Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Beaches Resorts for Everyone

Yesterday, I attended my re-certification for the Beaches and Sandals brand to maintain my “Certified Sandals/ Beaches Specialist.”  While the Sandals (couples) brand is terrific, my client base has a large preponderance of families, so they tend to be more in the Beaches stage of life.  And, of course, Beaches resorts are for everyone.

Beaches have more quality inclusives than any other resorts in the world. For you, that means more watersports & motorized waterskiing, unlimited scuba diving, the Caribbean’s biggest waterparks, more dining choices, up to 16 restaurants, exclusive Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street characters, nanny programs, Xbox 360 game garages, Kids camps + Teen programs, unlimited premium brand liquors, up to 14 bars per resort, exclusive Beringer Wines on the house, Free Martha Stewart Weddings (restrictions apply), Most Unique Suites, Scatch DJ Academy, English Guild Trained Butlers, more Botanical Gardens, more awards, Caribbean’s best beaches, Martha Stewart Craft Club, and more.

There are 4 Beaches Resorts – 3 in Jamaica, and 1 in Turks and Caicos. 

The 3 Beaches in Jamaica are Beaches Boscobel in Ocho Rios, and Beaches Negril and Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril.  The 1 Beaches outside of Jamaica is in T&C.  Here are some distinguishing features on all 4 properties:

1. Beaches Boscobel is in Ocho Rios. It is Jamaica’s only all-inclusive with Golf for Kids. It has undergone major renovations. There are 223 rooms and suites on 2 acres, and it is a 2hr 15 minute airport transfer from Montego Bay airport. It is action packed fun for all ages in a lush hillside setting with terraced views, and has the largest water park in Jamaica with its Pirate Island Water Park featuring 9 new slides. Golf greens fees & transfers are included, and there is a complimentary golf clinic for kids.  There are 70 connecting rooms for families.

2. Beaches Sandy Bay is the perfect piece of paradise, and is next door to Beaches Negril. It offers terrific lead in rates, with exchange privileges at Beaches Negril. It has 128 rooms with 13 categories on 9 acres, with a 75 minute transfer from Montego Bay airport. It has the most intimate Beaches resort, and is laid back and unhurried.

3. Beaches Negril offers 7 miles of pure magic in 210 rooms with 11 categories over 20 acres. It is also a 75 minute transfer from Montego Bay airport. It is a friendly beachfront hideawy with an upscale flavor. It is situated on the widest stretch of Negril’s famed 7 mile beach. It has a pirate island water park with lazy river, and offers afternoon tea. It also offers Martha Stewart crafts.

4. Beaches Turks & Caicos is the last of the true exotics. It offers 615 rooms with 30 room categories over 65 acres.  It is a 15 minute airport transfer from PLS airport. This is the Caribbean’s hottest and most exciting family resort boasting “4 vacations in one” on a 12-mile pristine beach at Grace Bay. It has 16 restaurants (including 2 dult only) with the largest Priates Island Water Park plus surf simulator, and the most extensive dive program.

So – if you’re thinking of organizing a Beaches vacation, give me a call. We can talk about your needs and interests, and match the proper resort (and room category) to your family. But don’t wait!  I’m having a devil of a time finding space for a family of 5 this Christmas, and March break is already almost sold out too.

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September 28, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Kids | 1 Comment

Chef Mickey is Cooking Up a Late Summer Feast for your Family

Greetings,

Are you tempted to visit Mickey Mouse this summer? The head mouse and I have put our thinking caps on, and have come up with a special offer for you! The “Memories Vacation Package Plus Free Dine”.

Here are the  OFFER DETAILS

Booking Window: NOW-Sept.24.11

Travel Window: Aug.28-Sept.24, 2011

This Includes :

– Accommodations – Magic Your Way Base Ticket for each member of the traveling party

– One 20-page Disney’s PhotoPass® Photo Book

– Disney Dining Plan FREE

This terrific promotion gives you free regular “plus” dining plan at moderate, deluxe, or deluxe villa resorts. (Or free “quick service” dining plan at the value resorts – which you can choose to keep, or upgrade to the regular “plus” dining plan.)

