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Adventures of the Traveling Single Parent
By: Amanda S. Klimak, CTIE, is vice president of Largay Travel Inc. in Waterbury, CT.
Three years ago, when I joined the world of single parenting, the idea of taking a vacation without backup seemed somewhat horrifying. How could I possibly manage two small children outside my beloved comfort zone of home sweet home? What if I lost one of them? What if they got sick while traveling or, even worse, what if they decided to throw a hissy fit in the middle of the airport terminal or on the plane? It all sounds somewhat silly now but, at the time, these were all very, very real fears.
Early explorations with my then five-year-old daughter, Courtney, and seven-year-old son, Tristan, were limited to short trips only miles from our Connecticut home. A day trip to a local museum or a weekend away in Cape Cod seemed like great choices, but I was wrong. Our journeys somehow transformed me into what I now refer to as the “24-hour entertainment committee,” which was unfamiliar territory for this working mom. Somehow managing a $20 million company seemed like a cakewalk compared to trying to contain two little ones on my own for an extended period of time. What seemed like a brilliant idea of a relaxing weekend away at a friend’s beach house in Cape Cod was an exhausting proposition, to say the least.
There we were, privileged enough to be in a beautiful home on the beach—the problem was it was quickly transformed into a prison in which I was locked up with the energy twins. There was no escape from the constant activity and I was a caged animal who returned home with what I now refer to as “post-traumatic vacation disorder.” I was fearful of our next adventure, but I would not be broken. For years I had witnessed my single-parent clients traveling all over the world in vacation bliss with their little ones and somehow I knew that this self-proclaimed “super mom” would prevail in the world of vacationing.
With much angst and deliberation, the decision was made to once again venture out alone with my two little ones. This time, however, I was jumping in with both feet and cruising the Caribbean on a Voyager Class ship. Convinced by Royal Caribbean Cruise Sales Rep Lisa, I booked our cabin. The pre-trip mental turmoil I was experiencing may sound somewhat strange for a 20-year travel industry veteran, but I was venturing out alone into unfamiliar territory and completely outnumbered by my little angels. Would they break me once and for all? I think not. This time was different, and I was determined and prepared for battle—DVD players, iPods, video games, crayons, notepads and snacks were all a part of my single-mom survival kit. As we left for the airport, I felt empowered and convinced that this would be the best single-mom vacation ever.
Our journey was incredible and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line could not have been more accommodating. Each day, Tristan and Courtney bounced in and out of the Adventure Ocean Youth Program, allowing this overworked mom a few hours of alone time by the pool or in the fitness center. Explorations on shore were exciting for the three amigos and included swimming with dolphins and long walks through Old San Juan. Even the dining experience was transformed into a single parent’s paradise. Each evening the kids and I would venture up to the Windjammer Café for a nice buffet dinner for Tristan and Courtney, then they would ditch their boring mom and quickly retreat to Adventure Ocean for a Pajama or Pirate Party. Meanwhile, I would enjoy a magnificent five-course meal in the dining room with other single travelers, which the maitre d’ gladly arranged. Each night, we retired to our cabin for some great snuggle time on our bunk beds while watching movies and reminiscing about the day’s adventures.
We returned home with a newfound appreciation for our non-traditional family. I had a confidence and feeling of success in my abilities as a single parent that could not be described. I had conquered my fears of being the sole provider, the lone ranger and the family cruise director, and I was ready for our next adventure. I was no longer “super mom” but now “super mom extraordinaire,” and I realized that traveling as a single parent does not have to be feared but can be a gift to be savored. I realize now that I have something that most married parents may never enjoy—uninterrupted, one-on-one time with my children. The truth of the matter is that, with a little bit of planning and the right vacation choice, life as a traveling single parent can be the best vacation ever.
Stay tuned for details of our next adventure.
Aboard Crystal Serenity in the Mediterranean
Editorial Director Ruthanne Terrero is attending Crystal Cruises’ Top-Producers Gala this week aboard the Crystal Serenity. She flew into Athens to board the ship, spent yesterday in Kusadasi, Turkey yesterday touring Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary and the city’s main bazaar. Today she’s reached Mykonos, Greece. Here is her report:
I’m sitting on the veranda of Cabin 9060 aboard the Crystal Serenity staring at Mykonos. We’re in port for just one day and this morning we took a shuttle bus to town. It is just beautifully quaint and filled with all-white buildings with azure-blue-painted doorways, cats that lounge in the sun and attractive and gentle people manning the many shops and cafes.
I’m not sure if it’s just a Monday morning thing, but we found the traffic in Mykonos to be surprisingly busy. Even though the streets are incredibly narrow and curvy, there are plenty of toy-sized vans and trucks to navigate them. We got used to getting out of the way of these tiny vehicles that essentially drive right up to you without your noticing them. By the time you do see them, they’re about to knock you over so you jump up onto the sidewalks in front of the quaint shops selling everything from souvenirs (think tee shirts and refrigerator magnets) to wonderfully white cotton shirts for men and women that would fit any jetsetter’s lifestyle. But oh, the exchange rate on the euro, makes nearly every discretionary purchase in Europe these days feel like a foolish indulgence.
Still, Mykonos is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. Having the ability to walk through its tranquil streets and sunlit alleyways that occasionally get their share of dappled sunlight is one of my top treats of the year so far.
