Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Such an amazing destination! Service has been great, as has the hospitality of the people.  I have felt comfortable and safe since I arrived on Wednesday.  

This week has been a combination of work and relaxing. I have had the pleasure of visiting several properties when not in a education session. The Dreams Los Cabos and Secrets Marquis Los Cabos are two of the most amazing properties. The facilities along with the restaurants available are fantastic. 

We have stayed at the Melia Los Cabos. Very nice property. The food and service have been great. My only complaint is the bedding…it is as hard as a rock. I did talk with the management staff yesterday and they let us know that the property will begin changing beds next month. This is great news!

You can see pictures at http://www.facebook.com/traveltraditions 

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Australia

Australia is a hot destination and will continue to be for quite some time. With landscape that varies from parched red desert to Mediterranean vistas, golden beaches to tropical green rainforests, snow capped mountains to untouched islands, Australia sometimes seems like a microcosm of the entire world.

The past and future come together in the great coastal cities, with a forward-looking attitude that embraces Australia’s Pacific Rim location. This gives a decided contrast to a country that is so rich with remnants of its past. Australia has a wealth of prehistoric Aboriginal art that paints telling pictures of a distant time gone by and the fabled ‘Dream time’. Colonists have added tales of early prison settlements which have been replaced by Victorian Architecture that adds a distinctly European feel to the cities.

Australia’s beaches and surfing are legendary around the world and bordered by resorts and cosmopolitan cities. The country’s largest and best-known city, Sydney, is a more fashionable and cosmopolitan than many people think. Melbourne, historically the great rival to Sydney, has a more European ambience of sidewalk cafés, parks, and a more temperate climate.

Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city is the capital of Queensland and sits upon the Gold Coast, a seemingly endless stretch of beautiful beaches. The other coastal cities of Adelaide, Darwin, Perth and Cairns offer other experiences and individual character — each with much to see and do.

But of course, in a country whose size rivals the eastern United States, the cities are only the tip of the iceberg. Once you leave the cities and head into the outback, Australia is open and almost empty.There is a great sense of openness that people may never have experienced even in the more remote part of ts of the U.S. It is entirely possible to not see a person as you travel from horizon to horizon. The centerpiece (figuratively and literally, if you will) of the country is the great monolith of Uluru (Ayers Rock) which rises some 1400 feet from the desert and has a circumference over 5 miles. The rock is considered sacred and spiritually significant to the Aboriginal people and when you see it, it is easy to understand why. The amazing red sandstone takes on various hues depending on the position of the sun.

But no guide book, narrative, or Internet photographs can do Australia the justice it deserves. For that, you will just have to visit yourself!

What are you waiting for? Contact Travel Traditions 509-586-0271 and get ready to go.

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Greece ~ if by Sea

By: Richard Earls

In Greece, the past is always with you. Where ever the traveler looks there is a reminder of not just centuries but thousands of years of history. In some locations, shards of ancient artifacts still lay on the ground like so much rubble, and the ruins of temples and great buildings are so abundant you have the feeling of being in a vast, singular outdoor museum.

From the seaside taverns and restaurants to the wonderful vistas and landscapes of the rugged coastline, Greece offers an astonishing variety of experiences and activities. But this is not a country to rush through in a mad dash to see all there is to see. Greece is best enjoyed slowly, absorbed into the soul like sunlight on grape leafs. The spirit of the place works its way into your psyche and you suddenly understand why so many travelers return again and again to replenish their wanderlust at the birthplace of western civilization.

One of the best ways to experience Greece at a leisurely pace is to visit by sea, taking cruises between the islands, hopping from one to the next and taking in the culture, sights and foods of Greece from the vantage point of its surrounding oceans.

As destinations, the Greek islands each have their own persona. No two are alike and some are as different from the others as night is from day. Underneath all of them, however, is their ocean heritage, an agrarian and fishing legacy still visible today. Greece is a land carved by the sea – the nation has one of the longest coastlines in the world. There are over 2000 Greek islands. Of those, only 227 are inhabited, of which only 78 have more than 100 permanent inhabitants. Seventeen of the islands have more than 100 square miles of surface area. Giant Crete is the largest with more than 3,200 square miles of territory, while some of the most famous islands, like Santorini’s Thera has only 28 square miles.