If you’re looking for a late summer getaway, the magic of the WDW parks is certainly a terrific option. Not only can you enjoy Florida sunshine, and lessening crowds at the parks, but a family of 4 (two adults, one child, one junior) can save $1100 USD with this amazing deal.

But don’t wait! Advance dining reservations (which are required to dine with the characters, or for table service meals) can be booked up to 180 days in advance, so many of the popular locations are filling up.

Give me a call! Let’s get your magical vacation sorted – and I’ll help you make the advance dining reservations too!

Sincerely,

Sheila Gallant-Halloran

613-837-0699

sheila.gh@vision2000.ca

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Kids, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Royal Caribbean and Universal Studios Partner Up

Royal Caribbean Cruise line and Universal Studios are partnering up to offer an alternative to the Disney “land and sea”  theme park/ cruise alternative.

See http://www.royalcaribbean.com/universal/ for how you can combine two holidays in one (or give me a call for details).  This is a popular holiday option for families with older teens (or some that just want to alternate between the Disney make-your-own “land and sea” option that is now in existence).

What’s included?

-3/4 night Bahamas OR 7 night Eastern/ Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean

-3/4 day park admission to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure

-Enjoy Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the theme park opens, plus receive free Universal Express ride access to SKIP the regular lines at both Universal theme parks when you stay at one of the three Universal Orlando on-site hotels (paid theme park admission required)

– All transfers throughout your trip

Why should you book the combo?

– less expensive than booking each separately

– easy to book, we take care of everything

– packages can be customized to fit your needs

Call me to book this adventure for the whole family.

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Cruising, Lush Life Kids | 2 Comments

Guest blog: Client, Joanna Helmer, Gives Advice-Disney w 2 yr old

I often have had guest bloggers. This week, I got an email from one of my clients who returned from Disney World with her 2-year old son. Joanna had some great tips based on her family’s experience .  I asked her permission to share them on my blog, and she kindly agreed.

By the way, Joanna is a financial advisor with Dundee Securities. If you’d like to contact her for financial advice, please see her contact details below.

===============

Hi, Sheila!

Thanks so much for all your help…it really made the difference.

 A couple tips for people travelling there with small children….I learned these the hard way… 🙂

 1. Bring your own headphones for the plane (not ear buds…you’ll find yourself with very tired arms since they don’t stay in the little ones’ ears on their own)

 2. There is a shocking lack of juice and milk in the parks…I prefer my guy to not drink a whole lot of coke and such, so we ended up bringing our own (line ups at the restaurants were very long, especially if you only want juice or milk)

 3. If you have restaurant reservations, ask a bus driver approximately how long it will take to get there the day before…we were late a couple times because we underestimated the size of the place…but we were accommodated both times (thankfully)

 4. If you want to go to Toy Story, get to the park early…stretch…when they drop the rope, RUN (it’s easy to find..everyone else is going there too)  You can take the cards for your whole party and get fast passes…if you’re not there within the first half hour or so, you will (hopefully) get a fast pass for suppertime.

 5. If at all possible, try to avoid having your 2-year old barf when you’re only 3 people away from the security gate…it really slows you down…but people are surprisingly sympathetic (others in line…not the security guards)

 6. Also, your fast pass is good ALL DAY…not just the times on the pass…those times are just indicating when you can get your next one (Note from Sheila: if it’s busy, Disney cast members can enforce the times on the pass – but they generally will honour usage.)

 7. If you plan to switch off with another parent (one ride, the other wait with the child til they’re done), you can each get a fast pass for 2 DIFFERENT rides (kind of cheating, but I can live with the guilt)

 8. Bring your own stroller…don’t even think about it…just do it…The ones you rent are only for use in the park…it’s quite a hike from the park gates to the buses…not to mention, you get to use yours when on the resort, the airport, shopping, whatever…and the ones you rent all look the bloody same, and can take quite a while to find (the attendants will move them to make room for more, as others are taken). They also look incredibly uncomfortable for those riding in them (molded plastic, no padding).  Bring your stroller with you to the airport, and use it there…our guy fell asleep in line 3 times (we thanked the Lord for ours several times)…then give it to the attendant as you’re getting on the plane.  It’s the best thing ever, I swear.