The beauty of this port of call is that the Serenity doesn’t leave until midnight, which means that, after a day of enjoying the ship’s amenities, as well as a little bit of computer time, we can head back into Mykonos to watch the sunset from one of the many oceanfront bars. Who knew it was so easy to set up shop in such a beautiful part of the world?
Tomorrow we’re at sea, headed to Albania. More to come, Internet connection allowing.
Carnival Fantasy Voyage to End in Mobile, AL, Instead of New Orleans
Due to continuing problems on the Mississippi River, Carnival Cruise Lines announced that the current voyage of its 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will end in Mobile, AL, on Monday instead of the originally scheduled homeport of New Orleans. Passengers will be provided free motorcoach transportation back to the Port of New Orleans or the New Orleans airport.
Meanwhile, Carnival Fantasy’s next five-day cruise, set to depart on Monday, will depart from Mobile instead of New Orleans. Carnival will provide free motorcoach transportation to passengers from New Orleans’ Erato Street cruise terminal to Mobile.
Carnival is advising all guests for the next voyage to proceed to the Port of New Orleans to board a motorcoach to Mobile because, at the end of the cruise, the Fantasy is expected to return to New Orleans. The only exception would be individuals who are being dropped off and not leaving a car and prefer to proceed on their own to Mobile.
Greater Flexibility Now on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Group Bookings
Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises is offering travel agents added flexibility when making group bookings. "Groups Your Way" allows agents two different options to book groups based on the number of staterooms they wish to hold.
"With the new policy, Groups Your Way will give our travel partners the ability to lock in a rate and hold blocks of staterooms for a longer length of time in order to generate new business opportunities," said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support & services, Royal Caribbean International.
How it works: Agents can hold—with no initial deposit—up to 16 staterooms on Royal Caribbean sailings and up to 24 staterooms on Celebrity sailings, and have up to 180 days to sell the rooms.
"Travel agents have told us that booking promotional and affinity groups would be more successful for our brands with increased time to market and sell," said Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales, Celebrity Cruises. "Our Groups Your Way policy reflects valuable feedback from our travel partners, providing them with flexibility to sell more cruises in different ways, thereby increasing their revenue."
Travel agents will be able to hold space, as long as they have sufficient staterooms sold, up to 180, 120 or 90 days prior to sailing for affinity group bookings requiring more than 16 staterooms on Royal Caribbean International or more than 24 staterooms on Celebrity Cruises. A $25 deposit per guest will be due 30 days from creation of the group booking.
For agents requiring more than 50 staterooms, a cruise line group partner advocate will help create a mutually agreed upon sales timeline that meets the agent’s needs.
Agents can contact a Royal Caribbean International group partner advocate for more information at 800-327-2055 or [email protected]. Group partner advocates for Celebrity Cruises can be reached at 800-963-0311 or [email protected]. The current groups policy for Azamara Cruises will remain the same.
Early Savings on Japan Itinerary
Cruise West has announced 12 departures of its 11-night "Hidden Treasures of Japan" itinerary, which visits Japanese port towns, traditional gardens and shrines, as well as a brief stop in South Korea. Cities include Kobe, Hiroshima, Okayama, Nagasaki and Kyongju, South Korea.
Fares for the cruise on Spirit of Oceanus begin at $5,849 per person. Passengers who book a March or April 2009 departure by October 10, or a September or October 2009 departure by April 10, 2009, will save up to $400. Guests booking a fall 2008 departure will receive a $250 shipboard credit.
Hawaii Honeymoon Cruise Package
A new Hawaii honeymoon package that promises exclusive, private experiences for newlyweds is part of American Safari Cruises' offerings aboard its soon-to-debut 145-foot, 36-guest yacht Safari Explorer. The company will begin inter-island cruises between Maui and the Big Island in December.
The romance package includes one of two top-deck balcony suites that feature a living room with a large, flat-screen TV, master bedroom with king bed and Tempur-pedic mattress, refrigerator stocked with the couple's favorite beverages, and bathroom with heated tile floors and Jacuzzi tub. They also will receive a private helicopter tour of Volcanoes National Park (other guests will fly with up to five others), and be feted at a honeymoon celebration one night at dinner.
The couple will be welcomed with Dom Perignon champagne on ice; a platter of chocolate-covered strawberries, fine cheeses and grapes; a rose-petal strewn bed; and two personalized keepsake pillows. They will have first choice of complimentary massage appointments, and their preferred wines will be stocked in the yacht's wine library. The honeymoon package begins at $7,395 per person and includes from-yacht activities, shore excursions, private transfers and complimentary premium spirits and fine wines. Guest-crew ratio is 2-to-1.
AMA Waterways' Winter Air Promotion
AMA Waterways is offering airfares as low as $99 on a host of November European river cruises. The promotion is available on the November 12, 2008, “Amsterdam to Paris” and “Blue Danube Discovery” itineraries, as well as select “Christmas Time Cruises” (November 19, 22 & 27) and “Christmas Wonderland” (November 22 and 26) sailings.
The “Amsterdam to Paris” itinerary includes a seven-night cruise to Trier, Germany, along the Rhine, Main and Mosel rivers, followed by a three-night stay in Paris; the “Blue Danube Discovery” program begins with two nights in Budapest, followed by a seven-night Danube cruise to Nuremburg, and a three-night stay in Prague; the 11-day “Christmas Time Cruise” features two nights in Prague before sailing from Nuremberg to Budapest; and the 12-day “Christmas Wonderland” cruise includes three nights in Paris before sailing from Trier to Amsterdam.