The geography of the Greek Islands can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the names of the territories and seas surrounding the mainland. The names are all familiar, yet somehow exotic and strange: Cyclades, Dodecanese, Ionian, Sporades, Saronic, and Aegean. All are regions of islands with which the newcomer needs some familiarity to begin to geo-cache their familiarity with the jewels of the Greek island pantheon.

Most guide books group the Greek islands into small clusters that follow the names of the seas around the mainland. The Saronic islands are those situated at a close distance from Athens and its port, Piraeus scattered between Athens and the southern of the Peloponnesian peninsula. The Saronic islands are composed of Angistri, Aegina, Methana, Poros, Salamina, Spetses and Hydra, all laced with small, beautiful beachs and even a few seldom visited islets to visit and explore, most easily reached by small boat from a mother ship offshore.

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands. Located in the south of the Aegean Sea, Crete offers mountainous landscapes beautiful beaches and rocky bays, charming villages and harbors where the dining offers up excellent seafood. The Venetian and Turkish merchants and commercial traders heavily influenced the architecture here and is plainly visible in the buildings still standing today.

The Cyclades island group is surrounded by the southern Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece. Some 220 islands make up this cluster and include some of one with which North Americans are most familiar: Amorgos, Andros, Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Antiparos, Santorini, Sifnos, Serifos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos and others. These islands are mostly the peaks of underwater mountainous terrain. Some, like Thera/Santorini are the vestiges of volcanic explosions. These are islands frequently visited by travelers by cruise ships large and small. The Northern Aegean Islands consists of less familiar names: Chios, Ikaria, Limnos, Lesbos, Samos, Samothraki, and Thassos.

In the southeastern part of the Aegean Sea are the the Dodecanese islands. The Dodecasese islands are made up of twelve major islands and a number of smaller islands: Astypalea, Leros, Lipsi, Nisyros, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kastellorizo, Kos, Patmos, Rhodes, Tilos. Of the eleven islands of the Sporades group off the eastern shore of mainland Greece, only Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonnisos and Skyros are inhabited. To the west of the mainland in the Adriatic Sea are the Ionian Islands. Here are Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Zakunthos, Ithaca, Paxoi, Kythira and others. These popular resort islands are known for their wonderful beaches, their quaint villages and relaxed way of life.

But we are only touching on these island gems by name, doing no justice to the warm, friendly waters of the Greek mediteranean. Now it’s your task to seek out an experienced travel consultant to begin serious consideration of tracing back the roots of western civilization and culture to be found in the Greek islands.

What are you waiting for? Contact Travel Traditions  509-586-0271  and get started!

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Join Travel Traditions and Globus ~ Unfold the History of Hadrians Wall in England

By: Globus

The English countryside is thick with historical ruins, but some of the most formidable were created by the world’s first superpower, ancient Rome. Conquered by Emperor Claudius in 69 AD, Britain became one of the remotest provinces of the sprawling Roman Empire, and amongst its most troublesome. Decade after decade, Roman legions were dispatched to subdue the Pictish “barbarians” of the northern part of the islands (modern Scotland), but were defeated by its dismal weather, rugged terrain and savage resistance. Worse, defiant Pictish raiders swept down from the highlands to pillage peaceful Roman settlements, causing endless headaches for local governors. Finally, in 180 AD, the visionary Emperor Hadrian had had enough of the troublesome frontier. He decided to build a 180-mile-long defensive wall through the narrowest neck of the island, with military towers set up every mile; forts would be manned by 1,000 men each to keep the enemy at bay. These sodden, windswept outposts were amongst the least popular postings in the Empire for Roman soldiers, who longed for the warmer climates of the Mediterranean, but thanks to their impregnable stone barrier, they successfully kept the peace in Roman Britain for over 200 years. Only when the Roman Empire itself began to crumble around 400 AD, and the once-disciplined Roman soldiers themselves became vicious bands of marauders, was Hadrian’s Wall abandoned. Even so, the edifice remained more or less for another thousand years; until the Normans in the Middle Ages realized that the beautifully-cut Roman stone would make excellent material for their castles, so the masonry has been largely pillaged. Today, anyone driving from England to Scotland can turn off from the main highways and visit the eerily abandoned remains of Hadrian’s once-splendid Wall – now peaceful and picturesque, wandered by herds of sheep instead of wild-eyed barbarians.