Just some thoughts…your advice made such a difference..we literally would have been lost without it….the reservations were great…especially Hoop De Doo…even the 2-yr old loved it.

===============

Joanna Helmer

cell: 613 913 8575

email: jhelmer@dundeesecurities.com

twitter: @JoannaHelmer

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Guest Bloggers, Lush Life Kids | 5 Comments

Food Allergies? Beaches will treat you right!

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about Disney being able to handle food allergies right, and take away the cares of parents who have to contend with allergies.  Having specialized in Disney vacations for years, my clients’ concerns have ranged from lactose intolerance to severe milk allergies (yes, it exists) to gluten to kiwi to peanut and every other kind of allergy. I have always taken comfort sending people to Disney because I know and trust their system for dealing with allergies. This week, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Beaches chain is similarly equipped to deal with food allergies.

As a new specialist with the Beaches brand, I’m growing my knowledge of how they can respond to situations. And I got to see how they treated food allergies up close this week. I was thrilled with the response. (And families who must constantly guard against these issues will be thrilled to know that their vacation options are widening.)

My clients have a young family, and their youngest is anaphylaxic to Sesame and Tree Nuts. They have never vacationed as a family because of their need to be vigilant, and to be constantly monitoring their daughter’s exposure. When we were choosing a vacation spot for them, Disney certainly made the short list, but they were intrigued more by Beaches Turks and Caicos. The thought of a luxurious Caribbean vacation with fun, sun, surf, and a multitude of  family activities just spoke to them. I’ve sold Beaches with confidence to many families, but I’d never had to enquire about their treatment of allergies before. And, in this client’s case, the allergy was severe – there couldn’t be any margin for error.

I got some initial assurances from the Beaches Special Services team that they indeed could handle such situations. That offered some comfort, for sure, but I wanted to get additional info for the family.

You can imagine how much worry was alleviated by the following email sent from the Beaches T&C executive chef to my clients.

It will be my pleasure to be of assistance, firstly we will do our very best to ensure you guys have a fantastic vacation and enjoy all your food all over the resort,

We run a very successful food programme where I ask you to let me know your chosen restaurant one meal period in advance with the order for [xxx]’s chosen dietary restricted food, we simply remove the restriction and prepare and cook the food to suit her requirements, time is very important to me as I require the necessary time to prepare and cook safely and avoid any form of cross contamination,

Dietary restrictions are very common on property we are dealing with sometimes 20 families per day asking for special requests and food restrictions, this morning I have 14 families on the food programme, some are personal preference, some medically diagnosed and some are life threatening and some very severe like [xxx],

I fully understand your case and understand your daughter has very severe allergies to sesame seeds and tree nuts, I will in fact include all nuts to be 100% safe, we will do our very very best to ensure you are all very well looked after, I would like to be able to safely offer your daughter as much choice and selection as possible so if you are fine with this proposal let’s meet when you guys arrive and we will very carefully go over your daughters food requests and requirements, I feel very comfortable dealing with your request and I am sure we can do many many happy meals for [xxx] and the whole family all over the resort,

We are looking forward to your arrival, should you have any more question please feel free to drop me an email and I will reply as soon as possible…

Warmest Regards Chef.

Think my clients are going to Beaches Turks and Caicos with a clear heart?  You betcha!

Food allergies?  Beaches will treat you right!

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Kids | 5 Comments

Food Allergies? Disney will treat you right!

Today’s families have to contend with issues that I don’t remember from my school days. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone with peanut allergies, and despite oodles of my mom’s homecooked options, one of my brothers lived on a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches. He would’ve starved if he couldn’t have taken pb&j to school.

