions. Just like Rosser and Princess.  The best part is there’s no ice and snow.  Just outside the city of Palm Springs you’ll find suburb areas like Palm Desert and Palm Canyon.
  3. Golf courses and outdoor activities are easy to find and budget friendly.  Deals for Canadians are even easier to find. Just stop by the tourist booth (on Palm Canyon Drive) and ask. We found a deal we couldn’t pass up. It was breakfast, lunch, a round of golf, clubs and cart rental for $50 a person.  If golf isn’t your thing, there’s walking paths, swimming and tennis at most every resort or hotel. You can catch a baseball game in the area too. There’s a professional league that plays winter ball a few afternoons a week. Tickets are about $5. (Or they were 2 years ago when I last attended.)

I checked Westjet Vacations current offerings. You can stay a week in Palm Springs for under $1100 per person. Car rental and meals will be on top of that.  Do take a look at the flight times! No need for a pre-dawn wake up call.

 

 

Anywhere warm!

The least effort I have ever put into planning a trip was going to Bermuda.

It was the last week of February about 4 or 5 years ago. I was supposed to be starting work for the season, but the weather wasn’t co-operating. If fact it was the worst weather, -35C. This meant zero chance of me starting or even considering working at opening an ice cream store for “spring.” The forecast was awful looking for at least the week ahead. I couldn’t be housebound any longer. I HAD to get out. Get away.

I had travel points, Aeroplan, to be specific. Not a lot, but enough. I literally called Aeroplan and asked the customer service agent “where can I go tomorrow with XX number of points.” Her reply was…. not tomorrow, but Wednesday I can get you on a plane out of Winnipeg and off to Belize, Bermuda or (Sarasota) Florida.

Since I knew nothing about any of the 3 destinations, it was like picking a prize door. So I took my lucky number, 2, and choose Bermuda. I booked that ticket. 4 nights in Bermuda.

Next up, I needed a hotel. I turned to Air Miles and cashed in for the Fairmont Southhampton. It was set on a golf course and had a private beach, that’s all I needed to know. Booked it.

This was actually my first out of country solo trip. I didn’t have any time to think about it. I can’t even remember how I broke the news to my husband. Probably something like…. “I hate this #^&*@@#** weather. I’ve got to get out. Back in 5 days. Good luck with the kids.” Seriously… cabin fever, makes you crazy.

Bermuda weather wasn’t glorious or “caribbean” at the end of February, but it was about 18C which was a literal 50+ degree difference from what I was leaving. Bermudians would tell you that it’s never Caribbean… it’s mid-atlantic. It was definitely good enough.

I ate the regional food, drank the rum (Gosling’s Dark) and stuck pretty close to the hotel. The private beach was too cool for swimming, but absolutely perfect for walks and listening to the ocean. The sand is, indeed, pink. Or a pinkish beige, depending on where you are and the way the sunshine hits it. The water is blue or turquoise and it is truly refreshing. Bermuda is not the kind of place you head to for a hot, all-inclusive beach vacation. But it is definitely a great place to thaw out.

Happy Anniversary to Us!

If you want to be a writer…. then, write.

I can’t imagine the number of times I’ve repeated this in my own head. It’s simple. So simple! And I can’t even say where I heard it first but it’s become my mantra. I take it to mean, “whatever you want to do, JUST DO IT. GET STARTED! GO FOR IT!”

If you want to be a skier, then ski! If you want to be a painter… then paint!

In my case, I’m fulfilled and I sleep better when I empty my brain. I’m forever writing and scripting and telling stories in my head. There’s a running commentary and sometimes comedy show, being narrated in my own mind. I’m a storyteller. It’s simply who I am. Does it pay? No. Does it matter? Yes! Does it make me happy to write? Heck yeah!

