Cuba May 2017

In May, I had the good fortune to travel to Cuba with International Expeditions, a tour company that offers cultural tours of Cuba.   I expected ten days of old cars, rice & beans and rain every day. Was I in for a big surprise!

The afternoon before our departure for Cuba, our group of twelve met in Miami where we were introduced to Angel, our expedition leader. We were briefed on what to expect during our trip. We completed the paperwork for our visas and had plenty of time to ask questions. We were provided a light dinner and our group had a chance for introductions and getting to know each other a bit.

The next morning, following breakfast at the hotel, we boarded a bus for the airport where we were very efficiently guided through our visa processing and check-in for our flight to Cienfuegos, Cuba. Just a few minutes before our scheduled landing we were informed that due to severe weather in Cienfuegos, we were being forced to return to Miami! We sat on the plane in Miami for a little under an hour and headed back to Cienfuegos, arriving about three hours after our originally scheduled time. We were met by our Cuban guide, Gustavo (Gus), who would remain with us for the rest of our trip. During the short bus ride to the Hotel La Union Gus gave us a little information about what to expect the following day. Because it was getting a little late, he also took our dinner orders, which he phoned in to the hotel. Check-in at the hotel was very quick and efficient, as it would be at each hotel during our trip.

Our first morning in Cuba we went for a walk through the areas around the hotel. We had a chance to visit a farmers market where vendors were offering a variety of fruits, vegetables and meats. While there were a few of Cuba’s famous classic American cars in the area, the more common modes of transportation seemed to be bicycles, horse-drawn carriages and beat-up, old Russian cars.

Our first day continued with a stroll around public squares in a more modern section of Cienfuegos where our guide, Gustavo, explained the history behind many of the buildings, statues and monuments. This was followed by a wonderful private performance by a local professional choir group. Their talent and vocal range was truly outstanding; everyone in our group seemed very impressed! Later in the day, on our way to Trinidad, we visited an old sugar plantation originally owned by Edwin Atkins, a wealthy businessman from Massachusetts. We were given a short tour by the woman in charge of a soon-to-begin restoration project. She also runs the village elementary school located on the same property. We continued on to Trinidad where we visited a well-known pottery studio owned by the Santander family. We also had a chance for Gustavo to take us a walking tour of some areas in Trinidad.

All this was during our first day in Cuba!

To be continued…

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day by Planning a Trip to Ireland

Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day by Planning a Trip to Ireland!

What better way to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day than to plan a trip to Ireland? Ireland is a warm and inviting country full of emerald green pastures, friendly folks, plenty of beer pints and is a wonderful place to make memories.

Ireland is an excellent choice for couples, families, or groups of friends looking for adventure. The members of your party will play a part in determining where to go and how you want to see this beautiful country. You may want to drive yourself with a self-guided vacation or select a stress-free escorted motor coach tour with C.I.E. Tours International. You might choose to stay in a bed and breakfast, castles or manor houses, or different hotels. Many people choose to spend one or two nights in one place before moving on to another in order to travel around the country and see as much as they can. The type of trip and length of stay that you're planning will help determine the best places for you to stay.

There are so many amazing sites to see in Ireland: The Blarney Stone, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, The Cliffs of Moher, Dublin, Giants Causeway. You probably won't be able to see everything in just one trip, but building the right itinerary will allow you to see the places that are most important to you without being exhausted and missing out on what Ireland has to offer. The best landmarks and sites are hidden from the main tourist routes, so let's work together to plan the right itinerary!

Maybe you have ancestors from Ireland and want to reconnect the past to the present; maybe you're a Game of Thrones fan and want to see the heart of the Seven Kingdoms, the wicked Lannisters, and the honorable Starks; or maybe you just want want to raise a pint in honor of Saint Patrick. Whatever the reason, Ireland is a wonderful place to plan your next trip.

Our mascot, Marco, recently took a trip to Ireland and he had a wonderful time!

Want to see what Marco saw? Contact me today and we'll plan your trip to Ireland!

