Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Beginners Guide To Group Cruising

Last week in the article Business on the High Seas, I shared with you some of the reasons businesses are choosing to use group cruises to draw customers to seminars, training and sales meetings.

But what if you are not a celebrity or business owner? Do you belong to a social group, networking group, church group or any other type of association with like-minded people? Then a group cruise could be a great benefit to you also.

For those who are interested in a group cruise for social reasons only, many of the same benefits apply. A group can be many things; family reunions, girls getaways, social clubs, weddings, culinary clubs or any other variety of group. If you are a group of this type, all you need to do is give your group information to everyone you are inviting and have your travel agent take care of everything for you. Each person makes their payment to the travel agent so you do not have the burden of handling everyone’s finances. For the individual, or host/hostess, group cruises are a great way to score a free cruise and enjoy time with your friends or family.

Imagine instead of everyone meeting at Aunt Millie’s house this summer for the family reunion, you all chose to get together for a cruise. Gone is the chore trying to figure out where everyone would sleep or who should be responsible for what duties in the kitchen. For the first time at your family reunion, everyone would have the opportunity to visit, enjoy each other’s company and explore different ports together.

Cruises are great for girls getaways too. By the time you each pay for a hotel room and meals in your chosen destination you could have paid for a cruise! Lounging by the pool, dancing til dawn, exploring other cultures, an assortment of excursions and priceless time together make cruising a wonderful option.

You might be surprised how many people you know who would join you for a group cruise. You might also be surprised how many people are already taking cruises when you mention it to them. Remember, any type of group is an opportunity. The key here is to be the host/hostess before someone else gets the idea. As the group leader, the only responsibility you have is getting the word out to your group. The benefits for you are tremendous. You can be cruising for free and you can score on board credits for yourself and your group.

If you would like to explore the possibility of a group cruise please feel free to contact me. My services as a travel agent are free to you as always. I am paid by the suppliers just like the online agencies so I never charge a fee. If you already have an agent, give them a call. They can help you with all the planning and coordinating of events. By using a travel agent, you can also make a small deposit and pay for your trip in installments. Often, we can get the initial deposit down to a very small sum depending on the sales at the time.

Happy travels,


Categories: Cruise, Cruising, Destinations, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Business on the High Seas

Did you know that business owners are taking their clients, customers and associates on cruises?  Your first thought may be that the businesses must be doing this on their budget and that you could never afford to take clients or customers on a cruise.  In some cases, that may be right but in most cases it is just the opposite.

Regis Philbin is the latest celebrity to be lured into special speaker status aboard Crystal cruise lines.  Numerous Food Network chefs are taking to the seas to host cooking classes and rock bands have long been using cruise lines for the ultimate rock concerts.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to take advantage of seminars or classes at sea.  Think about it for a minute.  What would your clients or customers pay you to spend a 3 day or week long cruise with you to learn more about you and your business and how it can benefit them?  Yes, that’s right, businesses are planning seminars at sea for clients and increasing their brand loyalty at the same time.  Given the choice of a stuffy hotel ballroom or a long weekend aboard a cruise ship, which would you prefer to attend?

Why Group Cruising Can Work For You

Let’s explore some of the benefits of group cruising for businesses.  One of the benefits for anyone who wants to host a group cruise is that with a minimum number of rooms booked, the cruise is free for the host.  The minimum number varies somewhat by cruise line, so be sure to ask your travel agent.  And speaking of travel agents, a tip for finding the right travel agent is to be sure they are CLIA (Cruise Line International Association) affiliated.  The CLIA logo ensures you are working with a cruise professional.

Cruising offers a great way for owners to socialize, teach, mentor or train their clients.  The major cruise lines will help your agent to set up the meeting room for you and make sure that all the necessary items are taken care of.  You simply work with your agent to determine the parameters of the cruise (type of cruise, length, rooms needed, etc.) then you broadcast your invitation to your clients and watch them sign up.  As you will be charging a fee for your services (training, mentoring, etc.) your clients pay you and you pay the agent working for you.  One of my favorite benefits for the host and guests alike, is that it is easy to combine work with play on a cruise and your customers can bring along families on their working vacation, so to speak.  The cruise ships have a multitude of fun things for kids and adults to keep them busy while you and your clients are “working”.   The ports-of-call offer you all a chance to explore new destinations with your families or all together.

Another benefit is that just like a seminar in a hotel or other public forum, the cruise is a business expense for both you and your clients.

Cruises leave US ports year round so you are free to plan virtually anytime of year.  You can plan your cruise many months in advance so you have plenty of time to prepare and give your clients time to schedule accordingly.  Your agent can also give you a schedule of payment dates so neither you nor your clients have to pay the entire cost up front.  After the initial deposit, the payments can be spread out over a period of time, again, varying by date and type of cruise.  Groups also receive discounts above and beyond those of single passengers including on board credits and discounted rates.

Next time you are thinking of hosting a seminar or training workshop, consider making it a cruise.   You and your clients will both be pleased with the new relationships you have forged.

