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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.
Survey Says Europe Top Destination for 2008/2009
Europe is the top travel destination for 2008/2009, followed by Mexico and the Caribbean, according to the first edition of the new ALTOUR Travel Index. The survey of travel trends among travel professionals revealed that as much as the US dollar may be weak overseas, 68 percent of respondents said Europe has the highest demand among their clients in the year to come. Mexico followed with 57 percent of respondents selecting it as the top destination, and 50 percent selecting the Caribbean. The continental U.S., South America, and Hawaii tied for for fourth place at 43 percent.
Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that confidence in the state of the travel industry remains high, with 57 percent of respondents remaining optimistic, 32 percent sitting “somewhat in the middle,” and only 7 percent reporting a pessimistic outlook. Another pleasant statistic revealed that the overwhelming majority of ALTOUR’s clientele is booking well in advance– 30 to 90 days ahead for 57 percent of respondents and as much as 90 to 180 days for another 32 percent– and that deposit cancellations have been infrequent for 82 percent of the respondents.
“Our customers don’t foresee a dramatic change in the dollar in the
short term, so they’re of the mind to just go ahead with their travel
plans, although they might select a more modest room in their upscale
hotel, or look for a guaranteed dollar rate,” said ALTOUR’s founder,
The majority of leisure travel categories (i.e cruises, all-inclusive, sun/sand/surf packages, and FIT) remain stable, while escorted tours, according to 50 percent of respondents, is report lower in demand for 2009 compared to previous years.
The UK Post Office named Greece and Italy the most affordable, family-friendly destinations in Europe in its recent report about "sightseeing on a shoestring." The report highlights countries that provide benefits for families that travel with younger children.
“We found a wide range of cost-cutting opportunities, which savvy travelers can use to shave money off sightseeing trips," said Helen Warburton, head of Post Office travel.
Special family deals plus free admission for kids at such popular attractions as Acropolis, Knossos and Mount Olympus in Greece, as well as Pompeii and the Colosseum in Rome boosted the two Mediterranean countries to the top of the list.
Spain also received recognition from the UK Post Office, primarily for its free or reduced-price admission for kids at the majority of its national heritage sites. The report also listed South Africa and Thailand as the most affordable destinations in the world.
WorldHotels Helps U.S. Travelers Pay in Dollars When in Europe
WorldHotels brings good news to U.S travelers who have grown wary over the increasingly sinking dollar. The hotel company in Europe is accepting dollars in a one-to-one exchange rate with euros, when the euro is actually worth well over $1.50.
The "Stay in Europe, Pay in Dollars" promotion includes 41 hotels in Germany, Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Luxembourg, Austria, Spain and the Czech Republic. Among participating hotels are the Hotel Plaza Brussels, the St. George Roma and the Hotel de Sers in Paris.
Rates vary from one hotel to the next, but a spokesman from WorldHotels says the average rate per night is near 150 euros a night (about $237 at the standard exchange rate). Booking a room for 150 euros at the one-to-one rate can save $87.
The offer is for Thursday-to-Monday stays only and remains valid until August 31. Stays can be booked by calling 800-223-5652 and are not valid online. The price is guaranteed at the time of booking for payments made using credit cards, U.S.-denominated currency or travelers' checks.
Children Take the Stage in London
Set your scene with a family weekend break at The Montague on the Gardens and enjoy a special 2.5 hour Les Miserables experience for the kids.
Les Miz Kids Club at the Queen's Theatre gives children a unique opportunity to enter the world of theatre, with a backstage tour, drama workshops and the opportunity to meet a cast member. Parents can enjoy shopping or a leisurely lunch and then collect their kids just in time for the matinée performance.
The Children on Stage package includes:
* Two nights in a family accommodation (triple room or two adjacent rooms)
* Les Miz Kids Club Experience and tickets to the Les Miserables matinée for the parents on Saturdays
* Tour of the kitchen, so the kids can help prepare lunch for mum and dad
* Special children's menus
* Fluffy child-size bathrobes and slippers
* Welcome pack with games and special turndown treat each evening... but only if they have been good!
The Children on Stage package is offered every weekend (Saturday and Sunday) throughout 2008, subject to availability. Pricing is dependent on hotel accommodation and based on a minimum two-night stay:
* Two adults and one child: from £235 + VAT per night (based upon one triple room and theatre tickets for both adults and child)
* Two adults and two children: from £430 + VAT per night (based upon two adjacent rooms and theatre tickets for both adults and children)
Fine Dining in Bordeaux
The Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux introduces a new package offering a chance to experience the culinary renaissance occurring in Bordeaux, France—and enjoy the fall’s wine harvest at the same time.
The hotel’s “Gourmet Treasure” package includes:
One night’s accommodation in a Jacques Garcia-designed guestroom, a three-course lunch or dinner for two at Le Pressoir d’Argent with customized wine pairings, breakfast at the hotel’s chic Brasserie L’Europe and an in-room welcome gift
Package rates, offering a value-add savings of 38 percent, start at $840 per room, per night, exclusive of local tourism tax, and may be applied to a number of nights. Guests who book two nights receive the third night free on bookings from July 1 through August 28, exclusive of Sundays, Mondays, and public holidays. For reservations, call 011-33- 05-57-30-44-44.
New Group Rates For 2009 European Train Itineraries
Orient-Express Trains Cruises has announced 2009 rates for groups traveling on board their luxury trains in Europe. The rates are fixed in dollars and represent as much as 46 percent off 2009 retail rates.
Typical overnight journeys on the Orient-Express are from Venice to Paris or London but itineraries to Rome, Vienna, Prague and Budapest also can be arranged. Rates start at $1,422 per person (46 percent off 2009 rates).
Alternatively, The Royal Scotsman is ideal for smaller groups of 10 to 36 passengers. The Royal Scotsman travels through the Highlands of Scotland on itineraries of two to seven nights. Rates start at $2,558 per person (30 percent off 2009 retail rates).
To book, contact Annette Kishon-Pines, at 631-847-3716 or [email protected]
Luxury on Sale in Paris & London
Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) is promoting a special “Luxury On Sale” at its member hotels in London and Paris.
North American meeting professionals and incentive specialists booking a program at ALHI members InterContinental London Park Lane or InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel will receive bonus InterContinental Priority Club Rewards Point Vouchers. Available to new groups with at least 10 paid guest rooms for at least one night and catering/banqueting, the promotion provides bonus points to planners (120,000 for spending 100,000 euros; 240,000 for spending spend up to 200,000 euros; and 360,000 for spending more than 200,000 euros). The promotion is open to new groups that are booked and contracted before December 31 for a program consumed by April 2009.
InterContinental Priority Club Rewards Points can be redeemed for resort and hotel stays, future meeting expenses (rooms, food & beverage and/or travel), brand merchandise, CDs, DVDs, airline mileage, car rentals, golf equipment, and adventure travel experiences.