Family Travel and New Year

When the holidays are over and you have begun to miss your family & friends do you think about next year?   Perhaps a family reunion in 2016 where you can spend a week and not just a few hours with love ones.  Something to think about?  Marisa of Sensational Travel can help! All inclusive resorts offer a stress-free experience for families of all ages where your meals, snacks, drinks, entertainment and activities are all prepaid. They are located everywhere in the Caribbean and Mexico.  Just unpack once and start the fun to build memories.

Perhaps you want to plan a family reunion for grandparents, children and grandchildren who are spread across the United States.  How wonderful to explore a new culture, volunteer in a country and  still enjoy some pool or ocean time while on vacation.

Resorts offer special savings and amenities for groups starting at 6 rooms depending on the time of year you travel.

Sensational Travel handles all the reservations, payments, questions and we provide a dedicated web page for family & friends. We have emergency service for you prior or during your trip.  Offer trip insurance for those unforeseen events that may prevent you from traveling.  And we have been assisting families for over 30  years.

Contact Marisa@sensationaltravel.com to begin to research the best group travel for 2016

Alaska Adventure Sept 2013

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 Day 8

Today was an exciting day since we drove from Hotel Alyeska to Whittier and was to experience a narrow tunnel in the mountain that is one way to reach Whittier, Alaska.  They time the one-ways on the hour to let tourists and residents in/out of Whittier.  I was told the digging out of the tunnel was amazing since two teams began the job and when they meet halfway were only off by 6 inches! 

When we arrive into Whittier it was howling with white caps on the Prince William Sound and our boat was small, only 22 passengers.  Lazy Otter Charters was wonderful and we had a great captain, Captain Mike, owner of the charters with shipmate, Debbie, that both did a great job.  It turned out to be smooth sailing and we looked for wildlife and glaciers.  Another sunny day and we had a great time with a delicious lunch onboard.  Best item for lunch??  Smoked salmon spread on bagels along with sandwiches, cookies, ships and drinks.    Journey thru the tunnel just in time brought us to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center with our private tour guide, Scott.   Here you can drive around the center to view the animals or leisurely walk from area to area.   Animals roam freely in very large enclosures from bears, caribou, musk ox, moose and bisson.  This is a wonderful place to explore and a worthwhile visit from Anchorage.

Alaska Adventure Sept 2013

AWE Fall FAM

 

 

Day 6

 

Early morning with the group to the popular breakfast diner, Snow City Café, and of course it was salmon cakes for breakfast!  The Alaskan Museum was a wonderful way to spend the morning and it features all the tribes of Alaska and rotating exhibits of all types of art.  Delightful lunch at Muse at the Museum allow museum goers to taste one of the local chefs fine cuisine without venturing outside.  Early afternoon we drove to the Rust’s Flying Service for a great adventure of 3hrs to view Mt McKinley or correctly named “Denali”.    Denali means “the High One” for Athabascan Indians north of the Alaska Range. Strapped in and praying all would be fine, we departed, soared and view the majestic mountains of Denali.  As a surprise we also landed on a glacier lake, all alone, and walked the glacier beach.  It was a wonderful experience to remember and a highly recommended way to see the mountains.  Our tour didn’t end since we were off to the Alaska Zoo, just outside of downtown Anchorage, where you can secure a free shuttle to the zoo.  Here many animals are rescued and exhibited naturally.  By late afternoon the group was hungry and we were treated to the Glacier Brewhouse for another wonderful meal, salmon burgers!

Alaska Adventure Sept 2013

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Day 5 

A beautiful day in the Alaskan City of Anchorage began with breakfast at Sizzlin’ Café, next door to the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel.  Very friendly staff, quick service and amazing eggs Benedict with smoked salmon.  Here is the destination for salmon lovers!  Alaska serves many different types of salmon and for breakfast it is no exception.

Then the fun begins with Salmon Berry Tours for a scenic city tour and chocolate tour with tour guide, Brett.  We visited Flattop Mountain for the views of the city, sample chocolate truffles and embraced liquid silk, a yummy hot chocolate drink.  We learned many Alaskans own a seaplane or floatplane.  We visited some of the locations of the 1964 earthquake.  Tonight we dine as locals at the Bears Tooth Theatre for great food and off to Chilkoot Charles for drinks and a visit to the “Birds Nest”. 