Today, food allergies are almost the norm.  But they are also quite lethal. Last year, both my daughters’ schools had children with severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, kiwi, shrimp, and other foods. Photos of children are pasted to the wall with extra epipens attached, and parents are sent notices not to bring any of the restricted items to school. One of my daughter’s had a classmate who was severely allergic to milk – not lactose intolerant, but allergic. (Once, his soy milk was refilled in his sister’s milk cup, and her milk refilled in his soy milk cup – just touching his lips to the cup caused them to swell.)  This is scary stuff.

My sister-in-law who teaches in Toronto was just telling me about Sabrina’s law http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/healthyschools/anaphylaxis.html and the rules that teachers and schools have concerning food at school.

Obviously, no one wants to put a child at risk.

Parents who live with these allergies have to be vigilant about monitoring the risks to their children. I’m fortunate to not have to live with the day-in and day-out worries with my own kids, but I’ve worked with many clients that have this as their reality. So, finding a vacation spot that can help them deal with these issues is sometimes tough.

But – Disney does it up right!

I often make advance dining reservations for my clients at WDW restuarants. Before I do, I always ask about allergies. Disney dining has the systems set up to deal with all allergies.  Dining reservation systems (whether on the phone, or online) are structured to handle info about allergies.  Each allergy and/or concern is noted on each reservation.

At destination in a Disney restaurant, the chef will also come out to speak to the parents, and instruct them as to which items can be eaten from a buffet, or which cannot. Also, special items can be prepared. 

In addition, I can get parents the phone number to the restaurant, and we can speak to the executive chef or Food and Beverage manager to address all concerns. 

I’ve dealt with oodles of client food allergies, and Disney really knows how to respect the concerns, and address the allergy issue with the parents. 

Everyone wants to relax when they’re on vacation. If your family has to contend with food allergies, rest assured that a Disney vacation will work for you.

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Kids | Leave a comment

Concierge at Disney’s Poly – Pampering that is So Worth it!

I often will recommend to my clients that they stay at a Disney monorail hotel.  The benefits of the location just can’t be beat.  This past September (trip #18) we again chose a WDW monorail hotel, and stayed at the Polynesian hotel. And we splurged and upgraded to the concierge category.  Was the pampering worth the cost? Mos def!

First of all, continental breakfast each morning makes it easy to get up, grab some food, and hit the park.

Anyone who has travelled to Disney with kids knows they’re hungry when they wake, and don’t want to waste a lot of time eating before they hit the rides. Continental breakfast works great!

Second of all, you’re in a wonderful room, with terrific views of the bay and Magic Kingdom.  You can even watch the fireworks at night while sipping a Grand Marnier (which we did on several occassions).

Third, there are soft drinks and snacks throughout the day, for rest time when you come back for a swim and to get refreshed.

And fourth – then there are the hot h’or d’oeuvres from 5-7 and the dessert buffet from 8:30-10.  All with your choice of alcoholic or other beverage. 

Is it worth the little extra for the pampering?  You betcha!

November 16, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Kids, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | 2 Comments

The Dilemma: Taking the Kids out of School to Travel

Unless you’re a school teacher, and have few scheduling choices, most parents wrestle with the dilemma: do I take my kids out of school to travel during non-peak (and often more value-laden) times?

Ask any two people, and you’ll likely get three, hotly debated, and firmly entrenched, views.

Like having a baby for the first time, every parent should listen to the views expressed, think about  the relevance to their situation, and then decide what’s right for their family.  Like having your first child, only you will truly know what works, and what doesn’t, for your family. And you and your family will have to live with the decisions you make -enjoying the pros, and suffering the cons. 

I’ve taken my kids out of school to travel.  I’m a travel agent – so opportunities to travel tend to present themselves during non-peak times. There are certainly valued-laden reasons for that (it’s when the specials are on), and there are work reasons (it’s much harder for me to get away if all my clients are away, or about to go away.) Plus, living in Ontario, I don’t get summer 12 months of the year – I like to enjoy good weather at home, when it makes its rare appearance, and travel when my weather is a little less nice.