Great storytellers don’t use scripts. They use itineraries. Bring the stories of England to life with Globus. Contact Travel Traditions 509-586-0271 and get started.

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Castle Visits and Stays

Who has not been captivated by tales of knights and dragons, of medieval feuds, battles and betrayals? Serving as the backdrop for each of these stories is a castle. Visiting a castle can provide a playground for the imagination, allowing the mind to revel in legend and lore. Walking through grand halls past suits of armor, torches and tapestries, one cannot fathom so many stories embedded in stone. More than a getaway from the stresses of everyday life, castles have the ability to transport visitors to another time.

Castles come in all states of repair. Many are still occupied and many more hang on in some state of ruin. Each has its own personality, calling out to some hidden part of our curiosity about times shrouded in mist. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the spirits of those who occupied the halls of Europe’s castles beckon to us, calling us by name.

The United Kingdom and Ireland are the traditional areas for castle stays and tours. Britain alone has several thousand castles, most constructed in the 11th through 15th centuries. Austria, Spain, Portugal, Germany and France likewise have many amazing properties scattered throughout their many provinces and districts offering both tours and hotel like accommodations.

Central Europe is a quickly growing castle market with highly competitive pricing. In particular, Hungary offers several properties constructed during the Baroque and Rococo periods, as does the Czech Republic and its sister state of Slovenia. If you have a particular destination in mind, ask us to investigate the possibility of castle tours and vacations as an alternative to more traditional lodging options!

Castle vacations offer visitors the opportunity to indulge in a tranquil and intriguing escape, not to mention unforgettable scenery. In general, castle vacations fall into two categories: tours and stays. Both types are recommended for travelers of all ages who have an appreciation for history, culture and beauty. But, a bit of planning is in order to make your castle experience the adventure it should be.

A good travel consultant can help you navigate the maze of castles. There are a number of important considerations, including the types of castle, the choice of rooms inside of the castles, the general condition of the properties and the number of guests permitted. Your travel consultant will inquire with regard to the standards of the tour company and how the company chooses the castles with which it works. For example, far too many tour companies include manor houses in their definition of “castles”, risking the disappointment of their guests. Your travel consultant will make sure that you obtain a match much closer to your preferences and will provide you with pictures of various properties along with a history to ensure that you will be in a castle of the period and age of your preference.

To better ensure an enjoyable stay and a high standard of quality, your travel consultant will choose a tour operator that that specializes in castle stays or at least visits its featured castles regularly. Some tour operators specialize geographically, while others offer castles in a variety of countries. Tour operators can give you the price of a stay, the size of the castle and its grounds, and the number of guests it can accommodate. They can be particularly helpful in arranging a stay if the castle booking system is not computerized, and most are not.

Tours of castles are rewarding trips into the past. Most tours will stay at each castle for at least a few hours, exploring the halls, stairways and grounds. Of course, the time allotted depends on the number of castles visited that day, the traveling time between them, and the castle’s visitation hours. To allow a longer visit your tour operator may try to arrange hotel accommodation nearby, but this is not always feasible in rural areas. Because of the large scale of many properties and their grounds, it is best not to try to squeeze too much viewing into too short a time period. If you time constraints are limited, choose quality over quantity and limit your tours to a few, select properties.

In terms of transportation, remember to be flexible. Though the tour will likely have a timetable, travel delays are common in the countryside. As a passenger, it is best to relax and savor the majestic views.

Remember that the better physical shape you are in for castle exploration, the more enjoyable your experience will be, especially when climbing to the top of a tower or getting lost in a garden labyrinth. Because of their age, castles generally cannot offer superior accommodation to disabled guests. Uneven floors, narrow passages and winding staircases can present particular hindrances. For these reasons, a castle tour that explores castle interiors may not be realistic for persons with certain disabilities. If you or a companion has a disability that might hinder full enjoyment of a property, let your travel consultant know well in advance. There are some destinations that boast ground floor bedrooms and restaurants, disabled parking and wheelchairs for hire. Some castles have been converted to offer ramps (permanent and removable) and bathrooms with handrails.