Happy Travels,


Categories: Travel | 19 Comments

Galveston, Texas – Not Just a Beach Destination

I had the opportunity last week to spend a couple of days on Galveston Island.  It has been many years since I visited and honestly, did not remember much except for the beach.  You know how I like to explore, so I want to share with you what I found while there.

I really only had one full day in Galveston.  My plan was to visit Moody Gardens to see the aquarium and the rain forest and share beautiful photos with you but I fell prey to the history bug.  Moody is a wonderful place to visit and the experience is one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Galveston.  The Caribbean exhibit in the Aquarium Pyramid is well worth the admission price.  Being able to walk through an underwater tunnel to view the beauty of the ocean is just unbelievable.  On the next trip, I promise to provide photos of the awesomeness of Moody.

Most folks from Texas know that Galveston is a cruise port.  We watched two Carnival ships and one Royal Caribbean in port during our short visit.  The pier area is also home to an abundance of history and things to see and do.

Carnival Triumph

The cruise pier is right next door to Pier 22 where you can find the Fisherman’s Wharf restuarant.  We stopped in the first night there for dinner and the food was far beyond my expectations.  After trying the sampler appetizer platter (the Shrimp Kisses are a must!), I ordered the crab stuffed Tilapia in a lobster cream sauce.  My mouth waters now just thinking about it.  My husband ordered the shrimp combo and was pleasantly surprised with shrimp cooked perfectly and seasoned amazingly well.  Everything we ordered was fresh and incredibly delicious.  If you are ever there be sure to ask for Cody or Ali.  They were loads of fun, very attentive and knew the menu inside out.

Stuffed Tilapia from Fisherman's Wharf

Shrimp Combo Platter - (after a few bites)

Docked near Fisherman’s Wharf is the Texas Seaport Museum which is home to the tall ship Elissa.  You can see her from the dining room at Fisherman’s Wharf.  She is a sailing ship from 1877 and in beautiful condition.  Here is what she would look like in the open ocean.

Elissa courtesy of Texas Seaport Museum

Among the other exhibits, the museum hosts a film about the Elissa which is included in the admission price of $8 for adults, $5 for kids to 16 and free for children under 5.

Just a short walk further down the block is the Offshore Energy Center which contains the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Museum which may not sound very interesting at first but believe me, it is truly a great experience.  We all know that oil is being drilled offshore, right?  We have all heard about the disasters that have caused the moratorium on drilling too, but what I learned through this exhibit was truly, truly fascinating.  Many of the exhibits are interactive but the really cool part is to walk out the door and step onto the offshore drilling rig.  Realizing that men are out in the middle of the Gulf working on these things is pretty mind blowing when you are standing on it.  I really enjoyed the short tour and the information they provided about how drilling is done and what ecological steps they take in doing so.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig

After a brisk morning of exploring, we headed over to a local favorite, Mosquito Cafe, for lunch.  We ordered at the counter and stepped onto the patio for dining.  This is a super little bistro right up the street from the Strand area of downtown.  The food was fresh, very tasty and healthy.  Yes, healthy and tasty can be had in the same meal and they do it wonderfully at Mosquito.

Ok, you know I can’t go anywhere without checking out the shopping scene.  I cannot help myself!  My first stop was the beach scene along the seawall where you can find the always present souvenir shops and beach wear.  I have to admit, there were really cute clothing items in some of them including, Hi 5 located at 1320 Seawall Blvd and my new favorite, Wings Beachwear.  Wings had a nice assortment of casual clothing and really good prices too.

After leaving the beach area, we wandered back down to the Strand historic district located downtown.  Strand Street is located just one block from Harborside Drive which is where the cruise port is located.  The entire area here between Strand and Market streets are laden with boutiques, shops, restaurants and bars.  Here are a few pictures of my new favorite spots.

Large shop with beach wear and accessories.

La Rumba is a huge shop with tons of cute clothing items.  Be warned though, the prices in the historic district are slightly higher than the exact same product in the beach stores.  The benefit is that the offerings, while some of the same, are broader with more upscale lines.

My new favorite boutique. "Yaga"

I LOVE the store pictured above.  The name is Yaga – Mo Betta Threads.  This store has the cutest line of women’s clothing.  The store is small but the lines they carry are perfect for cruising, casual yet refined.  Perfect!

All in all, the stores in the Strand area are a great place to browse, especially if you are looking for that little something extra to take on your cruise.  I saw some brands here that I have not seen anywhere else.

If you tire of walking the historic district, you can always take a ride.

Carriage on Strand Street

The other place I want to share with you about Galveston is the Seawolf Park, named after the Seawolf submarine lost in WWII.  The park has several areas for families, but the main attractions are the USS Cavalla SS-244, a WWII submarine and the USS Stewart, only one of two suriving destroyers.

Courtesy of Seawolf Park

USS Stewart

The park offers access to the submarine and destroyer for a nominal donation.  I have to tell you, I have developed a totally new respect for the sailors whose tours of duty were aboard submarines.  I am not in the least bit claustrophobic but I cannot even imagine living in the tiny, cramped surroundings inside of them for a day, much less for weeks or months on end.  There comes a solemnity during the tours of these two vessels when you start to realize these were the homes of many, many soldiers during war time.  Let us not forget that our freedom has a price and those who pay it for us deserve our respect.  Needless to say, if you are in the Galveston area, I highly recommend taking time to visit this park.  Your appreciation of our men and women in the armed forces will amplify after this short excursion.