I’m not alone in that thinking.

Let me use a Disney vacation as an example. Generally speaking, when the kids are out of school, the prices are higher, and the parks are busier. So, if you want specials, and smaller crowds at the park, go when the kids are in school.

Disney, like any smart corporation, times their promotions to deliver the “feet on the ground” when they ordinarily wouldn’t be there. Their marketing machine is pretty well-oiled that way. They want bodies in the park. They run the numbers, and figure out what they have to do to bring them in. If you have to entice folks to pull their kids out of school, you have to give them something. And the “free dining” promo is a valued promo that usually works. (It’s normally $42 USD/ night to purchase for anyone over 9 – so for a family of 4, that’s a savings of ~$1200 USD on a one-week vacation. Pretty good incentive.)

The dining promo, while never guaranteed, has made its appearance in September several years in a row – precisely when the kids are back in school, and it’s hurricane season. (Course, with the economic downturn of October 2008, all conventional promo logic got thrown out the window; and poor US economic times meant the “free dining” promo occurred even during some peak  travel times like March break and summer vacations. That is not usual. We’re seeing returns to normal promo patterns now.)

I’m a Disney specialist. My family has been 18 times, during peak and non-peak times. So, I know the ins and outs of travelling to the parks. Is it possible to travel to Disney during Christmas, March break, Easter, and summer vacation; and still have an awesome time? Sure, it is – especially if you stay onsite, and take advantage of “extra magic hours” to plan your days to avoid the heavier traffic times. But is it easier to travel when it’s not Christmas, March break, Easter, and summer vacation; and see smaller crowds? You betcha!

It’s all supply and demand. Flight, hotel, tour, and cruise prices tend to rise when the demand is heavy.

So, it was always a fairly easy decision for my family. We took my daughter out of school to travel when she was in preschool and junior school. I’m a firm believer in the idea that travel is educational. And family time, away from work and other responsibilities, has to be carved out and appreciated whenever you can make it work for all involved.

Taking my daughter out of preschool and junior school took consultation, planning, and work. We always try to minimize any disruption to the classroom and the teacher. We believe if we pull our kid out of school, we have to be responsible to ensure she’s covered the material, and we don’t unduly compromise her school education. If we make the decision to take her out, then we are accepting the responsiblity to ensure she’s where she needs to be, academically. We would meet with teachers several weeks before travelling to let them know our plans, and we always got assigned work for the time we were away. That meant each day of vacation (and the days leading up to it), we were doing homework, and covering material. Last year, her teacher actually assigned my daughter work related to our vacation spot – we were visiting countries in Epcot, and she had daily assignments to learn about each country’s population, its main industry, its language, and its leaders. It was truly a fun, and educational, part of our vacation. And the effort also benefitted what she was studying when she returned to school.

But – our daughter’s school was open to working with us on that. Her teachers were supportive of our decisions (as long as we took responsibility to cover the work missed). In preschool and junior school, our daughter also only had one main teacher, and one homeroom – so there was a limited number of people with whom we had to consult, and involve in the planning. Plus, our daughter does quite well in school. We didn’t mind taking her out at a specific time (say, adjacent to a school break, or at the beginning of the school year) because of those reasons. 

Now that my eldest is in middle school, though, it would take a lot more consultation, planning, and work to take her out of school. (My youngest is now in junior kindergarten, so the concerns about the eldest will guide.) And, unless the opportunity was just unbelievably aswesome (well, I’m a travel agent – so opportunities will present themselves), we’ll probably not embrace taking her out of school as quickly as we have in the past.