Fortunately for we commoners, the high cost of maintaining these vast and elaborate residences has driven many castle owners to extend accommodations to the public. Many castles have been restored, leaving the medieval décor in tact while adding modern amenities. Many castles and so-called “castle hotels” offer high-end and even luxurious stays for one night or for weeks on end.

It is possible to obtain exclusive use of a castle property with enough advance notices. “Exclusive use” of a property indicates that you and your party will be the only guests in the castle during your visit, essentially a charter of the entire property. There likely will be minimum stay requirements and charges for such usage, as well as some possible minimal usage of dining and banquet facilities.

So called “self catering” castle stays are those where the property is hired on an “accommodation only” basis. Meals and other services are not a part of the package price, although guests are sometimes provided use of kitchen facilities.

Room sizes for sleeping within castles vary, but in general are characterized by the familiar “double/twin/single/suite” nomenclature. Generally speaking, the better grades of rooms are typically larger with better furnishings and views. Likewise the styling of the bedrooms and beds will vary not only from castle to castle but from room to room. Not every room will have four poster beds and lush tapestries. If you have particular tastes and preferences, make sure to make them clear to your travel consultant well in advance of booking!

Dining is often a highlight of a castle stay. In some instances, not only will you have the opportunity to dine as the royals do, but you may be sitting next to one. Dinner can be an occasion for all guests to dine with the residing duke or lord. If this is the case, be sure to ask your tour operator about dress code. Some tours and stays include all meals while others include only one meal. Others may offer food on an a-la-carte basis. Determine the meal plans offered by the properties in which you are interested and make sure to include the cost of the meals in your final budget calculations.

Many castles have a variety of on site activities which may include horseback riding, fishing, falconry, trekking, cycling and croquet. Some castles even have tennis courts and putting courses. Check to see if advance reservations for these activities are needed. For visiting nearby towns, the castle’s staff may provide car hire. A great many guests hold their weddings at castles. Because this is an area of frequent inquiry, many tour operators have special packages available for wedding parties and ceremonies.

In some instances, castle property management has developed very elaborate tours and even role-playing games or contests. Many castles have wonderful gardens, some of historical significance. Castle properties sometimes include garden mazes on their grounds. The mazes typically consist of high hedges formed into a walking path that turns in upon itself with many puzzle-like paths and circuits. Most mazes are constructed of hedges, but others are constructed of bricks, logs, concrete and other materials.

Many castles have dress codes for various times of the day or particular activities, while others do not. The dress code varies from castle to castle, but most have relaxed standards for daytime wear with slightly more formal requirements at dinner. Be sure to check in advance to ensure your comfort and conformity with any requirements.

Often situated in the lush countryside, castles are not always easily accessible by public transportation. Consequently, hiring a car is often a good option, and can be arranged by your travel consultant. Car access also enables you to visit nearby towns and attractions. Remember to map out your journey beforehand and be prepared for slow and bumpy country roads.

As many castles have narrow staircases and elevators are few, smaller luggage is advisable. If you are going on a castle tour, there may be an extra charge for bringing additional luggage. You will also want to find out if your destination offers log fires or central heating, and pack according to your destination and season. As usual, pack only what you need. You do not really want to carry more that you must, and there will almost always be more than ample opportunity for shopping along the way!

What child wouldn’t jump at the chance to live like a prince or princess, to slay imaginary dragons on the castle grounds, or let down fantastical hair from an actual tower? Castles indulge children’s fantasies as well as those of adults. Though not all castles are child-friendly, many will accommodate young ones. Your tour operator should be able to tell you which sites have designated family rooms, interconnecting rooms and/or rollaway beds. Certain castles also provide play areas, children’s menus and early dining hours. Those properties that are chid friendy vary with the minimal acceptable age, so be sure to check if your party includes persons less than 18 years of age. As previously noted, make sure that the properties you visit will accommodate any physical limitations of members of your party.

