Holiday-time Cruising: We Love It!

Its that time of year again!  Here, in the U.S., most people are hustling and bustling in the name of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa.  On Thanksgiving Day, the mayhem begins. People shop, shop and shop like there’s no tomorrow, for the latest gadgets, fashion finds, baubles, cars, pets, you name it!  Not us!  We start looking for our ticket out of here!  Our preferred way is to take a week-long cruise to someplace warm, sunny and away from shopping malls and traffic.  This year, we chose the Norwegian Sky’s cruise from Miami to Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian’s Private Island).  As commercial and as crowded as this may sound, it was far from it, and proved to be the perfect “escape” for us.  Perfect!

 

Cruising….

The Lovely Miami Skyline

With our backpacks, sunglasses, suntan/block cream in hand, and our Samsung Galaxy 6 and Galaxy 6 Note on airplane mode and for photo-taking only, we were off!

I Don’t Sun Travel Without This!

My Sun Staples

Whether you’re a frequent cruiser or a novice, this quick, 4-night sailing has something to offer everyone.  Suites, balconies, windowed and inside cabins, Unlimited Top-Shelf Beverage packages,  and award-winning casino, a full spa and fitness center (complete with fitness classes and great instructors), specialty dining at its best, and days and nights filled with shows to please all.  And while the adults play, there are kids and teen clubs for the younger sailors to hang out and have fun with their mates.

Cabin Life

There’s still time to book your holiday season trip!  Contact Ingrid’s Travel Boutique at travelingwrite@gmail.com, and get ready to set sail! 

Havana, Here We Come!

After months of planning and preparation for our trip to Cuba, the time had finally come!  We spent the first evening in Miami at the Sofitel Hotel, as our flight the next day was an 8:30am departure and we were told to arrive at the airport 3 hours in advance.  The Sofitel Hotel is a few minutes from MIA, offers a free airport shuttle pick-up every 30 minutes,  has nice rooms and a couple of nice dining options. It was just perfect for our overnight stay.

The next morning, we met in the lobby at 4:45am for our 5am shuttle.  We arrived at the airport, met with the Cuba Travel Services represenatative, picked up our Visas, roundtrip plane tickets and boarding passes, checked our bags (yes, I had to check a bag for the first time in ages!) because the weight exception is very light and very strict, paid our $25 entry/departure fee,  and waited patiently to board our non-stop 45 minute flight to Havana.  The process of submitting our itinerary and obtaining our special travel visas was a much smoother process than we imagined. 

We boarded our Sun Country charter flight, and departed on time. No sooner than we took off, we landed.  It was a sunny, hot day in Havana.  The airport was bustling with tourists, divers, people-to-people groups, clergy, families, officials and other workers.  It was exciting, festive. After quickly clearing customs and retrieving our luggage, we headed outside the airport and were greeted by our waiting minivan driver, then off on our 20 minute ride to our first stop, Hotel Palacio O’Farril in Habana Vieja.  We were hours early for the 4pm check-in, and the hotel, like almost every hotel in the city, was full, as Pope Francis was on the island for another couple of days.  We checked in, left our bags, and went in search of an early lunch.  The hotel doorman, Clemente, not only suggested a place for us to go for lunch, he walked us two blocks to El Zaguan restaurant.

We were the only customers in the restaurant.  It was only 11:45ish. I went in  thinking I’d start off my visit with a Cuban sandwich.  After seeing the menu, I opted for “Lobster Tropical”.  Great choice!  It was paired with pumpkin soup, rice, black beans, plantains and Cristal beer.  Dessert was flan and Habana Club rum.  All for about $20.(we had to pay for everything in Cuban Pesos, of course.)

Now, off  to walk around Habana Vieja before settling into our Habana home for the next 2 nights.  We are so looking forward to the week ahead.

A December Vacation with the Family

A couple of days ago a dear friend asked me to give her a bit of advice on where to stay while visiting Miami (from Washington, DC) with her husband and two young sons.  “What a great time to go to Miami!” was my initial thought!  How do I narrow down the great places was my next!  After pouring though my past travel journals and notes, here’s what I came up with:

If you want to be on South Beach:

The Palms has great family packages, especially one called Family Fun Package.  Check them out at http://www.thepalmshotel.com/.

Another great beach option is the Alexander All-Suite Ocean Resort.  Great pool, nice, large-enough-for a family rooms.  So, so cool to vacation with the kids here!  http://www.alexanderhotel.com/.

For options off the beach (but still not a long car ride away), I suggested:

The Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne.  Here, they treat parents and kids like royalty, and the rates can be surprisingly good.  Ask about their specials.

The Doral Resort and Spa. Really nice…spa, golf, and family vacation packages.  Check out the Escape! Family Time Package (kids eat free!).

The Biltmore Hotel.  The Jr Suites are great for families, and along with the Biltmore Culinary School for Kids, they offer spa treatments, golf and tennis for children and adults!

Be sure to check out the local family attractions:

 MIAMI CHILDREN’S MUSEUM

JUNGLE ISLAND

MIAMI SCIENCE MUSEUM

MIAMI SEAQUARIUM

MIAMI METRO ZOO

VENETIAN POOL

FLORIDA EVERGLADES TOURS

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Ocean Drive…Still So Much Fun!

On our recent visit to Miami, Florida, we spent a couple nights taking in the strip of Ocean Drive.  What a blast!  Years ago we’d partied at the Clevelander and Mangos Tropical Beach Cafe.  Sure, we thought they were kind of cheesy then, but fun, oh my goodness!  Now, with renovations, great service, great entertainment, and a less intoxicated (just a little less) crowd, these two spots are worth stopping in…again and again and again!

We started at the Clevelander.  On this particular night, Friday, they had a Carnival show, complete with beautiful people on stilts, fire dancers and really hot Samba dancers. The emcee encouraged crowd participation…remember your bartender’s name and get a free cocktail.  Along with the show, the DJ rocks out the best dance tunes, both old and new.

After a couple hours, we headed to Mangos.  The line at the door looks overwhelming, but it moves quickly.  $10 cover after 9, but so worth it!  They have something for all.  Hot men, hot women, great, live Latin music, with a blend of top-40.  And the cocktails…wow!  We made a special request for a frozen mojito (after trying 5 or 6 beers from around Latin America).  Take it slow. You’re sure to be there for hours!

Visit, or re-visit these places and let us know what you think!

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South Beach, Miami…A Much Needed Get-Away

We landed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Thursday evening, after an easy, but full, direct flight from DCA, and headed out side the baggage claim area to hop on the Go Shuttle shared ride to South Beach.  After waiting close to thirty minutes, we boarded the shuttle, picked up two more parties, and headed on our way.  Fortunately, we were all going to South Beach, so it was a quick ride.  We arrived to our home for the next few days, the Shore Club Hotel, walked into the really, really cool hotel lobby and out of the stifling heat, checked in, got our upgrade (thanks Alexandra!), dropped off our luggage, and headed to Ocean Drive for a very late dinner.

Surprisingly, every place we checked had stopped serving dinner (it was just after midnight by now).  We finally found a place, Primetime on Ocean Drive.  It served its purpose.  We wanted grilled Mahi sandwiches and an iced cold beer.  We got grilled Mahi sandwiches and one of the warmest beers we’ve had since our visit to London.

It’s late.  We’re beat.  We’ll try our luck tomorrow!

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