Circumstances change. My eldest daughter’s course load is different this year, and some of her classes are very participatory and have sequential learning. So, missing a week’s worth of classroom time can be significant, and it could put her at a deficit situation that would tax me heavily to help her recover. (She’s taking an extended French course, and is studying humanities in French. Sequential math courses I could help her with, no problem – I am an actuary. Sequential French courses, and humanities in French – not so much. :-)…) Plus, my eldest now moves classrooms for courses, and has a host of different teachers. It’s a different undertaking to pull her out of school this year. The decision would be more complicated than before, and the responsibility on my husband and I to help her cover missed ground would increase.

So, I completely understand the dilemma parents face.

My advice? Consider how much consultation, planning, and work you are willing to undertake as a family to make it happen. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages to your family, consider your children’s situation, and discuss the matter with teachers. If, as parents, you’re willing to accept the responsibility to ensure your children’s education is not unduly compromised (even if that means doing word problems each vacation morning, instead of hitting the parks right away), and your children and their schools are open to it, it can work. But parents have to consult, plan, and do the work to make it work well.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Kids, Lush Life Other Items, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Beaches and Sandals – Caribbean “Luxury Included” for Everyone

I had a busy week this week. Part of the fun included attending a training session for Beaches and Sandals resorts. I’m now a “Certified Sandals Specialist” – or a CSS.

There are 3 distinct brands within the “Sandals Umbrella” – there are Beaches, Sandals, and Grand Pineapple resorts.

I book a lot of families to go to either the Beaches resorts in Jamaica, and Turks and Caicos.  So it was wonderful to get the intensive training on the different resorts, room categories, and amenities. 

Beaches, by Sandals, are terrific all-inclusive resorts that cater to families of all shapes and sizes, but it is luxury for everyone: whether you are on a single weekend, a girls’ getaway, or a family reunion trip for everyone related to you. There will be something for everyone at Beaches Turks and Caicos, Negril, Boscobel, and Sandy Bay.

Did you know that you can have breakfast with Elmo & the Cookie Monster at all the Beaches resorts?  Or, you and your spouse can enjoy a romantic dinner while the kids have fun in the Kids Camp at all the Beaches resorts as well.

You can watch a perfect sunset from your 3-bedroom suite at Beaches Negril. You can dine at another nearby Beaches if you stay at Beaches Negril or Beaches Sandy Bay.  Your kids can take a golf lesson at Beaches Boscobel. And your kids can be quiet in their own room with bunk beds and a game console at Beaches Turks & Caicos.

And, of course, I also learned all the ins and outs of the various Sandals resorts.  Unlike Beaches, and its product line being focussed on any and all vacationers, Sandals resorts are meant solely for romantic couples.

There are 13 different Sandals resorts. Jamaica has Sandals Montego Bay, Royal Caribbean, Whitehouse, Negril, Grande Ocho Rios, Royal Plantation, and Carlyle. Antigua has the Sandals Grande Antigua. St. Lucia has the Sandals Regency La Toc, Grande St. Lucian, and Halcyon. Bahamas has Sandals Royal Bahamian and Emerald Bay.

Sandals also has an exciting new partnership with Sandals Weddings by Martha Stewart.  There are 7 different wedding packages from “beautiful beginnings” (which is free at select resorts) to the “island paradise” (priced at $6K) for the bride seeing a true Caribbean sunset wedding experience. There’s also a “renewal of vows” package.

Did you know you can have a Catholic wedding in a true garden chapel at Sandals Montego Bay? You can enjoy the brand new Neptune’s seafood restaurant at Sandals Whitehouse or Sandals Regency La Toc. You can golf a course with 6 signature ocean view holes at Sandals Emerald Bay. You can stroll the 7 mile beach during a perfect sunset at Sandals Negril.

You can also marvel at 180 degree views from your Millionaire Suite at Sandals Regency La Toc. You can walk to the casino next door at Sandals Grande Antigua. You can enjoy your Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz airport transfer at Sandals Royal Bahamian. Or you can enjoy the most intimate all Butler serviced suites resort at Sandals Royal Plantation.

Our trainer, Lorna Richards, did an awesome job of going through all of the different resorts, and focussing on all the terrific features of each one. I’ve never seen one person deliver so much information in such a short time – and all off the top of her head, referring only to the briefest of powerpoint slides for speaking notes.