Alaska Adventure Sept 2013

ImageDay 4

 

Unfortunately the last day at DenaliNational Park was the day it rain, shall I say poured all day.  The sled dog tour to see puppies was canceled and I spent the morning  working from our cozy log cabin with time to purchase a lunch for our motorcoach ride back to Anchorage.   Early evening check into the Sheraton Anchorage with modern rooms and convent location.  Also good locations are the Westmark, Hilton, and Captain Cook Hotels.  Tonight a short walk to Humpys’, very popular place with the locals, where the burgers are big and the place serves over 49 different types of beer.  My selection was a raspberry/hard apple beer, very tasty.

Alaska Adventure Sept 2013

Grand Denali Hotel

Day 2 

It is an early morning as we depart with Alaska Travel n Tours for the 5 hr trip to Denali.

Luckily the motorcoach departs from the AlaskaConvention Center and across the street is a charming coffee shop, Bean Roost, that offers various coffees and delicious caramels to ease the long road trip to Denali.  Alaska Travel n Tours operates nice clean motorcoachs, provides bottle water and snacks for the drive.  Since it continues to rain the early morning scenery is limited but we are awarded with moments of sunshine as we head out of the city into the mountains. 

 We arrive to Denali Cabins and settle into our cabin #34 to find comfortable two beds, heat and bathroom in a rustic cabin setting.  A good value and accommodations just 15 minutes away fro the DenaliVisitorCenter with free shuttle service.  Leaving our luggage and heading our immediately time was spent at the VisitorCenter viewing a  20 minutes movie on the national park and then off for a short hike in the mountains.  

Still plenty of daylight left time to visit Denali Grand Hotel and meet with the new sales manager, Dee Dee, to learn what is new at this popular resort on Sugarloaf Mountain.  Beautiful rooms with planned upgrades for 2014, maybe mini-frigs in each room?  Staff was very friendly and the views from this hotel were amazing!  To top of the day, dinner was planned at the Denali Grand Hotel and was the one of the best meals in Alaska at Alpenglow.  Seafood bisque and fresh halibut over steamed vegetables topped with a mango chutney.  Chef Jacob continues to serve amazing entrees however skip the desserts and enjoy a wonderful cocktail with a sunset view from this hotel.

 

Alaska Adventure Sept 2013

Day 1

I start my journey from Boston to Alaska with connection service via Dallas. I begin to wonder if others feel it is worth the long distance to travel to this state, our 49th state of the U.S   Upon arrival it is rainy in Anchorage and  so it begins “travelers must be prepared for rain with layer clothing and cool temperatures in the 50’s”.   First night layover is at the Historical Anchorage Hotel, a charming hotel near the train and close to shops.  Large rooms, a bit old, however friendly staff and an amazing free breakfast make this a good value.  Time to get some sleep before heading out tomorrow to Denali National Park.Image

Heading to Denali National Park and Anchorage

 Heading to Denali National Park and Anchorage

Heading to Denali National Park and Anchorage

In 7 days I will return to Alaska and experience Denali National Park along with the city of Anchorage. Will I see wildlife? Will I see Mt McKinley? Will it be cool or warm and sunny? Will I continue to love this state? Check back for updates next week or follow me on Sensational Travel Facebook page. Happy Traveling....

2010 Philadelphia Flower Show Getaway

 

Winter is here, Cold Temperatures, and soon Snowfall.

What to look forward to?   Join us as we leave  Salem Mass to Philadelphia for a weekend of sights and smells.  Yes, smells..... we will spend an entire day at the Philadelphia Flower Show to  "smell the roses" and enjoy the theme of -Passport to the World. Also included in the weekend is one full day of freedom to visit the Liberty Bell, or any of the wonderful museums in Philadelphia.    Visit our website for details: www.sensationaltravel.com/groups