Hurricane damaged Caribbean Update – Spring 2018

Sailing out of Phillipsburg, St. Maarten March 2018

My wife and I led a group of 150 travelers to the Caribbean in March on the Celebrity Reflection. We stopped in Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia and St. Maarten. We wanted to give you a short update on what we found. There is always confusion about the Caribbean and hurricanes. The media will tell you when they hit and will show the damage, but sometimes the viewer is left with the impression that everything is destroyed. This is never the case with the Caribbean. First of all the region is very large and while hurricanes are large as well, they never cover the whole Caribbean. Secondly, the damage inflicted varies by the strength of the storm  and the water damage. So for our 4 ports, the islands of Barbados and St. Lucia were spared the severe wrath of both hurricane Irma and Maria. Even though Barbados has not had a hurricane since 1955, the tourism fell off for this season because people thought there was damage here. I can personally report that all of the tours, restaurants and shops on both St. Lucia and Barbados are running normally as they would during the tourist season.

Antigua was hit with fairly high winds from Irma but the resilient people were able to put their island back in shape in a very short time. Their sister island Barbuda was not so lucky. The full brunt of Irma hit Barbuda, and it devastated that island. The people have been temporarily relocated to Antigua until Barbuda is habitable again. For the cruise tourists, the activities on Antigua as well as the shops and restaurants for the most part are completely open.

Of the four ports, the island of St. Maarten/Ste. Martin is the one that sustained the most damage and is still working on recovery of the island’s infrastructure, buildings and tourist offerings. One of my favorite tours, the America’s Cup sailing race has had to be relocated to Cozumel for the season. Other tours were working. We took a wonderful tour of the western side of the island on a catamaran. It was missing its mast, but the boat could still navigate under engine power and we were able to visit Maho Beach and view the planes coming in for a landing. And we motored past Maho village and beach to the French side.

In Phillipsburg, we were able to find many restaurants and shops that were open. Based on our estimate, about 50% of the buildings were occupied and running. Some of those had damaged roofs but were still able to run as businesses. We had a wonderful lunch at the Holland House Hotel, right on the beach. We could see that many rooms were still under renovation, but both the Horizon and Holland House were accepting reservations. Most of the larger resorts were closed still and undergoing major renovations.

The people of the Caribbean are resilient. This is not their first hurricane season!. It will not be their last. But they have a strong spirit and will rebuild when needed so that they can continue to operate in their island paradise. We were thanked time and time again for coming back so soon after the hurricanes. They desperately need the money as tourism is the number one source of foreign funds for these countries. So, as cruisers, do come back, and spend some money! For the landlubbers who wish to stay at resorts, check with your travel agent for the condition of your hotel you wish to stay at.

After the Wedding … Picking the Ultimate Honeymoon

After the wedding activities and all of the events leading up to the big day, it’s now time for the two of you to relax and spend time together as you begin your new life. Picking the ultimate Honeymoon is more art than science. And it is important that the two of you understand the wants and needs of each as individuals. So the first thing to do is talk about what you want to do on your honeymoon. Do you want to relax on the beach? Spend time in the room getting to know each other? Go sightseeing? Take on extreme adventures? You both may want to do different things. It is our job as travel agents to ask these questions and come up with a honeymoon plan that will meet the needs of both of you.

When we begin discussions, we also ask what is the budget?, how many nights?, and preferences for the type of honeymoon. And the options are as varied as the couples who come to us. You can go on a cruise, stay at an all-inclusive resort, go camping in the wilderness, take a driving vacation, stay in low priced hotels or go all out and stay in five star or even six star properties. Its all about the both of you and what you can afford in time and money.

Some couples take a short honeymoon in Vegas. Others go for a three week trip to Southeast Asia and stay at high end properties. Our most popular destinations are Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Here are some ideas for the Ultimate Honeymoon, based on the input we have had from couples who we have created honeymoons for…

  • Stay at the increasingly popular island of Antigua at an adults only all-inclusive resort like Galley Bay, or a boutique hotel like Blue Waters.
  • Visit the legendary Raffles Hotel in Singapore where the service is legendary, and is where the Singapore Sling cocktail started. And sample the amazing cuisine from this region.
  • Visit the romantic island of St. Lucia and stay at the spectacular Ladera or the Capella Marigot Bay. And don’t miss the world’s only volcano you can drive through.
  • Stay at Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the Caribbean. It will cost a lot to rent the whole island for the two of you, but if you do, you will have a one of a kind ultimate honeymoon. Necker was heavily damaged by hurricane and is being rebuilt to accommodate guests by October 2018.
  • Visit the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. These islands are just a stones throw from Venezuela and are perfect for active honeymooners and those who would go during the peak hurricane season of July to November as they lie below the path of hurricanes. Colorful Curacao is my favorite place of these three.
  • Take in a safari in South Africa’s Sabi Sands at Dulini River Lodge, or Richard Branson’s Ulusaba resort. Both offer luxury accommodations with your own private pool. There are other lodges in Sabi, and other private reserves adjacent to the Kruger Park. And other countries like Tanzania and Botswana to see the big five. Perhaps adding gorilla trekking in Uganda.
  • Visit Phuket Island in Thailand and stay at the Banyan Tree Phuket in one of their suites with a private pool. They even have one that has TWO private pools. Ride an elephant here.
  • One more recommendation with a private pool is The Plein Soliel in Martinique in the Caribbean. So very French. So very romantic.C’est magnifique.
  • Visit Caribbean’s St. Kitts. Not easy to get to, but worth the travel to one of the most unique romantic Caribbean Islands.The new Park Hyatt is a great place to stay.
  • It will cost you, but romantic St. Barth’s is the place where the worlds movers and shakers go to relax and get away from everything. There are not a lot of resorts here on this French Caribbean island, but they are some of the best you can find anywhere.  We suggest Le Village and Les Ilets de la Plage.
  • Rent a villa with a private pool, and cook in Jamaica, Italy, Greece, or any one of a hundred other locations in the world. Most villas will only rent Saturday to Saturday for weekly blocks, but if off season and no reservation within 3 months, most villas will be flexible on dates. It is best to book these 12-18 months ahead of time.
  • Go for an eco-adventure and explore Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes in the rainforest, volcano region, or the Guanacaste beach region. Stay at the Laguna Lodge in Tortuguero and Hotel Magic Mountain in the Arenal district. The rooms are spartan by world standards, but the experiences are incredible.
  • Take a big island vacation to Jamaica, sample rum, Blue Mountain coffee, climb a waterfall and stay at legendary places like Half Moon, Sandals or Round Hill.
  • Take one of the small ship cruises to locations that the large ships cannot go. Examples include Windstar, and Star Clippers.