And our Business Development Manager for Central Ontario & Ottawa, Justin Anderson, was also at the training session to lend a helping hand and provide advice.

Besides Beaches and Sandals, there are also Grand Pineapple beach resorts in Jamaica and Antigua that are value oriented properites on exquisite beach locations.

And for something really special, there are private villas such as Villa Rio Chico Private Estate, which can accommodate 16 adults on a 14-acre oceanfront private estate.

Let me know if you’d like assistance in planning a “luxury included” vacation for your family.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Kids, Lush Life Weddings & Honeymoons | Leave a comment

Cruising to Alaska… with Kiddies in Tow

Alaska has always been one of those faraway, magical places to me. 

A land that was full of whales, bald eagles, and spectacular snow-covered mountain peaks. A land that promised adventure mixed between rustic countryside, close-knit communities, and wide-opened spaces. A land that lured you to get away from the rigors of city life, and trade in your view of traffic jams for its view of calving glaciers.

So, it was no surprise to friends and family that I finally decided to visit the state nicknamed “the last frontier”. But what seemed to surprise almost everyone I’d spoke to after booking the trip was the fact that hubby and I were taking our kids.

My family cruised to Alaska aboard the Diamond Princess- 2 adults, and 2 kids, aged 8 and 2. Yes, 2. We took a toddler on a cruise.

 

Was it a terrific trip?  Of course. 

We did the 7 night ‘Voyage of the Glaciers,’ which sailed one-way, northern bound, from Vancouver, BC to Whittier, Alaska. We had wonderful ports of call in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway; and did two days of scenic cruising through Glacier Bay and College Fjord.

My family of 4 was joined onboard by extended family members, and we all had a wonderful reunion. Everyone had together time, while still enabling time to ‘do your own thing.’ 

As wonderful as my children are, a 2 year old is still a 2 year old. She wasn’t going to enjoy the casino, and even sitting through a musical stage show proved to be a challenge. But I’m a firm believer in making the most of the life stage  you’re in. There’ll be lots of chances to enjoy casinos and dinner shows on future cruises, so my family enjoyed doing things that little kids enjoyed. We explored the ship, spent a fair bit of time in the ship’s pools, and, of course, took in the sights at port.

 The extended family group had a terrific time travelling together too. We would break off into smaller factions, coming together in different combinations and permutations to share meals.

We all enjoyed the food onboard, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed trying various new dishes.

And, on formal nights, my family of 4 dined early, so we could enjoy the festivities. (While Ceili charmed nearby diners, enjoying the freedom of not being locked in chair; as her mom, I was often stressed about her disturbing others. Perhaps working to get her out of the highchair in the months leading up to the cruise might’ve not been the best idea?!)

My two kids absolutely loved their first cruise experience! At 2, Ceili was too young for us to leave her at a kids’ club onboard, but mom accompanied Ceili to the younger children’s group to get in some colouring and do some crafts with other young kids, while dad brought Ciara to mix with the older kids.  

We were thrilled by the majestic mountain views and glimpses of wildlife. We saw whales breach, walked past a sea lion sunning itself close to our ship, viewed a bald eagle up close, and waved to a brown bear just outside our train window.

At port, my children shopped for charm bracelets and Inuit dolls in Ketchikan, rode the tram and collected Big Dipper hats in Juneau, and took a train ride on the White Pass railroad in Skagway. The ports of call were very welcoming and cozy, and the way the land cut into the sea was very reminiscent of my hometown on the west coast of Newfoundland. But the ice wasn’t like home.

The absolute best part of the cruise was the scenic cruising through Glacier Bay and College Fjord. The glaciers were breathtaking. (And having a balcony cabin for our wee ones to run in and out meant we didn’t have to fight for elbow room, while keeping an eye on them, during the cruising part.)

Why not take a cruise with kiddies in tow?

I can promise you it will be a wonderful family vacation.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Cruising, Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Kids | Leave a comment