There was a time when I owned a busy restaurant, and it was a constantly moving, flowing, real life game of “Diner Dash.” (That’s a video game where you keep cooking and serving guests and each level gets harder and harder and more chaotic until you collapse and die. The busier you are, the more you “win” at the game. Which is, exactly like real life in the restaurant biz.) And while my restaurant was popular and it paid the bills I was also working ridiculous hours and I often longed to run away, to “escape.”  During that time, a friend (Melynda) introduced me to blogging. (Thanks Mel!)  Since my escape was travel, I titled my first blog “escapethe204” and hosted it on a free blogging website.  I did that for almost 5 years, sporadically, but there was some good content.

Three years ago I was doing some soul searching while on vacation. (Doesn’t everybody?) I knew back then I would need an exit strategy to get out of the restaurant business and I would need to find a way to transition into a new career. I decided to get more serious about writing and what made me happy. I felt the next step was to own and control my own website and domain. I made a long list of domain names and “personalities” for my writing. I got focused about my topic and realized that in order to generate enough content to keep going I would need to have a wide scope and be able to sustain a high level of enthusiasm. That’s why I chose travel. I’m genuinely passionate about travel and I felt that others might want to follow along and discuss it as well.

And that’s how “She Talks Travel” went from concept to life plan the first week of December 2015, in a hotel room in Montreal. From there, I moved forward to investigate and determine that “she talks travel” was available across all the popular social media platforms. That’s when I set about to stake my claim to that name and go forward and “brand” my own travel blog.

I justify the expense (about $300 per year) to have my own hosted site as a similar expense to any other hobby just like painting or skiing. You have to invest in equipment in order to participate. I never set out to sell anything or generate income from clutter ads or gimmicks. I didn’t want to ask for sponsorship or make myself feel obligated to write or perform, so I’ve always just kept it a personal expense. The happiness and personal satisfaction level is still high, so I do consider it worth it.

I sold the restaurant a year ago. I took some time for myself and then decided to pursue a career in the travel and tourism industry. And wouldn’t you know it…. being a known travel writer actually helped me land the job! Am I going to quit writing now that I work for a professional travel agency? Heck no! In fact I’ve paid up and renewed this site for another year. So, happy anniversary! And cheers to the next year of learning and exploring and travelling! I love that you’re here for the ride. Thank you!

How to take advantage of Black Friday travel deals with very little cash.

Don’t you wish you had a couple thousand dollars sitting in your account that you could use to grab some of these fabulous Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals? Yeah, me too.

Here are 3 ways that you can take advantage of the great deals without putting a lot of cash down.

  1. Hotel deals. Book flights and hotels separate. You can book almost any hotel with just paying a 1 night deposit and holding the reservation with your credit card. So, book 7 nights at a great rate, and just pay for 1 night upfront, and the rest when you arrive whether it’s in a month or 8 months from now. But you are locking in today’s discount price.
  2. Think long term, not short term. If you are travelling within 60 days you will be asked to pay the whole package price. It you are booking 3-11 months in advance, you are only asked for a deposit when you book through a travel agent. It’s almost like paying your autopac insurance in monthly instalments. There is an upfront booking fee (about 40 dollars) and a deposit (most often $250-$500  per person.) but then you can pay the rest on monthly instalments or however you choose so that it’s paid in full typically 60 days before you depart. So, if you want to grab the sale price for an Easter or Summer holiday, do it now. Then you’ll pay the vast majority in 2019 after you get your tax refund or Christmas bonus. But again, you lock in today’s sale price. (Yes, you can literally sign up for a $3000 vacation package with under $300 per person upfront cost. Now this deposit is non-refundable and you will lose it if you cannot pay the rest of the commitment, but if you CAN make payments, this is the easiest way to do it. No loan or interest charges from a bank.)
  3. Collect points. Sign up for Air Miles, or Westjet Rewards, or Aeroplan programs. They are free programs. Or get the Westjet World Elite MasterCard (perks like no charge for checked bags) and start collecting points that you can use towards future travel. Even if all you ever accumulate is a free hotel night, or a short haul flight, it is something that you can use to bring more travel into your life without a cost.

Bonus tip: If you collect Westjet Rewards, you can keep accumulating them and “cash them in” with your final payment on your holiday. And yes, you can still redeem these reward dollars when using a travel agent.