Think this is a long list? We have only gotten started! We could go on and on, but we’d rather spend the time focusing on your specific needs.

We have tons of ideas on a honeymoon location. Put us to work finding the right place for you. You will build a memory with your loved one that will last a lifetime.

Traveling to Connect with the Film and TV Industry

Most of my career has been in the radio/TV/film industry. I have had many roles in the industry mostly behind the camera and mike. I have been a radio DJ, done voice-overs and some commercials early in my career. I still do some voice-overs from time to time.  But mostly I worked for companies that supplied the industry with technology. I have traveled all over the world and visited many companies involved in this industry. As a traveler, you can visit some of these places, too. Just like visitors to Minneapolis want to see Paisley Park, and First Avenue due to Prince, and the movie “Purple Rain”, you can visit the places where others have made famous.Here is a (small) list of some of the places you might want to check out and we can arrange to take you there.

Midtown Manhattan — This is where NY radio/TV/Theater is. You can visit NBC studios, take in a Broadway play, and there are tours of the locations you have seen in TV and film. Sex in the City, Seinfeld, The Proposal, Sleepless in Seattle, Breakfast at Tiffany’s are just some of the films you can see their shooting locations on a tour. You can go early in the morning and stand in the courtyard adjacent to the Today show at 30 Rockefeller Center. You do not need tickets, but go early. If you want to see the Tonight show starring Jimmy Fallon, tickets must be obtained weeks in advance online.

Burbank/Hollywood/LA — The film capital of the US. See the Hollywood Walk of Fame, tour Universal Studios, Warner Brother Studios in Burbank, visit their back lots where hundreds of films and television shows were filmed. Nearby, there is Griffith Observatory in Glendale, where Rebel Without a Cause, La La Land, Charlies Angels, and dozens of other TV and movies were filmed. The iconic Bradbury building, 304 S Broadway, LA was a location site for Murphy’s Law, Chinatown, Pay it Forward, and other films, TV series and music videos.The LA County Museum of Art – LA Story; Echo Park Lake – Gilligan’s Island; LA Union Station – Blade Runner; Millenium Biltmore – Ghostbusters. The list goes on and on. Visit the Egyptian Theater where imprints of famous actors reside in cement. Next door, is the Dolby Theatre, current home to the Oscar’s. And of course, there are the incredible residences of the stars in nearby Beverly Hills, Toluca Lake, Bel Air and Malibu. You can also be in the audience for some television shows, depending upon the time of year. You can see the Big Bang Theory, Dr. Oz, or Ellen Degenerous in LA. You may even get to see a production that is brand new. These tickets are free, but you need to apply for them in advance, typically 30 days, and because of overwhelming demand, you may not get your preferred show.

New Zealand — Home to Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings is in the Waikato region. There is a daily tour of Hobbiton for visitors. Other places include Cathedral Cove and Flock Hill for Chronicles of Narnia and Lyall Bay for King Kong, Skull Island.

United Kingdom — The UK has been a location for more movies than I can count. Notting Hill, Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abby, Alice in Wonderland (2005), The Imitation Game, Dunkirk, and many James Bond films. We can help you travel to the locations of your favorite films and television shows.

These are just some of the destinations and some of the locations that are available for tourists to visit to get a sense of the locations in your favorite shows. And many of the studios across the globe are available for tours.

Be an audience member. Several locations above have opportunities for audiences to view production of television shows live. The tickets are usually free and in high demand. If you are interested in a particular show, you will need to locate the production schedule for that show, and then learn about the procedure for obtaining tickets in advance. If you want to see a particular show, do not arrange your flights and hotel until you have confirmed your tickets for a particular date. You are not likely to get the specific date you want, especially if it is a very popular movie or show.

In the recent past, we brought a college group to Downton Abbey, and a large family to Hobbiton. We can help you as well. Call us 612-332-1100. Who knows? You might just be discovered as a future star!