The cost of a tour or a castle stay varies widely with the country in which the property in located and the special amenities each property offers. As your travel consultant develops your itinerary, make sure to provide your optimal budget to ensure the final costs are in line with your expectations. Accommodations and castle entry fees are usually included in the price of the tour; airline tickets are not. Your travel agent can find the best possible air values given your destination and season of travel. Many tour packages include breakfast and dinner in the itinerary. In general, you will need money to pay for lunches, snacks, drinks and of course, shopping.

When pricing your stay, remember to take into consideration any Value Added Tax (VAT) levied by many countries in Europe and elsewhere. Because VAT is often as high as 20% of the cost of an accommodation or good purchased, the amount is often not insignificant! Many travelers assume that VAT is refundable. However, this is typically not the case for services such as transportation, accommodation, food, gas or any other goods or services consumed within the country itself. Ensure that the price you are quoted includes all taxes and other fees.

Castles are the stuff of dreams. Contact Travel Traditions 509-586-0271 and fulfill yours today!

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Royal Caribbean’s Ocean Views – World’s Greatest Film Premiere At Sea

Royal Reunion and The Allure of Love, two stories shared onboard the most innovative ship of our time. A star-studded cast introduces the world to never-to-be-forgotten experiences that can only be found in one place.

Actress Jenny McCarthy, along with Hollywood veteran James Brolin, recently wrapped the “Ocean Views” Royal Caribbean films project onboard Allure of the Seas, whereby the actors not only directed, but also starred in, original short films designed to share great cinematic stories, while highlighting the variety of cruising experiences one can enjoy with Royal Caribbean.

via Royal Caribbean’s Ocean Views – World’s Greatest Film Premiere At Sea.

What are you waiting for?   Call Travel Traditions  to get your Family Reunion or your Honeymoon/Anniversary cruise booked today!! 509-586-0271

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Guanacaste Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the east and south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Costa Rica has consistently been among the top Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index, and ranked 54th in the world in 2007. The country is ranked 3rd in the world, and 1st among the Americas, in terms of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index.

In 2007 the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon neutral country by 2021. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the “greenest” country in the world.

Costa Rica is Central America’s special jewel and it is only a three hour hop from Miami in a plane. Costa Rica will appeal to all ages and the country’s natural attractions, wildlife and reputation for enlightened conservation draw tourists from all over the world. The Government has made a real effort to preserve the country’s image as an eco-tourism heaven, making Costa Rica one of the best places to experience the tropics naturally and with minimal impact, at least for now. The country’s bio-diversity attracts nature lovers from all over the world. Add to this the incredible warmth and sincere hospitality of the local people and the exceptional variety of hotels along Guanacaste’s Pacific coast and you have a recipe for a unique and memorable destination for couples, singles and families. Costa Rica has become a mecca for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty and peacefulness of nature. The country has more of its land (percentage) protected in natural parks, biological preserves and wildlife sanctuaries than any other nation on earth.

One of the most amazing regions in Costa Rica is the Guanacaste region, located along the Northwest Pacific Coast. It is a perfect central point from which to explore Costa Rica’s diversity. The natural setting is casual, secure, and unassuming. And the local “Ticos” are warm and friendly and eager to share the bounty of the Guanacaste province with visitors. Bird-watching, exhilarating zip-line canopy tours, excellent diving and water sports and exceptional hotels all combine to make Guanacaste a perfect choice for visitors. From crushed pink shells to salt and pepper volcanic sand, the beaches are as diverse as the nearby eco- adventures. Visit the popular resort town of Tamarindo, with its great surf and white-sand beaches, for browsing and souvenir shopping. From panoramic rolling savannahs to bubbling hot springs to hissing active volcanoes to remarkable beaches, visitors of all ages will experience a vacation like no other in Costa Rica’s popular Guanacaste region.

This region is very temperate and cooled by gentle Pacific breezes, making it very pleasant year-round, with an average temperature of 80 degrees. Some of the more unique jaunts available in the region include driving to the very edge of a volcanic crater, hiking through the heart of a mountain jungle and exploring a rainforest all in the same day. Fishing and snorkeling are also very popular activities.

What are you waiting for? Contact Travel Traditions 509-586-0271 and get started!

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