Get Away With Fran

September 12, 2014

Cruise ship comedy

These cruise ships will make you laugh. Check out my article in USA Today. This was a fun one to write.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/experience/cruise/best-of-cruising/2014/09/11/the-best-cruise-lines-for-comedy-shows/15413043/

March 7, 2013

The Best Cruises for Families

Filed under: Cruise,Travel Advice,Uncategorized — admin @ 3:20 am

Thinking about taking the kids on a cruise vacation? Check out my T+L article on family cruising: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-cruises-for-families

Life Lessons in Cooktown, Australia

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This tour begins with cave art, but teaches life lessons. An Aborigine experience in Australia.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/03/3261222/life-lessons.html

High Art on the High Seas

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Cruise ships get artsy. My take on cruise ship art, in the Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/26/3195384/high-art-on-the-high-seas.html

January 13, 2012

Disney Fantasy takes shape at German shipyard

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Just back from Germany, where I saw the Disney Fantasy under construction. Lots of wows including new things not seen on sister ship Disney Dream .

http://blog.budgettravel.com/budgettravel/2012/01/disney_fantasy_cruise_ship_bec.html

June 22, 2011

Disney Cruise and Biking Vancouver

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(This week Getaway will be written with the help of 11-year-old Sasha, Fran’s niece. We’re heading off on a Disney cruise to Alaska.)

Before getting on the Disney Wonder in Vancouver, we headed along the Vancouver waterfront when we came across a bike rental place and decided why not? So off we went past Coal Harbour with its houseboats and views of snow-capped mountains to Stanley Park, a huge park right outside of downtown Vancouver.

We didn’t realize we were in for a 5 ½-mile ride around the island when we started on the park’s bike trail, but it was relatively flat and really worth doing. Sasha says it wasn’t that hard. We passed beaches packed with people enjoying a nice, sunny day with temps around 70. We passed steep cliffs. We saw birds including cranes and seagulls and, Sasha says, a different variety of nature. Loved the mountain views, especially.

It was after noon when we got to the ship. I’ve been on the Wonder before and was curious what Sasha would think. First thing she seemed to enjoy was the number of kids, including a friendly 4-year-old she chatted with while we were checking in. We headed up to the buffet for lunch, and we both found plenty of choices we liked – funny, our common pick was salmon, which we both found yummy.

Sasha was excited to see the pool. The Edge, the ‘tween club was less exciting at first, with not many kids around, but she later hung out there a bit. The club has all sorts of computer games, Wii, X-box, PlayStations and other attractions.

Sailaway was pure Disney, with a big crowd whooping up on deck especially when characters made appearances.

The waiters were really nice at dinner in Parrot Cay, though Sasha says they came on strong (though she later warmed up so much to one waiter she was giving him hugs). She was thrilled to sleep on a bed that comes down from the ceiling as a third berth in our cabin. The cabin has a balcony and the Disney Cruise feature of 1 ½ baths. With Sasha’s father joining us too, we were surprised that there was enough storage space for all our stuff (we all three brought big suitcases to Alaska).

Sasha had a late night swim in one of the heated pools before bedtime.

June 21, 2011

Cruising Alaska with Disney

Filed under: Cruise,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 8:54 am

(This week Getaway will be written with the help of 11-year-old Sasha, Fran’s niece. We’re heading off on a Disney cruise to Alaska.)

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Yesterday we (me, niece Sasha and my brother Ben) got up before 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Chicago and on to Vancouver. The cool thing is, given the time difference (Vancouver is three hours behind the East Coast), we still got here before 11 a.m.

We spent a little more time at the airport than we had had intended, since our luggage had stayed in Chicago. It was later delivered to our hotel, so no worries. But this is one reason why flying in a day ahead of a cruise is a good thing — a safeguard against delays, lost luggage, etc.

With our free time in Vancouver, we grabbed good dim sum from a food truck conveniently parked outside the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, which itself is conveniently right at the pier where we will embark on the Disney Wonder today.

Also nearly is Gastown, where we headed next. This historic area is today full of shops, restaurants and the like (it’s a tourist haven), but there are also reminders of the past when loggers and trappers hung out here including cobblestones, gaslights and a steam-powered clock. And some of the shops are wonderful. Hill’s is a must for its Native American art including totem polls. Those into design should walk into the John Fluevog shoe store (65 Water St.), not only to admire the handcrafted shoes but the “building,” which is a glass-enclosed former parking. The display tables are made of reclaimed tree trunks with Alaska pipeline as the base.