After our day of exploring, we went to dinner at Gaido’s restaurant which has been in the same place on the seawall since 1911.

Gaido's Seafood

You cannot miss this sign but in case you don’t see it, just look for the giant crab right next to it.

Gaidos Giant Crab

Seriously, please don’t let the exterior of the building keep you from trying this restaurant.  It looks a little run down but once you walk in, the atmosphere is warm and inviting.  Everything we had was wonderful, I ordered the soft shell crab and my husband had the seafood platter.  The wait staff was very knowledgeable about the menu and the fish in particular.  It is definitely a place we will revisit.

As I left Galveston, I made a mental note to visit again soon.  I will be cruising out of Galveston a couple of times next year, so I’m planning to squeeze in another day or two.  If you are cruising or just heading there for a little beach time, let me know.  I’d love to share more with you.

Happy travels,


Categories: Beaches, Cuisine, culinary, Destinations, Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Birth of Passion

Merriam-Webster defines “passion” in part as:  intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.  I believe one’s passion is a gift from God and I believe passion starts deep within one’s heart for some thing, some place or some activity that begins as a small kindle and with nurturing (and sometimes without) grows to a raging fire.  It’s the one thing that drives you or if you have suppressed it, the one thing that keeps rearing it’s head to be seen. That is how my passion for travel began, slowly.

In my early childhood years, I was bitten by the travel bug.  I never recognized it for what it was, only that I loved being on the road, in new places, meeting new people, experiencing new things.  I was often the child who was described as being the one with “ants in her pants” or “restless”.  Some things never change, I guess.  I still get very antsy when I don’t get out on the road for a while.

My mother is a retired school teacher who taught a vocational office education course.  Each summer she was required to spend a week in training. Those trainings took place in cities all over Texas and since she would be gone a week we went with her.  That, of course, meant that Dad would have to keep us entertained for an entire week in a new city each summer while Mom was in class.  You can only spend so much time in the pool at the hotel so every morning we would start out for breakfast and then off we went to explore and have some fun.  I discovered early on, that I had no favorite cities because each was unique and offered experiences worthy of being a favorite.  I’ve come to realize it was the adventure that mattered the most.  Travel and exploration of new places was firmly taking root in my heart.

Once, while in Corpus Christie, we had only been there two days when we were rushed out of town due to an impending hurricane.  That was devastating for me not because I missed out on seeing Corpus (it wasn’t our first time there) but because I spent all year saving up money to buy one of those awesome and often trashy souvenirs.  After much complaining and whining, Dad allowed for a quick stop for us to buy something to commemorate our vacation “that never happened”.  Photography in the 70’s was not what it is today.  As kids, our souvenirs were often the catalyst for recalling the memories we made.

One of our summer sojourns sent us to El Paso.   For those of you who don’t know Texas, from El Paso it is just a short skip over to Juarez, Mexico.  Ah, my first trip to the land I came to love!  Dad took us across the border to shop. Yes, I was a shopper even back then.  I still have the silver ring and leather purse I bought on that trip.  Back at that time, there was dog racing there also.  Mom tried to always take one day off to spend with us while we were there.  The dog races was part of her “fun time” with us.  I don’t remember much about the dog races, I was much more into horses but while sitting in the restaurant/bar area I noticed a lady who had a drink with an olive in it.  Man, did I want one of those!  I practically begged Dad to get one so I could have the olives.  Oh, the innocence of a child!  He finally relented and asked the waiter to bring me some olives.  I didn’t know until much later that I was begging him to order a dirty martini!  El Paso was great but now, Mexico, THAT was the place to be!  The sounds, the people, everything was foreign to a child and yet so very exciting.

For many years, all I knew of Mexico was the border towns but I was fascinated by everything about it.  Border towns back then were not the dangerous meccas they have now become.  It was a safe place for families to cross over and experience another culture.  As a child, I vowed to explore Mexico from border to border.  With that, my passion truly took root in my heart.  I explored in books what I could not explore in person.  I’m still a road-trip kind of girl and love to get in a car and just GO!  One of my dream trips is to load up a Jeep with my husband and dog and travel Mexico from coast to coast.  The coastlines are beautiful but so much culture and adventure awaits throughout the interior.  Just what my “restless” spirit needs!

You might say that travelling by auto does not compare to getting on a plane and saving hours and hours of travel time, but have you ever wondered what you missed by jumping on that plane instead of heading cross country?  I always wonder…. what did I miss?  what’s down there?  where are we now?

Most who know me well, were not surprised when I went into the travel industry.  One girlfriend even asked “what took you so long?”. It was not something I planned.  I found myself with free time after selling our business and the opportunity came up.   Sometimes the best experiences in life are those you do not plan for.  That, my friends, is my passion.  I wish to pass my love for travel onto you and love helping someone’s travel the best it can be.  Please share your passion or comments below.  I would love to hear from you.

Happy travels,


Categories: Destinations, Mexico, Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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