Next stop Chinatown, but those walking with kids should be forewarned that the tourist signs direct you on a route past an area that seems to be a hangout for drug users — a passing needle exchange van gave us a good clue.

Still, make a bee-line for the Dr.Sun Yat-Sen Gardens (578 Carrall St.), the first Chinese garden outside China when it opened 25 years ago, and a wonderful spot with a lily pond, koi fish, hand-carved Chinese architecture taking into account Yin and Yang, bamboo and an overall peaceful ambience. Sasha particularly liked the resident box turtles, though a docent said the park has no idea where they came from, just that they arrived one day.

Dinner was Southern-style BBQ at Peckinpah (2 Water St.) in Gastown, only because that looked good to us all when we passed by. Ribs and mac and cheese hit the spot.

Back near the hotel, we walked over to the Olympic Flame from the 2010 Winter Olympics. A local family passing by happened to have a torch from the games their Special Olympian son had carried, and they let us hold it. Sasha says that was amazing.

Given the time difference, we were surprised we all managed to stay awake until 9 p.m., when it was still light outside since we’re pretty far north.

June 21, 2010

Blue Man at Sea

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Click here to check out my thoughts on entertainment on the brand new Norwegian Epic.

June 7, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn sets sail on maiden voyage

Filed under: Cruise,International,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 10:50 am

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The luxurious Seabourn Sojourn set sail on its maiden voyage on Sunday. The evening departue afforded wonderful views of London in the distance (we embarked from Greenwich) as we cruised down the Thames towards the North Sea.

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Seabourn President and CEO Pam Conover called the sailing a “momentous occasion,” and said it was particularly significant to her since she is British and the ship was doing its first sailing out of London. “You can take the girl out of Britain, but you can’t take Britain out of the girl,” Miami-based Conover said. She then led a countdown, signifying the official start of the cruise.

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And then the drinks flowed, including green martinis (my pal Jennie enjoying one in photo).

Suddenly the sound of drums and a surprise, the Royal Marine Guard came marching across the pool deck playing songs (including “Rule Britannia”).

One passenger, Arline Moore of Florida, said she was so touched she was almost teary. “Isn’t this wonderful,” she exclaimed.

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And then, another treat – fireworks over the Thames.

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A crew member proferring more drinks told me those working on the ship were excited to have the first guests onboard. “We have put a piece of our hearts in this ship,” he said.

March 11, 2010

Conveying the Eclipse

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When a new cruise ship leaves the shipyard and heads into service for the first time, it is always cause for celebration. And no one does it quite like the Germans.

When the Celebrity Eclipse left Meyer Werft in Papenburg today, thousands lined the banks of Germany’s River Ems to witness the event. They were bundled up too due to chilly temperatures, but what’s a little shiver when you can witness a moment in history?

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The Eclipse is the third of five in Celebrity’s $3.7 billion Solstice-class fleet, which also includes the Solstice and Equinox. And you’ve probably heard me rant before about how and why these are some of my favorite ships afloat. A brief synopsis – they are very stylish, affordable, feature the best in cuisine (for premium ships), and have grass – yup, a half-acre of green stuff up on top.

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As you can see by the photos, the official “conveyance” of a ship can be a challenge – there isn’t all that much room to manuveur – only two feet on either side of the river at some points.

But less challenging for this ship, I suspect, will be keeping her full of passengers - the Solstice-class ships have proven to be the most sucesssful in the Celebrity fleet. I am not the only one who likes them.

How does Eclipse differ from her sisters? She adds a “Celebrity iLounge,” featuring Apple products (including for sale); and adds “Qsine,” a new dining venue that promises an interactive experience complete with menus on a personal touchscreen  and dishes like sushi lollipops (it’s one of 10 restaurants on the ship).

And of course, as a third sibling, she’ll be making her own stylish fashion statement.

I plan to report on all that at her official debut party at the end of April in Southampton, U.K. Meanwhile, the Eclipse is off for her sea trials – where the captain will get even more insight into how she handles.

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